Monday, January 31, 2011

What I loved at the NYIGF

Two-talented: Stacy Kunstel (aka Duchess) and
Michael Partenio (otherwise known as Dunes)
at their nautically-inspired booth at this week’s
New York International Gift Fair

Last night I returned home from a weekend trip to New York to scope out the New York International Gift Fair. This was my first time attending and I am so glad I went! My traveling companion (and guide) was Rosanne Palazola who pens Focus On Design
, shares retail space with me and others at New England Fine Living, tends design clients of her own, and has been to the gift fair a number of times while working with Tuttle and Co.

Roomates Rosanne and Tina

Snacks-to-go: Blueberry muffins
wrapped in swan-shaped tinfoil

We arrived in New York just before noon on Saturday and quickly hailed a cab to the NY apartment of Rosanne’s friend, Tina. The apartment was a delightful pied-a-terre with plenty of room to entertain overnight guests, and blessed with its own courtyard garden that looked charming even while blanketed beneath a white-winter snow.

The three of us headed over to the Pier section of the gift fair on our first day and then visited the Javitz center on day two. Aisle after aisle of gorgeous home decor products and gift merchandise greeted us upon entering each section of the NYIGF. While I did not take photos of everything I saw (honestly, it would have considerably decreased the amount of goodness we could squeeze in if we stopped to photograph every booth) I did collect the cards of my favorite exhibitors for future reference (and journalistic posts!)

Find the Dunes and Duchess at this well-styled space at the NYIGF

While there, we made sure to visit our Boston design friend, Stacy Kunstel at the Dunes & Duchess booth located at
Pier 94, Booth #41059.

On display were new products like cool mirrors and elegant sconces that were added to this stylish line of accessories that includes lamps, candelabras, and giant hurricanes.

I finally got a chance to meet the talented and gracious Michael/Dunes in person, and he showed me a new free-standing pedestal that I know would look fabulous in the next design show that I’m working on : )

I would love to see the eco-friendly design-conscious lighting
by Artecnica offered at New England Fine Living

The energized crowds in the exhibit halls were just as stylish as the products being displayed. It was quite the fashion show! When I called home to check in with my family, one of my sons inquired whether I had seen anyone famous. No, I did not see Nate Berkus this time, but I did meet Lisa from the design blog Hamptontoes who had a House Proud segment on his show early in the fall. I have somewhat of a photographic memory and rarely forget a face, so I noticed her right away when she was visiting the Dunes & Duchess (plus I had seen her on Stacy’s blog after Stacy saw the Nate Show last August, so it was easy to put two-and-two together.)

More designer sightings ...

While we were admiring a gorgeous room decked out in lavender and linen designed by Oly Studio, I noticed a woman strategically shooting best-angle photos of the space. I figured she must be with the press since many exhibitors prefer that photos are not taken. When she turned around I immediately recognized her as Heather Clawson of Habitually Chic. I introduced myself as a fan of her design blog, but I could tell she was just like us, trying to see and record as much of the show as possible, so we didn’t chat long.

Going to the gift fair can be much like visiting an amusement park for design lovers, but it is also a work-related field trip that involves research and analysis. Designers are thinking “What does my client need?
Store owners are wondering “What would my customer like? Writers are looking for products to engage their audience, and many of us are wishing we could take home all of our show favorites and not just order slips, catalogs and memories!

When the weekend was over we were like little kids wishing we had time for one more ride on the merry-go-round. But we knew our time was up, and to be honest, all the pretty-shiny-colorful objects had left our senses overindulged (in the best way, of course!)

As I notice posts about the show this week (it goes through February 3rd) I will add them to this list. If you post about the show, please leave your blog address with the post link in the comments. I would love to see what you loved about the NYIGF.

Habitually Chic: Gift Show Guide

Habitually Chic: Jonathan Adler

Habitually Chic: Favorite Things

Habitually Chic: Oxbow Decor

Habitually Chic: For the Birds

Habitually Chic: Trends Report

Ishka Designs: NYIGF part 1

Hamptontoes: Tour of the NYIGF

Hamptontoes: NYIGF part II

Frugal Farmhouse Design: Gift Show Observations

Pretty Little Green Things: NYIGF Pier 94

Pretty Little Green Things: NYIGF Javitz Center

ShelterPop: Roost at NYIGF

Shelter Pop: NYIGF – Favorite Booths

The Itsy Factor: NYIGF Baby & Child Review

My Mom Shops: NYIGF – Best new baby & child

My Mom Shops: NYIGF – Melissa & Doug

IVillage Home & Garden: NYIGF – Favorite Finds

IVillage Home & Garden: Best Kid Friendly Designs

IVillage Home & Garden: Amazing Finds for Pets

Pretty Pink Tulips: My First NYIGF

The Zhush: NYIGF A Newbie’s Perspective

Fifth Joy: The Best of NYIGF

Maison de Ballard: Dolan Geiman Art at NYIGF

Design Sponge: Morihata International

The Lonny Blog: Nina
s Finds from the Gift Fair

Design Milk: New York International Gift Fair

And from my traveling companion ...

