Monday, May 31, 2010

We Have A Winner!!


image Patricia Van Essche at her easel.


In one of my most popular giveaways yet, a custom portrait by PVE Design HERE, we now have a winner.  Thank you to all who participated in this giveaway.   And remember, if you really wanted a custom drawing by Patricia, her prices are very, very reasonable, so please consider commissioning her for birthday and  Christmas gifts. 


image The Winner’s Blog:  Loving Every Minute of It (I LOVE this picture – it’s so Texas Hill Country with its fossil laden paths!!)


Our winner is Ariel, who writes a Mommy blog called Loving Every Minute of It HERE.  I am so thrilled she won and couldn’t have picked a more deserving person – she even lives in the Texas Hill Country.   Ariel wants Patricia to draw the 100 year old cottage she lives in with her husband and three sons.    Hopefully, Patricia and Ariel will be willing to share the finished drawing with us!

Congratulations Ariel – and thank you so much Patricia for your generous giveaway.


COMING UP NEXT:   One of the BIGGEST giveaways ever!  I am soooo excited about this.  You will be too – I promise!!!  Details will be coming, very very soon.

Friday, May 28, 2010

No More Granny Wicker!



It’s amazing how something as simple as a new finish can come along and make everything else look so dated and out of style.  Lately, this phenomenon has happened to wicker.  Suddenly, gray wicker – or a gray washed wicker - has exploded on the scene and all other wicker stains and finishes look so…. granny.   

No one loves wicker more than I do – especially dark, deep brown stained wicker.  But, that’s all over now.   The end of dark brown wicker came when I started noticing the gray wicker finish here and there.   I also used to love white wicker.   No more.   Does anyone out there want to buy some white and dark brown wicker?    I’ve got a few pieces for sale!



image My guest room – yep, there it is, hiding its ugly face in the corner!  A dark brown stained wicker chair, just waiting to be replaced.  It thinks if it keeps hiding it will go unnoticed. 



image And oh, I used to love white wicker.  No more.  Sold to the highest bidder!



image Ah…there she is.  The most gorgeous wicker chair in the world.  Gray wicker.  It’s color is subtle:  light brown with a hint of a whitish gray paint covering it.  This chair is perfect either inside or out.   I especially love it in a dining room paired with a limed wood table.



image Just like this!  Jill Brinson’s gorgeous dining room.   The chairs look especially good when placed near the gray faux finished cabinets.   PERFECTION!



image These gorgeous chairs were seen in the Kirby Mears designed house in Veranda.   They are sold at Thompson Hanson in Houston as “Belgian Wicker.” 



image Brooke Giannetti of Velvet and Linen pairs her gray wicker with grayish old shutters.   So beautiful!



image The same chairs then go outside on Brooke’s gravel courtyard.  




Houston interior designer Sally Wheat used these gray wicker chairs in a breakfast room – paired with a Wisteria steel table. 



image In this house, Sally Wheat used the gray wicker with painted legs as bar stools.  





For this client, Sally took a paint brush to white wicker, turning it luscious gray.  Hmm.   That’s not a bad idea!!!





Heaven on earth!  I ordered three sets of three wicker baskets – all heavenly gray. 



 image The smallest sized basket sits on my kitchen counter – filled with take out menus.



image  The medium sized basket on my bakers rack holds Elisabeth’s school books.




My Albans client is borrowing a set of the baskets until she finds a Mora clock for that wall. 




Noir Furniture LA is a great wholesale company for this chair.   Doxa Home HERE carries this chair for retail clients.







Of course Restoration Hardware is all over the gray wicker.  They call it their Provence Collection.  And of course the French would want credit for this gorgeous wicker. 



image  Restoration Hardware:  It is a pretty collection.  Not as fluid or sensual as the chairs with curved lines though.



image Restoration Hardware:  These make great chairs for the inside dining room.





OKA – the best catalogue in the world.  They get it.   HERE.




