Monday, March 31, 2014

A Return to Color

I usually say that I fell away from design blogs and design blogging while I was wedding planning. Looking back, I think that I just stopped being inspired by a lot of blogs and only read the ones written by people I knew in person or who I knew fairly well through chatting by email or social media. I think what bothered me was the blogger trend of the white or gray wall.

There was a time when white or gray walls (with a rainbow of accessories) seemed very modern and cool. I think Domino, during its run as a shelter magazine (let's face it, the new version is some sort of hybrid -- it's part magazine, part advertisement, and part catalog). I loved it when I was renting and painting was out of the question. It was very cool, though it wasn't really my style.

Bloggers really ran with the look. I can't tell you how many posts I scrolled past about finding the perfect gray or about the right white for walls. Color was in the furniture and accessories. Patterns were layered over patterns, sometimes artfully and sometimes not-so-artfully. Now and then, there was a veritable riot of color.

I've lived in a house with white (off-white) walls for a year now and it has really affected my perception of color. I NEED to get color back on the walls. I miss it so much! The problem is that blog-land doesn't really give me much inspiration these days. I see so many neutral walls.

Imagine my delight when I started the April 2014 magazines started appearing in my mailbox.

It isn't lost on me that some of the cover images still show gray or white walls. However, once I started flipping through, I saw several features that made me think people are embracing color on the wall again.

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

One more addition to the bedroom

The ultimate goal for the bedroom where we are currently sleeping is for it to become a guest bedroom. I've been decorating to make it pretty and comfortable for a visitor all this time. One thing that I really wanted was to have a comfortable reading chair in one corner.

I think I've written about scale before on this blog and I still have issues with how many of the popular, chain-type home stores are showing enormous furniture. Those pieces look great in new construction and they'll probably work for our large living room, but they aren't quite right for our bedrooms. On a whim, I looked at Craigslist and found a chair and ottomon that looked perfectly sized. That was also the day that I posted a ton of Craigslist finds, so it was an oddly good day on the site that's normally full of mattresses and bedroom "suits."

Marc and I met the nicest woman when we went to pick up the chair. She and her husband were downsizing to a condo and selling a lot of their furniture. She seemed to tickled at the idea of this going in our first house since it was leaving her last.

The chair is comfortable and clearly well-made. The upholstery isn't our style, but there aren't any issues with it.

I went to U-Fab and The Second Yard to look at fabrics for the chair and found a few contenders.

The nice thing about shopping at U-Fab is that they have my curtain fabric so I didn't need to bring swatches. 

This last fabric won't work, but it was so pretty I had to take a picture.  There's a huge bolt of this stuff on the sale rack at U-Fab. I love it.

Down at The Second Yard, I found several options. Some were a lot more colorful that I thought I'd want. One reminded me of a Lilly Pulitzer print.

My favorites were one colorful print and one more simple one. I think the simple one is my favorite, but the fabric seems to be discontinued. 

On a whim, I checked Calico Corners. I haven't purchased anything there since I had a sofa made by them back in 2005. I'm not a fan of their lack of labeling. A lot of their fabric lacks a manufacturer's label. While I expect that from U-Fab because of how they acquire some of their fabric, I do not think the manufacturer of $85/yard fabric should be a secret.

I'm a little worn out at this point and am putting reupholstering the chair on the back burner. I'll share what else we've been up to next week.
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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Matouk, Peacock Alley, and Sferra, oh my!

When I last wrote about our bedroom, which will one day be the guest bedroom in our house, I was patting myself on the back for hanging curtains and bamboo shades. Once that was done, I turned to tracking down the perfect bed linens for the room.

Years ago, I would have quickly, but carefully surveyed the options, selected one, ordered it, and had it on the bed within a week. These days, my style has slowed down a bit. I think this is probably because I'm considering these long-term purchases, whereas in the condo, I was decorating for the short-term.

After a lot of searching, I settled on coral Lulu DK for Matouk linens in a pattern called Chant. I liked that it was bold, but still feminine and wasn't too trendy looking. I ordered the linens from Pioneer Linens, a store in Florida that often runs terrific sales. I was certain that these were PERFECT for the room and when I opened the box in the kitchen, I loved them.

But when I took the linens upstairs to the bedroom, I started to think I had made a mistake for two reasons.

1. The color was almost pink vs. an orangey coral. I didn't want to admit it, but it didn't look nice next to the drapes.

2. The duvet cover was super-sized and didn't have ties inside it, so a comforter was going to float inside. You don't need ties inside a duvet cover if it's going to be snug against your comforter. My comforter was a king and it was swimming inside the queen duvet cover.

I still love that pattern, but it just wasn't right for the room. So, the linens went back. A lovely saleswoman named Martha, with whom I was working at Pioneer Linens, suggested a Peacock Alley pattern and had a swatch sent to me. The color was perfect, but I thought the pattern was a little juvenile for us. If we were decorating a girl's room, I'd be all over it.

