Category Archives: Inspiration all around

Be Your Own Curator…

One of the biggest challenges my clients face is adding art and accessories to their interiors.  Of course, I’m happy to act as curator and pull pieces together for them in a flash but often I find myself working with what they have and advising them to be patient and wait for pieces that speak to them.  I feel that the art and accessories are often the most personal component to an interior and those items tell so much about the inhabitant.  I’ll start by raiding the client’s collections or even family/travel photos for inspiration.

This got me thinking about my own collection.  It truly started in a modest way and has grown tremendously over the past 12 years.  A favorite habit was to purchase art whenever I traveled to a new country as a memento.  It was easy to do and often inexpensive.  I started to look out for street vendors and purchased pieces that I could roll up to be framed once I came home.

My first such examples were sepia tone photographs from Prague.  I fell in love with the mystery of the St. Charles Bridge.  I purchased these two moody portraits from a street vendor on the bridge.  I don’t remember what I paid for them but it couldn’t have been much.  It was 1997 and I just graduated college with no employment in sight…They originally hung above my sofa but now are featured in my master bathroom.  I think they really set a tone of mystery and intrigue…

Having enjoyed the St. Charles Bridge photos so much, on my next big trip to Europe in 2002 I picked up this poster from the Lorenzo Cascio Studio in Portofino.  I absolutely fell in love with the bronze relief doors that Lorenzo Cascio created for churches in Portofino and Santa Margherita on that trip.  I certainly couldn’t afford an original but when I stumbled into his studio and realized that he sold a few prints…I had to have this print of a horse for my collection.  There was something about that wild stallion, the colors, and the graphic bits that really spoke to me.  Again, I brought it home rolled up and had it framed stateside…

Jackpot!  During a trip to France in 2007 I found what I consider to be the bargain of the century.  Inside a typical souvenir store in the medieval town of Eze, France I found a pile of original illustrations from the 40’s or 50’s?  This was in the midst of my interior design education.  I was learning to draw perspective, rapid sketching techniques, and watercolor, pencil, and marker rendering skills.  That is probably why I was so drawn to these illustrations.  The detail, style, and loose charm radiates from each and every one of them.  Priced each under 10 Euros…I picked out the illustrations that demonstrated a place I had visited on this trip.  They were framed upon my return.  There are 11 in all and they now sit above my sofa…

Up close detail of the illustration that depicts the Moulin Rouge…such lovely colors and I love the “entourage” of people of the era in front…

Detail of another favorite spot in Paris…Plaza Vendome.  Again, love the people walking by for context, the automobiles, the reflection of the water from a rainy day…

Detail of the illustration that depicts the medieval town of Eze, in the South of France, where I found these loose illustrations…

During my 2007 trip to Buenos Aires I noticed a plethora of street artists and decided this would be an excellent memory of my trip.  While touring La Boca in Buenos Aires, which is known for being particularly touristy…likened to Pier 29 in San Francisco, I honed in on the best quality artwork that I could find.  This engraved piece by Dora Garraffo was much more expensive than my earlier purchases…around $100…but I felt it was worth it.  Only piece 8 of 10 it was more original and something about the relaxed nature of this curvy woman with great hair and fabulous shoes sitting on her red chair…I just couldn’t resist it.  Again, brought it home for framing with a silk border.

Also a part of the La Boca, Buenos Aires, Dora Garraffo acquisition was this charming little engraving depicting a couple tango dancing.  If you have been to Buenos Aires, you know that tango is everywhere and at around $40, I couldn’t let this piece go.  I intended to give it as a gift for Christmas that year but loved it so much that I kept it for my collection.  Framed here in California…

On my most recent adventure to Thailand in 2008, found this little treasure.  I actually found it in a tabletop and linen store in Chiang Mai referred from the Luxe Guide (I adore the Luxe Guides).  It is an original one of a kind piece by the store manager.  For about $100 I purchased this piece on canvas, already framed in wood.  The elephants spoke to me as we visited an elephant camp in the Golden Triangle.  I love elephants, but it made me a bit sad how they worked hard for tourists to ride on.  That is why I particularly love the elephants depicted here with wings flying above…

So, be your own curator.  Over time you can collect pieces that speak to you.  They might be prints, originals, textiles, folk art, etc, etc.  They might be from trips afar, trips closer to home, or by artists in your own city or home for that matter.  All that is important is that they mean something to you.