Pottery Barn – you need to wise up.  These two shades are out, finished, over, done-with, out of style.   Get with the program, Pottery Barn!



While I am dying to get with the program myself – and change out all my wicker to the new gray - for the moment, I am going small.  I recently bought two tiny gray wicker baskets with filled with succulents at Thompson Hanson (of course!)    For now, I will be happy with my small nod to the new gray wicker.   Ben is hoping this will get me through the trend.   Somehow, I doubt it.   But – we’ll see!!!  It might!



image For now, I will be happy with my small nod to the new gray wicker.   Ben is hoping this will get me through the trend.   Somehow, I doubt it.   But – we’ll see!!!  It might!



REMEMBER:   PVE Design give away ends on Saturday -  hurry and sign up!!!!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Wonderful Custom Giveaway!!!!!



Above - The country house of the famous French chef Michel Guerard and his wife Christine was featured in a foreign design magazine some time ago.  The couple own a Relais and Chateau hotel, Les Prés d’Eugénie, whose rooms are located in over five separate and beautiful dwellings.  For more information on their hotel, see HERE.   Besides wonderful meals, the hotel offers cooking lessons and has a highly touted spa.  

Note:  I love the gravel driveway that so many French country houses have – so much better looking than the drab concrete drives we Americans cling to!!!  And I love the simple landscaping – using just boxwoods – especially around the house itself.  




The bedroom at the Guerards mas with traditional terra cotta tiles and French antique furniture.  I love the antique Swedish stove, pictured on the left!


image Of course the Guerards would have a fully functional kitchen – that stove – to DIE for!!!!!





image Same room, different view:  – I love how the inside of the armoire is painted.  Makes me want to run home and paint the inside of my armoires.  But, Ben would probably have me committed. 




Close up of the house, an inspiration for PVE Design.


Because the article is written in French, it was hard for me to completely understand the story.   But the pictures were enough to capture the eye and imagination of Patricia van Essche, the author of the blog PVE Design and a long time email friend of mine.  Patricia is a noted artist who specializes in hand drawing charming illustrations for her clients – many whom place orders for greeting cards, notecards, or branding logos.   Patricia emailed me to say that she had seen a house I would love – and just a few weeks later - I received this article of the Guerards mas, along with an original illustration of the house, framed!!!




Close up of Patricia’s original illustration of the Guerards house, taken from the magazine article.  I love how Patricia perfectly captured the landscaping with the sculpted box.



image Here’s a picture of Patricia’s illustration of the Guerards house – showing where I hung it in front of my bookcases.  Unfortunately the glass picks up the glare in the photographs!!!    I was so excited to get such a wonderful gift from Patricia!    And, this wasn’t even the first time Patricia had been so generous to me.  A few years ago, she created an illustration celebrating my birthday – AND she then made the illustration into notecards which I loved using!!!




Here’s a close up of her charming birthday greeting!!  Patricia added so many personal details – the Texas and French flags, the design books, my two dogs, my zebra pillows, sea shells, the Texas armadillo!! – even my flower urn.  She has such a great eye for detail.    



imageThe beautiful and elegant Patricia van Essche at work.    I love this photograph!  It looks like a painting itself.

The Giveaway:

Today, we are having a giveaway – generously donated by Patricia, pictured above at her easel.  The giveaway will be one of Patricia’s custom illustrations – based on either the winner’s house or pet!!!  That’s right – the winner will receive a personal, custom illustration!  And the winner picks the subject matter!!!




Here is a Christmas card that Patricia did for a family – featuring six of her drawings.




Here’s another custom watercolor of an estate.


Now, in order to win this giveaway – you only need to visit Patricia’s web site and decide if you would choose either a watercolor of your house or your pet – something else.  Look around at all her examples she has created for other clients to get ideas.  To visit her web site, click HERE.   Then, return here to my blog and leave me a comment telling me which subject you choose!   If you are an anonymous poster – be sure you add your email address in case you win!!!  Drawing closes this Saturday – so *hurry up!!!!!


