Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Blue Plate Special of the Semester

I’ll take mine with a healthy serving of Rococo with a side of drafting and a double portion of symmetrical design.  If you’re lost by now, you are not alone....It’s week 3 of Q2 and the days are flying by in my classes.  This Thursday will bring my first Q2 test and it should prove to be a meaty one. 

As always, I’m enjoying using the different parts of my brain for this part of my educational voyage.  Sure beats school the first time around! (Why is it that we always appreciate something more as we age -- more on that topic another day...) So, what’s on the plate for this quarter?   Certainly not your typical corner diner classics.


For those faithful few that have been with my blog from the beginning, you might remember the first edition of this class from the previous quarter.  Architecture from Prehistoric times (and no..it’s not just about caves...) through the Early American period were the main emphasis Q1. Think Egyptian, Ancient Near East, Buddhist, Hindu,  Chinese, Japanese, American, African, Ancient Aegean, Ancient Grecian, Early Christian, Byzantine, Islamic,  Romanesque/Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, Neoclassicism, and Early American Colonial.  Whew!  Try to say that ten times fast.

Being that there was such a wide variety of styles presented, it’s hard to narrow down which one was my favorite.  They each hold such unique qualitites.  Take for instance the Baroque period.  This one is fascinating with it’s over the top gold gilt design everywhere --- inside and out.  A perfect example of the Baroque period on the outside is the palace of Versailles in France.  Notice the incredible gold details penetrating the edifice.  Amazing craftsmanship and artistry was involved in creating this masterpiece.  Yes, those are actual golden touches on the palace.  Not impressive by today’s standards but definitely knock your socks off at the time.

The Palace of Versailles, just outside Paris France.

In addition to keeping a pictorial notebook of the architecture as well as furniture of that time, we had to also discover corresponding modern day versions of its use.  Of course, I went to one of my favorite designers of all time for inspiration -- Kelly Wearstler.  In her Bergdorf Goodman restaurant, she pairs a distinctive Louis XV table with a modern sleek lamp in the same color scheme.  Perfect for my notebook!

Here’s my pictorial notebook inspiration for Baroque Period -- compliments of Kelly W.

Even though the class is a continuation of the previous quarter, there are some differences this time around.  For one, I have a new teacher.  The other is the material being covered in Q2: Victorian, Mid-Late 19th Century, Arts & Crafts, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Early 20th Century Modernism, De Stijl, Bauhaus and International Style, Mid-Century Modern, Postwar American, Pop culture and anti-design/1970s, Minimalism, Post-modernism, Deconstructivism, Contemporary.  Other than that, there is still the standard notebook along with 5 tests over the periods.  Which brings us to continuation number two.


Last quarter found me practicing my lettering through weekly assignments and drawing my first floor plan -- complete with outside view, furniture placement and doors/windows.  All hand drawn!

Lettering is essential for designers as it makes your plans readable.  It represents your block writing and the instructors consider it highly important.  For assignment #1 in Drafting class, Dr. Fott (an architect from St.Louis) asked us to do a page of lettering and to study the Sunday comics.  He specifically zeroed in on Dennis the Menace and Beetle Bailey as well as Hi and Lois for study.  These are all solid examples of how our lettering should look.  Sure do wish I had spent more time paying attention in handwriting class...

My lettering should look just like this Beetle Bailey strip.

Along with lettering and drawing floor plans, we will also be learning about the electrical and plumbing as well as other details.  After this class, I will hope to be finished with my manual drawing.  I can only guess at how fired up some people were when this was all automated by computers via a software package called “CAD”!


Yes, I am taking a class on Saturdays.  Can you believe it?  My husband thought this would be a great idea since he could watch the kids all day for me.  I got off to a rough start on this first day as I threw him a surprise 40th birthday party the Friday night before and I’m not the spring chicken that I used to be.  This is an extremely interesting class.  This is a graphic design class and I really miss my design buddies.  I realize that at my age not a lot of people go back to school but I am convinced that the average age is 20 and there are no design majors.  Most of them are dudes studying to be gaming programmers.  You see my dilemma.

The teacher is good - he is an artist and you can tell he loves what he does.  And I know the material will be very interesting.  We are studying the creative process and the use of basic design elements and fundamental principles.  What does that all mean?  Well, we are looking at: drawings, photographs, artwork and ads that incorporate various elements.  These elements include: balance (where you can cut the ad in half and see the same design on both sides); negative space (where the majority of the ad is blank space); and domination (where one thing dominates the whole ad).  These are just a few of the elements we study.

