Monday, October 31, 2011

This week at The Skirted Roundtbable, Megan, Joni and I welcomed Leslie Sinclair, a Houston-based decorative painter and author of the new book Segreto: Secrets to Finishing Beautiful Interiors

Leslie is a real go-getting dynamo type. She's completely self-taught as a decorative painter, and now runs a 25 person operation. She owns an art gallery that features several talented artists as well as her own works, PLUS when she decided she wanted to publish a book, she did it all herself. Leslie's firm does everything from walls to cabinetry to floors:

Leslie will be sending a sign copy of her book to one of our listeners. Just listen to the podcast and let us know what was most interesting or inspiring to you about Leslie in our chat!

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, October 28, 2011

Is "Good Enough" really good enough?

I've been listening to the audio version of the Steve Jobsbiography by Walter Isaacson this week. Well, who hasn't actually? It's currently #1 of all books on Amazon.

As I wrote when Mr. Jobs died earlier this month, I'm a big fan of the Apple products and have been for over twenty years. In 1989, I started working for WGBH, the Boston public television station. WGBH is a Mac house. Prior to that, I had worked on PC's and knew a little DOS, but computers were tools, not something to love. By the end of my first week at WGBH, I knew I'd never go back to using my desktop PC - which I think was called a Leading Edge and had been given to me as a kind of severance package from my job at an opera company that had closed.

As an aside, I gave my Dad that PC which brought him into the computer age and by the time he passed away nearly 3 years ago at 83, he ran all of his finances and tracked his investments on Quicken and communicated with high school and college buddies via email. I still have the last email he sent to me, which was about safety precautions for women in parking lots and elevators.

The first Mac I worked on was an SE30 that had a 20MB hard drive (can you imagine?). A single email can't be opened on 20 megs these days! I'm only partway into the book, but have been fascinated, although not surprised, by the attention to detail Jobs paid to every single element of the design of the first Macintosh computer (around 1983). He wanted it to be friendly, simple and elegant. If you notice, it looks a little like a head, complete with chin and forehead. Never noticed before, but it did have me at hello! He was concerned with the color of the plastic (he rejected something like 200, or 2000 Pantone beiges and created his own), the softness of the corners, the ventilation openings that were also decorative. He was concerned with the packaging and rejected fifty versions before saying yes. He frustrated his team and management to no end with so much perfectionism, but he truly believed that to be "insanely great" meant every detail was perfect. He believed in art, was a fan of the Bauhaus movement and the furniture of Charles and Ray Eames. He loved simplicity, elegance and beauty, even in the parts you don't see. As the book says "From his father, he learned that a hallmark of passionate craftsmanship is making sure that even the aspects that will remain hidden are done beautifully.  A great carpenter wouldn’t use a piece of plywood on the back even though it faces the wall and no one will ever see it. You’ll know it’s there. The aesthetic, the quality, must be carried all the way through."  He drove his engineers crazy by wanting even the circuit board, something that no consumer would ever see, be beautifully laid out.

Steve Jobs believed that the work they were doing was like creating art and that even engineers could be artists. After the first Macintosh computer was completely ready to go - missed deadlines and all -  Isaacson writes: "Steve called the Mac team together for a ceremony. Real artists sign their work, he said. So he got out a sheet of drafting paper and a sharpie pen and had all of them sign their names. The signatures were engraved inside each Macintosh. No one would ever see them, but the members of the team knew that their signatures were inside. Just as they knew that the circuit board was laid out as elegantly as possible. Jobs called them each up by name, one at a time.  He waited to go last after all forty-five of the others. He found a place right in the center of the sheet and signed his name in lower case letters with a grand flair. Then he toasted them with champagne. "With moments like this, he got us seeing our work as art". 

I think these words really resonate with anyone who creates a product or provides a service, particularly in home design. Apple's attention to detail is always awe inspiring to me. I bought an iPhone a little under a year ago and just being handed the box was exciting to me.

The iPhone 3Gs box is just 5-1/4"H x 3"W x 2-1/4"D and fits nicely in the hand. The box is actually molded with an iPhone image embossed on the front, including an indent for the button. The cardboard is thick and sturdy and feels very nice to the touch,  and the design simple and elegant.

