Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Ceilume Ceiling Tiles that look like tin

We finished the sunroom earlier this year with ceiling tiles from Ceilume.  These are semi-rigid plastic tiles that attach to the ceiling w/staples and/or glue.  We spray painted the tiles before installation then added the decorative strips between the tiles to cover the staples.
This sunroom was added to the back of the house, behind the kitchen.  We had a tin ceiling in the kitchen so the Ceilume ceiling really fits in with the rest of our 1850's Italianate.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Honeysuckle Rose, THE color of 2011

Someday I will learn how to coordinate my blog, my fan page and the world.  But in the meantime, check out this yummy pink that has been named the hot color for 2011.

Things are already looking rosier! (pun intended)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

"Windows of Opportunity" in Victorian Homes magazine

I recently wrote an article for Victorian Homes magazine about window treatments appropriate for Victorian homes.  The drapery principles of layering are equally appropriate for Victorian homes and more modern homes alike.  Some of the specific window coverings, tho, are especially lovely in vintage homes or rooms designed in a traditional/formal manner.

I'm talking about the silk appliqu├ęd sheer and silk-on-silk velvet panels mentioned on page 77.  These panels are available finished to 120" long and are about 54" wide with silk velvet scalloped edges and hem.  We have a stained glass panel in the window on the 2nd floor landing at our house.  We will be installing the velvet panel to swag over the top and side of the stained glass.  I say "will be" since we are still finishing the 3rd floor and need to paint the staircase walls before adding the panels.

We also purchased two sheer panels for the front parlor of our 1852 Italianate.  These were lined with a cream colored sheer fabric for greater privacy and a little more sun protection.  The silk sheers will go under a truly vintage window treatment, copied from French drapery designs of the 1880's.  These treatments are still on my "to-do" list behind all my clients' work.  Hopefully, I'll get to work on them during the Christmas break.  I'll add photos of the finished treatments as they happen.

In the mean time, enjoy these images of the silk and velvet panels from the showroom.  And let me know where else you would envision these luxe panels, perhaps in your own home?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Windows Dressing (Up)

For years interior designers have acknowledged the connection between home fashion and clothing.  Bustles, pleats and ruffles on women's clothing of the Victorian era translated to the swags, cascades and jabots of the same period's window treatments.  The slinky, bias cut gowns of the '30's were echoed in the soft, puddling draperies of the time.  And during World War II  short skirts and tailored jackets translated into the streamlined furniture and short, flirty curtains that glamorized rationing.
When drapery designers get together we often talk about dressmaker details on our treatments or soft furnishings.  We know that linings and interlinings improve the drape of a window treatment.  We often hand stitch hems, especially in silks and delicate fabrics. We seek out the special pleat or tuck to create a window treatment that's exactly right for our client.  Just as the couture fashion designer creates a unique look for her custom client by manipulating fabrics, so do professional drapery designers create unique treatments for our custom client's home using the same couture skills.
Professional drapery designers have developed specific technical skills that permit them to work their magic.  But one skill that anyone can improve is observation.  One designer I know calls it "research"  every time she visits Anthropologie.  She's looking for a pleat, a trimming, a special fabric embellishment that she can add to  draperies, valances and furnishings.  I was recently delighted when I found several embellishments in the catalog from usually-quite-conservative Talbots.  Fabric roses, ruffles in wool, even pleats on leather ballet slippers could all be transfered to use in home dec.-
Can't you envision these soft chiffon roses strewn across a throw?  They could be lined up in rows on a square pillow or sewn at random to the face of a silk or sheer drapery.

