Now don’t kill me, summer lovers, but it’s time to face some facts…..in a little over a week, the official first day of fall will arrive. However, for many of us, the autumnal season begins with Labor Day, or the first day the Pumpkin-Spice “insert any food item here” lands on the shelves. And as quickly as the leaves change colors and float to the ground, it seems as though the holiday season is upon us. With that in mind, it’s never too early to start planning for your holiday entertaining. Vendors show seasonal merchandise early and I even placed orders for some of my clients earlier this year.

 

Now I know it’s tough to be proactive when the season is just getting underway, but that’s where having a designer on hand is useful and time-saving. Using your china and flatware in addition to fresh florals, festive napkins and maybe a new beautifully draped tablecloth, we can create the perfect table top settings for your holiday party.

Or maybe you are a mom with four children underfoot so the thought of decorating your home for the holidays seems daunting. With a little pre-planning, we can turn your everyday living space into a festive atmosphere quickly and easily.

In the next couple of weeks, we will be unveiling some quick tips and tricks to make your home feel warm and inviting for the holidays so stay tuned but in the meantime, if you need some help, please feel free to reach out to us by clicking here…and the sooner the better!!

Cheers!

Tori

All photos by McBrien Interiors except Birch Trees (from Pinterest).

It’s here! It’s here! The September issue of Connecticut Cottages & Gardens is here!!

You might remember my blog post back in May about the trip I took with a few antique hunter friends to Mercanteinfiera in Parma, Italy. (If not, click here to brush up.) Since then, we’ve been dying to see what CTC&G editor, DJ Carey, would choose to portray from our three day experience abroad. “Italian Treasures” from the September issue, which happens to be appropriately titled “Curated Style”, was worth waiting for.

I truly dislike the question: “What is your design style?” but if I had to choose a label, “A Curated One” is what I would select. I think the best designers are inspired by different sights, sounds, smells, colors…everything in their environment, including, what interests their clients. Why do you think so many designers showcase their travels on Instagram? Each new hotel, restaurant, garden, museum or antique market is inspiration. And this being inspired is what fires our creativity. It allows us to hone our ability to mix furniture from different periods or draw together unexpected colors. It is this curiosity in our environment that enables us to create unique spaces for our clients. For me, Italy, and more specifically, Mercanteinfiera, was an amazing way to immerse myself in new sights, sounds, and feels…not to mention the tastes and smells. For more about our trip to Italy, pick up a copy of the issue.

And again, many thanks to Toma Clark Haines, The one and only Antiques Diva, Margaret Schwartz and Kelly Maguire of Modern Antiquarian, and of course…DJ Carey of CTC&G.

“Italian Treasures” was originally published in Connecticut Cottages & Gardens September 2018.

Sometimes picking the right white paint color is tough because white isn’t just white. The options are seemingly endless: optical white, off-white, linen, snow white, and the list goes on and on….which is why paint suppliers like Benjamin Moore provide a specific paint deck of white and off-white colors for those of us in the trade. It is one of the tools I use most when helping my clients choose the right shade for their project. Below I’ve shown a few of my favorite whites to  point you in the right direction but don’t just choose one based on the way it looks online. The best way to test a paint color is to get a small sample and paint it in multiple places around the room. Then live with your new polka dot walls for a day or two. This allows you to see the shade(s) in the changing light throughout the day and in artificial light whether it be incandescent or LED.

Paint Colors from Left to Right:

First Row: Benjamin Moore – Simply White, Benjamin Moore – White Dove, Farrow & Ball – Wevet

Second Row: Benjamin Moore – Navajo White, Benjamin Moore – Lily White, Benjamin Moore – Chantilly Lace

As some of you know, my family and I have recently moved into a new home which is not only exciting as we have more space for the kiddos to run around but it is also incredibly inspiring for me. Because I didn’t have much time to think about the design of our home prior to moving in, we are living with the previous owner’s color choices, fixtures and lighting. Everything is certainly livable…no key lime shag carpeting or Laura Ashley wallpaper to be ripped out but things are certainly not my taste. And now that we have been settled for about a month, my creative juices are simmering and I’m beginning to envision how each space will look on it’s own as well as flow together. This is one of the parts of the design process that I love the most….finding inspiration and curating ideas to create a space that is unique.

