Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Snob Appeal

Snob.  Is that really a bad word?  I mean, sure, we have all known some snobs who judge us based on silly outward appearances but then there are the snobs that simply require a higher quality.  Is that type of snob evil?

Recently, I was called a snob.  While driving through a gorgeous neighborhood, my doting husband actually called me a snob.  I almost flipped out!  Apparently, I had some very strong opinions about architecture, curb appeal (and even the age of the houses) that he did not share.  After my denial of this horrific label and some additional clarification, I did come to the conclusion that there are some things in life that I am a snob about around my home.

There are tiny luxuries in life that I adore and am willing to overpay for those niceties.  Take the candle for example – the perfect scent that is strong and beautiful all at the same time without being overpowering.  Just by lighting it, a smile comes across your brow. Another example of one of my indulgences is the showerhead.  There’s nothing like a full circle of rain falling on your sleepy scalp in the morning.  Bedding from the Westin 
is also an attempt to bring some luxury to my life and replicate the amazing hotel experience that I had there.  Do all of these pieces make me a “snob?”

Sure - I could blame it on design school but before design school, there was a spectacular set of sheets that my best bud Lisa gave to me years ago….wow.  The set came from Restoration Hardware and I still worship them to this day.  Coincidentally, I was able to find an additional set of the same linens in the chip n dent section at Neiman Marcus' Horchow Finale.  Ohhh la la.

Now before you throw darts at me about my sheet fetish, let's get one thing clear.  Unless you have tried Frette luxury linens, you really have no room to talk.

Begun in 1860, this Italian maker had two plants with jacquard looms by 1865 and opened its first retail shop in Manzoni, Milan that is still in operation today.    Dressing the banquet rooms of both the Titanic and the Orient Express, this manufacturer is world-renown for traditional luxury.  By 1978 Frette opened its doors in the United States with boutiques in New York, Massachusetts, California and Colorado.  (I’m lobbying for Dallas 2011.) This year, Frette will celebrate its 150th anniversary.  Talk about experience.

To celebrate, Frette is having a $1500 Shopping Spree!  This contest is open to all. Click here to win!

Sure I have a better chance of being struck by lightning than I do of winning this contest but hey – it’s worth a try!  If I won here are some of the items that I would chose:
The Hotel Bed Set would go perfectly with my Kate Spade duvet cover.  Love it!

Or what about this mink throw.  Delicious!

Or this decorative shimmering throw pillow made of leather.  Eye Candy.

For those of you who dread using the inflight blankies stuffed into the overhead bins during your flight, there’s The Globetrotter Throw.  Made of cashmere and merino wool, this travel set comes complete with a travel pillowcase.  To die for…
And if you are still smoldering over the candle I mentioned above, they have those too!

Now this contest is not exclusive to me.  Enter the Frette's contest and be sure to let me know if you win.  It can happen and it’s really fun!  Several weeks ago I won a Home Goods gift card on Knight Moves blog!  Remember, someone has to win – might as well be you.

So, if your loved one calls you a “snob”, try not to take it too personally.  We all have our extravagances that draw us to spend our hard earned cash on them – whether candles, sheets or showerheads.  These are the articles that add a little zest to our lives and specifically our living quarters.  So, embrace your snobbishness to the full extent – as long as it means that you are looking for higher quality from yourself and not forcing those expectations on others.

Until next time-

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Top 10 things I learned during my first week as a design intern

Let me begin right off the bat saying that I love my new internship.  I am completely in the right place and don’t even consider it a j-o-b.  That being said, there aren’t many things that David Letterman and I have in common.  For instance, I don’t have a second home in Montana (or anywhere else for that matter), am not an internationally known superstar (not yet at least) and don’t smoke cigars.  But the one thing that I do have in common with Big Dave is that we like lists.  Top ten lists to be exact.  So, without further ado….the Top 10 Things I Learned My First Week as Design Intern. 

1) High End – There are many levels of design firms out there --- low, middle and high.  Each level serves a purpose and has a unique personality.  The high end is where my design firm lives.  Beauty is measured by lavish objects d’arte, furniture and interiors.  The beauty is painstakingly clear.  Almost as is you are in a pretend land – such as a movie set.  

Incredible office chair (example of exquisite beauty) as seen in “Wall Street Money Never Sleeps” that I’m hoping to see this Friday night as an admirer of both movie and design...

