Friday, August 30, 2013

Where do Interior Designers shop?

Where do we shop?  What secret place do we go to get the perfect furniture, fabric, rug, accessory, etc.?  The answer is anywhere and everywhere. As an Interior Designer one of the most important aspects of my job is to find just the right resource, to find just the right thing for my clients' homes.   Each project and client is unique and they deserve to have a home that truly expresses their own style and personality. 

On my recent trip to California I had the good fortune to go to some of the fantastic showrooms I have heard so much about.  Last year I visited a few other showrooms and everywhere I went people would say, oh, you must go here or you must go there.  So this trip I did!  Although I went to three amazing places, I want to devote this post to
 J.F. Chen.  There was so much to see it will fill the whole post.

J.F. Chen is located in West Hollywood California.
 Having heard so much about J.F. Chen , I couldn't wait to get there.  I assumed it was filled with Asian antiques and lots of exotic things.  So, ok, I should not assume anything.  Yes there were Asisan antiques but so so much more. 

This is a small corner of one of three large warehouses!

This shell adorned table would be perfect here in Florida.

This Murano glass chandelier is just one of many unique lighting fixtures.

What I found was the largest collection of museum quality mid century and vintage antiques.  From chairs, sofas, dining tables, coffee tables, etc. to lighting, sculpture, art and accessories.  It was overwhelming. 

As odd as this table may look, I have actually seen a few modern day interpretations of it in today's market.

I can imagine a Hollywood diva making her next movie deal from this curved leather and wood desk. 

This one of a kind desk is made from the outside of an airplane! And dig that crazy silver leather desk chair.

Sitting on the desk was this amazing little Jetsons looking TV.  I think we need to bring that style back, don't you?

I was fascinated with the incredible assortment of chairs.  Everywhere I looked there was one more interesting than the next.

There was a whole set of these little chairs.

This one looks hand made.

It may not be the most beautiful but it is very interesting. It almost has an "Early American" vibe but maybe from a source in Europe or South America.

I have seen patio furniture like this but these were probably the original design that inspired the reproductions.  What a great look.

I call this a butterfly chair. These were some of the first many years ago bu I have seen them in furniture stores right now.
 The interesting thing I found was how many of these original styles have endured.  You can find chairs in very similar styles in local stores or design showrooms.

Traditional wing chair meets contemporary styling.

These woven chairs are wonderful. I have seen some very much like these in a catalogue I got last week! And for a lot less money of course.

Chairs like this are also available in a similar style and in painted finishes.

This desk is so simple and beautiful. The chair is a great compliment to it. 

The clean lines and smooth finish of these chairs is perfect with the open woven seat. They are in amazing shape for being so old.
If you like this style, check out Room and Board for similar designs available today.

Here is another wonderful dining table and set of chairs. It is unusual to find a complete set still in good condition.

If I was a designer of modern furniture I would find a way to recreate this look.

This collection is from all over the world.  Many of the pieces are one of a kind or from limited editon, created by a well known furniture designer for a single manufacturer for a short period of time.

What fun.  The style and color are show stoppers.

This is the price tag for the chair above. It was designed by Marcel Wanders. Priced at $4,500, it was one of the least expensive chairs I saw.  Wanders is a Dutch product and furniture designer. He is known all over the world. You can even find products he design in Target!

The prices reflected the rarity of these pieces. Each was labeled with the designer, date and other important information.

This tag belongs to the next chair by Arne Jacobsen who also designed the iconic Egg Chair.  As you can see this is quite a valuable piece and not all that old.

This chair by Arne Jacobsen is called the OX chair. He designed it over a five year period and introduced it in 1966.
I did a bit of research and found an interesting article written on June 10th 2009 on Jacobsen in .  He is Danish. He trained and practiced as an architect but became a furniture designer so the furniture would be a perfect compliment to his interiors. Interestingly I found another furniture collection at J.F. Chen also by an architect.

This house was designed by Rudolf Schindler, a Vienna born architect. He was known as a Modernist and designed many homes in the L.A. area.  He lived from 1887 -1953.

The photo from the same book as above, shows the interior of that house.

