Wow. Here we go. I guess it is always a move that prompts a blog in my world because the last time I attempted one, it was right after moving to Houston. And now I sit on my back patio on a beautiful Saturday morning in our new home in Charlotte, NC. I am so happy to be here; we found a picture perfect lot and I’m sipping coffee overlooking a lake, it’s so special. And also, an enormous change.
Speaking of change, late last night I sat with my daughter, Calista, as she hit “send” on her very first college application. What a moment filled with enormity. I am so proud of her…but that is for another day I suppose.
On to design…
Perhaps it is change that leads to extreme reflection. Personally, I am looking to draw upon my entire career in design (17 years and counting) so I can be of more help to more of you. Spending an entire year at home, for all of us, has brought to light a new sense of its extreme importance. And I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to really dig into what that can bring and how home can enhance your life and family time. All while dishing on my experiences, favorite things, and moments in my career.
So I’ll begin with a very meaningful room for me: The 2009 Lake Forest Showhouse & Gardens, which was a huge risk to take for me at the time, but brought me wonderful clients for years to come.
I still vividly remember carefully selecting my outfit to step into “audition day” for this Showhouse. It was a chilly and rainy day in Chicago and I chose a purple felt hat to top off a simple black blazer. I was so green in my career; however was coming off of a sense of confidence as my first completed project was published and well received. Oh I had also just found out that I was pregnant with twins (who would be #3 and 4 for us).
So, still new to the industry, emotional, hormonal, and nervous, I boldly stepped into an audition where not one person had ever seen my work, let alone needed to give me a chance. I held the first edition of Chicago Home & Garden Magazine where my project was published handed it off as my portfolio, introduced myself, and began to walk around the estate. Walking the halls with stellar design talent, Kara Mann, Michael Del Piero, Walker Simmons, to name a few, was overwhelming to say least.
I listed the three rooms I had my eye on (I didn’t dare request a main room), wrote a brief description of what I envisioned (an easy task when the estate was longing to be renovated…the view out this particular room shown is right over Lake Michigan), and left feeling creatively exhausted, yet inspired.
At this point, I had absolutely no idea how designers went about furnishing such gorgeous showcase rooms (especially on my small marketing budget), nor how to manage this project along with clients when I didn’t even have a team. But what I did have was an abundance of ideas and creativity I was ready for a chance to show it…(if any designers would like to book a session for insight on showcase homes – I’ve now completed 5 – please do!)
Moving ahead…the lovely Margaret Friis called me the next week to let me know I had a spot in the showcase house as the designers for the “A Room with a View” I pitched. Perhaps that inspiration came as I envisioned soon having 4 littles running around my home and this 3rd story view over the lake was about all I could dream as the perfect getaway. Which is full circle because I am gratefully, as we speak, enjoying a quiet writing morning overlooking Lake Challis…
I envisioned a room that was peaceful, soulful, and multipurpose. A retreat for reading and writing, for sipping coffee, for (yes) napping, and even hosting meetings. Essentially, everything I needed in my life in that moment.
So where to start? This space was calling for a window seat; comfortable to perch, but not quite large enough to nap. Enter the daybed I designed for the space (ps should I add this piece to the Collection?). Now the room is really calling you to relax.
One of my favorite tricks it to use a 28-30″ high table in a living space. Most end tables on the market aren’t of much use, tbh, except to hold a cocktail (well I suppose that is important). You can find this larger version called a “center table” or “entry table”. They work at the end of a large sofa, but also, in front of one as shown here. Automatically you’ve created a work space, another cozy dining space, or a meeting space. It also is my favorite size to style. Add a lamp (if you’re lucky enough to have a floor outlet), coffee table books, a vase with flowers, and a candle and it makes for a thoughtful presentation. Here is my current living room scene, just as you walk in the house, featuring a vintage Platner table, my Declan chair and some favorite items. You’ll also get a sense for my holiday decor mantra, less is more….
And with these round tables, please feel free to play with the top sizing or material. Use a marble round for more visual weight, or a small glass round if you don’t have quite the dining table space. This table would look fantastic with just a small top that just covers the base itself.
Now the basic layout for the room was chosen. I’ve seen so many homeowners come to a stop at this point: “We have a place to sit and place a drink, and a lamp, what else is there?” From a designer’s perspective, this is just the beginning. A chance to go beyond ordering the basics from a catalog. How to infuse personality and character into a room.
I look to makers and artisans for inspiration. At this point in time, Trove had just launched a very unique line of wallpapers – one that blends a sense of nature with technological techniques. I knew the mood of Alula was just what I wanted to achieve with this room. And the images appeared like jellyfish, a nod to the “sea” just outside. My budget allowed to purchase one panel, but that was the perfect solution as a backdrop in the space. I made this work architecturally by applying it within trim work that made it’s way around the room, which also helped the rather uninteresting wall opposite of the panel.
Secondly, Moth Design had just launched a collection as well. And their coral branch chandelier, again, seemed like a perfect without delving into being too “theme” like. It was elegant and lovely. They were gracious enough to loan me the piece and have me ship it back upon the close of the showcase home.
Finally, let’s talk finishing details. Well, at this point, my budget was gone. And so comes another example of getting by with the help of your friends. Francine Turk, who has a beautiful gallery/studio in Chicago loaned my all of these accessories – from pillows, to that luxe mohair blanket you see by the window, to the books I lined in linen paper along the back wall (these were invisibly hung with a favorite find)
The memory I’ll leave you with is one regarding confidence. I installed this entire room on my own…up and down two flights of stairs every day for 10 days straight, at this point, 8 months pregnant with twins. I would walk by the incredibly detailed room designed by Walker Simmons…then step into this austere space and admittedly, cry. “it’s not enough. it’s too simple, it’s not right”. And then I’d close the door, perch by the window and rest, and take in the details and the soothing color, and feel good once again. Although fresh out of design school, I was beginning to be hopeful that there really was something unique about the way my creative mind worked and how I perceived design. And there was no need for comparison. It seemed to easily come to fruition for me with notes of simple elegance mixed with comfort, really a nod to the essence of my own home life, and that being grateful for it all was the only path forward.
I’d just love to know your thoughts on all of this…and am ready for the feedback be it positive or negative. I’m open to your questions and excited for the rich dialogue to come!
I love your authenticity in your writing. And how you created a lovely, timeless space in such a resourceful way that you can still be proud of so many years later. As Jen Hatmaker said: don’t disparage the early beginnings.
Thank you for those kind words, Kim! It was really a treat for me to look back…