Life in the fast lane, which is the lane one needs to be in while fleeing a hurricane

I have been scolded for neglecting my blog, but I claim work and post Gustav evacuation stress disorder. Seriously, I've been overwhelmed by work and then Gustav threw my schedule off even more. Especially since Thomas insisisted on tearing the house apart and moving most of the furniture downstairs upstairs in case of flooding. On the plus side, that means it has been easier for me to do some of the small changes I've been wanting to do the home: painting the trim in the first two rooms a creamy beige and painting some wide horizontal stripes in the dining room to lighten up the orange (I think large horizontal stripes are probably actually out, but screw it, I still like them). Pics will follow when I finish. Which will be soon, because yesterday I was reminded that I had offered to host a birthday party on sat. That's what happens when you drink...you enthusiastically plan events that you then promptly forget about. So, in the next three days, I have to finish painting, replace three rooms of furniture, clean, prepare for a party, and manage to squeeze in 4 client meetings....Speaking of drinking, I think I may need one now. I'll post results soon, as well as tales of the evacuation. I don't want to say we were in deliverance country, but by the time we had turned off the third road from the highway onto the dirt road in the middle of nowhere, I swear I heard banjos being tuned. And unfortunately, I have a very pretty mouth.


home office update

Possible art work
Desk before (with formica top)

Desk after

I was inspired by some tear sheets (if I can figure out how to scan them, I'll show you) for the home office project. I'm going for a femine and french look with some electic finishes. We've painted the office a beautiful pale blue grey (Sherwin Williams Austere gray....a bad name...while it does have a gray cast, it is anything but austere...it's actually quite lovely). The furniture will be a combination of pale oak and painted finishes. The oak is on the filing cabinets, and the desk (an old Drexel from a hotel liquidator for $70) is painted black and gold, and the occasional chair is painted in a dark, almost black, tortoiseshell finish with a soft, pinky beige upholstery that matches the lamp shade. It's coming together. Wicker baskets and natural wood magazine holders on the existing shelves echo the color of the oak. Now I need to find a largish piece of art to tie it together. I may have to paint it myself, but I haven't even found inspiration for that yet, but it will come. I'm thinking about a reproduction rosie the riveter poster, but I'm not sure if that is being a little too self-consciously ironic. I'll take photos of the office once it's all together


Home office

I am working on a fun project: creating a home office for a client. It's been fun and challanging for a couple of reasons. Number one, the space is tiny...approximately 9' x 12'; in fact, the area we are turning into an office is actually a large storage closet at the top of the stairs. It does have an existing wall of shelves, and the client didn't need the storage space. (It's rare to have a client who doesn't need storage, but the house is large and the client lost most of her possesions in Katrina, so she really doesnt' have lots of stuff.) Even though the house is large, the closet really was the best location for the office. The next challange was the tight budget--around $1000. It seems like a decent amount, but not when you consider the need for filing cabinets, desk, lamps, storage, etc. In fact, a desk chair is the only existing piece I have to work with. Finally, last challange. Little input from the client. Most people think that this is what designers love: a client who hands them a check and says, "Do what ever you want. I trust you." Actually, I hate that. It means, unless I really know the client and their taste well, I have so many options and ideas that it takes forever to decide on a design. It's much easier when your client says, " I want English country, I want blue, and I want it pet friendly, etc." Parameters help so much.

The best

My best friend Deyond just sent me a set of these cups and saucers, by Cynthia Rowley. It's her dirty dishes line from Fishes Eddy in NYC.

Aren't they the best. I love anything that skates that fine line between fabulous and tacky, just like Deyond!


Which Austen herione are you?

Run, do not walk, to this site to determine which Jane Austen herione you most closely resemble: http://www.strangegirl.com/emma/quiz.php I am Eleanor Dashwood.


Porch...the end is near

Before pics.

I have fine tuning and some final touches to make to the porch, but it is nearing completion. The floor is painted (it's been raining everyday for the past couple of weeks, so there is dried mud all over it. That's why it looks unpainted in the pick, it's dirty...but even more rain is coming so I'll wait until the deluge is done before mopping). I have plans for some folk art inspired objects to hang in the window frames, and I plan to replace the striped pillow cover with something more vibrant.
The front garden just went in. I selected only two kinds of plants....ones described as drought tolerant or incredibly invasive. I figure that way, they have a shot at making it through the summer, because I am not a caring, nuturing gardener.



