Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Breaking the Dry Spell

There are 12 days left until Easter and the end of my self-imposed sabbatical from shopping. Much to the delight of Dave, I've managed to stick to it and, for the most part, going without has been pretty easy. Sure, it's only been a month, but there are still things (i.e., shoes) that I've been pining for. To celebrate my consumer cleanse, a little sinning may be in order come April 13. While I always reserve the right to change my mind, I'm thinking these A.P.C. navy sandals may be exactly what the devil ordered.


Monday, March 30, 2009

Reader Contest over at Elements of Style

Erin at Elements of Style (one of the first decor blogs I got hooked on) is having a great reader contest going on all week. Readers are invited to submit mood boards for rooms inspired by one of Erin's favorite domino spaces. One lucky winner will receive a copy of domino: The Book of Decorating. Erin is accepting entries through Friday so if you're feeling creative -- or just want to kill some time web-shopping -- hop on over to HERE and get styling.

I took the day off from work on Friday and, in an effort to kill time while Dave watched basketball, decided to try my hand at styling a room based on this living room:

I submitted the following mood board inspired by the living room pictured above:

So what do y'all think? One of Erin's specific requirements was that items must be budget-friendly (a rather loose concept since she didn't specify whose budget we're talking about) and available for direct purchase (i.e., no "to the trade only pieces"). As an amateur myself, I am never able to score trade-only pieces, though perhaps that will change should I ever befriend an interior decorator/designer. As for budget, I tried to generally adhere to my own: i.e., smaller items need to be relatively inexpensive while larger furniture pieces are what I would term "mid-level" (i.e., I generally go for Ballard Designs, Pottery Barn or Crate&Barrel in lieu of Target or IKEA for items that I want to last, but avoid Williams-Sonoma Home or Restoration Hardware absent a good sale). I recognize for some folks these items are not wallet-friendly, but compared to most budgets for professional interior design projects, I was being positively cheap.

If you end up submitting to Erin's contest, don't forget to share! I'd love to see what other blog readers come up with.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Ashley Whittaker

Florida native Ashley Whittaker was featured as one of domino's "Top 10 Designers to Watch" back in 2007. The room featured in domino's article on her was the entryway shown above and -- to be honest -- I was pretty unimpressed. The royal blue zebra wallpaper is just too overwhelming for my taste, too "I'm trying to make a statement".

The last few weeks, however, I've been slowly making my way through domino's website, saving all of the pictures and features that I loved before they shut the site down for good. In the process, I've been Googling some of the interior designers and decorators that domino featured over the years. Unlike some of the designers and decorators I found, Ashley Whittaker's website is very professional and a pleasure to click through. I'm so glad I gave her a second chance (as it were) since a lot of the work featured on her site is really lovely. It leans towards the traditional, but in a very modern and fresh way. Her use of color and pattern is also excellent -- never overwhelming, but enough to keep my interest.

There are definitely some recurring motifs and decorator tricks in Ashley's designs, the most obvious of which is her penchant for pairs. Note the the two Chinese garden stools in the blue sitting room and the two ottomans upholstered in pale blue zebra fabric tucked under the console table. After all, if one of something is good, two of something is even better. Two smaller stools or ottomans is also a much more flexible alternative to one larger bench or coffee table. Smaller pieces can easily be rotated around a room to provide extra seating or an extra place to rest your drink while entertaining. When not in use, placing them under the console table keeps them out of the way.

It took me a few minutes of staring at this photo to pick up on the subtle safari vibe in this room and I really like it. I'm particularly fond of the exotic paisley fabric on the ottoman, which works well with the larger-scale paisley on the roman blind and the safari-inspired artwork over the desk. The subtle safari-theme is carried throughout the space with the zebra-print throw pillows, grass cloth wallpaper and white ceramic elephant sitting in the built-in. Painting the backs of the built-ins such a dark olive brown is really a masterful touch and really makes the contents pop. Finally, the bold hexagonal rug pictured in this study (similar to the one used in the blue sitting room above) and is reminiscent of David Hicks and a really unexpected touch -- the modern pattern really livens up otherwise very traditional decor.

Such a nice, relaxed-yet-refined, beachy vibe to this space. All of the spindly, dark chair legs are a really formal touch to an otherwise laid back room.