Our first assignment was to find 10 advertisements that use one of these terms: symmetrical balance, anomaly, contract, concentration, negative space, repetition, dominance, gradation, line and direction.  I felt like I was playing a television game show trying to go through my list!  Below are a few of the examples that I came up with:
NEGATIVE SPACE – The black color takes up most of the space, except for the chairs which is the highlight.

BALANCE – If you draw a line down the middle, the left balances the right. 

My second assignment was to venture out and photograph things the represented the same categories.  My boys who were often along for the ride found this assignment very entertraining.  Two things I found:  
DIRECTION - The arrow draws your eye to the building.  And it's coming soon to Plano, just off the tollway by Cinemark!

CONTRAST - A comparision where by diifrences are used to create interest.  I think my boys are going to want to watch this movie too.

So as my journey continues, I am coming up on 3 more classes and 1 more quarter closer to my goal of being a designer.  The student in me is eager to see what the new adventure holds while the mom in me is ready for a pay check.  My plate is full but the morsels available to me are exciting and necessary to reach my dream.  Eat up!

Bon apetite -


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Dwell with Dignity

There is something I love about purging.  Not only do you get to free up some space and order for yourself, but you get to give things away.  A few weeks ago, I did just that.  Several items went to my favorite non-profit Dwell with Dignity.

As you might recall, I met with the brain children of this non-profit (Lisa Robinson and Kim Turner) weeks before I started school at the Art Institute.  At that time, February to be exact, they just completed several installs, were just getting fully running and we still looking for a place to office.   Come July, they have new digs, have gotten a ton of press from The Dallas Morning News, D Magazine, D Home and more…. and are making a big difference in the world.

Dwell with Dignity is a group of interior designers and volunteers dedicated to creating soothing, inspiring homes for families struggling with homelessness and poverty.  They provide and install home interiors for families that include furnishings and art, bedding and kitchen supplies, and food in the pantry.  Their mission is to help families escape poverty and homelessness through design.  One household at a time.

Dwell has a group of dedicate volunteers and generous donors.  They have a website, facebook site, a blog and they even use twitter.  

Lisa and I last Saturday in front of a new dresser they have refurnished for a boys bedroom.  Love it!

Their new digs!  A great new contact offered them low rent on this new cute house, on Hall Street in Dallas…perfect for the office headquarters with plenty of room to store all the donations, and of course, room to transform things!

Information table just to the right of the front door giving you all the data you need to help them make a difference.

It was Saturday workday for them, which they have often.  Several people were busy in the house painting, sewing and getting ready for the next install.

The donation room…which include my green shaded shell lamp, several shades and other items I dropped off.  I can’t wait to see it appear in a new room down the line.

And as for the extra pillow inserts and covers I had … they go into the pillow room of course!

The “container store room”.  One of their donors supplies thread and fabrics.  Just opposite this is where much of the sewing gets done.

They even did a great job decorating the hallway….

Lisa in her office…grey and green combo.  Very mod!

Here is one of the latest projects they have done.  Most of the apartments are only 1 or 2 bedrooms, so storage and scale is very important.  On this particular install, a 2 bedroom at CityWalk @ Akard, the daughter was so excited about her room she said to her mother, “I’m putting my shoes in your room so I don’t mess up MY room”.

The upcoming install is for a grandmother and two young boys.  A team of volunteers have completed two really cool dressers (one being the map one above).  So be sure to check back and see what it looks like.

You can also read about their latest installs by reading their blog  (http://dwellwithdignity.blogspot.com), or by connecting with them on facebook.  (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Dallas-TX/Dwell-with-Dignity/138397849055)

So the next time you are in the purging mood, be sure to consider donating your items to Dwell with Dignity.  You can just email them a photo and they will get back to you immediately. 

Or maybe you just want to purchase a needed item on their website (pictures above) or just donate some money to help where it is needed.  Whatever way you choose, it sure makes a difference!

And of course, they love volunteers who are great with a paint brushes, the sewing machine, shopping or many other areas.    Bring a friend one workday and help make a change for the better.

Until next week,


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

What do you collect?

Three weeks off between quarters at school can give a gal quite a bit of time to shop Half Price Books and glean through the isles upon isles of adventures waiting to be read.  Such is the case with my most recent reading discovery:  Bringing Home the Birkin  by Michael Tonello.

