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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Summer Reading

Summer is a great time to catch up on reading...between traveling and relaxing at the pool (or in my case, those last 20 minutes for bed), nothing beats a good book. A couple of weeks ago, I started out reading David McCullough's latest work - The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris. It was this time last year that I was in Paris, and boy do I wish I had an excuse to go back!

For anyone who likes 1) Paris; or 2) American art; or 3) American literature; or 4) medicine; or 5) history, this book is a must-read. Basically, most anyone with an interest in the arts will find some fascinating aspect of this book. I'm only about 1/3 of the way through, but in short, this relays the journey of notable Americans to Paris in the early to late 19th century. Think Samuel Morse, James Fenimore Cooper, Harriet Beecher Stowe, John Singer Sargent, and Marry Cassat. It's a fascinating look at a time when a trip to Paris wasn't just a fun jaunt, but a transformative experience for artists, writers, medical students, and diplomats alike. It makes me feel kind of guilty that my main objective in Paris was going to the St. James store.

Of course, I got part way through A Greater Journey and was feeling pretty proud of myself when MoS got me right off track by giving me Bossypants by Tina Fey. I love me some Liz Lemon, so of course I couldn't help but take a slight literary detour to Fey-ville.

As MoS Charlotte noted, and I totally agree, I think that Tina's stronger medium is TV. The book is funny- and her distinct voice is definitely present throughout- but somehow it's just a lot funnier when it's visual. But still, if you like 30 Rock and get that sense of humor, I'd definitely recommend Bossypants.

So now the big question- what's on y'all's summer reading list lately? I'm always looking for new books to read- and as you can sort of tell, I love non-fiction. Any good recommendations? Do tell!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Coffee Table Safety...

 Before children (BC), I always vowed that I would never be one of those women whose decorating style is affected by having children.  I would teach my children not to play with "mommy's pretty things" and they would be well-behaved and never run in the house and would know to avoid any furniture with sharp corners.  Now that reality has set in, I have to laugh at a lot of these promises I made BC.  For example, as soon as my little guy started pulling up on furniture to walk, I had to move my pretty coffee table out of the family room.  The table is gold leaf with a mirrored top and has very sharp edges.  However, since rearranging the family room, it really feels empty without a coffee table. 

As I started thinking about what kind of table to buy, with little children it seems like the only two safe options are either an oversized upholstered ottoman or something curved and made of neither wood nor metal- what about lucite?!  Since I already have an ottoman that goes with my club chairs, I am thinking a simple lucite coffee table might be the answer.  A curved waterfall style is probably my best bet, since it doesn't really have any sharp corners or hard edges. 

CB2 makes a very affordable version of the lucite waterfall table.  The main problem is that it's only 13.75 inches tall.  That seems REALLY low for a coffee table.  But it is affordable and available, which is nice.

I found another on eBay that is several inches taller, and the lucite is thicker than the CB2 version, which I think makes a huge difference.  Do you agree?  The price is about the same. 

Some of my favorite rooms feature lucite coffee tables.  They provide a practical surface without weighing down a room with heavy wood or metal.  And, more importantly for me right now, they seem to be a (relatively) safe table option for little children. 
Janet Gregg's Charleston home in Cottage Living

Elle Decor (this one does have sharp edges, but isn't the brass hardware fabulous?)

House Beautiful (another with sharp edges, but it's so unique).

A lucite trunk in Lonny

House Beautiful

Meg Braff's living room in Coastal Living

Photo courtesy of

Do you agree that lucite is a good choice for mamas of little ones? 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A little bit of lime

I'm loving the look lately of limed furniture. I don't think it's something I would have been wowed over a year ago, but I feel like these days I can really appreciate the need for mixing colors and textures when it comes to furniture finishes. As much as I love a good lacquered table, sometimes you really need some organic wood texture to bring a certain softness to a room. Some examples:

I think limed stuff got a bad rap in the 90's when it connoted shabby chic...but these days it's anything but shabby. The tan color is most ubiquitous, but these days, limed furniture with a grey undertone is also very popular. 

I've been drooling over this Worlds Away chest for months. They make a lot of furniture in limed oak finish.

I kind of love how the ever-popular chippendale chair gets an unexpected twist with a limed finish. Chair by Bungalow 5

There's no shortage of limed items on 1st Dibs, like this gorgeous chest.
And Wisteria also has quite a few items with a more natural limed finish.

What do you think about limed furniture? I'm actually learning to apply this finish myself to a chest for my entryway...I've seen quite a few tutorials online (like this one from This Old House) and it doesn't look that hard. Does anyone have any experience with liming furniture? I'm all ears! 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Weekend Finds!

MoS Washington came to Charlotte this weekend!  We had a great time, and one of the highlights was having a partner in crime for hitting some estate sales Saturday morning.  I dragged MoS Washington out of bed before the rooster crowed Saturday morning- there is nothing worse than arriving at an estate sale and seeing someone carrying something truly fabulous out to their car as you are walking in.  We did a drive-by of a couple sales we had read about on Craigslist and decided not to stop.  Word to the wise: if you see baby toys in the front yard, keep on driving. 