This might be one of those "so pretty it hurts" rooms for me. Everything is just so lovely and calm. The tone-on-tone patterns on all the fabrics are varied, but speak softly. The Greek key border on the green slipper chairs is a brilliant stroke and I think could be easily emulated -- just attach a little trim to any standard-issue chair and -- voilĂ ! -- you've got something special. One thing I'm also noticing in Ashley's work is how she manages to make curtains seem clean and unfussy. I tend to avoid a lot of window treatment (other than blinds or roman shades), but she's definitely having me rethink my bias against curtains.

I never get tired of a red room. I love how the black and white photography hung salon-style really pops on the red wall. While muted furnishings allow the red wall to take center stage, the varied patterns really help balance such a strong statement. It takes a lot of confidence to blend ikat, greek key, cheetah and florals, but I think Ashley really pulls off the mix here. What do you think? Note again Ashley's use of a pair of ottomans -- they add extra seating, but their lower profile keeps the smallish room less visually cluttered.

While I love a lot of color, there is just something so relaxing about an all-white bathroom. I love how the tub looks built-in here and the lantern and sconces are just stunning. The combination of open and closed storage here is also really well done. It really helps make the bathroom look spacious -- despite the small footprint.

If you like Ashley's style, here are a key few pieces you'll need to get a bit of her look at home:

1. Savannah Armchair & Ottoman ($399-$799) from Pottery Barn
2. Ceramic elephant ($29) from West Elm
3. Safari Crewel Pillow Cover ($24.99) from Pottery Barn
4. X-bench in Ashanti (as shown, $251) from Ballard Designs
5. Madura Pillow Collection ($85-$150) from John Robshaw
6. Chinese Garden Stools ($129) from Wisteria
7. Jute Diamond Rug ($299 for 9' x 12') from West Elm
8. Weston Round Pendant (from $579) from Restoration Hardware
9. Tala and Scramble fabrics by Annie Selke in Blue Marine ($26.09 per yard) from Calico Corners
10. Capri Teardrop Lamp ($275) from Jonathan Adler


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Good Design For Less: Ruffle Pillows

I've had my eye on this pillow from the Amsterdam-based textile line Onomono (available through Burke Decor) for months now, but I've been unable to pull the trigger on a $150 pillow that I really don't have a specific place for.

On the other hand, it's a lot easier to justify another unnecessary throw pillow when it's priced at a mere $14:

Granted, the Ruffles Natural Cotton Jersey Pillow from Hettle (via Etsy) isn't an exact match to the Oromono, but it's pretty close and it definitely imparts a similar cozy and feminine vibe. Sized at a nice 14 x 14, the cover does not include the pillow insert, but you can easily pick one up at your local IKEA or Bed Bath & Beyond for just a few dollars (which also means you can avoid paying shipping costs on such a bulky item) or purchase one through the online shop for a mere $5 (with free shipping on the cover). Hettle offers other styles and fun colors and custom orders are available. I particularly like her pink candy stripe ruffle pillow, which would be darling in a little girl's room.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

{New To Me} Bailey Doesn't Bark

I stumbled upon Jin Lee's Bailey Doesn't Bark online shop today via Daily Candy and I think I love it. Somehow, this Brazilian artist manages to make plates featuring flamingos, ants or roaches look pretty. Of course, the liberal use of 23 karat gold doesn't hurt. The three piece Dotted Tea Set featured above is my favorite. The hint of red-orange would work perfectly in my kitchen and the white porcelain would blend well with my standard issue Pottery Barn Great White Coup dinnerware.

For spring and summer, Lee has issued the limited edition Flamingos and Trees pattern, which comes in a five piece place setting and even the adorable salt and pepper shakers featured above. I love the idea of registering for something like this in lieu of the standard issue white Crate&Barrel place settings. For one, you could be sure no one else would have it.

The "Four Seasons" set of cups (also available in black) is really lovely. At a diminutive 2 oz. a piece, they'd be great for sake. A set of these would also make a great wedding gift, should you want to stray from the registry (which I would recommend only for close friends and family members whom you know well -- otherwise, play it safe and get them something they've selected themselves).

These "postcups" are adorable and the second photo features your two choices of a reverse side: a heart or the graphic text. One of these would make such a cute Valentine's Day gift -- or just a "I miss you" gift. Even better, Lee will hand ink a custom message and the recipient's address on the front of the "postcup" to your sweetie and ship it directly to them for free!