I had fun looking back down memory lane.  Thanks for letting me share my travel treasures with you.


Filed under Inspiration all around, My Style, Travel treasures

Galette des Rois

For 4 years now, I have the privledge of an invitation to a Galette des Rois party.  My hosts, Sara & Philippe, introduced me to the festival of Epiphany a with a delightful flaky pastry filled with frangipane that Sara, an accomplished pastry chef,  lovingly creates every year.  It has always been the celebration that I look forward to after the holidays to catch up with old friends and meet new friends.  Last night’s celebration was exceptional.

Imagine my delight when I received my favorite interior magazine import, “World of Interiors” and this month’s issue features a history of Galette des Rois.  Originally celebrated on the 6th of January, the Epiphany, or Festival of Kings symbolizes the 12 days of Christmas or the 12 days that it took the wise men to travel from Bethlehem to see the baby Jesus.  The King’s Cake season extends from the Epiphany to Mardi Gras day.  This festival is also a touch pagan, originating from ancient winter-solstice celebrations when the return of Pheobus, or the sun, began and banquets, religious rites, and debauchery were held in his honor.

A “feve“, originally a broad bean (symbolic of  an embryo, first sign of life after Winter, fertility, or new life) now a small trinket made from porcelain or plastic meant to represent the baby Jesus is hidden inside each cake.  The cake is sliced, one piece for each guest plus one slice to represent the “share of God”, “share of the Virgin Mary”, or “share of the poor” was originally intended for the first poor person to arrive at the party.  Whoever stumbles upon the feve is named King or Queen and gets to choose his/her consort.

There is a whole collectors market for the feves themselves in France.  The porcelain feve began in the 19th century and came from Germany until World War I when Limoges took over production.  Plastic feves came into favor in the 1940’s.  Collectors of feves are known as fabophiles in France.  A feve that dates before 1914 can fetch as much as 450 Euros!!!  Today top bakeries commission famous designers to design feves for their cakes, Christian Lacroix among them!  Fascinating!

Photos from “World of Interiors” January 2010 issue.  “Bean Feast” article by Marie-France Boyer.  Photography by Eric Morin.


Filed under Educational tidbits, Inspiration all around, Ooh la la

Cartier in America Delivers

I braved the crowds on December 27th at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco to see the “Cartier in America” exhibit.  Where to begin?

I was so inspired by the breadth of work on display and the intention and design exemplified within the pieces.  It was wonderful to see how much thought went into different ways the pieces are worn.  Many opulent diamond necklaces had large pendants that come off and can be worn as a brooch while the strands divide into two in order to be worn as bracelets.

Many inspiring pieces to behold…the mystery clocks, dozens of tiaras, tutti frutti necklaces, Grace Kelly’s engagement ring, Elizabeth Taylor’s diamond and ruby suite of jewelry…you really must see the exhibit in person.

A few standouts for me:

Evalyn Walsh McLean, ca 1932, wearing the Hope diamond with a diamond necklace and chain.  Ok, so obviously the Hope diamond is AMAZING but I’m especially LOVING this entire get-up on Ms. Evalyn…she looks FIERCE and timeless too…this photo is 80+ years old and still relevant today.

The exquisite Hope diamond now on display at The Smithsonian. Cartier cleverly designed the different shaped diamonds to surround the Hope diamond in order to camouflage the irregular shape of the Hope diamond.

