Monday, October 31, 2011

Fall Table for a Halloween Weekend!


Last Thursday, I hosted an annual Book Group party at my home. We have a group of 11 women and we each pick a book and bring the copies to the home of the get together prior to the evening at our own home the next month. 

I picked a book titled, The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. Diffenbaugh used the symbolic language of flowers used in Victorian times as a instrument of communication for a young woman  emancipated from the foster care system. Diffenbaugh's personal experience with the foster care system here in Sacramento lent her great insight into the lives of young people who's lives are changed, often times irrevocably damaged by this system. An eye opening great read. 


The story, of course, inspired me to use flowers for my decor and menu for the evening......I started with Tiger Lilies from the Farmers Market, which I bought the Sunday before. It gave them plenty of time to open  for the party. I picked them for the cheerful orange color (since Halloween is today) giving no thought really to the symbolic meaning of the flower. I looked up the meaning later and discovered it means "wealth and pride" according to many flower dictionaries! Ouch! I found another definition as well, which I like a bit better: mercy, compassion, kindness and unconditional love. That is the kind of wealth that needs spreading around!

Next....I thought my muslin table cloth that I had painted with black stripes ( you may remember this DIY project from THIS blog post) would make a great base for the Halloween weekend. With that in mind, I wanted to top it with something else. I have this great resource blocks from my house where they have hundreds of bolts of beautiful fabrics discounted to unbelievable prices. (For those of you in the area, stop in to World Class Textile on Franklin Blvd.! It is amazing!)  I found a wool suiting fabric from England in a beautiful brown herringbone weave, and it happened to have an orange embroidered selvage edge. I decided to leave the selvage edge showing....I love it! I just got two yards at $3.00 per yard for the top of the table......I may go back for more! 

I added a few orange glass votives and leaves from my Japanese Maple Tree that are starting to turn, and I was done.

My Menu included a simple spring greens salad with roasted pine nuts, avocado and Nasturtiums from my garden ....Nasturtiums meaning conquest; victory in battle; maternal love; charity; patriotism. I followed that with Beef Bourguinon from Ina Garten's recipe in her Barefoot in Paris Cookbook. I garnished with Cinnamon Sage flowers, again from the garden...Sage meaning wisdom; long life and domestic virtue. To finish, dessert was an almond cake topped with warm dried fruit compote. I just get a combination of dried fruits from my favorite seller at the Farmers Market and simmer them in orange and apple juices until a nice sauce forms....so easy and so delicious! Everything was meant to be comfort food for a crisp Fall evening with girlfriends who love books. A wonderful evening.

I wish you all a very Happy Haunting Halloween!


Friday, October 28, 2011

Presentation Sketches - Marin Designer Showcase

Living Room by Suzanne Tucker of  Tucker & Marks

I have been working for the last several months getting ready for the opening of the Marin Designer Showcase. There are so many details to take care of...... it is a little like herding cats! I have done a few Showcase homes in the past, but this is the first time I am participating since opening my own studio. It is a different ball of wax when your name is on the project! 

I have been having so much fun working with all of the artisans who are lending their beautiful furnishings and art to make it all happen. I thought it would be fun to take you through some of the process from the beginning.

Family Room by David Kensington

Back May of this year, I was invited to a designer walk through at a construction site on the tip of Belvedere Island. The invitation was addressed to designers that had an interest in participating in the Marin Designer Showcase. I did not know what to expect....what the house was going to look like, what other designers were attending. I drove out on a beautiful day and was captivated by the views from the building site. Construction was well under way, and I met the event coordinators from the Center for Volunteer and Non profit Leadership, as well as the owner of the property. A group of designers toured the site and asked questions regarding designer parameters, different rooms, etc.



Guest Suite I by Katie Denham Interiors (me!)
 After the tour, I headed home with much to digest. I needed to decide if I was going to throw my hat in the ring. And if so, which room would I bid for? I decided to go for it and try for one of the larger bedrooms. But first, I wanted to talk it over with some of the vendors and craftspeople I work with. Would they be interested in participating to make furnishings for the room and provide art, rugs, lighting and accessories? And what could I afford to do? The answers came back that YES, they were interested and YES I should move forward with a bid.
Guest Suite II by Alison Wilson and Catherine Coy of Sunrise Home

So....the first step was to create a design for the bedroom I wanted to do. I spent some time thinking about the location and the feeling of the house. There were about 100 designers that were interested in participating, but only about 35 rooms available. What could I provide that others couldn't in terms of creativity. What could set me apart? I feel that custom furniture, a unique custom area rug and bedding would be important. I would be providing design elements that no one else would have. And then there was the art. It had to be unique and make a statement.

