It Girls or 11 Ways to Feel Very Very French

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  So whether decor, couture, wine or pastries, we Americans seem endlessly fascinated with all things French.  Aside from learning the language or relocating to the 7th Arrondissement in Paris, we must settle for a few simple form of theft. 

 

Obey the rules of femininity.  Flouncy, free form dresses with a pair of heels, a well-fitted suit with signature

Chanel pearls, or a pair of designer shorts with multiple gold chains hanging at the waistline.

Wear black, the color of midnight, romance, and the every slimming hue that takes off the illusion of at least ten pounds.

Have your glam squad on-call at all times to add that subtle make-up and miraculously wind-blown hair that so makes so many green with envy.

Discover your signature perfume prior to the age of 30 and then wear it for the next 40 years (my choice Opium, though later in life, I mix with Angel).

Wear a black brassiere under a white shirt.  Shock value.

Age gracefully (ignore because I have no desire to become Bridget Bardot).

Arrive late with the excuse that your life is so busy that it makes time fleeting (and apparently free from good manners).

Enjoy you face now because unless you are an America, it will not remain the same long (hence Bridget Bardot).

Good lingerie and high count thread sheets (my cat Grace enjoys my fashion shows).

Take time for yourself.  Forget to pick-up the kids, order a pizza, or call your mother.  You deserve a 3 hour bath.

Live a well cured life (preferably with a wealthy, potentially titled man).

Oh La La Cheri

 

 

Window Dressed to Kill or 8 Easy Tricks to Drapery Heaven

I am a cutter (and I don’t mean emotional).  I obsessively collect swatches of fabric, trim, and cord.  Some might classify me as a hoarder except that my OCD keeps everything attractively labeled and boxed neatly.  No longer able to fit in my office space, car, or guest room closets, storage space has become the viable solution.

In the last five or six years, I have noticed that most clients tend to go for a cleaner, simplified look especially when it comes to window treatments.  Gone are the elaborate chintzes and mix of prints made famous by Hadley Parish or Mario Buatta.

Instead shutters, roman shade, and fabric panels on decorative rods add a quiet enhancement instead of creating a focal point.  I am a firm proponent of curtains in certain rooms (living, master, kitchen, and always the dining).  I prefer the less is more philosophy but I do miss the swags, cascades, and jabots over a puddled floral print that dominated interior design for so many years.

If attempting a DIY project (though I think this is an area where the professionals excel), here are a few tricks of the trade to give your draperies that appropriate POP instead of that STORE BOUGHT CRAP you see at every Joann’s, Home Goods, and Bed, Bath, & Beyond.  (Nothing makes a decorator or home stylist more queasy than cheap curtains, fake plants, or wall prints hung too high).

 

1.     If choosing simple panels for your room, decide on a header such as a French pleat, goblet, grommet, or inverted.  These are usually gathered about 4″ from the top of the window treatments.

2.    Use at least 1 &1/2 widths of fabric for each side of the windows (store bought are often a width and seem incomplete especially when dealing with larger panes of glass.

3.    Make sure to add a 4 to 6″ self line to the drape.  That prevent one from seeing the white/off white of normal lining.

4.    Most fabrics are 54″ in width but don’t forget the pattern repeat.

5.    Hang them high, as close to the ceiling as possible.  This creates a more substantial look as well as the illusion of height.

6.    If putting curtains over blinds, make sure to allow for the additional depth.

7.    Don’t forget your return (whether an inside or outside horizontal blind or drape).  It completes the look by addressing the sides.

8.   Valances and cornices tend to look terrific in kitchen/breakfast areas as well as kid’s rooms.  Add cording, welting, or fringe for a finished shape. 

 

The Train to Tiny Town

The older I become, my need to downsize my life seems retractable, so much so that I sometimes feel like a scene from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”  The train to tiny town, popularized by HGTV, feels cool, hip, trendy, inevitable.  Could I live in a converted school bus or become a member of container city?  Perhaps.  It looks inviting until you realize that a dishwasher takes up a lot of valuable floor space.  My other issue, of course, is my chosen line of work.  The passion I feel for accessories far outweighs whatever agony (I mean devotion) that I ever grappled with for my ex-husband.  (A reoccurring theme, think soap opera).   Truth be told, I own a whole bunch of crap.  Most stylists, decorators, and stagers do.  A curse but a pretty one.

