Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I'm looking for a....vanity stool!

Everyone now and then I have a client that needs something more than just a couch or a paint color.   There is a weird piece of furniture that has thrown them off.  The piece isn’t exactly common and there are definitely some bad examples of there.  The piece of furniture I'm referring to is actually a vanity seat or vanity stool. 

Many of us have a vanity.  It might be built in or a piece of furniture.  We spend much time sitting in that seat applying makeup and preparing for the day.

A friend of mine has just that…a built in part of her bathroom cabinetry that needs a little attention.  What could a find to fit the space?  Of course…there is everything from the high end trade type places (Pieces and World-Away) all the way to your every day IKEA and Pottery Barn. 

How do you get started?  Where should you go?  What do you search for ? Well, you could go ahead and google vanity seat or vanity stool, but that's not going to get you very far.  Keep your options open and creative.  Consider ottomans, stools, benchs and footstools. Here are some choices I came up with….
Target $149

Horchow $699

CB2 $129

JCPenney $300, now on sale for $159.99

Ballard Designs Courbe Ottoman $149

Pottery Barn Lewis Cube $199
IKEA  $19.99

The famous "x-stool"  from Pieces $595
From Williams-Sonoma Home $795

Jan Showers Collection

Belle Meade Signature  $539

Plexi-Craft Classic $403

Mid-century Modern Knoll Planter $1431

So...what are you sitting on as you prepare for that Christmas party?  I hope its something wonderful!  

Until next week,


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Finding a Designer - Lessons Learned

We can all hear the sound of it.  Some may argue that it is an icon of American television. Tick.....tick...tick...tick..tick..tick,tick,tick.  The sound of the wheel on the famous show The Price is Right.  A player’s hard work left to complete chance with the roll of it and the opportunity to play for the grand prizes at the end of the show.  Not a desirable situation to be in when you have made it that far in the game and certainly not something that you would ever want to happen in real life --- or in this case, design world. Your hard earned cash left to utter destiny because you didn’t do your homework.

As my faithful readers may recall from the last few weeks, the Moss family had found our new dream house in a desirable neighborhood in Dallas.  Being that I am not one to delve into anything lightly, I instantly began decorating it in my mind and found the task daunting.  To ease my anxiety about designing my own abode, I decided to do take this chance to hire someone else to help me with the transition from starter home to forever home.  I also thought that it would be a great opportunity to get a bird’s eye view of the client side of things.  What a better way to learn more about design than to work with a tried and true professional on my own home!   I decided to take the plunge and began researching designers in the Dallas area for our possible new home.  (I really am an eternal optimist...) Let me walk you through the process.
One of several pictures of my dream living room.

The deep, brooding brown here is very comfy -- diggin’ it

Being that I am new to this whole design arena, I decided to take the very intellectual approach and comb the finest reading material that I had on hand --- DHome.  Each year, DHome lists the top designers in the area based on several criteria and possibly just a lot of letter writing I’m guessing.  I contacted many of the designers via email inquiring about availability and estimate of service charges.    
Initially, it wasn’t easy to wade through all the hub-bub of some of the designers but it did get easier the more I did my homework.  Personally, I would not suggest grabbing the Yellow Pages (do they still have those anymore?) or doing a Google search on interior designers.  This leaves too much to chance.  Be sure to stick to those that have write-ups in magazines, who came highly recommended or have stores in the area.  Not because there might not be others who are just as talented but because you want to make sure that you are getting a quality product.  Some designers that I spoke with didn’t have a clue as to what they were doing and have no formal training in the field.  Then there are some that have beaucoup experience without the website and the write-up.  Either way, be sure to ask lots of questions to those who will potentially be handling your hard earned cash.  You want to make sure that they are in it for the long haul and not just getting by in this world.

I basically got three responses:

1) No Answer.  No response at all.  Nada. Zilch. Zero.  This tells me a few things:  they either don’t work on homes in my area or they are so busy they don’t need the work.  Whichever the case, they are not for you.

2) An email.  Most of my soon-to-be comrades answered promptly with an email back to me.  They asked me to contact them directly via phone and the thought of making all those calls made my ears ring.  I decided the most concise approach was to check out their websites first and then narrow it down based on those details.