Focus on Design: Road Trip

Focus on Design: Road Trip, day 2

Friday, January 28, 2011

How I spent my snow day

After waking up yesterday to 9 more inches of snow having been added over night to the four foot high snow banks that are already narrowing the streets of our little town, I had to smile knowing that there was nothing I could do but grab a cup of coffee (or two) and enjoy the latest issue of Rue Magazine which was hot off the virtual presses.

I love the life-with-intention entrepreneurial spirit of
Jess Constable from jewelry design company Jess LC

Anishka Clarke of Ishka Designs and I sat in the same row in the
studio audience at the Nate Berkus Show back in September.

As usual, this issue of Rue is filled with stellar photography including this sunny vignette in the home of Susanna Salk who among other creative projects is a contributing editor to one of my favorite design series, Style Compass on 1st Dibs.

Being able to soak up the 200+ pretty pages of stylish interiors, fashion and pure fun that is Rue more than made up for missing a couple of looked-forward-to design field trips that I had to reschedule as a result of having a house full of children spending their snow day at home with me.

Although technically they spent most of their time outside with Mother Nature, while I watched from the warmth of my at-home-office window.

When you have some free time, be sure to take a look at Rue for yourself. And if you like Rue, you will love hearing the voices of co-founders Crystal Gentilello and Anne Sage as they share the process behind the creation of Rue with the ladies of The Skirted Roundtable (click here for podcast).

Seeing that I am also partnering on the design of a new digital magazine with my friend Linda (inspired as I have mentioned before by Rue, Lonny and the others who have paved the way for social media publications) I was quite interested in hearing how Anne and Crystal took a leap of faith together in order to follow their passions and create the job of their dreams.

Listening to them discuss candidly what it took to traject their careers to the next level, reminded me of the time when I left my steady but predictable full-time graphic design position to pursue a more varied design career as a freelancer. I was barely 25 at the time, but I figured I knew enough to make it on my own. And you know what? I did just fine.

Here is to taking that leap of faith, Act II : )


Monday, January 24, 2011

I am engaged ...

Engagement “ring” available at
New England Fine Living

Working on the soon-to-be launched New England Finery Magazine has completely consumed my creative thoughts.

Table setting by Linda Smith
of New England Fine Living

Linda and I have been meeting regularly at this very table to discuss page layouts and desired content for the first issue.

Vintage fur muff: Seams Couture
Photo credit: Elizabeth Wertz

I am completely in love with the photos that our photographer, Elizabeth Wertz, has taken for our feature story.

XOXO blank notecards
yvonne b. designs

If you are in the area, please stop by New England Fine Living for your chance to take home some of the items that will be highlighted in our February issue (say “hi
to Linda while you are there!)

Refinished floors by C&R Flooring

The fact that my own house is finally getting some finishing touches during this exciting time is icing on the cake. But truth be told, it’s difficult to create blog posts when my house is filled with guys (the working kind that is).

Rest assured, I will be back soon with some “before
photos and worth-the-wait-happily-ever “afters ; )

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Everything in its place

Getting organized: check out my tips on

Just when I start to get organized at home, we have to move everything around again! This week we are having hardwood floors installed on the second and third floors. Only in the hallways and stair landings, but enough construction traffic to create a sense of being displaced. A bedroom floor is also being refinished which adds to the commotion.

I can be quite the homebody (when I am not out and about) so I will be happy when this phase of construction is over and I can work peacefully at my desk in my new office and not downstairs in the living room amidst the boy chaos!

Until the dust settles, please visit my recent post for Lynnfield and see how organized I was not too long ago ...

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A new creative venture ...

Photo by Yvonne Blacker

In my last post, I mentioned my love for picture books (or more specifically design magazines). I have always loved to read, and I remember when the books I read no longer had illustrations in them – it truly saddened me knowing that I could no longer turn the page and see a new picture to accompany the storyline. Even today, when I watch my son – who is just getting the hang of reading out loud – enthusiastically sneak a peek of the illustration on the next page just to see how the plot in the story is going to unfold, I am reminded of why a good picture is worth a thousand words. That is one of the reasons I love reading blogs. There are so many pretty pictures, plus there is usually an interesting story to follow as well.

Today I have a story for you ...

Photo by Yvonne Blacker

After setting up some of my design items at the lifestyle boutique New England Fine Living, I discovered that the owner, Linda Smith, and I have a lot in common – we both love creative design and enjoy sharing our favorite sources with others (her website provides all types of design related content and, yes, lots of great pictures, too!) She has even produced print magazines in the past. I asked her if she would be interested in having a digital magazine that represents the items and vendors in her boutique, but would also provide a lot of great creative content about life in New England. She said “God, Yes!