And what about this girlie treat - a silk charmeuse collar.  This would be a perfect drapery tieback in a boudoir. (Sorry fellas, even my he-man hubby might take exception to all this frou-frou in the master bedroom!)  And with the growing idea of woman caves - we really need a better name for these rooms! - how about decidedly old-fashioned criss-crossed priscilla curtains on the window with a collection of roses trimming the leading edge.
Next time you're out do some research of your own to discover the interconnectivity of fashion, fabrics and home dec.  Happy looking!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

How to Make Ribbon Bracelets

I love ribbon.  And this little video shows you how to make an attractive bracelet using 1/4" ribbons and a technique we all learned at summer camp.  Elaine Schmidt demonstrates over 100 ribbon projects in her book, "The Complete Photo Guide to Ribbon Craft".  This is a fun project for the kids.  Or braid a few bracelets in school colors, team colors, or for wedding favors.  The bracelets can even be used as candle rings on pillar candles.  Spend a lazy afternoon crafting.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Custom Mini-Motors Provide Mega Satisfaction

We recently met with a client who had 1/2" mini blinds in  her skylights.  The motors and battery wands had died over the years and she needed us to replace the motors. A bit of detective work showed that the only company making motors for mini blinds had gone out of business, and our favorite window covering motorization company - Somfy - created motors for 2" and larger blinds.

The client was happy with her micro-minis. They just needed to be motorized again!

Juan, my husband and the Rodriguez half of the business, pondered the question for a while and came up with a truly custom solution.  He retrofit the 18 skylight blinds with radio controlled robotics technology and they are again providing the client with appropriate shading for her room.

This is another example of the Three C's in application.  They are Curiosity, Creativity, and Customization.  When Ecclesiastes says there is nothing new under the sun, he may well be right.  But there are all sorts of combinations and recombinations of what's already here  - and that's part of the joy of custom work!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Little Washington's bicentennial

Last night was a perfect summer night - we attended this outdoor concert to kick off the bicentennial celebration of Washington, PA.  Washington, PA has been affectionately known as "Little Washington", almost from its inception, to distinguish it from that sprawling giant on the Potomac that shares its name.  Our Washington is the county seat of Washington County and is home to a domed courthouse with exquisitely restored Tiffany stained glass panel in the dome, the LeMoyne house, and the Washington Symphony Orchestra - which you hear on this clip.
Last night's program included crowd-pleasers like "Washington Post March", "The Cowboys", "Ashokan Farewell", made popular by Ken Burns' PBS series "Civil War", "Star Wars", and "Stars and Stripes Forever".  The program also featured a new work, "Journey into Wissamaking" composed by W&J's Kyle Simpson for the WSO.  
The rain even held off until the last of the music stands and chairs were taken down and packed away!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Creating a Custom Daybed

When we created a sunroom off the back of the house, we extended the room over the exterior steps to the basement.  So that those steps remained functional, Juan created  a "box" in the sunroom. The box was open underneath the sunroom to provide headroom.  We insulated it so as not to lose heat in the room, then we turned it into a daybed!   
Here's the box in the sunroom.  We sealed around the edge of the box and the wall with duct tape to further keep out drafts.  Then the first layer of padding was applied to the box.  After the felt padding is attached then a layer of dacron batting is applied to cover any seams in the padding and offer a smooth surface for the decorator fabric.

The decorator fabric is then wrapped around the padded box.  We railroaded the fabric around the sides and face so there were no seams.  We folded the decorator fabric up onto the top of the box about 8" all around to create a deck.  The decorator fabric was attached with staples in a "snail trail" along the sides and bottom of the box.  We created a custom cushion to sit on top of the box and then whipped up a variety of fun pillows, bolsters and shams to provide lounging comfort.  

To keep the bolsters from falling off, and provide a bit of support, we designed and attached arms to the sides. 

  The finished daybed provides a comfy place to read and daydream.  And we can still get into the basement without bumping our heads!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Stuff that Dreams Are Made On

I recently had a "Citizen Kane" moment.  (No, I didn't force my spouse to sing opera despite his reluctance and inability to do so!)  We've been doing a great deal of home remodeling and building for the past several years and much of my "stuff" has been wrapped up and stored in extra rooms, attic, basement, etc.    We are now at the point where I can begin to bring out some of that "stuff" and make our house a home once more.  And so, my Charles Foster Kane experience.
While I found no iconic "Rosebud" in my collection of oddly-wrapped packages, and my treasures are hardly of the scope of Kane's vast archives, I so enjoyed reconnecting with these items from my past and the memories they held.  Here are a few of my memory-joggers.  Perhaps you have some of your own.

