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25 Dec

Happy Holidays!

H A P P Y   H O L I D A Y S!

I hope each and every one of you is experiencing a lovely Holiday Season!  May you be surrounded by Peace, Beauty and above all, Love.

23 Dec

You Say Modern, I Say Contemporary

As I surf online and go on consults, I see and hear the words Modern and Contemporary thrown around quite a bit.  I wondered, “Is there a difference between the styles or were they both a part of the same pot?”  I sought out the incredible Connecticut-based interior designer Sharon McCormick to help answer the question.  I’m so glad I did, because now I not only know that there is indeed a difference but can also identify the correct style innately while having a design-related conversation.  Interested in knowing more?  Let’s let Sharon take it away…

Sharon McCormick, Allied ASID

Sharon McCormick:  When I begin working with a new client, I of course ask them what style they have in mind.  Often a client will say they want their interiors to be “modern”.  Experience has taught me that my idea of modern and theirs are two entirely different things!  As they begin describing their ideal modern living room, I translate it to “contemporary”.  To designers, modern is mid-century modern.  I don’t know why, but The Dick Van Dyke Show living room always pops into my head, the low-slung divans and chairs with exposed legs in particular.  But I digress.

The easiest way for me to get the difference across is to describe Modern as 40’s and 50’s retro.  In the alternate, rather than a defined period of time, Contemporary is just of the moment.

My New England clients have been slow to warm to the idea of mid-century modern, while my metropolitan clients have been excited about it for several years. I’ve also found age to be a determining factor in my clientele. Those who lived through the mid-century era generally have little interest in recreating it, while the younger crowd perceives the modern look as having a very cool vibe. (The exact same is true for shag rugs, in case you were wondering.)

In design school, I took a class called 1000 Chairs. It wasn’t until recently that the well-known, iconic pieces and designers of the 1940’s and 1950’s became a part of my daily design lexicon.  I love it when  things that didn’t seem useful at the time suddenly become entirely relevant!


Contemporary is the style my clients use most frequently. Contemporary design is free-wheeling, and can incorporate antiques, mid-century pieces as well as the latest designs. Color schemes and materials are au courant, so rooms don’t look like museums, but there are no rules at all.  Clients often refer to their taste as “eclectic”, because they want so many styles to be incorporated into their homes, but feel comfort in giving their style a name.



In modern design, the walls are painted a neutral, generally white. The main pieces of furniture therefore stand out, especially if they one of a few pieces selected for their pop of primary color.  Shades of neutrals reign, in the upholstery fabrics, draperies, rugs, floors and wood furniture. While this certainly doesn’t make a room feel warm and cozy, there is often a sense of control and orderliness that people find comfortable. The lines in modern design are simple, whether they are straight or curved. There are no flourishes. The mix of materials used in pieces from this era is truly remarkable.  Lucite, plastic, chrome and molded plywood are its hallmarks. Think the plywood and leather Eames chair and ottoman or the leather and chrome Le Corbusier chairs which grace the lobbies of so many public spaces.

One of my favorite places to shop for mid century modern furnishings is Irwin Feld Design in Stamford, CT. It is THE place to shop in Fairfield County, and is often tapped by top NY designers.  Here are some of my favorite pieces:

Lucite Barrel Chairs upholstered in metallic faux leather, made by Hill Manufacturing. Fabulous start to a stunning living room.

Biomorphic End Tables made of materials which define the era: teak, glass & nickel.

So now that you know how a designer defines modern and contemporary, what is your style?

 ~  ~  ~

I hope you enjoyed today’s post!  Sharon has graciously provided a list of books and websites she recommends in order to keep learning about both modern and contemporary design; do see them below.  Sharon has a fantastic Facebook fan page where she shares links and images she comes across, please do become a fan — in fact, give her a shout-out if you liked the article!  She also has a great website you can look through as well as her frequently updated eponymous design blogThank you, Sharon, for the wonderful tutorial!  Have a wonderful day, dear Readers!

