Monday Matters: Making the Most of Gifts Given, My Mastermind Journey with Tobi Fairley

Monday Matters: Making the Most of Gifts Given, My Mastermind Journey with Tobi Fairley

As many of you know our Monday Matters Posts are all about getting ready for the week

Every Monday = Reset. This Monday? Reset for 2013!

Today is the start of a new day, a new week & tomorrow a New Year.

We have HOPE

Hope to build our Custom Lives & Homes a little better than yesterday for ourselves and those we love

Take a minute or 13 😉 and watch this Video to learn a little bit more about my journey in the business end of Interior Design.

I have been at this a long time. I am a Designer, not a business whiz. I can see an entire Estate in 3-d down to the detail of the custom trim & lining in one specific room in my head before it’s built – when it is a pile of dirt.

I cannot create a spreadsheet. I cannot find the receipt.

Providential Grace has always provided people to create the spreadsheets + find my receipts, but…….

After 20+ years “behind the gate” with Couture Chateau (read here for my vision), I shared my soul’s vision with someone I could trust so that we could grow, so that we could make enough money to share our soul’s vision with the world outside those gates.

I am grateful for this group & the risks “I”, as Ann McDonald (read here for my history) & “We”, as Couture Chateau have taken as a part of it.

Tobi, understands the world I live + work in. She articulates in her interview that world.

You will find me at about 9:18

If you want to join us next year, tell Tobi you heard it from Ann McDonald, Founder of Couture Chateau. That “custom life” lady….

I would be grateful to know this little blog with a big heart made a difference…that someone out there was reading & ready to take the same risks…

I HOPE that 2013 is a year you really live. A custom life. That you engage your soul’s calling and dwell with passion and intent to bless yourself + those around you.

I value you

I value what you do and who you are

Monday Matters: a new day + a new week + new year = hope.

“Live a custom life. There is only one you.”™

xo Ann

Stewardship Sunday: Last Minute Simple New Years Eve Party from Upcycled Christmas Cards

Stewardship Sunday: Last Minute Simple New Years Eve Party from Up-Cycled Christmas Cards

As I shared yesterday, even a non-crafter can get on board with up-cycling Christmas Cards. If you missed it, check out the post here. You can also see our complete feature on ivillage here. Like, share, pin – we’d like to MORE for them!

For today, some still simple, slightly more labor intensive ways to throw a last minute New Year’s Eve party using your pile of beautiful cards

Why do I love this so much? It is customized from your life + friends in your home = divine

WHERE to start? Hand written? Cranes Embossed? Printed? Casual...Formal...

Take them all out & start sorting by color & thickness. If you want to “save” take a picture of the pile & then start cutting, sorting, shredding

Thank you to Dianna Condon Cuisine for providing the incredible Hors d’oeuvres used on our Couture Chateau Photo Shoot!

3 New Year’s Eve Party Uses for Up Cycled Christmas Cards:

1) Hors d’oeuvres Plates

Pouring Champagne (which had to be tasted)! We had some fun with this.

Look CLOSELY at what is under Dianna Condon Cuisine’s Brownies…they are ALL Up-Cycled Christmas Cards! And the shredding is cards as well. Simple uses can create striking vignettes. You just have to think out of the box.

2) Name Cards or Place Cards

Name Cards: Cut, Laminated & Sharpied! From our feature on ivillage. Notice the name card holders? These are the same ones we mentioned in our 11-16-12 Frugal Friday Post – they are picture holders!

3) Coasters

Coasters from our ivillage post. How simple can these be?! Purchase the “slip in” kind at Aaron Brothers or other Craft store, cut & insert!

Recycled Cards as Coasters for a Casual Christmas "In My Kitchen" Party

Recycled Cards as Coasters. No laminating, just cutting! From our Couture Chateau feature on “Casual Kitchen Entertaining”

Easy to Create with these supplies:

Scissors (Pinking Shears + Creative Shapes)

Laminating Machine (We use Kinko’s at $2.00 per sheet)

Sharpies or Dry Erase Markers

5 Easy Custom Tips for Taking it Over the top:

1. Color Coordinate

Make individual Gift Bags. Use color coordinated duct tape & “press them” to make an opening. Add some of the card shredding. Use duct tape as a handle as well! For more ideas check out our entire feature on ivillage.

2. Make Gift Bags with Cards + Color Duct Tape + Card Shredding

People LOVE to see their cards go to good use! Here cards are under glass on one of our table settings. Use a riser (the snowflake) to make inserting & removing or adjusting easier.

