Friday, April 30, 2010

Lacquered Walls: A Maximalist's Dream

Now that I've blogged for a while, I've started to see trends emerge in my tastes and interests that I don't think I would've noticed without the virtual paper trail. One of the biggest things that I've come to realize about myself is that I tend towards maximalism -- not just in design, but in life. I'm a big believer that bigger is often better, just as more is often more. I've long been a fan of lacquered furniture and accessories. The glossy, almost liquid-like sheen is such a wonderful counterpoint to wood, fabric and other earthier elements. It's also supremely glamorous, and I can't help but love a little bit of sparkle and sheen in just about any room.

So why not take this love of lacquer, that I can only assume many of my fellow design enthusiasts share as the trend seems to show no sign of slowing down, and take it one step further? Let's maximize it and lacquer the walls. Sure, a true lacquer finish on your walls is time and labor-intensive -- and expensive. But the look can be approximated with high gloss paint (though to get a truly smooth finish you'd be best advised to skim coat your walls first unless they're already in pristine condition). High gloss or lacquered walls are particularly appealing in darker, more intense colors, like this gorgeous cobalt blue, which is incredibly striking against the black and white fireplace.

If there is a true king of lacquer (do you think he'd mind if I dubbed him the "King of Shellac"?), then it has to be Miles Redd, the designer whose maximalist take on traditional decor has been incredibly influential in the resurgence of high style, color and Chinoiserie in interior design. And I think this hallway is a tremendous example of that. All the individual elements of this entry are incredibly traditional, from the black and white marble floors, to the blue and white porcelain to the intricate moldings and yet it feels so modern because the volume on everything is turned way up. The bold blue lacquered walls pop against the graphic floor and the hits of red in the lampshades and door (oh that door!) are such a strong, primary contrast to the blue.

Miles Redd

This room is a quieter, softer version of Miles' style, but it illustrates how you don't need a really bold color to make lacquered walls feel like a statement. This medium blue-gray, taken all the way up to the ceiling, creates an underwater, lagoon-like effect in this salon, while the larger white double sofa floats softly in the center of the room, like a cloud. Miles' signature zebra rugs, however, keep this room from putting you to sleep.

Miles Redd

Another great living room from Miles. The sophisticated, rich color of Farrow & Ball's Hague Blue is really at its best in a high gloss. Where the light hits it, the color reads as a peacock blue, while in shadow the gray undertones give it a quieter elegance.

Decorator Nick Olsen has a very similar decorating style to his mentor Miles Redd, but with a bit of English granny thrown in for good measure. In the most recent issue of Lonny, Nick talks about wanting his small one-bedroom Nolita apartment to feel like an Opium den. Well, mission accomplished. The red glossy walls, black chintz sofa and bold painted floors are a wonderfully modern spin on a 19th century London opium den.

Melissa Rufty of MMR Interiors via Matters of Style

In my opinion, eclecticism (of the type heralded and popularized by domino) is just another type of maximalism, and this room does it beautifully. I adore all the colors, patterns and layers; it feels curated more than decorated.

Canadian House & Home, January 2010

When this house was featured in Canadian House & Home back in January, I had mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, it was colorful, original and had some very fun elements (like that wallpapered ceiling) on the other hand, it would date quickly and had a few tacky moments. But ultimately, I appreciate the risk taking of shellacking your walls in orange and papering your ceiling in metallic paper. It's bold and not to everyone's taste, but it's fun and I always respect a sense of humor in design.

"But Averill," you say, "maximalism just isn't my speed. Can lacquered walls work in a more minimalist interior?" The answer is an resounding "yes!". In fact, just follow Steven Gambrel's lead (never a bad idea) and incorporate lacquered walls into quieter, more masculine interiors for an unexpected bit of shine and glamour.

Steven Gambrel

This kelly green feels like an unexpected choice for a hallway, but it's such a great contrast to the otherwise neutral palette and traditional architecture. It also creates a certain moodiness that Gambrel so often displays in his work that I find very appealing.

Steven Gambrel

I love a dark, cozy den and you can't get cozier than this one. The goldenrod colored ceiling is a great touch here. It's both dark and warm enough to keep the black walls from feeling too stark and it ties in beautifully with the carpet and leather sofa. While I like the chalkiness of a matte black wall (especially if you're using an off-black or deep charcoal instead of a true black), I really do love a glossy, true black wall. The sheen reflects so light while the dark walls recede into the background. It's a wonderful way to make a room feel larger and cozier at the same time.

Studies seem to be the frequent beneficiaries of lacquered walls. Perhaps it's because they're often smaller, less frequently used rooms that can handle the high sheen and bold color. This coral color is such an unusual choice for a study, but in high gloss it reads as more sophisticated than beachy. I particularly love how Katie picks up on the color in the suzani print throw pillows, which ties the white couch in with the chairs and walls.

Elle Decor

I love the raisin-colored walls in this study. It's the perfect backdrop for the salon-style art hanging and looks wonderfully fresh with the black and gold writing desk and the animal print fabrics.