Photo by Yvonne Blacker

With so many traditional shelter magazines out there closing up shop, I have discovered a lot of digital magazines are taking their place, and many are actually being produced by design bloggers (see Rue and Lonny for example). I figured now was a good time for me to give this new technology a try. I have been blogging about design for about two years now, and while I love decorating interiors, I still enjoy putting visuals together – both on paper and online – to promote the many creative businesses that I come across. The fact that Linda also loves to promote other businesses as much as she enjoys designing a room or putting together a great event, made me think that we really should combine our creative efforts ...

So today, I am happy to announce that the first issue of New England Finery Magazine will premiere next month! We have already shot our cover on location with a professional photographer, and feature stories are in the works.

As co-founders, Linda and I are hoping to showcase all that is wonderful about New England ... places to visit, stylish events, local fashion designers, great interiors, and fine products created in or inspired by the historic charm and Yankee ingenuity of New England.
I am so excited to be working on this new creative project, and I know that it will be a great way to help other businesses to increase their exposure online.

If you have a business or product that is unique to New England and would like to advertise, contact us directly. Or if there is a New England-based story that you could imagine would be a great addition to the pages of this new online magazine, just let us know! We hope to share a little bit of the best of New England with each issue : )

P.S. The photos on this post are just a sneak peek of what will be included in the first issue! Stay tuned, there’s more to come ...

For advertising rates and information, e-mail

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

This month @NewEnglandHome

Cover photo by Laura Moss

The January/February issue of New England Home magazine just hit the newsstands and guess who’s in it? Actually, a lot of local talent is featured throughout, but I felt especially honored to be included in a shout-out to the Danvers Historical Society summer design show (see pages 122 and 124).

From New England Home, Jan./Feb. 2011

There are a lot of local design event photos in this current issue, making it easy to put a name with a face in the Boston design community. Also in the magazine, this month’s feature articles include some really neat spaces that are a twist on the traditional. In fact, New England Home seems to be on the verge of redefining itself, and is apparently catching on to the value of today’s social media driven design scene.

I was happy to discover this week that they just launched a daily design blog that will feature behind-the-scenes glimpses of magazine features, editor design pics, designer interviews, previews of upcoming events, and much more. Today, editor Stacy Kunstel wrote a post referencing the dramatic cover photo of this month’s magazine and the current trend of designing with black (check it out by clicking here.)

I am particularly interested in tuning in for the “guest blogger series
which will begin next Tuesday. Linda Merrill of The Skirted Roundtable and Surroundings will share this series for the month with Leslie Fine of Leslie Fine Interiors. More bloggers will follow. Sounds like something I would be interested in ...

I am slowly transforming my new office into a
grown-up space. This Pottery Barn bookrack used to
hold the kids picture books and now it holds mine.

To view the digital version of New England Home online, visit their website. This month’s issue is not up yet, so you will have to get a copy the traditional way or wait until the end of the month to view it in it’s entirety. I have one print copy of my own, but I just might have to run out and pick up a couple more copies to have on hand as keepsakes : )

Monday, January 10, 2011

Secrets from a Macy’s Stylist ...

A few years ago, I was asked to come in to help style what was soon to be the new Macy’s Furniture Gallery at the North Shore Mall in Peabody. Under the direction of Jason West, the District Visual Manager, a team of us spent a few days adding finishing touches to the showroom floor. We hung artwork, set up lighting, arranged bookcases, accented with pillows, and “accessorized” where needed. The room above was one of my favorites — a combination of traditional and modern with a great mix of hot and cool colors. Isn’t that artwork great?! I think this room could still work today.

Back in January of 2008 when I took these pictures, the predominant colors in the showroom were red and chocolate brown. The look was heavily traditional, and many of the accent pillows featured the look of Indian textiles with bits of mirrored sparkle and lots of embroidery. My favorite piece in this room is the black metal “tree.” The other visual merchandisers had some serious stylist-envy when they saw me snag it from the stockroom first!

I was asked to come back again this year, right before the holidays, to help implement some new design schemes from the corporate office. This time around (is it really three years later?) the colors have switched over to bright yellows mixed with neutrals like gray, black, white, cream and brown. Walls were being painted gray and large scale wallpaper patterns were scheduled to be installed. New artwork included modern images like the chandeliers above, and far less landscapes and still lifes were used than last time. Faux fur throws and pillows were added to the mix to create a look of cozy-modern. And lots of metallic finishes were seen throughout the showroom.

