Monday, October 13, 2008

Time Passes. Life Happens. Follow your Bliss.

When I was about 20 years old, I had a conversation with a passerby... a woman shopping in the department store where I worked. I never forgot what she told me. She was a happy elderly woman around 83 years old. It was a chance meeting and a sharing of spirit I never forgot.

I can't remember why we started speaking or what we were talking about, but her message is timeless and a worthy lesson.

She said she felt like she was 18 years old inside. She still felt vibrant, optimistic and joyful. She acknowledged the wisdom gained through life's journey with its twists and turns. Nevertheless, she shared great joy with me for the happiness she felt inside. Only when she looked into the mirror was when she was reminded of her octagenarian status.

Little did I know how many times I would think of these words throughout my life. I don't remember her face, but I do remember her spirit and the glow she had around the watching a sunset on a summer evening.

I share this story with you because it is especially significant at this time in my life. My mother passed away almost 20 years ago and I kept her spirit with me by naming my store and website in honor of her- Millie's Daughter Designs.

My father died recently and I have been struggling with the many changes that have occurred after his death. He passed in June, 2008.

I can't remember when I started writing this blog. I was overwhelmed with emotion and sadness. But, time has passed. On my return from our 3 month stay in Costa Rica, I found this uncompleted blog. I decided to finish it and share my lesson with you.

We all keep our loved ones in our heart and go to them when we miss them, want to talk to them, or just want to feel loved. I truly followed my bliss by living in Costa Rica and travelling to Peru.
On Easter night, I cried remembering it was the last holiday I spent with my Dad. I have learned a short prayer. It gives me solace and allows me to experience joy in life.

I love you.
I'm sorry.
I forgive you.
Thank you.
What more needs to be said?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Montreal Weekend Getaway

We decided to visit Montreal, Canada after attending a wedding in Plattsburgh, NY. Boy, were we lucky to get a room on our third try as the city was booked. We stayed at a boutique hotel in downtown (Ville-Marie) area. Although, the rooms were small, they were immaculate and decorated in classy French style, similar to our favorite hotel in Paris. A-2-K Hotel is on Avenue Rene-Leveseque at the corner of Guy Street. Say hello to Gopel. Such a courteous gentleman! The hotel is adjacent to a fine Indian restaurant that was quite busy during our stay.

Downtown Montreal (Ville-Marie), Cresent Street
Photo Courtesy of Alexis Hamel

Hotel A2K is in a great location. Although, it is on a main boulevard, the rooms are quiet and near all the boutique shops, galleries, museums, restaurants and beautiful brownstone buildings. Architectural detail is everywhere. Even the skyscrapers in the business district are beautifully designed. Besides the friendliness and French language, fashion sense and culture, one of the great treats was the visible blue sky, no matter where we went! Montreal is a great place to discover by walking. Not only did we keep up with our walking routine, but, we were doing a daily walk of about 7 miles (instead of the usual 4 mile trek at home).
Dining at '7 ' Restaurant on trendy Cresent Street was a great first night experience. The bars, cafes, and restaurants were filled with fashionistas, the hip crowd and families alike. The intermingling of all types of folks that took pride in their dress. French, English and Spanish languages wafting through the air, felt like Europe.

De la Commune Street, Old Montreal
Photo courtesy of Denis Tremblay

We spent the next day in Old Montreal, deciding to walk from downtown which is about a 45 minute stroll. We past through the Business district, China town, and came across the Notre Dame Basilica- which is a beautiful church located across from the old City Hall. The stained glass work is exquisite.

Notre Dame Basilica
Courtesy of Marie Le Conte

The streets in Old Montreal, are cobblestone, winding and narrow, reminescent of the arrondisements of Paris. You can venture through many shops, restaurants, and a museum or two.

St. Vincent Street
Photo Courtesy of Marie Le Conte
Place Jacques- Cartier is filled with artisans, street vendors and cobblestone walkways. We picked up photo artwork by one of the local artisans and found a quaint restaurant through the recommendation of the local artisan. What at lovely end to a great weekend!
Place Jacques-Cartier
Courtesy of Denis Tremblay

Make a point to visit Montreal someday by adding it to your Travel To Do List- Bon Adventure! What an enchanting city!

Bonsecours Market
Photo Courtesy of Denis Tremblay

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Treasuring Summer Days, Living Your Life in Balance

Being Loyal to Summer

Labor Day weekend represents the end of summer to many of us. There are many triggers to support this feeling-- the beginning of the hustle and bustle of the school year, the occasional cool evenings, a few leaves falling and stores displaying autumn decorations in August.
I recently read that September is a stressful time of year because of the beginning of school, many activities and the pending holidays.

