Sunday, September 26, 2010

Tiff's Charlotte Discoveries: Sleepy Poet Antique Mall

It has been my goal since we moved to Charlotte to check out different design spots to familiarize myself with what this city has to offer. This week was filled with lots of exploration. It was pretty hard to narrow my ultimate pick, so I am sharing 3 great finds with all of you. Each place was different and delightful with a mix of high and low end goods.

My first stop was at the Sleepy Poet, which is located in the South End. Tucked away off a busy industrial like street, this antique emporium is a gold mine. There is a lot to look at, so devote a good chunk of time for roaming around. The people working there are extremely friendly. Even if you are not looking for anything in particular, this a great place to enjoy an afternoon. Very therapeutic. A friend of mine (Shout out to Kristen) who is having a baby, was looking for a dresser to put in a guest room which could be used in a nursery at some point, so we were keeping our eyes open for the perfect size, style, and price of course. I was easily distracted by all the Asian antiques, and have put a few things on my wish list (a long Asian style bench for the foot of my bed, two black end tables for my guest room, and a beautiful buffet for the dining room). Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures of these items. (what was I thinking???) However, I did take some pics of some other great finds that I got a kick out of .
I love this ceramic lamp. The shade is great with the black rubbing.

I thought these candlesticks were great. If I had bought them I may have painted them another color, but I loved the chinese cutout design. This vendor is called Bamboo, a young woman from Palm Beach owns this booth. Great stuff.

These vintage prints were a little crazy, but I really like them. The pair of them were $34.00. Wish I got them now.

These side tables had an amazing shape, the finish was nice and I could see mixing them with a lot of different styles. If you look closely, you can see that they have planters in them, that could be really fun!
Ultimately my friend did not find the dresser, but will be back again to see if she'll get lucky and find the perfect piece. I think it's definitely possible here. As for me....of all the things that caught my eye, the item I ended up purchasing was a little black stand for 12 bucks for my one "happy" Buddha in the house. Now, he's really happy.                                                                                 

My second stop this week was in Cotswold. I hadn't even been to this part of Charlotte, so I was glad that my first experience in this part of town was so wonderful. I had noticed in the paper that Cotswold Marketplace had expanded their store, and I really wanted to check out what they had. This is a space I would take a client to, if they were looking for interesting, one of a kind pieces. It's definitely on the high end, pillows were in the $200.00 and up range. It depended on which section you were looking at. I found some interesting pieces of art with nests and eggs, which seem to be a reoccurring theme wherever I go (me thinks I need to design a nursery based on this theme)

These photos don't do the artwork justice. There is a lot of textures and they are framed beautifully
There were these fantastic shutters with a cut-out of the moon, also could be used in a nursery or even in a shabby chic setting. The finish was so pretty.

I also found two fantastic chairs. They were a pair of antique Asian lounge chairs in black lacquer. I liked the fabric, but I would probably reupholster them in something a little more "dirt-proof" if there is such a thing. I also thought the cost was reasonable as well, $600.00 for the pair.

I would highly recommend this store if you were looking for something special.

My last stop this week was at a place called City Art Works, which is located on the corner at Woodlawn and Park. My friend Sandy had been telling me all about it and I had to see what all the hoopla was all about. My experience was not only mesmerizing, it was magical.  As you came upon the store, there was an easel out front, whimsically decorated with beads and jewels, with an inset chalk board which said something like "Your husband called and said you can buy anything." I can't remember it verbatim, but it set the tone for me. I love anything with a sense of humor, they had me there.