Greens are still popular, but in smaller quantities than a few years ago. For this room I was asked to freshen it up with some new accessories. The three glass fishing floats in the large dish on the coffee table were my contribution, along with new accent pillows, a birdcage and some rearranging of the objects in the television armoire. A lot of the accessories that I found in the stockroom looked vaguely familiar to me which made re-decorating a little challenging, but these days even big department stores will reuse and repurpose objects like the rest of us. Can you see something in this space that I used back in ’08?

Books are timeless design elements. I grouped this set with spine colors that matched the rest of the room along with the horse’s saddle. I could do a whole post on horses in design ...

For this bookcase I tried to fill it up with a unique assortment of “found objects
from the design inventory. I faced some books backward in order to see the array of pages instead of the spine. My goal was to have the objects stand out as visual texture in front of the dark wood.

A styling tip that I picked up from Jason: if you have a piece of abstract art, don’t be afraid to hang it vertically or horizontally. We turned this one on its side so that it would look better in relation to the sofa below. Why not?

Jason also had me cover a few books with paper, which is a technique that I often share with my clients. If you have a lot of photo albums on your bookshelves that all have different covers, for example, try wrapping each of them in the same solid wallpaper or kraft paper. Add a number to each and they will look less cluttered and more collected.

Some new light fixtures, like this branch lamp, were a nod to one of my favorite trends – bringing the outside in. There was another table lamp that really caught my eye that I forgot to take a photo of, but luckily I just saw it recently in Rue Magazine as a favorite design pic of Kelly Wearstler (I love her sense of style). It is the industrial looking hanging light bulb table lamp shown below. Cool, huh?

Rue Issue 2 pages 28-29 featuring
design pics from Kelly Wearstler

What every vignette had in common was a large, colorful arrangement. Of course this would not work everyday when sitting a group of people around the table to eat, but for visual display it attracts attention.

I saw this guy when I was leaving on my last day. Part of me thinks he is really cute, the other feels bad for him. How do you feel about animal skin rugs (real or stylized?) Either way, animal prints are a classic trend that are forever in style.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Making room for creativity

Last photo taken of what used to be the boys room: beds weren’t made and a few toys were left on the floor, but at least the room was clean.

Over the holiday break, I spent a lot of time cleaning,
getting organized, and clearing clutter. During the gift-giving season there is often more coming in than going out. Where does one put it all? This is always one of our biggest challenges as a large family. Especially considering I have a saving (hoarding?) problem, combined with a house that is always under construction, which constantly forces us to shift items from room-to-room to make way for work to get done.

We had gotten to the point that behind every closed door there was a box of stuff that I was supposed to “get to later.
Well it was time for “later to be “now so I put on comfortable clothes, rolled up my sleeves, and sent the boys outside to play in the snow for a few days (thank you, Mother Nature : )

Meanwhile, I methodically sorted through closets, boxes, drawers, under beds – looking for items that were no longer played with or needed, could be donated to charity, or recycled.
Special items worth saving were put away for safe keeping. My goal for January is to redistribute the items we don’t need. I have a small problem with throwing things away ; )

All that sorting was hard work, but well worth the effort. The end result? First, a sense of relief mixed with a tiny bit of pride. Clearing clutter is a great way to achieve home-makeover satisfaction without actually spending any money! Second, and more important, by reducing the amount of objects in each space it was that much easier to shift some rooms around again (it is just what we do around here!)

Now that we finally moved the master bedroom up to the third floor, two of the boys are moving into our former room. I was going to turn their small vacant bedroom into a boys game room, but, you know what? Virginia Wolf must have been whispering in my ear, because I started to think about just how much work I do from home (whether I am sourcing items for decorating clients, creating graphic design, writing about design, doing paperwork, etc.) and I figured it was time for me to step up and claim some real estate for myself! Bottom line ...

I now have a *room of my own!*

While it is not completely emptied of its previous owners possessions, I have moved in and made this sunny, backyard facing room my new office! Meanwhile, all four of the boys are in one bedroom (we were able to fit the bunk bed between a set of two twin beds) while we have some floor sanding done in what will be the new bedroom for two of them. Fortunately, they are all getting along pretty well, as they have come to look at this time together as an extended sleepover.

Unfortunately, I brought a lot of filled boxes with me into what was a cleaned out space, so I will have to start the sorting and de-cluttering once again. Even so, I am very excited to finally have a room that I can decorate as girly as I want in this home I affectionately call “Boys R Us.

The view outside my window.

Click here to read why Honeysuckle is
the chosen color of the year for 2011

What will the new room look like? Will it include the Pantone color of the year, Honeysuckle? Hot pink has always been a decorating favorite of mine (take a look at my last three design show spaces: The Summer Nursery, A Decorators Before & After, Tea for Fairy & Me). Pink on the walls would certainly communicate “no boys allowed,
although, I have to admit, I truly enjoy the daily visits from the guys, who come in to share stories of their day and check in to see what creative project Mom is working on.

Sometimes they still leave some toys hanging around, but I am okay with that : )