Wired + Inspired: Behind the Scenes of a Virtual Showhouse

I've done four actual designer show houses.  But when the opportunity arose to participate in a virtual show house sponsored by -- entirely digital and only viewable online -- I jumped at the chance.  After all, participating in a designer show house costs big bucks: there is the investment in carpentry, electrical work, custom furnishings, etc. that is borne, to a large degree, by the designer.  But here was an opportunity to create a space that only involved an investment of time. 

Dering Hall set the parameters: create a room inspired by a movie with furnishings sourced from the Boston Design Center.  Dering Hall assigned me the Entryway.  I completed the project in May, and Dering Hall just launched the project to coincide with Boston Design 2015, a two-day event at the Boston Design Center.


When I selected the movie Shampoo as my inspiration, I thought it would be in keeping with a trend toward 1970s decor that I've been seeing.  I expected to see high gloss and mylar finishes, polished chrome and glass.  But the interiors in the film were nothing like what I expected.

The photo below is the home of Julie Christie's character in the movie.  It's very traditional with large-scale continental furnishings and stark contrasts of darks and lights.  Hardly the 1970s decor I envisioned.  How I would furnish my virtual show house room would have to change dramatically.


Luckily, the salon where Warren Beatty's character worked gave me a starting point.


Notice the latticework . . . An opportunity to use one of my favorite wallpaper patterns: Lyford Trellis Wallpaper from Quadrille.  The contrast of darks and lights and merging of interiors and exteriors so prevalent in California design at the time were my further inspirations. 

Here are the furnishings with quotes from my Wired + Inspired page from Dering Hall.

Balustrade Console by Formations

Marlboro Side Chair by Hickory Chair in White Cotton Duck Fabric by Kravet with Samuel & Sons blue cording

Portico Lantern by Powell and Bonnell Home

Taj Brown Rug by Bunny Williams Home

Forbidden City Mirror by Bunny Williams Home



Making a Grand Entrance

Because the entry foyer is the space that every invited . . . and uninvited . . . guest will see in your home, it's the space where you want to make a grand design gesture.  It may set the stage for, or be the only glimpse that some will see of, what lies beyond. 

For function, an entry foyer needs some sort of table to toss mail and keys, a place for coats, a mirror to check for lipstick smudges as you're walking out the door, and if space allows a chair or bench.  Where I live in New England, that's a must!  Who wants to track snow and slush into the home!

With such a small footprint, there's ample opportunity to be dramatic.  Take your walls, for instance.  I loved the paint treatment Jamie Drake used in the foyer he did for the 2015 Kips Bay Decorator's Show House.  Onto a specially treated painted surface, his painters sprinkled mica dust.  The effect was sparkling!

For form, Jamie added this sculptural console table.


Notice how the metallic accents -- the wall sconces, ceramic stools, gilded mirror and brass fireplace screen -- also add sparkle and illumination to the room.

Equally dramatic is the treillage, or latticework, that designer Amanda Lindroth installed in this home in the Bahamas.


                                                                    Photo courtesy of House Beautiful

In addition to the wall planes, don't forget the ceiling, oft cited as the forgotten plane in design.  I know I've said that I'm not a fan of a lot of pattern on the ceiling.  In large spaces where the design is focused at eye level or below, I think a patterned ceiling draws the eye away from the room's focus and distorts the composition.  But in a small space like a foyer, where you have to pack a lot of punch in a small footprint, adding pattern to the ceiling may be just what the design needs. 

I love adding metallics to the ceiling to augment illumination.  (I did this in my space for the 2012 Junior League of Boston Designer Showhouse.)  The foyer below by Lilly Bunn Interiors is one of my most pinned pictures from my Pinterest boards.


                                                           Photo courtesy of Lilly Bunn Interiors

Topping off those amazing teal lacquered walls is the gilded ceiling beautifully illuminated by cove lighting and a stunning pendant.  The small scale of the X-benches is perfect under the grand mirror.

As Lilly's foyer illustrates, another way to add drama to the ceiling is with a sculptural light fixture.  Jamie Drake installed a magnificent cloud-like flush-mount fixture to his foyer in the Kips Bay Show House.


Something that adds color while addling light is another great design element for the foyer.  This traditional chandelier, done in red, is the perfect example.


                  Interior by Kim E. Courtney Interiors & Design, photo courtesy of New York Cottages & Gardens

Lastly, don't forget accessories.  A mirror is essential, but if space allows, a dramatic piece of art or sculpture.  Or even a potted plant in a sculptural planter adds volume and form to an otherwise boxy space.


                                                  Interior by Candace Barnes, photo by Patricia Chang


The Summer That Almost Wasn't

"Don't you dare complain about the heat," was my mantra this summer.  After the Boston winter of 2015 -- or as some of us call it, Snowmeggedon -- I was going to relish every single degree the mercury climbed.  I was prepared to have the summer to top all summers.

As fate would have it, that didn't quite happen.  My summer was consumed by three life events.

First, my 93-year-old mother (whose vitality made her seem more like 73) suffered a heart attack only three days after arriving from her home in Florida to celebrate Molly, my youngest's high school graduation.  Mom spent two weeks in the hospital and nine weeks in a nursing and rehabilitation facility before returning home at the end of August, just two days before we drove Molly to college.

The second event that almost killed my summer was a case of chronic hives that I developed in May.  I've been diagnosed with chronic idiopathic urticaria or CID.  After countless doctor visits, blood tests, a CAT scan and minor surgery to remove a lymph node, there is still no explanation for why I have hives.  I console myself knowing that this is not a life-threatening condition (as three of my friends deal with cancer).  But the itch is really annoying and causes me sleepless nights.

