Balance in life is something we are ever in pursuit of. One side of the seesaw is tipped too far, and too long, on the side of drama, chaos, endless checklists that can feel as if they add up to nothing of significance, even when the boxes display that emphatic red slash or definitive x. Then it bumps gently down on the side of calm composure, perhaps brought on by a vacation that you never want to leave.
We need both, we need equilibrium, we need that special mental calmness, composure, and even temper when we are faced with the most vexing situations. You know the kind, the ones a design and construction project are always throwing your way. I can hear the yogi Baron Baptiste whispering in his flat affect…”equanimity”, the even tide of his utterance lulling me into a hypnotic state. No time for that now. We must discuss contrast.
Contrast – the good and evil, the dark and the light, the total absorption of one, ironically brings about expansiveness. Paint your walls black or install kitchen cabinets of the same color and they seem to recede into the distance making your 100sf feel like two or three. White wash your walls and get ready to reflect the sunlight that pours in through your windows, tricking you once again into thinking the space is larger than it is.
Black and white is timeless and chic. It can draw your attention to the one color or object in a room that you want the visitor to appreciate most. It goes with any color combination or design style, making it the single most versatile combo you can choose to use. You never need to be afraid of the dark if you don’t forget to leave the white on.
I love the word “dust bunny” it’s sounds so much cuter than it is when you are trying to capture that illusive pillowy cloud of particulate matter. Who invited it here anyway? The beauty is in the word rather than the act of removing it for me (a task I am currently putting off at the moment, but not allowed to go to sleep tonight before it is thoroughly behind me).
After a really busy week – which is no badge of honor BTW, I slept in and appreciated the beauty of that. I finished a book – silly but satisfying, and have three others going …. Annie Duke’s Thinking in Bets, Vanity Fair’s Women on Women, and Jeanine Cummins – American Dirt – stop reading whatever you’ve read about it and get to reading it. It’s amazing, and heartbreaking and hold your breath for what’s next to come…suspenseful, and it’s beautiful in between all the pain and anguish that love and loss, life and living throw your way.
So while I haven’t quite made it through my cleaning To Do list, I thought I would share some things that inspire me, make me smile, and applaud the artistry of others.
Elsie De Wolfe said: I am going to make everything around me beautiful. That will be my life.” What a good life’s goal you had, and how much happiness your brought others in your bold fulfillment of it. I admire you Elsie.
I wish I could say that this was the last of it, but like a tween – I’m smitten, and there really is no way of telling when I’ll stop crushing so hard on rattan. Maybe some adorable bit of eye candy will come along next week. Maybe it’ll be another month, however long it takes to get it out of my system, be kind to me. You remember what an all consuming heart throb does to you.
Rattan can be ratty, and I’m not opposed to a little tattered and worn, as long as it doesn’t poke me in the butt. I don’t appreciate being jabbed under any circumstance. As long as I won’t be physically accosted by the piece, a significant amount of high-gloss paint can go a long way to making that piece look perfectly at home, in a fancy setting, or on some old weathered porch.
However, it’s the sublime perfection of these latest pieces that have been capturing my imagination. Still very much in the dream stage, the piece that I have my heart set on is so obviously outside my price range – though I can’t tell you what the price is other than to say that its “upon request”, which is just a nice way of saying, forget about it. If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.
They can go on being that way if they want, but I have found that if you set your mind to it, and the it that you set your mind too is something that you want very, very badly, well then you’ll find a way to get it.
Suzanne Kasler, I rue the day I met you. Oh, wait a minute – I never did meet you, did I. I just stalk you on instagram, buy your books, and end up getting hooked on ridiculously expensive finds like Atelier Vime’s Beaucaire Daybed and stool. I think you owe me an apology. You could make it up to me by shipping that little beauty of a stool to my home address.
When my Clients told me they were leaving Cambridge for warmer climes I admit my long drawn out nooooooo was a little dramatic, but life is fluid and ever evolving. The exciting news is that I am going to have the chance to evolve too. My very first opportunity to influence the design of a southern home, followed the initial piece of traumatic news, softening the blow, as only Jonathan could.
A new emotion took over – known to many as panic, I asked myself, what exactly did I know about southern design? Naturally quick to met out a harsh judgement, I told myself, “absolutely nothing”. I love talking to myself, and frankly don’t care who hears. Some of my very best conversations, are held between, me, myself, and I, and in the end, helpful recommendations to some of my biggest quandaries result.