~ ~ ~

Sharon's Recommendations for Modern Design
BOOKS: Sourcebook of Modern Furniture,Mid-Century Modern

Modern: Interiors, Furniture, Details

WEBSITES: Design within Reach, BoConcept and Room & Board

Sharon's Recommendations for Contemporary Design
BOOKS: Barry Dixon Inspirations, Michael S. Smith Kitchens & Baths
and The Language of Interior Design

WEBSITES: Z Gallerie, GILT and 1st Dibs

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19 Dec

Faux-cus on the Pros: Le Chic Cocoon Author Jennifer Duchene — and a special Giveaway!

I met Jennifer Duchene on Twitter since we share similar tastes in books, travel and beautiful decor.  She is a re-designer and speaker who focuses on helping her clients “create delicious spaces with what they already own”.  This year, she released her debut book entitled Le Chic Cocoon: 7 Steps to Creating your Selfish Space, which became an #2 bestseller in the Do-It-Yourself and Decorating categories.  Le Chic Cocoon provides that in order for a woman to be her best self, she needs a space of her own in which to focus, dream, and be selfish — in the most positive sense of the word.  I thought to chat with Jennifer on her book and ideas — AND she has graciously agreed to give away a copy of Le Chic Cocoon to one lucky reader.  Excited? Let’s dig in…

Jennifer Duchene

Jennifer Duchene: That fateful weekend was when I decided I was going to write a book, I decided that if this life was a story, I was going to make it mine. Speak to my passions. Combine what I loved with my gifts. Create a marketing tool to move me out of being just another decorator in a sea of decorators, to a woman on a mission.  Own my space and give women a holding space to empower theirs.

I found a course through a friend to write my book in a weekend.  Actually it sounds crazy, but when I arrived at that weekend and started formulating ideas, things fell into place. I was inspired by Virginia Woolf and her book, A Room of One’s Own, and I use her quotes to begin every chapter.

I have been on a journey since [last] April that has changed my business. It has changed me.  After the weekend, I signed up to finish the book and publish by September and somehow I, with a little help of friends, family and mentor, made it happen.  I hit bestseller on Amazon and Le Chic Cocoon even trended on Twitter for a moment.  What a thrill and thanks to Twitter and Facebook friends and their invaluable support.  The book covers a couple of areas that I am passionate about. I believe every woman needs a space of her own.  A Le Chic Cocoon she can retreat to.  Women lead lives that are full of giving and doing, not so much for themselves. Surroundings play such an important role in how we live. I want to educate women about design and function and how spaces do shape us.

Tell us about some of the memorable moments you’ve had surrounding your book experience?

Some of the best moments have been when I got positive feedback for the first time and everytime since. When somebody tells me I have inspired them to create their own space or to rethink their life from reading Le Chic Cocoon, it is like a blossom opens in my heart.  Having the opportunity to go to Highpoint and meet Twitter friends and have them want to buy my book was an incredible high.  Winning the Excellence in Marketing Award and having the bestseller launch with friends coming from all over along with the support and love from the online community has been so powerful. Truly my book has transformed me for the better.

Where are some of the best designed spaces you’ve seen in your travels? 

Whenever I go home to South Africa, I fall in love with the homes, restaurants and the shops I spy as I drift through the days soaking it all in.  There is a relaxed sophistication  that is both timeless and comfortable.  Charm in the unexpected and always clever use of materials and colors. A bold insouciance that is very sexy and individual.  Great flow of indoor and outdoor  space and a relationship to the people and culture. It is a very individualistic harmony that astonishes and delights.

Mosaic Wall in the Beverly Hills Hotel (South Africa)

What are some of your favorite color and/or product combinations you’ve seen?

I adore green in all its disguises.  Right now I am drawn to black greens.  Emerald, jade and poisonous shades. Bronzes, coppers and creamy chocolate browns.  I love shiny and matte, textured and smooth. A play with shape and textiles is very exciting to me.

I like natural items: wood or stone mixed with metal and perspex. Shells and bone and lace. Handmade, machine-made forged into new life. Beauty is in using the material to speak to our heart.

Do you prefer quiet or vivid artworks?

Actually I have an eclectic taste in art.  I love both quiet and vivid artworks.  I am drawn to art that is painted from the soul.  Those magic canvases that hold luminosity.  That portray the dawn or an exquisite landscape.

I am also drawn to the bright and happy works that vibrate with energy.  That swirl around us and gather us into the joy. That make our bodies vibrate to a silent music.  Art is so personal and so powerful.  Each piece to me is treated as a whole. A room should start with the art.