2) Confidentiality – Most of us don’t realize how valuable our anonymity in life is until it’s not there.  We are allowed to walk through the streets and shop as we like without a lot of eyes staring at us.  Our high end clients are not usually afforded that small luxury.  With this level of design firm, confidentiality is the key to everything we do.  Clients are paying you to stay quiet, keep their privacy and do a bang-up job.  They are not paying you to tell everyone what they had for dinner last night and the type of undies laying on the floor when you went to measure for window treatments.

3)  CFA – “Cut For Approval” is my new vocabulary term for the week.  Believe it or not, a high end designer can request an oversized mock up of just about anything for these clients.  This is no paint chip from Benjamin Moore or a skimpy fabric swatch from Calico Corners.  This is bigger than that. Take for instance a rug that you have envisioned for your client.  As a designer, you can request a large mock up of the rug or CFA.  Sure you might start with a swatch but the CFA is expected before anything is built into drapery or furniture.  Just this week, I saw the most incredible rug with leather trim as a CFA.
 Highland Court sells amazing fabrics to the trade...and of course, will do CFAs.

3) Business Skills – If design if the name of the game, then tracking your business is the food on your table.  Organization is not only important, it is required.  Binders will become your best friend – one ofr invoices, one ofr CFAs and one for every client.  Tracking and managing your paperwork is a must.  That business undergrad degree of mine is going to come in very handy.  A good design firm is talented but a great design firm is organized.

4) Marketing  - Word of Mouth baby.  If you make a name for yourself, there is no need for marketing.  As with most quality products, there’s no need to advertise when the product speaks for itself.  People will call you just because of your reputation.  No yellow pages google for interior designers here….

5) Co-workers  - People are people in the design industry.  It’s totally different industry, but the same questions still arise: where we should go for lunch, what we are doing this weekend and what (or even who) was annoying in the office this week.  My favorite validation of the normalcy in the design arena – happy hour.  Count me in...

6) Arm Size – My first pickup was at Ann Sacks.  No, I’m not talking about a vehicle here but rather the blazing guns on my arms.  This week, I had to pick up a huge tile sample.  Beautiful but very very heavy.  Picture me in heels, skirt, oversized handbag and this massive piece of amazing tile.  All that was running through my head was “Don’t drop it, Carla.  Don’t drop it.”  Toting sample like this, I’m bound to beef up those upper body guns.
This is the beautiful 18x18 sample I was hauling around.  The description reads:  "The distinctive veining pattern of Pantano evokes the dramatic movement of ocean tides during the night.  Veining ranges in color from pale silver to dark moss green, occasionally interrupted by brilliant inclusions of white quartz clusters".  Ann Sacks starting at $11.67/square foot.

7) Degree – The ever-growing debate of do I need a design degree or not?  What’s my conclusion thus far?  Maybe…But definitely I need to brush up on my CAD!  Computer Aided Drafting is a software that most industries who cater to visual design use.  Architects and even some cartoonists use this functional tool.  For me, it would be extremely useful to produce floor plans and other visuals for my clients.  I’m bumping that class up on my must- have for next semester.
8) Parallel Parking – Gracias Chicago!  I still have it….first time was a charm.  Without missing a beat, I’m able to park the Pilot (Honda that is…) on the street in downtown and run in to pick up whatever I need to without any stress.  Good thing too as this will become a regular routine for me.  Now to pad my ipod song list for complete commuter perfection.

9) Experience – Internship + School = Success.  This is truly the best thing that could have happened to me.  You learn more on the job than you do in a quarter at school.  Put yourself out there and pursue  the internship.  It’s invaluable.

10) Priorities – With a brutal schedule, I have really had to hone my priorities to a very few for the sake of staying sane.  Sure, I want to return every phone call and go to every girls lunch but I’m realizing that I have limited bandwith right now.  Faith, family and friends – in that order.  My time is precious right now.  It won’t always be this way, but it is a way of life for the next little bit.  Thankfully, I am blessed with a fantastic support system who understand my situation. 

     Although the list above has been precise and to the point, it seems as if my whole life is exactly like that right now.  Juggling all the balls required of mom, wife and intern is completely exciting and completely exhausting!  But I would not trade all of the craziness for anything… Until I get my second home in Montana and learn to actually not choke on a cigar, these top ten will serve as my link to David Letterman – and to my future as well. 

