What’s Your Design Voice?

I’ve often wondered what my life would be like if I had a voice like Uma Thurman’s, I could have you know. She developed that voice out of thin air, well maybe it wasn’t thin, it could have blown in from the Swedish Alps. Her grandmother was Swedish, her grandfather German, and her mother was born in Mexico City. Throw that in a blender and see what you come up with for an accent. Don’t forget that Uma herself was born in Boston, mostly raised in Amherst where her very famous, Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies father taught. Now if an I-T Buddhist doesn’t have a voice, than I’ll Winnie-the-pooh myself back to the 100 Acre Wood and re-read the Tao of Pooh until I get it right.

Like the color orange? See where it takes you.

One thing is for sure, Uma may have been an uncarved block when she started, but she and her vague European accent catapulted her to stardom, and I for one, believe that voice of hers had something to do with it. Which got me to thinking about my own voice. I’ve never liked it that much, the sound of it that is. My passion is mistaken for anger, and my voice is loud, so very loud, that I’ve been told repeatedly, and much to my chagrin and personal humiliation, that as a result of it, I cannot be heard at all. That’s just disrespectful.

Gray – don’t you just love that sound of that color?

A voice is so much more than the sound that rumbles up from your chest, and whistles past your lips to find a brief moment of freedom before it winds its way into the ears of its intended, and sometimes those that co-opt it, as if they were part of the conversation. I sometimes do that in a beauty salon. The things people say, right out there in public, astounding. There are other types of voices too. My writing has a voice without ever making a sound, and so too does your fashion, and of course your design style.

A lot to love with texture.

The care you take in putting your house together says so very much about who you are, that if you were on the receiving end of an actual voice, you’d be begging for some peace and quiet.

Look at those birds, singing a pretty song.

Like my quest for Uma’s breathy, insert made-up country across the pond here, I want you to discover what your design voice is – in the way it will reflect the very best of who you are, and hope to become. Uma, cue the story boards to sell this production, well, to a producer. The storyboard is your ticket to finding that voice. Start clipping, circling, tearing, pinning, and gathering all the things that you like, and that inspire you. That voice will start to emerge like an opera singer hitting a high note. Go get ’em Tiger.

Something I Made

I’ve made a mountain out of a mole hill, I’ve made a last ditch effort, I’ve made eyes at a handsome man, I’ve made up my mind and then changed it, I’ve made my head spin worrying about whether it was all going to work out, I’ve made do with what I’ve got, because what else can a gal do but make do, and along the way, I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I mean a lot. I make making mistakes look like its my full time job, and yet, somehow I can still make something out of next to nothing, a good situation out of bad, make a comeback when I had counted myself out of the game, and despite all these mistakes I make, I’m making my own way.

Follow the 10% more guideline so you don’t fall short of what’s needed.

I’ve found it incredibly helpful when others share the mistakes that they have made along the way instead of pretending that all their efforts were the result of flawless execution. It’s impossible, and yet, impossibly we seem to believe what we see, instead of what is likely hidden just off camera, the unfinished tile floor of the bathroom – opps, didn’t order quite enough and now it’ll take three weeks to get the additional amount needed to finish the job, the custom curtains that I had to have before I had measured the actual windows, and ended up being super wide (not necessary) and so short they looked like that poor kid in junior high that seemed to grow inches overnight and had high tides, his pants looking as if he were ready to go wading in the sound instead of sounding off in the sing along for the school’s production of Our Town. Thank God for a brilliant seamstress that matched the intricate pattern stroke for stroke, and nary a stitch could be seen. You’d think that I’d have gotten the measure twice, cut once rule down by now, but sometimes I am a little slow, and take things far too fast.

My Galbraith & Paul Curtains – saved by the seamstress!