Finally, I prepared Molly for her freshman year of college.  Molly is my baby, the youngest of my three children.  When people say the third child is the easiest because he or she has to tag along to all the older sibling's activities, don't believe them.  From birth, Molly has had to make her presence known and command the same attention as her siblings (if not more).  Molly's "To Do" list for college was long and always urgent.

Although my summer was unusual, I did things to make it feel like summer.  One of my pleasures was the daily drive to and from visiting my mom.  She was in a facility located about a half-hour from where I live.  The fastest route was a three-lane highway populated by trucks, traffic lights and every type of driver imaginable.  But I found a direct back-roads route, with little to no traffic lights, shaded by trees, that weaved by ponds and sparsely-traveled railroad tracks.  Even on the hottest days, I turned off the air conditioning, rolled my car windows down all the way and let the summer heat infuse my soul.

Labor Day is now behind us, which to many, means the unofficial end of summer.  Not to me.  I'm going to milk every last ounce of sunshine and degree on the thermometer that I can.  There's still 13 more days until autumn officially starts, and sadly, winter's not that far behind.


Slow Blogging or No Blogging?

I've been MIA from the blog lately.  Yes, it's summertime and with that comes a departure from the workaday routine that besets us from September through June.  I enjoy that departure.  I relish in late mid-week dinners and movies and excursions to the ice cream parlor.  Last summer, I took a break from blogging to savor those moments.

But this summer has been a little different.  My youngest graduated from high school at the beginning of June.  It was a great celebration.  My two older children came from New York and Los Angeles to share in the celebration.  My sister came from San Jose; my mother-in-law from New Jersey; and my mother from Florida.  Graduation was on a Friday evening; we had a little party the next day; and two days later, on Sunday, my mom had a heart attack.

It's now six weeks later, and I'm thankful to say that my mom survived, is slowly recuperating and may even be better once she is fully recovered (thanks to a coronary artery stent).  But, among other things, my blogging has suffered.  This has been a summer where health issues have trumped most things. 

I read a post not too long ago by Holly Becker, the Decor8 blogger, about slow blogging.  The idea of slow blogging is to put quality over quantity: it's not how often you blog that's important, but how rich the content is when you do.  That's always been my mantra. 

I aim to be back soon. 


                                                                         My Mom


First Timers at 2015 Kips Bay Decorator Showhouse -- Part 2

It's hard to believe, but is indeed true, that among the first-timers at this year's Kips Bay Decorator Show House is the designer of the Dining Room, "Up In the Villa," Mark Sikes.  It's unusual for a first-timer to be awarded such a prominent space.  Rumor has it that a lottery determines which designers are granted spaces.  But the actual decision of which spaces the lucky designers get to design is left to the Show House committee chaired by Bunny Williams.

Sikes space was a celebration of color and pattern.  A mix of red and white gingham checked fabrics from Schumacher, an Indian inspired floral from Bennison, and Sikes' favorite -- a stripe -- from Soane Britain, decked the room. 

                                                                          Photo by Rafael Quirindongo

Featuring Sikes' line of rattan furniture for Soane Britain, the room demonstrated that outdoor furniture can bring a measure of informality to an otherwise formal space.  Sikes nodded to a high-low scheme by mixing his rattan furniture and tableware by Bunny Williams for the catalog-retailer Ballard Designs with precious antiques like the 19th century crystal chandelier and Neoclassical cabinets.


Lest there be any doubt about the timelessness of blue and white porcelain, Sikes' use of it as a decorative wall accent proves that point.

First-timer Alan Tanksley also earned a top notch space . . . quite literally.  Tanksley's top floor space was originally intended as a bedroom.  But its awkward scale with dormer windows made it a perfect spot for a gentleman's study.  Paying homage to his first employer, the great Mark Hampton, Tanksley fashioned "Pavlos Retreat" for Pavlos Papageorgiou, the husband of Mark Hampton's daughter and president of Mark Hampton LLC, Alexa Hampton.

                                                                        Photo courtesy of Architectural Digest

Tanksley's design demonstrated how the elements of texture and pattern enliven a monochromatic space.  Using plush de le Cuona fabric on the sofa, walnut millwork and grasscloth wallcovering, Tanksley created a diverse yet artfully composed space.  The model of the Temple of Athena (the Parthenon) is a reference to Papageorgiou's Greek heritage.


Another grand debut was had by David Phoenix who designed the Master Bedroom.  Similar to Alan Tanksley's space, Phoenix's bedroom was monochromatic.  Awash in Cowtan & Tout muted woolen tartan walls, the room had a decidedly feminine feel.  No doubt the bed's full tester and cozy fireside sitting area added to this appeal.


                                                                                 Photo by Rafael Quirindongo


The Lounge by Bennett Leifer Interiors LLC showcased the work of another first-timer.  Just off the kitchen, leading to the back stair and outdoor garden, the Lounge was one of those awkward transitional spaces usually given to first-timers.  But Leifer dealt with the awkward features of the space with aplomb.

                                                                   Photo courtesy of Architectural Digest

Any space decorated with de Gournay wallpaper has the element of pattern nailed.  The illumination created by the gilded wallpaper and luminous fixtures on the floor, wall and ceiling planes expanded the narrow space.  Mirroring the wallpaper pattern on the opposite glazing, Leifer installed sheers with similar pastoral images.