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.

New assistant

It's so difficult to find the time to do everything: work, blog, keep house walk the dog, etc., etc. So after a grueling interviewing process, I've finally found a qualified assistant to lighten the load. Here, he takes over some blog duties.

The baths of ancient Rome

Real stone is on left side. Trompe l'oeil is on right where controls for heated floors (damn, I want those) are located.
In this projects, the homeowners were doing a partial remodel of the 1980s master bath in their recently purchased home. They replaced the carpet (!) installed by the previous owners on the raised bathing area with travertine, and replaced the sunken hip shower with adjustable head with a standard walk in with frameless glass doors. I needed to blend the existing series of arches with the new travertine and still have them be a strong design element with losing the serene, tranquil feel the client requested (and as the mother of 4 small children, she needs a serene retreat). Thus, I decided to build on the classical feeling suggested by the arches and painted them and the columns to look like travertine. Now it's dramatic without being too over the top. Still, remember what I always say, "If you don't go over the top, how will you know what's on the other side?"

Travertine tile on left corner of wall is trompe l'oeil.


Kids' rooms

My cousin Barbara, best cousin ever, asked for pictures of some children's rooms. Here is the boys' room and their younger sister's room.

The empire strikes back

An Empire inspired dining room I helped a client decorate. I selected new chairs and window treatments to complement the existing floor, grey walls, and antique chandelier. I painted the previously cream table base for a richer look.


Where do the ideas come from?

People often ask me how I get my ideas. Sometimes it is some sort of divine inspiration. Usually, though, it's just plain, old fashioned problem solving. When I was a design student, I read Billy Baldwin's guide to decorating (and if you don't know who that is....you have no soul), and he wrote that most people make decorating mistakes because they think in turns of style first: "I want a French provincial guest room, I want a Tuscan kitchen, etc., etc." He pointed out that in fact, what people should do first is think about how they want the rooms to function, what furniture is needed, where to place it, and then, and only then think about color, fabric, and the style of the furniture. As a student, I also had an excellent instructor, Mr. Carwile, who made us defend our decisions in design projects with at least three rational reasons. (And he did not accept, "because red is just a fabulous color!" as a rational reason. I know, I tried.) Case in point, the following faux project.

The clients are a couple with 4 children under 9 years old. The only space they have as a playroom for the children is the guest room with attached bath downstairs. While they rarely have overnight guests, they do have a convertible sofa in the room and wanted it to be able to function as a guest room when needed. The room also opens off of the main hallway which runs from the entry through the home to the sunroom at the back. Therefore, the room will be seen by guests and had to complement the formality of the foyer. Further, the attached bath which is used by the children acts as the powder room for guests. Therefore, I needed to develop a color scheme and finishes for the two rooms that would feel appropriate for adults, have the formality necessary for their locations, and be practical for young children. In addition, the lady of the house wanted the bath to be dramatic and gorgeous.

The Plan: I started with the bath. Dark walls = drama and durable. The bath is a full one, so it was decently sized even if it doesn't have a window. Dark red is an accent color in the nearby living room, existing curtains in the guest room and art in the foyer, and appears in the existing shower curtain (the client wanted to reuse) so I decided to use it as a base. To pump up the drama, I then glazed the walls in antique bronze and copper. In addition to the glitz, a washed finish like that hides smudges and hand prints. Finally, I finished the walls with a high gloss polyurathane finish. This did several things. First, the shine keeps the dark color from being oppressive by bouncing light around. Next, it creates a scrubbable surface, always necessary when young kids are around. Finally, the shine ups the requested drama quotient.a
The guest/playroom is a small space with an awardward layout, little natural light, and a soffit that hides duct work. I chose a creamy off-white (Sherwin Williams navajo white, one of my favorite trim colors), for walls, ceiling, and trim, varying the sheen levels for interest. That opened the room and smoothed some of the awkward features; however, it would have been an impractical choice for a children's playroom. Therefore, I added a chair rail (at a higher level than traditionally used). Underneath the rail, I decided on a complementary finish to the one in the bath. It is a woven effect in tones of brown and maroon that gives the illusion of a grasscloth. I then applied a poly finish over it. Chair rails and two tone walls are not usually a look I like, but in this case it provides protection and camoflouge from the wear and tear of children while visually connecting the two spaces. It is also a look casual enough for children, but traditional enough to be co-ordinate with the formal entry. I used the two overscale light colored prints to balance the dark powder room walls.
Close up of the bath finish. I defy a child to damage it.

Louis, Louis everywhere

In the previous post, I mentioned a ubiquitous black/white woods inspired wallpaper that has taken design mags by storm. For those of you who aren't passionate readers of Elle Decor, Domino, Metropolitan Home, Vogue Living, O Home, etc., etc. (And you should start reading them right now), here it is:
I've seen it used in bedrooms, entries, living rooms, powder rooms. I've even seen it used in separate homes in the same issue of the magazine. And I have to ask, "why?" It's kind of cool in a Charles Addams meets Andy Warhol kind of way, but who really wants to live in a sorched, leafless wood?

Two other wildly popular designs: Kelly Wearstler's trellis wallpaper and fabric design and Phillipe Stark's Louis Ghost Chair. Again, two designs that frequently pop up in the mags. They make me think of people in designer clothes: I always wonder if they really like them, or do they wear them because fashionistas have pre-approved them. Where is the fine line between ruly twanting an iconic decor item and just following the stylish herd?


