Friday
Sep022016

Social September

For the past several years, Australia's The Reach Foundation has sponsored "Social September."  The Reach Foundation is an organization aimed at enhancing the social well-being of youths ages 10-18.  With a motto "Disconnect to Reconnect," the aim of Social September is to encourage people of all ages to engage in face to face contact in lieu of using technology to communicate.  Registering in Social September comes with a mandate to unplug, even for as little as an hour a day.  Which engenders the question, how long can you go without looking at your smartphone?

I've been ruminating about this lately.  When I'm bored, I turn to my phone.  If I'm not checking email, Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat, I'm playing my go-to trilogy of digital card games: Solitaire, Free Cell or Spider Solitaire.  Or I'll play Mah-Jongg.  I think about the growing stack of magazines that I subscribe to and the novels worth reading.  I should opt for those instead, but more often than not, I don't. 

Attention to social media leads to certain pitfalls.  Like two weekends ago.  It was a beautiful Sunday, and we had no plans.  Now, my husband has been unemployed, and consequently, we've been in financial austerity mode.  Foolishly, I started to browse on Instagram.  After seeing various postings from vacationers as close by as Nantucket and as far away as the Cote d'Azur, I was sick and threw down my phone.  The problem with Social Media is it breeds lifestyle envy (a known phenomenon).  This phenomenon can lead us to switch to a different platform (the healthy alternative) or give up entirely (the non-healthy alternative).  Last Sunday, I obviously succumbed to the non-healthy option.

In my profession, I've embraced social media.  I use it for branding, marketing and publicity.  I also use it for research.  I follow other designers and brands to keep abreast of new products and design ideas.  But sometimes, it becomes toxic.  Like when I see the projects of other designers I wish I had.  I heard not too long ago of a colleague's decision to abstain from social media for six months for just this very reason.  And this would be the last designer I would expect (from this designer's social media profile) to suffer from lifestyle envy!  Simple proof of the pervasiveness of this phenomenon.

So I think I will commit to Social September.  And I invite you to do so also.  Instead of sending that text message or email, pick up the phone.  If you have news to share, call your friends and family.  Or better yet, arrange a visit.  Engage in face to face conversation.  After all, it's only human.

Tuesday
Aug232016

Look Who's Minding the Store

Ahhh, summer.  My favorite season.  Time to relish the sunshine, long hours of daylight, and relaxed schedule.  What with the Republican and Democratic Conventions here in the U.S.; the season finale of the Bachelorette (I admit, I watched this season); the follow-up season of Bachelor in Paradise (I admit, I am watching that too -- it's comforting watching other people's 'crazy'); and the Summer Olympics in Rio, I have spent most summer weeknights on the couch watching TV -- time I might otherwise have spent blogging.  As in past summers, I took a break from blogging.  This is healthy for me.  As I prepare my youngest for her sophomore year away at college, the time I spend cuddling with her on the couch, watching TV shows like the Bachelorette, sustains me when she is gone.  And that's the time I can go back to blogging.

On the subject of being an empty-nester (at least for the school year), I've done something to fill the void left by not having a child at home and a schedule revolving around the school-day.  I've gone to work one day a week and every other Saturday at a home-furnishings boutique in a neighboring town.  In summer, when design is not a priority for most clients, the office is quiet and I start to go a little stir crazy.  Rather than welcome the respite, I start having paranoid thoughts like "Why aren't I busier?" and "Why isn't the phone ringing?"  It's an occupational hazard of being self-employed.  So when I saw a "Help Wanted" sign in this boutique that I pass nearly every day, I decided to inquire.  This little job gets me out of the office and spares my brain from unwelcome thoughts.  As summer transitions to fall, clients resume their home decorating projects, and my sophomore-in-college leaves once again, I'll take comfort in being around pretty things, helping customers with design decisions and sharing the latest episode of the Bachelor with my co-workers. There's something to say about sharing time around the water cooler in the workplace.