3. Use cards from people attending the party

4. Match food types to colors (brownies on red, white + black)

Make name or place cards by  cutting + pasting elements from several cards. Just cut and apply to make customized personal statements. From our feature on ivillage.

5. Make over the top place cards + menus by cutting + pasting cards

Please like, pin & share these images!


Tomorrow, we share a video from Ann’s Master Mind Group with Tobi Fairley

It’s the consultant group that retro fitted our 20+ year Design Business with an Amazing Client Roster into the new economy. Ann shares some of her reasons for participating & you will see why we still have faith as it feels like the world crumbles around us…

Looking forward to an amazing New Year

At least it’s never dull!

“Live a custom life. There is only one you.”

xo Ann

Frugal Friday: What To Do With A Pile of Beautiful Christmas Cards, Especially As A Non-Crafter?

Frugal Friday: What to do with a Pile of Beautiful Christmas Cards, Especially As A Non-Crafter?

Each Friday that I blog, I try to share one of our insider tips on making things beautiful or fun with less than a ton of cash

My Mid-Western + Scotch Canadian roots have imparted a strain of Frugality that despite my best efforts to pretend doesn’t exist (Birkin Bag, hello!) rears it’s head each week in these posts. They are some of my favorite.

Trade off, as always = time + effort

Earlier this year we were approached by ivillage and asked “what do you do with all those Christmas Cards”

Well, we do a lot! We will be highlighting some of these over the next couple of days

Today? An easy feel good way to recycle + re-purpose + easy to customize


1. Pick out the most colorful cards, metallic lined envelopes & heavy card stock

2. Shred to your hearts content

My TOP USES for Shredded Cards in No Particular Order

A. Background on trays when entertaining

Top Down View of the Centerpiece on Carpet. Simple & striking. Really fun.

Top Down View of a Frugal Centerpiece we created on Carpet Squares. Simple & striking. Really fun.

B. Under glass table tops when entertaining

Simply sprinkle on your table & re-place your glass top. Color coordinate for strongest settings. Black & White for New Years, Red & White for Valentines Day…one of the funnest ways to customize this is to encircle the place where each guest is sitting. We basically create a faux place mat under glass with the shredding!

C. Bagged & gifted to my friends who have to ship a ton of merchandise

One of the biggest expenses we encounter as a small business is packing materials. Many of us share our shredding!

D. Bagged for use in our office all year

See above!

E. Gift Bag filler all year

The first time I went to buy decorative packing and dropped over $10 on twirly ribbon, I decided there HAD to be a better way. So for this one, we often shred the plastic that comes with presents or heavy duty metallic cards – they are sturdy and different looking. A cross cut shredder rather than a straight cut shredder is best for this as it appears more decorative

F. Stuffed in servers for buffets, holding knives/forks/napkins – you name it!

Our lives are a mix of high & low...but anything can be made beautiful. Even if it starts out shredded...

I have used this trick for many a party. Try putting shredding in coffee cups at each place setting & place the silverware in each coffee cup for another simple setting. There are literally so many uses for these old cards, it’s fun to think of party themes around them. Great for children to help with. The “spills” are easy to clean!

G. Glass Christmas Ornament Stuffing

You’ve seen those blown glass ornaments? Well, often we give them as gifts. What I like to do is choose a single color and fill with shredding in that color. They reflect the Christmas Tree lights nicely through the gaps in the paper.


If you have just found us, make sure and subscribe to the blog!

We are working on some fun things. As the world spins around us, it is more important than ever to build our intentional custom lives with joy and purpose.

Happy Frugal Friday from Ann (snowed in at Lake Tahoe with spotty internet & cell) & the Team at Couture Chateau (not officially back until Jan 7th)!

It’s rather fun to work this way as we plan & prepare for the New Year

THANK YOU for walking along side us! The journey is more fun together.

“Live a custom life. There is only one you.”™

xo Ann

Thursday Spotlight: Focused Thoughts on the Past Year

Thursday Spotlight: Focused Thoughts on the Past Year

A lite post today, been a lot to ponder this Holiday Season in our Homes…

What does the spotlight see from this past year?

Elle Decor 2012 Luxury Now. In the company of the greats, am deeply humbled to be picked up on this topic.

Elle Decor 2012 Luxury Now. In the company of the greats, am deeply humbled to be picked up on this topic.

I am taking a few days to think about all we have accomplished this past year


Because if we don’t, if I don’t…I will perceive that nothing much has happened

Seminar is SOLD OUT but we will VIDEO it for an affordable download option broken into 5 Segments! So excited!!

Seminar is SOLD OUT but we will VIDEO it for an affordable download option broken into 5 Segments! So excited!!