For the more adventurous, why not have a few pieces from Lee's roach or ant series? The looks on your guests' faces when they pull a roach cup out of the cupboard in the morning may be worth the $47 price tag alone. Having had issues with sugar ants in my kitchen, the ants' series may be a bit too realistic for my taste....

While none of Lee's pieces are inexpensive, they're comparable to other high-quality porcelain dinnerware you'd find at your local department store. Besides, I think a few of these pieces would go a long way as accent pieces to pep up your everyday white dinnerware. If you're interested in purchasing, Daily Candy is offering 25% off anything in the Bailey Doesn't Bark online store. Simply enter "CANDY25" at checkout.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Beauty Round-Up: Best of Sephora Make-Up

The quality and value of make-up available on the market today is as wide-ranging as the selection. The claims that some of these products make can border on outlandish: non-clumping mascara that makes your eyelashes look like you had to glue them on, foundation that makes your pores virtually disappear, and lip gloss that promises to give you lips like Angelina Jolie's. But what products actually work? Which are worth the hefty price tag and which aren't? Since returning partially used products can be difficult, it's important to know what you're getting before you buy.

In an effort to help separate the wheat from the chaff, I've pulled together this round-up of my all-time favorites. Despite my penchant for trying the latest and greatest when it comes to beauty products (I'll try just about anything once), I always find myself coming back to just a handful of products. The products featured above not only work like they should, but they're easy to work with. Most importantly for me (as someone with extremely sensitive skin), these products are non-irritating and rely heavily on "all natural" ingredients. While there are a number of great products out there not available at Sephora (M.A.C. and Sonia Kashuk for Target both jump immediately to mind), I've only featured items available for purchase through Sephora for the simple reason that I vastly prefer one-stop shopping.

Clockwise from top left:

1. Bare Escentuals bareMINERALS foundation ($25): Don't be fooled by imitations, I think the original mineral foundation make-up from Bare Escentuals is still the best of its kind on the market. Their "fairly light" is one of the few shades on the market that works for my skin tone and I love the one-step process of foundation and powder. Saves me so much time in the morning. Even better, this product contains SPF 15, so even if I forget to put on my sunscreen, my face is still covered.

2. Benefit Eye Bright ($20): This fat little crayon really delivers. Dab it on the inside and outside corners of your eyes for an instant "awake" look. On weekends I'll often forgo eyeshadow altogether and just line my eyes with this (blending thoroughly, of course).

3. Dior 5-colour Eyeshadow - Incognito ($56): If you only have one eyeshadow palette, make it this one. The colors are beautiful but neutral and blend together beautifully. Even better, the color lasts.

4. Smashbox Blush Rush ($24): For me at least, blush is tricky. When you're pale, it's so easy to go from perfectly flushed to full-on clown face. Smashbox's powder blush, however, makes it harder for me to screw up as the color goes on wonderfully sheer, allowing you to layer color on slowly. My favorite color is "Flush", a lovely petal pink that looks a bit neon in the box but looks completely natural once applied.

5. Dior Miss Dior Cherie Eau de Parfume ($72/1.7 oz): My all-time favorite perfume. This is a classic that doesn't smell like your grandmother -- or your teenage niece. Perfect.

6. Korres Deep Colour Mascara ($18): As someone who wears contacts, it is nearly impossible for me to find mascara that doesn't irritate my eyes or end up giving me raccoon-face. That was the case anyway until the Greek brand Korres hit the American scene. Finally I get to wear mascara that stays put all day and doesn't make me want to scratch my eyes out. Bonus: it's all-natural ingredients mean that you don't have to worry about putting anything scary near your precious peepers.

7. Valentino Rock 'n Rose Eau de Parfume ($44/1 oz.): This scent is great for winter, when the weather calls for warmer, cozier scents that will stick with you. It's also incredibly sexy.

8. Smashbox Single Eyeshadow ($16): Smashbox sells some of the best eyeshadows available on the market (M.A.C. being a close second in my book). Try their "champagne" eyeshadow. I wear it almost every day (sometimes alone and sometimes layered under other colors). It's the perfect "base" eyeshadow that provides just a hint of glimmer and enough color that you just look like a prettier, perkier you.

