Key to my Heart

A classic beauty.  What makes a classic so beautiful?  Its ability to glide effortlessly into foreign environments.  Mix and mingle with those from different backgrounds.  Throw classic and modern together, and voila – sophisticated.  Bohemian and classic, fun with polish.  Classic never goes out of style.  It gives depth and interest to a place.  It’s a bit like a neutral without ever being boring.  My favorite classic decorative motif then is the fret. Known also as Greek Key, Key Fret, Meandering Design, and I am sure there are others.

transitional-decorative-pillows (1)

It’s depth, I suppose, comes from centuries of being part of a multi-cultural history.  If I were a betting gal I would say that the Greek’s were responsible for its invention.  They were responsible for so much; indoor plumbing, the Olympics, the alarm clock (for which I am grateful and owe in part my steady employment), cartography (map making), democracy, philosophy, need I go on?  I’d be wrong though, as Mayan pottery, Egyptian tombs,  Chinese and Japanese textiles, and of course Greek architecture all feature this interconnecting “G” pattern.  It’s been painted on, inlaid, carved, woven, and printed.  I find it soothing in its repetitive nature, and bold all at the same time.

Cultural Exchange

The Cultural Exchange

The world of decorating takes full advantage of this timeless pattern.  It can be found featured as a trim on curtains, pillows, painted as a border under a crown molding, lining the inside or outside of a bowl, as a pattern on a blanket.  It never gets old and always seems to add that little je ne sais quoi that speaks to sophisticated design.

suzanne kasler

Suzanne Kasler:  Classically Inspired.

I plan to trim my living room curtains with it.  That is, after I get that bloody chandelier hung, and as soon as I figure out how I am going to hang said curtains.  Nothing is as simple or straightforward as is might be.  Some trim resources if you plan on doing the same:

  • Samuel & Sons (to the trade),
  • M & J Trimmings
  • Etsy
  • Zimman’s . Lynn . MA (limited quantities and selection)

Whether you introduce it in a small way like a set of coasters displayed on a side table, or in an ever present fashion through the use of a elegant wall covering, even a newbie decorator need not “fret” when using this motif.  Toss it in your tool kit, and like your trusted tape measure, plan on using it frequently.


What’s in a Name…that which we call a Designer

Romeo may have been as perfect called by any other name, but apparently having street cred isn’t enough to call oneself an Interior Designer.  As someone that was previously an Interior Design candidate, I am well aware of the distinction.  Education, certification, the ability to move interior walls, understand the code, be schooled in color theory, the history of furniture – the provenance of things, all command respect for the special designation.  I love school.  I love learning in formal, and informal settings.  I appreciate the confidence, and the voice one acquires by way of a formal education, but I appreciate too that some people just have what it takes.


I’ve been in love with Ben Moore so long…if I met one I’d have to marry him.

I had a dear friend (she now lives far from me) that has that design ability – what I call a “design eye”, in spades.  She could transform you in the back seat of a cab with a tube of lip gloss and spit, into a super model before you emerged at an event 10 minutes later.  She turned apartments into showcases with a couple of cans of paint, and garage sale furniture.  I once saw her transform a restaurant into a fashion show runway with $30., a trip to Chinatown, and paper umbrellas.  You cannot imagine the depths of brilliance she had in her little pinky–and hear me loud and clear – she had no formal training.  She’s now turned her talents to jewelry design, and trust me she continues to sparkle.  Samatha can be found at:  

I know people love titles.  New titles are being invented every day.  I had my chance at Interior Design, but finances stopped me short of the designation.  Perhaps I’ll make up my own title.  I’d want it to be beyond fabulous. Something like:

  • Meretisa of the Manse
  • Vision Caster
  • Decorateur du Jour

I may need to consult Samantha – the master of reinvention.  I think these titles need some work.  Alas, whether I stumble into a bucket of fabric samples, or splash dozens of paint colors across the walls of my homes, I undoubtedly know what I like.  Sometimes it comes to me in that space between sleep and wakefulness, other times through a very messy trial and error.  I don’t judge the process, and try to enjoy the product.


Credentials or none, on your own, or with assistance, no one should dictate what’s good design – that’s for you to decide.  And for goodness sakes – have fun with it.