We made one last stop at a house on our way home, and boy, are we glad we stopped!  90% of the furniture was already gone, but there were a few pieces left.  The house itself looked like it hadn't been cleaned in 20 years, but since we were just looking at furniture and lamps (not anything soft and absorbent like upholstery, linens, or clothes), the dusty house didn't bother us.  As we walked into one of the bedrooms, we spotted a pair of light blue Chinese figural lamps.  They are antiques with a crackled ceramic finish, in perfect condition.

Check out their fabulous Greek key brass bases.

The figures are of a man and a woman- 1st Dibs has very similar lamps for some pretty steep prices! 

Won't they be great with simple ivory drum shades?  And we already found a home for them- their new owner will share the "after" pictures once they are styled and put into use in her pretty living room!

Later in the day, we checked out a couple of thrift stores.  I came home with this child's monogrammed sterling grooming set for $15!  Isn't it so pretty? 

I also picked up this sterling carving set for $22.  The knife is very sharp, so it will be perfect for holiday entertaining!  

And lastly, we took home two pairs of salt and pepper shakers with sterling bases- $6 per pair!  If you like to entertain, you can never have enough salt and pepper shakers!

Sunday we headed Slate Interiors (finally!) on Central Avenue for the first time.  It is so fab.  Slate has about 40 different vendors who have set up booths full of well-curated vintage and new finds.  They have a fantastic selection of abstract art, mainly from local artists.  MoS Washington went home with a gorgeous painting that hopefully she'll share with you later!  Here are a few of my favorite picks!

A fabulous Palm Beachy hot pink chair with lacquered white wood accents!

Pair of lucite barstools!

Vintage Paint-by-Numbers from Bryn Alexandra and Casa Brasi's "Found" booth.  They would be perfect for my little guy's cowboy bedroom! 

Green sofa table- it's laminate but looks just like malachite!

This mirror would be perfect lacquered in white- we saw something very similar at Circa Who in West Palm Beach!

Isn't this turquoise-and-green chair and ottoman fabulous?!  I think it was around $350 for both pieces!

Hope you had a wonderful weekend too!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Banana Goes Mad

Call me crazy, but am I the only one who thinks that Banana Republic has gone way downhill lately? I visited a few weeks ago with my mom, and even with a 40% off coupon burning a hole in our pocket, we couldn't manage to buy a single thing! I used to rely on them for great work clothes- sharp jackets and pretty sheath dresses- but these days, nada! So I was very hopeful when I read that Banana is teaming up with the Mad Men costume designer, Janie Bryant, to debut a capsule collection out this August.

Finally, some things I actually can't wait to try on!

I am loving their ladylike dresses that will transition well into fall.

A gorgeous skirt suit- count me in!

 Love the silhouette of these pants...and great bag!

 Ladylike retro pumps.

Animal print- yes- where have you been hiding! 

Gorgeous dress that I can see flattering most any body.

I love how refreshingly ladlylike these clothes much as I love J Crew's more downtown, casual offerings these days, it seems like the glamour has gone out of clothing lately...let's hope this brings it back.

Have a great weekend, all- I am off to Charlotte to spend some much needed QT with my favorite mama-to-be (x2)! Sleepy Poet, watch out!!!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Making a Statement with Understated Window Hardware

It's such a tiny detail, but window hardware can make or break a room.  Hanging the most elegant custom curtains from flimsy hardware just ruins the look.  In most of the rooms of my house, my curtains hang from big wooden poles with substantial pineapple or acorn finials.  They are pretty, but they aren't inexpensive (to buy or to install), and more importantly, they often are so ornate and noticeable that they compete for attention with the curtains themselves.

Over the past year or so, I've spotted what I think is the *PERFECT* curtain hardware.  It consists of a simple metal rod that curves at a 90-degree angle into the wall, where it is attached with a small metal plate bracket.  No fussy finials, no acorns or pineapples.  Just simple, beautiful hardware that allows your curtain fabric to be the star of the show.

Meg Braff uses this perfect hardware in brass.

Phoebe Howard uses it in wrought iron.

After looking everywhere online for this hardware, I finally went to Lowe's to see if I could re-create it using basic metal piping.  It's possible, but unless you're looking for shiny chrome, it will still require a paint job.  And like so many things, by the time you buy all the individual pieces, you end up spending more than it would cost to have the hardware custom made. 

So imagine my delight when I saw this in a Pottery Barn catalog...  The PB Essential Cast Iron Drapery Rod:

It's exactly what I have been looking for!  I wish they had it in brass, but the wrought iron is pretty, and the style is so understated that you really can use it in a more formal room.  Of course you can style it better than in this picture (forget the clips or at least hide them, and pleat the curtains), but I think this hardware looks great and is a great price. 

I already bought it for my recently revamped family room!  The hardware is so understated and doesn't compete with the other fabrics in the room. 
I'll post more pics of the room next week.  But I really am obsessed with this window hardware and it's simplicity, especially when used in a room with a lot going on!  Leave it to Pottery Barn to bring high style to the masses (like me!).
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