Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Getting Personal

Okay, I'm having a cranky day.  Just in a bad mood.  And I'm rarely in a bad mood.  I'm always optimistic.....devastatingly so.  By that, I mean I'm so optimistic that I plunge into things thinking everything is going to be fine and wonderful and sometimes they're not. And I'm always surprised about that.

I'm not much of a look before you leap kind of person.  

Well, I've leaped and haven't landed yet and now I'm scared up here in mid-air.

I'm going to be honest here. I've been working in interior design for over 20 years.  In my life BK, before kids, I worked at three different design/architectural firms.  My first job was a one person office, I was an assistant to a designer.  I learned a lot from her. She was a good designer, but busy with her growing family and finally stopped working to have another baby.  

My second job was at a large architectural firm.  We did large corporate, hospitality, and high-end residential projects.  It was extremely competitive and demanding....for very little money.  I spent nights at the office getting presentations ready.  It was like Mad Men....without the booze. (and in the 80's, not the 60's) It was so stimulating though. Lots of really great design was produced there.  I had so many opportunities to do some really great work and interact with the most creative people.  I worked on projects in Florida, California, even a house in Saudi.  I was flown on a private jet to a furniture manufacturer's facility once.  This job was real and it was pretty big.....for a small town Texas girl.  

But it drove me a little crazy too.  When I was pregnant with my first child I remember seeing my OB and saying something like, "I can't wait to have this baby and move toward a less stressful life."  He actually burst out laughing right in my face!   Okay, 2 kids later now I know why.

I took my next job 2 months after my first baby was born, I didn't go back to the architects at that point.  I went to a smaller office that I thought would be less stressful.  It was good for awhile.  This was the 80's and things were going south fast with all the S and L crisis. I bounced back to the architectural firm after a year, then after another year, back to the small design firm again where I stayed until I had my second child. 

Then I took a break.  I only made enough to cover my child care, clothes, and gas money anyway.  I know many of you think designers make a lot of money.....but they don't.  Every designer I've EVER known has struggled with income at some point.  Unless you're a celebrity designer in this business, it's hard make a buck.  My husband then had the opportunity to work overseas and we ended up being gone 5 years total with a year back in the middle. Within 3 months of moving back, my husband's company merger began and we knew we would be moving again soon. It took about 2 years, but we finally moved to The Woodlands, north of Houston.  

I opened a business about a year after I was here.  Very small.  I was kind of scared.  I'd been out of this business awhile, 10 years out of it by then.  I worked with my mother-in-law, Shirley, the fearless decorator from Brenham.  Honestly, she'll do anything.  She's totally unflappable.  We went around rearranging people's furniture in a day and did some window treatments and reupholstered some furniture for "clients".  Very small.  I was still very involved with my kids, teenagers, who really didn't want me around much.

I longed to do more and Shirley didn't want to work much anymore, so I proceeded on my own.  I wasn't getting much business though. I felt like more of a mom that just arranged furniture on the side. This is so sad.....okay, in my desperate need to do design I would go to Marshall's and rearrange their accessory shelves. :(  I did often wonder that eternal mom question....where I would have been if I hadn't taken the time off to be home with my children.  (Of course, I'm very grateful I was able to do that.)

Then I got a break.  My friend asked me to help her with her kitchen.  Unbelievably, when it was finally done, it was published.  Then I got another one, another and another.  

Now my life is a little like Mad Men again.  It's kinda crazy.  My projects are on the small side though, more medium range budget.  My business is kind of right on the edge, a one person office with interns.  I'm so busy I can't see straight and need more help, because I have to do all the busy work too, but I can't really afford it.  I feel like I'm constantly running on a wheel and can't get off.  I love what I do, but I need a better quality of  I need to be able to make more profit so that I can get the help I need so I can attend to the big picture stuff, not the deliveries.

So, if anyone is still reading this, (and if not, that's okay too....this is for me) here's the deal.  I can't seem to break into the high end luxury market.  I set my goals about 4 years ago.  I reached my first one, literally days before my goal date.  Yeah.....I'm fanatical about goals.  My second one is due in a little over a year.  I'm thinking that one isn't going to happen.  I'm not even going to voice my goals here because you'd laugh like my OB did.  I totally believe in them, but I know time wise that it's pretty unattainable right now.  You see, I know I need high end luxury projects to be able to get to the goals I set for myself. IF I can get one and IF it goes well and it's a good representation of my work, then it could take 1-2 years or maybe more to complete.  My time is up.  