I especially love that the top is larger than the bottom, which makes it look more like a fine presentation box for a perfume or jewelry than an electronic device. Plus, it's a subtle reminder of the face of the original Macintosh desktop.

The thing this has me pondering is how to be a perfectionist and demand better than the best for my clients, while still trying to be a pleaser? Jobs certainly didn't worry about people liking him and the book doesn't hold back from how unpleasant he could be. But, since I am not a genius and am not going to change the world, I need to be a bit more conciliatory to others. Yet, it is something I struggle with, being "nice" without compromising quality. I'm sure others struggle with this as well.

As I have been pondering these things over the last couple of days, my friend and photographer Michael J. Lee posted this very interesting piece on his blog about his time working for the well-known interior designer Richard FitzGerald. Michael writes of Mr. FitzGerald "Mr. FitzGerald (even his clients 20 plus years his senior addressed him as Mister) is the most respected designer I've ever known, he was charmingly shy, debonair and spot on, every single time! On my second day, a custom rug was being delivered, as the the rug was being unwrapped, Mr. Fitz said wrap it back up, the delivery guy said "what!?!" The custom colored, custom sized rug of was "off" and Mr. Fitz was not about to sell or give his client a song and dance. The rug was wrong, period. He would figure out what went wrong and regardless of where the blame lay, the client would get the perfect custom rug, no matter what."

Well, here is a serious gentleman who clearly managed to be both a perfectionist and well-liked. You can read all of Michael's post here. The image above is from Mr. FitzGerald's Cape Cod home, photographed by Michael.  You will read on Michael's blog post that he himself painted the floor in the room in the background.

I'd love to hear your thoughts - especially those who produce products or work with clients - on how to balance being perfect with good enough (is good enough really good enough?) and being "liked".

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, October 24, 2011

Thanks Faberuna!

I wanted to take a quick moment to thank the fantastic Faberuna for selecting me as the winner of a recent giveaway! Faberuna is all about handmade goods and this assortment showcases some of what you'll find on his website, which also includes jewelry, crafts and home decor items.  Here are more details about the contest as well as a post they wrote about me several months ago. Thanks to Anni Shades for the beautiful handmade bamboo sunglasses, Ashi Dashi for the fun houndstooth knee socks and Parachute for the nice t-shirt with a great message!

Speaking of giveaway contests - I have two coming soon with really fun prizes, so stay tuned!

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, October 22, 2011

My favorite things at The Ellis Boston Antiques Show

I have a set of very similar opera glasses somewhere. They aren't in quite as good shape, but I love them!

I attended the Ellis Boston Antiques Show last night and happily spent a couple of hours among some of the prettiest antiques and fine arts!

Pair of small gilded cane side chairs at Alcocer Anticuarios (Spain). $4,000

Dawn Hill Antiques booth. Love pretty much everything!  But particularly the Gustavian dining chairs, which are circa 1800 and are part of a set of 10.

Oak and mahogany English Regency Period library table from G. Sergeant Antiques . $13,500.

John Kimball Boston Banjo clock, 1831. The note on the back reads "Made by John Kimball, Jr. to pay old debts 1831". Current price is $2,750. Not much changes, I guess. There is a similar eglomisé clock in my parents house that this one reminds me of.  Bell Time Clocks.

Throughout the weekend, there are special programs and lectures that are free for attendees. I attended the panel discussion "Essentials for the New Collector". Panelists included Colleene Fesko, who does fine art appraisals on Antiques Roadshow; John Fikse, Editor of New England Antiques Journal, and Nicholas M. O'Donnell, JD, an attorney who deals with the legal transfer of art and antiques. From Mr. Fiske, we learned what types of questions to ask a dealer when considering making a purchase. In essence, he said that the dealer should know more about a piece than just age and provenance, they should also be able to speak with knowledge on why a piece is special, the historical customs of the day when the piece was made and how they might have influenced the work or motifs represented in the piece and to clearly explain why he knows a piece is what he's claiming. Basically, you should always come away from a dealer knowing more than you did when you went into the shop. If you don't, then keep looking elsewhere.

Also discussed were two ways of valuing a piece: 1) Inherent value is the baseline value of a piece, meaning, its essential beauty (for the time it was made); authenticity; and history. 2) Trend value, which is the current "popularity" of a theme or type of piece. Ms. Fesco explained that current events or rising markets will effect the current value of a piece.