Accessorizing your sofa

Amatuer decorators try to update their sofas with throws and toss pillows in the latest colors and style. That's so 2007. I do the new, ultra stylish way: the throw cat. Find one in a coordinating color and toss it on the sofa... your couch never looked better.

DIY Art or art by the inch

I couldn't find a nude in the size, price range, and palette I needed for a client, so I painted by own. I textured the canvas with joint compound, used an ad in a magazine for the figure inspiration, and copied the palette and style of a nude painting I purchased for another client. Schnabel, eat your heart out. You may have millions, a huge Italian villa built on a factory in NYC, fame, and movies to your credit, but I got it going on.


Fun quiz

For those of you who need a little help choosing paint colors, here is a fun quiz at pittsuburgh paints. I apparently lean toward the pop art and water bead collections. Who knew?



Porch Options

Still working on the porch. I haven't found the perfect fabric for pillows, and that is a problem, because the pillow fabric needs a print that ties all the colors together, and I'd like something with a retro vibe. I have found these ready made pillows and this fabric that are the closest to what I need. I'm thinking about mixing the patterns: circle fabric as lumbar pillows on chair, floral pillows on settee and swing. What do y'all think?


Before and after ...though really should be titled: playing on line instead of working.

I hope you can tell which is which.

Porch, part deux

As mentioned in a previous porch, our current project is working on the front porch. Here is the porch (and house), not long after the water left, so this is a serious before. This is recent...we're still not there yet, but we've made serious progress. The awning is almost painted (I just need to touch up the white), and the doors, floor, and ceiling have all been painted. Next the furniture comes back, then accessories, then landscaping.

Since there will be quite a bit happening on the porch: green trim and floor, yellow ceiling, furniture and pillows, I decided to paint the caps of the brick stoops and columns in a brick red to blend in. I decided the white caps offered too much contrast.

Hopefully, by weekend, I'll be able to post the finished porch (sans landscaping...that comes after my friend donna gets back from Puerto Rico). This is how I developed my design.
First: Function: While I prefer a clean, almost spare look on the porch (I would have been happier to just have a couple of pots of plants and maybe a swing), we need extra living space, especially for entertaining. We entertain quite a bit...since we moved back in Oct., I've had a birthday bruch for 15, a Christmas brunch for around 20, an Easter brunch, a Mardi Gras party, several overnight guests, not to mention impromtu gathering. Unfortunately, our rooms are very small (12x14), therefore, whenever we have a larger party, I need as much seating as possible on the porch. And since a lot of our entertaining is pretty spur of the moment and we don't have much storage, i need the seating out all the time: I don't really have the luxury of keeping lots of folding chairs and table in a basement. I also need the porch to function as a sunroom: our house is a duplex, and there is a house next door. Because it's close, we it blocks quite a bit of light, and the situation is made worse because window treatments are necessary to provide privacy. The only downstairs space that gets sun in the morning is the porch, so I needed a place to sit and enjoy my coffee and the paper (or I would do so if I ever had the time). Ideally, I would have liked a swing, a bistro set, and a settee, but I ended up with a slightly different mix. World Market had a great deal on a set that did include the settee and 2 chairs, but with a coffee table. As of now, I'm using the coffee table as a low table between the chairs, but I plan on eventually putting it in the backyard as a bench and getting a small dining height table to use with the 2 chairs.

Second: style: Now that the function is decided (seating, seating, seating), what should it look like? First, I had to decide on a look that was appropriate for the house. It's a bungalow with slight craftsman tendancies, so I decided to go for a cottage look. It also suits our casual lifestyle. That was important because the porch functions as our foyer since the front door opens directly into the living room; thus, I wanted it to give a little taste of our style. The cottage look is also forgiving, and since we're on a budget, I wanted a look that could incorporate found objects (like the old window frames hung as art) and would still look good after a little wear and tear.

Third: color: I wanted to go cottage, and to take it a little funky, because my partner Thomas loves funky, and a little retro. And I equate cottage and funky with a lot of color. I had three givens: white siding, forest green trim, and red brick. I also had to keep the awning (Thomas loves it). First, I decided to paint the ceiling and underneath the awning a pale yellow. I did this for a couple of reasons. One, with the high contrast white and forest trim, the existing white ceiling was very lost feeling. Second, while the awning does provide the necessary shade from the New Orleans sun and rain protection, it blocks a lot of light. I picked the yellow to balance all the green and to give a sunshiny glow under the awning. Since I already had gold and green, to go a little funky, I decided to add raisin doors to give the porch a mardi gras theme. Frankly, I don't love all the green trim on the columns and awning, but Thomas does and I don't care enough to fight about it. Finally, I used a brick red to tone down the contrast on the top of the brick structures. My plan is use pillow fabric to tie everything together. I have a couple of options, but I haven't made my final selection. Stay tuned.


