Monday, August 29, 2011

"Oh snap!" A Junior Man Cave Makeover

In 2007, I was honored to be asked to do a bedroom makeover for an 11 year old recovering leukemia patient named Marcus. This project was done in conjunction with the Jimmy Fund of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Homegoods, who provided all the material goods. I posted about this when it originally aired, but was never able to link to the video. I was trying to organize my office today and ran across the DVD I'd received of the show. Technology has come a long way and I was finally able to create a clip from the DVD of the show, which I wanted to share. The video is pretty self-explanatory.

Of course, the story is about the little boy and the good works of the Jimmy Fund and Homegoods and less about me and the end result of the decorating. But, I was very happy with the outcome and more importantly, so was Marcus.

This is the before - typical little boys room. 

I met with Marcus and his mom and we discussed the program, what he wanted and needed in the space. There was basically no actual budget for the project, aside from what Homegoods was providing, so painting, etc was out.  At Homegoods I think I filled four or five carts. They were really so generous, it was basically carte blanche. The day of the shoot, we literally had about 2 hours to actually makeover the room. Marcus' mom had cleaned up the room considerably from between when he and I met and the filming, which made the set up so much easier. My friend and colleague Sharon Fisher of Come to Order! Professional Organizing Services came with me to lend a much needed hand! In addition to adding decorative touches, we also organized his closet and sneaker collection.

And the after:

In the end, I didn't have time to really document the project, but wanted to point out a few key elements that seemed to work really well. I added the fur pillow at the last minute, thinking he might hate it. But it was one of the first things he noticed. I reused a bedspread that they had because it was cute and sports themed, but added new pillows covered in red and blue flannel sheeting, new drapery (actually, these were fabric shower curtains as I recall) and new rods. I loved the red bedside table and stainless steel lamp. It's hard to see, but in the lower right corner is a black leather ottoman that had a reversible tray table top for drinks and snacks. The gorilla is also sitting on a black leather ottoman. I really wanted this room to grow with him - to celebrate that fact that he would grow up.  On a side note, we also bought a few cute things for his little sister's room as well, just so she wouldn't feel left out.

There were lots of other little details which went by so quickly on air. For instance, I bought shadowbox frames and put in color photos of the Fenway Park and Foxboro Stadium and included some of his sports figurines and bobble heads as sort of little dioramas. There was a "locker" for his sneaker collection and a bed in the corner for the family cat.

Anyway, as I said, I was very honored to have been asked to participate in this project. While I'm not exactly a tv natural (we all felt a little silly having to do the fake entrance and introductions) the outcome was everything I hoped it would be.

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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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Kips Bay Showhouse 2011: A late post on a beautiful bathroom

Way back in May (where DOES the time go) I spent a lovely hour chatting with Joy Licht, founder of Cayley Barrett, Assoc., a design-build firm in NYC about the lovely bathroom she did for this year's Kips Bay Showhouse.  Joy founded the company twenty years ago when there were nearly no women owned construction firms anywhere (still something of an anomaly, sadly).

I really enjoyed speaking with Joy about her firm and their longtime association with the Kips Bay houses. For several years, her firm did the construction work for other Kips Bay designers and for a long time she has done all the public restrooms in the various houses.   Her firm started out primarily as a construction company but has expanded their offerings to include design services as well. We chatted a lot about the economy over the last several years and how it's effected our industry. 

My takeaways from her many years of experience are: 1) Treat others as you wish to be treated. 2) Take the small jobs because you never know when they will lead to larger jobs, plus it allowed her to keep some of her staff on the payroll 3) If you think you can do something better than the next guy, then do it.

I thought the bathroom and dressing room were beautifully executed with lots of gorgeous details. The years Kips Bay house has current owners in residence (it's not for sale or empty) so many details had to be retained, including the gorgeous old wood floors and floorplan. It's not a large space, but Joy certainly packed in a lot of style.  The waxed limestone tiles, from Artistic Tile, were laid in a Chevron pattern which really added visual interest and expansiveness to the otherwise small space. The soft gray palette, mixed with the original dark brown floors was an unusual yet lovely combination.

I love it when a bathroom is a show house actually looks like a bathroom, toilet and all!

A detail of the gorgeous original parquet floors.

Joy built a tile surround for the heater which blended in with the wainscoting and provided a little extra surface space. Since the ceilings were not very high, Joy installed a lower than usual wainscot to give the impression of height in the walls.

The counter and trough sink are Onondoga bluestone, which is in upstate NY. As mentioned, the bathroom is quite small and was a pass-thru from dressing room to the bedroom designed by Amanda Nisbet. The counter depth is quite narrow - approximately 15 inches - as any wider would have impeded the flow of traffic for attendees. She was hoping the homeowner would see that it was, in fact, fine for regular use and be interested in keeping it as is. It certainly helped keep the space feeling as open and spacious as possible and was as functional as one needs it to be. Loved the faucets installed on the wall and the round mirror, which soften the linear lines of the tile, stone and floor patterns.

