Wednesday, September 30, 2009

There Goes The Neighborhood...

A few weeks ago I looked out from the window to see this staring back at me:

One of the most basic tenets in microeconomics is de gustibus non est disputandum (there's no accounting for taste). And yet, I still can't help but shake my head in wonder. Who on earth thought that red brick, yellow stucco and white stone would work well together? I believe this is one of those examples of more being just way too much.

Fortunately though, there are two empty lots between us and them and in but a few short years (perhaps even less), I won't have to look at it. After all, even if I advocate a live and let live attitude towards design, I can't help but feel a bit disappointed that I also have to live with it.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Quiet Indulgences

My favorite form of shopping therapy has always been purchasing perfumes and candles. There's just something about a gorgeous scent that's pure escapism. And just as relaxing, while there are certainly some pricey fragrances available on the market, these small indulgences don't have to be a big hit to my budget.

Right now, I'm enjoying designer Barbara Barry's home fragrance collection, which comes in four unique scents designed to suit four separate rooms in your house (powder room, dining room, bedroom, and living room. It also doesn't hurt that all of Barry's products are gorgeously packaged and feature Barry's own watercolors of her own furniture (including the amazing bracelet chair). My favorite product is the bedroom linen spray which is a wonderfully soothing combination of vanilla and nutmeg. The scent instantly perks up my sheets, even if they aren't straight out of the dryer.

Prices range from $30 to $34, which is a steal considering the sheer enjoyment I get from Barry's scents. And so, while I may not be able to afford Barry's scallop pendant that I've been coveting (let alone her design services!) for the cost of a dinner out I can add just that extra little something to my bedroom (or powder room or living room...).

While I'm at it, here are a few more gratuitous shots of some of Barry's design work. While Barry is an unapologetic devotee of neutral color palettes, her use of textures, an interesting mix of modern and traditional design and bold shots of metallic make her rooms far glamorous and very, very rich.

Photographs courtesy of Metropolitan Home and Barbara Barry.


Monday, September 28, 2009

Baby Steps

Over the weekend a few more small projects got done around the new house I thought I'd share with you.

Dave assembled and hung the Murano glass chandelier knockoff I purchased months ago up in my study. Given the height of the ceiling in that room, this was no mean feat and took much of the afternoon. The chandelier replaces the builder basic flush mount fixture and adds a ton of sparkle to the space. All the basics are in the room and I've added a few fun throw pillows (also from ZGallerie), but I still need to find some good storage solutions to really make the space functional as an office. In particularly, I'm looking for file drawers that can double as a side table (as just about the only floor space left for storage is on either side of the daybed). Any suggestions?

The benches for the breakfast nook arrived and I'm really happy with how they turned out. I was also relieved to see that they fit the back wall perfectly -- I'm not known for my arithmetic skills! The fabric I chose for the benches is actually a Sunbrella fabric, which I figured would stand up to regular use and kitchen messes better than ordinary fabric. I'm thinking about sprucing up the benches by whipping up a few throw pillows out of these placemats (weird, I know, but this fabric isn't available by the yard or in pillow form and the blues work perfectly!). Of course the existing table I had envisioned on using for this space doesn't work with the benches and I need to purchase a pedestal table for the room. I'm contemplating this table from Crate&Barrel but I'm not in love with it, especially for the price. Again, suggestions welcome.

A few weeks ago I spied some lovely sea fans mounted on navy and sea blue linen for sale on One Kings Lane (email me for an invite!) and purchased four on impulse. They arrived on Friday and I'm thrilled with how lovely they are in person -- the dark bamboo frames in particular are very striking, but I also love how the sea fans mounted on the navy linen are painted silver...all in all, I'm one satisfied customer. In any case, I decided to mount them as a group in one of the two "art niches" that I permitted to stay in the building plans (they had about 6 in total!). They're now happily located under the archway that leads from the entry into the family room. I'm thinking about painting out the niche in a color. The question though is, what color? I have some leftover Drawing Room Blue, Parma Gray, Lamp Room Gray, and RL's Iron Gate from the other projects. Do you think any of those would work? Or do you suggest a bold contrasting color (maybe coral?)?

And what about you? How was your weekend? Did you get any projects done around the house?