I had a pretty sizable credit at Pioneer Linens and decided that if I didn't find anything quickly, I'd order linens for our future master bedroom (even though I spent a ton of time picking out the most beautiful linens at Valerianne up in Vienna.

While doing one final look through Pioneer Linen's options, I found the Andover linens by Sferra. Martha didn't have them in the store, but said she thought Sferra's coral was more orange on her swatches than the Matouk's coral had been. So, I placed the order and crossed my fingers. I guess Martha knew the wait was going to be tough because she had her Sferra rep send me a swatch. I LOVED it!

When the linens arrived, I was so busy at work that I just set them aside. It was a few weeks before I took them out of their packages.

Sferra's duvet cover isn't oversized, but they still had ties inside them. I don't think they are necessary with their covers, but I think it's nice to have the option of using them.

A friend who used to work at Restoration Hardware told me that they usually put two comforters inside the duvet covers on their display beds they they'd look extra lofty. I decided to put one down comforter and two down-alternative comforters inside mine. I love how fluffy it looks.

Right after I placed my order, I found out that Folly, a fabulous home furnishing store here in Charlottesville, is carrying Sferra linens. I'm glad that I can order the blanket that matches my linens at a local shop. 

We still have a few more things to do before this room is "done," but I'm happy with how it looks.
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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

From the Hoop: You get what you pay for with embroidery work

I'm averaging a post about embroidery work every other month, but I feel as though I post about it almost daily on Instagram. It's time to share a few pictures or recent projects on the blog.

Something I have come to believe, that some in the embroidery community don't agree with, is that you get what you pay for when it comes to embroidery designs. Every piece of embroidery you see that comes from a machine started as a digital file. The people who create embroidery designs are called digitizers. There are literally thousands of websites where digitizers sell their work.

When it comes to alphabet designs, I have been disappointed a few times by cheap designs. Here's an example of poorly digitized alphabet files:

Here's a close-up shot of a more expensive and better digitized design that is the same style as the one above (an interlocking vine design):

I don't think bad embroidery is about the machine. It's about the design files. The "good" and "bad" designs were all done on my machine and just hours apart. The files I used to create the monogram below cost many times what the ones above cost. Do you think the extra cost was worth it?

Here are some more designs from the "expensive" source. I put expensive in quotes because in the end, I think these are worth the price. I'm apt to use them again and again. I'll never use the cheap files again. I may have already deleted them from my computer!

I love, love, love those designs. They are all large designs, around 6-7 inches tall. They're perfect for monogramming tote bags and linens. The funny thing is that every person who has asked me to do monogram work for them has picked smaller, simpler designs. Here's one of the first items I did for a client. She chose a classic script for this tote bag.

While looking for linen inspiration online, I came across this monogram, which uses the first large design I shared above. I loved the strip effect and didn't know how it was made.

It turns out there are varigated threads, which change colors. They look random when they are on the spool, but once they stitch out, the stripes are apparent.

As I did research about the thread, I found that no one seems to have a reference document about how the different variegated threads look once stitched. The academic in me saw this as a fun, little research project. I gathered variegated threads from around Charlottesville and Marc picked some more up while out of town for business.

I had a feeling the Floriani brand thread might look better on a larger monogram, so I decided to try it out on some towels. I loved how it looked! I didn't even wait to finish before taking this picture:

Some people will swear that their inexpensive embroidery designs look as good as the expensive ones. There are a few inexpensive sources with which I've had luck, but I've also been disappointed by a few. I'd rather have the peace of mind knowing that a design is going to stitch out beautifully every single time.
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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A Look Back at the Southern Living Showcase Home

Chatter about design house season has started. We're so lucky to have several fantastic show houses in our region and I'm happily lapping up the little dispatches from the different sites.

Jennifer Sergent shared images from the Bare Bones event at the DC Design House on her DC by Design blog. The DC house is always my favorite, since it's where I first "met" Olivia by John Matthew Moore (which also led to us bringing Bell home).

The Richmond Symphony, which sponsors a design hour every other year, has updated their website with a date for the 2014 home, which will open in the fall. Charlottesville's Design House has been selected and Facebook updates have begun to trickle out. Our local event supports the Shelter for Help in Emergency, a wonderful organization that does very important work in our community.

The one show house that I'll miss is the Southern Living Showcase Home, which was built from scratch by Summit Custom Homes. The Southern Living Showcase Home concept is a bit different. I loved my visit, as you can see from this video:

That's Tara Mills and Yankee Dixie playing the background on the video.

Perhaps I need to do another week of show houses to get the others in the region covered. Our design community is so strong and supports so many wonderful charities through these houses!
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