Upon entering the store, my eyes were filled with so much to see. The store consists of custom jewelry from a vast array of vendors, some customizable pieces where you can pick different pendants and stones and then add the chain. They even have antique ribbons, which I love. They also have some artists featured on the walls, pottery and decorative art pieces, some candles and oils and special things for children. There was a great chandelier hanging which was so pretty. It has beads embellished on it. The artist takes salvaged lighting fixtures and embellishes them with beaded garland and other things. The picture does not show all the detail.
I don't think I can do this store justice by describing it, you'll just have to come in. All I can say is that I did not want to leave. Everything was displayed so beautifully, with so much love and care. I had the pleasure of meeting one of the owners, Susan Sloan-Lieb, and you could tell just speaking with her how much of her blood, sweat and tears went into making this store the treasure it is. Unfortunately I was so busy looking at all the "booty", I didn't take too many pictures. I managed to photograph a salvaged piece of art that I had become taken with.
When I read the quote on this salvaged piece of wood, I got goose bumps up my arm. I immediately thought of my husband. It's amazing how something so simple, almost childlike in execution, can have such an impact.
Well, I can say it was a successful week of discovery here in Charlotte. It definitely reassures me that art and design is alive and kicking in this unique city. Until next time.....

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Let's not always take ourselves too serious, k? Part one

Family, Friends and a few strangers who have stumbled upon my blog....I want to be upfront about something.  I have been struggling with the idea whether I should post this segment. I don't want to look like the" bag lady of design". I am the first person to persuade you to invest in that "fabulous most exquisite thing" in the store. If I pick something up off a shelf or a rack...oh yeah, it's got the biggest price tag. So, I say this with all honesty, I am no craftsy girl, I shop at Michaels only when I need to, I am not good at finding stuff at garage sales, I am not a scrapbooker and I am not too handy.

What I do know how to do is prioritize when it comes to designing one's home. Now, like no other time in history, do we need to take a step back and look at what we have, spend a little less where we can, save a little more for what we want, and laugh lots and lots. I'd like to share a few helpful ideas when it comes to tackling this idea.

Part one: Let's start with our walls.

My first piece of advice is to invest in a few pieces of really good art. If you are lucky like me, to have inherited artwork, and have a mother and a father whom are both fabulous artists, piece of cake. But, in actuality, most people don't have this situation. So, my suggestion is to use good scale, pick pieces that will work in many different places in your home, living room, bedroom, dining room. If you can't afford artwork from an artist, buy prints and have them framed really nice. Crop the poster to the edge of the artwork. Some  posters include a title at the bottom (especially posters of well-known artists).Try to crop the artist's name/or exhibition. Leaving the title cheapens the print/framing. I will show you  examples of poster art where one has been cropped and the other hasn't and you can be the judge.
We all know this is Van Gogh, it would look better cropped into the image
This is also poster art of a well known artist , but it's cropped into the painting itself and nicely framed with a nice mat and a fillet.
When mixing pieces, keep in mind a general color scheme. Unless you are trained in art or design, it's best to keep the same color palette throughout your choices, this makes mixing different types of art, (abstracts, figurative, landscape) easier. Mixing colorful art and black and white etchings can be fun and effective in filling a space.
The black and white portrait on the left works wonderfully with the center bold abstract and left contemporary piece.
This grouping of smaller pieces is a wonderful mix of figurative and abstract pieces, tying in the color scheme and combining black and white pieces as well.
In my own home, I've combined a grouping over the fireplace of an abstract oil, a simply framed old etching and a few sculptural pieces. (The etching was actually my grandmothers, worth nothing, but has so much meaning. It has a quote at the bottom which reads, "If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way
In an another example, I have grouped some figurative pieces and abstract pieces together in the same room, with an overall color palette which pulls it all together.
On the left is an abstract piece, and the right is a grouping of 3 figurative pieces, but all have the same general color palette.
Using reproductions of prints from an antique store is one way of finding art that is relatively inexpensive, but has a high end look. One store in Charlotte, Interior Marketplace, on the corner of Providence Road and Queens Rd., has a booth in its store with a wide selection of subject matters, really nice quality. You could easily buy a group of prints, say six botanicals, for about $40 a piece, and have them framed for a dining room or living room. Just be sure to watch your scale on the pieces.
The designer utilized the whole wall by only using 5 small pieces, and pumping up the framing with large mats and fillets.
In this bedroom, the botanical pictures are grouped across a wall, 4 on the wall, and three more leaning in the built-in.
In the reflection of the mirror, you can see here a whole grouping of botanical prints framed in a simple frame.
Tiff's tip: Don't always limit the size of artwork to a sofa or piece of furniture. Sometimes it's better to scale the art with the dimensions of the wall size, leaving an "invisible frame" around the artwork. Here are a few examples where designers have utilized the space well.