As always - GOOD LUCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Lady In Yellow



If you are like me, this cover of Veranda is instantly recognizable as an interior done by Mary Douglas Drysdale, the iconic interior designer from Virginia.  In the 90s, Mary was featured on this cover of Veranda and for several years, this color combination became her trademark.  Who could forget those gorgeous silk plaid curtains?  I never did.  In fact one of my earlier jobs had curtains exactly like this in a shameless attempt at copying her! 



imageMary is known for using classic antiques mixed with contemporary art work.  Her interiors aren’t exactly minimalist, but clutter is banished in favor of over scaled accessories:  a large rooster, a sunburst mirror (before they were “in”),  and wind vanes – all favorites of Mary’s.  



imageHere, the yellow had become deeper – more vibrant, leaning toward orange.   During her career – Mary has been on over 60 covers!  An amazing achievement for someone with a small overhead - her staff numbers only four.  




image Yet, as often as Mary uses classic architecture and furniture, she also is comfortable designing using Americana motifs such as quilts and wind vanes.   She is as competent designing a large mansion as she is a centuries old stone farmhouse.  This  yellow and white bedroom shows the quilts Mary is known for, along with her famous plaid curtains and the large sunburst mirror. 



Beautiful period antiques mixed in with contemporary art – a trademark.   Mary’s interiors often have classical architectural elements – elegant moldings and columns.  Mary does it all – she is actively involved in the plans from the ground up.  




imageModern art work mixes with  traditional furniture.  Mary loves to paint floors.   Rarely is a floor finished with just a plain wood stain.  Here the plaid curtains have become stripes.



image Gorgeous architectural elements - something Mary likes in her interiors.  She studied in Paris for three years before she opened her interior design business.  Notice the gorgeous gilt wind vane!  



imageAt her centuries old stone farmhouse, Mary was inspired by her neighbor’s pumpkins for her kitchen palette. 



image Yellow becomes orange!  Mary admits she loves white backgrounds with bright pops of color. 




A recent Veranda cover story showed this guest room in soothing greens with pops of pink.





Mary says that many fabrics she uses are actually put together by herself using several different pieces sewn together.  In this recent project, the grand entrance hall is white with small pops of soft yellow and black accents.





In the same house, the formal living room is all creams and ivories.  Notice the beautiful painted floor! 



Mary Douglas Drysdale – a legend of our times, highly intelligent, hugely talented, and wonderfully talkative - visits the Skirted Roundtable this week.  Be sure to listen – you’ll be as enthralled as Linda, Megan and I were.  As always, your support and comments are most appreciated!!



To listen to Mary Douglas Drysdale on The Skirted Roundtable go HERE.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Kitchen Flattery


image My Sink

One of the more frequently asked question by clients that I get is about kitchen remodeling.   As with all interior design, in 10 years time, a kitchen can become dated.   Clients are forever wondering what countertop will look best and untrendy for the next decade or two.  The answer is truly – none.   Everything dates, especially countertops.   I suppose that classic black granite or white marble is perhaps the least trendy, except both, especially the white marble, are so in right now that the years 2000-2010 may always be associated with these gorgeous materials.   Many people are faced with a kitchen that needs updating – yet they don’t want to tear out all their cabinets and start over from scratch.  They want a small update, something to take their kitchen out of the 80s or the 90s:  think light oak stained cabinets that seemed to be in every kitchen in the 90s.   I myself was one of these people.



My Kitchen Before:  taupe and white checkerboard tiles that used to go with the cafe-au-lait wall color, until I had the house painted a soft yellow.   Brass plumbing no longer went with the new hardware I had put in the house.  The entire space was tired, outdated and a total mess.