Tuesday
Jul122016

Trend Watch Tuesday: Paint Trends for Fall 2016

While it's still the hot, hazy days of summer, it may be premature to think about fall.  But fashion and design are always a step ahead of us and create blips in our radar that our antennae can't ignore.  If you're thinking about a redecorating project, here are some paint trends we'll see as we head into the latter part of 2016.

 

1. Moody Earth Tones

We're always looking to nature to inspire us.  Over the last 2-3 years, the trends in paint colors have been toward less saturated pale colors -- soft greens, cool blues and pale pinks.  The fashion runways have been showing us deeper, more saturated colors and the design community is following suit.  Olive, mustard and copper are colors that will infuse interiors in the coming months.  They're especially suited to gathering spaces like family rooms, living rooms, dens and libraries because they exude warmth and coziness.  These colors work well with leathers and hides, with plush fabrics like velvet and chenille, and with warm wood tones.  They are suited to rustic and traditional decor but can be spiced up with contemporary furnishings as shown in the dining room below.

                            
Photo courtesy of House & Garden

     
Photo courtesy of Farrow & Ball

               
Photo courtesy of Traditional Home

                            
Photo courtesy of Apartment Therapy

                                
Photo courtesy of This Old House

                  
Photo courtesy of Sheila Bridges Design

2. Black
Until the recent past, no one would have thought of painting walls black unless they were decorating a haunted house for Halloween.  But with the popularity of industrial decor, black walls are cropping up as an interesting complement to industrial furnishings.  Black works well in powder rooms with vessel sinks atop vanities made from reclaimed lumber.  Or in kitchens with white or grey cabinets.  Black is also interesting in masculine bedrooms.  For those not so daring to go with black walls, consider painting doors and trim black with white or off-white walls.  Used in that way, black highlights the architecture and millwork.  Because black is so universal, it goes with so many styles: modern, mid-century, rustic, bohemian, industrial.  I like black paired with global influences like African Kuba or Indian Kantha cloths, Moroccan Beni Ourain or Afghan Bukhara-style carpets.

                         
Photo courtesy of One Kings Lane

                                                  
Photo courtesy of Cybball.com

                            
Garrow Kedigian's room at the 2016 Kips Bay Show House.  Photo courtesy of Curbed New York

                  
Photo courtesy of Greige Design

3. White

White was the "go-to" color touted by the national paint companies this year.  And for good reason.  It's a clean, fresh look and provides an alternative to grey, the popular neutral this decade.  White looks great paired with trim and doors painted an accent color (think black or an earthy green).  With all white walls, doors and trim, the opportunities are endless for mixing colors, textures and patterns on furnishings.  White works well with modern, mid-century, rustic, bohemian and industrial decor.   I'd recommend white for homes with abundant natural light and views -- to avoid competition with the landscape -- and for open-concept homes -- to create harmony and unity from room to room.  Any room benefits from white walls, kitchens and baths in particular for a feeling of cleanliness. 

                     

Photo courtesy of Apartment Therapy

                  

Photo courtesy of Amber Interiors

         

Photo courtesy of Amber Interiors

 

 

 

Friday
Jul082016

Inside the Nerve Center of Noir Trading, Inc.

When spring finally hit the Northeast this past May, I decided to head west.  I was invited to attend an open house at the headquarters of CFC and Noir Trading, Inc., sister furniture companies located in Gardena, California, right outside Los Angeles.  With my favorite (and only) son living in Los Angeles, it doesn't take much to coax me to visit L.A.  The open house was scheduled for a Thursday leaving ample time over the weekend to spend with Jordan.  I'll write more about CFC in another post, but this post is dedicated to the "laboratory" of Georg Baehler, the founder and creative mind behind Noir.

A woodworker and cabinetmaker hailing from Switzerland, Georg brings to Noir the quality and craftsmanship the Swiss are known for.  Georg founded Noir in 2004 to bring artfully-crafted, well-designed furniture to the Americas at affordable price points. 

                  

I took this photo in the Noir/CFC Showroom in High Point, North Carolina during Spring Market 2015.

