Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Those Old School Days:

Kimberly ripped open a Rotisserie chicken set the bag aside and placed the chicken upon a plate to serve. John came behind her and carefully folded the empty bag before throwing it into the trash.  I noted him folding the bag because this action did not fit their house. Their story unfolded;  they had tragically faced the death of both of Kimberly’s parents.  A second household of furniture had now landed in their home.  The extra clutter was very wearing on John yet each piece had a special meaning for Susan.  This household issue seemed to be adding stress to their marriage.  Thus, I was brought in.    
In an attempt to better understand what each person's design preferences were, I probed, "John will you  show me your favorite item from the past?"  Kimberly and I followed him to the  hall closet and he quickly disappeared within it.  Eventually he emerged with an old hiking boot.  I’m thinking, “What does this mean?"  still looking for more clues.  He said, "I lived in these in my college days." Standing there in the hall, John holding his old hiking boot,  Kimberly leaned across the boot and kissed him on the cheek!    He lost his ability to even speak.  
We were in a sacred silence. Face flushed he raised his eyes and looked at his wife.  Any former tension in the air had just disappeared.     I’ll never know what that kiss was about but  I surmise that they went back in time and between the boot and the kiss there was a remembrance of love.  And it was enough love to face losses and gains.  The loss of parents and the gaining of lots and lots of stuff.   Kimberly and John have slowly settled what stays and where it belongs. Now they come home every night to a beautiful home. Oh, the boot, well what it meant to me as a designer is that familiarity and comfort was the most important thing to John.  (And I was right!) 

Sunday, November 28, 2010


By litlnemo
Sam and Cathy “won” me in a fund raiser for flood victims. Maybe it was in the spirit of giving that had brought us together that created the familiarity of old friends. But I don’t think so; I think it’s more likely
that everyone and everything are old friends to them.
They wanted to focus our efforts on the study and the living room. Standing in the study I admired and touched a beautiful old bookshelf. Cathy shifted her weight and her eyes glowed as she told me the story of how Sam had carried it on his back thru the busy streets of New York up to their little newly wed apartment.
It was as if a scrapbook had been pulled down and we began to pour over it’s pages. But this scrapbook was not in photos but in furniture and art. Each had a story and a time and a memory and each belonged.
Sam and Cathy live in a home snuggled in by warm memories that surrounds them in things not photos.
So what is my job? To be sure that their home has as great a design as the old scrapbooks telling tales of far away places and treasured memories. I call it the Scrapbook House.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Wild Woman and Cave Man

My first meeting with this hip young couple was in the evening. Their three children were already in bed so the house was quiet and peaceful although they assured me it was not its natural state. The reason for my presence in this momentary quiet was to help them regroup as they prepared to move to a new house. We took a tour of their soon to be exited house.

They took turns chiming in “I don’t really like this piece.” “Well, this is not really my taste” It went on and on. They didn’t really like anything in their house! Except Paula loved her beautiful desk and they both enjoyed their red kitchen.

Once again seated at their breakfast nook table, I asked “How long have you two been married”?

“Twelve years,” they said.

“Let me take a stab in the dark here. Is it possible that about twelve years ago as newly weds you went out to furnish your home and both of you compromised in an effort to please one another? So much so that now you have a house full of furniture that neither of you really like?”

“Wow! You are good.” Frank said in amazement.

I was going to have to untangle this and felt I needed to know each one’s individual taste. So I simply sent them on an a quest for the colors they liked. Alone - with strict instructions not to share their finds with the other until we could meet. I suggested they go and just stand in front of all the colors at any paint store and pull out what they were drawn to. I needed to know their “true colors”. Often design does take compromise but only if when there is something to compromise from!

Two weeks later we scheduled a visit at the new house. It was empty and a clean palate for their young family. Each had done their homework. Frank said he wanted Paula to go first.

She hesitated a little adding a disclaimer “Remember, Mary said to just grab whatever jumped out at us.” She timidly laid her colors on the beige counter top. A cobalt blue, vibrant lime green, saturated yellow, and orange and even a deep purple. She meekly smiled and looked at her husband.

He stepped forward, hit the colors with his fingertips, stepped back, pointed at his wife and said, “Now THAT’S the woman I fell in love with!” She blushed with joy.

In contrast, he laid out a brown and then another brown, and did I say brown? There were some dark greens and blues in the mix. They all felt like cave colors. So I fondly named her Wild Woman and him Cave Man.