3) Quotes & Details.  Pricing does matter in design world.  While some persons were very upfront with me about their pricing, some were less open about their costs.  There were some designers who had the pricing on their websites and some who sent me a document.  Others freely gave it to me on the phone.  That got me to thinking that for some, pricing is a sensitive issue for whatever the reason.  Either way, it varies greatly so find someone that appeals to your personality (and pocketbook) on this issue.

Another dream house option for me...notice the trend?

With all this rolling around in my head, there were a few things that I found out about paying for a designer that were very insightful:

Initial Consultation.  Most designers would be more than happy to meet with you for an hour or so and don’t charge for the initial conversation.  A few do charge -- again, personal choice.

Retainer.  Some of the higher end firms require a retainer for their services and it is usually credited back to the client once the work is completed.  Oftentimes, this retainer is a percentage of the budget set in the beginning.  This helps ensure that the designer is not left high and dry at the end of the project without payment.

Hourly Fee.  This is to be expected in the design market.  Most will charge an hourly fee and the lead designer will fetch the largest coin, followed by design assistants, drafting and tech people.  Who knew that there was such a hierarchy to the method?

Markup.  All designers charge some type of markup on the goods they find for your home.  This can vary from 20 – 50%.  Designers will get a trade discount (things at cost) but they still mark it up to gain a well-earned profit.  It’s the way business is done (even at Walmart).  Take for example that stunning $4,000 antique mirror gracing the walls of your bedroom.  You are charged $4000 for it but the designer paid $2800 for it at the store and then sold it to you for way more than they paid.  Free market at work and rightly so....we all have to make a living right?  Again, the degree to which they mark it up varies greatly.

Type.  Designers vary their rates based on residential or commercial.  Some professionals only do one or the other so make sure that you are getting the right fit for your job.  With a huge endeavor, the price may even go down slightly for your budget.  Makes total sense.

This could even be option number four --- I can’t stop thinking about it!

     I really clicked with several of the designers that I spoke with and they indicated that I should pull together some pictures of what appeals to me.  (Don’t think I haven’t already done that.  Piles of files organized by rooms in hard and soft folders.  Makes me happy.)  A couple of the experts had me fill out questionnaires and sent me pics of the rooms that they had done for previous clients. 

    Yum, yum, yummy....

All in all, I was so excited about the prospect of being on the other side of the design equation and soaking in the expertise of another professional.  With the encouragement of other insiders, I decided to take the plunge and be a big girl and hire someone to help me out.  However despite all my enthusiasm and optimism, it appears as if our dream home is crumbling beneath us. 

We were recently outbid on the home and have been relegated to contingency on the contract.    It’s been a bittersweet adventure for us - as well as exhausting.  But, I really did learn a ton from this experience: sometimes you don’t get what you want, sometimes your kids will whine and cry despite the ideal circumstances, current neighbors don’t get it and new neighbors don’t either (but for different reasons). At the end of the day, you have to be comfortable with your decision and know that despite all the grumbling and groans, it was a walk in faith.  So, for now hubbie and I will sit back and regroup about our next endeavor.  Take it from someone who has done their pricing homework, leave nothing to chance or the big wheel when you are designer shopping.  Use my experience to bolster your confidence in finding that perfect someone to create your living environment.
Until the grand prize round-


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Room of the Month - The Room with your Christmas Tree

Jingle bell, jingle bell, jingle bell rock  
Jingle bells swing and jingle bells ring
Snowing and blowing up bushels of fun
Now the jingle hop has begun"
While making my monthly pilgrimage to Horchow Finale (for a wee bit of retail therapy), I overheard a fellow shopper humming away the words to the joyous tune above.  Being that I have been singing Christmas carols for weeks now, I was eager to have a fellow songstress to join in the holiday spirit along with me.  Not quite there yet, yourself?  Not to worry...The best place to start is the tree.
Personally, the tree is the easiest way to add punch to your decor.  My three trees are already decked and ready to go (minus my 15 footer which did not make the list this year due to numerous reasons...) Following is a quick look at the trees blosssoming on Pintail Lane:

Tree #1
The white glam tree fits the ever-unique builder niche and works well with the d├ęcor.

Tree #2, What's Christmas without the real deal?  Smells are everything at the holidays.

Tree #3. Charlie Brown is never far away in the Moss family celebration.  Complete with the heavy ornaments and bending branches.
Insteading of sighing because of my decoration completion, how about join me?  Nothing thrills me more than seeing how others bring their own unique take on the holidays.  To make your transition from ho-hum to a winter wonderland, here are some savvy suggestions to get you going: 

Neutrals with just the right metallic pop.  Classy and festive.

