Monday, February 28, 2011

Something a little different, but empowering

Okay, this isn't a design post, but the message is one I felt worth sharing. And, I think it relates to the world of blogging and design - the concept that we can do anything with a little help from others. My friend, and fellow business mastermind group member, Stacey Shipman is a motivational speaker around the topics of stress management and self-empowerment. She has a post on her blog called What Happens When People Help People that I thought was especially wonderful.

Here's the video that's part of the post. I'd also like to give a little shoutout to Lois Wood, graphic designer and also a member of my business roundtable group, who is the participant in Stacey's experiment. Lois designed my IFDA chapter's website this year.

I so agree with Stacey's sentiment that we can all go far with some help from other women, friends and colleagues. No man is an island, as the man said.

If you would like my help on your design project, I would love to chat with you! Please email me. Thanks!

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Saturday, February 26, 2011

New England Finery

My friend, designer and blogger Yvonne Blacker, along with business partner Linda Smith, have launch a lovely new addition to the burgeoning bookshelf of digital publications. New England Finery is just as advertised, a great collection of decor and inspiration of all things New England!  The ladies were also kind enough to include several New England bloggers in their first publications - I was honored to be asked to contribute!

I think the cover, photographed by Elizabeth Wertz, is really beautiful in it's elegant simplicity. As I said on a recent Skirted Roundtable podcast, editing is difficult and editing oneself is truly hard!

So, brava ladies on the release of your first issue - looking forward to more!

If you would like my help on your design project, I would love to chat with you! Please email me. Thanks!

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Rest in Peace: Lee Bierly, New England design star

The New England design community is saddened by the news of the death of New England Hall of Fame designer Lee Bierly this week, after a lengthy battle with cancer.

 Lee Bierly (standing) and Christopher Drake

Mr. Bierly was a big bear of a man who managed to create, along with his husband  and business partner Christopher Drake, subtle interiors that were both elegant and comfortable.

 (source unknown) - Seriously beautiful

I wrote about a chance encounter I had with Mr. Bierly when I met him briefly the night he was inducted into the New England Design Hall of Fame. 

Courtesy of Traditional Home magazine. 
Photographs by Robert Brantley. Produced by Estelle Bond Guralnick
Image of Mr. Bierly and Mr. Drake's house courtesy of New England Home Magazine. 
Photography by Michael Partenio. Styling by Stacy Kunstel. Read the entire story by Erin Marvin here.

Active in the community, Mr. Bierly was a trustee emeritus of Boston's Citi Performing Arts Center and a past overseer of the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston.

 Photograph by Robert Brantley, via Traditional Home

"...sometimes I feel like a character out of one of John Irving's novels; hurdling from one adventure to another—bear, unicycle, and all," ~ Lee Bierly, via Home Portfolio

My thoughts and condolences go out to the Bierly-Drake families at this difficult time. May the love of friends and fans bring you peace and comfort. 

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Monday, February 21, 2011

On blogging and anniversaries, or, Where did the last six years go?

I'm feeling a wee bit old and pensive...  Anniversaries have a habit of doing that. [Sit back, this ended up longer than expected.]

And missing anniversaries can make one feel a tad feeble minded. You see, my six year blogging anniversary was last month, and I forgot all about it. In design blog terms, six years is quite a long time. I started my blog as an offshoot of my company newsletter that I'd been sending out for a couple of years. I had been hearing from marketing types that the old fashioned newsletter was going out of style (it didn't, if done right) and was wondering what was the next thing I could do to market myself. I'm a semi-early adopter, I guess. I started running into blogs online and became fascinated by the instant update quality and the marketing potential. I was also intrigued that major media publications were taking notice of design bloggers. I'd been reading Grace Bonney's Design*Sponge off and on when I saw that she was featured (along with Apartment Therapy, MocoLoco, and TreeHugger.) in an interesting New York Times piece, dated January 27, 2005.

