Day 4….Anesthesia…hugh? How does THAT fit with Design…

Day 4 of our 6 Day (hopefully humorous) Blog Post on “Design Projects as Surgery”

Our 5 stages are: Consultation – Scheduling – Anesthesia– Recovery/Rehab – Living Anew!

Laughed out loud at this!

Today…ANESTHESIA….Also known as...”we are putting you under…PLEASE oh PLEASE leave this part to the professionals!!!”

I actually have the most fun with this part of our analogy.

Think of it this way….DO YOU HELP your DOCTOR with SURGERY??

If you do…well…am assuming you might be from Mars or something and THAT is an entirely different discussion ;)…


If not…well…does it make sense??

As a Designer, this has helped me explain the process to clients better than ANY other teaching tool I have used over the years.

It conjurs up images of Gene Wilder (showing my age!) in Young Frankenstein…I like humor…it helps us see more clearly……

The point is, when we HIRE a pro…the BEST way to get the best out of them is to back away and let them do their job.

IF you woke up during…let’s say…facial surgery…and you looked in the mirror and attempted to help your surgeon “put things in place”…it probably wouldn’t look so good.

Same with a Living Room Installation.

This is a typical furniture plan from another persons blog...I liked the descriptions...

IF you walk in on your Decorator and his/her team moving furniture into your home and placing accessories and you attempt to “help” I guarantee it will take longer than it would if you went to the kitchen, made some tea, went outside and read a book.

It never worked for Lucy when she "helped" Ricky...;)!

AFTER all the pieces are in place (EG: AFTER the surgical swelling subsides is when you LOOK…before and yipes!) then you can come in and enjoy!

The fun part of this is – I actually LOVE the install process. Most Designers do.

It is the part where our months – sometimes YEARS of planning, ordering, designing come to fruition. We have “seen it in our heads” for so long…we want to make sure the REALITY is even better than our original VISION. That takes s p a c e. Space to execute. Space to work. The inventories are done, the packing up and unpacking is completed, the small items are placed, there is the thrill of the energy rush when everything arrives…the drapes, the delivery trucks…of COURSE there are issues…sometimes Couches don’t fit thru doors…so we find another way…sometimes we need one more picture hook…but the point is, we ARE paid & trained to handle those nuisances just as your Doctor is PAID and TRAINED to deal with the unknown.

So sit back and let us handle it ! Enjoy the anesthesia...I PROMISE…the daily living and dusting and all the other stuff that comes with taking CARE of those fabulous new rooms will hit soon enough…for now…enjoy the high!

Consultation = Honesty

Scheduling = Patience

Anesthesia = TRUST!

"Trust people and they will be true to you; treat them greatly and they will show themselves great." Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tomorrow…Recovery/REHAB 😉 no no no…I don’t want to go to rehab!


xoxo Ann

Design Projects….Scheduling…

So this is DAY 3 of our 6 Day (hopefully humorous) Blog Post on “Design Projects as Surgery”

Our 5 stages are: Consultation – Scheduling – Anethesia – Recovery/Rehab – Living Anew!

Today…SCHEDULING….better known as “Why Can’t I have it NOW???”

Aghhh…the bain of every Interior Designer’s Existence…the W A I T….

We have gotten through the Initial Consultation, Budget Questions answered, Styles fitting, Everyone is primed…

And then…radio silence…ummm…didn’t I just give you $$$$$$…..where is my STUFF??

A few answers:

  1. Rome, and your home, will not be built in a day
  2. Custom takes time
  3. Paint has to dry on custom…which takes time
  4. Orders are processed by Businesses which typically operate on a Monday – Friday 9 – 5 Work Week
  5. Example…we agree on Item A. You pay in full for Item A. Our Accounting & Purchasing Departments then get involved. Receipt to you. Purchase Order executed. Custom Vendor receives PO, and often payment in full BEFORE any work of ANY kind gets started.
  6. 3-5 weeks later, sometimes 6-8 weeks later your Item A is in the cue
  7. Fabrication can take anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months depending on Item A
  8. Enter Shipping & Receiving…Item A will now transfer between a minimum of 3, often 4 or more Delivery Businesses or Trucking Services BEFORE it lands in our warehouse

    Manufacturer to Loading Dock truck 1. Loading Dock to XCountry Truck 2. XCountry Truck to Transport Co Truck 3. Off loaded to smaller truck 4. Smaller truck to our warehouse 5. Even smaller truck to our office truck your home on install day trucks 7 & 8. Agghhhh...WHY we like to pay our Admin Assistants who actually KEEP TRACK!