Today their house is fully alive with who they truly are. Her wild woman colors are splashed all over the kitchen and her home office. While his caveman colors ground him in his music room and their master bedroom.

Today, they love everything in the house. Thy are living in full color with their son and twin daughters.

The Hidden Clue:

Early in my career I was hired to help a family re-do their living room. The wall colors were going to remain the same, but a garage sale find couch and two favorite chairs needed reupholstering.

So we began the fabric hunt while being mindful of the fact that this family had five cats meaning the fabric needed to be a tight weave so the cat's nails wouldn't snag it. Robin chose to research fabrics herself and bring me in only for when she was ready to make decisions (a great way to save on designing costs). We determined a direction and Robin used her excellent skills of researching to scope out all that was available in Nashville. I left feeling good about the direction the room was headed. Soon we met in her house and picked all the fabrics to cover the side chairs and the couch. An easy job.

Two days later she called unsure of all the choices. But she was hopeful because of a planned trip to Atlanta could include a fabric search in a larger city. So we would regroup upon her return.

“Okay” I said a little shaken by the rejection of all our first choices. It’s not uncommon to revisit some of our choices but to reject all of them was a new experience for me.! Weeks later with renewed hope and lots of new fabric swatches we met in her living room again. Again we chose three fabrics for her three pieces of furniture. Again, a few days later she was not settled on the choices we’d made. Again I was discouraged.

Again she had hope. She would search on the Internet and we could meet again soon. When I drove up to her house the 3rd time to pick fabrics for the same furniture I had a growing uncertainty in my ability. I was about ready to fire myself from this job!

The table was covered with fabric swatches and in my insecurity I felt an unusual panic that I had heard others describe but seldom faced. We began by recounting the drawn out process. She was holding a swatch in her hand rubbing it between her index finger and thumb.

I had it! How could I have missed it? I asked her to trust me. I got a towel from the kitchen and blindfolded her. Handing her one swatch at a time; I then asked her to feel it for a moment. If it was pleasing to her touch hand it back to me. If not, to let it just fall to the floor.

Two thirds of the fabric landed on the floor. The rest had passed her touch test. I was picking fabrics based on color and pattern and she was picking them solely based on touch! That day a decision was made. The couch and two chairs finally got covered reupholstered.  I learned an amazing lesson that I will never forget.

A Closet Pink Lover:

Over 3,500 colors were fanned out on her beautifully inlay rug.

The decisions for the wall colors had been left to Janet as Todd had left for the Orient on a business trip. He was the lover of color, so Janet was insecure being left with this decision. Her insecurity was especially pronounce because she felt she'd already made a mistake painting the living room a deep red color that did not work.

Choosing paint colors can he very stressful for many people. It’s such a directional commitment for a room or a house. Also this choice would effect the entire house since it was an open floor plan.

Fearfully looking at the colors on the floor, she just kept saying, “I don’t know. I don't know. I just don’t know.” In my design experience rushing a choice is seldom successful. She touched different colors, unable to land anywhere. Finally with her index finger poised over a pinkish salmon color, she said, “This is a stupid color!” Like a hound dog that found the scent, my tail went straight, my paw lifted and I was ready for the chase! “I don’t think that is a stupid color. Why do you think so?” “When I was a teenager my big sister told me that pink was a stupid color and I got rid of all the pink in my closet."

I looked around her house and from my vantage point I could clearly see that there was pink hidden everywhere! Her husband had given her a pink dozen roses before he left. (Her favorites!) Pink cross-stitching was woven in a pillow. Another boldly pink pillow in the family room. There was even pink in the rug under our fan of confusing colors. The scent was stronger than ever!

I looked down at the color and then looked up at my lost client and said with a conviction that I hoped would eradicate her sister’s comment. “I love that color!” And it was true. I do love that color but even more than that I love watching my client’s self discovery. Seizing the moment, I pushed aside all of the other colors, folded the color strip back and danced around the room, holding the new found color against all her hidden pinks. She started to giggle at herself.

My dear closet pink lover was “coming out”. She decided to live boldly and had the room repainted before Todd returned. He loved the color! And the rest is history. All the colors of the house are now in balance with that salmon pink. Drapes were made, furniture reupholstered, and walls in adjoining rooms repainted. The result is stunning and most importantly, completely Janet.

The true Janet a lover of pink! ( no matter what her big sister thinks )