Sad and brown no more

This was an undistinquished Broyhill table from the 80s with a damaged veneer top. Unfortunately, I managed to erase the before picture. For a better companion for the quite nice French country chairs, I gave the table a distressed black finish with a touch of gold, and topped it with a French polish.

The power of paint and patience

This client wanted a dark, sexy bathroom. She's single, uses the bath primarily for long soaks at night, and applies her makeup at a vanity in her bedroom. The space is fairly small and has no natural light. Since she mainly uses the space to relax in at night after work, she wanted to emphasize the dark, cozy aspect. The inspiration was an Asian woodcut that showed an evening sky. A previous faux finish had been too literal: she was unhappy with the clouds. Further, the existing oak vanity clashed with both the granite and the slate grey walls.
After: I used the same tones of grey as before, but mixed in a little black to give more depth. I actually poured the 3 unmixed colors into the paint tray, rolled them onto the wall as a mixture, and then used rags and a brush to blend. The result gave an old plaster look to the textured walls, suggesting an evening sky without the literal use of clouds.
To give the oak vanity a furniture quality finish was a multiple step process. Since the client wanted black, I started with a high quality primer designed to bond to glossy surfaces like the pre finished cabinet. Since the final result was dark, I had the primer tinted to a dark grey. To tie in the granite and give more interest, I followed with a red layer. Then I topped that with black, painting on, then wiping off. After that dried, I sanded through around the edges of molding, and in the center of panels to give the illusion of wear through time. I then smoothed out the distressing with a glaze of black and expresso brown paint. Finally, as a finish, I applied a french polish with wax and super fine steel wool. We then replaced the chrome and white porcelian handles with a variety of hand-painted pulls.


Tuscan Inspired

A client's Italian country inspired sunroom. I picked the finish to complement the client's collection of sunflower themed oil paintings which have great sentimental signifigance and to balance the paneled living room from which this opens.

The clients wanted an tuscan inspired finish that resembled old plaster in their newly painted dining room. Before:

After: (p.s. it's not the total after: they are planning on a new buffet, window treatments and slipcovering or replacing chairs.)

The nearby powder room, with red upper walls and faux cypress paneling below. I decided on this combination because the client loved the existing red walls, but they were overwhelming for a tiny space (4x6!). The wainscotting cuts the darkness and ties in the existing cypress vanity and doors. For the drama and red the client requested, I layered copper, antique bronze, and metallic brown glazes over the red with gold accents. The room will be finished with a pale granite counter top and bisque fixtures.


On a serious note....

On a serious note, I've spent way too much of this blog discussing clients and their rooms...now I need to focus on me. It's a much more fascinating subject, don't you think? As I discussed in an earlier post, we are working on decorating our front porch with a modified mardi gras theme. I'm thinking of using this fabric from native actor and store owner Bryan Batt (He was the chorus boy in the movie Jeffrey), called Ponchatrian Beach ((the store is Hazelnut on Magazine St.(http://www.hazelnutneworleans.com/) and was featured in this month's House Beautiful magazine)). I'm thinking of using it for a couple of pillows and/or a table cloth. What do you think?

He has also designed a fabulous New Orleans toile in several color ways.

Why earplugs and long island iced tea were invented

Those of you who know me (and that number is legion, I tell you, legion), know that I love to sing. I've never let the fact that I have limited vocal talent stop me (I share the same two musical gifts as Liza...loud and vibrato...unfortunately I did not receive pitch and tone from my fairy godmothers). The way I see it is, if other people have to suffer for me to enjoy myself, so be it. That's why karaoke and many pianos are in bars...so others can drink to ease the pain. That said, I was talking to my sister the other day, and realizing that my many hours of karaoke have given me wisdom to share with others. If any of you out there one day find yourself in a situation were you are forced by circumstances, friends, or too much Jack Daniels to sing karaoke, some tips follow. And remember, just like winning American Idol, it's all about song selection (as well as keeping Paula Abdul medicated)d.