Cotton candy pink keeps this tree looking fabu...

Tight spaces are spot-on for a tiny tree.  A few ornaments which coordinate with the gift wrap used on the presents creates giant pizzaz.

Instead of visions of sugar plums this year, what about cupcakes?  Said to be from Kmart this year, this room is the inspiration of Eddie Ross.
Southern Accents Magazine showcases gorgeous trees and these are just a sampling from the last two years. 

Traditional red and green are always stylish.  The quintessential Christmas combination is made even more yummy with a more festive green.

Va-va-voom.  Turquoise really speaks to me at the holidays.
And this one has a fun pop too.

Featured in Veranda, why not utilize a peacock?

And let’s not forget the queen  - Martha Stewart!

Adore the pink…

All this talk of trees makes me want to fire up the ole lights and finish what my fellow Horchow Finale pal started the other day.  So until I receive some pics of the trees donning the halls of your home, I'm forced to leave you with the final verse of the previous carol:
"Mix and a-mingle in the jingling feet
That's the jingle bell,
That's the jingle bell,
That's the jingle bell rock."

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Inspiration, Fabric, Workrooms and Bras?

Last week the whirlwind surrounding my life began to die down to a gentle breeze.  With the week off from school and the kids out also, I only worked one day at my internship – all the while nursing my wounds over losing my dream home.  With that behind me, it left nothing more to do over the long weekend than to enjoy some well-deserved fabric samples.  I dialed up my new Robert Allen rep and he dropped off the most fantastic menagerie of fabrics --- all for my collection!  I am giddy… 
 For those of you not grasping my excitement, there are others like me with some pretty intense opinions about fabric.  Take Jesse Ventura for example.   Ex-pro WWE wrestler, former governor of Minne-snow-ta and current host of television’s “Conspiracy Theory”. Mr. Ventura offers his own value of fabric when he said, “If I could be reincarnated as a fabric, I would come back as a 38 double D bra.”  Wow…now there’s fascination with fabric and then there’s fascination with fabric.  Jesse takes the cake.  Although I’m not that intense about my fabric fascination, I do believe that there are a few essential tools that a designer should have at their disposal – with fabric being one of them.  In addition to drive, skill and business savvy, a good designer also utilizes the following:

A library of inspiration – Architecture books, interior design books, color books, window treatment books, and tons of magazines make for a solid beginning to your library.  Each client and each job will have different requirements and you will want your own stuff to offer them.  Another good tip? An online collection of photos, organized by room.

A fabulous workroom – Drapery, pillows and re upholstery are a staple in the industry.  Find yourself a workroom that can deal with the volume that you are creating for your clients.  It should be reliable and you should work at keeping a strong relationship with them.  Lead times are critical to the process so make sure that everyone is clear about dates and expectations.  Could be messy…. I use Berkeley Fabrics right here in Frisco.

Sample books – Paint decks, fabric and flooring samples will all add to the client presentation, letting them actually touch and feel what could be right in their home.

My current living room after “the drop” of goodies from Robert Allen. Even though office space is an issue, these little jewels are definitely going to come in handy. 

With some well deserved downtime, I was able to examine each book thoroughly.  Broken down by color and then by fabric type (i.e. upholstery, drapery, etc.) it’s actually pretty easy to flip through the books to discover the perfect match.  Check out this elegant blue fabric:

And some newer patterns....
Offerings even include clean, crisp ocean reminensce pattern from Nautica.
dAlso with the goodies came two trim books - meow.
I love how the photography is so sharp now that you can see the texture on even the color pages...
Robert Allen and Dwell Studio have combined efforts to create a new line.  Frankly, these are right up my alley.  They have pop and are fun too - best of everything. 
Even though you may not be able to answer the doorbell and see your friendly Robert Allen rep laden with treasure for your trove, that’s what I am here for!  There’s not a more beautiful fabric in all the design world.  So… whether you are in the market for new drapery or need to recover your priceless piece, the ideas are flowing.  Contact me directly and I will pull a book for you! And no, I won’t show you the Jesse Ventura collection.