I’ve had quite a run with panel ready dishwashers. I had purchased a single drawer Fisher & Paykel for my very first place. I was so excited, not having had a dishwasher at my last rental. It was super expensive, but I splurged and when I walked into the apartment after a long day at work to find its guts spilled out across the floor, you would have thought my eyes had sprung a leak. I thought my tears would flood my little living room, and I would drown in my sorrow. Turns out my builder had no idea how to install it, so decided to take it apart – I had to buy a brand new one, and have Yale Appliance come and install it. My most recent dishwasher got installed but three separate builders couldn’t figure out how to put the panel on. They kept telling me that I had the wrong panel size. Two special orders later, I said to myself, something’s going on here, and it has nothing to do with the size of this panel and everything to do with the installation guide to the galaxy not being right. Getting people that really know their stuff – the first time, can really keep your costs down, even if it cost you a little more up front.

And as for the tile – purchase 10% more than you think you need for the square footage you are covering. It’ll cover the chipped, and broken tile that are all part of process, and allow you to pick and choose the tiles that “show” the best.

Go ahead, make something beautiful.

sTILE ME Pretty

I’ve been thinking about arrival and all its varied connotations lately. Not the kind of arrival that leaves you breathless in front of the departures gate just before your flight is set to take off, though making it feels pretty good. Even if you have to admit to yourself that you could stand to up your cardio routine a tick or two. Once you get on that plane, there is still yet another destination to be conquered. It was another type of arrival altogether that I was noodling until my noodle hurt a little, it’s the “having made it” kind of arrival.

One of my very favorite tile looks. Show stopper!

Now this might surprise you, but being able to tile a full bath — I mean really bathe it in Ann Sachs or Fire Clay or some other decadent luxury of a tile, to me would be the splashiest of arrivals, even if I was the only one to see it on my glamorous floor.

The trouble with arriving is that it often doesn’t feel as fun as you thought it might. Like that bubble bath you’ve been dreaming about, a few minutes in you find yourself itchy and ready for a cool shower. So this is my cool shower of reality for you all. You don’t need to dive right in to experience the wonder of these beauties, and they are beautiful, but like a 1950’s Starlet with her sunken tub and Swan spitting faucets, they come with a price tag.

Consider using just a sprinkle instead of a deluge. Make it a focal point instead of a flood. A pretty border around the mirror, a diamond, square, or a hexagon shaped mat at the vanity or in front of the tub, or maybe at eyes level inside the shower wall. There is something to be said for restraint, and I know you are begging me not to say it, but I must….the journey.

Left: Annie Selke . Watercolor Lines – French Linen. Right Top: Annie Selke . Moon – Soft Pink. Right Bottom: Annie Selke . Veruto – Orchid.

An Appreciation for What is NOT Yours

Celerie Kemble . showcasing her talents for Chairish.

It’s fascinating to me that you can like something so much and still not be able to see yourself in that life. Celerie Kemble’s design aesthetic is that for me. When I look at the pieces in this feature photo for Chairish, I really do adore so many of its elements. The rich blue of the French Bergere chair reminds me of the Adriatic Sea. I could dive right into it, and I can feel its velvety softness under my fingertips. I’m a tactile person. I like to experience my environment through touch, and this chair begs to be touched.

My pink little Bungalow 5 Taboret Stools “Vintage” 🙂

The chinoiserie planter, the pale blue vases atop gilded French wall shelves, are both precious and foreign to me. They are like the fancy sneakers that the ladies that lunch wear – there is part of me that wants them, and wants that life, but when I dole out the exorbitant amount of money required to assemble that uniform, I find them collecting dust in the closet. Why? Because it’s not really me. While I appreciate it, any act of replication wouldn’t be speaking to my true design self.

A tissue box was as far as I’ve been willing to go with the Chinoiserie, maybe I could do an old ash tray?

I try not to beat myself up about it. I know for certain you’ll never see me trying to purchase a round settee for my living room. I’m not a Southern Belle living in a plantation mansion. My one bedroom apartments typically can accommodate a sofa and a single chair, which is probably why I have grown so fond of stools and benches. They can be tucked in, around, and under other pieces of furniture, provide extra seating when guests come over for cocktails, and allow me to express some of my crazier design whims without feeling too guilty.

