Is Silence Golden?

If you're a faithful reader of the blog (and I'm wondering if there are any of you still out there?), you may have noticed my recent absence.  I like to take the summer off from blogging.  But as summer drifted into fall and as temperatures in the northeast took a nose dive, my hiatus grew longer.  I can't give one good reason why, except to say that sometimes life happens.

To be perfectly honest, I've been having an existential crisis.  For the past six months, I've been dealing with personal, business and cultural issues that have stopped me in my tracks.  On a personal level, there have been health and financial issues affecting me, the family I was born into, and the family I bore.  Business-wise, things have plateaued.  I have projects, but they haven't been things that have challenged me or fully occupied my time.  Culturally, I have been consumed by, and unable to reconcile, the outcome of the 2016 U.S. Presidential campaign and election.  In combination, these factors have left me questioning my purpose, toying with a major life change, and thinking, Does predicting and writing about the next major design trend (among other mundane design topics) really even matter?

As the climate of fear consumes us, both here in the United States and in other parts of the world, I fall culprit.  My design magazines stack up, yet I can't seem to tear myself away from news stories, whether they be on TV, radio in the car or my smart phone.  I've resisted attending as many industry events as I normally do.  I'd rather put on my sweats, cuddle with my cats, cook comfort foods, and lay in my favorite spot on the couch.

I don't think my reaction is atypical.  A friend of mine went for an ultrasound to diagnose a chronic urinary infection.  Quite fortuitously, the doctors found a cancerous lesion on her lung.  Luckily, they caught and treated it early, but it changed my friend's entire outlook on life.  These types of life-threatening events make us re-orient our priorities.  I suppose I'm just in the process of figuring out mine.

I know for sure that good design fosters well-being.  When a space works, we delight in its beauty and experience equilibrium.  I do what I do to create a sense of wholeness and happiness in my clients.  I suppose that I will ride this crisis out, taking comfort in and being grateful for the small things that bring me joy.  If there's a good design that I can bring to the mix, or a blog post I write that inspires you, I'll consider that a step in the right direction.


Social September

For the past several years, Australia's The Reach Foundation has sponsored "Social September."  The Reach Foundation is an organization aimed at enhancing the social well-being of youths ages 10-18.  With a motto "Disconnect to Reconnect," the aim of Social September is to encourage people of all ages to engage in face to face contact in lieu of using technology to communicate.  Registering in Social September comes with a mandate to unplug, even for as little as an hour a day.  Which engenders the question, how long can you go without looking at your smartphone?

I've been ruminating about this lately.  When I'm bored, I turn to my phone.  If I'm not checking email, Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat, I'm playing my go-to trilogy of digital card games: Solitaire, Free Cell or Spider Solitaire.  Or I'll play Mah-Jongg.  I think about the growing stack of magazines that I subscribe to and the novels worth reading.  I should opt for those instead, but more often than not, I don't. 

Attention to social media leads to certain pitfalls.  Like two weekends ago.  It was a beautiful Sunday, and we had no plans.  Now, my husband has been unemployed, and consequently, we've been in financial austerity mode.  Foolishly, I started to browse on Instagram.  After seeing various postings from vacationers as close by as Nantucket and as far away as the Cote d'Azur, I was sick and threw down my phone.  The problem with Social Media is it breeds lifestyle envy (a known phenomenon).  This phenomenon can lead us to switch to a different platform (the healthy alternative) or give up entirely (the non-healthy alternative).  Last Sunday, I obviously succumbed to the non-healthy option.

In my profession, I've embraced social media.  I use it for branding, marketing and publicity.  I also use it for research.  I follow other designers and brands to keep abreast of new products and design ideas.  But sometimes, it becomes toxic.  Like when I see the projects of other designers I wish I had.  I heard not too long ago of a colleague's decision to abstain from social media for six months for just this very reason.  And this would be the last designer I would expect (from this designer's social media profile) to suffer from lifestyle envy!  Simple proof of the pervasiveness of this phenomenon.

So I think I will commit to Social September.  And I invite you to do so also.  Instead of sending that text message or email, pick up the phone.  If you have news to share, call your friends and family.  Or better yet, arrange a visit.  Engage in face to face conversation.  After all, it's only human.


Look Who's Minding the Store

Ahhh, summer.  My favorite season.  Time to relish the sunshine, long hours of daylight, and relaxed schedule.  What with the Republican and Democratic Conventions here in the U.S.; the season finale of the Bachelorette (I admit, I watched this season); the follow-up season of Bachelor in Paradise (I admit, I am watching that too -- it's comforting watching other people's 'crazy'); and the Summer Olympics in Rio, I have spent most summer weeknights on the couch watching TV -- time I might otherwise have spent blogging.  As in past summers, I took a break from blogging.  This is healthy for me.  As I prepare my youngest for her sophomore year away at college, the time I spend cuddling with her on the couch, watching TV shows like the Bachelorette, sustains me when she is gone.  And that's the time I can go back to blogging.

On the subject of being an empty-nester (at least for the school year), I've done something to fill the void left by not having a child at home and a schedule revolving around the school-day.  I've gone to work one day a week and every other Saturday at a home-furnishings boutique in a neighboring town.  In summer, when design is not a priority for most clients, the office is quiet and I start to go a little stir crazy.  Rather than welcome the respite, I start having paranoid thoughts like "Why aren't I busier?" and "Why isn't the phone ringing?"  It's an occupational hazard of being self-employed.  So when I saw a "Help Wanted" sign in this boutique that I pass nearly every day, I decided to inquire.  This little job gets me out of the office and spares my brain from unwelcome thoughts.  As summer transitions to fall, clients resume their home decorating projects, and my sophomore-in-college leaves once again, I'll take comfort in being around pretty things, helping customers with design decisions and sharing the latest episode of the Bachelor with my co-workers. There's something to say about sharing time around the water cooler in the workplace.