I recently had a conversation with another designer of high-end luxury interiors.  She said that no one in the luxury market would hire me if I put pictures of my work/their projects out there and wrote about them on my blog.  Well, that's a problem.  I never reveal locations or names unless they are first names of my friends with their approval.  I always get a signature on all my contracts that allow me to publish photos of my work.  If someone requested I remain totally private about images and not release them anywhere, then I would oblige.  Of course, my fee would be higher, because I have to be able to market myself for the next job.

Nonetheless, I'm under a time crunch.  

When I went to my marketing guy, Brad, the Virtual Biographer, with my frustration, after listening to all my commentary and reading my notes and thinking about things he made this suggestion. I should ditch going for the luxury market.  He thinks I need to focus on what I'm doing now and exploit every avenue available within this market.  This group of possible customers who want to do more themselves, who don't have the money to spend on needless luxuries but want to spend their money wisely, who are internet shopping savvy, should be my focus.  He thought I should stay where I'm at with regard to level of project...but reach out further, beyond my backyard.  After all, I've already made some headway with this blog.  

So, I listened to him......not much at first.  I thought, hmmmm, I'm just gonna let him think he knows what he's talking about, but I'm still going to go for luxury, high-end jobs.  Just build the website.

After awhile though, I came around to his way of thinking.  It took a long time, but I do see the logic. So, here I am, redirecting my course.  I'm about to put myself out there in a big way.  There's no turning back.  I'm really nervous about it and I'm tired of thinking about it. If this doesn't work what am I going to do?  Sit in my studio and sulk and keep running on the wheel until I die? I don't want to even think about that.

So that's where I am today. Kinda out in mid-air...hanging here. Grouchy. 

I must say......I feel better already.  
Thanks for listening.  

I seriously can't believe I even wrote this.  Probably not good PR. :/

And yes, Brad, I KNOW it's too long.

More Bathrooms

These two bathrooms belong with a project I posted quite some time ago.  As I was going through images for my portfolio on my new website, I realize I hadn't posted them here.  Forgive me if you've seen them before.  I did post them on FB and Pinterest. I do think they deserve a little blog air time though.

This was a powder bath redo from a project I posted about HERE, HERE, and HERE.

We redid the cabinets to get rid of the unnecessary tall storage on the left.  Texture is the story in this house.  We used limestone in various forms and types throughout to introduce warmth and a comfortable feel.

Powder Room Before

Guest Bath After

This was a guest bath where we used the existing cabinets, refinished them to work with the mirror the client found for the room.  Lighting from Circa that my faux finisher also touched to get a cooler gray color.

My faux finisher, Phyllis Palmer, did a wonderful job here.

Guest Bath Before

Here's another image I seem to have left out of the group before, the study. The before and after was quite a transformation.....paint, wood floors, and a new wood counter was all it took to refresh this space.



I'm getting so excited about my new website debut.  What a job though.  My brain is absolutely fried.  Content, content, content......such is my responsibility now.  Feeding content to my creative guy to format and produce.

Less than a week away, I hope!

All after photos by Miro Dvorscak

Linking to:
Wow Us Wednesdays at Savvy Southern Style
Uncommonly Yours Link Party

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

My Support System

Couldn't do it without them.

My support system.

Michael, my drapery installer.  This install was a tough one!

Developing relationships in business is so important.  

Miro, my photographer....great photo shoot last week!

You need people to lean on, people you can trust, people who will make you look good.

Kristen, my intern, working on some cabinetry elevations

Lucky me!  I've got them.

Me with Kristen in my studio

But not for long.  Kristen is leaving at the end of this week for her big job.  I'm so sad to see her go...she's been such a great help.  I'm very proud of her though.  Who knows?  Maybe we'll work together again soon!

Wishing you all the best, young lady!
You have the makings of a great designer and a responsible young woman.

Remember to go for your dreams.....

and don't be afraid to

dream BIG.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Tips for Preparing to Build a Website

Yes, I've hinted at this for the last 6 months.  