The furniture above was also designed by Schindler for the same house.  Schindler also wanted to maintain the design inside and out.
It was fascinating to learn that architects were so passionate about their designs that they designed furniture to compliment the style of the architecture too.  This was an impressive collection. It was like being in a museum.

I wish I knew more about this chair. It was most likely one of a kind.

Another set of matching table and chairs.  The delicate style and color along with the open woven seat and back is beautiful.
Once again I venture to say this chair is one of a kind or was part of a very limited editon.   It is really a piece of art.
 The condition of all these pieces is extraordinary. 
It was wonderful to see so many incredible examples of well designed furniture. We toured all three warehouses (34,000 square feet !) but I could never take it all in.  It was inspiring and educational. 
I will never go to a thrift shop or garage sale without remembering what I saw.  You just never know where the next iconic chair will appear.  Even in todays furniture lines many of the styles I saw have been recreated. 
"What is old is new", they say.

Next time I have a client who loves the Mid Century or Retro style I will know just where to find the perfect thing, J.F. Chen!

Maybe this post has taken you down memory lane or has enlightened you about the origins of furniture design in Mid Century.  Have you ever found an old piece of furniture in the basement or attic that turned out to be something valuable?  Won't you share your story with us?

Or, maybe that chair or table you find at Ikea could be a good stand in for some iconic design.  You never know.
 Do you love the look of the Mid Century style? Do you watch Mad Men and find you are studying the interiors of the set in the background?

As always I welcome your ideas, thoughts and questions in the comment box below.  You can always email me at .

                               Happy Decorating!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Creating an Inviting Porch

I have to admit it, I have a passion for porches and ok verandas are pretty wonderful too.

Porches can be charming, comfy and even romantic.  Just think of all those first kisses and proposals that have taken place on porches.  What is more romantic than sitting on a porch swing holding hands with your sweetheart? Does any one remember the gliding loveseats?

But there is something about a porch that to me is just an inviting place to spend some time.  Whether chatting with friends, playing with your kids, reading a book, sipping lemonade or maybe taking a nap there is just something about a porch that makes you want to be there.

 A classic Victorian house with a grand veranda, and upstairs porches too!
So I thought since I am doing a series on outdoor living, that a post on porches is vital!

What makes a porch take on such an ambiance?  And, just what constitutes a porch?  I would say that a porch must be a covered area on the exterior of a home.  Mostly I think of them being  on the front of a house but many are on the side or back, hence "the back porch".

This rustic back porch is welcoming with it's stone fireplace.  What a nice addition to any porch.
How lovely to enjoy the ocean breeze on this screened porch.  The eclectic mix of furniture gives a different sense of style to this space.
Some porches are screened and some have railings around them.  Most also have posts, columns or pillars.  It doesn't really matter how big they are but I am going to say that a big porch could also be called a veranda.  Some verandas wrap around the house on at least two sides.
This porch has a roof, columns and a railing, an a pair of chairs awaiting visitors.

 A porch is also different that a patio.  Here in Florida most houses have patios.  They are also usually on the back of a house. They can be open or screened or have a roof. But they simply are not porches!  They don't seem to have the charm of a porch, not that they can't be wonderful all on their own.

If you are lucky to have a porch, how can you decorate it to maximize it's charm?  What can you do to make it inviting?  Here are some ideas.

Comfortable seating is a must.  Look at the beautiful painted floor.  I love how the porch flows through the French doors into the house.

 Some of my favorite things to find on a porch are porch swings, and rockers. When I would visit my grandparents' farm in Mississippi we would sit in our rockers for hours on the porch. We would sip sweet tea, share family stories or shuck corn or snap beans for the evening supper.  It was a time I will always treasure.  Maybe that is where my passion for porches began.

Porches were made for rockers.  I get the feeling this one is by a lake.

A traditional porch swing piled with pillows and a throw welcomes everyone.

A white swing on a white porch with a dark green cushions and bright red geramiums is the perfect place to relax on a summer's day.

Wicker sofas and chairs with pretty cushions are a common element found on porches everywhere.  Side tables and dining tables look great and make a porch even more functional and inviting. If it is protected from the weather natural wicker is great but today there are many beautiful options in outdoor wicker too. Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference.