Suite II by Linda Donnelly 
Then, how to communicate my design? The most important thing in being able to sell a concept is being able to help the client visualize a space....and that means a sketch. Whether it is hand drawn or produced by computer graphics, it is the most efficient way to get the vision across.

The presentation which I had put together was clear enough to illustrate my design concept, and I was chosen to be one of the designers for the Showcase! I was thrilled and nervous, both! Next came the real work....the drafting of furniture designs, the selection of exact paint colors, the refinement of area rug yarn colors and textures, and the procurement of everything....the race had begun.

Suite III by Robin Barnato of  Studio Home Designs
I thought you might like to see some of the incredible sketches from some of the designers for the Marin Designer Showcase. There were so many great ones, I had to narrow it down a bit. I am very excited to see the final results and how they compare to the sketches. I know that my own sketch reflects much of what will be happening, but there have been some changes along the way that I am excited about!

Suite IV by  Kriste Miclelini Interiors 
I am interested to know what you all think.....do you like the artistry of a hand drawn sketch, or do you prefer the precise computer generated representations? I am drawn to the artistry of the sketch, perhaps because I so appreciate the sketches I have seen from design masters like Mark Hampton, but I also think that the computer models get the job done in ways that sketches might not. Computers can show virtual tours through a space, not such a bad tool to have in the tool belt.

What are your thoughts?

I hope you all have the opportunity to visit the Showcase and see how the reality compares to the design sketches!

For all the info for this years Marin Designer Showcase, click on over HERE.

Have a wonderful weekend!



Monday, October 24, 2011

Long Weekend: Mendocino


Last weekend, Tim and I had a little "us" time up the coast in Mendocino. It is one of those places where everywhere you turn, there is a photo that is screaming to be taken. It is one of those towns that is so full of character and charm, it is bursting. And so we go again and again.

One of the things that makes this place so unique in its charm may also be the thing that might frustrate any who wish to move here. It is isolated, and the Historical Preservation oversight is extremely strict. Building here is very difficult. But that is what makes this place what it is.


 We stayed here at the Blair House, the place where Angela Lansbury gardened in Murder She Wrote. It was so quiet and peaceful, the bed was so comfortable, I almost was woken up by the lack of dogs barking, leaf blowers and garbage trucks. Our host was a man named Norm who made breakfast for us each morning, sat with us while we ate the best granola I have ever tasted and gave us information about the perfect hike up Russian Gulch to a beautiful waterfall. 


The view from our room was so pretty with purple Hibiscus reaching up the the second floor. Sunrise came late enough to let us catch a glimpse.

We walked a bit though town before heading out for the Waterfall hike. The houses next door to Blair House were just as pretty.....




Blair House
 The next street down had another Inn called MacCallum House Inn. We will try next time we visit. We try to stay somewhere new every time we go......  

MacCallum House Inn
Another Inn we'd like to try a little bit South of the town of Mendocino is the Little River Inn. It has the only golf course around....

Little River Inn
One of the shops that has closed in town used to be a furniture shop that had specialized in Craftsman style furniture. I love the building which was once a residence with the prettiest sun porch on the front facade. It is now for lease, and I can just imagine a wonderful home furnishings and decor shop here. Maybe I will open one someday....one can dream! It is another example of the architecture to be found here......


Many of the homes in town are on the Historical Registry. There are Gingerbread Victorians a plenty, as well as simple salt box homes like this one.....

This house is a shop for Oriental arts. It just caught my eye while I was shopping while Tim was watching the 49er's game in a local pub.....


I never fail to visit the high steepled Mendocino Presbyterian Church. It stands facing the sea with such stoic presence, it never fails to inspire me. For a little history, click over HERE.


As always, we love to take walks and just enjoy the scenery.....There is so much of it.....it takes awhile to see it all.....






I had many more photos, but methinks that a long slide show of my vacation might be a bit too much!

Perhaps you will share some of yours with me if ever you get to Mendocino!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Shoes and Ships and Sealing Wax, of Cabbages and Kings.....

