Monday, September 26, 2011

NEW ISSUE! ::Surroundings:: Guide to Decorative Living

Please enjoy my latest issue of ::Surroundings:: on Upholstery!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Weekend Scavenger: Abercrombie & Fitch Picnic Basket

I was poking around the Sandwich Antiques Center yesterday (which has become my go-to place for interesting gifts) and came across this fabulous Abercrombie and Fitch wicker picnic basket. It's empty and some of the leather strapping is missing, but the size and overall condition, not to mention the $20 price tag, made it a perfect buy for my office.

I'm not entirely sure if it's genuine, actually. Here are some full sets that have been listed on line:

Wine basket via Ebay

The picnic baskets date to the 1930's-60's and came fully stocked with everything you'd need for a great outdoor excursion. The reason I'm not entire sure it's genuine is just that some of the details are simply different than the handful of images I've found online. The three picnic baskets above have a rim on the base basket for the lid to fit over, while only the wine basket is like mine, where the top just rests on top of the bottom, however, mine is not tall enough to be the wine basket, nor does it have a wood bottom.  My handle is plastic while the others are leather. 

Ultimately, it doesn't really matter. I didn't pay much and bought it for its vintage charm and useful storage capability. 

I am using the basket to store current or recent client notebooks and keep them out of site until I need them. The other baskets and containers on this shelf hold more client notebooks, magazines, art supplies, paint chip palettes, etc. On the shelf above the picnic basket to the left is my late Father's leather camera bag, which probably dates to the 40's. I keep small items like remotes and the like in there.

Did you do any weekend scavenging?

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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Decorator's Closet Sale: Silk Pillow

As I previously mentioned, I'm in the process of redecorating my bedroom. I have a pair of oblong silk pillows that I made a couple of years ago that I'd like to sell. They are on sale over at my Etsy shop.

Hope you're having a great weekend!

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Friday, September 23, 2011

Marimekko at Crate & Barrel PLUS a giveaway

 The classic Unikko poppy pattern in blue

Iconic Finnish brand Marimekko is launching mini-shops within Crate and Barrel's across the country in order to highlight their home category of products. I had the chance yesterday to visit the new shop on Boylston Street in Boston and meet with several lovely reps from Marimekko, one more passionate about their brand than the next. Unless you've been living under a rock, you're undoubtedly familiar with the colorful and graphic Marimekko prints which have been influencing design since 1951. There are, of course, many imitators, but once you're familiar with the real thing, it's easy to spot the knock-offs.  While these graphics are not in my usual wheel-house of design style, I do love the bright and fun quality that would enliven any space, particularly on a cold or dreary New England day (much as it is today!)

Love these black and pink Lukematon notebooks - a new pattern featuring the current trends towards text graphics.

I was told that the toss pillows are among their best sellers at the moment. Such a great way to add a little Marimekko style easily and afforably!

Mix 'n Match!

Cute little poufs made with Marimekko fabrics (not for sale)
"Surrur" is a new book filled with projects that can be made with Marimekko fabrics. The word "Surrur" has no translation, it's in fact the sound the brain or a sewing machine makes when hard at work. Cute, no? And really, quite true. I love how they really promote the "DIY" side of things.  Their fabrics are sold by the yard here and come in cotton, coated cotton (great for outdoor tablecloths, placemats or bibs) and upholstery weight.

I would like to give away this cute cotton tote bag to someone who would really appreciate and use it. It's approximately 17"x18". Just leave a comment and tell me which of Marimekko's fabrics you love the most and I'll draw a name at random. Just make sure to include your email, or link to your site with an email, so I can let you know if you're the winner! Some people have let me know that they have trouble commenting on Disqus, if so, then just email me and I'll include you in the drawing!

My favorites are:

Ananas (also available in blue)

Have 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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Monday, September 19, 2011

The best part of blogging

Without a doubt, the best part of blogging are all the relationships that form along the way. And, relationships without borders. Instead of meeting design colleagues in our own neighborhood or region, we can get to know designers from all over the world. So, I was very excited when I received an email a few weeks ago from Jennifer French of Inside Out Colour and Design that she and her husband and daughter were traveling in the US and going to be on Cape Cod this week.