Fall doesn't begin until September 22. I used to get a little sad when I would hear some one say summer is over. I would say no! No, it's not! We have more time to celebrate the beauty of summer before we relinquish it! Now, I say how can you let this be?

Honoring Your Body
In August, I went away on a retreat/bootcamp and I started a daily walking routine. When I got home, I kept it up and it now has become a daily ritual in honoring my body, my time and my thoughts.

In doing so, I have been able to cut out a section of time for myself and making it a priority. It has become a meditative time to think about my goals, visions, and dreams. Besides, getting exercise in on a daily basis, the time helps me focus on my weekly and daily goals as well as prioritize them.

Living Your Life in Balance

How can I carve out a piece of time for myself with the kids, my husband, the demands of work, and social obligations; not to mention taking care of my home? I don't have the time to take care of myself!!

If this sounds like you, I ask you if your life feels like it is in balance? Do you feel happy taking on all of these tasks, jobs, chores, obligations? Do you allow yourself some down time and be just you--not somebody's mother, wife, employee, daugther, sister? Do you feel connected to your inner self?

Living your life in balance is unique for your own lifesytle. You are worthy to find out where that balance is. First, it starts with being true to yourself.

On my retreat/bootcamp, the leader taught us about the 4 bodies within us-- the physical body, the mental body, the spiritual body and the emotional body. We as women, need to honor our body- all four aspects of them instead of absorbing life's problems like a sponge.
How to start? Have the courage to create boundaries and be consistent to those situations, people and things that place demands, needs, requests, favors, etc. on us. There is nothing wrong with setting limits on others, in order to carve out some time for yourself. In fact, it is the healthiest thing you can do for yourself! It's ok to say, " No, I can't do that for you. I need to take care of my responsibilities first." Taking care of yourself is your responsibility. For no one will do it, if you don't do it for yourself! It is only when you have taken care of yourself, should you then help someone else. Your energy will be so much more balanced!

Motivational Speaker, Brian Tracy, says living your life in balance is placing 5 areas of life in the correct priority: Family, Health, Mental/Spiritual, Integrity and Career.
A person who puts his/her career before health, family and integrity is a far different person who puts Health, Family, Spiritual/Mental, Integrity before his/her career.

Slow Down to Catch Up

We need to slow down in order to catch up! Take time to breathe. Take time to relax. Take time to hear your inner thoughts. Take time to enjoy and savor the magical moments on this earth. I still write down my to do list, goals, errands and participate in my social obligations, dates, enjoyments. I even have better and concentrated focus on my work, accomplishing more than I ever have. In slowing down and consciously setting an intention for the day and taking time out for my walks, I am accomplishing more--more of what is truly important to me. My partner is happier, I am enjoying my friends even more, I am spending quality time with my family.

We have 20 more glorious days of summer. Now is the time to savor it, honor it, and enjoy it!
Start with 30 minutes just for yourself and you will be amazed at the results!

All the best, Suzanne

Friday, August 22, 2008

Check out the photos and design ideas on this site. I recently returned to Jedediah Hawkins Inn, located in Jamesport, LI, NY to enjoy a lovely lunch, beautiful scenery and great service. They have inspirational gardens as well. Truly worth a visit.
This location was a featured Designer Showhouse in 2006/2007.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

How to Start Going Green in Your Home- Home Office/Guest Room Ideas

We are changing from a throw away society to a recycle, renew, re-use, 'going green' citizens of the world. To get going green, start by selecting natural fabrics such as cotton, linen, and silk. Add a natural element such as a real plant, bamboo, wicker, branches, etc. Add a picture from nature, such as the palm tree prints or a landscape. I created a calming effect in this home office/guest room by using soft neutral tones, natural products and scenes from nature. It works because of the different textures added for interest.

By all means, incorporate what you already have-- this eliminates waste and creates saved money. Speaking of creating, be creative! Here, I have used a 100% cotton corduroy bedspread and re-used it as a daybed cover with matching shams ( I bought three instead of two). The center rectangular pillow was sold as a dog bed. The lamp is made of natural woods and paper shade.

The fabrics used are all natural except for the throw: 100% corduroy daybed & shams, as well as center floral/quilt pillow and 100% silk accent pillows. The throw (which is microfiber) softens the hard edges of the daybed. Placing like items in a group adds interest & personality to a room- such as the mirrors on the side wall.
I recommended painting the room a soft linen earthy tan or soothing green to enhance the design.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Updating a Designer's Home, Designer Showcase

I am a great fan of attending Designer Showcases for inspiration and ideas, besides getting a peak at the latest trends---which ones are being used and those that are not. Last summer, I attended a Designer Showcase in Huntington, NY and was inspired by a completely color coordinated first floor in one of the homes. I have not stopped thinking about the feeling I got while inside that home. So, I have allowed that thought to percolate in my mind for some time and the tall task of creating that feeling in my own home.