Tray of Beaded Artworks

What television show would you most like to be on?

I would love to be on the Nate Berkus show.  I admire and relate to what Nate brings to the public about design.  How much our lives are controlled by our environments. How important living in spaces that feed our souls is. That we can create our cocoons to live in and from, right now. Nate Berkus has appeared to me in dreams, on billboards and moving bus stop signs so many times I am just waiting for the phone to ring and a voice saying “Nate Berkus is expecting you!”.  I would also enjoy being on a women’s talk show like The View.  I love the diversity of opinion and conversation the women bring to the set. The thought of sharing my passion for women to be selfish and create their own space is very appealing.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Thank you, Jennifer! I do find that most women find it hard to make time for themselves, much less carve a space out for themselves.  Imagine if we were selfish more often — truly gave ourselves the time we so freely give to others — how much we would discover about ourselves, our strengths, our potential?  I’m so glad Jennifer explored that theme and used the term “selfish” in a positive way.  You can read a few reviews of Le Chic Cocoon on Amazon or on blogs such as Brocante Home.  She recently spoke about book publishing on the Twitter #GetPublished chat — you can read the transcript here — along with a radio interview with Susan Davis of Good and Green radio show. You can also keep up with the lovely Jennifer via her YouTube channel and the Le Chic Cocoon Facebook fan page.  I hope you do check out her wonderful book.  Now, are you ready for your chance to win your own copy?

G  I  V  E  A  W  A  Y

One lucky Reader will receive their own copy of Le Chic Cocoon!  For your chance to win, please leave a comment on this post letting us know your answer to: “Where would you create your own Le Chic Cocoon right now?”  If you also become a Facebook fan of Le Chic Cocoon and/or Fauxology, let us know in the comments separately for two more extra chances to win.  The Giveaway is open to everyone and one Winner will be chosen at random from the comments.  Deadline: Midnight on Tuesday, December 27, 2011.  Good Luck!

All Images Courtesy of Jennifer Duchene

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14 Dec

Mixed Media Artist Jill Ricci

I love coming across inspired uses of finishes, techniques and pattern. Artist Jill Ricci states, “One of the most arresting visuals for me is an old wall layered with papers, graffiti and text — our modern hieroglyphics” — and you can see it clearly in her work.  Her artistry has such a great balance of texture, color and design.  I actually spotted it via the pins of Nena Garza-Sexton of Texas’ NCF Studio of Decorative Art.  Take a look…

Ms. Ricci is based in New Jersey and she is also part owner of the Parlor Gallery in Asbury Park, NJ.  She received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute in Chicago and a degree from Sheffield School of Interior Design.  She works primarily in mixed media on surfaces such as wood and canvas. Please click to enlarge the pics.

If Not Now, a collaboration with artist Porkchop

Vanity ~ Mixed Media on Canvas

Moonchild (above left), W-03 (above right)

Mixed media on canvas. Amore (above left), Dark & Lovely (above right)

Cherish ~ Mixed Media on Canvas

Her go-to materials?

Paper, acrylic paint, wax, Venetian plaster, fabric and leaf. She also likes glitter and glass beads as embellishments and uses them to add an unexpected contrast.

Evoking “an old wall in Morocco, a Renaissance Church, a NYC subway wall and Malibu Barbie all simultaneously existing on one canvas” is her goal and I think she’s succeeded!  Please note that some of her artworks are available for purchase; do check her website to see more of her gallery.  What I like most about her pieces is that each time you take a look, you find something wonderful you had not seen before — and you wonder how it escaped your notice.  Do you see something you like?

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12 Dec

2012 Pantone Color of the Year: Tangerine Tango

It seems that every time I do a post on the Pantone Color of the Year selection, I get a bit of a dual reaction: Delight or Dismissal. I think we all love what we love regardless of trends. However, there is a science to determining the color forecast for the upcoming year — and fashion, design and even marketing take their cues from this direction. I guarantee you that in the Spring you will see an abundance of the chosen color: Tangerine Tango.