Maria Felix, Mexican film star wearing many of her specially commissioned pieces.  I kind of love her…doesn’t she look like a BADa**?  The rumor goes that she brought a baby crocodile to the Paris store as a model for the necklace.

Maria’s crocodile necklace could work as two brooches or as a necklace.  I really love this concept of designing the pieces to break apart and serve multiple functions…so clever!  One is set with yellow diamonds with rubies for eyes and the other is emeralds with ruby eyes…exquisite!

Ahh…are diamonds a girl’s best friend?  Maybe not, but they sure don’t hurt!  These pieces are more than diamonds…they are art, history, and originality all wrapped into one…


Filed under Inspiration all around, Ooh la la

Holiday Wish List – Design Books

There are so many beautiful design books that have come out in the past year that I would love to have in my library.  They would be a great gift for any design enthusiast.  I think you might enjoy them!

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Holiday Decorating…Inspiration in White


There are lots of great holiday decor inspirations of all color ways in December’s Veranda Magazine.

In particular I am loving holiday in all shades of whites this year.  The effects are natural, organic, and graphic.

This home in Dallas, Texas contains wonderful ideas for holiday greens and whites.  The scale and proportion of the floral design are great.

You can create something similar at home by gathering vessels that you may already have.

I like to save glass containers from arrangements that are sent to me over the years.  Add white orchids, cymbidiums, hellebores, and tulips with a mixture of evergreen sprigs and tea lights.

I also really love how full and luscious the mantle garland is.  Take evergreen and generously add pinecones, large white blossoms and green berries.  Gorgeous!

Floral design by Raegan McKinney of Todd Event Design, Interior Design by Vision Design, and Photography by Andrew Vracin.

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Filed under Inspiration all around, Sublime Interiors

I Love NY in the Fall…Part 3, The Cloisters & Tryon Park


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cloisters bridge

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The top motivator for my trip to New York this fall was to see the legendary Cloisters at Fort Tryon Park.

The Cloisters are made up of medieval French monasteries that were disassembled and reassembled in New York in the 30’s.  The buliding houses great pieces of medieval art as well, including the significant series of tapestries depicting the capture of the unicorn.  This project was made possible by Rockefeller.   It is exquisite.

The grounds are also gorgeous and peaceful.  The Cloisters are positioned at the top of a hill overlooking The Hudson River.  As you look across the river, as far as you can see are trees with leaves that are turning red, amber, gold.  My friend that accompanied me grew up in Staten Island and has lived in Manhattan for decades.  This was her first trip to The Cloisters and she vows to return again soon.

If you go, there is a charming restaurant in the park called New Leaf…great spot for snacks, lunch, tea, etc.  If you are in the area, you’ve got to check out The Cloisters.

Truly special!

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Filed under Inspiration all around, Travel treasures

I Love NY in the Fall…Part 2, Chelsea Markets & The High Line

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chelsea market pumpkins

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Last weekend I visited the Chelsea Markets and The High Line for the first time.  They are both truly wonderful examples of re-purposing industrial spaces that became obsolete for delightful public spaces for all to enjoy.

The Chelsea Markets were once the National Biscuit Company complex begun in 1890.  These ovens once baked Saltines and Oreo cookies. Over the last decade the complex has been redeveloped into food markets, local bakeries and coffee brewers, high-end clothing samples sales, and restaurants.  I particularly enjoyed how festively the markets were decorated for Halloween.

I just loved all of the complex pumpkin carvings, the zydeco musicians, and skulls hanging from the rafters.

After our twirl through the markets we strolled The High Line which is an impressive transformation of outdoor space.

Originally built in 1930 to remove dangerous trains from the streets by lifting the track 30 feet in the air, the final trains ran in the 1980’s.  A community based non-profit group partnered with the City of New York to save The High Line from demolition and preserve the structure as a public park space.

