Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Sentimental Ornamental

Forget Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. Here are a few of my favorite things: Ornaments!

The Bearded Mermaid and The Frog Prince

Ornaments are particularly special because of a holiday tradition I’ve celebrated with my former college roommate for over 30 years. Every year since our college days we’ve done an ornament exchange which has become a yearly family celebration. I’m not talking about the most beautiful or ornate ornaments, I’m talking about the quirky, bizarre, where-the-heck-did-you-find-that? kind of ornaments.

Fancy Hippy Cow and The Old (mer)Maid

Goin' Hog Wild

I am always torn between a beautifully decorated and a sentimental tree. Each year part of me wants a themed and color coordinated tree that makes a design statement. My children, however, love the sentimentality of all the collected ornaments and insist that Christmas wouldn't be the same without them.

The Man from the East and Camel

King Tut and The Sock Monkey

Whatever your style, the ornament exchange is a great way to create memories that will keep you, your family, and friends talking for years to come.
Have some favorite ornaments of your own? Share them with us on our blog or on our facebook page!

Monday, December 13, 2010

DIY: Festive Succulent Arrangements

A big thanks to Ahn-Minh Le for my article in the SF Chronicle Home Section this past Sunday, Dec. 12! If you missed it, here’s a recap on how to make your own succulent arrangements at home!

Step 1: Gather your succulent arrangement components and group them on your workspace for a smooth assembly. I’m using succulents, eucalyptus, pyracantha or holly berries, crabapples, rose hips, and red and white roses and greens.

Step 2: Make your vase. I’ve recycled an aluminum can and used it for my vase. Glue or tape a strip of brown paper around the can and then wrap red ribbon around it, securing it once again with either glue or double-faced tape. Tie it together with a string of raffia for an authentic-handmade look.

Step 3: Assemble the succulent arrangements making sure that the succulents dominate the bouquet. The berries, crabapples, and roses should accent the colors of the succulents, but not draw away from them.

Step 4: Centerpiece. Arrange the bouquets on the table and create your table’s centerpiece. If you have small votive candles, place them on the table near the arrangements but keep them a safe distance away for fire safety. If you can’t have open flames I suggest flameless flickering electric candles. They look great without the fire risk!

To bring everything together, use a small succulent bud and some red ribbon to hold the napkins. This gives the place settings a lovely yet subtle boost of color that ties back into the color themes of the bouquet.

Tip: Because the bouquets are small, don’t feel restricted to just one centerpiece layout. Notice how I’ve arranged them as five separate bouquets running down the center of the table as opposed to the grouped look in the first table setting picture.

Voila! An easy (and resourceful) way of creating a fun table setting for the holidays!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Succulents for the Holidays

I love succulents because of their wide variety of shapes, textures and colors. Succulents are great year round plants to have in the garden. You can pick them and they last for weeks. Cottage Gardens in Petaluma, CA, where I recently hosted a succulent demonstration, has a wide variety of succulents. For more info about visit them at

Here a few arrangements from Veranda Magazine which highlight some of my favorite succulent looks.

In this arrangement there’s a beautiful combination of acid greens and purples playing off each other. Their varying shapes make the arrangement more interesting. Notice the big blooms alongside the smaller feathery ones.

For more contrast, add some succulents with red tones giving it almost a holiday feel. The varying shapes and textures give the arrangement a unique look.

Adding other flowers to the succulents create a unique, one-of-a-kind look and feel for your succulent bouquet. I like the way this arrangement has combined white flowers and other greens.

For the holidays I’ve put together my own arrangements using various colors and shapes of succulents. This year I’m using succulents, red and white roses, pyracantha berries, crabapples, rose hips, and eucalyptus leaves. The green from the succulents give a lush and vibrant look to the arrangements, while the red and white tones from roses, berries, and crabapples contribute lovely holiday accents.

Be sure to check out my upcoming article by Ahn-Minh Le on holiday succulents in the San Francisco Chronicle this Sunday, December 12th. It discusses succulents and how to design your own arrangements with a personalized look and feel.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Flea Market Style

I love visiting the Alameda, California Flea Market on the first Sunday of the month. The atmosphere is festive and communal. I like to go early when there are few people and more wonderful things. Found these adorable Park City, Utah boys, Dustin Rowser and Chris Brady from They travel through France and pick up all kinds of wonderful linen textiles and galvanized finds.

These are 100% linen grain sacks. They come sewn into a sack or woven in a flat panel. The panels with the black stripe are the most rare and desirable. I love them for pillows, upholstery or table runners.

I like these patchwork and stenciled pillows from another booth.

This booth is featured Santos. I love how weathered and worn they are. Sometimes the hands and heads are missing. The were made to be detachable so one could pray with them. They look great in a natural interior or a very modern setting.