Pantone Tangerine Tango

Pantone calls it a “spirited, sophisticated reddish orange”. In a Casa Sugar interview, Leatrice Eisman, Pantone’s top color guru, talks about how this shade will breathe new life into the current color palettes — calling it “an orange with a lot of depth”.  She also explains how they come about the final top color decision – it’s pretty interesting to see all the aspects needed to take the temperature of the zeitgeist. Ms. Eisman does advise that the perfect rooms to use the color are kitchens and dining rooms but to also consider it as a perfect front door color.

Tangerine Tango(Clockwise from top Left) Bedroom by Kendall Wilkinson, Artist John Baden photographed by Eric Luse, Living Room featured in Canadian House & Home and door featured in Morocco Today.

So, what do you think of Tangerine Tango?  I like it — but then again, I do love fiery shades. It’s always been an accepted color in countries such as Italy, India and Indonesia, but there is no doubt that in the last few years, orange shades have blossomed into a popular option in our interior design schemes. They add joie de vivre to a room, in something as small as accents to as dramatic as walls or ceilings.

For instance, I love the variation in this gorgeous powder bath by Canada’s Barbara Rocha and also the staircase below featured in Slumber Designs

Lined Staircase

…and even cabinetry.

 Orange Cabinetry Tory Burch boutiqueThe new Tory Burch boutique in NYC”s Madison Avenue.  Spied the post on Baylor Says but initially featured and photographed by Heather Clawson of Habitually Chic.

BTW, the beautiful collage above was put together by Peggy Pardo — someone I’m excited for you to get to know very well, very soon.  I’ll have more details next week — be sure to look for it!  As to the final thoughts on Tangerine Tango, I do have to say that in years past, the word “economy” and “current financial climate” were part of the description of that year’s color choices, but this year bypasses that altogether and just mentions that Tangie (I’m getting all cozy with the color) has “the energy boost needed to recharge and move forward”.  I’m definitely all for that!  Have a great day!

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08 Dec

Stenciling with an Airbrush

Sheri Hoeger is the lead designer and director of Big Oak Arts Studio.  She also started her stencil company, The Mad Stencilist, back in 1992.  We were happy to profile her for our Portrait of an Artist series back in 2010.  She has kindly agreed to write about something she is quite known for: Stenciling with an Airbrush. It is truly a wonderful way of working with stencils, giving beautiful lines and blended color. Let’s dig in…

Sheri Hoeger:  The airbrush is an incredibly versatile tool that is capable of the softest shading, the finest line and beautiful displays of color. This is achieved by delivering a fine spray of paint to the intended surface.  I have always been fascinated with the combination of soft airbrushed shading and the wide variety of edges that are defined by using stencils and masks. A stencil is simply a sheet of holes that one paints through to make an image. A mask can be an edge or found object that is cut, torn or used in its entirety to create a shape.

The array of effects you can achieve with relative ease is one of the big advantages of using the airbrush. I enjoyed being able to keep a consistent look to this cow mural even though the vent was in the way.

To get started with airbrush you need a good tool and clamp holder, an air source and high quality paint, such as Golden Fluid Acrylics, which I use along with Golden Airbrush Medium for thinning to skim milk consistency. Also, try to set up a work area where you can leave your equipment set up and close at hand. Be cautious about using the cheapest airbrush you can find. A quality tool will set you up for success. There are many airbrushes on the market that are excellent and I find the Iwata Eclipse to be a workhorse of a tool and suited to almost everything I do. It is available in either siphon-feed style or gravity feed styles.

For most of my airbrushed stencil work, I layer several colors within each window starting with the lightest and working to the darkest. I generally alternate between warm and cool colors with each color covering less area than the color before it. This allows you to see the full range of hues that are created by that particular combination and there is also a muting effect that tones the colors, which makes them look natural. I load an airbrush for each color, which are attached to a manifold, which is attached to my compressor. I usually use no more than 4 colors for any given design such as the floral shown. As an example, a floral like the one shown here is airbrushed with four colors: yellow, green, red, blue. (The one exception being the robin’s egg blue, which could not be achieved with the 4 color palette used in the rest of the composition.) The different tones and values are achieved by the order and ratio of the colors being layered.

Objects can be painted to look cartoon-like or stylized, like the image below.

Realism can also be achieved depending on the colors used and level of development.

