29 April 2011

WHO Is Her Decorator?! Royal Interior Design Spotlight

Today's the day!  The festivities began at 4am ET this morning and while I was certainly not enough of a super-fan to get up that early, I am watching the 9am replay on television and enjoying every minute of it.  I'm a sucker for pomp and circumstance and if the Royals embody anything, it's exactly that!

With the much-anticipated nuptials, however, my three-day blogosphere pre-party comes to an end.  My thought: How better to celebrate the big day than to explore - and admire! - the beautiful rooms in the houses of royalty?  Curated over hundreds of years with countless treasures and priceless items, one can only imagine what it must be like to live in homes so steeped in history and beauty.  Here are a few of my favourite images:

Brussels Royal Palace, Belgium | via Home Interior Design Themes

Mysore Palace, India | via Cowboys and Indians (courtesy of Google)

Royal Palace at Caserta, Italy | via Flickr

The Palace of Versailles, France | via Hub Pages

What a buddy never gets to see, of course, are the private apartments.  It makes me laugh to imagine them decorated with Ikea purchases and Ebay finds, which couldn't be further from the truth I suppose but it's entertaining nonetheless ... royalty or not, they are on an allowance, after all.  And how better to stretch your housing dollar than online auctions and "Swedish for 'common sense'"?

And if the value of any place can be measured by its bathrooms which, let's all be honest,
it can be, then what I'd really like is to get an eyeful of the loos.  Suffice is to say, however, that unless I bust the bugget to cross a few times zones and develop the cat-like reflexes required to dodge crack Royal security teams, I suspect I might be doomed to always wonder what the private spots in these very public homes might be like ... unless Harry's looking to take a bride??

Happy weekend, everyone ... Pip pip!  Cheerio!!


28 April 2011

(Aptly Named) Fascinators: Fabulous or Faux-Pas?

As one whose most sophisticated and elegant hair accessory is an elastic band (ouchless!) and black barrettes, I am developing an overwhelming interest in Fascinators (you might say I'm fascinated ... yuk yuk).  My thoughts exactly are:

Q: Interesting?

A: Yes.

Q: Unique?

A: Definitely.

Q: Cool?

A: Right now, maybe, because of Kate.  In general, undecided.  But "cool" is a shifting paradigm, so ....

Q: Awesome?

A: I'm wondering if maybe they're not?  I think maybe they are!

For the history buffs:

A Fascinator, sometimes known as a cocktail hat, originated in the mid-1700's and referred to a fine, lacy type of head cap or covering.  According to the good folks at
Wikipedia, the initial versions were created primarily with wool or lace and were more similar to a shawl than a hat; from what I was able to suss out on the internet, they were hardworking and task-oriented little affairs concerning themselves more with modesty than with fashion.  The initial prototype had a good run so there must have been some style to them (!), but they generally fell into disuse by the mid-1970's.

Fast forward to the early 21st century, and Fascinators made a - wait for it -
fascinating comeback (I couldn't help it).  For reasons not totally clear, ladies everywhere resumed their love affair with these petite beauties, and the glamour factor increased by a hundredfold.  Modern day Fascinators are often delicate, cunning little hair adornments, with some of the most popular materials being feathers, lace, beads and flowers.  They are worn nearly exclusively by women (need I say it? obviously), and attach to the head via a hairband, clip or comb.

Recently, they have come to be recognized within the British aristocracy as an acceptable alternative to formal hats and can be seen en masse at horse racing events and weddings and all points in between.  Not just limited to June brides any more, styles range from fabulously formal (for all those black tie events we attend) to cute and casual: whatever your mood, style and/or event, there is a Fascinator that might just perfect for it!  Recent media darling [and soon to be Princess] Kate Middleton has made a substantial fashion splash with daring little numbers like this:

and the renewed popularity of these creations show no signs of abating any time soon.

Again, though, given that my biggest accessory risk is a
tortoiseshell-colored barrette (versus my usual black) I might not be the best one to judge, but my hat goes off (and a fascinator on!) to all the ladies who own this fashion statement!  If I could work this look like a lawnmover, I totally would: wouldn't you??

via LibertyLondonGirl.com

via Wedding Bee

via Etsy.com | BeSomethingNew

via Etsy.com | English Rose Wedding Co.

via Etsy.com | Portobello

I may just have to break out of my boring conservative usual mould and try something a little new and different: maybe a cute little peacock feather head band?  Perhaps that will be my next purchase from Etsy .... stand by for details!