Budget Busts and the Post Holiday Blues

First I would like to say – “wow” and thank you for the response to yesterday’s blog on “tidying up”.  I know the new year and making resolutions to do better, be better, be your idealized self is alluring.  Fun even.  And you should have fun with it.  The KonMari Method –51w6HOo7bsL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_ even if not strictly followed can lead to a mind-shift that’s pretty positive.  Asking oneself if they really love something is a pretty straight forward way of showing the door to that which you don’t adore, and getting organized.  I wish everyone luck throughout the year – at every tag sale, and turn, don’t forget to ask yourself…does it speak to me?  What am I willing to give up to welcome it into the mix?  You and your home will be the happier for it.

I’m suggesting that today, you keep firmly in mind that idea of a shift as we talk about budgeting.  After all – this is a fresh start.  Why then does it feel like such a dirty word…budget.  Ugh.  Don’t go hiding your head under cover of your Instagram account or in the pages of some glossy magazine.  Let’s see what we might do to make it feel a little more attractive.


Financial constraints can feel unfair, but I can assure you they are a good thing.  It forces you to develop a design plan, conduct research, slow erratic decision making – you know – those “what was I thinking” moments, hit the pavement and visit lots of home goods stores to sit in, touch, and absorb the myriad of colors, textures, and materials.


  • Write it down, and be realistic (find out what that chair you’ve had your eye on REALLY costs),
  • It supports informing your design style,
  • Necessity is the art of invention (you’ll become more creative in achieving the look you’re after when you put perimeters around your budget – the design will be the more interesting for it)
  • You’ll realize you do have choices:  to splurge on one big ticket, jaw dropping, show stopping moment, allowing your other belongings to take second stage, or to go low budget, all new.  (most will choose to mix new and old, with a single dramatic element).


Above you see low cost and high cost options – left hand Kardiel at $499., right hand Design within Reach Arn Jacabson Swan Chair $4300.

If you are the patient sort (not me!) you can phase your perfect room over time, trading out old items for new, and appreciating a gradual progression.  If patience is not a virtue you possess – be prepared to purchase economical items that may not have the cache or durability of their more pricey counterparts.  There are benefits to this….one doesn’t have to feel too guilty about posting that same item on Craig’s List 6 months or a year later and replacing it with a more refined piece.  Find your way.  Build the budget, and mix and match your options until you find the scheme that’s in alignment with your budget.

Discount wallpaper sites like and Wallpaperwarehouse offer really cost effective options ranging from $15.99 a rool to $60.00.  Wallpaper can make a space feel luxe quickly.

Tips for every room that can help keep budgets in check:

  • rooms shouldn’t have more than one major wow moment.  Too many cause distraction in the viewer (good news for the budget – often one high priced item will do the trick)
  • Wallpaper and paint can have major impact.  Affordable options of both abound.
  • Invest in classic pieces and you’ll likely find a place for them – even if that means moving them from room to room.  This will save you from having to buy new.

I have transformational powers, but I’m not a deity.  Budgeting will never be sexy, but not being in debt will be. Everyone, even the uber riche need to make choices – choose wisely, delay gratification, enjoy the ride.

Getting Tight-ie

It seems fitting that at the beginning of the year one should consider organization.  When my boss Lisa, an avid reader, gave me a book entitled:  “The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up – the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing” – I was intrigued on a number of levels.  First, it is no secret that I love throwing things away, and second, I clearly overindulge in the use of the word MAGIC. 3_crop_340x234It’s so captivating, I can’t resist.  And there it was, sitting squarely in the middle of the title, looking perfectly symmetrical, hinting at the tiny elegance and beauty that is the Japanese way.  And third, because three IS the magic number, though I am religious about my “one in one out rule”, I could still stand to do some tidying up!

So I went in search of some insight.  The KonMari Method (a combo of the author’s last name) I gleaned is what the French refer to as mise en place. Cupcake-Filled-Cupcakes-Other-Food-Fun-From-WebThis is of course a culinary term, but I feel its appropriate for most things in life, as it translates roughly to “putting in place”.  You can’t cook a beautiful meal if you don’t have all the ingredients, portioned, chopped, accessible, and at your fingertips.  Perhaps then it isn’t such a leap to believe that if your home isn’t free of clutter, and everything stowed away, while remaining easy to retrieve – you’ll never be able to keep a “tidy” house.

I really appreciated Marie’s exercise of holding all of your belongings, asking yourself – “do I love this thing”?  “does it speak to me”?  Instead of the more common declarations I find myself making before I decide to pack and move … yet again, another object that I no longer use.  It almost always goes something like this …”I paid $xx. for that thing and I’m not going to just throw it away”.  After Marie imparted her wisdom, I realized the error of my delusional ways.  Not only was that crazy lamp way too expensive the first time around, now I’ve paid to pack and move it three times.  It’s time to fish or cut bait.