A place I’d like to visit, but no place I’d ever call home.

I’ve gone really high end – my Oly Studio, cow hide, zebra striped, ebony saber legged benches. I bought them in my very first apartment, and had to save for at least two months of Sunday’s to cobble the dollars together to make the purchase. I have never regretted it. The vintage – I laugh at this, but I did buy them when I was in that same Charlestown apartment many years ago now, Taboret side tables by Bungalow 5, sadly are no longer in production. These tables, that double as stools, are work horses. I have repainted them several times to match the new decor of one of the flips and they never disappoint. They too required a me to skip a few meals to scrimp and save for them, but have proven to be well worth the initial sacrifice. There are others – the Restoration Hardware metal cross benches that weigh so much I can barely move them around by myself, that I wish I hadn’t purchased, but for the most part, my stools have all served me well.

Oly Studio . Saber Legged Bench. When it comes with a payment plan – you better really love it.

I can say to Celerie – way to go with that wall covering. Some day, I’ll have a place that’s really my own, and I may just find myself adventurous enough to pull the trigger. If I don’t like it, I can always paper over it with something more subtle. Perhaps in the end, it’s the color palette that I find so appealing. Pinks and grays always make me feel happy, and your home should be a happy place. Don’t you think?

Il Pellicano . this place isn’t just for the birds

Il Pelicano . Porto Ercole . Tuscany.


It’s got stars, and not just the single prestigious Michelin that was bestowed on its restaurant. The well heeled of Hollywood royalty, and those famous for being famously beautiful, have flocked to this Tuscan retreat since the mid-sixties when two bright lights found themselves unwittingly forming a constellation in Newport Beach California’s, Pelican Point. American socialite Patsy Dazsel (God I love the sound of that name…) and British Aviator, Michael Graham met here, on that fateful point, and dazzled Michael was, because its here that they fell in love.

When the two decided to ditch their respective countries, they found themselves a secret cove in Porto Ercole, Italy. I suppose all that beauty -theirs, and the rugged rocky shoreline, overlooking the Tyrehenian Sea, was too bewitching to consider keeping it all to themselves. Before long their glamorous friends were coming to stay, and word got around, until it was formerly turned into a hotel for all to enjoy – or at least those with enormous bank accounts. Today of course, we have the democratization of Instagram to share in the experience, though I note that I cannot quite feel the crisp white sheets, ironed to perfection, dance over my toes, or revel in the pleasure of a chilled Campari and soda, served up by a deliciously handsome pool boy. I was however blessed with a wild imagination. Small graces.

Hello handsome, I’ll have a …

In 1979 the hotel was purchased by Roberto Scio. His daughter Marie-Louise Paghera, a graduate of the renowned design school RISD, became the Creative Director, and is responsible for its redesign. She blends eras and styles effortlessly, capturing the lavish luxury of Hollywood’s gilded age with her use of billowing tented fabrics, the restaurant is a beguiling blend of the Beverly Hills Hotel and Dorothy Draper’s Greenbrier – either, both – always.

If you’ve stared longingly at a Slim Aarons photograph before, you’ve probably seen Il Pelicano, or a place that bares resemblance to it, in the pages of some design magazine, or for instance, in my home. It’s just the type of place he loved to photograph, and boy did he enjoy capturing that rare breed of human in their natural element. It’s what day dreams, and the very best of midnight slumbers are made of.

Marie-Louise and her Dad, Roberto.

Il Pelicano, it might be just what I need to break me out of this Covid funk. I wonder if they’d consider tendering me a pandemic discount? I’d begin my diet today.

There’s no place like…working from home.