Onondoga Bluestone - it was slightly bluer in person.

The ceiling fixtures in the bathroom and dressing room are the Blossom Chandelier from Porto Romano through Zoffany. One thing Joy did throughout the space was mix the metals - polished chrome, silver, pewter, etc. She intentionally wanted to show that we don't need to slavishly match all the metal finishes in a space to make it work.

The glamorous dressing room includes closets outfitted with smoked "Chinchilla" glass inserts which obscure the contents nicely.

The dressing table was a study of mirrors, polished chrome and gilded woods. The artwork was mounted right on the mirrored wall, which may not be practical for every day use, but is a whimsical touch in a show house.

Loved the touches of pink and lavender among the grays and silvers.

The handles and door hardware were original to the home and refinished in nickel.

I want to thank Joy for spending so much time with me talking about her business and this bathroom as well. I apologize for the lateness of my post, but beautiful work is timeless!

You can read my other Kips Bay post, which I managed to get out in June, 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, August 22, 2011

The Skirted Roundtable: We recap Million Dollar Decorators

This week at The Skirted Roundtable while Megan was on vacation we were joined by Artie Vanderpool of the blog Color Outside the Lines to talk about our thoughts on the complete first (we hope there's more!) season of Bravo TV's Million Dollar Decorators.

We all agreed that the show was a big success, for us at least. While there were some negative things about the show - sometimes we don't really want to see how the sausage is made! - it did show the real-life workings of a design firm. Whether you do $5,000 projects, $50,000 or $500,000 - the process and roadblocks are all the same. Client's don't listen, orders are delayed and everybody blames the other guy. Just a day in the life... 

The question I have about the show is really, who was watching? Not a single design industry colleague of mine here in New England who I asked had even heard about the show. Well, let me clarify, these were my colleagues who are not bloggers/tweeters or heavily on Facebook. But then, most have never heard of the designers featured or any other Bravo show, for that matter. We can be an insular bunch here.

The show certainly was not a how-to nor would the average HGTV watcher glean much inspiration or tips from the show. In the end, the show wasn't about the design, but the designers, warts and all. We barely really got to see their design work and what we did see was not showcased particularly well (leave that to the still photographers and magazines).

So, we'd love to hear your thoughts as well. Go here to listen and comment. Bravo, are you listening?

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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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Designers' View: What's going on in home libraries today?

 Image courtesy of Brooke Giannetti

Image courtesy of Joni Webb

I recently wrote an article on assignment about how designers are working with home libraries and book collections these days. I am now reading books on my Kindle for iPhone and between the real Kindle and iPads, we're all buying fewer and fewer books. Big thanks to Brooke Giannetti of Velvet and Linen and Joni Webb of Cote de Texas for contributing their expertise to my article "Designers Talk About Home Libraries" which you can read in its entirety here. I'd love to know your thoughts on the subject.

Speaking of Brooke, she recently sent me a copy of her beautiful new book Patina Style, which she co-wrote with her architect husband Steve. Let me just say, it's gorgeous! And even though they used my beautiful font (which I was selfishly hoping to keep all to myself) I can't recommend the book highly enough.  Steve and Brooke will be joining us at The Skirted Roundtable in the Fall, so stay tuned for that! Order the book 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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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Missoni home fashions at Target

Target is partnering with Missoni, the iconic knitwear empire recognized as a symbol of Italian luxury, to introduce an affordable, limited-edition collection for fashion and home. The is the largest limited-time designer collection to date for Target. The products will only be available September 13th through October 22nd with some items available through December, as available.

I love, love, love this travel tote and may have to pick one up!

The clothes for women, girls and baby are all very adorable as well. You can see more of their Look Book 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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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

On birthdays, sink holes, and blue cape coats

Well, Happy Birthday to me. While I like to joke about being in my "extremely late 30's (emphasis on the extremely)" the reality I am as close to turning 50 as I am to turning, well, 48. And it seems like just yesterday I was lamenting that I was as close to 50 as I was to 20. Where did those last 14 years go???

Well, don't worry, we won't be taking a trip down that long of a memory lane. But I do feel the need to think about the last year. This has not been a very good year for me, as a matter of fact, it started off low, got a lot lower, and has slowly been working it's way back up.

A year ago today, instead of being taken out to lunch by my mother, which was the plan, I had to sit home waiting to speak with contractors about repairing a sink hole that had developed a few days before in my front yard. In the end, that sink hole would take over 6 weeks to repair, during which time I had only water from a hose into the condo, cost thousands of dollars and it would make me realize that I'd never liked the place to begin with. The shining points of my birthday 2010 was that my brother sent me flowers and my friend Michael J. Lee sent me flowers - because clearly I needed a little emotional boost. And my darling pal Rob came down to take me to dinner - which included a trip to Home Depot as I recall, dirty hair and dirty clothes.