  9. When it lands in our warehouse, it is inventoried, inspected and added to all the other Items you have ordered
  10. We install at ONE time everything

Now, I have friends who work with – lets just call them – tv shows….they do things quickly (sort of)

They also kick the homeowner out at some point 😉

We do this BECAUSE we like you! We are paid to "deal with the mess of install" can go have coffee & a massage & come home to a clean beautiful home.

The truth is…quality takes time. When we custom make a crewel, it takes about 5 months to make 100 yards. Everything is done by hand. The vegetable dyes, everything.

I do believe the SCHEDULING component is something we can tell a client over and over…but ultimately it boils down to trust. I actually had a client sit in with us for a day and watch how many phone calls and how many employees it took to oversee just her small (and it was small) job. She never complained again.

In fact, she became one of our most grateful relationships. THAT was about teaching. Teaching people how long it really takes for paint to dry when it’s raining outside. HINT: It NEVER dries when it’s raining…you’ll just have to wait till the sun comes out. Oh, and if it’s too hot…it dries too fast!


The moral of the scheduling story is: PATIENCE

Yesterday: HONESTY

I love it...not Antiques...not Estate Sale...calling it like it IS. THAT is a place we can start.



Tomorrow:…hugh….Anethesia?? 🙂

xoxo Ann

Design Projects…The Initial Consultation

So this is DAY 2 of our 6 Day (hopefully humorous) Blog Post on “Design Projects as Surgery”

Our 5 stages are: Consultation – Scheduling – Anethesia – Recovery/Rehab – Living Anew!

Today…the Initial Consultation

When we meet with potential clients for that Initial Consultation, we often tell them…that just like going to the Doctor…proverbially speaking…”you need to put on the gown and step on the scale” 🙂

There are several standard ‘Initial Consultation” models…

  1. In the Office
  2. At the job site
  3. At a Design Center
  4. At an Inspiration Place

With us…we like to have the Initial Consultation in our Side Door Studio.

If the project is remote, we will skype.

One of our BEST tools!


Because it drives home the foundation that we are a BUSINESS.  Every thing we do costs something.  Many of our clients are or become friends. Many of our clients are third or fourth generation family friends. This makes it easier to navigate those murky waters of friendship and business.

I often reason that you wouldn’t ask your Doctor to come to your bathroom and talk to you…why would you ask your Interior Designer to come to (insert anyplace here) to do the same?

YES, of course we will be in the space – and know every dust bunny, every inch.…however, the INITIAL CONSULTATION should set the bar for professionalism.

It is hard to raise it if it’s set low from the outset.

There are also many thoughts about whether or not to charge for that first consultation.

For us…it actually depends on the client.

Some clients are highly specific right out of the box, so we charge because we hit the ground running.

Some clients are VERY preliminary – maybe it’s land in a foreign country and they are just starting the process or it’s a long time repeat client and they are considering the purchase of a second or third home.

Here’s what is IMPORTANT: Honesty.

We all know THIS story...

Be honest about everything. Do you and your “s.o.” agree or disagree on style. Who pays the bills. Who makes the decisions. Pets? Inlaws? Publication goals? be BRUTAL. The consul is the time to let it all hang out from an information stage – because without the “guts” we can’t  design a fantastic solution for your Design Project.

We always address budget at that first meeting. The truth is, if the budget isn’t there…then there is no job for us. And the client will just be frustrated if they think they can get something for nothing.

What we also address: We are not overnight people. NOTHING is done in a hurry. Can’t do it, won’t do it, don’t ask for it…nope…

The Initial Consultation is the time to set parameters. It is the time to figure out if the fit is there.

“Put on that Gown…& Step on that SCALE!”

As any good Designer (or Doctor) knows…we are ONLY as good as the INFORMATION we get.

IF you are honest, we can make real and lasting contributions

IF you are dishonest (I don’t know HOW I gained that weight….) we can’t make real and lasting changes or help you in the direction you need to go

We MUST be able to establish an honest and open communication right off the bat. There have been many clients I have turned down recently because I saw they were more interested in propaganda (telling a story about their life) than in being honest about what wasn’t working and what they were struggling with & ultimately HOW they wanted to live

You don’t have to “sell” a Designer. If it isn’t a good fit, believe me, we don’t want the job either!! :)!