In this luscious summer reading, Tonello decides to move to Spain in search of a new life and a new beginning.  In the course of finding himself. he realizes that there is a huge market for reselling scarves from Hermes.  After earning a reputation as a Hermes scarf dealer, Michael hits it big time by stumbling into reselling those trendy (and extremely rare) Birkin bags.

Here the author is pictured in his Birkin buying secret weapon uniform which consists of:  a Prada suit, Hermes shirt, Hermes vest, Jil Sander tie, Hermes cashmere socks. Giorgio Armani shoes, Hermes chaind’ancre bracelet, Ralph Lauren  watch, and so goes the list. 

Now you may be asking yourself, “why does a man need to have a secret weapon outfit on to buy a ladies handbag?”  The answer is simple:  it’s a Birkin!  The market for these bags is insane to say the least.  These Birkin bags are the ultimate status symbol in a world that craves bigger and better.

Named after the actress Jane Birkin and designed exclusively by Hermes, the demand far outpaces the supply ---- on purpose.  Worn exclusively by the uber rich and famous, it easily carries a price tag of $10,000 per bag and takes over 48 hours to make.  There are lots of rumors flying around about the bag being only available to those on the waiting list but there are ones readily found by resellers on ebay and by local entrepreneurs such as Tonello.
Victoria “Spice” Beckham is rumored to own over 100 of these exclusive bags -- shown here in pink.

So, what is fueling this fascination/obsession with Birkin bags?  This concept fascinated me as I read the book.  I mean, I enjoy a beautiful well-crafted bag just like all the other ladies in the world but really --- a $10,000 purse?  What’s the biggie?

Then it hit me, I have stuff that I am obsessed with that is not fashion related.  Take for instance my one time insistence on white pitchers.  Tall white pitchers, small white pitchers - whatever the shape and size, I found white pitchers a simple pleasure.  The second example would be my taste in wine.  Silver Oak cabernet is the elixir of the gods as far as I’m concerned.  I can’t always afford Silver Oak but do enjoy partaking on special occasions through out the year.

Another example is a friend whose grandfather is an avid book collector.  While at a party a few weeks ago, this friend was telling me that their grandfather collects so many books that he’s often caught sneaking into the house with his literary contraband hidden from his wife, after agreeing to stop purchasing any at all!  Or there is my precious friend Angel who has collected nativity scenes from around the world in her travels.  Every Christmas brings out the travel stories of her adventurous life as she recants the where and who of each nativity set. So, since my mind always wanders back to the decorating realm...I began to wonder how would I store/display all those books, Birkins and bottles of wine.
Although very understates, this bookshelf offers a supreme example of book storage.
As a designer, I will run into many people who will collect things.  Collections are only beneficial from a design standpoint if you are able to highlight them in a way that provides a cohesive organization to the pieces involved. Displayed correctly, some collections can provide a conversation but given improper status there are those that can be overwhelming. 

That being said, here are some tips on using collectibles in your design:

Unified Theme – Collections look best when they are have similar theme.  Either the subject, form, material or color are similar.  Consider painting several frames a similar color…

I love this hallway that was featured in Elle Décor Magazine.

     Find the Right Spot – Consider your collections and figure out what might work best for it.  Do you have a bookshelf that you could utilize?  A blank wall in your home?  Would the collection of baseball bats look best in the living room or an office?  Of course the bundt pans and pitchers might go best in the kitchen…

Group them together – Using the nearest display item (bookshelf, wall, or coffee table)  consider grouping collectible together through color sorting.  For example, all the red books on one shelf and all the black books on another shelf.  When in doubt, odd numbers look best to the eye.  Don’t forget to edit!  Take a fresh look after coming back to a project to see is it is overwhelming.  If you find your own space overwhelming, chances are your guests will also.

Found individually throughout a house, one might think that you are a cannibal.  However, grouped together on individual shelves all on one wall of this apartment therapy blog, this collection pops

     Quality beats Quantity – Remember the advice that your grandmother gave you when you chose your husband and pass that on to your knick knack buying....quality not quantity counts. Concentrate on buying fewer pieces of higher quality.  They are beautiful on their own and even more so together.  A good piece can stand by itself just as easily.

     Blue glass as unified high quality theme grouped together from Elle Décor Magazine.

     Know their story – If someone were to see your collectibles, what would you tell them?  Does each piece have a story or is it just some random piece you grabbed somewhere in Mexico?  Your display should allow you to relive the great joy that you experienced purchasing it and at the same time provide a connection point for you and your guest.