Coincidentally (but not) my very first blog post was that very same day. (It wasn't much, just a repost of a piece I'd written for my newsletter that also appeared on the now defunct site.)  As I recall, I'd been thinking about blogging, but that NYT piece must have pushed me over the edge. After all - Grace was a 23 year old baby and there she was in the Times!!  I find it incredibly interesting, and telling, that all but one (Land and Living) of the blogs mentioned in the article are far and away today's leaders and "old guard" of blogging. They are all so big, it's hard to still call them blogs (similar to HuffPo or Drudge). They are more like media giants and no one would even think of questioning if they are here to stay.

And so, six years and three weeks later, the New York Times has another article on blogging entitled Blogs Wane as the Young Drift to Sites Like Twitter. It would have been cool had they both been written by the same reporter, but they are not. A couple quotes are frightening - how blogging is too much writing and it's easier to just post pics on Tumblr or reduce one's thoughts to 140 characters on Twitter.

Of course, from January 2005 to now, the design blogs have exploded. I have no idea how many there are, but there seem like thousands and thousands. Can we read them all? No. Will all get media coverage? No. I think it's clearly obvious that the "Old Guard" benefited from being first. Their stories are rife with readership jumps from hundreds to multi-thousands of readers a day, within months of launch. I doubt very much that could happen today. The Times' story of 2005 reported that AT reported daily readership of 10,000. AT reports today a readership of over 66,000 daily readers (per their media kit). Design*Sponge reports over 75,000 site visits daily and over 100K subscribers via RSS feed. 

The "Second Guard" which I guess I am part of, probably dates from 2005-2008. Many of us have also benefited from being around for a while and are on media lists and get attention from major media outlets.  The "blog smog" is now quite thick (in a good way!) and I think it's very hard for newer bloggers to gain notice. Of course, some do absolutely. But it's hard and requires dedication and the ability to stand out via excellent writing, design talent, connections, personality or some combination of the above.

I'm frequently asked by newer bloggers, or those considering blogging, how to get going and how to gain readership. Of course, as new media continues to grow and evolve (FB, Twitter, etc) the question is - will blogs continue to be as relevant and, as some marketing voices say "Should everyone have a blog"?  My feeling is no, everyone should not have a blog, or to be clearer, everyone should not feel like they should have a blog. If you want one, welcome!

But, if you're going to have a blog - write it yourself. I'm a purist and feel that a blog should be about the blogger (their views, ideas and talent). I'm not a fan of the turnkey blogging services that are available. I don't think a blog will gain any kind of traction if the voice is not genuine. If you are worried about writing skills, spelling, grammar or punctuation, then hire an editor - someone who will format your writing, correct the grammar, etc and even do the tech part. But the essence needs to be you.

In 2009, I launched The Skirted Roundtable with Megan Arquette and Joni Webb, as a way to move the conversation off the screen and make it more immediate. I think I can speak for all of us that this initiative has really established our individual voices. Personally, it's cut considerably into my actual blogging time because the editing process is so time intensive, but every minute is worth it.

When we started The Skirted Roundtable, we recorded several podcasts about blogging with topics including content, finding one's voice, gaining readership, etc. You can hear those podcasts here, here, here and here. I highly recommend that anyone interested in growing their blogs, or are just starting out, might want to listen in and read the comments as our listeners are very smart and insightful.

The most important thing to decide on, however, is why do you want to blog and who do you want to be speaking to. I started off by deciding that I wanted my readership to be other designers, high-end design buyers and the media. My readership is minscule compared the "Old Guard" and probably in the mid-average range among the "Second Guard". I don't receive tons of comments and while I treasure the comments I do receive, I've learned to let go of "comment counting". Because, my target readership isn't likely to be high rate commenters. But I know from my visit stats, from private emails and from opportunities received that I'm hitting my mark. And that's good enough for me.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the state of design blogging. I think this will be a topic for SRT soon as well, so stay tuned for that.