The loft of John Cheim in New York City, 1989. I love the simplicity, white walls the surprise of blue on the ceiling.
 Home Sweet Home by Oberto Gili.....it is a book that captures that sort of imagination....the one where cabbages can sit next to kings, ad shoes and ships may be sitting comfortably with each other on a table....the sort where one can imagine that time is in our perception alone and that spaces are created for and from memories.


Home of Alvaro Bravo, Medina House, Marrakech, 2005. I cannot tell is the art on the wall is a photograph or a painting. The beauty is that I want to find out....for me it makes the room.

Oberto Gili is a photographer who captures images and presents them to us as lush descriptions of the people who inhabit a space. We have seen them in the pages of House and Garden (oh how I miss you so!), Town and Country and Vogue. This book is a collection of Gili's extravagant brush strokes of those places where his memories were made.

Home of Alvaro Bravo, Marrakech 2005. Again, it seems to be the art that has captured me here. The whole room is so lovely, the placement of the art and the image of the eggs in blue bowls on the dark wood table is so beautiful.
In his preface to the book, Gili says," Every image in this book is the memory of a great experience. The pictures are about seeing. learning, admiring, guessing, enjoying,and digesting. Their significance is not about decor as interior decoration. Nor are they about trendy or untrendy, modern or passe, rich or poor, famous or unknown. Instead, decor serves as an expression of personality, fantasy, personal taste, culture and history. Whether the photographs were taken in the Seventies or today is irrelevant. In my vision they all belong to the present, and I expect them to be there forever."
Country Home of Gian Enzo Sperone, Filacciano, Rome 1990.
 When someone expresses a thought like this that I connect to so thoroughly, the feeling is indescribable. My mind just screams "Yes! That's it!" The spaces that feel the best are the ones that are so personal they tell a story. Lives are lived fully are are captured in one's environment, and that space has meaning for the owner.
Home of Charlotte Horton, Castello Di Potentino, Seggiano, Tuscany 2005
 This is why Gili's photographs are so poignant, and so timeless. 

He has assembled photos from thirty five homes and artist's studios including those of Isabella Rosselini, Richard Meier, Muriel Brandolini, Jacques Garcia, Paul Fortune, as well as his own studio and home in Italy.
Home of Oberto Gili, Il Pico, Bra, Piedmont, 2010. Personal and beautifully imperfect.
When I received an advance copy of this book from the very generous folks at Rizzoli, I almost felt guilty. It is one of the most beautiful books I have ever received. It is a book that should be out in the most convenient of places so that one might flip though it whenever one needs a bit of inspiration....not for a design project (although it would be very helpful in that regard), but just in daily life. There are photos that are beautifully serene in their simplicity and those that are cozily complex. there are bookshelves that are spilling over, beds that are mussed and dogs that are sleeping. It is helping me to rethink my own design process for others and what is important in their spaces.

Studio of Ellsworth Kelly, Spencertown, New York 1996. Again the art is so very important here.

I have picked a few of my favorite images to whet your appetites. 

The book is organized by each individual home of the owner. In some instances, the owner has written a briefly about their home, but many times, there is no description at all....the photos speak for themselves. It is largely a book of images. The images tell the stories and words are left to their own devices to skip along the pages of other books. The photographs are, of course, brilliant, and large. Large photos in a large book! It measures approximately 11" x 14"....big and beautiful. I also very much enjoyed the unique layout of the pages. The page numbers are boldly placed at the top center of the pages that are not covered top to bottom with photos. The graphic design is quite clearly as important here.

Home of Oberto Gili, Il Picot, Bra, Piedmont, 2010, He seems to love references to the flag of his citizenship even in his home in Italy.
 If ever there was a book to place on your holiday gift giving list, for others or for yourself, this is certainly one to place in the top ten, right after that trip to Sienna or Capri.

Home of Oberto Gili......as you can see, his dog on the mussed red and white striped bed cover as art in a place of prominence tells us his story.
My Life Until Yesterday: my furniture, paintings, and photographs .....Although these create a portrait of my past, the house does not look like a museum; on the contrary, it is a very lively place that changes constantly to accommodate what in the imagination, for a split second, is the future.

May all of your futures be filled with beautiful inspiration.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Discovery in Mendocino: Erin Keller


 Last Weekend, Tim and I had a weekend away in Mendocino. It was such a great weekend, full of inspiration and relaxation....and lots of delicious food (more on that later!) One of the things I love to do is look at the shops that line the oh-so-charming streets of this small coastal town. Sadly, it seems that the  economy has affected this town no less than any other. Some of my favorites were no longer to be found, and the store fronts were empty with no newcomers.