Industrial boxes make great storage. In the next photo, a roof turbine was cleverly transformed into a chandelier.

Gears make wonderful wall art. Vary the size and color for interest.

Persimmons in a galvanized bin looked smashing with the weathered table and bright orange legs to match the persimmons. This would be beautiful with pomegranates or lemons.

John Dickinson, one of my favorite truly unique California 60's product designer lives on in this inspired table with plumbing pipes for legs topped with weathered wood and an old leather suitcase

"Flea Fashion" at it's best. Having been a fashion designer for many years, this is a favorite part. I love this! How wonderful it is to see these flea enthusiasts taking the time to stylishly dress for the occasion! It is said that fashion is a couple of years ahead of interiors. Here's to the future.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Lighting and Move-In:
San Francisco Decorator Showcase

I just viewed my nearly-completed ceiling fixture from talented lighting designer, Jim Misner

I have never seen anything from him that I didn't like. His look is industrial with vintage parts but in is oh-so-clever and unexpected. Here is a closer view.

He has a garage full of a zillion old rusty parts from who know what or where and it is all fascinating. I love the juxtaposition of the old rusty/vintage parts with the crystal ball and ball and chain (which was not added as of this photo). It is delicate yet industrial and will show off my wonderful "Crackled Linen" ceiling treatment from Jennifer LaPierre
Move-in is tomorrow. Here is an "inside the process" photo of the before - 20 boxes to be picked up by Good Moves in a few minutes. How will I fit 20 boxes in my room? YIKES! I always take more than I need and I have a wonderful wrought iron bookcase which I have to fill with books and accessories. It has reclaimed wood selves from Restoration Timber in San Francisco More photos of the move-in tomorrow.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Prints & Texture: My 2010 San Francisco Decorator Showcase Room

Add Fortuny Fabric

I find Fortuny irresistible. I will add Fortuny pillows. Mario Fortuny (1871–1949) born into an artistic Spanish family was a Renaissance man. He eventually settled in Venice, Italy via Paris and became a noted fashion designer (Fortuny Pleats), product designer and fabric designer.

Fortuny fabrics appeal to me because the are hand-blocked and have a distinctly hand-made quality to them. Some are printed with gold. They are mostly non-representational and one does not tire of them easily. They are classic yet very distinctive. There are many patterns and colors available. Factory tours are available when visiting Venice.

Add Texture

I'm using a new sisal ("Paraiba" in color "River") from Merida Meridain as a bound area rug. The color is a very light taupe/gray. Their sisal is sustainable and there service is great. Check out their website for more detailed information.

Add a Crackled Linen Ceiling

I'm really excited about my "Crackled Linen" ceiling from artist Jennifer LaPierre of Sonoma,

The linen is covered with a thin layer of plaster and then rolled and crackled. It is glazed with a color and then a stencil is applied before installation and then the stencil is finished on site. I have included my hand in the photo so you can get an idea of the scale.

The Color Story: My 2010 San Francisco Decorator Showcase Room

Start with Linen

I love the natural color, the way it hangs and the fact that it wrinkles. It has soul. I decided I would start with natural linen for the canopy and see where that led me. Henry Calvin Fabric has lovely linen and I found a natural linen for the outside of the canopy and a polished ivory linen for the lining and inside of the canopy. The day bed, placed between the dormer windows, is upholstered in a natural herringbone linen. The great thing about linens and neutrals is that they all work together. A weathered “dirt-colored” (dirt - one of my favorite colors) linen will be used for an accent pillow.
Add Velvet
Combining humble linen and luxurious velvet is delicious. I like the juxtaposition of the humble linen next to the luxurious velvet. I located a velvet for pillows that is the same color as the darker color in the herringbone linen, but it is a different texture and reflects light differently. It is a no-color color.
Add an Accent Color
This was a process. I found three color stories that spoke to me;

  • slate blues
  • blue greens
  • sienna + dirt color.

I contemplated for two weeks but finally decided on sienna orange as the accent partly because I found a Fortuny fabric that I loved and a sienna Sandra Jordan alpaca throw that would color-wise.