Paint....the quicker, fixer upper

I've been working on the redo for the lobby of a condo building in New Orleans' warehouse district. The following two photos are the before. While looking at those photos, you need to keep in mind that a professional decorator just did this lobby, but the condo board was so unhappy with the results, they wanted me to redo it. Unfortunately by the time we redid it twice, I was stuck with no budget. I had to rely on the budget designer's best friend...Paint.
I don't get the tree mural...the building has no connection to trees or woods....I'm guessing they were copying that black and white wallpaper with the tree motif that's everywhere right now.

After: Color, Color, color. I used a metallic copper finish with silver highlights to accent the fab stainless, copper, and marble sculpture they already had. Steel blue on the beam also highlights an existing abstract. I ebonized the Chinese table, recovered the chairs in a fabu faux leather will silver nailheads, and delivered drama and energy. (Oh my god...I sound like Kim Myles on Myles of Style....I better stop now before I start using the word "pop" incessantly).



Nights and Days in White

From the Veranda mag. website Designer Darryl Carter's country house.
Syrie Maugham's famous white drawing room that started the vogue for all white interiors.
Last photo courtesy of Visual Vamp's blog.

Recently Visual Vamp posted an entry showing a series of all white spaces. My own personal feelings about those kind of spaces is mixed. Sometimes, I look at them and think, "How peaceful...serene....beautiful." Sometimes, I think, "How do you keep all that clean...Do they buy Chlorox by the vat? Are they like the hostess in Sex and the City who only serves 'clear liquours, white wine, and white foods?'" And, sometimes I think, "How boring." As the title of my blog implies, I do love white and off white paint...for trim, for walls, for slipcovers, occasionally for walls. However, everytime I've personally tried to go completely neutral, it's only been a matter of time before the serenity fades and I start thinking about adding pops of color...just a few...a pillow here, an accessory there. Then comes the accent paint...maybe just in the back of the bookcases...perhaps on an accent wall. Then, I decide the color looks so good I paint the whole room. Then that color is so great, maybe the next room could be a complement...etc., etc. Then one day, I look around and decide the house looks like it was decorated by a drunk, colorblind clown with a Sherwin Williams gift certificate and start dreaming of Benjamin Moore's White Dove...and so the cycle starts.


Even more murals

This client hates garage doors and wanted hers to disappear, so I painted it to looks like a window with shutters and a set of french doors. The plant on the left is real.
These clients have 4 children under 9 and the husband loves birds, so I did a fun jungle mural in the hall between the breakfast room and a powder room directly accross from the door that will access their future pool.

Murals, murals, more murals....did I mention murals

I painted the rooster mural for a client who wanted the look of painted tile without the commitment or cost. I first painted the trompe l'oeil bottles in an apartment kitchen I had where I needed accessories but lacked counter space and money. The photos are blurry because they're from a phone. What can I say...she liked roosters.
This next mural is hard to see because the dining room it's in is very dark, it has no direct light (the only window is stained glass), and the walls are covered in a shiny finish. They owners had a large buddha statue that inspired the mural. It is in gold, metallic teal, and dark red on chocoalte brown walls with antiquing and a high gloss.
This mural is only half finished in the picture. I'll have to go take a pic of the completed mural. It's in an italian restaurant in the French Quarter, Maximo's. The owner loved old doors and wanted a focal point on a blank wall.


The effect of too much Dwell and Domino on kitchen design

This kitchen is in an old house. Translation: it's tiny...12'x14'. Every room is that small. If I lost 50 lbs, would that mean the rooms would feel bigger? Hmmmmm.... I need a backsplash. I found some tile I love, but cost and commitment phobia prevent me from going forward. I'm thinking about doing a faux painted version, but other projects are more pressing.
I always say there is a fine line between electic and a big ol' mess. What side did I stay on?

Like so many other 30 somethings, the partner and I are now passionately in love with midcentury and vintage. He also has a high tolerance for funk, which after enough martinis, I share. Therefore, we let the 70s guide are choices when we had to renovate the kitchen after the big K. I did go with a good classic shaker style cabinet, but we went for orange (light cherry) to highlight our avacado walls (Benjamin Moore's Pale Avacado). I made curtains out of his vinate sheets, and we hung some posters from a now defunct New Orleans land mark drug store chain K&B. I let me love for Domino convince my lazy ass that the orange chairs from a previous apartment created a great play of color and pattern. Really, I upholstered those chairs myself and never, never, ever, ever, want to do that again.

Porch facelift

Our current project: front porch. In our MidCity New Orleans neighborhood, porch sitting is still taken seriously. Luckily our house has a decent sized porch, but it needs freshening. I've already painted the ceiling a beautiful yellow (as visual vamp has pointed out, yellow is the new beige) instead of the traditional blue. in fact, I'm going for a modified mardi gras color scheme: existing green trim, beautiful eggplant doors, and a pale buttery yellow (gold), on the ceiling and inside of awning. We just got the furniture from World market. Now I must finish painting the awning (a project that sucks so hard it's taken me months to get it half done), paint the floor, do a little accent painting, find pillows or fabric to make pillows to tie it all together, and landscape the front. At least the FEMA trailer is finally gone. I'll keep y'all posted on how it goes.