Finally, the discussion was on how to move art through sale, gift or donation. It's very important to keep detailed records of pieces that have high values. Property is passed around due to: Death, Divorce, Debt or Downsizing. In all cases, having a clear paper trail proving ownership and provenance is very important. If there is no current paper train, start creating one by obtaining reputable appraisals and collecting anecdotal information (stories from Grandma, that sort of thing). Gather any kind of receipt or record of ownership, including purchase and sales, repair bills, moving or shipping costs, etc.

Anyway, it was a very interesting lecture!

If you're looking for something interesting to do on Sunday 10/23, I highly recommend the show!

 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, October 21, 2011

Bathroom Light fixtures: From Sleek to Shabby Chic

A beautiful light fixture is truly the “jewelry” of a space. Today’s bathrooms are ever more popular spaces to decorate, moving from a purely functional space to one of pride and even status. There is a vast array of beautiful light fixtures on the market that still must serve the important functional needs of a bathroom as well. Here are just some of my favorites:

Restoration Hardware is one of my go-to resources for beautiful bathroom lighting.  Their catalog showcases a wide array of design styles from classic to fantastical. The Sutton Grand Sconce is a perfect choice for an elegant, hotel inspired bathroom, where space is at a premium. At only 5” wide, this tube-like sconce will fit neatly where more traditional larger sconces will not and at 30” tall it will provide even lighting as well.

The Nolan Double Sconce, also from Resto, is a simple, pretty fixture that looks nice when lit and un-lit. A great choice to place between a pair of mirrors over a double vanity when space may be at a premium, this fixture will provide even light for both mirrors.  Likewise, this fixture will work well in pairs or in threes in an oversized space.

I love the Wilshire Single Sconce from Restoration Hardware for its classic elegant simplicity. This is a real “go-to” piece that comes in satin nickel, oil-rubbed bronze and polished chrome. It could be used to flank a vanity mirror, or to illuminate a large soaking tub space.

The Olympia Bath Strip by Kichler is a modern and more attractive version of the old-school makeup lights. The 4-light fixture is only 7” tall, which will fit perfectly above most vanity mirrors or medicine cabinets and provide soft white light Opal glass diffusers.

The Robern “M” Series Wall Mirror lights are sleekly modern fixtures that affix to the back of wall-mounted mirrors for a subtle look that packs a punch. The halogen fixture produces a bright white light.

For those who love a more “shabby chic” look, the Old World Designer Chic light available through Lamps Plus, is perfect. While fairly small at just 5-3/4” wide, the crystal drops and cream distressed finished are just the right mix of worn and sparkly that is so popular right now.

I saw the Decayed Silver and Glass Blossom Chandelier from Porta Romana at this year’s Kips Bay Show House and I can say, it’s a real showstopper. The naturalistic twisted vines in a soft silver and gold finish and topped with gorgeous crystals is like a piece of art.

Similar to the Porta Romana fixture above, the Crystal Bud Sphere Lantern from Shades of Light is a more budget friendly choice, while still providing a show-stopping appeal.

Historically, fanlights in bathrooms have been utilitarian, but not especially pretty. The Orleans fixture from Hunter is certainly both pretty to look at as well as functional and is UL approved for use in showers and over bathtubs. The white glass shade features an ornate cast Bronze finish detail with a removable finial for easy cleaning.

Written by Linda Merrill for Reprinted with permission.

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, October 20, 2011

Knock, Knock

Whether you live in a castle or an apartment, a door knocker is a decorative way to welcome visitors. As one of the first things in your home that greets visitors, door knockers can represent your personality. They come in many different designs and materials and can offer a classic and traditional welcome or a cheeky, good-spirited hello. I selected a collection of well-priced door knockers that definitely say, "Welcome home."