Don’t we always take that route?

“Nah…not much happened this year…no biggie….”

And then we sigh, and wonder, is it worth it? All the work? The effort?

Meeting Charlotte Moss at High Point Market...

Meeting Charlotte Moss at High Point Market…

Is anyone out there walking the same path with our Decorated Homes our Designed Lives our Custom Passions? We wonder…

But if we focus a bit – really look at the details – spotlight those accomplishments & record somewhere, anywhere, what has gone before

Our gorgeous custom crewel out of India...truly special

Our gorgeous custom crewel out of India…truly special

We are better equipped to face what is ahead & to find those who walk the same journey

So join me! Focus on what has gone before – so we can journey ahead together…

Simple things are ok

Project in Process

Project in Process

I make no judgments – sometimes getting a bathroom painted is a MAJOR life hurdle, I know

So here’s to our custom life together

Covered Buttons & a peek at our custom Couture Chateau lining on those private label pillows...

Covered Buttons & a peek at our custom Couture Chateau lining on those private label pillows…

A painted bathroom, a decorated Christmas Tree, a remodeled Estate, a Birkin Bag or a Target Backpack

It matters not

It’s the process that counts…

Joyfully – it’s the process that counts

“Live a custom life. There is only one you.”™

xo Ann

Wednesday Style Points: The Day After

Wednesday Style Points: The Day After

The presents are opened

The paper is shredded

The snow has fallen &…

I am tired!

Traditions are beautiful when we embrace them with our Heads and Hearts

But the day after sometimes our heart is disappointed & our joy is less than full


The Home was beautiful, the Tree perfect, the Meals divine…the music is still playing…

We bought into the process completely. We followed all the rules. We have access.

But something has gone wrong

The Birkin Bag is fabulous, yes, but why isn’t my life suddenly transformed?

A Pink Birkin Bag….simply gorgeous

Our homes are much the same way…we create these fabulous spaces & places

We custom design the fabrics, the furniture, the trim and they seem to come alive

These "fragments" are from the Plaza Hotel in NYC. I re-purposed them as mirrors heading downstairs to our family rumpus room. Divine. Makes me feel as if I am in NYC about to have tea!

The mirrors lining our stairwell are from the Plaza, removed when it converted to condos. I love them but they are not alive. No. It’s the PROCESS of the mirrors & their shared memory with those in our family that makes them so special.


The coffee still spills, the pie crust isn’t perfect even though it came out of a French Range…

Another photo from my own home where in the kitchen we have not one but two for baking and one for cooking. Again, beautiful? Yes. Alive? No.

From the kitchen where two ranges live. This one for cooking, the other for baking. Again, not alive…

Something has gone wrong


We buy the best hand bag or take the time for the most exquisite custom design, not because it will transform us

but because the process vets us – it reminds us of why we are alive & for whom we exist

It’s different for all of us – those data points on life

For me? They exist in my home + my work

The custom designing process or working towards the best available is about making what is in YOU come alive

Those style points that equip you to breathe deep in the chaos of the day after

You get a glimpse of a gift given or received that lifts you out of the ordinary

And reminds you that it’s ok

You are so much more than ordinary

Worth so much more than a Birkin Bag

Perfect? Never. Messy? Sometimes.

Worth it? Always.

Style Points. They are yours alone. Custom crafted into your soul, fingerprints really – of you.

I love the mess of the day after. I even love the mess of the “somethings gone wrong” void that comes with it.

It reminds me that living is process and the way we embrace the process is our style

May today be a day where your style points – your unique custom stamp – is a blessing to those around you – starting in your home

“Live a custom life. There is only one you.”

xo Ann

Merry Christmas from Ann McDonald & the Couture Chateau Team

Merry Christmas from Ann McDonald

& the Couture Chateau Team

We are not an island

We cannot do it alone

We are lifted by the hands and hearts of those who walk along side us with truth + love

Merry Christmas

I love the austere. It didn't work for me this year, but for a client, it does. These custom painted tree parts were a Custom Creation we worked on for weeks for them. Delightful.

May your SWAG be CUSTOM & your Holiday Merry + Bright

We celebrate today and want to wish you and yours an abundant and blessed Holiday

“Live a custom life. There is only one you.”™

xo Ann

Monday Matters: Christmas Eve & Creating a Home & Tradition to Soar From…

Monday Matters: Christmas Eve Creating A Home & Tradition to Soar From

I remember the day I learned “it” wasn’t real

Something went out of me…and my heart sank

All the decor…all the presents…all the tradition…what is a Solstice?!!