Kelly Wearstler’s Avalon Hotel
I actually do know something about Southern design, I had just forgotten that these influencers, for whom I have great respect, all hale from, or are known for their southern design aesthetic. Kelly Wearstler, born in Myrtle Beach, SC, has a self proclaimed style, known as Modern Glamour. Derived from the Hollywood Regency era of design, it is bold and graphic, bright and accented by enormous ceramic figurines – usually of animals. Dorothy Draper – born in Tuxedo Park, NY, known most famously for the Greenbrier in West Virginia, and for being the first socialite interior designer, has been on my radar for a very long time . Suzanne Kassler, born in Waco, Texas to an Air Force Dad, lived in many places, gathering inspiration near and far, until finally landing in Atlanta, GA.
Dorothy Draper’s Greenbrier – iconic design.
So what makes southern design, well….southern? The properties are certainly much, much bigger than the urban locations that I typically design. They are grand, they are estates, they come from an era when income tax didn’t exist and amassing of wealth was easier. Aside from their size, southern design appears to incorporate the following elements:
Florals: from the gardens to the interiors, they are heavily represented,
Painted floors: intricate or simple patterns – the diamond being a favorite,
Heavy use of fabric: from slip-covered furnishings to curtain-laden windows, reams of fabric abound,
Collectables: southerns love to tell a story through “things”,
Mix of antiques and modern furnishings,
Kasler brings a fresh approach to Southern Design – she doesn’t paper the walls, but brings the outdoors in and loves her curtains!
I got this. My journey begins in just a few weeks. I’ve got a lot of research to do to pull this off, but I won’t let my lovely Clients down!
Well sort of, to Natick, MA which is much closer than Florida or Georgia. Now has a new Northeast location at the Natick Mall . 1245 Worcester Street . Natick . MA. I have loved the store through its catalog for many years. I have purchased countless items for my properties, and gleaned much design inspiration, but catalog shopping is a little like staring in through the window after the store has closed for the evening. The thrill for a tactile gal like myself is muted a bit. I want to touch, feel, sit in, and understand the massing of the pieces. One of the biggest mistakes we – should “I” have made, is the purchase of pieces that don’t fit the scale of a space. Scale, massing, proportion. It’s essential to getting the feel of a place right. Not being a numbers person, I rely more on my eye, which tells me most accurately if something will fill the space in just the right way.
Ballard Design Entry. Note the panels which are popular with makers from Schumacher (to the trade) to Bungalow 5, and which a DIY’er would make using wallpaper. Tiger Pillow made popular by Salamander. The modern version of a Louis XIII, XIV, XV, XVI desk, and the lamps referring a bamboo stem. All comes together beautifully.
My eye is good, but its super human powers are impaired by the pages of a magazine like some force field. So, you can imagine how many things I have returned when I discovered that they were far too large for my little homes. Perhaps what you can’t imagine is my delight when I learned that they had plans to open locally, and they followed through on them. You should be delighted too, and I am going to tell you why.
Miles Redd is an amazing designer – I first learned of him through..you guessed it, Domino Magazine. Known for his fearless use of color, high gloss, and statement spaces – he shows you how to achieve the same using Ballard.
Much of my design education came from Domino Magazine. I talk about it often, as the pre-crash version of the magazine was groundbreaking. They dared to defy the phrase “to the trade”, and tell you just where, and how you could get those coveted items that made up the glam and bohemian, the hippy chic, and upper east, of the famous and up and coming set of …. largely NYC folk. The density of creativity on that little island is astounding, and Domino helped it to overflow to all of us beyond its shores.
Ballard’s Bedroom . understated elegance. A little rustic, a little refined, the bedding and curtains soften and create high contrast with the wood headboard, and texturized nature of the sisal rug.
Domino eliminated the frustration one feels when they learn that either they cannot gain access to the item of their dreams without a designer on call, or read that it was a one of a kind item found on a Diplomatic Tour to Cuba ten years ago. They eliminated by doing the research for you. Right there, on that same page, not in 5 pt. font in some resource index at the back of the mag, and had likely lost hope or interest or both by the time you arrived at that section. Where you could get a similar item, the phone number, and gasp….the price! No call for pricing, which is just a euphemism for, you can’t afford it. They told you, you could in fact obtain the thing, or some semblance thereof, which would help you achieve the overall look. What else could I do? I feel in love.
The Ballard Closet . look out California.
Now back to Ballard. Ballard was always featured in Domino Magazine. From the uber rich, to the just landed my first big break, and every type of featured individual or couple in-between, pieces from Ballard appeared carefully placed among their curated collection. It’s brilliant really, and very affordable. Simple, clean design that works. Suzanne Kasler an award-winning interior designer has a signature collection for Ballard. She is a beautiful American designer, with a European flare that fits perfectly with the overall aesthetic of the Ballard Collection. Whether you choose to shop at one of their stores, or through their catalog, your home collection should proudly feature a piece or two from Ballard. Happy shopping.