Boston Home Magazine Summer 2011

Photoshoot Ready:  Mise en Place

I’ve always loved that saying – it conjures a call to action I can get behind.  That lamp is taking up valuable storage space on my closet shelf.  These are my choices, use the lamp, or let it go.  I’ve made my decision, it’s going in the Estate Sale I am going to hold in my apartment in a few weeks.  Great finds to be had, details to follow soon.

Once the unneeded items are dispensed with – apparently remaining tidy will be a breeze.  Marie also mentioned that upon following the KonMari Method one of her clients had done such a great job of divesting herself of items she realized she no longer needed, that she put her husband out with the trash.  I’m not advocating for this, and I certainly don’t think the extra space I made on the top shelf in my closet will open up enough space for a husband to slide in, but fortunately I know I could make room for him in my heart.  I’d include it as a footnote, but wouldn’t want it to be missed or misunderstood – I don’t currently have a husband.  I wouldn’t want any potential suitors to read this post and become discouraged.


It’s not about the bins:  Get rid of what you don’t love.

I hope your new year is getting off on the right organizational foot.  Remember, that which is most important, cannot be seen with one’s eyes.  Thank you Lisa for always sharing with me the most interesting things.

Beginning to See the Light

After having laid on my back in bed for nearly two weeks I’ve gained a new appreciation for a number of things.  One of them being the importance of what’s on your ceiling.  My ceiling is pretty darn amazing by all accounts, but sitting smack dab in the center of it is a china tea cup of a chandelier that’s made me wish someone would put my lights out.  Is that too dramatic?  Perhaps I still have some residual delirium from the virus.  None-the-less, the chandelier will be performing its final act some evening in the near future.  Once I make my selection – it’s lights out.

The following are strong contenders.  Which do you think would steal the show?  Please do let me know.

Aerin Claret Tall Mill Ceiling Light

Both from Aerin Lauder’s Home Collection, the first is called the Claret Tall on sale now through Neiman Marcus for $3750.  The second called the Mill Ceiling Light is offered on her site at $2722.


Calais 34

The Niermann Weeks, Calais Chandelier available through $3142.


Give them something to talk about

Should coffee tables be a topic of conversation?  Should they be the wow in the room, or should they disappear under the objects that adorn them?  A matter of preference for sure, and I have to say that there is a lot of – less than extraordinary out there.  How would you even go about wowing if that was your intention?  I propose the following:

coffee talk



  • An outrageous color
  • A non-traditional object:  a steamer trunk, a sea chest, neat stacks of design books all in a row, a set of 2 or 3 stools – upholstered or not
  • A large scale ottoman

It’s important to remember that aside from a place to display your beautiful picture books, photographs, and scented candles, coffee tables have a utilitarian role they play.  This should be taken into consideration when you select your own.  Are you in need of storage for blankets and throws?  Do you disdain the look of remotes scattered about and desire a place to hide them away, or display them more artfully – a drawer or a tray?  If you find yourself dining more frequently in the living room in front of your TV than in your kitchen, or dining room, or you are the hostess with the mostest – a stable place to rest your drink and a charcuterie platter is, for practical purposes – in order. Personally, I love putting my feet up on the coffee table, so I look for pieces that are solid and can support my tootsies without tipping over.

The pallette:

While in my opinion design for practicality has it’s place, it should also be beautiful and a reflection of your personality.  If your personality is all glass and glamorous metal, but you have little kids, you might consider shelving the urge.  Just temporarily, I promise.  If it saves a few trips to the emergency room for stitches it’ll be worth it.

Some argue that you should establish your design style.  As I’ve said before, if you lack design confidence, having some guidelines can help you feel poised to make a decision sans anxiety.  In the end, I like a plan that provides a framework for the entire room.  The beauty of a framework plan is that it provides a rough layout of what’s needed, and a general “recommendation” on the place that the pieces will live.  Further, you might augment it with images of pieces that “feel right” together, and that speak to you.  Most folks I know don’t go out and buy everything at once, which makes this approach particularly attractive.  Even if you choose to substitute a side table for a small chest of drawers, add lamps where none existed before, or opt for a mini-settee instead of a couple of slippers, the plan will help you make an informed decision.