9. Korres Cherry Full Lip Gloss ($16): Korres' lip gloss tastes like actual cherries (because it's made with actual cherries); not the fake cherry flavor of your pre-teen years. It also avoids the sticky feeling so many lip glosses leave you with. I'm a huge fan of their "Nude 33" and "Plum 27" shades.

10. Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment ($22.50): Okay, so $22.50 is a lot of money to pay for a lip balm, but this is the big daddy of all lip palms, the ultimate in lip treatments. It smells (and tastes) divine, the packaging is gorgeous, and after 30 minutes my lips still feel just as soft as they did when I first applied it. I've gone through too many of these to count, and at the end of each tube I always find myself using toothpicks and fingernails to dig just that last little bit out. I'm a junky.

11. Benefit Silky Finish Lip Stick ($18): This lip stick goes so smoothly that it feels more like a gloss, but the coverage is matte like a lip stick. It's the perfect hybrid. My favorite shade? Try Skinny Dipping. Gotta love Benefit's cheeky names and fun packaging.

12. Benefit "Dallas" ($28): I generally don't wear bronzer, but when I want to look like I've got a bit more color than God or nature gave me, I dust on some of this stuff. The rosy undertones ensure I eschew that dreaded orange tone that is the hallmark of fake tanners. The giant pot will last you ages, too.

13. Clinique Almost Lipstick in Black Honey ($14): This is the only make-up that I wore in high school that I'm still buying and wearing today. It truly is universally flattering and just about the only way you'll get me to wear a deeper shade of lip color.

14. Dior Liquid Eyeliner ($31): Eyeliner is so tricky, but I generally prefer liquid to pencil because the pencils always seem to pull along my eyelid, making it difficult to get a straight line. Dior's eyeliner is particularly lovely because the point is as fine as a pencil's, but the liquid goes on as inky and straight as possible. Just right for achieving a dramatic evening look.

That just about rounds out my make-up favorites. What are some of yours? I'm always on the look out for new items to throw into the rotation so be sure to leave me a comment and share!


Friday, March 20, 2009

Texas, Our Texas

Last night Dave and I went to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo with Chef Babs and her boyfriend P.W. (properly pronounced "Pee-Dubyah"). Attending the largest rodeo in the world has a way of making me feel very Texan -- albeit a Texan allergic to hay, horses and most of the other animals present at the event. In any case, a good time was had by all and even my husband, a native Floridian, admitted to enjoying the rodeo events. At the end of each rodeo, there's a featured performer (usually some of the biggest names in country music) and last night we got to hear Pat Green, a superstar in the Texas country music scene, and one of my personal favorites. For those of you unversed in "Texas Country", it's a sub-genre of country music which can best be described as "Texas is my girlfriend" music. True Texans can thus be distinguished from the rest of the world by their ability to not only tolerate this music (most non-Texans will find lyrics devoted to cruising I-35 and "letting Texas fill my soul" eye-roll inducing), but love it.

In any case, because I am feeling particularly Texan today and in honor of my Texas heritage (I am, on my mother's side, a fifth generation Texan after all), here are a few of my favorite Texas-themed pieces that I pulled off Etsy. Unlike most Texan paraphernalia, they avoid cheesy slogans and the over-use of our state flag.

The Duel by MagnusFoto (8' x 10', $55)

I can't get over how much I love this photograph, which was taken in Marfa, Texas, a small artist enclave south of El Paso (i.e., middle of nowhere). From what I've heard, Marfa is everything you don't expect to find in West Texas, and I would love the opportunity to visit it sometime. I suspect the landscape and subject matter here is "quintessential Texas" for most folks, but growing up in Houston, I tend to think of Texas as far more urban, and far wetter.

This is part of a series of shots taken here in downtown Houston and I love how the angles and play of light in this particular shot. This building is actually the old Rice Hotel (converted to lofts in the late '90s) and is one of the oldest buildings left here in downtown. Fun Fact: The Rice Hotel is situated on the site of the original Capitol of Texas, which was moved from Houston to Austin in 1839.

Come and Take It Note Cards by JessicaGM (set of 4, $8)

If you know your Texas history, you should know why I love these note cards by fellow Texan JessicaGM. For those not forced to take Texas history in 4th grade and again in 7th grade, the small bronze cannon pictured above the iconic Alamo memorializes the Battle of Gonzales (a small town located outside San Antonio), where a small Texan force resisted the Mexican army's attempts to seize their cannon (hence the cheeky "come and take it" slogan that became a rallying cry -- and a flag -- during Texas' fight for independence). I would argue that the slogan continues to be apropos for many Texans today. If you aren't familiar with the Battle of the Alamo, go watch John Wayne's The Alamo. Immediately.

