Thursday, March 26, 2009

Southern hospitality

Coconut Cupcakes (by Brenda Cataldo) on
platter from the
Gail Pittman Veranda Collection

I spent last Tuesday night at a very entertaining event hosted by the regional consultants of Southern Living at Home, a company created out of the continuous requests by readers for products found on the pages of Southern Living magazine. Held at the Hilton Hotel in Dedham, this “Design Showcase” featured the beautifully versatile pieces found in the Spring 2009 Catalog set up as themed tablescapes.

Here are some of my personal favorites ...

Princess Party: Brenda Cataldo and Leslie Milne

This table set for a princess and her friends features some of my favorite items: Chelsea Candlesticks (available in two sizes), Astoria Flatware Caddy (used here to hold sweet treats and birthday noisemakers –– I use mine to hold more formal silverware in one, and special serving pieces like the Hostess Serving Set in another).

Earthly Delight: Cindy Morse

This scape featured
yummmmy pistachio, chocolate, cream and coffee ... in both its colors and its oh-so-tempting display. I loved the cinnamon sticks in each mug, votives surrounded with coffee beans, and the taper candles inserted in grass filled bowls.
Tastefully done!

The Verde Collection (shown above) was just one of the items featured by SLAH Creative Director and ceramic artist, Gail Pittman herself. She filled a number of the adorable oblong shaped bowls with small items (candles, chocolates, guest soaps, etc.), put each in a small cellophane bag, then tied it with a pretty ribbon creating a simply adorable hostess gift, teacher gift, etc. with no need to wrap ... how green is that? I especially like the unique shape of the bowl and can picture it on a desk to hold business cards, paper clips, etc.

Here is Gail
(love the unique colorway of her leopard print top!) signing a piece for my sister-in-law, Susan.

Gail was very sweet, approachable and funny. I loved the stories she told about beginning her career by “painting bowls.” When she was just starting out, her husband would approach friends and strangers alike with the question, “Do you want to buy a bowl?” I told my husband he could just insert the word “pillow...”

An animal print favorite from my Spring ’07 collection

Gaveston Summer: Sue Mulligan

I thought this tablescape was pretty and fresh, with loads of Southern warmth and charm. I love the citrus colors paired with hot pinks and brilliant blues. This linen/cotton fabric from Calico Corners could work well with this summery setting ...

Bipin Ticking Multi

Sun, Sea, & Serenity: Marcia Hostetter

This seashore inspired display was full of great textures and organic beauty. Try creating this look on a smaller scale at home ... here is my version using a favorite Southern Living item – the versatile Hemingway Hurricane.

And I can’t leave out the Hilton lounge ... I am not sure who designed the space, but I loved the copper planters with tall branches, large scale chess pieces on the solid console, and the pretty bowl of moss covered spheres. Planters like these are available online from Smith & Hawken. Contact Brenda Cataldo for Southern Living at Home products.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Traditional styling of modern necessities

There is nothing good-looking about a cordless phone with answering machine (although some gadget-loving guys may say otherwise!) Instead of ignoring this modern-day eyesore, find a way to camouflage it, or creatively design around it like Ive done here. Using a traditional footed serving tray to elevate the scene, I composed a vignette that includes old-fashioned decorative favorites like a pair of glass votives paired with a ceramic planter.

The tray, which I discovered at a local HomeGoods, closely fits the curved shape of this vintage dressers black-painted top (almost like they were made for each other), which then repeats the black of the phone as well as the black of the boy’s outfit.

Design tip:
If an antique piece has drawers that are tough to open and shut, like this one, use them sparingly to hold items not needed on a regular basis. The wide drawers of this dresser are used to save art class projects that are periodically brought home from school.

With “Art in Bloom” still fresh in my mind, this serves as a great example of how to pair low maintenance plants, instead of fragile blossoms, with works of art. Around Easter, I will temporarily relocate this arrangement (yellow vase purchased through Southern Living at Home), and replace it with a larger grouping of tall white lillies as seen in the painting.

Historical style ...

I clearly wouldn’t have to disguise
beautifully designed phones like the vintage versions shown below. Additional bonus ... the earpiece would always be where I left it. Searching for a ringing cordless is not my idea of modern convenience!Although conversations on these stylish darlings might end up being pretty short without the advantage of being able to walk and talk ...

1930s Crosley Desk Telephone

This sleekly styled red number is my personal favorite. It would go great with the current trend of combining modern styling with vintage pieces ...I'll get it, dear!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Art in Bloom ... after the show

“Lady in Venice” by Judith Barry
Arrangement by Yvonne Blacker

Here is a glimpse at the other beautiful blossoms and inspiring works of art that were on display last week at the Lynnfield Library’s version of “Art in Bloom” put on by the Village Garden Club of Lynnfield in collaboration with the Lynnfield Art Guild along with a number of guest artists.