I'm transitioning over to a new blog format that will have my website and some other design related offerings soon. Really, I promise....soon.    

I know many bloggers out there who have done this and talk about it as such a major change and well, I'm right there with you.  What a cathartic experience this has been for me.  My tendency to obsess the details really took over because, you know, everything has to be perfect!

I'd like to offer some tips on how to possibly get through that process a little more easily.  These are things I learned the hard way.  


When you decide to move forward.......set aside the time and deal with it!

I can't tell you how long I've needed to revamp my website.  I just kept putting it on the back burner, not wanting to spend the money and not wanting to spend the time to go deep and figure out what I wanted.  I just put it off so long that it became a giant beast to deal with, looming at me, growling, waving it's arms, and scaring me to death!  I've had clients ask me why I didn't post the pictures of their projects on my website.
 :(  Yeah, it was a beast I ignored way too long.  I sort of did things backwards, tip #4 came along before I was ready.  It would've been helpful to have done some of my homework before I found THE GUY.


Develop and examine your long and short term goals for your business.

Okay, if you have a business, you should have a business plan and have determined where you want to be in 5 years, 10 years, and so on.  It's so important to evaluate your goals.  The goals I made 5 years ago have changed somewhat and I'm constantly reevaluating and correcting my course to get me to my ultimate goals.  Let's face it.  The economy and the new reality that is the way people are spending their hard earned dollars affects all businesses, especially a service business often considered a luxury. One thing is for sure........ you have to know where you want to go before you can build the vehicle to get you there.


Take time to visit all kinds of sites to see what you like.  

Yes, something we talk a lot about here on the blogs.....INSPIRATION!  I visited some of the sites of major designers across the country whom I admire and made notes about their sites' aesthetics, navigation, content, etc.  I was particularly interested in how their portfolios were set up.  This took lots of time, but really helped hone what I thought I wanted.  Yeah....."thought" is the key word here.  Enter Tip #4.


Find yourself a creative, website designer/marketing geek, 
"Virtual Biographer".

This was one of my biggest challenges.  I've come to  realize that it's not just about any one thing.... the aesthetics of the site (artist), the navigation (web designer), the ability to get your message out there and have it reach people (ad man), or what it says (creative writer).  Knitting all those disciplines together to achieve a cohesive statement is a challenge. This site will be your biggest sign out there in cyberspace about WHO you are, WHAT you do, and HOW you can help your clients.  It's bigger than any giant billboard on I-45.  How it looks, what it says, how easy it is to use, how friendly it is, all that comes into play to brand YOU.  So, finding the ONE single person that can handle doing ALL of those things, ALL of those creative endeavors that are not that closely related, is a SUPREME challenge.  Of course, at an ad agency, you have a team.  A team of specialized talents.  For a simple, small business like mine, now.....that's a little too much.  I needed to find the one guy who could do it all.........and lucky for me........

he cold called me.

And I was in a frustrated, talkative mood that day.


Trust him.

...or her.  Mine just happens to be a guy.  Geeeeee, this was hard.  This was my hardest lesson to learn.  How can I trust this kid (okay, he's young to me), to be able to thoroughly understand what I do so that he can help get me where I want to be.  He's got to build this vehicle for my work, my message, ME, and I just wondered if it could really happen.  Because this is so important to me.

This is my shot.

Coming from a PR background and seeming comfortable with all things geeky/techy, he seemed like someone I might take a chance on.  He had a different angle, a more thorough approach, a creative passion about him that only someone else that shared that kind of passion can recognize (and left brainers tend to think is foolish).  That's really what I wanted, someone who would love this project as much as I would and show it the attention and care it needed.  

After 6 months of working on this together and having a real roller coaster ride, we've almost landed it.  It will be a work in progress for awhile, but I'm really proud of the work we've both done.  We've had many debates over everything from color and content to navigation and offerings. He's encouraged me to think differently about my business and reexamine my goals by just pushing....pushing....pushing.... me outside my comfort zone.  It's been a complete and thorough shake up. doesn't look ANYthing like I thought it would. 

AND...... I love it.

(Update:  Visit my new site and blog HERE!)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Wall Decor

Wall decor doesn't have to be just a painting or something framed.

