My favorite Holiday Tips

How to get that Holiday Look, but keep it fresh.

If you use fake garland or fake trees, add fresh evergreen cuttings to bring the smell and look inside – be mindful to switch them out as you would fresh flowers. Add baby’s breath or other white flowers to bring a fake tree to life as well.

Evergreen Cutting

We live in an area where the Poinsettias die if left outside. I admired a friends home up the street where hers were doing “so well”…..guess what….they were fake! She planted them in the ground – like real ones – and added boxwood & real ground cover surrounding. I now “cheat” this look in my planter boxes and on my front porch. Be careful though, you need to buy the BEST fakes you can (mine came from a Commercial Christmas Supply) and be mindful of positioning them as you would real ones. For a party, I will add real ones in the mix the day before or of if there is a strong frost coming.

Burlap was the “in thing” last season, and still has a place this one as well. It is inexpensive. Just be mindful of flames nearby as it is highly flammable.

Burlap Wreath

Large scale twigs are terrific centerpieces. Hang ornaments sparingly. I love the sparse natural style, especially in a contemporary home. For a more traditional approach, spray paint the branch white, red or gold/silver. Use sand and gravel to ground the branch in a container & go to town decorating. We used mini branches as place card holders and hung an ornament as a gift for a luncheon. Very fun, inexpensive & creative.

Tree Branch

More to come tomorrow!

My favorite Holiday China

Hermes Balcon China - my FAVORITE for the Holidays!

Twas the Night Before Christmas by Susan Wignet


These are some of my favorite china patterns for the Holiday Season.

  • The Hermes is GREAT for a luncheon, especially over a solid color dinner plate. It is also wonderful for parties and buffets. I LOVE this pattern as it works for July 4th as well with a blue charger or dinner plate, taking on an entirely different look.
  • The Susan Wignet is great for every day with children. It is indestructible and we still use it every season at our casual cabin. as I believe it may no longer be in production.
  • The Haviland is lovely for a more formal dinner setting without being too “theme”.

I DO like the traditional Spode, but use it more as an accent, again for our luncheons and breakfast meals. We do use these as guest towels in the bathrooms, especially at the cabin & in the powder room for fun. You can find these at BB & Beyond.

Spode Christmas

Syracuse Dinnerware by Haviland & Parlon

Fresh Approach to Holiday Decorating

The day after Thanksgiving, we start to pull out our Holiday Decorations.

A Wise Woman once told me that you shouldn’t re-decorate your entire home just for Christmas. Holiday Decorations are like jewelry – you CAN wear too much.

I like that approach.

Some tips:

If the box of holiday decorations sits unopened longer than 48 hours in the room you were planning on using them in, face it, you aren’t getting to them ūüėČ

If you cannot find a logical place for a decoration, donate it. Re packing it for next year, won’t make it magically fit in your home next year.

Beautiful Wreath

One of our BEST Holiday Seasons ever was the one where we donated 2 of every 3 decorations (yes 75%). This included ribbon, garland, ornaments….so much stuff. The receivers were grateful and we felt cleansed. The house was more enjoyable with less stuff ¬†(& no, we didn’t use it as an excuse to buy more).

How we did it:

Santa & his Elf in NYC

  • Hired two people to bring absolutely EVERY Christmas Decoration & light strand to the garage from all corners of the property
  • Set everything out garage sale style (it was embarrassing how much we had accumulated without knowing it)
  • Went through and were brutal about every single decoration: was it ADDING to our life by keeping it…?? Most of the time the answer was a resounding NO.
  • When we were done there was very little that wouldn’t bless someone else more than it was blessing us: we shipped and drove boxes to our local preschool, local women’s shelter and Salvation Army & Goodwill
  • It was the first year we had all our decorations ‘in place’ early so we could enjoy them and there was NO stress in my mind thinking that I had to decorate another room because there were more decorations sitting unused in the South Shed

A Decorators Disclaimer: I love the Holidays. I have holiday china, I have pretty much “holiday everything”. I still address most of the house (& yes, our cabin as well), HOWEVER, the process is now manageable. ¬†It no longer takes over the days & includes scores of household employees. When you spend more time decorating and then un –¬†decorating than the season is long…there is a problem!

Here’s to December!

ps…has anyone laughed out loud at those Target commercials as hard as I have? If you know the one I am talking about and actually own a red sweat suit and pearls….you get it!! ¬†Blessings to you!!



Giving Back to Yourself by Robin Callan for Williams Sonoma Designer Markeplace

Robin Callan discusses “Giving Back to Yourself” in this Williams Sonoma Designer Marketplace article:
Check it out, it’s so very very true
 Read on for a current project that fits the bill!

Belly of the Beast - Notice the blue drying fans

Sometimes Interior Designers need to put their own spaces on the office schedule board.  One year ago, a pipe burst in our Tahoe Cabin and took 2 of 3 floors with it. Read below for a semi-humorous take on how this has gone down!

