Feb 27, 2007

Just Keep Going...

I am very blessed to be able to not only design a room, but to also style it for my photo shoot, shoot it myself, and then write about it. I want to give you just a tiny sneak peek of what is to come in the Romantic Homes, June's issue. Two more photos are at the end of this posting.

My very special friends, Kendall and Joni asked me to help them with their bedroom. They wanted it all done up "Elizabeth House Style." They are a wonderful couple to work for - they are accepting of all ideas - that is a treasure.

In the colors of pale blues, tans, and a little gold, their tiny bedroom became a humble retreat that one would find in the south of France. I don't want to spoil the June issue for you so I won't give you any details of their fabulous furniture, custom bedding, or fauxed walls and ceiling. However, I will share with you that the editor was thrilled with the photography - which makes me very happy.

However, I do want to share with you my experience in shooting this feature. What exactly goes into a magazine photo shoot? My working solo is not typical at all. Most photo shoots consists of several people, to include the stylist, the photographer, the assistant and probably yet another assistant. Other than the number of people, my photo shoots basically consists with the same amount of work. However, I love doing this so much - I don't like to call it work.

I start out by scouting the site - which simply means I check out the space to be photographed and take notes on needed props, the arrangement of furniture, outlets, and especially the lighting. I use only natural lighting when I shoot. I need to study the light at different times of the day and adjust for cloudy or sunny days as well. I like the challenge of color temperatures and adjusting the white balance as the sun moves across the sky or behind clouds.

On the first day, I trek all props to the home and unload them in another room. I like to call this my "shopping room" because I lay out all that I brought, and I spend the day studying the room and arranging the owners' things as well as any props that I may use. While styling the room, I study the light and check the time of day and take notes to help me remember the time of day when a section of the room is lit in a manner that I find suitable.

The second and third days are spent shooting. This is when the real styling takes place. Many times, objects and furniture are arranged for "the lens" which means items are most likely moved closer together than normal, or arranged strictly for lighting purposes. Lamp cords, dust, threads, crooked photos, phone cords, outlets, and a carelessly placed camera bag are all moved, hidden, or adjusted over and over again per every single photograph.

Would having an assistant be helpful? Of course. And maybe some day I will get one to help me on the shoots. But for now, I enjoy getting inside my head and visualizing my shots. I like the quiet. I like seeing what no one else will see until the photographs are published. I like not having to answer questions that would most likely be asked from an assistant:

"Where do you want this?" "How is the light?" "What about this prop instead?" "Why don't we move the chair over here?" "What is that prop for?" "Where are you going to use this?"

Not that these questions are inappropriate and some are even necessary. But I am a terrible "boss" when it comes to actually creating something. When I am in "my element" and I am actually creating, I don't talk. Hard to believe, I know. Yup, I shut my yapper and I constantly think. In fact, there have been many, many times that I am working diligently only to jump out of my skin because someone has come up to me to ask me something and I was totally unaware of anyone even in my presence. But to have someone "helping" me by asking me question after question only slows me down, interrupts my thoughts, and most likely, my answer to just about every single question that is asked of me while I am creating is "I don't know yet."

I don't know yet. And I won't know until I do it. There is something almost magical that happens to me when I am working and concentrating on something I have a strong passion for. I really don't "plan" it out exactly. I don't really know which props to pack - I just see a prop at the moment I am packing and think to myself "that may work...not sure where, but I think I could use that." I am almost on autopilot when I create. It comes very effortlessly to me. I know, that seems so unfair to those of you who struggle just to make a bed - but then again, I struggle greatly to remember names - and most of the time I fail at remembering names where as some of you remember without any effort.

When the shoot is completed, I pack it all up, clean the room, and unload it all back into my store or inventory room. I then get to do what I love the most - download my photos and work on them. On this particular shoot, I downloaded all my photos and began my love of cropping, color adjusting, and choosing. I was so involved in my process that at one point I glanced out the window and saw the sun coming up! I had worked through the entire night and not even realized it nor was I tired. I wanted to just keep going.