When my kitchen was 15 years old, I was so tired of it, I wanted to rip it all out and start over.  Yet, like so many of my clients, I didn’t want to spend the money on a new kitchen with all the bells and whistles.  Plus, since I don’t really cook,  I was aiming for an update for appearances sake only.   Still, I could not look at those taupe and white checkerboard tiles another day.   Having a combination of black and white appliances didn’t help things either.   For a relatively small amount of money, I ended up with a redone kitchen that brought it into this century.




AFTER:  The biggest change was the white marble countertops and backsplash, new stainless appliances, the new casement window and the Shaw’s sink and faucet in polished nickel.  I’ve joked that I love my sink so much, I would marry it if Ben and I ever divorced.  Seriously – it’s more than fabulous, as sinks go.   I painted the cabinets a light gray and called it a day.  Of course, I knew all along the yellow paint had to go, but it took me another year to settle on a gray that was warm enough to blend with other parts of my downstairs decor.   The bathrooms all could use the same updating as the kitchen, but my pocketbook (or Ben’s I should say) is waiting for the economy to pick up a little before I tackle that issue.




AFTER AFTER:  I finally got around to repainting the walls downstairs – 15 paint samples later, I decided on a color that turned out to be same color as my existing trim.  Go figure.  Pratt and Lambert – Feathered Gray.



image The sink is long and deep – you can hide so much in there.  The day I took this picture it was filled with lunch dishes – yet you can barely see just one dish peeking out!




I bought all the appliances online from Best Buy – and sprang for the least expensive ones I could find – as long as the handle was good looking.  That was my criteria – good looking handles.  



image After painting, I updated the bakers rack some – adding new white washed baskets and moving my cloches there.   I also got rid of all my French yellow ware that I had collected for years, opting now for only white ironstone in the kitchen. 



A few months after I showed my  kitchen redo on the blog HERE, a reader sent me pictures of her kitchen.  She was just about to embark on her own kitchen remodeling – using a lot of the same elements I had.  She told me that when her redo was complete, she’d send new pictures of it.  Look at the reader’s kitchen before:



image READER’S KITCHEN BEFORE:  When I got these pictures, I remember writing her and saying – these are before pictures??????   Actually, I liked her kitchen the way it was.  I liked the toile wallpaper, the black countertops, the windows, and the breakfast area. 




Sorry for the out of focus – I didn’t take these pictures!


 image And her cute eat-in table.  The problem with this reader’s kitchen was more than surface.  She had very little counter space and the table took up valuable room in the small kitchen. 






The final reveal - as opposed to my remodel, this reader went all the way with new cabinets and flooring.   As you can see, she replaced the table with an island – thus increasing her working space dramatically.  Her kitchen does remind me of mine in so many ways.  Like me, she got a Shaw’s sink, the same faucet, and almost identical hardware.  The white marble is very similar – hers is Carrera and mine is Calacutta Ora.   Along with the new cabinets, she got new stainless appliances, although her refrigerator is white to blend in with the cabinetry.  I love the way the sink cabinet has legs!





image In this picture, you can really see how much extra counter space she gained from adding an island, rather than keeping the table. 



image Meals are eaten here at the island.  (New fabric is coming for the bar stools!)




Instead of the range, she added a cooktop with a trendy hood.   I wish I had this myself – I don’t care for my cooktop being on my island. 




I love the marble backsplash – instead of tiles.   White marble is so beautiful – why not use as much of it as you can?



image Along the back wall where it once was all cabinets, double ovens were added.




And, finally, next to the double ovens, glass doors and a marble counter were added to break up the bank of cabinets that was previously there.  I think this reader did a great job with her kitchen.  While she did a much more extensive redo than I did – she stayed within the footprint of her space – choosing to keep the room the same size.   Unlike me, she needed more counter space and greater efficiency – so new cabinets were needed which added to her price tag.   Still, I was struck at how similar our kitchens looked, which really wasn’t an accident – the reader told me she chose many of the same elements I did after seeing my redo. 

Thank you so much to this reader for sending in these pictures!!!   I love to see reader’s houses – so keep them coming!!!