I was going to post a pic of the sink hole, but prefer to not dwell on that mess.  In the midst of the mayhem, I was also fighting with my bank about the state of my mortgage (Bank of America) as they had lost some very important paperwork related to my reducing my payments - which of course they blamed on me. Three years of recession had taken its toll and as I am my only source of support, things had gotten tight.  So, after months of negotiations and reams of reporting and paperwork, they lost a single piece of paper and threw out my modification application.

 photo by Linda Merrill

Ah... a pretty break! ^  I got a little reprieve in the middle of all that to be wisked off to New York for Brizo's Fashion Week designers extravaganza which included a beautiful hotel (where all I wanted to do was nap and take showers), meeting great new friends and attending Jason Wu's Fashion show.  This was a much needed reprieve from the chaos at home and it really helped clear my head.

I realized that the sink hole in my front yard was a sign. A sign that I should stop fighting for the condo (with its regularly flooded basement level bedrooms, mediocre condo management and leaky windows) and simply move on from it. So, even though I loved my adorable kitchen that I had slaved over with my friend Rob:

 photo by Michael J. Lee Photography

I knew that I could re-create it down the road someday. After many months and phone call, letters, screaming, crying, recriminations and the like, I came to an understanding with my mortgage holder and was given an unfriendly two weeks to move out. I packed my belongings, sold most of my furniture, donated a ton of extra baubles I didn't really need and moved on.

This was back in March. I didn't share any of this with very many people as I was completely humiliated by the situation. Time, and ongoing anger towards the bank which still hasn't finished the process, has made me realize that I acted in the best manner I could. I tried to meet my obligations and had left with my head held high. I am now not living in my own place and for a decorator, it's very difficult to not be able to nest and create my own home. But for the moment, not having to pour the entirety of my income into living expenses is an enormous relief. And I am lucky, very lucky, that I had a place to go with a warm bed, good food and a space to continue working on my business. I never forget that many people don't have that kind of support.

Less than a week after I moved, before I had really unpacked,  I was flown down to High Point with a group of bloggers to take in the scene. Again, just as I was in the middle of chaos, my professional life reminded me that there are bigger things to be doing, places to go, people to meet, friends to make. It was exactly what I needed, when I needed it. And, although I was really exhausted physically from the move and emotionally from everything else, and even though I was literally fielding lawyers phone calls between showrooms, it was fantastic!

An exhausted me, with the Keno brothers at the Theodore Alexander showroom, Marisa Marcantonio from Stylebeat, Megan Arquette from Beach Bungalow 8 and Skirted Roundtable partner, Lizzie from TA, and Cassandra Lavalle from Coco + Kelley blog. 

In May, I attended Blogfest 2011, put on by Kravet. It was a fantastic 4 days in New York City, meeting bloggers from all around the country. And even though I was STILL fielding calls about the condo, it was a lot of fun! Sadly, my blogging has taken a beating this year and I still need to do some posts from these events!

Barbara Barry holds court in the Kravet Showroom during Blogfest 2011

After I got home from Blogfest, an amazing thing started happening. My phone started to ring. And kept ringing. Suddenly, I had slightly more work than I could handle! While I'd had work, of course, over the past couple of years, the clients were pretty spread out. Suddenly, I was juggling five in person projects and a virtual one to boot. I can't put my finger on what accounted for this sudden upswing, because it sure doesn't feel like the economy has taken an upswing (anything but!). 

However, it's been a wonderful couple of months of helping people make their homes beautiful and functional. Lots of planning, shopping and drawing. Heaven! Of course, the biggest project on my plate ultimately evaporated when the client's put in an offer on a different home that didn't need all the work. But, to be a position where that news was merely disappointing and not devastating is certainly a blessing.

You may be wondering why I am sharing all of this now. I guess it's for many reasons. Of course, birthdays, and those on the cusp of really BIG birthdays can make one feel pensive. But it's also because I am sick of being embarrassed by a situation that I did my darndest to avoid and one that is also effecting millions of others around the world. Feeling like a failure is not fun and does a number on one's self-esteem. And that's just wasted energy! 

I recently read Late Late Show host Craig Ferguson's autobiography. I am on record as having a "thing" for Craig (tall, handsome, funny, Scottish accent - what's not to love?).  He was a black out drunk from the age of 15-30 and nearly committed suicide. Once he sobered up, he was in debt to the tune of a quarter of a million dollars and wasn't sure what to do with himself. He writes in his book, which chronicles his life and the process of becoming an American citizen "Americans taught me failure was only something you went though on the way to success, not just in the sense of career or wealth, but as a person. I learned that failure is only failure, and that it can be useful, spun into a story that will make people laugh, and maybe every once in a while give a message of hope to others who might need some".