I love the contrast of the shiny walls with the velvet upholstery. Textural juxtapositions are a great way to create interest without making bold color or pattern statements. The acrylic coffee table brings in the smooth, polished finish on the walls into the furniture grouping and helps tie everything together.

Rob Southern

While this Houston entryway (featured last year in House Beautiful) looks like it has black lacquered walls, it's actually a glossy vinyl wallpaper (Phillip Jeffries' "lacquered walls" wallcovering in eyeliner), which is a quicker (and cheaper) solution to a true lacquer finish. According to the designer, it's also more kid-friendly.

And finally, another photograph that I wish I could credit to the talented designer but can't (anyone? Bueller?..Bueller?). You don't frequently see white lacquered walls (furniture and accessories, yes, but not walls) but I think they really work well here in this more modern interior. And I absolutely love the finish allows the light from the wall sconces to positively glow. The touches of turquoise in the cushions on the dining chairs (which are a beautiful shape in their own right) and in the equine statue on the coffee table add a hit of fun and color to the otherwise neutral and more grown-up space.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Shop Like a Design Blogger: Pink Wallpaper

This week I'm thrilled to have Shannon from Pink Wallpaper guest blogging. Shannon's blog was one of the first design blogs that I started reading. She consistently delivers with some of the most beautiful, most inspiring (and under-the-radar) images in the design blogosphere. In addition to being a designer, Shannon is also currently running a successful e-business reselling some of her incredible collection of fabrics, wallpapers and even accessories over at The Designer's Attic. I love checking out her offerings on a daily basis. Last fall I purchased a gorgeous greek key floor lamp from Shannon that now sits in my living room (see HERE) and I'm still in love with it. And, on an unrelated note, be sure to head over to Sogni e Sorrisi today where I'll be guest blogging about my all-time favorite travel destination (do you think you can guess where that is?).

thanks so much averill for asking me to be a part of your fun series! i have loved reading them! so you want to know how i shop...well, to be frank, it's not all that glamorous ...i actually prefer to shop in places most people wouldn't think twice about. my take on design is that anyone can achieve a beautiful space no matter what your budget constraints maybe. you just have to know how to shop and how to spot "the find". and this is something i have a huge passion for...

1. habitat for humanity: i frequent these kind of donation will be shocked at what turns up here. i bought an Oly DR table for my house for nothing close to what it retails for. i've found a glass front sub zero, viking stoves, hickory chair furniture, chesterfield sofas, thomas o'brien light fixtures...the list goes on and on.

2. craigslist: think of the items that you would like to add to your house and type them in weekly. my dream desk came from craigslist. i have wanted a chrome sawhorse desk for years and out of nowhere one appeared on it...and better yet it was vintage and pennies compared to the price it was going for on 1st dibs.

3. goodwill: this is where you are going to find the deals...but like everything else, you have to frequent it and you have to look past the junk that surrounds it. i found my vintage rattan swing here for $3.00...a dirty, plastic kitchen was lying on top of it!

4. thrift stores/ yard sales: where you will score killer deals on accessories for your home. i love finding odd ball objects and adding them in bookshelves or vignettes around the house. also,'s a chance to create a fabulous gallery wall w/ unknown oil paintings that go for $5-$10.

5. antique stores: love antique shopping...prefer it over going into a new store any day of the week. my tip is stay away from antique stores in tourist areas...find ones on the outskirts of the city or in a small town you are passing through. you can find great deals on DR chair sets, vintage lights, lucite (hello my love), transferware, old bottles, etc. vintage finds make your house unique.

6. everyone has said it, but i'll second it- tj maxx, homegoods, tues. mornings: high end bedding is busting out of the seams at these places- peacock alley, designer's guild, ralph lauren...all of my sheets come from here. also great place for pairs of lamps, storage baskets for kid's toys, and books (i find tons of decorating books here).

7. local monogramming store: i'm southern and i monogram all of my bed shams. i do it BIG and make sure to use a unique monogram (stay away from generic ones and think outside the box). i like mixing color combos- chocolate brown looks killer w/any accent color....

8. anthropologie: love their hardware (great for bathroom cabinets), the accessories rock, their crewel rugs (i use the small ones in my kitchens and bathrooms), and the sale bins....i can always score something here!

9. urban electric: a to-the-trade company but if i am going to splurge, i want their lighting. local craftsmen from charleston make these killer lights. you will find anything from traditional gas lanterns to super chic lighting designed by your favorite "it" designer. and they will paint your light any BM color you would like!! if you haven't checked them out, you should.

10. to-the-trade fabrics and wallpaper: i cannot get enough of these (maybe that's why i started this). add a pop in small doses w/ pillows, on the backs of DR chairs, make roman shades, recover a X stool...wallpaper a powder room or the back of a bookcase. this gives the illusion of a high end space but doesn't hurt the wallet near as bad. my favorites are quadrille/ china seas, raoul textiles, lulu dk, cole & son, and schumacher.

so there you have it...if you want to read the post that changed the way i design, it was this from style court on ruthie sommers. from that day on, it was no longer about high end design for me, it was about being true to myself and showing how i can truly achieve great design no matter what price tag is placed in front of me.

Next Week's Guest Blogger: Marija from Holding Court.