Happy fabric -

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Interior Design Class Update

Thanksgiving brings to mind for most people pumpkin pie, turkey, lots of fatty starch and even football.  I’m not immune from that thankfulness either.  Thanksgiving prompts me examine my life and give thanks for the things that are in it, too.  There’s the traditional thankfulness for my health, my family and my kids.  But this year, I am adding something new to the mix -- thankful that I am now halfway through the remaining two classes.  Yeah!

What are the things that I am thankful for this year besides being halfway through?  Here’s a synopsis of recent months:

Marco French Studio is the light of my life.  I love it there! My internship there rocks and I’m learning a ton from the master himself.  Over the last few weeks, I have been:
·      Selecting and picking up towels & robes to be monogrammed for an upcoming bedroom
·      Shopping at top notch art galleries in search of art for said bedroom
·      Searching for items to be used on the bookshelves
·      Making the bed and arranging stuff early for the upcoming reveal of the bedroom.
·      Installation of a stunning HIghland Park bedroom. It’s breath taking... The clients‘ faces say it all when they are presented with the finished product (think lots of screaming and excitement...sheer drama.  They love it btw...) 
·      Returns – Driving around for 2 hours returning all the stuff we didn’t use in the install
·      Finance & Receipts – Matching all the receipts to the billed invoice to make sure we got it correct
·      Website – Getting together a plan on how we can update the firm’s website once free time ensues
·      Shopping for more towels and a frame with a picture of the family in the new bedroom.
·      Creating a high level strategy plan
·      Looking for spectacular high-end 1940‘s articles for another upcoming bedroom.

Yes, I get paid to spend someone else’s money and do light office work.  Someone pinch me

 Remember when I told you I couldn’t draw?  Never doubt the skills of the highly trained professors at the Art Institute of Dallas.  They have taken a once sickly artist and transformed her into a healthier artist.  Below is an example of my first 1-point perspective drawing. 

Although the drawing is not museum quality art, it does the trick.  Shading and the hardware pulls seem to be the trouble spots. For those of you who are still not sure what the drawing is -- think bedroom...

Just when I thought my preschool days were behind me, up pops the Color class.  We have been mixing colors and painting like crazy.  The mixing and experimenting is all part of learning the capabilities of the colors to get the exact one that you need to use.  Crayola had nothin‘ on us.   We had to paint 84 colors by mixing them!  No combining colors to make a new one -- we did the whole thing from scratch baby!  You can imagine the state of the bathroom at the school during the process but we cleaned up after ourselves.  (No need to freak, mom.) Once the colors were mixed, we had to create some type of artwork to display them in an orderly fashion.   

For those die hards who have been following my blog this whole time, you will remember that I am crazy over “The Dress” from my previous post "The Dress" done by artist Todd Murphy.  Inspired by what may be easily considered my all time favorite piece, I created my own take on “The Dress” featuring all 84 colors!  I wish I had been able to spend more time on the project but it works and showcases my effort very nicely.

With three major projects due each week, this class almost killed my design aspirations and me.  It was intense.  Despite all the workload, I did learn a ton.  Nothing that was too mind-bending but certainly time consuming!

Below is my final board for my Basics class.  The best way to describe it is as a summary of all my assignments.  The class was required to draw a floorplan, pick out furniture, flooring, paint, fabrics -- the whole shabang!  Take a look at mine :

What’s always been funny to me is how simple this process looks and yet how complicated it really is to do.  Talk about long hours and tedious work...

With the class over and my final grade of an A recorded, I’m going to sleep for a few days and let my mind breathe.

And since its mid-semester you know what that means....time to register for next quarter!  I’ve signed up for three more classes including:  Design Basics (a 3D drawing class), Space Planning  & Programming I (where I learn how to arrange furniture) and Observation Drawing (drawing in perspective).  I’m making progress, but it’s so slow…Graduation target -- 2014.  Ugh!  That would mean that I would have to take 3 classes each quarter which is a better blend for my family and my work.

That’s the latest in the life that is Carla Moss.  Oh, except for the fact we lost the house we were going to purchase - the one I talked about last blog.  Someone bid higher and had no contingency.  I'm a bit sad. to my parents for Thanksgiving to see my family and eat with my hubbie and the kids in tow.  Maybe while I’m there, I’ll take a much needed breather also. Goodbye Frisco, hello Branson (at least for a week).

Gobble, gobble-

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

To Move or Not to Move?