He was born in September?! And there was no snow :)?!!


But then I grew up and learned with my heart & my head that


You and I are custom mixed. The miracles that surround us are there for the seeing...

You and I are custom mixed. The miracles that surround us are there for the seeing…in September or December…or better yet, every day

in every home

in every life

& my soul smiled again

Hope is restored, in something better than “it”. For this Hope is REAL

This hope dwells in YOU. You matter & bring something completely unique to your home, your life, your purpose – even if you don’t believe it, you do

And it matters that you exist & steward that hope to fulfillment.

If your fire isn't lit, then someone out there is missing something....

If your fire isn’t lit, then someone out there is missing something….

As the rush + delight of obligation hovers this Christmas Eve

As we embrace the traditions of our forefathers

It begins at Home. Why do we do what we do? Because just like foxes have holes & birds have nests to fly from....WE have Homes that either make us FLY or make us fall....I want to help you make a Home to Fly from...

It begins at Home. Why do I do what I do? Because just like foxes have holes & birds have nests to SOAR from….We have Homes that either make us fly or make us fall….I want to help you make a Home to Soar from…for you and yours

May the sun be held still for you as you complete the tasks you need to complete to steward those in your path

May your custom life be a blessing to you and those around you

Our lives are a mix of high & low...but anything can be made beautiful. Even if it starts out shredded...

Our lives are a mix of good & bad…but anything can be made beautiful. Even if it starts out shredded…

May your custom home be a place of safety, order + beauty today

May your traditions be honored as a grown up who believes in miracles no matter the month

May your Home be a place to SOAR from

And may you find your hope + miracle on this Christmas Eve

“Live a custom life. There is only one you.”™

xo Ann

Sunday Stewardship: Thought For The Day!

Sunday Stewardship: Thought For The Day

“Down time makes us able to ponder, plan, be purposeful & pleasant”

Why don’t I remember that?

I keep forgetting little things that matter on the home front this Holiday Season

I’d like to stop

I mean, it IS December 23rd!

So I am in FORCED Down Time for at least 20 minutes

No skiing today. No baking. No shopping (well, maybe;), NO DECORATING (please? NO)…no…anything….for at least 2o minutes Ann!

I LOVE to ski. Fast, clean air, bad weather, good weather…something about the freedom of it fills me…

Reasoning with myself:

Do I need any more proof that down time, especially during the Holiday Season is CRITICAL than my own missed steps?

Down Time  = makes us able to ponder, plan, be purposeful & pleasant!

Pondering my REAL family, not my imagined one...

Pondering my REAL family, not my imagined one…Grandmother’s book & bench…

1. Ponder

What is important over the next 72 Hours? Our Homes are where it all begins….those who live with us in our custom creations know what we are really made of. What is important to you & to those you love? Down time (even 20 minutes alone) will help you figure it out, remind you of what you already know & how you can customize the experience you long for.

2. Plan

72 Hours isn’t a lot. No buying another tree or making cookies that have to set overnight…..DO take the time to plan what you pondered as important. Show someone. Be accountable & ask for help! Teenage boys can learn to wrap. They play video games with mad skills…we KNOW the dexterity exists.

3. Be Purposeful

Traditions are wonderful, if, as a grown up – YOU decide they are what YOU want to live with & embrace. Toss the ones you don’t really believe in your heart are contributing to the Family you are today. Embrace the traditions you love – but customize them for today. Better 2 Family Traditions with heart & soul than 4 done poorly with a grumbling leader.

… you can be 4. Pleasant

Ummmm…..I confess there was a year when Mrs Claus was rather cranky on one Lake Tahoe Cabin Christmas Eve. Santa had REALLY enjoyed the River Ranch Meal after a full day of skiing & candle light services in the snow….& those Hudson Bay Blankets called……so Mrs Claus & some faithfully equally “warmed” assistants were out building a custom ice rink in the back yard ala 2 am……

This is not ours, but I had a vision of something like this…ours was more “obtuse”…let’s just leave it at that ;)!

My Steps:

Ponder = I took the 30 minutes to be alone and think about what would bless my REAL custom family rather than just my VISION of my custom family

Plan = I dropped some things that weren’t part of what I realized in the “ponder” section. I am not skiing today so I can be purposeful. It’s actually freeing.

Purposeful? I dumped my need to have all the wrapping paper match the custom ribbon on the tree. (yes, I am indeed a Designer). THIS was (IS) hard for me, but I simply did not have the time this year……

So I am more pleasant. Why? I am not being pulled into thinking I need to create an experience for everyone around me….I realize I am not the entertainment chief…I am the “walk along side you” in this life we are living wife, mother, designer….chief

May YOU find the things that matter to you as you build your custom life & are pondering, planning those Holiday Traditions over the next 72 Hours.