    Love, C

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

3rd and long

It’s the third quarter and 35 yards to go with minutes to spare.  It looks almost impossible but I can almost taste victory.  I’m like my grid iron idol -- Brett Favre.  I like to stay way past time to go and make those other young ‘uns jealous. For those of you who have been wondering what “the Brett Favre” of the design world has been up to lately, here’s the up to the minute ticker.
I’m running.  Literally, I am running with my legs and my body (just like Brett). There’s a half marathon coming up that I am training for with my 10 year old son and my hubbie.  Even though this is super exciting, I find it ironic that I “run” more during the day than I do to actually train for our adventure together.  By that I mean, my design life.

Tuesday I began my first career move as a design firm intern AND taking 3 classes.  You see, Brett and I know the secret to staying in the game - work twice as hard at twice the pace.  We’ve got no time to waste.  Here’s how the internship and the classes and the running all came into being....

To begin with, I fell into the “on-line course” trap.  The trap that tells you “Hey, this is only on-line.  How hard could it be to sit at a computer and read some stuff?”  Wrong!  It’s intense.  Four assignments each week for 5 weeks.  Runs from October 4th through November 6th.  What was I thinking?  The deadlines are killing me....at least for now. It’s called Introduction to Interior Design.  My other two classes will run from October 4th through December 18th -- one called Color Fundamentals and the other called Drawing and Perspective both on Thursdays.

In the Intro class, I’m learning the steps to become an interior designer.   This week I needed to read, write a quick autobiography, respond to several textbook questions and produce a short paper based on a designer interview.  This may be one of the only benefits of doing so many on-line courses since I had just started my new internship the week -- free access to wonderful designers!  Here’s an excerpt:

“WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT WORKING HERE?”   This designer loves the fact that the lead designer of the firm allows her to work with him side-by-side.  This allows her to experience a wide variety of tasks quickly without being pigeonholed into one single task (i.e. CAD or organizing the resource library).  Another benefit, if there is something that she is not an expert on doing she is given the time to research it and come up with a solution.

“WHAT ARE SOME COMMONLY USED SOURCES FOR SPECIFYING MATERIALS AND FURNISHINGS?”Given the convenient location of the shop, the designer has quick access to nearby inspirational design shops - including: Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, Design Within Reach and of course Nest.  The design district isn’t too far away either and houses the high-end tile (Ann Sacks), high-end fabric (Robert Allen), exquisite lighting and also designer goods all in one central location.Utilizing the infinite sample books and online design books is key to the success also.

As part of my continuing education, I stopped by the newly opened store on 4519 McKinney Avenue last week and it was fantastic!  Take a peek..  

With such renown customers as Restoration Hardware, Williams Sonoma and Pottery Barn, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams has a slew of retail stores popping up nationwide in key design cities.  The W Hotel is also reported to be a big fan of these two design gentlemen.

In addition to the designer interview for my class, we will be assigned a class project to design a gutted condo for a real life client.  The process includes: client interview, picking out furniture, flooring and paint -- even sketching out floor plans and furniture placement with a final design board.  Think designer showdown...

This is probably the most unique class in this quarter for me.  How color influences people.  I will make my own color wheel and research my favorite color (blue for those who aren’t familiar with me followed by orange and then the classic pink!)

House Beautiful recently features this Jonathan Adler design that speaks to me with it's pops of blue and organized layout.  Takes me to my happy place. 

One of my main hang-ups about attending design school was that I can't draw worth a flip.  To this day, David Bromtsad on HGTV's Colorsplash amazes me.  He begins with his basic room drawings and then moves on through the process to his original artwork created for his homeowner.  It leaves with my mahw dropped to my chest....will mine ever come close???

Drawing & Perspective class is my challenge this quarter.  Without drawing, it would be impossible for me to communicate clearly the ideas floating around in my mind’s eye for the client.  Sometimes our spoken word is not enough and we need to communicate our idea with pictures.  “Chair” may not mean the same to you that it does to me -- I prefer modern but you may prefer French Country.

My favorite “Swedish” designer of the popular Live Like You Blog, recently posted a blog on her renderings.   Here is an example of a one of her quick drawings:

And another:

My hope is after this Drawing Class, I can get to at least 50 % of her skill level.

With all of this going on in my life, it’s no wonder that I feel like it’s 3rd and long with under 7 minutes to go.  So little time and so much to do.  I’ll just have to continue the tradition that my f-ball hero began when Mr. Favre came back for his umpteenth season with yet another team -- hard work and grit with a little bit of flair and lookin hot while doing it all. There’s a new facet to my already full life of wife, mom and student -- now intern!  Just like my idol, I’ll continue to learn everything that I can and enjoy it along the way.