 

One of the components I’ve been researching is painted millwork. Many people think of millwork as a traditional feature of a home but there are amazing ways to modernize it. You can paint the walls one color and the millwork another. But what colors should you use? Should you choose all white millwork and a contrast color wall? Or how do you feel about the cleanliness and serenity of just all white everything? OR you can paint the millwork but choose to wallpaper above the chair rail. This leads to more decisions…should the millwork be something bold and modern like a pomegranate red with a matching patterned paper? Or classic and traditional like a soft powdery blue and neutral textured paper? The one thing I’m finding as I do my research is that I’m loving strong colors AND wallpaper is back in a big way. See the images below for what’s inspiring me…..

Picture Credits: Atlanta Homes, Charles Spada Interiors from Dering Hall, Lindsey Coral Harper Interior Design from Dering Hall, Elle Decor, Patrick J. Burke from Architectural Digest, Kathy Marshall Design from Dering Hall, Pinterest, Pinterest, House & Home

Father’s Day is a well-deserved holiday in our home. From mowing the lawn with my son in tow on his bubble mower to getting in the pool for swim lessons with our daughter, my husband is a hands-on Dad. He deserves the superhero-themed Father’s Day card and the family trip to a local baseball game followed by a BBQ. But this year, with a move on the horizon and more space to fill with furniture, I thought maybe he’d appreciate some furnishings that cater to his wants and needs but don’t need to be relegated to a “man-cave”. Here I’ll share my curated list of great Father’s Day essentials that don’t include another tie or BBQ set.

 

First Row (from L to R):

Headboard: If your mornings start anything like ours, it’s with both kids in our bed reading books or having unannounced tickle fights. Why not create a bespoke clean-lined yet beautiful headboard like this one? Number of panels, color, lighting, everything is customizable. And your husband can get out of the right side of his tailor-made bed every morning.

Recliner: This is not your average recliner. The trade-only version uses only the touch of a button to lean back to the perfect pitch instead of going from upright to completely flat. I tested this at High Point Market this spring and was completely sold. It’s very comfortable yet modern looking.

Lounger: For the man who does not want a recliner but still feel loungy. I recently purchased this chaise lounge for a client’s office. Instead of working on his laptop in bed every night, he wanted a place other than his desk to lay back and go through emails. This is the perfect solution. It is contemporary and has great sculptural metal legs.

Second Row (From L to R):

Leather Sofa: What man doesn’t want a leather sofa to fall asleep on while watching the game, match, tournament, etc? This piece is cleaned-lined, modern looking and cozy. A couple of throw pillows and the perfect nap spot is born.

Bar Cabinet: This amazing bar cabinet has enough space to hold all of his favorite bottles of whiskey, rum, vodka (pick his poison) and cocktail accoutrements. The wood finish, metal leg finish and even size are customizable so that it’s beautiful exterior will compliment the rest of your decor and disguise the party when not in use.

Pool Float: While not the fanciest option for pool loungers, this modular inflatable set can be used in any configuration and has a cooler option. Fill the middle with ice, toss in a few frosty beverages and you have yourself a floating island. Perfect for a relaxing float in the pool.

And below, last but not least…. the Throne. Not to be crass but I could not put a Father’s Day list together without adding the Kohler Numi toilet. As one of the most expensive “thrones” on the market, it would be the creme de la creme of gifts for that special guy (especially because as this may be the only room in the home that he has any privacy, I’m sure he wants to really enjoy it). I’ve seen this in action at the Kitchen and Bath show and it lives up to it’s price tag. It can pretty much do everything except drive the kids to baseball practice.