Or is there? I am pretty messy when it comes to work, which is interesting because my home is pretty neat. Sure it can get out of order from time to time, but the closets show my shoes in militant rows, and my drawers would make Marie Kondo proud, with their perfectly folded unmentionables, snuggled in tight lines, front to back. This working from home thing is for the birds, and even a bird keeps a neater nest than me at the moment.

A brilliant use of an accordian divider – instant office.

My dining table has been commandeered for the serious business of business. It’s not working for me, not that it did much work as a dining table. It’s there more as a suggestion of where some lovely couple might dine when they buy the place from me in the future. It’s covered in a rough grass cloth, which is not at all conducive to writing. My laptop is propped up on books to get it close to eye level, and my sit to stand would make the ergonomic specialists balk, or at the very least, attempt to sell me a home set-up that works.

I do have a desk at my house, but it sits at the bottom of the staircase and hasn’t been calling my name. It’s stacked with inspiration boards, posters awaiting framing, and a series of materials for odd jobs yet to be completed. If this Covid sitch goes on much longer, I am going to have to turn it into a proper desk and allow the dining table to serve it’s intended purpose. Who knew I’d end up using this kitchen more than the last 4 flips combined.

Must have plants.

I haven’t wanted to be inspired by other WFH aficianados, but it snuck up on me. Some people have made the most lovely nooks, and cooked up plans to repurpose found objects in their home to maximum effect. It’s not The Wing, but it’ll do.

Happy with the green vibe. Bring a little outdoors in.

Afternoon Tea

When Anna the 7th Duchess of Bedford began the tradition of afternoon tea, she did it because she suffered from “that sinking feeling” between her morning meal and dinner at 8. I bet if she were alive today she’d be both shocked and pleasantly pleased to learn that her little tradition has had staying power, and further comforted to learn – well that other’s suffer from that sinking feeling too, and that a cup of tea, whether accompanied by the frills of a cucumber sandwich, a pot of clotted cream, a buttery scone, or any of the other delectable treats that have come to make up “High Tea” – provide a good deal of comfort indeed.

These days, as the blustery wind blows, and the raindrops fall – my isolation has me turning to the kitchen and a pot of hot tea, again and again throughout the course of the long day. It’s amazing how cheerful I can be made by the whistle of my teapot, and the warmth of the mug in my hand.

W Magazine: Class act – you take the jewels, I’ll grab the china.

I’d like to design a whole room in the fashion of a single delicate tea cup and banish all those that felt it too precious for their sensibilities. Tea, after all, is the consummate diplomat. It’s welcomed in the noblest of homes, and on the roughest boats in the rockiest of seas in equal measure. It is sipped, and slurped, celebrated in good times and bad – and is friend to those young and old.

I think I’ll throw a party when this pandemic is over…tea anyone?

Tea at the Savoy . Better Days.

This Empress needs some bed clothes

This is not like Alexander and the Terrible Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, but these last few days have left me longing for my bed and the security that hiding under the covers provides. Why is that so comforting? Is it the smell of freshly laundered sheets, the coziness of being tucked in between those hospital corners that make us feel swaddled, held, assured that something has “got” us.

How could you ever not be happy in that polka dotted bed?

Right now I don’t want any tips on how to iron my sheets to pass the time or make the perfect bed. I just want to get into it and find that when I wake in the morning I’m moaning about the earliness of the hour before showering, dressing, putting on make-up, and driving into the office for a frantic day of activity and night of entertaining client’s. You know – a “normal” day.

In light of our current reality I think my bedroom could use a little more adornment. I want a whole lot more cozy, and big billowy bundles of comfort. I’ve scoured the internet and sorted through loads and loads of images of beds that made me smile, that gave me pause to wonder how the heck they did that thing with the canopy, and ask myself if I would ever want to leave said bed if my room looked like one of these.

Miles Redd Bed Beauty

All a much healthier conversation to have with myself while typing on the computer at a desk rather than lying in bed eating ice cream. Not judging you or doing any ice cream shaming here – you do whatever it takes to get through this and not land in jail or lord forbid, in a hospital.