Off for another training run,


Monday, October 4, 2010

Room of the Month - The Guest Bath

Everyone knows the cozy, intimate feeling you get when you use “the facilities” at a friend’s house – especially during a thunderous get together.  Once the door closes behind you, the world becomes quiet and serene.  Just you, a mirror, “the facilities” and the sink.  It’s often times your chance to breathe a little easier while you re-evaluate your lipstick.  Aside from this oasis, the guest bath also offers a glimpse into what the homeowner considers inspirational.  Some guest baths have scripture or pictures of exotic destinations.  Some have special hand towels (the kind we forbid the kids to touch) or a yummy smell wafting in the air.  Whatever the case, the guest bath is a destination that guests either love or hate.  Since this hidden area of the house doesn’t get used very much (thus, the name “guest”) it’s often times the last area of our home to be inspired.  With so much potential, the guest bath is the one place in a home to go crazy!  Let loose with your funky style.

No regrets.  That would describe your decorating mantra when staring at your blank guest bath.  This is the opportunity to try something totally new.  For instance, you covet the lilac paint that adorns the walls of your favorite boutique.  But hubbie is giving a thumbs down on incorporating this trendy color into his cave that he shares with you.  Why not try it here?  Remember the wallpaper with monkeys riding on elephants backs with a zebra stripe background that cost more than your first car?  Try it here – no regrets!  In guest bath world, the sky’s the limit!

Take this Scalamandre re-issued wallpaper – perfect example of no regrets.  It comes with red or green background as well.  For more details, see the peak of chic blog.  Since you will only need 1 or 2 rolls for your tiny bit of paradise, it makes it fun as well as affordable. 

Sure, it’s the Guest Bath.  But then again, it’s the Guest Bath!  All those luxury upgrades you just can’t afford, try them out here. 
Place a marble sink or countertop here in the guest bath.  It’s a minimal price adjustment from a ceramic sink and proves to be more impressive.  Coupled with fine hardware and you’ve created paradise for your guests.  Remember, smaller equal less expense for faucets, towel bars and knobs.  Throw in a smattering of monogrammed linens and you’ve got yourself a haven.

Monogrammed towels on the upgraded towel rack is perfect…especially with an upgraded countertop in marble.

Black paint on the walls?  Why not.   Here’s the place to do it with only a can of paint.  If you’re a person who likes punches of color and geometric, this look is for you.  Buy two hand towels – one for the laundry and one to put out.  Unleash your inner wild child – no regrets.
It’s small.  So keep that in mind when planning out your space.  Although that 8 square foot baroque mirror looked great in the showroom, don’t pick it up for your guest bath.  It’s too big and I haven’t even seen it.  Keep everything to a minimum in your guest sanctuary.  That includes counter space and accessories.  Leave room for your guests to spread out a bit from all the coziness of being at the part.  A trash can with a heap of flair is fabulous in your guest bath.   

Spice up your shower a bit (if your guest bath has one…) with your curtain.  No discount fabric here.  Splurge for a yard of exquisite fabric that you have always wanted to purchase.  A wee bit of sewing and some liner and poof!  Instant elegance with minimal cost. 
Pardon me, Kelly.  I realize that this is last year’s fabric but personally, I’m in love….

We briefly touched on the value of providing a haven for your guests.  After all, since they are the ones using it most of the time, it’s really all about them.  Sure, they will be stunned by your walls and such but the guest bath should also provide some functionality.  Must haves in a guest bath:  uniquely scented soap, clean linens and counter space (for purse and lipstick).

Consider fresh flowers the night of your fun party.  It keeps the bathroom smelling great (and looking great) without having to worry about an overwhelming smell or unmonitored flame.

So, rule of thumb for guest bath:  no regrets, let loose, go crazy.  Take some time to ponder what’s most inspiring to you and let it seep through in your guest sanctuary.  I can’t wait to hear your success stories!  Need more inspiration?  Give me a shout, I’d savor the chance to delve into it with you….

To guest baths and all they inspire –

P.S.  It’s my lucky day!  I actually won a $25 gift card to Homegoods on another blogger site.  A special thanks Kyle Knight, a fellow designer and blogger of Knight Moves who sponsored this contest.