1. Know your song. It seems obvious, but I have had to suffer through many singers who stand squinting into the screen, clearly reading lyrics for the first time, or singing clearly out of sequence. Only pick songs from albums you purchased, songs you sing in the shower, or songs that you belt out along with the radio, oblvious the stares of strangers on the freeway. Beware songs to which you only know the chorus, such as Viva Las Vegas and Let's Talk About Sex.

2. Know your limitations. Unless you are truly gifted, avoid ballads and the songs of divas known for their range. Unless you have been told by strangers about your beautiful voice and soaring range, stay away from songs recorded by Mariah, Whitney, Christina, Donna Summer. Instead, think of those singers whose voices, while distinctive, are not known for range. Think: Cher, Diana Ross, Elvis

3. Sing-a-longs are your friends. If the whole bar sings along to your selection, your level of suckiness is much less evident. Think: Build Me Up Buttercup, We Are Family, Burnin' Love, Son of a Preacher Man, Midnight Train to Georgia. If an entire carload of your friends would sing along if it came on the radio, that's your song.

4. Short and snappy is the way to go. Keep 'em wanting more. Think 3 minutes or less...Baby Love, Half Breed, Suspicious Minds. Avoid looooooooooooong songs like The City of New Orleans, Stairway to Heaven, American Pie. No matter how good your performance, by the end, the entire bar will be burning themselves with lit cigarettes to stay concious. As a side not, beware songs with loooooong instrumental solos unless you are prepared to play an air guitar during Slash's 3 minute solo in the middle of Sweet Child of Mine.

5. NO BALLADS. People come to bars to look for love and forget their pain, not to wallow in it. If they wanted to do that, they'd be at home with a Sex and the City dvd and Ben and Jerry's.

6. Have fun. There are only two kinds of karaoke audience members. The serious, who are only there to sing themselves and, thus, are only interested in their own performance. The rest are there to drink and have fun, and as long as your song is fun, it's all good.

Now go, and use your karaoke knowledge for good, not evil.


Trompe l'oeil powder room

This is in a very formal house decorated in primarily shades of beige with celadon accents and lots of French style furniture. The powder room is near a panelled mahogany office. It had green marble floors, a beautiful chest used as a vanity, but no architectural detailing. I was inspired by a photo from Veranda magazine of a panelled French door with peeling paint in shades of green. I also add a trompe l'oeil backsplash to match the existing marble counter top. The faux bois process wasn't difficult, but with all of the taping involved, very time consuming. This tiny room took over 3 full days of labor.


From 70's oak to romantic European country

I neglected to take before photos. The china cabinet was 70's oak.

I painted the exterior in an off white (with a beige cast rather than creamy...the client did not want it to go yellow), then layered on a couple coats of a brown glaze. I then highlighted some of the moulding with antique gold, sanded some of the paint off to simulate wear, and finished it with a couple of coats of wax applied with superfine steel wool. The interior was painted with a soft coral in a strie finish to show off the white china and to co-ordinate with coral accents in the adjoining formal living room. This armoire from a local import store had a dark, natural acia finish. While attractive, it was too dark and masculine for the tween daughter's small room. I gave it a Swedish country finish to blend with the walls and create the illusion of more space. For fun and color, I painted the ceiling pale lime green and added random polka dots in a silver wash. Finally, for a little grown-up glam, I finished the crown moulding in silver and added the silk panels to widen the window and dress up the existing Roman shades. This was a compromise. The girl actually wanted green and silver walls, but I felt it would completely close in the tiny (11'x11') room. The off white walls (Sherwin Williams natural choice----a great soft white...it's a linen color with no yellow....in fact in person it reads as the palest possible green, but also go gray in low light) open the space and blends with the white furniture. Keeping the walls and major furniture pieces the same color really disguises the lack of floor space.

I originally had a sleeker, more modern finish planned for the armoire...I was planning to do a tone on tone overall damask stencil in the wall color and a slightly darker shade. However, as I began priming the piece, the rustic nature of the wood (not noticable with the original dark finish) became much more apparent. Since the roughness was too wide spread to hide, I decided to embrace it, and take the finish country. Because the room, and the rest of the house, is fairly sophisticated, I had to be careful not to let the piece get too country, too distressed, or too cute. That's when I decided that a Swedish look would be best....casual, light, but still a sense of elegance.