I also enjoy combining airbrushing with other techniques and materials. Here, I extended the faux stone fireplace to create an arch with a gritty plaster and stenciled stones made from torn tape. Once that was dry, I added color and shadows with airbrush. In the same project, the airbrushed stair rail led to an archway adorned with a striped drapery.


For the cherubs (above left), I used airbrush to delicately shade the skin tones, but brush painted the hair with Golden Proceed Slow Drying Acrylics to give it more texture. (Cherub Stencil by Jeff Raum) I also appreciate the ability to allow a natural surface to show through the paint, becoming part of the artwork when airbrushing on wood or stone (above right). Click on images to enlarge.

Another of my favorite techniques is to use natural foliage as masks when airbrushing trees and landscapes. This dining room mural was created using a variety of leaves, some large, some small. Even though it is a “negative print” your eye makes it into a positive when they are clustered together.

Even though they look monochromatic and sepia toned, I have used at least three colors to give the foliage more depth and interest.  I love sepia tones, and have several ways of rendering them. In the airbrushed Renaissance border shown here, all the shading is done with one color which provides the values and undertone. Then I lightly spray with soft color, giving the appearance not unlike a hand-tinted photograph.

Finally, sometimes airbrush is the answer to a technical problem. For this painted ode to a William Morris tapestry, I cut a stencil of just the darkest brown background areas, including a pencil-line thickness cartoon of the design, because airbrushing was the best way to transfer the pattern onto my textured base. From there. the tapestry could be hand painted.

I hope this article gives you an inkling of the striking appearance and versatility that is at your command when mastering the airbrush. Of course, this is only pertaining to using stencils, and many more uses are possible when using the airbrush freehand for clouds, finishes and fine art. The sky is the limit!

~   ~   ~   ~   ~

Thank you, Sheri Hoeger for sharing your time and talent!  Please note that if you’d like more information, keep checking her workshops page because as Sheri says, “It can be very helpful to take a class in airbrushing basics or intermediate airbrushing, as there are some tips that will help you along and save a great deal of time.”  She also has videos and books she has created and/or participated in on her website page.  You can also find the company on Facebook via the fan page, Big Oak Arts.  I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s post — love how it’s chock full of information.  Hope you are having an inspired week!

Please note that all stencils are from The Mad Stencilist line unless otherwise indicated.

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05 Dec

Lobby Dome at the Waldorf Astoria – Orlando

Hello, gorgeous ones!  Did you have a good weekend?  Mine was eventful and culminated in a Janet Jackson concert last night. (In fact, at one point in my life, I wanted to be a tour dancer — I love to dance like no one’s business. Too many beautiful careers, only one life.)   In driving the hour to Tampa from Orlando to see the concert, my brain was remembering all the pics I’ve taken during recent travels, consults and projects that I haven’t shared yet.  So, we launch the week with one of those.

We were recently called in on a consult for some light work at the Waldorf Astoria in Orlando.  As soon as I walked in, my heart soared. A beautiful hand-painted dome ceiling that measures 54 feet across spans most of the incredible lobby.  Underneath, there is a handcrafted clock that gives a nod to the iconic lobby clock that sits in the original Waldorf Astoria in New York.

Handpainted Lobby Dome in Waldorf Astoria OrlandoThis is an image by Hollywood Woodwork who did all the gorgeous custom trim surrounding the dome and the hotel itself.

Most of the walls, columns and certain ceilings are glazed and the whole effect is stunning.  Couple that with the wonderful aromas that greet you when you enter the hotel (I read somewhere that it was a mix of blue mint, eucalyptus, bergamot and marigold), and you have an idea of why the Waldorf Astoria is one of the premier luxury hotels.  Ah, almost forgot — I took a few pics for you.

Handpainted Ceiling Dome

Graphic Mural on Ceiling Dome

Ornamental Ceiling Close-up

An online travel review described the ceiling as stained glass but in my opinion, it is hand-painted.  It’s simply incredible work and I wish the images did it justice.  If anyone knows the artists who created this beauty, by all means do let me know.  The Waldorf Astoria Orlando was designed by SFA Design and opened October 1, 2009. I hope we have the opportunity to do a bit of work at the hotel but even if not, it’s a pleasure to visit, explore and stay there for a spell.  Have a great day!

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