Some husbands give free rein to their wives when it comes to decorating and/or designing. Others want to be involved in every step of the way. Yet, there are those that do not welcome change and reject ideas for whatever reason! My case is the third--which is so ironic considering what I do for a living!! But, persistence has paid off and the flood gates have opened. We now laugh at the times ( and there were many) that I re-arranged furntiure, hung up pictures, added a mirror, brought in new furniture, changed bedding, and the list goes on, every time my darling was away on a business trip!

All of this started when I was looking through a wallpaper book to find a pattern for a client's bedroom project when I came across a French wall paper that I fell in love with.
First, I thought it would be great to update our 18th century formal living room ( I inherited). Later, it inspired me to re-decorate the entire first floor.

I am working one room at a time and I know in my heart that the finished work will be beautiful--and my guy will be thrilled as well. I won him over after negotiating for quite a while to paint the dining room. When he saw the results, he couldn't help himself to talk about painting the rest of the rooms and relaxed with other changes.

Our home will be filled with warmth and cheerfulness as all the rooms will be updated and color coordinated. It will make our home a beautiful and welcoming haven to enjoy and find tranquility within. I will be journaling these projects and all the work I do in each room. I will also list the To Do's to help you create your own project and possibly inspire you!

The Starting Point

I have been wanting to update the kitchen for some time now to a cheerful and classic yellow & blue. I have been saving some sentimental blue accessories from my mother for nearly twenty years. I also had an issue with a very formal 18th century living room, a mismosh dining room, dated wallpaper in the kitchen, and an existing den/family room 's sectional sofa with dull upholstery fabric that does not do my complexion any good! All of the new colors selected come from the French wallpaper, so I know it will work. Keep in mind, I will not be using the wallpaper, but, will be stenciling and decorative painting to get the same effect.

I have started with the dining room. Here is a picture of it. My next journal will contain the how to upholster dining room chairs.

Inspirational Decorative Painting
We went to Jedediah Hawkins Inn for a special occasion this week. It is located in Jamesport, Long Island, NY, and was a Designer's Showcase in 2005. Decorative painting techniques have been utilized through out the Inn. Trompe L'Oeil, Faux Finished walls, Stenciled ceilings, and Murals. You need to visit it in person to appreciate all the work.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Frasier Crane, Cocker Spaniel

Our Family Pet
I'm sorry to say that it's been a few weeks since I blogged. Our dog got sick the first week of March. While his master was away, Frasier took ill. I took Frasier to the animal hospital every day for 4 days to give him medication & make him comfortable. I also took care of him round the clock until his "daddy" came home. On the 5th day, we said our good byes. We had a very darling gentleman as our veteranarian, who said: 'you don't realize when you see the bright eyed, happy puppy at 6 weeks old, that later on you accept the responsibility to make these decisions upon their death.'

I've always said, "I'm not a dog-person". I've been with Frasier for 11 out of his 17 years. Frasier has taught me, no matter whether you are a 'dog-person' or not, you will always love your family pet and miss him when he's gone.

Painting With Aura Line of Benjamin Moore Paints

Painting Project -Dining Room
I have always enjoyed working with the creamy texture of Benjamin Moore (TM) paints. Recently, I tried their new product- Aura. The basis of this line is that you do not need to prime the walls; using only two coats- saving time and money.
One of the features was that Aura paints has a quick drying time. You can apply the second coat in one hour. Another is that Aura paint has more pigment color than the other products and is particularly beneficial to use with darker colors providing a more intense chroma ( richer color), avoiding a dull or faded look that you can get with dark colors.

I selected a deep reddish color called Sultan's Palace. The original wall paint was the typical white one would see in a model home. The fine print on the can, advises to use Aura Foundation for deep colors- meaning we're back to 3 coats. The local Benjamin Moore paint store was very helpful and are required to go by the manufacturer guidelines when making a recommendation on to prime or not to prime. 'Sultan's Palace' was not on the list requiring a primer. So, 3 coats were needed to give an overall even finish. However, it does looks great!

