Saturday, May 22, 2010

Design Chameleon

Are you a design chameleon? I am. Just as a chameleon changes color to adapt to a new environment, I can change my style, or design aesthetic at the drop of a hat, or at a glimpse of a decorating magazine or a film set.

My personal design career began at age five, in an attic garret of the family home at 109 Maxwell Ave in Geneva New York. As kids, my younger brother and I were each given a room to decorate, and full reign of an attic loaded with miraculous clutter from many generations: tattered overstuffed chairs, framed prints, damasked curtains and other treasures.

Breaking early with tradition, (all the women in my family were partial to Williamsburg green interiors), my first one-room studio apartment was considered very Boho, with its white walls, purple and orange accents, and a Rya shag rug. Early on, I experimented with fashioning curtains from paisley Madras bedspreads and linen bed sheets. In one house I exposed all the brick of the walls, and in another I enthusiastically papered everything in sight.

Our ugly duckling wreck of a house in Massachusetts, became a sweet country farmhouse with the help of many gallons of Laura Ashley sage green paint. A more difficult decorating challenge presented itself in the form of a fifties retro ranch house in Geneva Switzerland. It was beautifully situated on “Chemin des Muguets”, in the shadow of the Salève Mountain, and with a magnificent Magnolia tree out front. But a few quirky bits made this the house that no one wanted. We instantly fell in love with it, especially wall-to-wall French doors throughout, which gave way to the gardens. Eventually, we also made peace with the dreaded shiny black ceramic tiles in the master bath by hanging some colorful framed fish posters from the Monterey Aquarium.

Over the five years that we lived in Europe, we enjoyed filling our homes with brocante finds. When we returned back to the States, these souvenirs gave a French twist to our 1800 New England clapboard home.

Later, while living on the 18th floor of a modern high rise in Beijing, we created a little corner of Old China: a Chinese wedding bed doubled as a sofa in the living room, and the kitchen was entered through an ornate antique lattice door.

From Shabby Chic, to French Country, to China Retro I’ve dabbled in it all. My most recent decorating incarnation might be described as Rough Luxe.

Our tiny cottage in Carmel-by-the-Sea sheltered a hodge podge of family pieces and flea market treasure.

Here is a section of the living room. I may have pushed the decorating envelope a tad too far, when I broke one of the main rules of "Decorating 101", and centered a framed picture above the fireplace. Another decorating violation was buying the faux seascape oil painting in the first place.

Next to the fireplace is a Scandinavian style chair. It was purchased at my favorite Australian op shop (charity resale shop). This was the same day that I met my soon-to-be good mate Linley, who was minding the store. As she helped me load the chair in the boot of my car, I asked her what she thought of my purchase. “Not much!” she quickly replied. It reminded her too much of family holidays at the beach. “But that’s exactly why I love it!” I remarked, trying not to act too disappointed. In spite of our aesthetic differences, we have remained dear friends. I love my chair with its squishy cushions covered in a faded retro patterned fabric. When I settle in it, and rub its bleached worn arms, I am transported back to happy times in our Flinders "bach".

On the move again, we’re leaving behind the tranquility of Carmel-by-the-Sea for the rugged landscape between the dunes and mountains on the other side of Monterey California.

Channeling the design chameleon within,

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Flower Girls

The showers of April have not only brought May flowers, but some hip new flower girls to town.

Tricia Perault & Lauren Orman have just opened Rose Hip Floral Design at The Crossroads in Carmel, CA.

The fresh eye of the owners is reflected in the succulent green of the shop’s exterior and business card, and the seductive hues of the floral inventory. Vintage McCoy vases, stacks of tatty books, and brightly labeled food tins (as holders), are just a few of their visual styling tricks. The shop is a breath of fresh air.

When, I asked the girls to create something quirky for my artistic Aussie friend, Linley, (in town for the weekend), they came up with this double bouquet of purple sweet peas in an Italian tomato tin. Bellissimo!

This must be the week for floral inspiration. Arlette Bossaert, my Belgian florist friend, just sent me some images of her latest work. She specializes in flower arrangements for weddings at castles in the Flemish countryside.

Meg from Pigtown Design writes that she will be devoting Sundays to flower posts.

Just scattering a few petals,

Friday, May 7, 2010

Educating Mother and Child

Happy Mother's Day - 2010

Dear Mothers and Children,

Here are some wise words about motherhood:

"While we try to teach our children all about life,
our children teach us what life is all about."
(Angela Schwindt)

"The best academy, a mother's knee."
(James Russell Lowell)

"A mother's arms are made of tenderness,
and chldren sleep soundly in them."
(Victor Hugo)

Love from a proud mother-in-training,