The table that works with every style:  Peekaboo by CB2

If definition is important to you and you want to announce to the world, or that new friend you are trying to impress, your design style, it can be as simple as asking yourself, “Which do I like”?  I use the following to illustrate a number styles with a few factors/items that are non-negotiable in the space.  The floor will remain a dark espresso.  The Lattice black and off-white custom curtains will dress the windows, and the new charcoal grey Restoration Hardware sofa will supply the backdrop.  By using these pieces you can imagine how you’d incorporate your own into a fresh program – and maybe even re-define your style!

Contemporary:  West Elm Reeves Coffee Table $349., CB2’s Bousaf Side Table by Lennie Kravatz $299. and Madeline Weinrib Clover Carpet – sold at ABC Carpet, NYC.


Glamorous:  Oly Studio, Yves Cocktail Table, Call for Pricing ($3K+), Bernhardt, Aubrey Round Chair Side Table, $1325. and The Rug Company, Moses Ice, $179 a foot.

Boho Chic:  Layla Grayce, Eloquence One of a Kind Vintage Coffee Table, $920., CB2 Stump Side Table, $199., All+Modern, Karma Blue Area Rug – 9′ 3″ x 12’9″ $668.99.

Jeffrey Alan Marks Grove Table, $1009., Ballard Design, Durham Rectangle End Table, $249., and Oushak Rug, Turkish Origin – Arg. price for 9′ x 12′ $6K – $9K.

Designer Profile: Dorothy Draper

I’m in awe of this woman, who only came to my attention in 2008 when I visited The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. (How is it possible that my short stint at New England School of Art and Design in the Interiors program back in the mid-90’s neglected to mention her?  A crime!)


Does she not just ooze style?

I can assure you it was an adventure getting there, and I can still remember vividly my ride back to the airport through winding mountain passes, rabid dogs chained to fence posts, snarling and straining, I assumed in an attempt to rip me to shreds.  The Beware of Dog – No Trespassing Signs need not have been posted.  I owed a little of the adrenaline rush and racing heart to my introduction to Dorothy Draper.

The first professional interior designer in the United States – Draper was a trend setter, a path finder, a titan of industry.  Yes, she was a socialite too, from an incredibly wealthy family, for which she certainly deserves additional credit for foregoing a life of ballroom dancing, and delicate needlework.  Born in 1889 she opened – by herself – her interior design company in 1923.  She focused her efforts initially on public spaces. -Later she included among her astounding accomplishments:

  • Columnist for Good Housekeeping Magazine
  • Fabric and Wallpaper Designer – Schumacher and others
  • Furniture Designer:  Ficks Reed
  • Automobile Designer:  Packard and Chrysler ( featuring a pink polka dot truck none-the-less)
  • Airplane Interior Designer

She believed that one could be elevated in the presence of beauty.  She aimed to engage the senses, inspire and enrich the quality of life through her designs.

Credited with creating a whole new bold style known as Modern Baroque, her design was characterized by the use of wild colors in a time when color wasn’t used at all.  She threw combinations together that were jaw-dropping:  aubergine and pink, chartreuse and turquoise blue, dull white and shiny black.  She loved the bold stripe, plaster moldings, the use of Cabbage Rose Chintz, for which she was famous.  It sounds awful, and this statement will perhaps surprise you – it’s not what I consider my style.  And yet, I am mesmerized by it.  It takes your breath away and fills you up all at the same time.  How is that even possible.


The Metropolitan Museum of Art . NYC – “The Dorotheum”

She wasn’t exclusionary either, attempting to block others with a carefully constructed veil of secrecy around design.  She said:

Decorating is just sheer fun:  a delight in color, an awareness of balance, a feeling for lighting, a sense of style, a zest for life, and an amused enjoyment of the smart accessories of the moment.

I appreciate that, and know too that she had talent.  Like an eternal fountain it just kept bubbling over.  She was fun, and ambitious, and successful beyond reason.  If she was told to mind her place, to check her pretentions, she clearly did not listen.

Draper stair

I love a splash of color, the impact of black and white, high gloss and matte, now and again I’m tempted to introduce a little chintz in the form of a pillow.  DD most definitely has influenced me.  She joked about how it all began, saying:

I started this career because I loved doing houses.  I’d done three of my own and I couldn’t keep moving my family all the time, so I decided to decorate other people’s homes…”

Perhaps we have more in common than I’d thought.  I am on number three.  While I don’t have a family, I have asked myself the question:  Can I keep moving myself in pursuit of design?……  Time will tell.

black and white

It’s pretty black and white to me.  She wasn’t just the first, she remains a legendary influence on designers today.