Austin in the Morning by AWebsterTX (8"x10" photograph, $18)

I love Austin and this view of downtown Austin from Town Lake is particularly lovely. Some of my fondest memories of Austin are of Dave and I kayaking out on Town Lake in the spring and fall, when the weather was just perfect. If you've never been to Austin, I'd highly suggest making a visit. While there, be sure to hit up my favorite spots: (1) Lake Travis (and enjoy the beautiful drive over via 2222 and 620), (2) Barton Springs / Zilker Park, (3) the Capitol building and (4) South Congress (best strip of local shops and restaurants). For food, be sure to go to Trudy's (for the Texas martini), Kerbey Lane, Hula Hut (for the view of Lake Austin) and Amy's Ice Cream.

Miss Texas Original Collage by DadaDreams (4"x4", $20)

This collage was just too fun not to include in this list. The retro-styling also really reminds me of Austin. It'd be perfect hung up in a bar-area or game room.

Wind Farm by Marnic (5"x7" matted photograph, $8)

I actually have no idea of this photograph was taken in Texas or not, but it certainly could have been. Last time I drove through West Texas, I was amazed how many wind farms had sprung up along the high way. It's actually really beautiful. Just flat land, big sky, and wind turbines dotting the landscape, slowly spinning. For all the knocks Texas gets about its love of oil and gas, many may find it surprising that we're actually the leader in wind energy. I love the idea of the state that was at the forefront of the energy boom in the early 20th century should be the leader in developing the new energy in the early 21st.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Good Design for Less: Oscar Accent Lamp

I am always a little surprised at how expensive lamps are. Even in big box stores like Target, it's hard to find a stylish accent lamp for under a $100. But that's where Lights Up! comes in. Lights Up! lamps (available through Pillows and Throws and Burke Decor) offers several styles of modern accent lamps, many of them for under $100.

My favorite is the Oscar lamp (pictured above), which is available in the four colors shown and comes with a variety of lampshades. The base is made of durable resin, which won't chip or crack like ceramic, and the lampshades come in either printed silk or plain linen. I'm particularly fond of the faux bois print lampshade (shown on the brown lamp) and the mumm print lampshade (shown on the white lamp). And the best part? No matter which base and shade combination you choose, the Oscar lamp is just $88 (or $77 if you go with the plain linen shade). For a lamp that looks this fun, I think it's a steal. My one complaint is that I think Lights Up! should also allow you to buy their lampshades separately, so you can switch them out with the base depending on the season (or your mood).

So what do y'all think? What are your favorite sources for wallet-friendly lighting?


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Cibus Corner: Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, American Style

My sister's and my ancestry can very roughly be split into quarters: German, Scots, English and Irish. Our Irish side comes from my father's father, whose great-grandfather before him emigrated from County Cork, Ireland, to the Midwest in the mid-19th century. Like many Irish who came over at that time, Patrick Harrington (I swear that's not a pseudonym) was poor and uneducated. In fact, I believe he was illiterate. In but a few short generations, my Irish lineage has come a long way, and I often reflect on the opportunities that Patrick gave not just his children or grandchildren by leaving Ireland and come to the United States, but his great-great-great grandchildren (among them, me). But for Patrick's determination to flee the crushing poverty of his Irish homeland, I would most certainly not have had the opportunities that I was born into. Patrick's story -- and the Harrington story more generally -- is the classic American story of an immigrant family who made good.

In honor of our Irish heritage (which in many ways is our American heritage), Chef Babs and I thought it would be appropriate to celebrate St. Patrick's Day with some good old fashioned Irish-American food. I'll hand the keyboard over to Chef Babs to kick is off:

Every St. Patrick’s Day, I like to celebrate with my favorite thing: food. This is my version of an Irish meal, and, yes, I am aware that it is not entirely authentic. If you prefer, think of it as inspired by Irish cuisine and traditional Irish ingredients. This meal includes potatoes, oatmeal, and soda bread, so I think that it comes close enough. If you feel like it is not Irish enough for you, feel free to serve it with a side of kale.