Three dimensional art is also an effective way to compliment framed pieces, and can be very economical depending on where you find them. Even places like HomeGoods (there I go again, mentioning that place!!!) or stores like Pottery Barn.
Three inexpensive mirrors can be hung across a wall and look great.
If your art budget is tight, the one place I highly recommend you don't spend most of your budget is in secondary areas, like childrens' bathrooms and playrooms. This area can be easily decorated with minimal cost and have more meaning.

For example. My children collected seashells this summer at the beach and wanted to keep their collection in the house (yikes, all I could think of is a bunch of bugs walking around, and broken pieces shell embedded into the carpet). So, I went over to H---G----, again, and picked up a banged up frame on clearance for five dollars. I arranged the shells the way I wanted them on the perimeter of the frame, hot glued them on and then bronzed the whole thing with some bronze paint.
A five dollar frame at HomeGoods in the clearance aisle.
The shells have been hot-glued to the front face of the frame
I painted on the base coat of a two-part bronzing kit, and decided to stop here. I liked the bronze finish.
Now some of you may be thinking, why are you covering up the natural beauty that shells possess? Well, I can honestly say I love beach houses, they are beautiful, and frankly, I wish I owned one, but my house is not beachy at all, and this was my way of making it my own. I had some photos at the beach of the family printed in sepia to pick up the tone in the bronze paint and now I had a memorable piece of art, that I will always cherish. I hung it on an empty wall above my desk. It's either chic or eek. Who cares, I love it, and now I'll never lose my keys!

Another room that can be easily decorated with you own memories is the childrens' bathrooms. Instead of buying cheap art fillers with pictures of bath-tubs and sinks, put your kids in there with family photos. Blow up pictures of them in the tub with all the bubbles, and frame them with colorful mats. Another idea would be to buy inexpensive canvas from an art store and make handprint and footprint art of your children.
This kit can be purchased from
I had some frames that I had bought on clearance and decided instead of photos, to insert the children's footprints that the hospital had made when they were born. They were just sitting in a file, hidden amongst other papers, when they could be framed and cherished daily. To make it just a tad more personal, I bought unfinished wooden stars with a picture insert from Michaels (just $1 each) and roughly painted them with watercolors to match the tub treatment. I printed out the children's names and birthdates and inserted them in the center, that way we knew who's feet were who's (I'm a mother, I know!!!! But the kids got a kick out of their names being up with their feet). Another personal touch, with minimal money spent.

I incorporated the colors from their tub drape and accessories.

Playrooms, lofts or spaces in your home that are designated "kid-spaces" need to have some humor, fun, and let's face it, not break the bank. Children are only young for a short period of time. We either want to spend money on quality pieces that can stay with the house, even when the kids are gone, or we can do fun things that can be practically free, have fun with our kids doing it, and put it away when they've moved on to others interests. Chalkboards are great, and if you own your own home, chalkboard paint on one wall, whether it's just a panel, an inset, or a shape is really fun.

Wall decals can be really interesting too, with minimal cost.

This race track decal is from
This is a playful take on the abc's also from Blik.
I decided that I didn't want to spend any money in our playroom since we were renting and I had know idea how long we would be there, or whether our next home would have a designated playroom. My daughter Sydney and I love to paint together, and since we've moved to Charlotte seven months ago, I've been painting the alphabet letters for fun, so she gets practice in saying her "ABC's" and we talk about what things starts with each letter.
I just used inexpensive crayola watercolors and paper.
Now that I finished them, I wanted her to be able to enjoy them everyday and remember all the things we talked about. I took an idea I got from Jennifer at Small Hands/Big Art in South Charlotte, which is an open art studio for children. They have classes there as well. When Sydney and I took a class together,  I noticed that Jennifer displayed all the kids' art by hanging them with clothespins on strings/yarn across the wall like a clothesline. I thought it was so simple. And hey, let's not take ourselves so seriously here, People! It's a kids play area, not a living room! Michelangelo ain't comin' in here to do a mural on the ceiling! So, it's a little craftsy, who cares.
I decided to paint the clothespins different colors, just using the same watercolors I used on the alphabet letters (crayola). My daughter had fun helping me paint them too.