Friday, September 25, 2009

Guest Post on Guest Room Redesign

Want to read about my plans for transforming this orange and tan study into a fun and modern guest room? Head on over to A 'Lil Welsh Rarebit, to read all about my proposed design plans for Christy's guest bedroom and vote for your favorite plan. This is my first stab at decorating for someone else and it was definitely a lot harder than I expected. But, while incorporating someone else's tastes, needs and budget while still staying true to "my style" proved to be quite a challenge, I'm happy with how both design plans turned out.

In other unrelated blogging happenings, I was flattered to receive the "Honest Scrap" award this week from Laura over at JourneyChic and Sarah at Real Estate Style -- thanks so much, ladies! Upon receiving this award, I've been instructed to share "10 Honest Things" about myself and then present this award on to 7 of my favorite bloggers (who makes these rules up, by the way?).

So here are 10 "honest" things about me:

1. In high school, I missed my senior prom to participate in an economics competition run by the Federal Reserve Bank in D.C. We didn't win, but I still don't regret not attending my prom.

2. I met my husband Dave on while I was a law student at the University of Texas. He was a graduate student in electrical engineering and we lived mere blocks from each other. Despite attending the same school and living so close to each other though, I doubt our paths would've crossed without the intervention of the WWW.

3. I have one sister, Jane, who is 15 months younger than me. She is the only person in my immediate family who is not an attorney (she's a licensed counselor) and I'm so proud of her for that.

4. I'm 6' tall in flat feet, but I graduated high school at 5'10". Imagine my dismay in college when I managed to grow another two inches.

5. In college (long story short) I somehow found myself hosting a debate about Nostradamus that appeared on the Discovery Channel. Rumor has it that this very low budget production can still be seen occasionally in the wee hours of the morning.

6. My college roommate met my cousin at my wedding. Six months later they were engaged, they got married in June of 2008 and are expecting their first child in December. Talk about fast forwarding.

7. My undergraduate degree is in Classical Civilization, but I've had a fascination with Greco-Roman culture, art, and history since childhood. I recall specifically loving Greek mythology and Pompeii (I must've watched the National Geographic special on Pompeii 100 times...).

8. I could barely read until the third grade and struggled in school until I was 9 or 10. Definitely a late bloomer.

9. I'm a perfectionist. I'm also stubborn, bossy and I like having my own way. [Being honest necessitates at least one negative bullet on the list, no?]

10. As a kid, I wanted to be an artist when I grew up -- specifically, I wanted to be a animator for Disney. I stopped drawing when I entered high school, but I've always had a creative hobby, be it scrapbooking, crafting, or (like now) decorating/design.

In the spirit of "paying it forward", I'm passing this award along to seven of my own favorite blogs:

If you haven't checked out these wonderful blogs before, be sure to do so this weekend! As for me, I plan on getting some things done around the house before some dear friends come for a visit next weekend (and my in-laws the weekend after!).

OetA Update: I can't believe I was so remiss as to fail to thank Kitty over at Organic Orgy and Shindigs & Soirees for the Kreative Blog Award! My (rather pitiful) excuse is that I was traveling all week and it's rattled my brain a bit, but believe me, the honor is very much appreciated, Kitty!


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

An Ode to Zig Zags

Mary McDonald

It's no secret that I have a strong affinity for bold colors and bold prints -- and maybe it's just because that, like a toddler, I require a lot of visual stimulation (though I'd like to think that it's more attributable to an appreciation for bold, cutting edge design). Lately though, I'm increasingly drawn to zigzag patterns and I suddenly feel like I'm seeing it everywhere, be it in the form of a Missoni print throw, a Madeline Weinrib zig zag rug, or even just a fun pillow or seat cushion.

In soft neutrals, the zigzag wallpaper in this bedroom by Erinn Valencich is more subtle, adding dimension with a subtle layering of pattern.

Jamie Drake

I'm of the belief that a touch of Missoni's iconic zigzag print works beautifully in just about every situation. Here, Jamie Drake's blend of zigzags, blue paisley and blue stripes on the sofa is absolutely masterful. Drake may be known in the design world as the King of Color, but he may also deserve the dual crown of the King of Pattern for this room. The green in the zigzag print also references in the neatly upholstered green chair.