There are lots of interesting things around to hang on a wall.

Things that have texture and warmth,

tell a story,

form an interesting collage, 

have depth and dimension,

show your passions.  

Find something that speaks to you......

and hang it!

Image Sources:  Country Living, Sheryl Crow - Architectural Digest, Stephen Falcke - Elle Decor, Canadian House and Home, Mix and Chic blog via Pinterest, Peter Dunham - Veranda, Johnny Valiant - House Beautiful, Country Living 

Monday, May 21, 2012

A Must Have for Your Bathroom Remodel

Unless you want to grow these......


or this.......

in your bathroom, remember to install one of these.


These are quiet, require a 6" duct (you'll probably have to change it out from a 4" duct), can operate on a timer, and suck all the humidity out of the room after a nice, steamy, hot shower.  

Trust me. 

They're worth it.

These fans have all kinds of options and need to be sized to fit the room and your needs.  When you remodel, change that builder fan out. 

No money exchanged hands for this endorsement. :)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Lakehouse Love

Dreaming of a get away. 

Something rather close by.

A place family and friends can gather.

Somewhere to escape for the weekends,

...with a rock fireplace,

an outdoor room,

and some water.

Oh, yes.

 Definitely some water.

I love to travel. At this stage in my life though, when my business needs constant attention and it's hard to get away for a week......a weekend will do just fine.

How about you?

Image Sources: casa tres chic blog, Bear Hill Interiors  -  via coco cozy blog, vintage and chic blog, casa tres chic blog, stranger than vintage blog,  M. Elle Interior Design - Elle Decor, TMS Architects via, Caitlin Wilson Design, Bear Hill Interiors - via coco cozy blog

Thursday, May 17, 2012


The application of pattern adds interest and dimension to a space,

makes a statement about style,

gives focus to a room,

develops a more complex look,

tells a story about YOU.

All these are reasons to apply a particular pattern to a space.  

Are you bold? 

 A daring and adventurous personality?

Are you quiet and contemplative?

Lively and personable?

Are you most comfortable in a peaceful sanctuary?

Are you trendy and stylish?

Stable and methodical?

Patterns have a language all their own.  

They speak volumes.

For this reason, I requested little to no pattern on my website.  I didn't want my site to speak, I wanted my images to do the talking.

Another heated e-mail debate erupted with my marketing guy.  (He's so into all this.)  

"NO." I said.  No pattern.  No competition for my images! They need to stand alone.  

He's incredibly persistent.  I received link after link of new patterns applied to the background, the sidebar, etc.  Link after Link after Link.

We've ever so slightly compromised, but I do consider this my win. :)

He's a bit miffed, but assures me I'm the boss.  (After trying yet again with another pattern).

"It's going to be boring", he says....among other things. "I'm tellin' ya...It's gonna look dull if there's not any."

Knowing what I know about the application of pattern, I make my own matter what he says......
"You'd probably be able to get away with not having any texture if the site featured a nice spectrum of different colors, but it doesn't - yours is more minimalistic, color-wise (not that there's anything wrong with that)." we're back to color!

Source images:  Gideon Mendelson-House Beautiful, David Mitchell-House Beautiful, Daniel Sachs-House Beautiful, Carleton Varney-House Beautiful, Amelia Handegan-Architectural Digest, Kazumi Yoshia-Elle Decor, Michael S. Smith-Architectural Digest, Thom Felicia-Elle Decor, Suzanne Tucker-Architectural Digest, Sig Bergamin-Elle Decor, Suzanne Tucker-Elle Decor Showhouse via katie-did blog

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mixing Styles

There's a real skill to this.  Mixing things that don't want to mix. Like oil and water. 

Tradtitional/contemporary....complete opposites.

A piece of art is created when things of completely different genres combine in


unexpected ways.

It has to be just right....actually it has to be perfect.

Things could potentially go all wrong. (not in this post)

Hodge podge,

train wreck,

what were they thinking?


you could create

a masterpiece. 

Image Sources:  Kay Douglass - Veranda, Barbara Barry - Veranda, Kay Douglass - House Beautiful, Miles Redd - Veranda, Barbara Barry - Veranda, Stephen Sills - Architectural Digest

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