Trend Watch Tuesday: Paint Trends for Fall 2016

While it's still the hot, hazy days of summer, it may be premature to think about fall.  But fashion and design are always a step ahead of us and create blips in our radar that our antennae can't ignore.  If you're thinking about a redecorating project, here are some paint trends we'll see as we head into the latter part of 2016.


1. Moody Earth Tones

We're always looking to nature to inspire us.  Over the last 2-3 years, the trends in paint colors have been toward less saturated pale colors -- soft greens, cool blues and pale pinks.  The fashion runways have been showing us deeper, more saturated colors and the design community is following suit.  Olive, mustard and copper are colors that will infuse interiors in the coming months.  They're especially suited to gathering spaces like family rooms, living rooms, dens and libraries because they exude warmth and coziness.  These colors work well with leathers and hides, with plush fabrics like velvet and chenille, and with warm wood tones.  They are suited to rustic and traditional decor but can be spiced up with contemporary furnishings as shown in the dining room below.

Photo courtesy of House & Garden

Photo courtesy of Farrow & Ball

Photo courtesy of Traditional Home

Photo courtesy of This Old House

Photo courtesy of Sheila Bridges Design

2. Black
Until the recent past, no one would have thought of painting walls black unless they were decorating a haunted house for Halloween.  But with the popularity of industrial decor, black walls are cropping up as an interesting complement to industrial furnishings.  Black works well in powder rooms with vessel sinks atop vanities made from reclaimed lumber.  Or in kitchens with white or grey cabinets.  Black is also interesting in masculine bedrooms.  For those not so daring to go with black walls, consider painting doors and trim black with white or off-white walls.  Used in that way, black highlights the architecture and millwork.  Because black is so universal, it goes with so many styles: modern, mid-century, rustic, bohemian, industrial.  I like black paired with global influences like African Kuba or Indian Kantha cloths, Moroccan Beni Ourain or Afghan Bukhara-style carpets.

Photo courtesy of One Kings Lane

Photo courtesy of

Garrow Kedigian's room at the 2016 Kips Bay Show House.  Photo courtesy of Curbed New York

Photo courtesy of Greige Design

3. White

White was the "go-to" color touted by the national paint companies this year.  And for good reason.  It's a clean, fresh look and provides an alternative to grey, the popular neutral this decade.  White looks great paired with trim and doors painted an accent color (think black or an earthy green).  With all white walls, doors and trim, the opportunities are endless for mixing colors, textures and patterns on furnishings.  White works well with modern, mid-century, rustic, bohemian and industrial decor.   I'd recommend white for homes with abundant natural light and views -- to avoid competition with the landscape -- and for open-concept homes -- to create harmony and unity from room to room.  Any room benefits from white walls, kitchens and baths in particular for a feeling of cleanliness. 


Photo courtesy of Apartment Therapy


Photo courtesy of Amber Interiors


Photo courtesy of Amber Interiors










Inside the Nerve Center of Noir Trading, Inc.

When spring finally hit the Northeast this past May, I decided to head west.  I was invited to attend an open house at the headquarters of CFC and Noir Trading, Inc., sister furniture companies located in Gardena, California, right outside Los Angeles.  With my favorite (and only) son living in Los Angeles, it doesn't take much to coax me to visit L.A.  The open house was scheduled for a Thursday leaving ample time over the weekend to spend with Jordan.  I'll write more about CFC in another post, but this post is dedicated to the "laboratory" of Georg Baehler, the founder and creative mind behind Noir.

A woodworker and cabinetmaker hailing from Switzerland, Georg brings to Noir the quality and craftsmanship the Swiss are known for.  Georg founded Noir in 2004 to bring artfully-crafted, well-designed furniture to the Americas at affordable price points. 


I took this photo in the Noir/CFC Showroom in High Point, North Carolina during Spring Market 2015.

Georg personally designs each and every piece in the line -- and there are 1500 active items -- by hand, with a pencil and paper, in actual, full scale.  It takes Georg about 6 to 8 months to develop a product for production.  If one of his designs is copied by another manufacturer, it's discontinued.


That's Georg on the left, in front of his drafting table in his office at Noir headquarters.  To understand what drives Georg's prolific creativity, and eccentricity, you have to go behind the scenes to the nerve center of Noir -- Georg's office (really a loft) at Noir headquarters. 

Georg built the office largely by hand.  And it's still a work in progress.  It sits atop the business offices, separate from the more routine operational aspects of the business.  The office is Georg's laboratory.  But instead of beakers and bunsen burners, it's filled with collections . . . gleaned from lowly trash heaps to popular flea markets.  Here are several examples:


An ethnic totem in front of art and furniture tomes.  Notice the old camera and skulls.


A collection of wood, brass and iron candlesticks.


A collection of cut glass decanters and assorted bottles on the left and vintage typewriters, a vintage adding machine and movie projector on the right.


A variety of objects from vintage cameras to microscopes to weights and statues.

Many of Georg's collections become props for Noir and CFC's showroom during High Point market weeks.

Certain areas of Georg's office were captivating.  Like his dressing room, below.


And here's Georg's desk area.


Here's a casual sitting area with a window overlooking the warehouse.


Here's another seating area with theatre seats in front of books and a Roy Lichtenstein poster.


And here's the "play" area -- a foosball table tucked into a corner of the vast loft.


The office is a collector's delight and reveals those qualities of Georg that are sensitive to minute details and to creating composition.  From this hodge podge, I could see how Georg cultivated his aesthetic and where he derives his inspirations for his creations for Noir.