Few residential interior designers reinvent a living space, they simply improve on the perception.  And most home experts give similar advice on how to make things appear larger (mirrors, mirrors, mirrors).  Why?  Because it works.

The overly talented Orlando Soria, the Creative Director of Homepolish recommends the use of neutral rugs like sisal or jute.  Another way to make a small space appear larger; lighting.  A beautiful fixture can add a world or WOW to any room including those that “rest.”

Symmetry creates balance so consider not using angles especially when surfaces feel tight.  Create a focal point, if one such as a fireplace is missing, by adding a large piece of art, an architectural piece, or an accent wall using paint or paper.

Going dark transforms a space by amplifing  sophistication.  It also reflects light, adds depth, and just a touch of mystery (it’s where the monsters hang out in case the kids get out of hand).

For a small office, one not made from a converted closet (though adore that idea), tweak the accessories.  I converted a couple of old doors into memory board which I use for magazine tears of my latest and favorite designs.  Some might call it stealing, I refer to it as inspiring.  Sample photo from Pinterest that I intend to compliment very soon.

I Am A Good Girl With Lots of Bad Habits; A Personal Tale

Tattoos are a form of art, affection, beliefs, gang affiliations, military service.  They further express the beauty of design.   At least that’s what I told myself when at the age of forty-five, I threw my wrist at some stranger, and whispered “do it.”  A mistake you say, hell yes!  Had I chosen a lovely cross gently grazing my ankle like Nicole Richie or a small heart, initial, lock & key on my ring finger signifying my lousy marriage or some guy named Ed Hardy who branded his work into a small empire.

But no.  Me, the interior designer extraordinaire, the arbiter of good taste, the one whose style rivals that of Givenchy (just go with it).

With all badly timed and foolish endeavors, mine accompanied the cliché mid-life crisis.  Men buy cars or have affairs, women get tattoos or boobs. Thinking about the similarities between tattooing and interior design give me some kind of clarity with the mistake I now live with.  Inking your body represents you, your love, your inspiration.  It’s also a way to be noticed, accepted, on simply on point (trendy).  Tattoos like, interior design, can symbolize cultural associations.  Forms of modification, both body and space, can be a rite of passage, a mark of status, a symbol of religious or political beliefs, devotion to patriotism, feelings about family.  Home décor reflects those same universal convictions.

About a half hour later, permanent black ink scared my wrist and revealed a much hidden secret; the actual dates of my children’s births (no more lying about their ages or mine).   Disgusted with my own stupidity, I hid my sore limb under my Gap jean jacket.  Ridicule, thy name is children.  Opening the door to our suite, I was greeted by a tribe of merry eaters.  With great care, I removed my denim cover.  The word shock would best sum up their facial expressions.  After what seemed like an eternity of silence, my older son asked to be excused (I can only assume to contain his laughter).   About twenty minutes later, he returned with package in hand.  Reaching into the black bag, I found a supply of gauze, tape, and adhesive bandages.  He pointed to my arm and then burst back into hysterics.

Yep tattoos are a lot like home interior design but hopefully with a lot less giggles.  Bless you Antonio Ballatore.

Best Laid Plans or Did I Over-Decorate?

I need some sage advice.  I shop, pretty much every day, goes with the job.  My current obsessions are Home Goods and World Market.  No don’t get me wrong, I have no qualms about spending substantial money on a leather sectional that will last through the years but I believe in balance.  And to be perfectly honest, Home Goods has great stuff, terrific prices, and fairly decent displays.

 

One of my current client’s, whose previous home interior design choice was French Country (via Charles Faudree).  Lots of patterns, prints, flouncy draperies, an overwhelming amount of accessories; it actually looked quite fabulous.  Now dated, Cherie and her husband decided they are at a point where its time to redo, repurpose, reorganize, or basically spend a great deal of the green stuff.  He wants mid-century modern, she desires a contemporary farmhouse style.  Even with tear sheets and a rather lengthy Pinterest page, does little to relinquish my confusion.  I’m thinking Coachella meets Laura Petrie from the Dick Van Dyke show (see look how giddy that complete stranger feels in her living room).

For some 25 years, Cherie and I have maintained an almost spousal relationship (non-sexual).  We trust one another as long as she understands that my opinion remains sacrosanct.  After much thought, Kathryn Ireland’s no hold bars designs came to mind.  Problem solved.