Mary McDonald

I think this bathroom featured in domino earlier this year must be one of the most widely circulated images in the design blogosphere. Nevertheless, it's worth posting here yet again -- note how the varying thickness of the zigzags creates a more organic and less structured feel.

Just before Cottage Living folded, it did a spread on the home of Lee Kleinhelter, the owner of the Atlanta-based boutique Pieces, and it was certainly a fitting swan song for the magazine. I loved just about all the rooms featured in the spread but the living room's bold yellow and white zigzag floor is an arresting focal point for the space. The bold modern pattern is contrasted nicely with the organic wood coffee table.

Jonathan Adler

There are a lot of things I love about Jonathan Adler's design for Liz Lange's Westchester, New York, home (see HERE for more images), but the zig zag rugs in the living and dining rooms might just be my favorite elements in the design. The black and white is such a fun, graphic contrast to the pops of yellow and turquoise.

Like the Mary McDonald pictures shown above, this Miles Redd bedroom has made its way around the blogosphere many, many times by now, but it's such a wonderful example of how to incorporate a modern zigzag motif into a traditional room. The graphic zigzags are bold counterpoints to the delicate and intricate wallpaper and ethereal bed. For me, this room is quintessential Miles Redd: a brilliant mix of chinoiserie, traditional furnishings and cutting edge patterns and colors.

Nicole Balch of Making it Lovely

Another successful example of incorporating Madeline Weinrib's Zig Zag rug into a space is Nicole's lovely mid century modern-inspired living room. In contrast to Miles' room, the zigzag is the dominant motif here. The streamlined furniture is kept neutral in tone and the subtle pink walls enhance the pinks in the rug without competing with it.

And of course, I can't help but end my homage to all things zigging and zagging with a roundup of my favorite zig zag accessories (and stationery!):

Sourcelist (clockwise from top left): Las Olas Lamp from Emilia Ceramics ($185); zig zag notepad and zig zag stationery from Linda & Harriet ($12-$14); Chevron Stripe calling cards from pixelimpress ($22/set of 50); East village fabric from Rubie Green ($90/yard); ZigZag rug from West Elm ($39-$649); ZigZag pillow from TwinkleLiving ($50); East Village bedding from Rubie Green ($54-$239); and Aubergine Zig Zag rug from Madeline Weinrib.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Spotting the Fake

[OetA Update: Contrary to the poll results, the authentic, licensed chair is actually Chair #1! I suspect most folks were confused by the exposed screws on the rockers of Chair #1.]

Time for a little quiz. What's the difference between these two chairs?

One, is an authentic reproduction of the Eames molded plastic rocking chair and retails for $479 at DesignWithinReach. The other is an inexpensive knockoff from Target, the purveyor of cheap chic, and retails for $180.99.

So which is which? Can you tell the difference? If not, would you consider purchasing the Target version or do you feel strongly about avoiding knockoffs?


Monday, September 21, 2009


This week I'm traveling to and from Princeton, New Jersey, for work so I'll be a bit out of touch until Friday. In the meantime, should my posting and/or commenting be sporadic, feel free to blame my day job, which has recently been encroaching on my blogging time. That said though, I'm working on some killer content that I hope to have up by midweek and I'll be guest blogging over at A 'Lil Welsh Rarebit on Friday.


Friday, September 18, 2009

A Loft Fit for a King

While unarguably little more than a brilliant marketing tool, Metropolitan Home's Showtime House is nevertheless a whole lot of fun -- and not just for those who are fans of Showtime's many original TV series. The two Tribeca penthouses totaling approximately 14,000 are a wonderful opportunity to see top designer's like Kara Mann, Michael Berman and Susannah Drake at their most irreverent. Sure, interior design can be serious business, but the Showtime House shows that even the best in the biz can let lose and have a little fun. As a lifelong Anglophile, I'd love to have a gorgeous linen chair hand painted with Henry's portrait and studded with crystals. Talk about a conversation piece.