     A quick peek inside my home featuring my simple and elegant pitcher collection above my kitchen cabinets. My personal favorite is the squatty one second from the left that I purchased with my hubbie in our first kid-free getaway to Scottsdale, Arizona.
     Another resource for your collections, is this fantastic blog Apartment Therapy and the topic:“Flicker Finds: 10 Best Collectibles Display Ideas”. 

     This unique and completely personal collection of Pez dispensers immediately caught my eye -- unique and colorful!

     Whether your passion is Birkin, books, Silver Oak, nativity scenes, Hummels, door knobs, baseball cards, shot glasses, cookie jars or Life Magazines -- -why not think of a unique, simple interesting way to showcase your treasures?  Displaying them not only allows you to share your heart with your house visitors but also to bring a taste of your own creativity to the home.  My conclusion?  We all have things/indulgences that we allow ourselves to dabble in no matter our income or our age.  Why not make the best of it on show for all to enjoy?



Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Sun Valley...Some Valley...

Did you ever sing that song when you were little “In a cabin, in the woods..Little man by the window stood...”  It always conjured up a small, quaint little mountainous oasis where the you saw the rabbits hopping by.  I loved to sing it time and time again.  Well, a few weeks ago my family and I got the privilege of visiting my dear best friend Lisa (remember, the one who told me “Why not start a decorating business?”)  Her cabin in the woods was neither little nor quaint but breath-taking and spectacular --- in Sun Valley, Idaho.

Idaho does not typically conjure up visions of beauty to those of us who have never spent any real time there but I found myself sadly mistaken.  This place is special for so many reasons!

 Lisa and I outside her front door.

This cute guest house was our home for a week.   Are you kidding me?  How cool is that?

Decorated in “sun valley ski lodge style”, the house has strong, stylish hardware from Rocky Mountain Hardware as well as reclaimed giant doors.

Duh,duh.  Duh, Duh.  Duh,duh,duh,duh,duh.....this main house pictured above was once also owned by previous occupants Richard Dreyfus and family.  (think Jaws).  According to local lore, the house just across the street, in the cul-de-sac, was once owned by Demi Moore and Bruce Willis (pre-Ashton Kutcher I’m presuming).  

There’s a very ingenious invention the roof.  If you look closely, you can see some tiny clips on the roof.  Called “heat tape,” this device heats up and thus melting the snow so that it doesn’t get too heavy on the roof and prevents damage. Hah!

This is the entry way that you come upon when you enter the house...

The library…

Formally the master bedroom, this home theater rocks.  Did I mention that my husband and son played Ms.Pacman daily here?

Perfect for snuggling up with a yummy nightcap, this new master bedroom provides the perfect oasis.

This is another entrance to the house with an extremely difficult circular room.  Although the room is beautiful, Lisa asked me to give a professional opinion as to what I thought she should do with it.  Solution:  make it a music room with a grand piano.

This is the inside of the circular problem.  Can’t you just picture sitting around the piano singing Christmas carols by candlelight?

Our daily “bathtime” in the outdoor pool.

With silk drapery throughout the house and fantastic fixtures, it’s hard to notice the vintage touches like this Sun Valley poster.

 All in all, the house is a treasure trove of beauty and rustic elegance.  There was one place that this is not true and that would be in our guest house.  Outfitted with extremely modern sconces and a star chandelier, there seems to be some items that the former owner forgot! Lisa and I are working on finding replacements for them to blend in with the rustic charm of the rest of the estate.

Although Sun Valley is traditionally known as a ski get-away, the Moss family did their fair share of hiking this time of year.  Fly fishing , down the road at Box Car Bend (how cute is that name...) is renowned in the area for fly fishing.  Maybe next time around when the boys can actually tie something of their own....

According to Ethan and John, Red Fish Lake and Lodge was the absolute best.  Forget the house, take them outdoors!  

Lunchtime found a deer peeking it’s head inside our window....

So...it’s back to 100 degree weather in the Lone Star State.  Time for work, school and summer playtime.  As you can tell, Sun Valley is really Some Valley.  It has a uniqueness all it’s own and a beauty that compares to no other.  Thanks to my precious friend Lisa, the Moss family was able to experience this first-hand. (modern sconces and all...)  Lisa, you made our summer memories a lot more sweeter and a little more bearable.  Thank you for sharing your “little cabin” with us!

Until next week,