 But my question, the one that requires help, is as John Steinbeck once pondered, “Do you only want advice if it agrees with what you wanted to do anyway?

Pins & Needles While Dating Your Furniture

You learn about yourself with every purchase and I don’t mean La Perla.  At the start of the relationship, you might just give a quick glance, a soft caress.  A quick stroll at another beautifully laid out area gives you some time to think.  Those Brick n’ Mortar stores keep getting harder and harder to find.  While rummaging through some pillows, you look at what grabbed your attention.

The lines reflect that of a shutter, the chalk pain perfectly lined but oh that price.

You picture your room.  Would either of these pieces even fit?  This armoire has a bit less distress but possibly could hold more of junk I intend to purchase?  Maybe this could become a memory, one to be inherited by one of my future daughter-in-laws who I positive I will hate.  Not because my two sons are such great catches but having met many of the girls they have dated, I do question their taste and morality.

The twin peaks.  Interesting.  Great color, chippy in just the right way, horrendous accessories.  Might this cross my line of décor happiness?  My endorphins started to release and my perfume (an intoxicating mix of Opium and Angel, very popular on elevators) seemed a bit stronger.  Emotion took over.  The cost might defeat any grocery shopping for the week but the mutual attraction was palpable.  Should we just date or go all the way?  But it might be The Bachelor’s last rose…

 

Can’t Fix Crazy or the Art of Design When Bored

Obsession, thy name is ironstone or perfume from Calvin Klein.  First manufactured in Staffordshire, England in the early 1800s, these gorgeous white piece of sheer beauty rock my world as much as my awesome but totally unexceptional life.  Usually, many stylists and home interior designers (including myself) combine these creamy concoctions with other patterns.  I personally chose a hunt scene pattern in chocolate browns.  Now my life tends to revolve around Chicago P.D., my 16 year old cat, and my attempts to be a world famous beautifier (so much so that Starbucks seems like a chore), that this desire to collect plates may seem a tad silly.  I prefer displaying in armoires or open shelving but how easily it may duplicated by looking at any magazine tear.

Now I am a fan of minimal clutter (yes, I know, an oxymoron) but I do tend to gravitate to cleaner lines in furniture, with perhaps a bit of the chippy, distressed thing but wildly unexpected accessories add that needed punch that separates the girls from the women. 

No I know I appear all hip and wise (yes, yes I do) but in reality, HGTV as covered most of my incredibly self-perceptive issues.  When my nails are not drying (still can’t figure out the home gel), I sit at a keyboard (wishing it was a typewriter) and think of cute but totally irrelevant titles.  HEY THEN THE FUN BEGINS!

Now since I assume you all are dying to know about those little items that magically forces my ATM card to fall out of my wallet, I will list and list and list.  Cowhide rugs (can’t resist them), French pillows, antique iron tools (never use them but…), knotty pine tables, gorgeous and outrageously priced lamps, solid bedding, signage (or from Hobby Lobby, who the hell can tell the difference), stacks of design and decorating books, and my children visiting their own homes.

Junkyard Dog

No this little missive has nothing to do with our furry friends, but with a book I recently purchased on the sales rack.  It’s a lovely read with glorious photos by Leslie Linsley  (between you and me, I would have paid full price).   The author delves into the ease of using “junk” or “salvage” items to give your home that farmhouse feel.  What did we do before Joanna Gaines?  Anyway, Leslie offers wonderful tips and cost-saving ideas on how to beautify your abode.  Starting with the unexpected (lol, I have always wanted to use that abbreviation when writing, you’re just lucky I didn’t add emojis)  reclaimed woods and beams (which are now premade by every flooring and tile company so skip the chill in New Hampshire) to add that certain patina that ages a home in a unique and creative way.  She, like many designers today, prefers a kitchen with open shelving and thus allowing for more areas of display.  (I assume they have cleaning people coming in once or twice a week).

Good lighting plays an important part in any room and one should occasional shock by doing the unexpected.  Personally I am huge fan of anything galvanized but I also fancy a lovely crystal chandelier. 