And it is that "just keep going" feeling that we should all be so lucky to experience in our lives. Think about it. We all go, go, go. But where are we going? We go to the bank, the store, the dry cleaners. We go to soccer practice, to meetings, to work, and to obligatory family visits. We also go without. We go without sleep. We go without recognition. We go without encouragement. And we also fore go. We fore go our needs. We fore go our wants. We fore go a lot of things because we have learned to go without and to just go on and make do.

But how often do we truly, and I mean truly, just "want to keep going?" When those rare moments of wanting to just keep going happen to us - may I suggest that you do. Sooner or later, you will stop. But don't shortchange your need to just keep going. Don't usurp that need with "shoulds." I should be getting to bed now. I should be doing the bills now. I should be working on that report. I should be cleaning the house now. The only "should be's" that you should be doing is indulging in your need to just keep going. Lord knows, it is a rare need. So cherish it.

And who knows? Your need to just keep going may just take you where you should have been all along.

from my house to your house,


Feb 17, 2007

Your Life Should Never be an Accident

The other day I had an appointment with a client who is having trouble deciding what type of flooring to put into her kitchen. Currently, it has dated tile and she wants to replace it with wood. However, her kitchen opens to a media room, which has wood floors and the other side of the kitchen opens to a large, wide hallway, which also has a different wood floor. This is an older home and the two woods are different in color, type, and placement direction.

She really had her heart set on getting a wood floor that would “match the wood” in the media room. Therein lies the problem. This home, which is over a 100 years old, and been through many reconstructions, has mismatched wood just about everywhere. Her kitchen cabinets are a honey-colored wood and she has stained wood trim around her windows in yet another color. And none of these woods even really resembled each other – yet, she loved the media room’s wood so much, she wanted to copy it and get new wood to match it. Exactly.

That just isn’t going to happen. She then said she wouldn’t mind if she could at least get close to matching the woods. Again, I told her not a good idea. Why? Because she will never, ever completely match the two woods. It will always look slightly “off” or even worse, it will look like a mistake. Also, having three different wooden floors come together in a kitchen with yet a different wood for the cabinets and another wood for the wood trim – just is not going to work well.

So what to do? Go completely opposite. Don’t even attempt a wood in this case. I suggested a slate, stone, or even brick floor because of the style and age of the home. She was thrilled with the idea and I explained that unless you can produce exactly as well as the existing element, the result will always come up short and it will look like a mistake.

It is the same with paint colors. If a hallway or wall was painted a color years ago, and you don’t know the type of paint or brand, yes, you may come very close to the color, but it will always be
"off.” I always suggest a contrast color to enhance the existing color.

The same with furniture, fabrics, and even accessories. Whenever you are trying to find a “perfect match” and unless you do, don’t accept coming close to what you are trying to match. It will always look inferior. A mistake. Not intended. Make a statement and do something to contrast or compliment the existing dilemma. That looks purposeful and superior in its own right.

And it is the same with life. Have you ever met someone who has an ability, talent, gift, or personality that you wish you could emulate? They say “imitating is the highest form of flattery.” Is it? Really? Well, not always. Sometimes, having someone do just the opposite of what you do, think, or how you conduct yourself is a very high form of flattery to you as well.

For example, when my friend, Sharon, who is a paper artist (visit her site,
www.secretleaves.com ) gives me a gift, (or to anyone for that matter) her packaging is just spectacular. Usually handmade paper, vintage string or ribbon, carefully folded, unique stamps, words, or trinkets adorn the package – it is something to behold! Well, when I first started to give her gifts, I too, would want to really “frou-frou” it all up and give her something spectacularly wrapped as well. In short, I wanted to be like her. I was imitating her. Or was I? I don’t need to tell you that my carefully wrapped package always fell short (and sometimes way short ) of her talents. She couldn’t care less – she appreciates everything I give her no matter how it is wrapped. But I wanted my package to be as pretty and special as hers. No-can-do. So what do I do instead now? I don’t even try. I do the opposite. I go buy a gift bag, shove some tissue paper in it, tie a tag on it and hand it to her. I always tell her: “I am not even going to try…” and she laughs with me.