Tomorrow…scheduling….the “Why can’t I have it TODAY???!!! 🙂

Even a puppy takes 3 months…

xoxo Ann

Design Projects as Surgery…A Six Day Look @ Five Humorous Stages of Successful Projects

We have spent the past few days IMMERSED in getting ready for an Install. So fun, but 18 hour days of details…;) and not enough office back up make for slower blog posts. (Intern job anyone??)

That said, it made me think about what is really involved in even SMALL Interior Projects.

We were joking in the office it’s like Surgery – let’s call it the “refresh kind” of surgery..

Laugh Out Loud...we are not miracle workers...we are Designers!

Am sure my doctor & nurse friends will correct the analogy – but I wanted to get at the “guts

The guts of clocks

of how we approach a project…and educate clients (new, old, potential, diy’ers…) about what is really involved

No matter the scale…

Projects can be big or small, they still require attention & time!

I realized that one of the things I tell all my prospective clients is that working with a Designer is like working with a Doctor for a LIFETIME of HEALTH. In order to have a successful relationship with your Doctor…Designer…

  • you MUST be honest. brutally honest (budget, time, issues, fears)
  • you must share WHO you are (no concealed closets)
  • you must communicate WHAT your habits really are (not how you want to be but how you ARE)
  • you must evaluate HOW you really live (so we can move you towards how you WANT to live)
  • you must assess WHAT your goals really are (budget, lifestyle, time, maintenance)

For our next few BLOG posts we will break this relationship into FIVE STAGES:

…and I will share something that relates in my own life or from the life of a cooperative (but anonymous) client!


Consultation – Scheduling – Anethesia – Recovery – Rehabilitation (& Living Anew!)

We will try to inject some humor along the way…after all this IS Interior Design…

TOMORROW…Consultation…put on that gown & step on that scale!



Saturday Shopping for Bargains in Sebastopol California

I wanted to share two of my FAVORITE sources for BARGAINS

Sometimes Projects call for something UNIQUE

One of MY best sources for treasures & yes, trinkets…is SEBASTAPOL, California.

There are literally so many antique shops and funky places it makes it HARD to narrow it down.

These are my TOP 2 Stops (What is nice is that they are right next to eachother). I would give more but it takes me HOURS to get thru these two when I really focus.

1. The Antique Societyis having a Sale this weekend – I WISH I could get there, but for me, this weekend it will have to wait. It can be HIT or MISS as often the goodies go fast…but sometimes you find those diamonds in the rough. Also, I run into well known STYLISTS there…you know their work – you’ve seen it in Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware…cool!

The Antique Society

2. FFT Antiques.These guys do it all, including having a mission. I have found some AMAZING scales at this place…and always have fun poking thru the outside spaces. I STILL wish I had not passed up the French Balcony…duh….Ann….why did I think it would still be there??…


Versace is one of my Favorites

Today I am going to share one of my FAVORITE design inspirations.

For the most part I am pretty traditional designer. A ton of my clients are all about Toile. Or Crewel. BOTH pretty traditional, tho they can be “transitional” if we punch them with some contemporary life.

Many of my clients are practical – and are in stages of their lives where fabric needs to handle kids and pets.

I get it.

That said, I am always trying to infuse the unusual and unexpected into projects.

Versace is my muse.

I know – it’s messy on the social front — so be it.

It’s fabulous design and for that I am grateful. It’s alive. It says “hello” and frankly, the traditional design aesthetic could use a punch here and there :)!

Enjoy some of my favorite pieces and designs…….

xo Ann

Reminded and Inspired by Dwell with Dignity AND Martyn Lawrence Bullard

TODAY I tackle why Dwell With Dignity spoke to me personally…

Nuts and bolts are: There were and are times that it really bothers me that my skill set is in….well…decorating…….and DWD reminds me EVERY DAY that decorating (DEsigning those Couture Chateau lives) makes a difference in the practical day to day.

There is some part of my conscience, brain…whatever is in there, that says “decorating & design is not important” “it’s just stuff” “it’s a waste of time” “ummmm, really Ann?….you are dedicating your life pursuit to THAT?…how shallow…can….u…be…”

A Shallow Pool…is this what Decorating is??  A shallow pool??