Try the unexpected like mixing wood with copper.  A proper industrial looking aged bronze fixture can not only be functional but a tremendously wonderful detail.  The author recommends using baskets and vintage tin boxes (here we come Hobby Lobby) to hold fruits, chocolates, tea bags.  And let’s not forget the apron sink and workable island.    Things to display include small appliances, wedding flatware, cookbooks, wooden spoons and bowls, vintage cookie presses, blue Mason jars, antique wire soap dishes, metal canisters, colanders, wall mounted wood spice racks, vintage teapots, enamelware, and chopping boards in wood (of course)  To go even further, you could mix and match your island stools, barring the fact that you have an island.  Leslie is a proponent of using open shelving on narrow walls which allows one to display collectibles such as breadboxes or scales.

What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger?

 

But let’s not rush into that.  If you’re OCD (self-diagnosed) like me, horrible things go through your mind as you are straightening out the bric n’ brac  your housekeepers just cleaned and placed 2″ from their proper placement.  Do you have difficulty breaking up with the bamboo floor lamp inherited from Great Aunt Gertie that give your French Country room a Hawaiian flairDoes rearranging pillows become a nightly ritual that feels as satisfying as a good backrub?  Does your heart peel a bit knowing that Home Goods closes at nine when you have the itch to shop at eleven (Walmart; here I come).  Do you need the dishes out of the sink, properly cleaned and put away before closing your eyes and wondering why your not a Kardashian or even a Jenner?

Shit happens.  We have all been there and worn the t-shirt but obsessing over placemats (let alone napkin rings) has become my lifestyle.  We need to become more resilient and learn not to be some pathetic loser spending hours saving ottomans on Pinterest or watching episodes of Fixer Upper where Joanna Gaines tears down a wall, makes Chip add some shiplap, and accessorizes with Parkhill Designs (and yes, it looks fab). 

I want to become exclusive with my bric n’ brac.  Not just buy a piece that appeals to me and assume it will fit somewhere in my island, making it virtually impossible to use for eating (which is really no biggie since my kid haven’t had a home cooked meal in at least seven years).  When wheeling around the shops, I feel like my strongest self, fulfilling a primal need; overdrawing my checking account.  Relationships with inanimate objects takes on a whole new persona.  I am building a life with that 90″ sofa.  That coffee table I purchased for a steal will tell the tale of the 15 tequila shots from the previous night.  That cozy swivel chair in just the right shade of Burmese leather knows that my adding CNN on my cell is simply a hot mess because we elected Barnum for President.  Yet despite my wish to be normal, I still want to maintain plausible deniability.

 

So if “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” lets me go at an interior design shop running it’s yearly sale.

Make Every Inch Count (and no I don’t mean what you’re thinking, naughty girls)

I have finally hit that ugly age where all my girlfriend’s daughters have graduated from college and renting their first places.  Aside from the horrendous discounted fees, I actually enjoy in a 1 bedroom 1 bath.  Living small can be visually challenging yet refreshingly freeing.  All the collections (or clutter) that has created a world of hoarders needs to be eliminated for the sake of style.  Maximizing every inch of space with creative storage ideas and the use of optical tricks can overcome the stress of living in that first apartment or starter home.  Start with a clean palate.  Pick a nice neutral paint color (whites, creams, grays) and slap a coat on the walls, molding, and ceiling (if dating or married, exchange rates work well).  By using a single tone, rooms will appear taller and larger.  Next, create an accent wall with wallpaper, framed magazine tear sheets, or comic books.  In other ward, any items that catch your fancy for your impending interior home design.  The beauty of adding an accent wall is to add interest, depth, and a focal point.

In small spaces, they can be nothing more important than light so add chandeliers, can lighting, and lamps wherever possible.   Shop around at flea markets, antique stores, or discount shops.  Mixing materials makes any expanse more interesting so don’t be afraid to blend crystal, ceramic and galvanized.  Choose pieces that can help define an area.  Create a conversational seating corner and don’t forget to float the furniture away from the walls. Opt for mirrors to reflect light.

Use the power of groupings.  Several framed pieces of art create a more airy look than one large singular quota.  Multitask, multitask, multitask.  Choose furniture that can be used as different functions.  For example, chose a breakfast/dining table that converts into a work desk as needed.

Industrial utility carts make great displays in a front entry or in a kitchen (if room available).  Think open concepts whether using floating shelves instead of upper cabinets, rugs to define different areas and add pops of color.

Also when picking accessories, make sure you have a variety of sizes and orientations.  Outfit closets with drawers and storage bins and baskets which always improves functionality.