Monday, April 26, 2010

Quick & Easy Mini-Makeovers

While I'm a huge fan of the monumental DIY projects that many of my fellow bloggers tackle on what seems like a weekly basis, I'll admit that sometimes after a long week at the office I'm just not up for that. Instead, what I'm after is the kind of quick and easy project that gives you a big pay-off for minimal time (and monetary) commitment. If you're anything like me, you don't have each and every weekend to devote to big time decorating projects -- and besides, the discretionary income necessary for those larger projects can dry up faster than you can say "last month's Nordstrom bill". And so, in the spirit of tackling some smaller, mini-makerovers this weekend, I set about to perk up a few items in my study with some customized details to really give some ordinary, inexpensive items a bit more personality.

Mini-Makeover #1: Paint the back of your bookshelves. I bought this cabinet from Overstock (which is actually a bath cabinet that's no longer available but other items in the same style can be found HERE) for under $100 just to give me some temporary shelving and storage in my office until my budget can afford a larger piece. While I loved the Greek key detail and the combination of open and closed storage, I wanted to bring just a little bit more color and life to the piece, so I decided to paint out the shelves a lighter shade of purple (Waverly Home by Valspar's Purple Gray), which coordinates with the plum wall color (BM's Purple Lotus) without being too strong a transition with the stark white cabinetry.

Mini-Makeover #2: Tjuz up a blah lampshade. This crystal lamp was an $80 Home Goods find and, while the sleek crystal base was exactly what I was looking for to bring some more sparkle to my desktop, the plain vanilla lampshade was not. Certainly, it's inoffensive, just nothing special -- and since this is the one room in the house that I can go full-out girly glam in, I wanted it to sing. So I added a fabulous 1/2" Chinese braid (adhered with fabric glue) and a lavender tassel (which are very much back in vogue) and -- voila -- a fabulous, customized lampshade for a fraction of what you'd spend to have one custom made.

Mini-Makeover #3: Fake a contrast welt. I adore a contrast welt on upholstery and pillows, but not enough to pay for new covers for my daybed and bolsters. Sure, you can use fabric paint and paint it out (see Little Green Notebook and It's Great to be Home), but if you're like me and a little concerned about the steadiness of your hand, why not just fake it with some ribbon? Here, I used a few yards two very narrow velvet ribbons in lilac and plum and glued them just underneath the welt. The process took all of 15 minutes.

While I can't say for certain if the devil is in the details or if God is, I do know that a great designer is in the details and it's these small, personal touches that can take a room from ordinary to extraordinary. So what about you? Do you have any mini-makeovers you've recently undertaken that you can share with us?


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Shop Like a Design Blogger: Material Girls

This week's great shopping tips come from Lauren, who runs the Houston-based arm of the multi-city blog Material Girls. Although Lauren got her design training at OU, Lauren now lives and works in Houston as an interior designer specializing in kitchens and baths at Kitchen & Bath Concepts. In addition to her day job, Lauren is preparing to launch her own interior design business, Lauren Haskett Fine Design. It goes without saying, I think, that I can't wait to be able to afford her services in the (hopefully) not-too-distant future.

* * *

Thank you so much for including me, Averill! I love this concept and I have greatly enjoyed the series so far. As a designer I have access to innumerable trade-only resources, but I thought I'd share my favorite "retail" joints I scope out for clients and myself!

1. Fyndes - Vintage Heaven on the Internet! Ebay not your thing? No problem, this well edited selection of everything from furniture to art is way less stressful with new products added constantly.

Vintage Italian Table - yes, please!

The lucite arms and legs on this chair are stunning. I'd love to redo this in a bright chevron print fabric.

2. Fabricadabra - Ikat pillows in so many great colors and patterns!

3. Mockingbird Manor - my go-to Oklahoma City staple. Run by owner, Liz Brown, this darling house converted into store on Western Avenue has it all. I could spend hours in here (and have)! I really miss it now that I live in Houston and always make a trip by there when I'm in OKC.

4. Excess, Blue Hills, Arbor, and Marburger Farms bi-annual Antique Shows in Warrenton & Round Top, Texas. I can not tell you how much I love being less than two hours away from this! It is amazing, something you can't must experience it firsthand. You name it, you can find it.

These petrified wood stumps were absolutely stunning in person!

5. HomeGoods - it's pretty embarrassing how many HomeGoods finds have ended up in this designer's home. Lamps, bedding, decorative boxes, agate bookends, and more lamps! You must go in the store with a discriminating eye, buy more than you need, get it home, and edit!

6. Furniture Outlets - Horchow Finale, Pottery Barn, Wisteria, and Restoration Home Outlets are TREASURE TROVES. I love my Missoni teapot I scored at Horchow Finale in Dallas for under $30!

The best part about the Pottery Barn outlet? The Williams Sonoma Home furniture and accessories! The PB outlet in San Marcos, Texas runs various specials weekly so call before you go. You may hit an, "extra 50% off furniture" sale!

Last but not least, read design blogs! Blogs like Averill's are such an excellent source for new websites, shops, designers, and inspiration.

Next Week's Guest Blogger: Shannon from Pink Wallpaper!

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