Things are heading south in our lives, and by that I mean that they are actually headed on the compass in the southward direction.  It’s actually true.  The life that we have carved out for ourselves in this little bit of suburbia is being reconsidered as we look to Dallas.  It seems as if all of our life is centered around Big D and getting more so that way each day.  We used to joke about moving and now we are actually taking it seriously.

For those of you who have been with me on our recent journey, you will recall that over the last few months we have made some mega changes in our lives.  Change numero uno is most obvious – I took the plunge and returned to design school in Dallas.  Followed closely by a design firm internship in Dallas.  Add to that, we have begun mentoring a family on the south side in Dallas.  Also, we have changed churches and are attending in Dallas.  The only thing that has not changed for us is Matt’s job in Dallas.  Did you notice that all of the above sentences end with the phrase “in Dallas?”

Now all of these things are good….but all of these things are definitely located south of our current existence.  This is where the rub occurs.  With no intention of leaving our suburban bubble, our lives have morphed into something that does not include our current locale. 

With that in mind, we have come to a decision.  We have decided to place our home in the burbs on the market and place a contingency bid on a home in Dallas – specifically the Park Cities.  Assuming that the home doesn’t’ sell anytime soon and our home sells really fast, this site would be our new digs. 

With an appealing driveup and right smack next door to our longtime friends the Cox Family, this home is everything we could ask for and more.
The layout of the home offers us great usability and would allow us to plunk our furniture right into the house without losing much in the way of time or pieces. 
This photo does not do this laundry room any justice.  But let me tell you…it’s a dreamy place to be.  With the washer and dryer located on the second floor along with the bedrooms and this much square footage in the laundry room alone, it calls to me in a deafening voice “Buy me!
White kitchens are truly my thing but this one will due in a pinch.  I much prefer to dream of turning it into one like the kitchen found below all in an ethereal white scheme.
And yes, this photo is from my endless interior design tear sheet files.  I'm glad it came in handy for me this time.
What could be better than a back porch and a glass of wine?  Friend to join me, that's what!
Although we are used to a spacious backyard, this yard provides a tastefully landscaped area with room for the boys to run. 

You might be wondering exactly what were our considerations when trying to decide whether to move on down south or not.  Being the wife of a numbers dude and a former business woman myself, it made perfect sense to chart the pros and cons of a move.  That being said, the decision split right down the middle.    Take a look at my following comparisons:

Matt’s commute 8 minutes
Matt’s commute 45 - 1+ hour
Carla’s school commute 5 minutes
Carla’s commute to school 35 minutes
Carla’s work commute 3 minutes
Carla’s commute to work 45 minutes
Commute to church 10 minutes
Commute to church 25 minutes
Commute to our mentoring family 10 minutes
Commute to mentoring family 15 min & 1 hour on Sun
Great Public Schools
Great public schools and we know them well.
Nice potential house with everything we need
Great current home and things are almost how we want them
Right next door to the Cox family
Excellent friends and relationships in Frisco
No fixes need to existing house that we know of
Fixes needed, but we have the cash to do them
Price of home – not exactly cheap.  We would be giving less away in a trade for giving more of our service time
Lots of equity in our home and much cheaper mortgage payment, with possibility of payoff soon.
Neighborhood is filled with kids (42 on one block), but boys don’t know anyone yet
John doesn’t want to move because he’s had the same friends since he was in diapers
No bus.  I’d have to take the boys to and from school unless I can figure out a carpool
Bus comes to our door and saves me time
Need to move in next 10 months as John would be starting middle school in 5th grade
If we don’t move this year, we would need to stay put as we ‘d hate to pull out the boys from school middle/high school
We wouldn’t need to change any of our downtown commitments and have more family time
We would need to move some of our “downtown” commitments back out to Frisco as they are really eating into our family time

UUGGHHH!  I thought for sure that after I made a chart, the answer would become crystal clear.  No such luck.  So…what to do?  As I mentioned earlier, we decided to go ahead and put our home in Frisco on the market and see if it moves in the next few months.  We have placed a contingency contract on the home in Dallas.  The shocker on that contract is that the current owner actually accepted our contingency terms.  And now we wait.  The waiting process is so difficult for a woman like me who is decisive.  If you know of anyone in need of a beautiful home up north of Dallas, give us a ring.  I just happen to know a wonderful family that is looking to sell quickly.

Can’t wait for the first party,
or perhaps the "staying put" party -