We had a lovely lunch today as they made their way from Cape Cod up to Maine and it was so nice trading industry talk about how we each run our businesses and the state of business today. Jennifer spent last week taking in the whole NYC scene, a little of which she posted on her Facebook page. 

Linda Merrill and Jennifer French after lunch in Sandwich, MA

Jennifer was also kind enough to bring me a couple Aussie design magazines, which is always thrilling! Local book stores carry British and French magazines, but rarely the Australian ones, so I'm looking forward to digging into them!

Safe travels Jennifer!! I'll make it Australia some day!

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, September 16, 2011

My latest article on Williams-Sonoma's Designer Marketplace

My latest post for Williams-Sonoma's Designer Marketplace has just gone live and I wanted to share it with you. I wrote on the importance of using a professional photographer vs. DIY work when it comes to shooting a portfolio. So, check it out and let me know what you think!

I'm currently hard at work putting the finishing touches on my next issue of ::Surroundings:: Guide to Decorative Living digital magazine. The theme of this issue is Upholstered Furniture and as it happens, I'm using an image, shot by Michael J. Lee that is featured on the Williams-Sonoma site, as my cover image for the magazine. Since it's been previously published, I thought I'd give you a sneak peak before the launch of the publication:

I should have the issue published early next week (fingers crossed!). This is my 8th issue and I am so honored to have the readership that I have for a relatively small and very targeted publication. So far, I've received over 72,000 readers across the first 7 issues. Not bad for a completely one-woman operation!  So, thank 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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Friday, September 02, 2011

Bedrooms: Dark and Moody vs. Light and Bright

I'm in the process of redecorating my bedroom - nothing major, just new bedding, window treatments, things like that. I am in need of a change and perhaps a little simplification. The bedding I'm buying is all white linen. My current bedroom has a white rug and darkish green walls, all white molding. So, I think with the pale green bedroom set, it will look very pretty and simple. Am thinking of adding in some soft green and beige velvet pillows too. 

This is my last bedroom. Contrary to how it's lit for the photos, it was usually fairly dark, which I liked a lot.

I was chatting with my mother about my plans for my bedroom and the all white linens. Her response was a quick "well, it will be brighter" than the green coverlet (see above) with the dark green walls.  To which I immediately responded "I like a dark bedroom!". "Why???" said Mom. And it's true, my whole life, her bedroom was light and bright and she always throws open all the windows upon waking. Me, I like to ease into the day and never really let it in at all.   A dark bedroom depresses her while it soothes me.

It got me to thinking, are there "dark" and "light" bedroom people? While there are no rights and wrongs, where do people fall in their preferences.  So, I went to Google images to see if there are discernible trends. Below are groups of images - starting with my favorite design magazines, then onto decorators. Each are the first images that come up when I searched by magazine title and "bedroom". While not 100% accurate, the most popular results are not only images that appeared in the mags, or by the designers, but were also re-posted by bloggers and on websites. 

Take a look. I think it's interesting that overall, there is a discernable light vs. dark in each collection. Click on each group of images for a full size view.

Magazine favorites:

 Elle Decor

House Beautiful

Architectural Digest
Living, Etc.


Rue Magazine

And now some designer favorites:

Charlotte Moss

Mary McDonald

Michael S Smith

Vicente Wolfe

I also checked in with Pinterest to see what members pinned as their favorites in the categories:

Pinterest readers select tag "airy" bedrooms

Pinterest readers tag "bright" bedrooms

Pinterest readers tag "dark and moody"bedrooms

And finally, here are my favorite images in the two categories that I pinned on Pinterest:
My favorite light and bright bedrooms found on Pinterest

My favorite dark and moody bedrooms found on Pinterest

I can't explain why, but the dark and moody bedrooms make my heart race in a way that the lights and brights do not, though they are all beautiful.