Irish Soda Bread

Irish soda bread is actually a very easy dish to make, and, is quite good. You do not need to be a baker to make this bread. Irish soda bread does not need yeast, instead, it uses baking soda and buttermilk to rise. Another bonus of this bread is that it does not have to be kneaded. Simply mix the ingredients and throw it into the pan and into the oven. This is actually a very traditional recipe, the only twist in it is the dried cranberries. Feel free to use a cup of raisins if you would like to keep it traditional. In my opinion, the cranberries add a nice flavor and join an Irish tradition with an American ingredient. This bread is best served cold the next day with butter and jam.

3 cups flour ½ c. raisins
1 tbsp. baking powder ½ c. dried cranberries
1/3 c. granulated sugar 1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp. salt 2 c. buttermilk
1 tsp. baking soda 4 tbsp. butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a 9x5” loaf pan. Combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, baking soda, cranberries and raisins in a bowl. In another bowl blend egg and buttermilk and add all at once to the flour mixture. Mix until barely moistened. Stir in the butter. Pour batter into pan. Bake 60-70 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Baked Potato Soup

This is one of my favorite soups and I eat it all winter long. It is also popular with everyone that I have served it to, and while they may not eat it in Ireland, what is more Irish than potatoes? I like making it in mid-March because the weather is beginning to warm up and it is probably the last time I will make it until the fall.

4 large baking potatoes 2/3 c. butter
2/3 c. flour 6 c. milk (may use skim)
¾ tsp. salt ½ tsp. pepper
4 green onions, chopped 12 slices bacon (may use turkey bacon) divided
1 ¼ c. shredded cheddar cheese 18 oz. carton sour cream (may use lite or non-fat)

Bake potatoes, cook and scoop out pulp. Discard the skins. Melt butter and add flour – cook 1 minute then add milk and stir until thickened. Add potato pulp, salt, pepper, 2 tbsp. green onion, ½ c. bacon, 1 c. cheese – then stir in sour cream (DO NOT let mixture boil after adding sour cream. Serve with additional cheese, bacon and green onion as garnishes.

Oatmeal Cookies

To be honest, I have no idea if oatmeal cookies are served in Ireland, but I know that when I was in Dublin I ate oatmeal everyday for breakfast. I could not escape it! This recipe I received from a past roommate. These cookies are very crisp and are not as soft and chewy as traditional American cookies, but I think they are a nice change of pace. European cookies tend to be thinner and crispier, so these cookies definitely get their inspiration from Irish tea-time treats.

10 tbsp. butter
½ c. sugar
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 tsp. almond extract
3 c. rolled oatmeal (not instant)

Lightly butter cookie sheer and preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Combine the above ingredients in a bowl. Use fingers to press oatmeal into butter until it just holds. Roll dough into balls and bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Press balls down with fork ends.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! -- and, as the Irish say:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.


Monday, March 16, 2009

Virtual Vacation: Barbados

This week is spring break in Texas and the office is down to a skeleton crew, which includes me (oh the joys of being the youngest person in a department). But, while I may not have the opportunity to take a real spring break trip, the relative quiet has allowed me some time to day dream of where I'd rather be. Today, I'd like to be in Barbados. I've wanted to go to Barbados ever since I read The Witch of Blackbird Pond back in elementary school. In my mind, at least, Barbados is the perfect combination of beautiful beaches, laid back island lifestyle, remoteness [Ever checked it out on a map? It's barely in the Caribbean!] and rich colonial history.

The Sandpiper Hotel in St. James, Barbados, takes the best of British colonialism (namely, the decor) and takes it down a notch with its relaxed, island spin on the style. While I'm usually one for a lot of color, the natural linens, mixed with dark cane furniture and the bleached wood ceilings (*sigh*) conjure up a sophisticated yet laid back atmosphere just perfect for a luxury vacation.

Love the sheer draperies around the bed -- such a cozy touch that hearkens back to the mosquito netting folks would've slept under back when Barbados was a British colony (and an essential trading post between Africa, Europe and the American colonies).

I can't get enough of these ceilings! The muted palette is calming, but the more modern furnishings and textured fabrics in this suite keep it interesting. I want to take a nap on that white sofa right now....