How I like to use color
I like to use color sparingly and strategically. Here I have chosen a palette of neutrals with black and natural wood accents. I then identify the color accent(s) sienna, and use it in three or four places in the room, pillows, a throw, flowers, and accessories. The accent colors don’t have to match exactly; in fact it makes it more interesting if they don’t match exactly. I may gather orange flower that are brighter that the other accent oranges just for pop. I may identify another color to use in conjunction with the orange but I don’t have that decided yet.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Past & Present: My 2010 San Francisco Decorator Showcase Room

Ivory Tower”, a Room for Thought
I’m making progress on my room. You may remember my previous Showcase rooms:
  • 2006 “Travelers Hideaway” a Guest Retreat (Washington at Spruce)

  • 2008 “Orient Passage” a Sitting Room (Scott Street)

  • 2009 “Reverie” the Master bedroom (Pacific Avenue)
My room this year, entitled “Ivory Tower”, is a charming third floor dormer-windowed space in an historic Albert Farr (architect) Pacific Heights Mansion. Here is the sketch of my room.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Albert Farr: San Francisco Decorator Showcase Architect

I was captivated by the architecture of the Showhouse and the intriguing dormer windows on the third floor. When the architecture spoke to me, I knew I had to investigate and learn more about the architect. This is what I learned.

Albert Farr, the architect who designed the house chosen for the 2010 San Francisco University High School Decorator Showcase (located at 3450 Washington Street), was born in Omaha, Nebraska in 1871 and was raised in Japan where his father worked to establish the postal system. He came to SF in 1890 at the age of 18.

His career began just as the First Bay Tradition began to upstage Victorian Architects, until the time Modernism began to emerge. Farr’s most famous project is Wolf house, built for Jack and Charmian London in Glen Ellen in Sonoma County. Begun in 1910, the 15,000 square foot house, two years into construction, tragically burned down in 1912, most likely due to the spontaneous combustion of linseed rags left in the house. Under-insured, London could not afford to rebuild. The ruins can be visited at the Jack London Historic State Park.

An Emerging Style: First Bay Tradition
Farr was an important architect in his own time, emerging in the early 20th century as a key part of the development of the “First Bay Tradition,” which included such greats as architects Ernest Coxhead, Willis Polk and Bernard Maybeck.

In the 1890’s and 1900’s, the First Bay Tradition, which combined styles with historical references, began to emerge. It specialized in combining vernacular in informal suburban homes and less formal city homes. Architects celebrated the awkward and rustic nature of this genre.

This combining of styles in varying periods into a look that was centered on the West Coast is what intrigued these architects. The style was not specific to a period as much as it was a study of the relationship between classic period and national styles. The juxtapositions of scale and materials would create a new paradigm that was deliberately slightly out of the norm. This odd mix of traditions was used in an unorthodox manner purposefully to convey a regionally specific look.

Farr incorporated many architectural styles into his own work that evolved over time during his 50 year career. The use of historical reference in architecture prevailed at the time and few were as adept as Farr in creating structures using such a wide variety of styles.

Albert Farr had a unique approach to his own view of this rustic Bay movement. Many examples of his works can be seen in Belvedere, Piedmont, Claremont, and Oakland, as well as San Francisco. His details include numerous gables, overhanging medieval half-timbered shingle designs with influences from Coxhead and Polk. This became a popular look that continued for many years. In fact, based on an erroneous building permit entry, the Showcase house was incorrectly attributed to Polk.

The Showcase House
The Decorator Showcase house was designed by Farr in 1929. It is reminiscent of the style of Henry IV at Place de Voges. The red brick structure, trimmed in stone, is topped by a steeply pitched slate roof. The symmetrical front obscures what appears to be an earlier Norman manor on the uphill side. There are turrets, multiple dormers and roof details.

It has large interior public spaces and high ceilings, both features often seen in Farr homes. He gave special attention to the third level of homes that was often left as undeveloped attic space and he did this at 3450 Washington. Knowing this, I see what drew me to the room I’ll be designing for the Showcase – The room is small but the dormer window create a compelling charm; a space that might have been forgotton but was creatively captured. A small door between the windows leads to a secret hiding place.

Construction over time is suggested by the way Farr uses varying styles in different parts of the structure. He creates a horizontal axis by leveling the platform in front, while the style becomes more vertical on the downhill side of the house.

Mixing Styles and Influence
Throughout his career Albert Farr worked with Latin influences, both Spanish and Italian, using a Mediterranean vernacular years preceding the popularity of Spanish Colonial revival in the 1920’s. Mission motifs can be seen in some of his earliest works. His interpretation is subtle, inventive and unexpected.

Farr’s work is incorrectly termed “period revival.” He was interested in combining styles rather than recreating exact period works. He created styles that combined Italian baroque, French, Moorish, Gothic, Medieval, English Georgian, Tudor and more. Again, I see why I was so drawn to the architecture, as I love mixing different periods and styles, in my own design aesthetic.

Farr’s importance has gone relatively unnoticed by historians. Knowledgeable clients have always been aware of his talents. Farr retired at the beginning of WWII and his work was upstaged by the onset of Modernism. Albert Farr passed away July 12, 1947 in Piedmont after a distinctive 50-year career.