27 April 2011

Jumping on the Royal Bandwagon

My fascination with the Royal family is well known to many in my inner (and outer, and peripheral) circle, and the upcoming wedding between Wills and Kate is no exception.  

I count myself among the many who have more than a passing interest in all things royalty.  Lately I've been purchasing and ingesting huge amounts of newsstand magazines dedicated to the upcoming nuptials - just yesterday I gorged on a special issue of Hello! Canada on the train home, enjoying such feature articles as 'Kate wears plum-colored shoes' and 'Kate does her own makeup!'  Yes, this is what I read and what's more, I admit to liking it.

So while news of the wedding has been everywhere and people either love it (me) or hate it (my husband, let's say, and/or everyone else I know), it seems inescapable.  With that in mind, I thought I would dedicate my next couple of posts to the beautiful twosome, and to the monarchy in general.  What better way to say 'hat's off!' to people I don't know than writing about it to many people I don't know?!

With the groundswell of renewed interest in and popularity of the young royal couple, another trend that has surfaced is royalty-themed housewares (you didn't think I'd forget this is a decorating blog, did you?).  I love the kitschy flavor of a lot of these pieces, but I wonder how long they'll retain their lustre?  You be the judge!

via Decor Demon

via StyleatHome.com | available at Up Country

via StyleatHome.com | available at kkoutlet.com

MR & MRS - Royal Wedding
via Not on the High Street

via Graham and Brown

via Pedlars


26 April 2011

Shopping without Borders: A Rant

I will freely admit that I am a late bloomer when it comes to technology.  Like, eons late.  In a world that is dominated by email and instant messaging, texting and tweeting, I am a veritable Cro-Magnon.  It is, without exaggeration, a minor miracle if I can turn my computer on each morning without incident.  I have a blackberry issued through work that I've been using since 2007, and only just figured out how to accept calendar invitations through it.  Seriously.  For the last three years, if it hasn't been your basic sending-or-responding-to-emails, I haven't done it.  My blackberry is often more effective as a paperweight and alarm clock than anything else, but even so I have managed to convince myself that I can't live without it.

My technological limitations also extend to online shopping.  There's no doubt I am much more comfortable in the virtual retail sphere than anywhere else online, but even here in what could arguably be called the biggest global mall on the planet I frequently come away empty-handed, and not for lack of trying.  Shopping - even, and sometimes especially, online - can be frustrating, disappointing and utterly defeating.  But why should it be?  Shouldn't having access to a global retail outlet guarantee shopping success?

It's a question I've asked myself many times, but none more frequently than these past few weeks when I have spent great gobs of time online sourcing and purchasing new materials for our reno and redecoration process.  What I have discovered is that "global" doesn't mean global in the truest sense.  Websites I can access, view and even fill a virtual cart to the brim with items may not always deliver to Canada.  Even in times such as these, when packages can fly half a world away overnight and communication can be transmitted in the blink of an eye (or the click of a "send" button), many online retailers restrict their delivery routes to local destinations only.

An example?  I have mentioned in a previous post the wallpaper I selected for our front foyer, a beautiful
Hummingbird pattern through Anthropologie.  I am in love with this paper, absolutely in love with it ... I think.  From what I can tell on the website it's beyond perfect and exactly what I'm looking for, but honestly?  This is a best-guess only.  Anthropologie's shipping parameters do not include Canada so I wasn't able to obtain a sample of the paper before I purchased it.  Without seeing a sample, I could be in for a terrific disappointment as there are many factors - among them my own eyesight (I wear glasses); the color settings on my computer; the integrity of their online image, to name a few - which could lead to the real thing not being nearly as perfect as the online image.  If there is any discrepancy between the picture and the real McCoy, I could be in a real design (and financial) pickle.

In a bold move that is entirely unlike me, however, I DID purchase the paper on spec.  The purchase price was a huge commitment (US$198/roll are a LOT of bones to shell out to confirm - or not! - that it is indeed perfect) and I am keeping my fingers crossed that it's just as beautiful (if not more so) as it appears on the website.  Even if there are small variations I am hoping I can still make it work in my space.  The challenges don't end with the decision to purchase, however.