None of my properties have broken the 1000SF mark. The largest at 935SF wasn’t the one that felt the biggest and the smallest – 525SF didn’t feel the smallest. Layout is everything when it comes to the livability of a space. Natural light and high ceilings also contribute to a feeling of expansiveness even if you don’t have a sunroom off the kitchen or a game room for the kids.
Pint Sized . 525 SF
At 708 SF property No. 4 feels smaller than I’d like. The living room is petite and as I have mentioned there is no room for a dining table. All around, furniture solutions will play a big role in my comfort and overall happiness in the space. Fortunately I have learned a thing or two about furnishing small spaces, and new clever, creative and well designed solutions for those of us that choose to live small, arrive like welcome house warming gifts to the market all the time.
Tried and true small space hacks include:
Lucite Chairs – they stack, disappear, and can be used in endless ways from desk chairs, to living room seating, at the dining table, or tucked into a corner of a bedroom. I also use mine as a stepping stool – it supports up to 300lbs.
Barely there. The Louis Ghost . Phillip Stark for Kartell
Side Tables – placed side-by-side they eliminate the challenge of a large single coffee table, and can be broken apart and moved around to accommodate a guests cocktail or an Hors D’oeuvres platter.
Suzanne Kasler’s Living Rm. uses upholstered stools and small coffee tables for interest and versatility.
Stools and Poufs – seating in small spaces is always a challenge. Multi-purpose furniture is a must. Whether you choose an inexpensive garden stool, upholstered piece or a pouf, whether you display a flower arrangement, a stack of coffee table books, or rest your weary legs after scurrying around the kitchen preparing cocktails for an impromptu get together, I take seriously the adage – you can never have enough!
Pouf an extra spot for someone to sit.
Some of my favorite new to market finds include a modern take on an old European favorite – The Gossip Chair by Oomph. Oomph really understands how to design these tiny little petite-fours that they call chairs and have them comfortably accommodate a a 6′ tall, 285lb man. No small accomplishment. Having used their Slipper Chairs in two separate applications – both in narrow living room spaces – I can attest to their elegance and functionality. If you must gossip – do it in this chair.
Oomph . Gossip Chair $3630.
CB2’s Recluse Desk is contemporary cool – hung on a wall, and disguised as an objet d’art. Clever and functional. Now that’s sexy.
CB2 . Recluse Desk $449.
In my hunt for a dining table solution, my friend recommended a company called Resource Furniture. Who knew a 17″ console table could expand to a 115″ dining table. Now that’s brilliant.
Resource Furniture . The Goliath Console . price upon request.
As I prepare for another busy week, I’m hoping for a dash of that inspiration to float my way. Happy Sunday.
Inspiration is a thing of wonder. In quiet moments it can pounce, or ebb in like the tide as an idea takes form. It can manifest itself in the deep indigo and periwinkle hues of the tail feathers of a Blue Jay, or in a ballerina’s pale pink tutu. In the knowledge that colors have feelings, sounds can be translated into scenes, and numbers have meaning. For those with a reverence for religion and spirituality the concept of divine inspiration is familiar. Knowing something that you couldn’t know. Arriving at the answer as if from a dream. I love the idea of divine inspiration and welcome the universe to bring it to me, I am happy to give credit where credit is do.
Chez Kasler . Note her signature white walls
And I must give credit to Suzanne Kasler for inspiring me. An Interior Designer (by education), she has also collaborated with Lee Jofa to create beautiful trims, with Hickory Chair on a furniture line, with Visual Comfort on lighting, Ballard Design for accessories, as well as, forays into fine art and rugs. Oh, and she is also the author of two beautiful books on interiors: Timeless Interiors and Inspired Interiors.
European Sensibility . Cover of Inspired Interiors . Rizzoli
I appreciate that she doesn’t want to be put into some limiting design category. She contends that her style encompasses the contemporary and traditional, high and low, sophisticated and casual. That its sympathies lie with Europe (whoever would blame her for this?) and focus on architectural elements (you’ve got to have good bones, and if you don’t you must create them).
Kasper Living Room . luminous loveliness
She believes in white. She layers it on in all its varying shades and …. voila it looks lovely. I find this provides a moment of introspection for me because I am drawn to her spaces – which never feel boring, but I almost always paint my own. I love color. Kasler makes her white spaces sing with the introduction of color in accessories – and by contrast introducing incredible vibrancy that might go unnoticed against a bolder backdrop.
A room should be collected not decorated.
Ballard Design . Kasler’s Style made affordable!
Now to be clear, I could not hire Suzanne to design my spaces, but I can profit from her brilliant style all the same. I pour over her books studying the particular ways in which she brings life to a room. Make note of her philosophy that there should be one object in every room that is special to you, and to search for inspiration in every little thing you encounter from the darts on a stunningly structured evening gown, to the branches of a cherry blossom tree, inspiration abounds.