This is probably the highest form of flattery for her. It is my way of saying: you are so damn good at what you do, I am doing my own thing, which is nothing like yours. So, now, when I buy a gift bag, I do hunt for a special one. And my tag? I look for one that is unique (well, as unique as one may find in Target). And now, gift bags are my “special” wrapping. She has her wrapping style. And I have mine. My gift bag wrapping looks purposeful. It was intended. It doesn’t look like a “mistake” nor does it come up short. Much like the flooring in my client’s kitchen. She needs to find something opposite of the other wooden floors. So her kitchen floor will look purposeful and superior in its own right.

And just like my “superior” gift bag. It may not be handmade paper, vintage ribbon, or handmade tags on a vintage box – but it is one damn good gift bag – as far as bags go that is.

So, next time you find yourself always coming up a little short on something you are trying to imitate – maybe that is a cue to just go your own route, pave your own path, and whatever or whomever you are trying to emulate – don’t. Just go and do it your way – and do it with purpose.

Because without purpose in your life, everything would just be an accident.
And your life should never be an accident.

From my house to your house,


Feb 7, 2007

Shop Talk Volume 7: What is your "thing"?

Welcome to my series of Shop Talk - a series of postings for those of you who wish to open a boutique some day, or perhaps are newly opened. While I don't profess to be a "professional" on the business of running a shop, but I am more than happy to pass along lessons learned and my observations.

One thing I learned is that every unique boutique has a "thing." What is a "thing"? Well, we all have a personal thing....some we are aware of and some are just placed upon us without our permission.

A few examples: Have you ever been asked to an event (a Star Trek convention, a monster car show, hunting wild boar) and you politely refuse saying, "sorry, but that is just not my thing"? We all have a thing. Eating raw oysters is just not my "thing." But everyone who knows me well knows that staying up late into the wee hours (usually working) is my "thing." But sometimes, we are given a "thing" by others. A few weeks ago I told a friend that I was thinking about growing out my hair. She exclaimed: "You can't! Short, blonde hair is your thing." I didn't know my short hair was my thing. But apparently she, along with some others, have decided it so. And so, my hair remains short (for now) because it is now my "thing."

So what about your store? Do you have a thing? While we store owners usually have a theme, or a concept, or "look," do we have a "thing"? Sometimes our thing is designed, but most of the time it is defined by our customers. I remember my store's first "thing." Several years ago, a customer walked in and told me she went to a flea-market and she excitedly described a piece of furniture that she just knew I would love - because, you know, it was my "thing."

Now my store has a tight color palette. That is on purpose. It has only distressed furniture. That is also on purpose. It has a European feel. Again, on purpose. But, over time, using old books and old paper in odd ways became my "thing." And mixing several fabrics in my bedding and furniture designs became my "thing." I didn't do those things on purpose, but my customers decided for me that old paper and mixed fabrics were my "thing."

And that is a good thing! Why?

Because that means your customer is paying attention. Your customer notices your habits, talents, your attention to detail (or not). And if your customer pays that much attention, then you must be doing something right. So listen to your customers and you will get a wealth of insight. So all the more reason to really think about what your store is really about. Of course, selling your goods is why you are open in the first place. But what else is your store about? What message do you want to send out into your community? What do you want your customer to feel, think, or say about your store when he/she leaves it? If your customer could use only one sentence to describe your store to her friend who has never been in it, how would she describe it?

How would you like your customers to describe your store is even more important.

So to all you store owner wannabe's....take some time and really think about your store and its message. Think about some of the stores you have visited and how you felt when you left that store. Think of the ones in which you were so excited about you had to call up a friend and tell her about it! What did you say? What did you feel? Why? Most likely, the store had a "thing" but you, being a new customer, haven't discovered it yet, but you definitely felt it.

Now that is something to think about!

from my house to your house,


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