This collection of "Roosters and Roses" began with the cream and sugar on the left middle shelf.  I purchased them in Xenia, OH in 1974, at a relief auction held after a tornado ripped through Xenia and other towns and cities along the Ohio River as far south as Louisville. I've since bought pieces in this pattern in nearly every state I've lived or visited.  The rest of the collection is still in storage.

These Weller candlesticks belonged to my beloved godmother.  They always reminded me of the aggressive apple trees in The Wizard of Oz;  the ones that throw apples at Dorothy and her friends.  Soon after receiving these candlesticks I took my newborn son on his first flea market outing.  I tucked the candle sticks into the diaper bag, hoping to get an informal appraisal and additional information.
I came away with the matching flower vase, below.  PS. Newborn son just turned 19!

The rather musical looking art tile on the left  is a modern offering from Motawi Tile.  It is based on an architectural carving of Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright's mentor and designer of the delightfully ornate grillwork on the facade of the now defunct CarsonPirieScott department store in the Chicago Loop.

The pitcher and bowl are vintage Aesthetic.  I love the points and gothic tracery both inside and out.  Our house was built in 1852 so this piece really belongs.  

How can you not smile when you look at this pot?  The dainty brush strokes on the face are delicate and whimsical.  Then there's the almost capodimonte-like fruit,vines, and leaves that ring the top of the pot.  I think the 2 purple things in the front are supposed to be plums but they look to me like clams.  Regardless, the piece just shouted at me when I saw it in a local antique shop, and I had to own it!  All I know of it is that it is Italian pottery and I like it.


These items are my treasures because they all remind me of special times or places or people in my life.  In that respect I am rich.  You are probably rich, too.  

What items make you smile when you see them in your house?  Maybe they've been in the same place for so long that you don't even notice them.  It's not necessary to put everything in storage or embark on a major renovation to re-appreciate these items.  Pick a time to clean out closets, cabinets, etc and put all your "stuff" on the dining table.  Collect the items that are already sitting out in your various rooms and add them to the items on the table.  Cull through the collection, putting aside any item that you do not find meaningful or beautiful. Send them off to Goodwill or eBay to make memories for someone else. For those items that made the cut, clean or wash them gently.  Then place them in your home where they will most delight you.  You may not live in Zanadu, but you will be richer by far than Citizen Kane ever was!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Drapery Design Books for a Lazy Day

The laws of physics may require that window treatments hang down, and not fly off at odd angles to the walls.  And because of that, some might think that all window treatments are essentially large pieces of fabric hanging on the window.  These books show that the physics of window treatments are more like quarks.  We see their flavors -up, down, and mostly charmed, - in unique and highly artistic designs.

Brian Coleman is editor-at-large at Arts&Crafts Homes magazine.  He is also a licensed, practicing psychologist.  And he has written a whole bookshelf full of books on window treatments, gardens, Aesthetic art tiles, and great homes of the British Isles.  Three are suggested here.

Window Dressings is full of close-up shots of draperies and soft furnishings in homes around the country. Drapery fabricators and drapery designers especially love this book as our talents are displayed on every page.

The Scalamandre family has been fabricating silks and  hand-crafting extraordinary trims for over a century.  Their fabrics have been used in the US Capitol, the White House, the Hearst Castle in San Simeon, CA, as well as numerous governors' mansions and prestigious homes.  Coleman offers a peek into the history of the family-owned company - and lavish photos of Scalamadre fabrics and trims gracing the interiors of some very fortunate homes.  Scalamandre is a visual feast!

Coleman's third book on my personal hit parade features the work of a favorite designer - Barry Dixon.  Dixon's designs are restrained, warm, and incredibly personalized.  This book features several homes he has designed and each is unique.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Tie-backs by Any Other Name

We all know what a tieback is - a length of roping or fabric that holds the drapery back from the center to frame the window. But the technical term for a tieback is the embrace. Isn't that a lovely thought? And drapery embraces can be made of almost any fiber. We are all aquainted with tassel tiebacks. Tassle tiebacks can be made of yarn, ribbon, cording, or any combination. They can be embellished with beads or feathers. Tassle tiebacks are the embrace of choice for most traditional drapery treatments. They can add high glamour or sophistication to the treatment depending on the composition of the tassles. 