The bells and whistles:  writing about kitchens got me thinking.  If I did have the budget for a totally new kitchen, would I want a kitchen like this?  Would I want all the extras and the luxury?   Do I like banks and banks of closed cabinetry?   What is my dream kitchen?  What is your dream kitchen?  I suppose if you are a chef or like to spend time in the kitchen, your answer would be different than someone like me who uses the kitchen to cool diet cokes and refrigerate take out Chinese dishes.  





Several Houston kitchens have spoken to me – this one is beautiful for a large budget space.  I adore the limestone mantel – so French!  The red lanterns and the toile fabric curtains are wonderful too.  The cabinetry though is especially appealing – the curved armoire door styling, the chicken wire.   This kitchen would be as fancy as I would ever want. 




One of my favorite kitchens in Houston is Donna Brown’s.  Donna owns The Gray Door in Houston, one of the better antique stores here.  She bought a townhouse and then ripped out the brand new kitchen.  Next, she went shopping at The Gray Door and brought home her kitchen.  Amazing.  The sink is located in the shop cabinet behind the chair.   Cages double as cabinets.   I love these kind of kitchens and wish I had the huevos to do this in my house!





Another picture from Donna Brown’s kitchen.  Past the range, she placed a long cabinet to store dishes and silverware.   The wine table doubles as a coffee and breakfast table.   This space is the family room/breakfast room.   The French doors lead to the landscaped terrace.   Donna’s entire townhouse is wonderful – she took a rather traditional townhouse and turned it into a house you might find in Paris.  



image The sink and refrigerator in Donna’s non-kitchen kitchen.




Another fabulous non-kitchen kitchen is this one done by Pam Pierce, also from Houston.   Of course it helps that the lady of the house, Ruth Gay, owns Chateau Domingue, Houston’s finest architectural elements (antique and new) shop.   Hard to believe this kitchen is in a once proper  Houston house that Pierce and Gay have totally redone with antique architectural building elements from France and Europe.   The stone walls are gorgeous!!!




I mean, look at this sink!!!!   True, Gay has a traditional farm sink, but she also has this trough in her kitchen.   This kitchen makes all the traditional bells and whistle cabinetry kitchens look so fuddy-duddy, imho.  





Pam Pierce’s own Houston kitchen is another one I lust after time and time and time again.   I love the way the cabinet doors are inset into the stone countertops.  So French!!!   And these Houston designers would never use a regular island – their islands are ALWAYS antique – either an old butcher block (the real thing) or an old store cabinet display piece, or a tailor’s table, or – well you have the idea.   Their islands make their kitchens so much more interesting – adding texture and an element of surprise. 



Looking from Pierce’s kitchen into the breakfast room.  Those shelves – could they be more perfect??????   I’m sorry, but interior design like this depresses me!   Makes me feel so inadequate!!!!!




More Houston interior design, via Fredericksburg:  This “kitchen” is owned by an antique dealer/real estate tycoon from Houston.  Again, no built in cabinetry, instead a large antique piece holds all the dishes.   The crystal chandelier mixed with the rustic stone walls and floor is a fun touch.  This is Fredericksburg???




Another Houston connection via Dallas:  native Houstonian Shannon Bowers’ kitchen is again a non kitchen kitchen.   Notice the unusual elements:  her island, no upper cabinetry, open shelving, the skirt under the sink – all nontraditional choices in a kitchen.  The lantern is the cherry on top.  Bowers’ entire house featured in Veranda is to die for. 




And finally, Jane Moore’s non kitchen kitchen – filled with Swedish antiques and painted consoles.   Too cute!   Do you think Houston designers are influencing each other?   I hope so – we have such great talent in this city as you can see from their kitchens. 


I’m curious.  Do you prefer a large, bells and whistle kitchen, filled with closed cabinetry and the finest in appliances?  Or do these Houston kitchens appeal  more to you?  I know that for me, seeing all these non-kitchen kitchens really makes me wish for one!