HOWEVER!! I did find one newcomer who has just opened a jewel box of a shop! It is actually so much like a jewel box, I was charmed from head to toe. Erin Keller, the proprietress in residence, took a small storage shed from an adjacent property and transformed it into the most delightful and welcoming little shop one could imagine. Erin has created magic here.....truly. She has been able to fit all sorts of delicious things into a very tiny space. 


 Erin is a wanderlust who has traveled the world collecting textiles and rugs which she has brought back to Mendocino, where she has made pillows of every shape and color, tablecloths and napkins, spreads from Ikats and Suzanis, bead work from Afghanistan, rugs from Syria, and Ikats from Uzbekistan.


 She has such an amazing collection, I was sort of shocked into a Mendocino fog. I was so caught up in all of the goodies and finding out from Erin where she found everything, I forgot to ask the most critical questions! How much, and can I get them for clients after I get home?! Never fear, I will be calling her this week.


 Erin was just as charming as her shop. Petite and so pretty, Erin took time to chat with me about her shop, her passion for travel and her experience with decorating her own home and those of her friends. She also had her rescue pup with her, and I have never seen a cuter, more cuddly Chihuahua....



Erin not only makes the beautiful pillows, but she also creates these artful arrangements  of birds and bits of nature under glass.....


 I just loved how Erin was able to fit so much into this tiny space. She had metal shelves,  bench and table to fit perfectly into this tiny building which she also renovated herself. I loved all of the moldings and especially the barrel vaulted ceiling. And it was a perfect fit for her rug from Syria....


It is off season now in Mendocino, but I assure you, I will be making a plan to get up there as soon as possible to visit Erin again and bring home some jewels from her jewel box of a shop.


Although Erin does have a website, it is under construction, so in the meantime....you can reach her here:

707-357- 4086 or 707-937-1515

I am sure we will be seeing much more of Erin very soon!

Friday, October 14, 2011

A Little R and R


Tim and I are heading up to Mendocino for a little much needed R and R this weekend.

We are staying at the Blair House Inn. We have never stayed here before, but have seen it many times on TV..... Murder She Wrote was filmed here.


It looks so charming, I cannot wait!

I wil tell you all about it when we get back. Til then, I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Makings of a Custom Area Rug

Decisions, decisions....
 I am missing you all, my readers! I have been very occupied with putting together all of the pieces for the Guest Suite I am designing for the Marin Designers Showcase coming up this Fall (opening to the public November 30th running through December 30th!).

I am so thrilled and humbled to be in the company of such designers as oh-so-talented Suzanne Tucker who is designing the Living Room, Candice Barnes who has the Dining Room (Candice was just in the latest Veranda having designed the Master Bedroom Suite for the House of Windsor, Veranda's first Concept House in Los Angeles!), David Kensington who is in charge of the Family Room, Gioi Tran, designer for the Master Bedroom, and so many other great designers! 

There are so many details to finalize, and it is starting to come together! The idea for the room I am designing is a modernized version of an Art Deco Stateroom. The Suite is right on the San Francisco Bay with amazing views of the San Francisco Bay. I wanted to use a deep indigo for one of the colors in the room, and found some Indigo Block Print fabric that will be made into a throw for the bed, and some Tie Dye fabrics that will be made into pillows.

I am so lucky to be joining forces with Savnik Carpet to collaborate on a custom rug for the Showcase. I have been spending lots of time getting the colors just right, and the design to be new and interesting!

All of the blues to go through to find the perfect one!

 We have been working on fine tuning the blue color, and have gone through a number of options. These are a few of the yarn samples that have come from the dye house.

The Indigo Dyed Fabrics for the Guest Suite at the Showcase
 The fabrics are a rich indigo. The trick has been to translate that color to a cut pile where the color becomes much darker when the yarns are tightly bound together. The indigo colors were appearing black....so we had to try and get a lighter color....

Too light.....

 Originally, I had wanted a combination of ivory and blue, but as you can see, the blue was not quite rich enough, a little too denim-y. And I decided that the ivory was not quite right for the sophisticated feel I was going for. So........

Just Right!
I have decided on a darker indigo blue color that was light enough not to appear black, but rich enough to blend perfectly with the beautiful indigo dyed fabrics. I picked a Natural Sisal color for the contrasting color.

I just got off of the phone with Kathy at Savnik and we are both very excited for the rug to go into production! I will show you the results in November!

 I can't wait.