I am not a Business Guru or Preacher of all things Good, I am not a seasoned Venture Capitalist or own private planes & islands (tho some of my friends/relatives do). I do not have advanced degrees from esteemed colleges (tho many of my friends/relatives do)…I have an undergraduate Sociology Degree from UC Berkeley…along with a few class credits from Parsons in NYC and UCLA, which in most circles qualifies me for organic vegan grass…and recycled shoes….and makes me some kind of weird cocktail party tag line when I’m with the Canadian or Mid West extended fam

ok…so these ORGANIC  VEGAN SHOES are actually kind of cute, but I still prefer High Heels ;)!

At extended family gatherings or sometimes even hanging with friends…I feel like the ‘light weight’ in terms of added value. I mean decorating…? It’s not even “Interior Architecture” !!

and by the way, those credentials CERTAINLY don’t qualify me by the world’s standard to tell you to purchase a twelve thousand dollar sofa…

I do seriously have an addiction to Versace…all of it…

– which I WILL do…

The Herald by Versace…yum!

Have any of you ever felt that way? Not just about ‘decorating’ or ‘designing’ but about what YOU do? OR about just “who you are?”

Kick that part of your brain to the curb. It has NO place in your life or your home.

At least the color of this one is nice…how would it be as drapes…looks good with Versace piece above don’t you think?

I sit in church or go to charity events and people are feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, saving the world….and I’m thinking about $700 a yard fabric.

Can a $700 a yard fabric save the world? What’s a girls’ conscience to DO???

Enter Martyn Lawrence Bullard.

Darling, Inspiring and yes, completely humble. Fabulous. Transparent.

I have loved him since the 90’s in LA.

He shares about his “silly little tv show” – WHICH THOSE OF US IN DESIGN SEE AS NEITHER SILLY OR LITTLE…but I digress – how that trickle down theory of “What Martyn Does” saved the job of a custom fabricator of beautiful woodwork half a country away from Los Angeles.

This fabricator was so grateful, he got on a plane to thank Martyn after one of his speaking engagements. What really happened? A client who thought CUSTOM was a waste of time and money said no to that fabricator….watched MDD….and went back explaining that they now understood WHY it mattered.

Martyn does a better job describing the process, but you get the jist.

They were now willing to pay for excellence – and willing to pay the craftsman – rather than go the cheap route. And said Craftsman stays in business, feeds his family, pays his mortgage…you get the drift….

MUSIC to my ears.

Wrap up and Brain Re-Set for THIS silly little decorator…

EXCELLENCE is pursuing your corner of the world well.

There is VALUE in EXCELLENCE.  If my corner of the world happens to be in decorating and design, then so be it.

Do you know how many skilled tradesmen work on a fabulous pillow or hand embroidered fabric?

Three years ago when we finally incorporated (has it been that long?!) we searched high and low for some kind of motto we could be proud of, something that would communicate what we were about at Couture Chateau.

What we came up with was this…in Latin of course 😉 but loosely translated it says….

“Find a man skilled in his work and he shall serve before Kings”

There is no apology needed for being skilled in our work – the sleep of the laborer is sweet as a wise man once said! There is HONOR in doing something well. No fancy degrees or pedigree needed. Just because YOU are you – that is enough.

– cool. – and cheers….here’s to sleeping well and serving before kings…

and would someone please remind me the next time a Decorating – Designing Peer (or I am) feels like a light weight to take our own advice??

xo Ann

True to her calling…and gifts…Dwell with Dignity inspires

This past week at the Design Bloggers Conference, we had the honor of hearing from the woman who started Dwell with Dignity.(Website Link Here)

She is a remarkable woman who combined her PASSION for those less fortunate, POSITION in a community with resources and PROFESSION in Interior Design.

She does an amazing job using the best available to bring honor and dignity to those transitioning back into a productive life.

She and those who work along side her understand that WHERE we live and HOW we live affects the soul.

WHY her presentation spoke to me personally is tomorrow’s post….;)

TODAY, take a minute and peruse their site and check out this article (YES, I know it’s from 2011, but I thought it was the best review I’ve seen;)

It’s a wonderful organization. Be encouraged today that there IS good being done….

xoxo Ann