I don’t think I could ever check off every place on my bucket list. It’s filled with both well-known and obscure corners of the world that I desperately want to explore before my time to walk this earth is…well…let’s not go there. Today, I’ve chosen to share one of those little treasures undiscovered by the vast majority people, Gueledon.

I have always been a history lover…I could devour a Philippa Gregory novel in an afternoon if left to my own devices. As a child, I always pretended to be a Disney princess (my favorite was Sleeping Beauty) waiting for my Prince Charming to arrive. In middle school, the fantasy faded but the love for castle life and architecture did not…so much so that I created the “Castle Club” with another friend of mine. This entailed receiving extra credit for spending hours in the library studying various castles. The capstone was recreating one such castle out of sugar cubes and marshmallow fluff. (Wow, I can’t believe I admitted that on the internet.) However, my reverence for these structures hasn’t wained and I found my Prince Charming who accepts my love of all things turreted and built of stone. The other day, said Prince, sent me a link to the most amazing place….a castle being built using medieval techniques just a short drive from Paris (also on my bucket list). To see this in action would be incroyable….anyone want to take a trip?

 

For today’s blog post, my intention was to showcase some of my favorite floral wallpapers in honor of the start of spring but I just can’t get into that mindset as I sit here with yet another Nor’Easter swirling outside my windows. So…I’ll save those for another week. Instead, I’m returning to my trip to Parma but this time, in much more detail.

The doors of Parma captivated me. I didn’t realize it at first but as I started my self tour of the city, I realized I had taken multiple pictures of these ancient architectural forms. Arched doorways, iron strap hinges, rivets (like those in the door pictured above) and more grabbed my eye. Any local probably thought I was a little cuckoo for walking up to almost every door and running my fingers over the aged wood. But when you are surrounded by this kind of beauty everyday, I’m sure it is easy to pass by. For me, that was not the case.

Another amazing door and a close-up of it’s door knocker.

From the ancient doors of the Baptistery surrounded by pink verona marble to burgundy velvet draped doors leading into the Cathedral, each one has so much character and history that they were hard to pass by. I could’ve spent a full day looking at just these monuments of history. Yes…doors are made to serve a very practical purpose but they can also be handcrafted pieces of art made by the hands of skilled artisans.

Since it’s the week of leprechauns and gold coins, I thought I’d share some of my favorite green and gold interior image from Pinterest.

  1. A chinoiserie-inspired kid’s room.
  2. Schumacher’s Nanjing wallpaper in Jade.
  3. A Palmer Weiss designed key lime master bedroom.
  4. Spotted walls in a bath.
  5. Chartreuse chic in a Alessandra Branca designed master bedroom.
  6. Sicis mosaic tile.
  7. A pineapple printed wallpaper in a McBrien Interiors designed powder room. Photo by Scot Zimmerman Photography
  8. Evergreen ceiling fan.
  9. A greek key and geometric wallpaper.
  10. Tory Burch’s office in Manhattan.
  11. The most amazing terrace.

All images courtesy of Pinterest unless otherwise stated.

Last week I had the dream opportunity to spend a few days in Italy drinking prosecco and eating ALL the pastas, cheeses and parma ham. But that’s not all I did…I spent time at Mercanteinfiera, an antiques market in Parma, honing my eye by looking and touching pieces from across the world and across time. Seeing how these international antiques dealers merchandise their finds from different eras was inspiring and I can only hope will make me a better designer. It’s my dream to start to incorporate antiques into my client’s projects. I think pieces with history give soul to a space and add to the story of a home. Shopping this market was just the tip of the iceberg for me as I continue to educate myself about the world of antiques. Below are some of my favorite finds….

I’m a sucker for a gorgeous piece of sparkling jewelry and any of these would be amazing inspiration for the design of a room. The shape of the pendant could be used in the pattern of textiles in a bedroom with acrylic hardware used to reflect light like diamonds. The sea green brooch would be the start of a color palette for a living room. It’s easy to find inspiration for design anywhere. Especially when it looks as good as these do.