I bought 50 cent ribbons from the clearance bins at Michaels. The kids love how it turned out, and I put an extra clothesline for their own artwork (at 3 and 6 the artwork comes home in droves weekly). I even put a beaded necklace across this section that says "Artist of the week" They can take turns sharing the spotlight!
So, have fun, don't take yourself too seriously. Prioritize. Of course you don't want to string clotheslines all over your dining room.........with napkins. But we also don't want to spend money when it's not necessary. I've got enough serious faces in my house:

A few painted shells to preserve a few memories and save a few dollars here and there is okay. It's better than's perfect.

(Some of the photographs have been taken from the the following publications; Elle Decor, House Beautiful, Veranda, Celerie Kemble, To Your Taste, Mariette Hines Gomez, Houses Inside and Out, Feathering The Nest, by Tracey Hutson.)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Tiff's Charlotte Discoveries: Cottage Chic

Each week I've made it my goal, as I embark on a new city, to visit at least one new design shop/boutique. Today, since I had one hour to get into uptown from the Providence area and back, I decided to step into a great shop on East Blvd. in the Dilworth area, called Cottage Chic. The store lived up to all the hype I kept hearing from my friends. If you don't know much about the Dilworth area,  you must see for yourself.

Dilworth was Charlotte's first street car neighborhood, rich in architecture. However, by the 1960's it became run down and most of the architecture was in danger of being lost. Fortunately it has slowly come back with preservationists pushing for its survival. I love this area, and this store is an example of how an architectural gem can be restored and utilized in an intelligent and creative way.

As I walked up to the property I felt as if I was visiting an old friend. It was extremely inviting. And when I opened the door......(sniff sniff) Ahhhh..the aromatic blend of daffodils, tuberose, currant and about 5 more smells filled my senses (in a good way, not in a over-doing the perfume kind of way).  The customer service was open and friendly and the merchandise was displayed well too. Very clever products, lots of candles and lotions and potions.  There was a section for children's decor and gifts, womens' clothing and in the back they have a design studio. Very girly, not for the dudes for sure!!!

So, what's the Find of the Week? These adorable mercury votives with yummy smelling candles.

Every color had character. They were a great scale too. Not too small and not too big.

If you collected them, they would make fabulous individual floral arrangements for each place setting for your next sit -down dinner party.

There are about 8 colors to choose from and what's great about them is that once the candle is finished you can use the mercury votive for lots of different uses. Flowers, jewelry, paint brushes, pencils, sugar name it! And, not only that, the price was reasonable at $18.00 a candle (not bad considering the going rate for a high end candle, and you get to keep the holder). My only disappointment???? That I didn't come home with one of these candles!!!!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Hard times call for creative ways to stretch your design dollar

My daughter, Sydney, has just grown out of her crib.....well, she grew out of it about a year ago. I guess it's more that I am ready to move on to the big girl bed.  It was hard for me as a designer to not go "hog wild" on the bed frame and all the bedding, but I had to restrain myself and think practically.  First thing I did was look out for sales online.  I got an amazing deal on a daybed, from no other than Restoration Hardware Baby and Child.  If you wait and be patient, it's amazing what you will find.  I also kept in mind the longevity of the piece. Think about how long she/he can use the bed. Will they outgrow it, or can it be used later in college, or as a piece in a guest room later when the kids are gone? I went even a bit further and bought a bed that could be used vertically in the room (headboard/footboard) or as a daybed. This way we have options as she grows and wants to give her opinion (WE"RE NOT REALLY GOING TO LET HER HAVE AN OPINION ARE WE????!!!).