Agate Bay Pier

Opening Scene:  Water water everywhere.  Lovely fans & plastic walls go up so the entire cabin can be demolished inside and cleaned down to the studs.

Thought bubble inside Interior Designers Head: ¬†No problem! I’ll send the guys…and voila…restoration in no time

Thought bubble inside Interior Designers Head: ¬†Wow….three months went by. February already? ¬†No room on job board for cabin…will keep winging it….

Since this was my own cabin, and a casual cabin at that, experience went out the window as I “neglected the details”. ¬†Bad idea.

What’s that? ¬†Yes, I KNOW. “Very Bad Idea”

IMPROPER Contractor, Designer Correspondence

After many laughs, sighs, and stern phone calls to suppliers after two – yes TWO – granite counter tops were driven over on the cabin’s parking deck….I finally relented and have put the job on our Board.¬†
The spec binder was completed.

Proper Form of Contractor, Designer & Project Manager Communication

Floor plans, renderings & videos of the job were uploaded to files that ALL relevant parties can access. JUST like a REAL client!

On Being HUMAN:
It was and is hard to “make myself a REAL client”
  • ¬†At the time it didn’t seem prudent.
  • ¬†I should have looked up the definition of prudent again.
1.¬†discreet or cautious in managing one’s activities; circumspect
2. practical and careful in providing for the future
3. exercising good judgment or common sense

[from Latin¬†prŇędńďns¬†far-sighted, contraction of¬†prŇćvidens¬†acting with foresight; see¬†provident]
A well planned project costs less in the long run than a haphazard attempt by a home owner who wings it.
Insert knowing nod here.
I am no longer winging this one.
Stay tuned as we will check in periodically on this
And if you aren’t a regular consumer of the Williams Sonoma Designer Marketplace Articles/Blog, you should be
Great stuff

Sub Floor Issues after dry out

Happy Thanksgiving 2011

Happy Thanksgiving 2011

We are grateful for breath and life

We are thankful for minds that can process and believe

We are grateful for friends, even one unseen

May today be a time of gratitude, reflection and peace

Know that you are special and precious

Made intentionally for good and wonderful things

Happy Thanksgiving

from all of us at

Couture Chateau 2011

The day before a Holiday, don’t panic

Tacky Thanksgiving Decoration

Ahhhhh, the day before.

I have friends who were all set for their Thanksgiving Feast weeks ago. Today, they are out for a long run in the cool crisp air.

Beautifully Set, no rushing

I have friends who are all flustered trying to hide things in closets as guests arrive tonight. Today, they are flipping out.

Is this you?

Truth is, today is the day to DO THE BEST YOU CAN WITH WHAT YOU HAVE, and don’t wear yourself out doing it.

DON’T go out and try to find a new outfit today if you are also cooking tomorrow. Forget about the 10 lbs you wanted to lose – put on a smile & open your heart.

DO review your list with a cup of coffee or tea in a BEAUTIFUL cup for style purposes and sit in your nicest room to do it. ¬†You’ll feel calmer and more in control if you do.

Love this Tea Cup!

DON’T wallpaper the powder room because it’s small and it won’t take very long anyway if you are hosting Thanksgiving tomorrow.

Don't do it!!

DO go to the grocery store with the list you made in your nicest room sipping coffee or tea.

DON’T go to Home Goods, TJ MAXX, Target or some other Home Store to find more STUFF!

Do simply go to the store and get what you need – no more, no less.

REPEAT this list as many times as you need to remind yourself, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the thing people remember most about Thanksgiving is the people & the heart filling the home, garden, shelter they are gathering in.

Fill the room with kindness and generosity and it will be lovely, no matter how the table looks or the food tastes!

xoxo Ann

My Favorite Centerpieces: you might be surprised!

As we discussed yesterday, SHARING is an integral part of Thanksgiving.

Sometimes that sharing includes our Table Settings, Linens, helpful hands.

Fresh Cut Lemons

Sometimes it includes cuttings from our garden for a free centerpiece.

From the blog: Tamryn Kirby; Image: Inspired by This

Sometimes it includes our voice.

One of my FAVORITE centerpieces for a table is a STACK OF BOOKS.

Stacked Books. Not perfect, but loved & read.

Old and New Books as Centerpieces

I like to eat in the Dining Room every morning. Why? Because it sets the tone for the day. It marks the day as significant. You have to plan and not rush. With children this isn’t easy. However, it is a bit of civilization in my world of boys turning into men. Truth is, all hell usually breaks forth after, but for a brief 10-20 minutes, it’s calm….sort of…

Our STANDARD Centerpiece isn’t some expensive bowl. It is a stack of books. Devotionals, Inspirational, Classics, Funny Quirky Books that make you think, laugh or cry. They get used, moved, stacked imperfectly & read aloud.

We SHARE our voices over breakfast as we READ a snippet to each other and take time to TEACH and LEARN alongside one another.