Georg personally designs each and every piece in the line -- and there are 1500 active items -- by hand, with a pencil and paper, in actual, full scale.  It takes Georg about 6 to 8 months to develop a product for production.  If one of his designs is copied by another manufacturer, it's discontinued.

                  

That's Georg on the left, in front of his drafting table in his office at Noir headquarters.  To understand what drives Georg's prolific creativity, and eccentricity, you have to go behind the scenes to the nerve center of Noir -- Georg's office (really a loft) at Noir headquarters. 

Georg built the office largely by hand.  And it's still a work in progress.  It sits atop the business offices, separate from the more routine operational aspects of the business.  The office is Georg's laboratory.  But instead of beakers and bunsen burners, it's filled with collections . . . gleaned from lowly trash heaps to popular flea markets.  Here are several examples:

                                      

An ethnic totem in front of art and furniture tomes.  Notice the old camera and skulls.

                                   

A collection of wood, brass and iron candlesticks.

                                   

A collection of cut glass decanters and assorted bottles on the left and vintage typewriters, a vintage adding machine and movie projector on the right.

                                   

A variety of objects from vintage cameras to microscopes to weights and statues.

Many of Georg's collections become props for Noir and CFC's showroom during High Point market weeks.

Certain areas of Georg's office were captivating.  Like his dressing room, below.

                

And here's Georg's desk area.

                

Here's a casual sitting area with a window overlooking the warehouse.

                

Here's another seating area with theatre seats in front of books and a Roy Lichtenstein poster.

   

And here's the "play" area -- a foosball table tucked into a corner of the vast loft.

                 

The office is a collector's delight and reveals those qualities of Georg that are sensitive to minute details and to creating composition.  From this hodge podge, I could see how Georg cultivated his aesthetic and where he derives his inspirations for his creations for Noir.

 

 

 

 

Thursday
Jun302016

ICYMI -- Part 2: 2016 Junior League of Boston Show House

Before we festoon ourselves in the Red, White and Blue in celebration of America's Independence Day, let's take a look at how some of the 2016 Junior League of Boston Show House designers used color to punctuate their designs.  Color is one of my signature design elements, so it's no surprise that these rooms especially appealed to me.

"The Morning Room" was a particularly appropriate name for Kate McCusker Rosenberger's show house room given the bright, sunny colors that complemented her space.

     

Photo courtesy of Theodore and Company

Despite large-scale neutral upholstery, the space came alive with pops of yellow (note the ceiling plane), orange and hot pink.  Kate perfectly balanced the saturated hot colors with cool neutrals, yet she made the room feel decidedly colorful.

In a similar palette was Kelly Rogers' Mother-in-Law Suite.  Adding saturated colors to ceiling planes might just be the takeaway from these two spaces.

     

Lest you think that pinks and purples should only be relegated to bedrooms, take a look at Steven Favreau's Library.  Steven cloaked the walls in drapery to disguise their disrepair, but the effect was to create a soft and undulating backdrop for art displays.  Lilac trim, area rug, and upholstery fabrics are a departure from the dark wood and leather we come to expect in a library.

                  

               

Bright orange was the jolt that Diana Frucci used to spice up her Family Media Room.  In addition to being an interior designer, Diana and her husband own Furniture Consignment Galleries in Hanover and Plymouth, Massachusetts (and are soon opening a location in Natick) and used furniture from their stores to furnish this space.

       

                             

Photo courtesy of Furniture Consignment Gallery

Last, but not least, is the color used by Vani Sayeed to bridge the challenging height of the kitchen she designed.  Below is a "before" shot of the two-story space.

       

Two-story spaces pose challenging design problems of scale and proportion when the area, not the volume, of the space is small.  With on-trend gray cabinetry, Vani tackled the soaring ceiling height by applying a vivid red faux-leather wallpaper above the cabinetry and using the additional height as gallery space.

       

Bare windows bathe the room in natural light and modulate the red walls.  The large-scale sculptural light fixture also helps to consume the room's massive volume.