“Shopping in Angeirs, France” by Jeannette Corbett
Arrangement by Ann Encarnacao

“Spring in Provence” by Jeannette Corbett
Arrangement by Jeannie Dalton

“Some Place in Vermont” by Gail Rober
Arrangement by Karen Hathaway

“Owl’s Head Light” by Lorraine O’Brien
Arrangement by Wendy Keefe and Katerina Georges

“Garden Gate” by Ruth Ann Mowder
Arrangement by Betsy Foley

“Peonies” by Ruth Ann Mowder
Arrangement by Dorothy Goodwin

“Summer Pink, Summer Blue”
by Meredith Jean Myserian
Arrangement by Joan Kirk
and Mary Schwartz

“Morning Flurries” by Frank V. Colombo, M.D.
Arrangement by Maura Quinn

“Mountain Valley” by Carol Mack
Arrangement by Bootie Stevens

“Fantasia” by Pauline Bacon
Arrangement by Joan Bourque and Jan Lisacki

“Enchantment” by Rosemarie Whalen
Arrangement by Laura Thomson

“Shadows & Sun” by Janis H. Sanders
Arrangement by Tracy Drislane

(learn more about Tracy on my
friends who design website ...)

“Poppies” by Shaila Desai
Arrangement by Susan Nugent

(sorry, Shaila, for the reflection of the library
windows on this beautiful pastel!)

One final footnote ...

Take a look around your own home for opportunities to combine art and flowers. J
ust as each flower has it’s own unique beauty, there is no “wrong way” to interpret a favorite piece of art. Be inspired by the colors and shapes. Or create a story that relates to the art. Use your imagination and have fun. Fresh flowers always look good and really make a difference in bringing a room (or in this case a library!) to life.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Designing with art and flowers

Monday night was the opening of “Art in Bloom at the Lynnfield Library” – a local version of the popular MFA show that is held in Boston each spring. As a member of the Village Garden Club of Lynnfield I get to try my hand at interpreting a local artist’s work (most of whom are members of the Lynnfield Art Guild) with flowers.

This year, I interpreted “Lady in Venice” as painted by Judith Barry. This contemporary work stands out with its bold and confident strokes of vivid colors. Being such a large piece, I felt the subject matter should command center stage while my flowers would play a supporting role, with an appreciative nod to the rich blocks of colors in the painting.

Why I chose the objects in this vignette:

An iron cherub statue mimics the upstretched arm of the subject — and seemed Italian to me — while a candlestick with graceful curves (like the subject) holds a lone yellow chrysanthemum.

Three square glass vases (to repeat the shapes of the buildings in the distance) are filled with solid groups of flowers (carnations, sunflowers, roses) that repeat the colors in her dress and the objects around her. Each vase is lined with a large leaf to hide flower stems from view.

The role serendipity played ...

I just received a box of fabric remnants and trims from a friend this weekend. On the very top was this watery blue fabric with stars that looked Venetian to me, and happened to be cut in the exact size that would cover the table. As luck would have it, there was just the right amount of golden fringe in the box as well. Out came the sewing machine plus some fabric glue and “voila!”

Try it at home ...

I love using square vases when decorating a dining table they are small enough to see over, but dramatic enough to make an impact without being fussy. I picked these ones up at a local craft store. I would probably put together three of these arrangements using identical flowers for a dinner party. My favorite in this grouping is definitely the sunflowers ... very casual chic.

I really enjoyed creating this floral still life, but seeing how everyone else interpreted their pieces was even more amazing. Be sure to check out the show (this week only) if you are in need of some “art and flower therapy!”

“Art in Bloom at the Lynnfield Library”
Lynnfield, Massachusetts
Monday, March 9th – Saturday, March 14th
Call library for times: 781-334-5411

Here are some leftover flowers that I used
for petite arrangements at home ...

Outside on my picnic table for a photo shoot
my favorite vintage container overflowing
with a simple
lions-mane-like grouping ...

On the ground the first signs of spring to come ...

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Creature comforts ...

This is currently one of my favorite scenes’’ in my home ...

For the longest time, I didnt have anything special on this small bureau in our master bedroom. Usually clothes would end up on top ... waiting to be put away or hung in the closet. For Christmas, my mom gave me this sweet, ceramic bunny (she collects deers, I collect rabbits) and finding it a home was what prompted me to pull all of these pieces together.

What makes it special to me ...

The vintage bureau was a gift from my parents ... they bought it for $50 at a yard sale and later my mom stripped it of it’s ghastly yellow paint and used a simple treatment of
Minwax to highlight it’s re-discovered good looks. I have had it since my first apartment at 21.

John and my wedding photo (complete with family and friends literally standing behind us) sets a romantic stage for the objects below ...

• a simple pink rose as candle holder (an interesting find from HomeGoods)

• tall antique compote a remembrance from my Nana, and the smaller version picked up during a seaside vacation ... both perfect for displaying strands of sparkly costume jewelry

• glass hurricane (from Southern Living at Home, no longer available in this size, but larger ones are currently in catalog) with a biscotti scented candle from Pier 1 -- it smells even better than vanilla

• cream scarf as runner (purchased this winter at Marshalls, worn once, but loved even more draped over the bureau top ... in the summer I will switch it out for a more seasonal fabric, but I am loving the warm look it gives the room)

What made it even better ...

The bunnies paw was hovering and I happened to have this tiny book of quotes (who doesn’t love a good quote??) that fit just underneath. On top of the book I usually keep a couple of pairs of earrings (they look like tiny wedding bands in this picture).

Here is a quote that is a personal favorite of mine (and reminiscent of this scene), taken from page 111 of 100 Small Comforts: Wise and Witty Words to Lift the Spirit by Lawrence Teacher Books ...

“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.’’ - Marcel Proust

Creating a design vignette is all about establishing visual connections. How do the objects relate to one another? How are they similar? How are they unique? The grouped treasures’’ don’t have to be expensive, but they should speak to you in some way. Find some items that have special meaning for you and tell your own story.