In other words, we can be down, but we're not necessarily out. And to be ready when the second, third and fourth chances come. I love that.

This birthday is going to be a much, much nicer one. Today, my friend Michael Lee took three of us out to lunch who all share August birthdays. What a fun day we had enjoying Legal Seafood's on the Boston waterfront, even though the rain was pounding down. 

Yvonne Blacker, of Design Vignettes and New England Finery magazine, Michael J. Lee, photographer and friend extraordinaire, Sharyn Fireman, the woman has done everything!, and me (in dire need of a dye job, I see).

And today, I finally get my fried clam lunch, postponed only a year, with my mother.  And, I am running a client errand, because I have clients and the shopping must go on!

I think 49 will be a good year. I sure as heck feel more positive about my life than I did a year ago. Afterall, I am in a house with running water and dry carpets. But more importantly, despite all the mishegas of the last year, I was never without friends handing me tissues and offering hugs, family offering me all that and more,  and constant reminders of just how lucky I really am. Stuff is just stuff. A house is not necessarily a home. It's what we make of it.

About the blue cape coat. When I was in the second grade, my mother made me a beautiful pale blue garbardine cape coat to wear to Mass on Easter. I loved it and couldn't wait to wear it. Easter morning came with a big blizzard and my ever-practical mother would not let me wear the coat because of the weather. I would be cold and the coat would be ruined. I threw a fit. A real heels pounding, screaming tantrum that we still talk about to this day. Actually, it did, in fact, came up today because my mother, still ever practical, couldn't believe I was planning on wearing my new silk dress to the Leo's luncheon mentioned above. The rain was pounding down and it's in the low 70's, upper 60's. I'd be cold, and the dress would be ruined.

And my reply? "Of course I am wearing my new dress.  I will always be the girl who will wear the blue cape coat in the snow."  Because life is for living, fabric is just fabric, and there is always a warm fire to come home to.

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, August 13, 2011

Insider's View of House Beautiful's Kitchen of the Year 2011

Contributed by Lori Dolnick

On a hot, hot July Monday in New York City, I had the opportunity to tour the House Beautiful Kitchen of the Year with Tyler Florence. I actually bumped Tyler as I squeezed through the packed audience to see the kitchen. And yes… I’m a kitchen design addict so I bypassed the throng trying to have small talk with the celebrity chef to get to the good stuff. 

This was House Beautiful’s largest Kitchen of the Year installation and the theme emphasized entertaining inside and outside. The idea of a living kitchen was one of the key trends covered, and the kitchen hosted multiple cooking stations that allowed guests to see the preparation and to participate.

I have to say kudos to House Beautiful and Tyler Florence who designed and worked so hard to build a beautiful kitchen right in the middle of Rockefeller Center in New York City. The installation included full, indoor and outdoor working kitchens that entertained hundreds of guests for cooking demonstrations, tastings and events. It’s styled thoughtfully so that it’s both aspirational and warmly lived in. If you are in the New York area next July, you must make this a stop. The event schedules are always online at House Beautiful.

No worries that you may have missed this year’s kitchen. Thanks to electronic media, you can take a tour with Tyler Florence online here or look for the October issue of House Beautiful magazine.

A few of the stand out products and where to find them:

Grothouse Lumber Custom Butcherblock
-       Made of Mahogany with Durata finish that is lifetime rated
-       Integrated knife slot frees counter space and offers added safety
-       The block rolls on wheels and can be repositioned from the countertop to the table
-       Custom inscribed with Latin – the dying words of the patron saint of chefs’ that translates roughly to, “I’m done on this side, you can turn me over now.”
-       Visit to design your own

Ann Sacks Subway Style Tile
-       Clean, classic and so New York chic. It’s supposed to be a Californian kitchen aesthetic, but that tile says New York to me.
-       Caliper in Warm Candle White Glass. 3” x 6” each

SunBriteTV Outdoor Television
-       It’s ironic, but I still can’t get over that there’s a TV that stands up to rain, dust, insects and extreme weather. Maybe the kids can do Wii outside and it’s just that much closer to real tennis.
-       LCD Screen, 46”, 1080 full HD

Bernhardt Furniture Company Quentin Dining Table
-                Warm, yet industrial – this hand-hammered stainless topped table will invite conversation
-                Dimensions: w 80 x d 40 x h 30
-                Solid Mindi wood base with trestle-style stretcher in a sandblasted Driftwood finish

Lori Dolnick is a regular contributor to ::Surroundings::

See all Lori's posts 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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