Section 1 opened to the public in June of this year with the rest slated for 2010.  I found the landscaping of grasses, benches, and trees a modern and unique interpretation of what a public space in the 21st century should be.  The High Line design is led by James Corner Field Operations, with Diller Scofidio + Renfro.

For more information, wonderful blog, and visitor’s pictures visit

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Filed under Inspiration all around, Travel treasures

Antique Week Treasures

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So, I couldn’t go all the way to Texas without purchasing a few treasures for myself.  That would be next to impossible!

Clients often ask me how I shop flea markets and antique sales.  There are no right or wrong ways to do it.  I can only speak for myself.  Beforehand I prepare by making a list of items that I am looking for and taking measurements, samples of paint and fabrics with me, budget, etc.

Of course, you must also have an open mind to the treasures that jump out at you that you never realized you always wanted!  Case in point, the German beer finish display cabinet.  It is perfect for my small collection of vintage Halloween decorations and toys.  If you look closely at the front window, you can make out a Gothic “B” for BOO!

I also could not resist Mr. Wonderful, the well-loved horse pull toy.  He has a fantastic look…just the right amount of wear.  His coloring is perfect…neutral, organic, authentic…I know that he is going to be a marvelous addition to my eclectic interior.

The most exciting purchase, and piece that was actually on my list, is the Swedish clock.  I instantly loved this particular one, over all others.  The graphics and hands of the face spoke to me, as did the simplicity of the curved lines and ornamentation (which I feel are just the right amount).  I’m so excited to see this beauty in my home against my mirrored column…I feel this will be a nice juxtaposition of periods and materials.

Now, to wait for the shippers to deliver my treasures…2-8 weeks!  But, I’m patient and keeping my fingers crossed that they arrive in good shape.  It was a fruitful trip!

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Filed under Inspiration all around, Travel treasures, Vintage Finds

Round Top Big Red Barn Opening

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Wednesday brought the opening of the Round Top Antiques Show.  We always start with the “Big Red Barn” which opens at 9:00am.  We lined up at 8:30am and by 8:50am, here was the crowd behind us…Lining up is really a hoot.  You get to chat and acquaint yourselves with your “neighbors”.  It was so interesting to hear what each shopper comes for…for one it is a collection of antique bears, for another Navajo jewelry.  I was shopping for furniture with my client so we all felt confident that we weren’t racing each other for merchandise!

What’s so nice about the Red Barn is that it is AIR CONDITIONED, which is much appreciated.  Oh, and there is INDOOR PLUMBING.  This is a dream for antiques week.  Beyond that the merchandise available is varied and wonderful.

Here is a sampling of some whimsical booths.  I’m such a sucker for vintage Halloween and Christmas ornaments and I just couldn’t resist snapping a shot of these charming toy trucks.  They have a great look and were displayed so wonderfully.  Of course, my favorite vendor was Love Train and wouldn’t you know they were in the only non air conditioned tent at the Red Barn.  Bummer.  I don’t have any photos of their terrific wares because I unfortunately couldn’t multi-task…too hot.  But the loot we found there included a fantastic pink and green French advertisement.

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Filed under Inspiration all around, Travel treasures, Vintage Finds

Marburger Farms Fall Antique Show

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I’ve just returned from the Marburger Farms Fall Antiques Show, what a whirlwind.  I often have people ask me what I do there and what is it like…so I captured moments throughout my trip which I’ll be posting in the upcoming days.

The lineup of shoppers wait for the 10am early opening on Tuesday.  The tents are roped off and savvy hunters try to steal a peak into the tents of their favorite dealer…the excitement builds…the whistle blows and they’re off!

I captured a few booths that had great “curb appeal”.  Many of these dealers are truly artists with their displays.  I just love the graphic quality of these pieces and presentations….

More adventures of fall antiquing to come!

PS – I almost forgot to mention the shopping conditions…hot, muggy, port-o-potties…need I say more?  It is not for the weak!

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Filed under Inspiration all around, Travel treasures, Vintage Finds