I love pieces with interesting details or exquisite craftsmanship. All of the below have something unique about them from the hand painted Asian armoire to the delicate inlay on the side of the desk. Each piece has something that speaks to me and pulls me in. Which is your favorite?

For the last few days, I’ve been alluding to an exciting upcoming adventure on Instagram and it’s finally time to reveal what I’ll be up to. Next Tuesday evening, I will be flying “across the pond” to attend Mercanteinfiera in Parma, Italy with some fellow travel/interior design/antiques enthusiasts.

A few images from last year’s Mercanteinfiera

One is Toma Clark Haines, aka, The Antiques Diva, whom I met briefly at a seminar a few weeks ago and is THE go-to source for antique tours and antique buying abroad and in the US.

“Since opening in 2008 The Antiques Diva® & Co has become the world’s largest antiques buying and touring services company, offering custom, private one-on-one antiques buying tours in 15 countries in Europe, Asia and America to both private individuals (tourists) and to the trade (antique dealers and interior designers). Our team of over 25 locally based guides are well-versed in the local culture, language, and best local sources for antiques – whether that be the local flea markets, antique warehouses or private, by-appointment-only antique stores.” (except from their website)

Toma has a fascinating life exemplified by her recent move from Germany to Venice and I am very much looking forward to hearing about what inspired her to develop this business. I am determined to absorb all I can from her about the process of buying antiques abroad and share any juicy tidbits upon my return.

From L-R: Kelly Maguire of Modern Antiquarian, The Antiques Diva, and Me

Another of these amazing women is DJ Carey, Editor-in-Chief of one of my favorite local shelter magazines, Connecticut Cottages & Gardens.

CTC&G editor-in-chief D.J. Carey has a wealth of experience in design media, having begun her career at House & Garden, followed by stints at Ladies’ Home Journal and Redbook, among others. At CTC&G, she helps showcase the best Connecticut has to offer. “Connecticut has such a rich history of design that most of us are unaware of,” she says. “This is a great opportunity to enlighten those who live in Connecticut about what is in their own backyards.” However, her skills influence all Cottages & Gardens products. Carey lives in a 19th-century farmhouse in Norwalk, Connecticut, with her husband and daughter.” (excerpt from website)

I recently spent time with DJ at the KBIS show in Orlando on their VIP Curated Tour which is where we found out we’d be traveling to Italy together. She and I will have a lot of time to not only discover Mercanteinfiera but also the city of Parma itself. Seeing both the market and this ancient region through the eyes of a magazine editor will in itself be an amazing and invaluable experience.

DJ and I at a recent CTC&G event recapping trends from KBIS 2018.

And last but certainly not least, is the dynamic duo that makes up Modern Antiquarian, Margaret Schwartz and Kelly Maguire, both of whom I met by chance last year at their beautifully curated store, The Summer House. While The Summer House has since closed, they’ve been able to focus fully on their antiques business and set up a beautiful space at The Antique & Artisan Gallery in Stamford, CT.

“Modern Antiquarian was born out of a love for antique furniture and objects and a passion that grew into a career. Margaret Schwartz developed her love of antiques over time and as that passion grew she felt a need to share it. It started when Margaret read about antiques tours on The English Room blog and it piqued her interest. She booked a one day tour not knowing what to expect. By the end of the day she had filled a 20’ container and was hooked on antiques. We understand that antiques are intimidating and can be expensive, so anyone who is diving into the antiques world is bound to need some advice along the way.” (excerpt from website)

And some advice is what I need…as an inexperienced but passionate antique lover, I have already learned so much from these two and I look forward to continuing to expand my knowledge. It was Margaret that asked me to join them on this trip and I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity.

Margaret Schwartz, Owner

Kelly Maguire

Follow along with me Feb 28th-Mar 4 on my Instagram as I explore the city of Parma, Italy and it’s Mercanteinfiera to see this amazing city and market of antiques through my eyes.