And of course, a modern bathroom always hits the right note. Even if you're going for a British colonial vibe, you don't want your bathroom to look like it hasn't been touched since the 18th century. All images courtesy of The Sandpiper Hotel.

If I had the good fortune of jetting off to The Sandpiper for a few days of r&r, I would without a doubt throw this swimsuit (and the white Pucci sunglasses -- I'm fantasizing here, after all) into my overnight bag:

I can't imagine a more flattering bathing suit, and the white is just so luxe (and may help mask my preternaturally pale skin). If you have the good fortune of being blessed with darker skin, then this white suit would only serve to highlight your bronzed limbs -- lucky you! Aside from a few good cover-ups that can go from beach to dinner and some cute sandals, the only other essentials are some good beach reads (might I suggest just about anything by Christopher Moore?).


Friday, March 13, 2009

Get Courtney Giles' Style

Winter has returned to Houston today for one last, icy blast. It's gray, drizzly, and 45 degrees and I'm reminded so much of March in Connecticut. Over the horrors of February weather, you felt for sure that spring must be right around the corner and yet so often winter lingered until well after spring break.

All this bad, wintry weather has me wanting to hibernate until spring in a beautiful, cozy bedroom like the one pictured here designed by Atlanta-based decorator Courtney Giles, who I found via the always inspiring Habitually Chic. I can't get over how much I like this room. The color palette of dark blue-gray walls and orange bed with white linens with navy accents is unusual and bold. The modern elements like the greek key pillow and zig zag rug are the perfect counterpoints to the more traditional buffalo-plaid accent chair, bureau and collection of china plates.

And because I love the "steal their style" feature from LivingEtc, here are the essential elements that you'd need to get this look at home. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattering.

Gustavian Vintage Bed from Viva Terra ($1,995-2,095): Because a bed purchase is usually a big investment, I would generally advise against an orange bed, which would invariably require reupholstering whenever you wanted to switch up the look. Instead, why not get be inspired by the shape of the bed rather than the color (as shown here), and go with a bed that will transition to other rooms and styles as your needs and tastes evolve? Moreover, the antique styling and dark wood of the Gustavian bed echo the wood pieces in Courtney's bedroom.

Ribbon Chainlink and Applique Duvet from Williams-Sonoma Home ($58-$288): You can find white sheets with navy trim just about anywhere, but I love the look and feel of this set from WS Home.

Missoni Home Hector Throw in Orange from Pillows and Throws ($275): To inject the all-important shot of orange into your space, why not use accessories? I'm completely covetous of Missoni's Hector Throw, which comes in myriad of colors, including this soft orange. What's more, it's perfect for this space as its tone-on-tone zig zag pattern is a subtle nod to the MW rug. Orange accessories (in the form of a lamp or vases) could further up the ante.

Greek key Pillow from Jonathan Adler (no longer available): Alas, the Greek-key pillow that Courtney used is no longer available, but you can find a similar look here. Fingers crossed though that Jonathan Adler reissues his destined-to-be-iconic pillow soon though.

Navy Gingham 1" checks fabric from Fashion Fabrics Club ($4.45/yard): Any tired hand-me-down chair could be given a fresh new look with some navy and white buffalo plaid. Even better, you can score this fabric for under $5/yard.

Flea Market Chandelier from Pottery Barn Kids ($129): Pottery Barn Kids and PB Teen are both great sources for fun and inexpensive lighting (and rugs, actually). No one will ever guess it was made for kids. I promise.

Assorted Blue and White China from eBay (various, but generally under $10/plate): Inexpensive blue and white china can be found in abundance on eBay or at your local flea market or Goodwill. You'll score plates well under $10 a piece and achieve that artfully mismatched-but-cohesive look that you're after here for next to nothing.

Blue & White Zig Zag Rug from Madeline Weinrib (approx. $900 for 8'x10'): I love how fresh and graphic this rug feels while still maintaining a bit of bohemian edge. I've been dying to visit ABC Carpet and Home for a while now and am sorely tempted to make a trip to NYC just to snag one of these babies for myself.

Victoria Scalloped Mirror from Pottery Barn ($159): There are an abundance of star burst mirrors out on the market right now, but since I am getting a little bit tired of them, I thought I'd show you this mirror, which I think compliments the other elements of the room just as well. I also like how the curves of the mirror play off the curves of the Gustavian bed; both nice counterpoints to the very linear patterns at work throughout the space.