Go nautical: Copper Mountain offers a classic nautical themed anchor and rope door knocker in antique brass and chrome pewter. At 5-1/2", it fits smaller and larger doors and is easy to install. (, $27-$29)

Motorcycle metal: Get your motor running with a Harley-Davidson® themed door knockers featuring the well-known HD bar and shield logo. This is a great gift for the classic bike fan in your family. Made of heavy duty zinc and cast in an antique pewter finish, the knocker measures 4.5"W by 3"H.  (, $19.96)

Act crabby: Welcome your guests with the whimsical and humorous Crabby Crab door knocker. Made of solid brass, the legs have been finished to look like they have developed a natural bronze patina while the body retains its natural bronze color. The crab body pivots for use as a knocker. (, $48.50)

Classic act: Pottery Barn offers a classic oval door knocker finished in bronze, brass or pewter. Personalize the knocker, and your front door, with a custom monogram. At 4.5" wide by 6" tall, this is a substantial piece that will dress up any door. (, $39)

Foxy: The fox is guarding the hen house with this heavy cast brass Fox door knocker. Lacquered to maintain its finish, the knocker is over 6" tall by 2" wide.  Stylistically, it fits with Arts and Crafts or Victorian architecture, but would certainly work well with any decorative house style. (, $12.79)

Garden-style: Bring a little of the outdoors right to your door with this whimsical red cast iron door spade-shaped door knocker.  Just the right touch to rustic fun, the red paint would play well off of a white, gray or natural wood door. (CamillaCotton on Etsy, $16)

Urban jungle: Sure to be a great conversation starter, Anthropologie offers this adorable antiqued copper Giraffe door knocker. This piece is so cute that you and your guests will find yourselves petting its nose while coming and going. (, $32)

A work of art: Colby Smith's handmade "Thistle" door knocker is truly a work of art. As such, it's a pricey choice for a door knocker, but the quality is top notch and the design truly unique. The thistle is a well-known symbol of Scotland, which makes this a lovely choice if you have Scottish ancestors. The top half is sand-cast red or yellow brass, the base comes in a choice of nickel plate, oiled bronze or verdigris finish. (, $174)

Written by Linda Merrill for Reprinted with permission.

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, October 18, 2011

Modern Glow

Candles have long been in use, dating back to 200-300 BC. Naturally, there was an immediate need for candleholders or vessels of some kind to contain the wax or other burning medium (such as whale fat!). Candles have long been at the nexus of function and decoration and from the earliest times, candleholders were likely decorative as well as necessary.

Since the advent of the candle, little has changed in its basic concept and candles are still widely used for the light they produce, which is decorative in and of itself.  The design of candlesticks has certainly changed from the old days and here I’ve gathered an eclectic mix of modern candlesticks and holders that still serve a functional need, while adding to the decoration of a space.

 Root Candelabra from West Elm: West Elm’s Root Candelabra features both the modern touch of silver aluminum as well as the rusticity of a twisted branch. This piece is a perfect accent for fall and winter design schemes, particularly as it can stand alone in a more streamlined, modern décor.

West Elm's Rustic Cast Aluminum Tapers: Along the same lines as the Root Candelabra, West Elm also carries a grouping of Rustic Cast Aluminum tapers that can be used in many modern setting such as a tablescape or mantle. They are subtle, yet still make a statement.

Mikaela Dörfel's Double Candleholder: Scandinavian Design Center offers a gorgeous mirrored steel Double Candleholder that is inspired by dancing forms and balance of masculine and feminine sensibilities. This is a piece that is sculptural and beautiful on its own, yet also serves a functional role in the home as well.

Tair Candle Holders from Modern Tribe: The silver plated Tair Candle Holders from Modern Tribe are sleek and sophisticated with a strong European sensibility. A modern take on an age-old ritual.

Jalex Studios Heel Candleholders: These Heel Candleholders from Jalex Studios via Etsy have Lady Gaga written all over them. Made from bamboo and zebra wood, these candle sticks attract the eye for their interesting wood pattern and overall shape. It’s only after a while that you notice it’s actually a pair of ladies shoe heels.

McG Design Copper Pipe Candlesticks: Industrial design comes home with Copper Candlesticks from McG Design made from plumbers pipe. Infinite variations are possible for single or multiple holders. The copper can be polished to maintain the bright and shiny look of new pipe, or allowed to develop a natural verdigris patina over time.

Fused Glass Candlesticks by Virtually Glass: Virtually Glass on Etsy creates these wonderful Fused Glass candlesticks in watery shades of blue and green. These glass items are made using a kiln-formed glass fusing technique that results in a gorgeous sea glass effect.

Written by Linda Merrill for Reprinted with permission.

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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