The next thing I needed to think about was bedding. We are renting now, so the walls are white, but I really wanted to incorporate some of the existing color scheme from her nursery. Her original nursery was a combination of bright pink and white gingham from Pottery Barn Kids with white matelasse diamond. I used this with a gorgeous Brunschwig and Fil wallpaper scene of bunnies in the same raspberry and white color scheme. Well, didn't I say times are tough? We can't do Brunschwig wallpaper anymore!!! I needed to think about how to make it special, taking into consideration Sydney's need for a "princess" theme. ( She did not specify Disney princess, so she ain't gettin it!) While she was still in the crib I kept my eyes open for big girl bedding that would go with my existing gingham stuff (I still had draperies and basket covers). One way to make things easier on the wallet is to buy things one or two pieces at a time. Unless it's on clearance/closeout. By the time I was ready to buy the big bed, I had all the bedding pieces and it didn't seem like such a big purchase. 

Tiff's Tip: If you can, either keep a few swatches or scanned pictures of fabric and existing pieces in a baggie and keep it in your purse. Even as a trained designer, sometimes my memory is not so accurate and I come home with things that are off in color. It'll just save you a trip, or $$$  if you buy a non-returnable item.

So, I had the bed and most of the bedding (sheets, comforter, shams) but I wanted to do something extra without spending too much. I really wanted her daybed to look like a sofa during the day, so I felt bolsters would look great flanking each end. But.....when I have done bolsters in the past, they've really been expensive, yikes! Also, the scale had to be just right. If you make a bolster too wimpy (my way of saying small) it won't look good, it will also cheapen the look. I searched online for a bolster/bolster insert but found nothing big enough (I was looking for at least a 36" length and a diameter of at least 8 or 9". Remember, a twin bed's depth is 39" approx.) I was just about to trash the whole idea when.....I hit the jackpot! I was wandering through HomeGoods, just looking for that one of a kind thingy, when I found huge bolsters!!!! They were blue, not pink, but the size was great (39" x 10" diameter) Perfect! And, the price...fabulous at 14 bucks a piece! You can't beat that price! Now I had to think about fabric and actually reupholstery...ugh! Again, my creative juices were flowing and I realized I could easily re-use the crib bedding without any additional cost for fabric. The crib sheets (the pink and white gingham) could be used for the body of the bolsters, and for the ends I thought the white matelasse duster could be pieced together. 

All I had to do now is find someone to make it.  Through my sister-in-law I found a great resource for anyone in South Charlotte. Her name is Tracy Garrett and she owns her own bedding and drapery company called Southern Expressions.  She gave me a great price.  The last thing I did was hunt down a small trim to put on the edge, to give it a finished look.  Trim, generally, can add a lot to the cost, but if you can find a large remnant or closeout you can really do well. I went to Robyn's Fabrics and Custom Design in Pineville and found the perfect little trim; 5 yards for 12 bucks!!!!Woohoo!!! The bolsters turned out great, and made the bed look full and comfy.

What would finish off a bed fit for a princess???? A crown cornice of course!!! This too can be a pricey endeavor.  The cornice I had my eyes on was about 300 dollars without fabric. Yikes, again! So, I needed to think.  With a little research on the web, I found a person in NC who makes wooden crown cornices that even comes with a rod to hang fabric from (DeCarlo Woodworks).  For about 80 dollars, I had a cheaper version that was fit for a 3 year old princess. I painted it pink (per her request, I would have preferred white myself, but hey, I can bend a little) and bought matching sheets to the comforter for the drapery and sewed a pocket for the rod myself (if I can do it, anybody can do it).

pre-painted cornice

Painted pink with draperies made with bed sheets
For the finale I wanted to put her name under the cornice. Even this simple idea can add up. Most letters run about 8-12 dollars a letter, even doing a shortened version of her name (SYD) would run $30. Again, I wanted to try and do it for less. I found that Michael's carries already primed (white) letters for $2 a letter. Wow, what a difference. I embellished these plain white letters by painting the same pink on the cornice to the sides and I added a cut out of a crown for the S for an extra $1. I painted the crown a brighter pink to tie into the bedding and stuck diamonds on it to give it extra "'bling".

bling on the cut-out crown
Letters from Michael's, I just painted pink on the edges !


  That's it! Bed treatment finished, with minimal cost. Our princess is happy!

Happily Ever After!