Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Outdoor Living

I've gotten some great feedback from those who checked out the blog.  I appreciate that.  One consistent question was, "what do you want to accomplish with the blog"? Well, certainly I want to share new or interesting products I find, design challenges I've encountered with my clients and how I resolved them, techniques I've discovered or maybe revisited.... really just about anything that I think might interest anyone interested in design.  I hope to impart my knowledge and experience to those who might be looking for guidance, and of course, drum up new work and clients on top of it all.

Some of my critics (and I use the term in the kindest way) suggested I not address the economy/lack of work issue. Actually, I don't agree.  We all know what the economy looks like right now, we all know people who've been laid off or who are simply scaling back in sympathy to the situation.  One of the first things off of people's wish lists when it comes to frugality is decorating - buying the new family room furniture, finally embarking on the kitchen remodel, getting the house repainted.  The furniture industry has been hit hard.  Very hard, but that doesn't mean we all crawl into a hole.  I'd like to keep that in consideration as I look around me finding new or forgotten ways to keep moving forward, whether actually or just psychologically.

That being said, I'd like to devote this post to how we can refresh what already exists, minimalistically or dramatically.  Today I want to talk about accessorizing the patio, porch or deck.  

I just spent the weekend at the garden stores - Home Depot and Lowe's to start in an effort to avoid the potentially more pricey smaller garden centers, but those too in the end to find the more obscure plants.  I had purchased several really grand (big, that is) pots last Spring but never even got around to planting them because they were a little intimidating for me, truth be told.  But this year, having spent a few days with my sister in Miami, who is utterly devoted to her veritable tropical rain forest of a garden, I was inspired to put those pots to work to really brighten my monochromatic back patio.

My favorite pots come from a vendor called Emissary, who's pots come from Vietnam.  Their glazes are gorgeous, and they have a great variety of sizes, styles and shapes, especially extra large ones which are my particular preference.  I abhor matched sets of anything so I always mix things up - I have seven medium and large pots on the patio, not one of which is alike, but the eclectic mix is very satisfying... tall, short, narrow, wide, blue, green, red, yellow... you name it.  I've clustered groups on either side of my curvilinear stone (pavers) patio so that there is interest from every angle - yard, house, and neighbors.  I also keep a plant on the patio table, and I use as a plant stand a great iron stand which used to be a bird bath before my cat decided to attack the wildlife using it, thereby tipping the bath and shattering it.... no worries, it holds a hanging plant basket perfectly!

There are lots of fun places to find decorative accessories for the patio.  Anthropologie is one - they have what I think are some of the best outdoor mats.  I don't know if you can see the one in this photo, but it's bright and happy and an excellent accent for a potentially drab outdoor living space.

One of my all time favorite catalogues in Wisteria - it has a super collection of all kinds of things, from furniture to funky accessories from all over the world, to outdoor furniture.  I bought my patio set from them - woven vinyl that is infinitely better than natural because it doesn't fade or crack or even noticeably age.  Just don't put hot pots on it because it definitely melts.  I don't believe the set pictured is available any longer, but there are numerous resources to find similar products including Target and Costco!  If you have the space on your deck or patio, I highly recommend considering including living space as well as eating space - chaise longue's, settees, chairs.... these go a long way towards inviting people out of doors.

Lighting is also a critical component of a lovely outdoor space.  Torches that surround the area, wall mounted candelabras, flood lights directed out to the yard and decorative wall mounted lighting are all great ways to create ambiance outside.  Fire pits are also very popular now - if you have a lot of room they're a great way to draw people out into the yard. 

No matter what climate in which you live there is always opportunity to bring life outside - you just have to make it inviting!  Share with us the solutions you've put to work for your home... I'd love to hear from you.  Up next - don't overlook IKEA for high style design solutions!


Spring Market 2009

My first ever blog! With the economy in such a slump it's been hard to keep busy and motivated, but we all have to keep slogging along in hopes that we can hold it together until things start looking up.  So Linda Mitchell, my Business Manager, cohort and friend - idea impresario - suggested I harness my unfulfilled creativity by imparting my excitement and unfailing enthusiasm about all things design. 

This is me in my unkempt, very fun, IKEA fitted office.

So... after skipping last Fall Market, I got back from High Point, North Carolina last month having spent a short week at Spring Furniture Market.  "Market" is held for a week twice a year where an entire city is converted into a mega trade show for manufacturers to show their lines and new releases to all the catalogues, showrooms and designers who can potentially purchase them.  It's the time of year when we can inspire ourselves and identify exciting new resources.  Whether I'm there for specific client requirements, or just shopping the opportunities, I love perusing the millions of square feet of spectacular (mundane, and truly horrifying) furniture and accessories.  I meet with my reps who invariably produce something new and wonderous for my immediate or future needs.

This market was actually alarming.  Where usually the streets are jammed shoulder to shoulder with buyers, this event was a mere ghost of itself.  Good for me - the reps had all kinds of time to spend with a meager prospect like myself (unlike the Bloomingdale's and Bassett's of the industry) but I'm not sure how fruitful for them.

Never the less, there were all kinds of exquisite and exciting finds, my favorites being the varied uses of limed oak and a range of interesting and - surprise surprise - comfortable chair options.

Number one on my list was the most unusual cabinet I've seen in a really long time.  Offered by one of my all time favorite accessories distributers, Arteriors Home, this cabinet had what looked like a painted linen finish and limed oak frame, but what made it so special was the hardware - nail heads and asian inspired escutcheon!  With a mirrored and glass interior, it would be ideal as a bar in a cool, light filled living area with other asian influences like a monochromatic Tibetan rug and a clean-lined taupe or cream colored leather sofa. Dreamy...

I actually had a lot of luck with large cabinets - two others, by high end British designer Julian Chichester, and moderate manufacturer Furniture Classics, showed creative use of carving and metal work, respectively.  Unfortunately my snapshots didn't do them justice so rather than bastardize otherwise beautiful design, I've chosen to forgo posting photos of them.

My top favorite chairs were these new leather chairs by another one of my favorite, more affordable furniture manufacturers, Sunpan Imports.  Their frames are black and the leather is only offered in a few colors, but I was particularly attracted to the vivid, apple green. Won't work where I first envisioned it, but the cream colored leather is just lovely.  I plan on putting two in my own breakfast room.

Other chairs that caught my eye were a fantastic, diminutive, carved arm chair, a new introduction from Furniture Classics, as well as a great casual dining chair - in limed oak - by Design Workshop, a very hip, innovative furniture manufacturer.

These chairs are only offered in the finishes shown, I think.

Finally, my interior accessory award goes to these large, updated Moroccan bell jars which are offered in rich jewel-tone colors like amber, aubergine and crimson - delicious!  They're perfect for a covered patio or casual indoor living space to imbue a sexy, sultry candlelight ambiance.  They can be found at design shop in Miami called Meublatiss.  I just loved these guys.

This brings my premier blog to a close.  Hope you enjoyed it and will come back to visit. Future posts on the horizon include "Laundry Room Etiquette" and "Accessorizing Your Patio".

Have a great day.  Joanne