I especially love this idea for THANKSGIVING. Put a stack of Books you LOVE in the middle of the table. Take turns reading to each other. Think about it, when was the last time someone read out loud to you, as an adult, in a personal setting. It is delightful. It calms the spirit, slows the heartbeat and brings us to the personal level we all so desperately crave in our fast paced, media centered lives.


Thanksgiving, a time of SHARING our bounty

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time of SHARING the bounty of our lives.

As part of a LARGE family, I learned early on that sharing was an essential part of how we lived. I am the youngest of 5 daughters with scores of cousins. We shared clothes, we shared accessories, we shared stories…songs…joys and sorrows. ¬†We also shared when it came time to gather at the table.

Where it starts...

When planning for family gatherings, I watched as Mother not only offered her special cooking talents, she offered her China, Crystal, Sterling, Linens, Salt Cellars, Sterling Pepper Shakers….whatever it was that the hostess might need. She never hesitated to wrap up the big sterling platter for someone who might have need of it.

Between 3 sisters, I think we have over 300 chargers. They have traveled as far as North Carolina from the SF Bay Area!

We often loaded the car early to set about setting the tables where ever we were headed.

It never occurred to me that this was out of the ordinary! When friends would have parties, my first question was do you need any thing? I could get easily gather 300 gold chargers or 60 place card holders…120 white wine glasses….120 blue and gold-rimmed buffet plates, some Derby China that if it could talk – whoa!…

My sisters and I have carried on the tradition, teaching it to the next generation. As each of us has purchased or inherited China, Crystal, Sterling….whatever it might be (an enormously gorgeously ridiculous lucite chip/dip set:)!, we do so with an eye for sharing. As you can see this Thanksgiving is BLUE Traditional. Other times, we go retro contemporary, pink palace, red modern. It’s ALL fun. And never too precious to USE.

As our families change and friendships become family community, I think this is even MORE important today. It teaches us and the next generation that our blessings belong not only to us, but to those with whom we spend our meals, our daily lives. It also stresses the importance of the ‘gathering’. We need each other. No one can set a beautiful table alone!

Piles, Lists, Coffee to keep us going...we all bring "to the table"

I was taught early on that if you had it, you should use it. The china was never holy – we used it. The crystal was never dusty because we used it. The silver…the linens…patina was the word mother used – that a beautiful patina on something meant that it had been used and enjoyed by those around you. A chip in the china just meant it had been a great party. Probably with wonderful music and good wine.

What are you waiting for?

Mix and Match, Old and Older, Precious and doesn't matter!

As you think about this Thanksgiving – and what you can share – think not only of the beautiful food you can bring that will bless, but delve into those linen and china cabinets and think about using and offering some of those beautiful pieces as bounty for the table as well. For goodness sake, whom does it bless by sitting in a closed cabinet covered by cloth?!

Pretty always goes with pretty. It doesn't have to be expensive!

And when do you share, do so freely.¬†Remember that a chip means it was a good party, a wine stain on a linen napkin means it was a good party….and you most certainly can’t take it with you!

Mix and Match, Yours with Mine, Hers with Ours!

Be a gracious and joyful sharer. It’s only stuff. The people are the precious part.

And besides, everything tastes better on china & crystal with a beautiful aged linen napkin in your lap! ¬†Even cranberries ;)….well, maybe not those ;)!

SHARE with us what you SHARE for Thanksgiving!  Let us know YOUR traditions!

Sage Business Advice that drew me to Camp

As an Interior Designer, Decorator, Small Business Owner…what ever it is we call it these days…

THIS ARTICLE drew me to CAMP in Arkansas

10 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me When I Started a Design Business.

Even with 20 hard won years under my belt in LA, NYC & SF Bay Area

this Kansas born girl was brought to a halt by Tobi Fairley’s

gifts of Teaching, Articulation & Honesty

And if you are even thinking about it, register for her next camp

You’ll be glad you did

Have a blessed weekend,


Trend Workshops & High Point Videos

As mentioned yesterday, our Trend Workshop/Seminars are coming up in February. LA & SF Bay Area.

Below are two videos from this Fall’s High Point Market dealing with some TRENDS. ¬†Check them both out. Designer Tobi Fairly is featured in the second video. Great fun. Great design. And you KNOW I love yellow. Yes, our entire office floor is yellow over scaled flowers!

What I like is that these videos give a behind the scenes feel. They do a great job capturing Market & showcasing Industry Leading Designers in a real trade show setting. It is encouraging to all of us!

Hickory Chair Celebrates its 100th-Year Anniversary (High Point, NC, October 2011). Jason Oliver Nixon interviews Quy Nguyen, Mariette Himes Gomez, Susan Hable Smith, Suzanne Kasler, Thor Taber and Tobi Fairley.¬†‚ÄĒ with¬†Tobi Fairleyand¬†4 others.

Length: ‎3:05