And finally, for paint color, I'd go for Benjamin Moore's "Flint" (if you want more gray) or "Mysterious" (if you want more blue), both from the new Affinity line. Either way, try an eggshell or pearl finish -- some sort of sheen will better reflect light, and will keep the room from looking too cave-like.


Thursday, March 12, 2009


Is it just me or does this ensemble that Alexander McQueen sent down the runway this week remind you just a little bit of Lucy Ricardo, from I Love Lucy?

Okay, okay. I grant that, while you sometimes drew outside the lines, even you didn't use that much lipstick. But still, I feel as though you're about the only person who could pull this look off (even if you were just trying to go incognito to spy on Ricky).

By the way, be sure to check out all of McQueen's completely crazy (and yet completely entertaining) Fall 2009 collection HERE. It's equal parts Cruella de Vil, venice carnival, and Japanese geisha. Don't miss the chainmail-under-ballgown look or the double-umbrella hat -- they're my favorites.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Filling In the Gaps

Over the last two weeks, Dave and I have been sprucing up our pine floors, which run throughout the majority of our house. While pine's heavy grain has a beautiful and rustic quality, it's a relatively soft wood, and as a result can be a major pain to deal with. Indentations from dogs, cats and high heels have all made their marks on our floor, but I'd really just consider that some "character".

The real problem has been in between the wood. Since these aren't engineered planks, there's no interlocking system keeping them next to each other; the floor boards are just nailed straight into the subfloor. And so, as our house has settled (which all houses in Houston inevitably do), the boards have spread apart. The prior owner had filled many of these gaps with wood filler, which was stained to match the floors' finish. And that was fine until Olivia came on the scene. Last spring, Olivia managed -- I'm not quite sure how -- to actually eat most of the filler in the wider gaps. Suddenly, the floors started to look like this:

Not horrible, but definitely noticeable, especially when you repeat this over, oh, 800 square feet of exposed floor. Fearing that the only way to properly fix the floors was a full-on refinishing (which would require (a) removing all our furniture and (b) more money than we wanted to put into fixing the problem), we put off doing anything about it for months. Recently, however, as we contemplate a move (more on that later), we decided it was time to face the music. Luckily for us, the music was pretty sweet: the floors could be fixed without refinishing; some wood filler was all they needed. Encouraged, we decided to tackle the project ourselves. First stop was a trip to Loew's for the necessary supplies.

In order to fill the spaces between your floor boards, you'll need some wood filler. We stumbled on Elmer's Wood Filler, which comes in two convenient sizes depending on the size of your job. This stuff works great. Like their school glue, Elmer's wood filler is water soluble, which makes for super-easy clean up (no worrying about getting the filler all over your floor -- you can just clean up at the end with a mop, water and a little elbow grease). To apply the filler, simply use a spackle knife and smooth some of the filler over the cracks, sweeping perpendicular to the crack/hole. Keeping smoothing the area over with your spackle knife until the filler is flat with the surrounding area, applying more filler as necessary. Since the filler will reduce a little bit as it dries, you may need to come back with a second application for deeper crevices. Once we finished applying the filler (and cleaning up), our floors looked like this:

We let the filler dry overnight before we went back over it with a Mimwax wood finish stain marker (we used "Early American" finish), which works just like any other paint pen. Staining the filler was actually far more tedious than applying it in the first place (though clean-up was -- as usual -- my least favorite part of the whole process) and I managed to get it all over me. Because of the huge area we had to fix, the entire process took us several weeknights and a good bit of a Saturday, but smaller jobs could easily be tackled in an afternoon. But the finished product turned out pretty well I think:

In the above photo, you can see how beat up our floors really are in some places, but I think the filled crack blends in pretty well, don't you? As a warning about the Mimwax stain markers: they don't go very far; in fact, we ended up running through a half dozen of them during the course of the job, so I'd suggest buying several if you're doing anything more than a minor touch up or two. Additionally, I thought the stain was rather transparent, so we ended up having do go over most areas several times to get the right depth of color.

Now that we've finished the project and our cleaning service thoroughly cleaned the floors, I'm really happy with the result. It took a good bit of work, but by doing it ourselves, we saved a lot of money on labor and in the end spent less than $100 on the necessary supplies. My only regret is that I didn't do it sooner!

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