And a big hug and kiss to all the friends I've made through blogging (the most important benefit, bar none!). As a closet shy girl (I do love that expression) it's given me the chance to push out of my Yankee reticence and enter a world I could not have imagined. XXOO to all of you!

If you would like my help on your design project, I would love to chat with you! Please email me. Thanks!

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Skirted Roundtable: The State of Shelter mags - print and digi - plus, an announcement!

This week at The Skirted Roundtable, we chat amongst ourselves about the current state of the big shelter magazines - both print and digital. It's a no holds barred conversation and not one to be missed! We're especially critical of a certain beloved print magazine, so check it out and let us know what you think!

On a related topic, I've been making some important changes to my own digital magazine ::Surroundings::. The most exciting is that I am partnering with talented architectural photographer Michael J. Lee to produce original cover shots for each issue.  Michael has, in fact, been the photographer for three of my four published issues, but we're making it official.

Michael has shot for some of the most amazing designers, architects and builders and his work regularly appears in the finest New England shelter magazines. Above are some of his recent covers and you can check out his work on his website as well (and mine, for that matter!) We had a great chat with Michael at The Skirted Roundtable last year, if you want to take a listen.

So, we can't yet divulge the details of our first cover (next issue is slated for mid-March), but it will be amazing, I can promise that! Our plan for each cover is to select a showroom or shop and create a vignette that best represents the theme of the issue, while also showcasing a great resource. More to come on that! The next issue is themed around the subject of "Color", but it won't be the usual mish-mosh of brightly colored items. I believe it will be a more subtle conversation on the subject. 

You can read my four published magazines here and if you'd be interested in advertising, you can view my media kit here.

If you would like my help on your design project, I would love to chat with you! Please email me. Thanks!

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Monday, February 14, 2011


If you would like my help on your design project, I would love to chat with you! Please email me. Thanks!

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Sunday, February 13, 2011


How gorgeous is this image? So simple yet you just want to sit there and be quiet, don't you? From the current Architectural Digest (congrats Margaret!).  This is from a collaboration between design icon Jacques Grange and antiquarian Pierre Passebon on his Paris flat. See the whole slide show here.  Photographed by Francois Halard, article by Natasha Fraser-Cavassoni, produced by Carolina Irving.

The mirror (19thC) and wirework garden chairs once belonged to Madeleine Castaing. Ohh la la!

If you would like my help on your design project, I would love to chat with you! Please email me. Thanks!

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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Saturday Snippet: iPhone photos and helpful apps

Would you believe I took this pic on my iPhone? I posted it the other day on Facebook and got a lot of compliments, so figured I'd share it here as well. I have a G3S phone and used two different apps to get the photo. I took the photo using ProHDR which is separate from the built-in camera app. HDR (High-Dynamic-Range imaging) is a technology that basically allows you to take multiple images of the same photo at different light levels to capture backgrounds and foregrounds and then merges them to create a single, fully lit image. (More tech detail here on Wikipedia). There are some interiors photographers who employ HDR in their work, but generally I don't particularly like it as it can result in a very fake, flat looking image. However, it's a nifty thing for the iPhone. ProHDR reads the light levels and take two images (one for foreground, one for background) and merges the two together. You do need to hold the phone very steady for this, but it's very easy. I then edited the photo in PhotoWizard Editor which let me enhance the colors and sharpen the image. Pretty good results for a tiny camera lense!

Hope you're having a great weekend!

If you would like my help on your design project, I would love to chat with you! Please email me. Thanks!

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Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Have a bathe

In Downton Abbey on PBS,  Cora, the Countess of Grantham (played by Elizabeth McGovern) takes a bath in a well appointed bathroom. Now if only her ladies maid didn't try to kill her and did succeed in causing a miscarriage by leaving a bar of soap in the wrong location. 