The biggest problem on this project was the adhesion properties of 3M Painters tape (the blue tape) in combination with the Aura paint. There is a lot of architectural detail in the room: crown moulding, chair railing, base moulding and 5 arched windows. 3M advertises that you can leave the tape on for 14 days. The sales rep at the local Benjamin Moore store, cautioned to keep it up for only 8 hours. I kept the tape on for 3 days- only because life happens (this is when Frasier got sick). I had to take off the very last 1/8 of an inch of the tape with tweezers on most of the moulding. It sounds crazy but true! The tape split and adhered to the moulding wherever paint touched it. I used a razor when possible to cut away from the wall, but the tape still stuck to the moulding.

I don't know if the root cause of the problem has to do with the properties of the Aura paint and the 3M adhesive qualities, the fact that I kept it on for 3 days, or just the adhesive strength of the blue tape. I painted the third coast without any tape and just wiped off any paint spots on the trim with a wet cloth. Being a decorative artist, I have a very steady hand and was able to do this.

It seems that there are mixed reviews with the professional painters whom I spoke to regarding Benjamin Moore's Aura line.
I would appreciate any feed back on the Aura brand of Benjamin Moore Paints.

Paint Selection & Planning; Decorating Tips

Paint Selection & Planning Decorating Tips

Here are some helpful planning tools to create a successful project; whether you have a blank canvas and don't know where to start,want to update an existing space, or want to change the look of your space altogether with new furnishings. These guidelines will help you when selecting a paint color for any room. As I've mentioned before in my previous blogs, planning is key to a successful result.

  1. Use an existing fabric to select a paint color. It is so much easier to match a paint color to fabric. It is much more difficult to match an already chosen paint color to a fabric you select after you painted the room.

  2. Use a color wheel to help you identify the complementary colors of your fabric or color scheme. You can buy one for a couple of bucks at your local craft store.

  3. Select a color/colors from the artwork ( poster, print, painting) you would like to hang up in the room.

  4. Buy your rug first and use it as the foundation for fabric and paint color selection.

  5. Before you purchase a gallon of paint, invest in a paint sample jar or quart and paint your sample on a good size canvas board (16x 20). Paint two coats and mark the back of the board with the brand, color name, and finish. You can get canvas board at your local craft store. Live with the color for several days: day light, night time, sunny day, cloudy day, morning light. Natural light will change the appearance of your color selection and it is important to choose a color that works for you in all of these light conditions before you commit to a color. This will save you time and money in the long run.

Fashion Accessory Trends

Fashion Accessory Trends

This season's fashion trends for Spring & Summer 2008 are pendant necklaces, semi-precious stones, natural wood accessories, peared with natural fabrics-silk, cotton and linen and metallics. This season's colors are orange, fuschia, turquoise, and yellow as well as some bright green acents.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Small Kitchen Design Update, Old World Plaster Faux Finish, Mission Organization

We have been so lucky this winter on the East End of Long Island. The weather has been so mild, but I can't wait until Spring is here! When the outside temperature hits about 58 degrees, it's Ok to start using paint on the exterior of your home or in my case, barn, where my design studio is located. I have to do the trim and doors.

The Small kitchen design project is coming along. I had a teleconference with my client to review the Lighting Design & Electrical Plan. All of these items need to be discussed and planned ahead of time: location of light switches, overhead lighting, under cabinet lighting, over cabinet lighting (uplights), location of electrical outlets above counter and splashboard height, appliance location, future appliance or media requirements. Although, my client is a master electrician, it's still necessary to review the lighting design and electrical plan. The expertise an interior designer brings to a project is not only aesthetic, but technical as well. Analyzing my clients' needs, goals, life and safety requirements come into factor on every job.

So, if you are re-doing your kitchen yourself, remember- You are the Project Manager. Watch and review multiple times all of the plans and verify that communications are clear and understood....and then do it again in the concept and planning stages. Prepare or have your contractor prepare a written detailed statement of work ( scope of work). Review it with each participant to make sure that it is properly coordinated and all parties involved sign up to their responsibilities. And then ask more questions. Even if you have a contractor, architect, cabin maker or buying from Home Depot, Lowe's, mistakes can be and in fact, often are made. Have measurements double-triple checked, confirm electrical outlets are at proper heights, switches are in designated locations. Ask your contractor if a measurement is wrong and you are short a cabinet or that long awaited pantry is not the 6 foot walk-in, but a 4 foot squeeze-in, who is financially responsible to correct the mistake? Get in in writing. This is not to grill anyone, but to ensure that the project is successful for all parties.