For their Canadian clientele, some companies (such as
Design Public) have partnered with a US-based shipping company called Bongo International.  Bongo offers a unique service whereby an international resident can register online with contact, payment and delivery information, and Bongo will link a shipping address to your account within the continental United States.  This address can then be utilized to complete online purchases at retailers who accept only US-based address information and when the package is received at your specific Bongo location (your assigned shipping address), Bongo then arranges for international shipment of your item.  Arguably this service costs more on an individual level than if the retailer itself shipped directly, but it ensures that international shoppers can purchase beyond their own borders and retailers are not subject to prohibitive delivery and shipping fees to expand their product to a wider audience.

The process is not without it challenges, however.  Upon registering for a Bongo account, it takes
at minimum 3-to-5 business days to receive confirmation that your account is active.  Bongo's policy is to apply and then refund a nominal charge to the credit card you've provided on file, to not only ensure it is active but also to protect against fraud and identity theft.  Once this amount appears on your statement, you must log in to your Bongo account and submit the amount processed, so they in turn can confirm you are who you claim to be.  It's an effective process and a necessary one for the protection of both client and service-provider, but is not at all timely.  Up to, and sometimes exceeding, five business days is a long time to wait for a culture that is accustomed to instant online gratification.  Furthermore, once your account is live and you've begun wracking up your online purchases, adding a secondary address and shipping process to delivery means an added wait time for your purchases to arrive home: another frustration in what is often a frustrating and difficult process.

So what of my wallpaper, then?  I wasn't aware of service-providers such as Bongo when I made my purchase, so I did the next best thing I could think of: I sourced out a relative of a relative who lives in the States, plead my case and, when they agreed, had my paper shipped there.  The relative middleman (or middlewoman, in this case) was planning to head down south in early April but had to cancel unexpectedly.  Her next trip is scheduled in May and so far no conflicts have cropped up, so we're hopeful to have the paper home (and installed?) by June.  Three months is an awful long time to wait for a purchase, but I have nothing but gratitude and thanks for those who've offered their services for this shipment and inconvenienced themselves for the sake of my decorating ambitions.  Were retailers who are globally accessible online to actually
deliver globally - either directly or via a partner company like Bongo - wouldn't online shopping (and shopper satisfaction) increase exponentially?  Wouldn't the demographic expansion and increase in target market correspondingly increase profit margin?  People are willing to pay - and pay more - for premium items shipped from any location.  All we ask is that retailers grease the wheels and facilitate the path from our wallet to our door!  Is that so much ask??


20 April 2011

The Dining Room: A Pretty Work in Progress

It's a funny feeling when you think you're nearing the finish line on a project, but each decision made or addition to the room leads you to yet another thing you absolutely need to make the room feel complete.  I'm starting to feel that way about the dining room.  Sure, I know I need curtains: that's quite obvious since we have none!  But with the rug in place, and the new artwork on the wall:


I assumed we would feel - and be! - just steps away from completion.  Turns out this is not the case, much to my excitement disappointment.  Looking at the room now, I think it's nice but .... it's still lacking in some personality and zest.  What do you think?

With the
Christie Antique Show weekend creeping ever nearer (though not nearly fast enough for my taste!), I will need to be on the lookout for those beautiful tchotchkes and special finishing touches that will bring a little history and a whole lot of soul to the room.  We need something to give the shelving unit even more height and presence: something to stagger and vary the top line of the unit so it's not so static and hard.  It's too jarring, now, and brings the ceiling down too much.  I'm also daydreaming about a new mirror where we have the existing black one.  Something with a little provenance (read: tarnish) and flourish to counter-balance the modern lines of the stone lamp.  I'd like a colorful little plate or teacup saucer to dress up the glass lamp on the dresser, and a few little paintings - nothing excessive but colorful little oils, maybe - would go a long way to sparking up the wall unit.  I'm also keeping my eyes peeled (and my fingers crossed) for an abundance of antique mirror.  I'd like to use it to line the back of the wall unit, to breathe a little life into what is currently a bit of a dark cavity.  When in doubt, add some sparkle!

It's possible that I'm going overboard and that sometimes less is more, but in this case I firmly believe that more is, indeed, MORE!  I loved the new chandelier when it came home all freshly spray-painted in glamorous black, but now having redraped it with crystals it's absolutely gorgeous.  I love a restrained room but sometimes you just have to go for it, and go for it I will!


19 April 2011

Getting on the Grid

There are many elements of the bones of our home to like and appreciate, but it can't be said that the architectural detailing is one of them.  Outside of the pressed plaster crown moulding in the dining room and office (which admittedly is lovely), there are precious few details anywhere in the house that give it character, grace or distinguished good looks.