Tips from Talented Tastemakers

I can eye things with the best of them, but now and again I just want to know the rule, or what the rule was before designers decided you could break all the rules.  That’s not always the most helpful, and I can say from experience it can end in a hot mess.  No one said that it was ill advised to break multiple rules in the same room at the same time.  That should be a rule, and that’s where a little structure should be introduced.  It can increase your confidence as you prepare to make a decision or advice someone else.


A Celestial Experience

Domino Magazine – The Guide to Living with Style was my bible.  I waited with bated breath each month for its arrival.  I loved it so much I delayed the gratification of pouring over its pages until I had several hours of unassigned time.  I adored the small apartments they profiled, and their commitment to telling you where you could buy every last item – or a close approximation of the same – in each and every photograph. It was genius.  Until it wasn’t any longer.  I blame trenches and the Big Short, it couldn’t survive the crash, no advertising dollars, and it folded in 2009, but not before they published a book…Domino:  The Book of Decorating.  A room-by-room guide to creating a home that makes you happy.  Who doesn’t want a happy home?  (rumor has it book No. 2 is coming out this year or next!) It made the pain of loss a little easier to take.  That and the fact I hauled around the magazines from house to house for years, finally ripping out hundreds of pages, reverently placing the remains in the trash.  There are some things you shouldn’t ever have to move on from….Pre-crash Domino Mag is one of them.  I commend my sound, and extremely emotional decision making, in this case, as I return to those pages like a photograph of a cherished friend, and am reminded of all that is good in the world.  Domino, Domino, Domino, what a beautiful word.


Ok, let’s get serious, because the book seriously has good advise.  They not only know what a puddle is, but they know how much puddling is too much when it comes to curtains. If your carpet is an island they know just where the shoreline should be, how many people of all shapes and sizes you can squeeze around a 48″ round, and how far that coffee table should be from the sofa.  It’s like getting the cliff notes and acing the test.  It’s that last bit of advice for which I was on the hunt.  My dear friend Melissa just bought a lovely home with her husband and cuter than can be bebe – Henry.  A little girlie is on the way in just a few weeks so we need to move fast furnishing this place.  Melissa has many talents and apparently balancing beverages on the back of the sofa is one of them.  Please friends, don’t try this at home.  We need a coffee table and side tables – stat.  Domino notes that a standard coffee table is 17″ – 19″ tall, is placed roughly 18″ from the sofa, and is half to 2/3 its size.  This is good information to have. As I mentioned, hard and fast rules are a thing of the past.  You could place two small side tables side by side to serve as a coffee table.  You could make use of a large upholstered ottoman with a single hard tray as an alternative table.  Let your imagination go wild, but remember we all crave order.  Sometimes keeping it simple is the best solution. I hope these guidelines help make your home a happy place.


In Celebration of New Beginnings

I love new beginnings, as evidenced by my constant moving.  There is a rhythm and familiarity to my constant motion, which I welcome.  Of course, it doesn’t require the bravery that moving to another state or country requires, where you must start fresh, building friendships, starting a new job, learning a new city or town, bon voyageestablishing all those places that are grounding forces in our lives.  The favorite neighborhood restaurant, the dry cleaner, cobbler, gym, and coffee shop.  Still – there is an excitement to the newness, and so the beginning of the year offers a similar opportunity to toss out the old – things, ideas, habits, and to re-establish.  Oh la la – the allure.  Even if your inclination was to resist – you cannot. Some foregone conclusions offer the most intriguing possibilities.  Don’t you think?

This Year is Yours by Alfred Lord Tennyson

God built and launched this year for you;
Upon the bridge you stand;
It’s your ship, aye, your own ship,
And you are in command.

Just what the twelve months’ trip will do
Rests wholly, solely, friend, with you.

Your logbook kept from day to day
My friend, what will it show?
Have you on your appointed way
Made progress, yes or no?

The log will tell, like guiding star,
The sort of captain that you are.

For weal or woe this year is yours;
Your ship is on life’s sea
Your acts, as captain, must decide
Whichever it shall be;

So now in starting on your trip,
Ask God to help you sail your ship.

How frightening and empowering to be the Captain of one’s own ship.  No fingers can be pointed, no one else to blame, I’ve set my sights on something, which I’ve been bold enough to name.  The coming year will track my progress and I hope you’ll track it too.  One must be kept honest or trouble will ensue.

If you are a resolution setter I hope yours will come true, and in your home you will imbue a certain sense of calm and welcome that represents all that is true.

Bonne et Heureuse Annee!