Old World Plaster Faux Finish
Here is a sample of the faux finish I will be using for the bathroom in my Design Studio. I have decided to do an old world Tuscan faux finish in Italian Sienna (left). The room is quite small with 10 ft. ceilings, so, I will be doing my creative best to make it feel more spacious. Instead of taking photos when its finished, I will be adding step by step progress photos to help you with your own project.

Mission Organization

Several of my projects this time of year have to do re-locating existing furnishings (Room Re-Design) and getting organized. For some people, tasks involving alot of clutter, a long list of "To Do's" or relocating heavy furniture, seems daunting, overwhelming and sometimes easy to avoid ( a-a-h....enter procrastination). But then, somehow, little by little, a nagging thought nibbles away at one's quality of life. For example, a client of mine needs to set up a music studio in a spare room, but, through the years, the spare room has been a catch-all for the treadmill that needs a minor repair and a make-shift library of a book collection gone haywire.

That 800 lb gorrilla in the room, we are trying to ignore can use up alot of energy! Instead of having procrastination zap your energy ( an does!), focus on the goal you want to achieve; write it down and then write out the action steps needed to acheive the goal. So, break the goal into say, 10 action steps ( or whatever you need) and break the 1st step into 10 tasks. This may sound so easy, but applying it to a real, concrete situation or circumstance that is preventing you from enjoying your home or your life, is easier said than done. Last, but not, least, set a timeframe to complete each task. To get started, make a commitment to do at least one thing that will bring you closer to your goal on a daily basis or weekly basis. This will make you feel empowered; fulfiling your own needs becomes a priority and the task will seem less daunting as you make progress. Take the time to plan. You are worth it!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Faux Finishing Design Studio, Designing a Kitchen

Welcome fellow women entrepreneurs, decorators, designers, artists, shoppers and lovers of the home! I am so excited to finally start my own blog. I am a decorator, decorative painter, interior designer, business woman and entrepreneur and occasional fashionista.

I am in the final stages of construction of my design & decorative painting studio located on the North Fork, Long Island Wine Country. Surrounded by farms, vineyards and little villages, it is a very inspirational place. I decided on an old world Tuscan faux finish for the bathroom walls and will post pictures when its done! The final punch list includes lighting, studio sink & countertop, window treatments, bathroom vanity & hardware, rug, and bookcase selection.

Last week, I attended the New York Gift & Home Furnishings show at Jacob Javits center in Manhattan. I did not see many new items in home decor, but, I was able to find a new line and a new product I never tried before- Spring & Summer Handbags and I located a new supplier for fashion jewelery line as I was walking through the streets of Manhattan.

What I did see at the Javits show were many beautiful bedding and linen lines. They were gorgeous, but, also so extraordinarily expense--at wholesale. I had to double-take the price tags a couple of times. Therefore, my search continues to find affordable bedding to add to my suppliers. I love Taylor Linens. The sentimental embroidery shams and pillows are my favorites.

Quality is very important to me, but, so is an affordable price. When I select an item, I have to love the it, whether I carry it in the online store, recommend it for a design client or buy it for myself. I am always looking at a product for its value---something that is practical, functional and feels like a luxury when used or when wearing it. Because the bottom line is not, how much you spend, but, how you feel in it or how you feel when you have the item in your home. That includes how you feel in a room or in your own home--do you feel like, "A-a-h, I've arrived to my sanctuary", or my palace, or my safe-haven, or my nest. If not, you need to re-work that room. And remember, one room at a time, or you will lose sleep over it! It's a pleasant journey we're going for, folks!

Yesterday, I began space planning for a very small kitchen for a client of mine. Planning is very important for -everything--- but, especially small kitchens--space is a premium.

Before you get seduced by the features of a kitchen--granite countertops, six-range gas stove, the latest in ventilation hoods, ceramic tiles or plank flooring--and there is so much out there--you need to think about it's functionality.

Make a list of daily activities in your kitchen for a week and what you put away. What do you do in the kitchen? What do other family members do in the kitchen? Did you have to go to another room to get something? When you have company over, do they get in the way when you are doing the final preparations of the meal? Is your linen drawer stuffed to the max? Can you find your favorite knife, where is the strainer?

We use our kitchens daily and thinking you will cover all that you know by memory alone is a mistake waiting to happen. You will then live with the 'mistake' until you can afford to do another makeover or sell the house.

Also, remember the future re-sale value of your home. Will future prospects tolerate placement of the range at the kitchen window or are they expecting the sink at that location? Where do you keep the broom, vacuum cleaner, paper goods supplies, etc? How big should your pantry be or how efficient in planning to utilize the space by investing in the latest inserts available in the market today?

Well, I have to get back to the drafting table and complete the kitchen cabinets elevation view-Suzy