The tiebacks in the right hand photo are wrought iron.  They were custom fabricated to hold the significant weight of these draperies in a tony restaurant.

Drapery designs from the 1930's through the 1950's may have had tiebacks that were shaped and made of the same fabric as the draperies.  These tiebacks could be trimmed with a contrast micro cord, buttons, or other embellishments.  And shaped tiebacks are still popular in formal rooms today.

Our colonial ancestors used a string or piece of twine to hold back the homespun hanging in the windows.  Sometimes the curtain was just wrapped around a nail that protruded from the wall.  Not much of an embrace there.  But our modern (1970's) sensibilities suggested that the curtains be tied back with a flat band of fabric.  It was plain, neatly utilitarian, and to our Bicentennial-spangled eyes, it looked most Colonial.

Today's tiebacks can be made of fabric, fiber, beads, feathers - in whatever shape suits your fancy.  Consider your choices the next time you tie back your draperies.  Embrace a new way to show off the view!

Left -custom tieback created from ombre ribbon hand pleated onto silk band w/color coordinated gimp applied down the center.

This delightful tieback on the right is the creation of Camela Nitschke, a ribbon artist.  The ribbon is braided and folded on itself.  It's a rather Victorian design that looks so right on this delft print drapery.  What a sweet tieback for a lady's boudoir or a girl's bedroom.  You can see more of her work at http://www.ribbonry.com .

This tieback resembles the sleeve of a man's suit coat.  The drapery panel is a heavy wool tweed, lined in a silk tussah.  A linen band shows below the bottom of the tieback - the cuff of the shirt.  And 2 black suit buttons finish the illusion.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Window Watching at the Movies

Even after spending the day working with fabrics and creating window treatments, it's a treat to sit back and look at more window treatments on film.  Movie sets might not be as fraught with meaning as a Vermeer painting but they certainly do offer visual delights when the performances are a bit off.  And in a well-acted film the sets subtly support and reinforce the director's intent.  So in keeping with TCM's "31 days of Oscar" and the 81st Academy Awards, I nominate my favorites for Draperies to Die For:
  • Meet Me in St. Louis (1945) - This just-about-perfect movie from Vincente Minnelli features the set designs of Edwin B. Willis and Cedric Gibbons in addition to warm, loving performances from a very accomplished cast.  "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"  is certainly one of my favorite songs of the season, but the best part of the movie for me is when John and Esther (Tom Drake and Judy Garland) are going through the house at the end of the party turning off lights and getting all caught up in each other.  The Victorian window and wall treatments are further enhanced by Garland's blue dress, all trimmed out in ball fringe and bullion.  We won't see a worthy competitor to that costume until Carol Burnett spoofs Gone With the Wind 20 years later.
  • The Merry Widow (1952) - I'm not sure who thought this Franz Lehar opperetta would be a good vehicle for Lana Turner and Fernando Lamas (!) but Edwin B. Willis and Cedric Gibbons created over the top sets that make the actors' shortcomings enjoyable.  Lana Turner acting cool and beautiful and Fernando Lamas looking "marvelous" and imperious were fine with me as long as I could feast on the stellar draperies and trappings in Crystal's (Turner) American home and the trappings at the Marshovian palace.  This is a remake of the 1934 B/W version with Jeannette MacDonald and Maurice Chevallier.  The sets are equally sumptuous in the original, even in monochrome.
  • My Fair Lady (1964) - If Lerner and Lowe had never written the libretto and music for this play;  if Eliza had never learned to speak "How kind of you to let me come";  if Higgins had never wagered with Col. Pickering this would still be a visual smorgasbord to be savored.  Even with the sound down (and why would you do that to the truly delightful music and clever lyrics!) the black and white composition of the Ascot Race patrons, the nearly psychedelic and period accurate wallpaper in Higgins' entry hall, and Mrs. Higgins' blue and white Art Nouveau parlor are reason enough to watch the film regularly.   Whole articles could probably be written on the settings providing clues to the personalities who live within.
  • Nanny McPhee (2006) - This delightfully quirky film features wonderfully garish colors in the interior sets designed by Philippa Hart.  The walls, furniture and draperies all clash and combine in such fashion as to set the viewer subtly on edge.  The Browns (for all the children's bad behavior) and Evangeline are the only "normal" ones in the place.  Nanny McPhee's appearance might change but the house does not.  And neither does Aunt Adelaide.  Apart from the fact that Emma Thompson and Colin Firth are 2 of my favorite contemporary actors, this movie offers a fun romp through the color wheel.
  • In any discussion of cinematic draperies it's impossible to omit the films of Busby Berkeley.  This man made geometry fascinating with his overhead shots and precision movements.  The story lines were usually nothing more than lead-ins to the musical numbers and for that reason I'm not quite sure in which BB film my favorite visual is located.  I'm guessing it's either Gold Diggers of  1935 or Zigfeld Follies, but what looks like a gargantuan wedding cake made of white draperies sits center stage.  As the music plays, the draperies (yards and yards of a Christos fantasy) begin to rise in huge swags and disappear into the flies above.  A rotating  "corkscrew" is revealed with dancers (or women, or pianos) arranged around its sides and after they perform  the draperies then descend in graceful folds around them all and the set again resembles a wedding cake.  Each time I watch that I'm filled with questions - "Where are the seams?"  "What kinds of motors did they use to haul those drapes into the flies?"  "How did they table these babies to get the hems straight?" 
  • A lot of people think of retirement as a time to start something new.  When I retire I want to go to work at DisneyWorld in the set design department.  Or maybe I'll go to the Smithsonian and the Cooper Hewitt Museum and explore the treasures of window coverings through the ages.  Retirement is a long way off, tho.  So I'll just keep watching movies.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Drapery Design Books I LOVE, Not Just for Valentine's Day