The two penthouses focus on six of Showtime's most popular shows: Dexter, United States of Tara, Californication, Weeds, Nurse Jackie and The Tudors. With the exception of Nurse Jackie (which I simply haven't gotten around to watching), all of these shows are perennial favorites at the Conn house. The rooms inspired by The Tudors though, are my favorites of this year's bunch. Decorated by Richard Mishaan, Piero Lissoni and Nicoletta Canesi, these rooms are a lighthearted blend of 16th century motifs and twenty first century style and technology. One of my favorite examples is the dining room, which features six traditional side chairs, each one silk screened with one of the six wives of Henry VIII. Note that the chair with Anne Boleyn's image (center) is dripping with what looks like blood.

The dining room is awash in King Henry himself -- but then again, wouldn't an egomaniac like Henry want to be surrounded by his own image?

I love the gilt border on the walls of the sitting room, whose lettering and style are dead ringers for 16th and 17th century decoration still visible in many churches and palaces around England. The spare line drawings above the fireplace recall the Tudor Rose, the heraldic emblem of the Tudor family and a symbol of dynastic unity following the defeat of Richard III by Henry Tudor (Henry VIII's father) in the War of the Roses.

The sitting room is a wonderful blend of Elizabethan and modern. Here, artwork resembling Rose windows hang on one wall. On the floor, the circular motif is continued in the graphic and thoroughly modern rug. A gray sofa with modern lines is juxtaposed with traditional damask pillows.

I love the masculine color combination of gray, gold, black and red that the designers used in the sitting room. While all of these colors might have been seen in the King's quarters at the Palace of Whitehall, they have a fresh and modern feel as well that suites the downtown loft. The nude torsos on the console table are a not-so-subtle nod to Henry's lascivious nature.

Like the dining room, the rooftop terrace features more silk screened images of Henry's ill fated wives. Groupings of white pillar candles recall the candlelight that the Tudor family would have had to rely on for light.

Doesn't this look like a great place to have a party? The view alone (especially at dusk as photographed here) is worth the price of admission. That said though, I love the idea of one giant outdoor sofa for lounging, intimate chats and even a little courtly intrigue.

Be sure to check out the other rooms inspired by Showtime's other shows here and let me know which is your favorite.

Photographs courtesy of Metropolitan Home.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Deal of the Week: Hadley Headboard

While scouring the Internet for fun bedding ensembles for guest room makeover I'm working on for Christy over at A 'Lil Welsh Rarebit (stay tuned next week for more details!), I came across DwellStudio's new line of bedroom furniture for Target. The entire line is cute, modern and functional -- everything you'd expect from DwellStudio -- but the Hadley headboard is downright stunning.

The Hadley headboard comes in a bold charcoal/white stripe (with white trim) or brown/white stripe (with brown trim). Either way, at $299 it's a deal you can't beat. Even better, with Target's current online promotional that gives you a 15% discount when you spend more than $125, it's a downright steal at $254.15. My only complaint is that currently the headboard is only available in Queen size, but fingers-crossed they'll roll out other sizes later on. After all, wouldn't a pair of these in a twin size be just the cutest?


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Harvard {Yard} Sucks: A rant

I'm not entirely sure why, but I find the idea of an internationally-renowned university signing on to "design" its own fashion line to be fundamentally distasteful -- and a little bit sad. Rather like seeing a formerly A-list celebrity sign on for his or her own reality show, Harvard's new mens' clothing venture, the uncreatively named Harvard Yard, is tantamount to a public admission that money is its prime motivator (reputation be damned).

Of course, just about every college in the country has licensing agreements with a host of clothing and accessories' manufacturers. These days, you can buy just about anything emblazoned with your alma mater's name, insignia or mascot (longhorn cufflinks, anyone?). In truth, these traditional licensing deals are more akin to sports merchandise: in other words, they're catering to their own fan base, their own students, and their own alumni. It's not fashion, it's a t-shirt. But I'd argue that Harvard Yard is fundamentally different.

Not only does Harvard's forway into the fashion world smack of opportunism, it also appears to champion (in potentially unflattering ways) an image that Harvard and its rivals have been battling for decades. Like many fashion labels, Harvard Yard is selling a lifestyle just as much as its selling a shirt or pair of slacks. And, with its prepster/Gossip Girl style and its higher price point, this lifestyle is precisely the type of elitist, prep school image that Harvard and its peers have been trying to shake for the past few decades. While Harvard, Yale and the like have made great success in the past thirty years or so transitioning from blue blood, mens' clubs into true meritocracies, these institutions still carry with them a reputation for being elite (for all the wrong reasons). Besides, if my experience (at Yale in the early 2000s) is anything to go on, most Ivy League students dress as casually as any other college students. T-shirts, jeans and flip-flops are the order of the day, not smart plaids, trench coats or loafers. In short, I find it incredible that Harvard is willing to cash in on this somewhat unflattering (and in many ways unfair) reputation simply because being elite and preppy carries a certain cache for a subset of the ├╝ber-trendy.