So, what say you? Do you have a preference above, and, does it match your actual bedroom?

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, September 01, 2011

What is Wabi-Sabi

Have you read or heard the term "Wabi-Sabi" recently? If some of the design blogs are to be believed, it’s becoming a "thing" in interiors. Yet, the very act of force, of trying to make something a "thing", opposes the essence of Wabi-Sabi.

A 16th century black Raku ware style chawan, used for thick tea (Tokyo National Museum) - via Wikipedia

To truly understand Wabi-Sabi, one likely has to spend years studying Zen Buddhism and the social and cultural mores of the traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony. Wabi-Sabi has developed from two different philosophies, and can be (sort of) summed up by Richard R. Powell, who wrote in his book Wabi Sabi Simple, "It nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect."

"Frenchman's Cove Table" by George Nakashima (1967) appraised for $50,000-$60,000 on Antiques Roadshow. The owner purchased it directly from Mr. Nakashima and worked with him to select the perfect bookmatched Indian Laurel. The lighter bands on the edges were the sap wood part of the tree, which are softer than the inner heartwoods, and are susceptible to wear. When asked how to protect the surface, Mr. Nakashima said not to try, that scratches actually give "character to the pieces". 

What's "Wabi"?

"Wabi" can mean loneliness or distance from society, a sense or remoteness that is grounded in the natural world. The four seasons, most especially autumn, are deeply connected to the spirit of Wabi. Unlike Western cultures, which celebrate Autumn as the season of bounty and harvest in preparation for the long winter ahead, Japanese and Zen Buddhist cultures see the Autumn as the unavoidable path to death, the ultimate distance or separation from all we know. However, this is not a state to feared, but to aspire too. It is the shucking off of worldly possessions to live in an other-worldly state.

16th Century Japanese screen, ink on paper, of Pine Trees. Hasagawa Tohaku (1539-1610)

What's "Sabi"?

"Sabi", while closely related, is focused more towards the transience of life and the inherent beauty of change. In the BBC Four Documentary "Searching for Wabi-Sabi", an elderly Japanese woman describes herself as an example of Sabi. She is who she has always been, even as her outward appearance has changed over time. In Eastern cultures, the elderly are revered for their knowledge and wisdom and the natural aging process is seen as beautiful.

It’s the process of transformation, the celebration that nothing is permanent and perfection cannot be achieved. "Wabi is a guiding principal of life, the stripping away of anything that is unnecessary. But it’s ultimately indefinable as words are not adequate when trying to understand the world," says a monk in "Searching for Wabi-Sabi".

Is Wabi-Sabi even applicable in American home design?

With buzzwords such as "rustic simplicity", "roughness", "economy", "austerity", "modesty" and "nature" floating around it, "Wabi-Sabi" feels a little Shaker in its austerity, recessionist in its economy and environmentalist in its closeness to nature. But, these ties are inherently not accurate, or at least not deep enough. The Shakers did believe in austerity and the stripping away of anything that is unnecessary, but they did not find beauty in destruction or natural decay. There was no "chippy" paint on the Shaker’s furniture.

Economy is important, but it’s not about reuse, reduce, recycle, it’s a feeling closer to emptiness and total lack of need.

It seems to me that in our Western culture, Wabi-Sabi cannot really become a design style in anything but the broadest of terms. We can embrace imperfection and the patina that comes from age and use, but we cannot force it. Faux antiquing will never be Wabi-Sabi, nor will finding an old stick on the road and hanging light bulbs off of it to make a chandelier. Half painted walls (I'm looking at you Apartment Therapy) and unfinished furniture are not rendered beautiful just because they are imperfect and will never be Wabi-Sabi.

 This is NOT Wabi-Sabi - via AT - because is it too contrived and will never grow and change.

On the other hand, a beautiful handmade vase filled with a single flower may be Wabi-Sabi. The vase is an empty vessel open to possibility, and the flower is an object of natural beauty that is on its journey between first bud to inevitable decay.

Article written by Linda Merrill for and reprinted here by permission. 

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