I'm a reader of books.  Regardless of the success of Kindles and Nooks and iPads, there is something most sensual about the heft and feel of a design book.  The pages are crisp, the photos are clear; I can almost touch the textures in the photos just looking at them.

Several years ago Stephanie Hoppen came out with a delightful book called The New Curtain Book.  This book features the work of numerous designers including daughter Kelly and Vicente Wolf.  Even though it's subtitle is "Master Classes" this is not a fabrication or how-to book.  What it is, is a visual romp through some incredibly outrageous draperies tempered with beautiful, crisply understated designs by interior designers on both sides of the Atlantic.  Hoppen gets an "A" for this master class!

Jackie vonTobel has written 2 books to date on window treatments and bedding.  She is a designer in Las Vegas, and after years of drawing out designs for her customers, she decided to publish them.  These design directories are encyclopedia idea books for drapery workrooms and homeowners alike.  Jackie's pen and ink drawings are subtlety colored to encourage the viewer to visualize the treatment in her own home.  And now Jackie had embarked on a line of custom designed fabrics.  You can see her fabrics and follow her blog at www.jackievontobel.com .

Indulge in these visual treats this Valentine's Day.  They will expand your design options, not your waistline.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Make a Room Feel Larger

Everyone wants their home to feel warm and inviting but we also want the room to appear larger. As a rule, we recommend mounting window treatments several inches above the window. For example, say you have an 8' ceiling height and you mount your window treatment under your crown molding or just below the ceiling, not only will the room appear larger but the ceiling height will appear taller as well.

Another mistake a homeowner might make would be to add a cornice with a straight bottom and then mount that cornice at the top of the window. Below I have created a rendering with our "Minutes Matter Studio" graphic design software to illustrate the different look achieved when the cornice is mounted near the crown molding or ceiling opposed to mounting at the top of the window. See how much taller the ceiling height appears and how much larger the room looks.

Here is another design tip when trying to make a ceiling look higher. Add a shape to the bottom of the cornice. By adding movement to the bottom of the cornice it can trick the eye into moving up and down so the eye does not stop at the longest point of the cornice.

You could also accomplish extra height with drapery panels and a decorative rod. Notice the difference when you mount the drapery rod at the top of the window or when you mount the rod under the crown molding or near the ceiling.

We recommend giving every room that extra lift! Would you like to see how new window treatments could change your room? As part of our service we create renderings to help our clients visualize how new window treatments will look on their windows.