But I'll get down off my soapbox and get down to the heart of the matter: is Harvard Yard any good from a fashion perspective? As is the case with most celebrity fashion designers, Harvard Yard is fairly ordinary and unoriginal. It's also predictably preppy --almost to the point of caricature. Sockless penny loafers? Check! Seersucker? Check! Plaid? Double Check! All in all, you could find just about all these pieces at your local J.Crew (and for a good bit less, to boot).

So what do you think? Am I being overly sensitive? Or lacking in vision? Is this really just a genius move by Harvard that other schools will be sure to follow? (In my mind's eye, I'm currently envisioning what great fun schools with partying reputations could have with their own fashion labels....)


Friday, September 11, 2009

Peacock Stationery

Ever since I blogged about my newfound love of all things peafowl, I've continued to see peacocks (and peacock feathers) pop up just about everywhere -- from the hottest fall fashions to upholstery fabric and now to stationery -- so I know I can't be alone in my obsession. Fortunately for peacock-freaks like me, Michelle Brusegaard's Etsy shop offers up an array of gorgeous and inexpensive fixes. Card enclosures, personalized notecards, birthday cards, sticky notes and calling cards all feature gorgeous peacocks or peacock feathers in a variety of thoroughly modern colorway like fuschia/gray, rust/teal and chocolate/curry.

Personalized Flat Notecards - Twin Peacocks in Gray and Fuschia ($17.50/set of 10)

Happy Birthday Flat Cards with Peacock Feathers ($17.50/set of 8)

Twin Peacock Sticky Notes ($3.50/set of 50)

Teal Peacock Feather Calling Cards ($25/set of 50)

I'll take one of each please. Be sure to check out Michelle's entire peacock collection over at her Etsy shop for the full array of colorways and products.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Wedding Diaries: The Dress

As most of you already know by now, my second major extracurricular activity (after decorating the new house) is preparing for my younger sister's wedding next May wherein I am the matron (ugh) of honor. After Jane set the date, booked the church and reception location and hired the photographer, the next task on our "to do" list was to find the dress -- and we managed to make quick work of it last Saturday.

Bright and early on Saturday morning, my mom, sister, cousin, aunt, friend and I all headed into town to check out the dresses at Priscilla of Boston. After a rather ho-hum (and slightly frustrating) experience at Louise Blum a few weekends earlier, I wasn't sure if we'd find what Jane was looking for at Priscilla either. Fortunately though, after only the trying on two other gowns, Jane managed to find "the dress" -- a gorgeous ivory gown covered in Chantilly lace by Melissa Sweet. You could just see by the way she lit up that the dress was precisely what she was looking for and I think, given her slightly bohemian, slightly vintage style, that it suits her perfectly. In fact, I'd argue the dress looked better on her than on the model (I think this dress calls for a more hourglass figure). Regardless, you'll have to wait until the wedding to see the dress actually on her -- after all, I don't want to spoil the surprise for her fiance (or the wedding guests, for that matter).

As luck would have it, I also managed to find a bridesmaid dress that we all could agree on. This dress reminds me a lot of the Erin dress from Vera Wang that I blogged about a few weeks ago, but the color choices for it better suited a spring wedding. The color I'll be walking down the aisle in is called Nectar, and is really a brighter coral than the picture above shows. Sure, it's not a color I'd necessarily pick out on my own (that'd be the peacock blue I tried to talk everyone into), but it's a lovely color for a May wedding and it works well with Jane's ivory gown.

And last, but certainly not least, the flower girl (or girls -- I believe that's still under discussion) will be walking down the aisle in this dress. Isn't it just the sweetest?

Next up, we'll be tackling (or rather tasting) the wedding cake. I expect that to be my favorite part of the job.

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