And if you see me in Tahoe buying wrapping paper with reindeer, STOP ME :)! and I will do the same for you…

“Live a custom life. There is only one you.”™

xo Ann

ps. the ice rink was really cool…..;)

Frugal Friday: Hudson Bay Blankets & Amortized Cost

Frugal Friday: Hudson Bay Blankets & Amortized Cost

Allocating Decorating Dollars & what’s that word for accounting for the cost of something over a lifetime…?!

Oh yes, amortizing

As Designers, we like amortizing

It allows us to buy well the first time & justify it nicely to all our budget wielding friends, clients, spouses…..

Yesterday we talked about Hudson Bay Blankets. They are not inexpensive but are Decor items that go with everything.


(This season, they are Christmas Tree Skirts in this project)

From The Bay Co. I make my pilgrimae to Toronto, Canada & shop…..I get STUCK in this department ;)! Image linked.

A bit of History & a nod to my Canadian roots:

The Hudson’s Bay Company was chartered by King Charles II of England in 1670. This Royal Charter granted rights to “sole trade and commerce” in the vast wilderness, now known as Canada.

Point blankets were highly prized trading commodities for Indians. The points became known as the barter price, in prime beaver pelts. Thus four beaver pelts were exchanged for a four point blanket.

French Canadian voyageurs adopted much of the Indian dress, including the “Point” blanket coat, or “capote”. At one time it was possible to determine the home of a voyageur by the color of his blanket coat. Those from the Montreal district wearing blue coats, those from Quebec wore red, and those from Three Rivers wore the multi-stripe.

Queen bed size, our 6 point blankets are 100″ x 90″ and weigh 8 pounds. The 6 point blanket will make a capote up to Men’s coat size 56.

Today, points are still woven into the blankets as an historical reference, and to indicate the size of the blanket. Woven in England, from selected wools, the Hudson’s Bay Point Blankets are made to exacting specifications, as they were over 300 years ago.

(This History Lesson taken from Track the Wolf, linked HERE)

In this project alone we ordered:

2 King

1 Queen

5 Twins

18 Shams

That is not a “frugal” expenditure when you look at the line items on the Project Spreadsheet


Amortized? yes

As a Designer, I look for those pieces that will last no matter the decor changes ahead

Hudson Bay Blankets fall into those categories

I would stripe just about anything…this from Pinterest, image linked

Where to buy retail? Linked below.


The Bay Co (Canada)

Happy Blanketing!!

& have you ever customized these you ask?

Why of course! We line the underside with a client’s Couture Chateau custom lining fabric…and it becomes a true family heirloom…

“Live a custom life. There is only one you.”

xo Ann

Thursday Spotlight: Details of a Cabin Project in Lake Tahoe

Thursday Spotlight: Details of Cabin Project in Lake Tahoe

We are busy working in Lake Tahoe on a Cabin Project

Similar to one of the spaces we are working on, the walls are plywood. Hudson Bay Blankets are my go to for Mountain Projects.

We have used these for bed skirts, drapery, upholstery…dog beds…you name it, I’ll make just about anything out of a Hudson Bay Blanket

Mixing these blankets in with Fabulous Plaid Quilted Bed Skirts, Lined, Interlined, Quilted & Shirred, this is a luxury custom cabin look

This classic plaid is from Ralph Lauren. We are using this on one of the Bed Skirts. The custom details are over the top on this project, includng custom fabrics on the underside of the bunk beds…so completely fabulous!

One of the reasons I love working on second homes, especially cabins is the textural quality of the custom work

We can monogram, line, interline, add trim, a bit of whimsy….it’s just fun!

We can’t sneak peek too much because we’d like for this job to be published somewhere, but here’s another element we are using

This will be the top on a custom slate & silver dresser in the Master at the foot of the bed. The paint will be custom with silver snowflakes…it’s absolutely stunning. Curved with side doors. Gorgeous.

The spaces are coming together & we even brought in one of our 8 Foot Tall Silver Leaf Mirrors from Emerson to hang in the Stairwell

The Antler Chandeliers are being hung today

Our Home Depot base, customized & painted to shine!

Remember the ones we shared a while ago? Well, the custom paint is all over the place!

Spotlights are fun. We get to peek at details.

And if you have a cabin or second home that needs to be decorated, call! We absolutely love this stuff.

Have a great day!

“Live a custom life. There is only one you.”