In particular, our living room is especially lacking in the charm department.  We have the advantage of 6 huge windows which bring in loads of natural light, and a relatively decent walnut-colored floor that has seen better days (rambunctious dogs and high gloss wood floors do not mix well) but otherwise the entryways, back door and fan placement on the ceiling make it challenging to arrange furniture or inject personality into the space.  We feel as though we've done a relatively decent job of creating a layout in the room that is comfortable, functional and pretty, but it's not enough.  We need something bigger - more impactful - to give this room some OOOOMPH!

Enter: the tray ceiling.  It came to me a few weeks back while staring at the ceiling and pondering what to do with the hideous ceiling fans: what if - and just hear me out, now - what if we created our own vaulted ceiling?  The room is entirely white, and the walls of white curtains make it feel cozy and artistic but hardly add anything architecturally to the room.  Why not stop lamenting the lack of existing details and just create some on our own??  Brilliant!

It took some work to get buy-in from hubby, but he seems to be now on board with the plan: the base of the tray will be comprised of MDF boards that are 5/8ths thick and 4" wide.  The top layer will be 3.5" boards around the perimeter and 3" boards in the centre grid.  The question was: what kind of grid did we want?

At 13.5 feet by 20 feet, the room is a considerable size.  The fans are placed a bit awkwardly (where I would have placed them at one third and two thirds, they were installed at one quarter and three quarters.  Not ideal, but not unmanageable.  But what design would look best?

First we considered this:

But after careful consideration we felt it was too busy and would make the room feel cramped, like the ceiling was falling in on us.  Dramatic?  Maybe.  But it led us to this:

Which was better, but still not quite right.  Third time's the charm?

Getting closer, but something was still itching at me.  What was lacking in the first three options was a good sense of symmetry, and a pleasing placement for those darn fans!  After much hemming and hawing, it finally struck me: the perfect design.  Here's what's going up:

Making a feature of the fans by framing them in obviously means we'll need new ones that are a bit more showy, and definitely more up to date.  I'm up to the challenge of shopping for them.  There is the prefect amount of definition that allows the design to be seen but not become overwhelming, and it's chock full of character!  Now to get cutting, painting and installing!


13 April 2011

Inspiration Gallery #3 | Beautiful Blues

It's been a slow week this week, both personally and creatively.  With the uncertain weather (is it spring? is it still winter? is it raining/snowing/sunny?) and a myriad of professional changes at the office, I have been feeling a bit tired - a bit blue - and not at all inspired to indulge in my favourite pasttimes.

I've got to get over the hump sometime, though, so I'm giving myself a swift kick in the pants, taking the bull by the horns and wrestling those blues to the ground.  Et voila!  Inspiration gallery #3 (blues-inspired, of course!)

Monumental Murano Glass Vase
Douglas Rosin Murano Glass Vase via 1stdibs.com

Benjamin Moore

Cole and Son wallpaper in 'Magnolia'

Old Havana, Cuba (where we're heading in November!) via Superstock

Steampunk goggles via Etsy: edmdesigns

via Etsy: Homemaker Movement


06 April 2011

Main Floor Bathroom ~ In Process

Design Objective: Classic 1920's styling with modern highlights

The major design work has already been done here, over months (or maybe years?) of planning and work.  All that's left are the finishing touches to really make it perfect!
  • Paint the door, inside and out
  • Mount towel hooks on the interior of the door
  • Wallpaper the exterior panel of door
  • Replace the existing fan timer with a new one (yes, that's right: it's broken already.  Thanks, contractor!)
  • Find, frame and hang artwork above the towel bar/toilet paper holder and above the toilet ~ preferably some architectural drawings or paintings that I'm keeping my fingers crossed I will find at the Christie Antique Show in May!

So clearly we're well beyond where we started.  The photos above illustrate an old, beaten up bathroom that desperately required attention.  After a long and, honestly, arduous process, this is what we look like now:

04 April 2011

The Reveal! (so far)

Brown (read: blah) before, white after .... check out our new spaces!

note how hubby matches the stools ~ that happened totally by chance :)

The wallpaper samples for the dining room have arrived and I'll be sifting through them this week to see if we have a winner.  I'll also be picking up new (at least, new to me) dining room chairs tomorrow ... photos to follow!