Natural wicker looks so pretty with blue and white. Notice the high gloss blue ceiling. It creates a feeling of sky and light.

Wicker mixed with wood accent pieces give a warm feeling to this porch along with the plants, pillows and mirror on the wall.
 Wrought iron and wrought aluminum are other popular materials for both seating and occasional pieces.  There is such a fantastic choice of durable outdoor fabrics available, like Sunbrella.  It makes it more fun to decorate your porch with cushions and pillows.

The dark wood floor really sets off the white cushions on the wrought iron chairs. Plants soften the look and tie the inside with the outside too.
So, now you have the basics but what could you add to give your porch more warmth and personality?  How about an area rug? There are many choices in outdoor rugs that it make it easy to add a rug to define a conversation area and give your porch an indoor feeling. 

The accessories on this porch give lots of personality.  It probably tells you a lot about the style of the people who live there too.

Another way to warm up any porch is with lighting.  Lamps, lanterns, chandeliers and candles are always effective.  For the most part you would want to use a material that would be weather resistant but there are many possibilities.  I have even seen some creative "candleliers" made just for candles.

A stylish flush mounted ceiling fixture provides light for this porch. Here is a new take on the traditional porch swing as well.  Drapery panels add an indoor feeling which allow for privacy and sunlight control.  A ceiling fan is a great addition to a porch to help out when the breeze dies down on a hot summer day.
I love the look of drapery panels hanging on a porch.  Whether tied back or blowing in the breeze, there is a feeling of romance and elegance that happens when you add hanging fabric to an outdoor living space.

Plants and flowers are natural accessories for a porch.  Ferns on plant stands always whisper "Palm Beach" or Vintage Victorian.  Flowering plants add color. Herbs add fragrance.  Palms or small trees can fill in empty spaces or provide privacy.  Plants help to tie your porch in with the rest of your garden or yard.  Hanging plants are wonderful too. And don't forget when space is tight or you are faced with a big blank wall you can hang plants there too!

Colorful pillows, a throw, table runner and little lanterns make this porch a very happy place to relax.
What more could you do to put the finishing touches on your porch?  Outdoor art,  pottery and baskets, handmade sculpture or crafts, a trellis on the wall and even mirrors provide provide ways to add personality.

This porch is elegant but not too formal.
Instead of drapery panels here we see a louvered screen.  Lattice or trellis works well too.

For me the piece de resistance for a porch is a beautiful hammock. It would beckon me to stretch out, relax and be lazy.  Swinging softly in a hammock creates the most delightful gentle breeze.

Want to take a longer nap?  Why not actually sleep out on you porch?  A sleeping porch is a wonderful idea for feeling like you are camping with the comforts of home.

I call this rustic elegance.  When you juxtapose those two elements you create a delightful play of the soft and luxurious against the texture of  old and worn . 

A sleeping porch can also be for the whole family.   These drapery panels not only give privacy but when closed make this a very cozy place to sleep, protected from a chilly night breeze or unexpected rain storm.

Here are a few more porches I would like to share:

A pair of Adirondack chairs with plump pillows, bouquet of fresh flowers, a palm and drapery panels are  perfect on this porch.

This porch is may be screened or glass enclosed.  The lighting and draperies really add to the ambience in this space.

Porches provide a fabulous place to decorate for any holiday.

Rock your troubles away.

Swing in the ocean air, but watch out for the other guy!

Porches are for dining with friends and family.  These comfy chairs will allow everyone to linger and relax.

Who says a porch or porch swing has to be traditional?  This contemporary swing is so unique. It makes me think of how creative you can be, even when designing a porch swing.

When you enclose a porch with glass it truly becomes an outdoor room.

I hope you have enjoyed spending time on my imaginary porch with me.  How would you like to decorate your porch?  What makes your porch an inviting place to spend some time?             

 As always I invite you to share your ideas, inspirations and thoughts in the comment box below.  You can also email me at

                      (Photo credits go to Pinterest, House Beautiful and Google Images.)