As I am currently working with client's on a new master bathroom plan, I was paying particular attention to this bathroom in the series. I wanted to share some of my inspiration images for some modern, yet classic, bathrooms.

via House Beautiful, designer Paulo Moschino - featuring Waterworks Chesterfield tub

designer Karyl Pierce Paxton - featuring Waterworks Savoy tub

designer Penelope Bianchi - featuring a vintage 1860's zinc lined tub

designer Jim Howard - featuring Waterworks Classic Oval tub

designer Barry Dixon

designer Laura Kirar - featuring Waterworks Empire bathtub

designer Dana Lyon - featuring Waterworks Empire Freestanding tub

designed by Paige Schnell and Doug Davis of Tracery Interiors. Featured in House Beautiful. via Splendid Sass (also featuring the Waterworks Empire tub!)

 designer Ken Fulk, photographer Matthew Millman, via House Beautiful
via Elle Decor, photographer Tim Street-Porter

designer Michael S. Smith, photographer Simon Upton

designer Kerry Joyce, photographer Gray Crawford

designers William Diamond and Anthony Baratta, photographer Simon Upton

Take me away!

If you would like my help on your design project, I would love to chat with you! Please email me. Thanks!

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Friday, February 04, 2011

Follow Friday: New England edition

Another week, another snowstorm has come and gone. My brick front walkway has about 3-1/2' of snow on either side. It's just nuts! So, clearly, we're all a little stir crazy here in New England (I know, the rest of the country is in a similar situation). But complaining about the weather is one of our past times.  Anyway, I wanted to give a Follow Friday shout out to some excellent New England blogs that I always enjoy reading.

Deborah from Boxwood Terrace always features the most beautiful images and products on her blog. This week, she's begging Mother Nature for a little green before May. Given how much snow I'm looking out on, I'm not sure we'll see the grass again before June!

Murano glass lamps from Swank Lighting

Deborah's fantasy cubicle (sadly,I work from home and my office doesn't look like this!)

Coming to us from Tricia Mitchell who's in Maine (brrr) is Avolli. Tricia runs an antiques business specializing in Swedish and Scandinavian antiques, with a smattering of other European finds. Tricia's blog features product's of the week at great prices, as well well as her current favorite things and some adventures in cooking.

Lindsay from Everything LEB is one of those adorable, young bloggers who seem so effortlessley chic. I should hate her, but she's also really sweet and very talented. One of the things I love about her blog are her chic DIY projects. Beautifully executed, these are not your granny's craft projects. Lindsay is also getting married so of course she's got weddings on her mind. And apparently she and her pack of girlfriends are currently doing the bachelorette thing - in Florida. Congrats Lindsay!

Laurie at Zinc Studios blog features incredibly beautiful images that inspire her as well as items from her online shop.

My friend Yvonne of Design Vignettes has been here, there, and everywhere recently and is reporting it all with great detail on her blog. She recently attended the NYIGF and posted about all she saw and heard as well as has a great roundup of links from other bloggers who were there. Yvonne is also jumping on the digital magazine bandwagon and is about to launch New England Finery.

Stacy Kunstel and Michael Partenio at their Dunes and Duchess stand at NYIGF

Amy at Maison Decor features a decidedly feminine style that is always gorgeous to look at.She's also quite the artist and recently did a giveaway of a house sketch for a lucky reader!

How pretty is Amy's pink porch swing?

Maya from Completely Coastal showcases some of the prettiest sea-themed items going - never kitschy, always stylish. I'm always impressed when a blogger hits upon a single theme and does it up right. I don't have that kind of discipline (or possibly attention span!).

Other fabulous New England design professionals with blogs include:
Whew... lots of great things coming out of New England. I am certain I've missed some people, so feel free to shoot me an email and I'll add the links.

Finally, I wanted to thank Elle Decor for asking me to share with their readers where I have been clicking this week. That feature went up today!!

If you would like my help on your design project, I would love to chat with you! Please email me. Thanks!

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