Frugal Friday: A Dining Room Story

Frugal Friday: A Dining Room Story

Have you ever felt like you had to TRADE one good thing for another?

You had to decide because life just wouldn’t afford you both?

I imagine – and I SEE – that even Clients who can buy and sell islands STILL make decisions based on cost

Able to afford your own island? Even so, we still need to make choices based on who we were really made to be – for what we are supposed to do while we are here…what a privilige. This? Richard Branson’s land…he makes choices each & every day in conjunction with WHO he is. Richard is true to who he was made to be…I want the same for YOU.

It rather warms my heart

In that vein, today I want to share a story from my own life

One where I had to trade option A for option B because I KNEW who I was and WHO I wanted to be

It’s one of those processes we WORK THROUGH at the beginning of every Client we work with, even if they buy and sell islands


The process is critical

We are always making choices whether we believe it or not

TV on? TV off? Radio on? Book? Sit? Stand?

And so this process of choosing intentionally vets us, helps us see who we really are – even if we get both in the end…

My Story

I love the Dining Room

This is so like my grandmother’s dining room, I just had to share it. Her table & buffet – along with two “window chairs” live with us now. It is the visual that helped shape who I am and who I wanted to be.

Always have

When we bought our little house years ago on a big lot it had no Dining Room

It had a view

It had potential

It had cracks & lots of things to fix

But it had no Dining Room

I love Dining Rooms

I don’t like to eat in the kitchen

All I could “see” was the future Dining Room

It mattered to me – it was one of those life things that was born & bred in my soul

I wanted my children to know how to dine – to tell stories at the table, to laugh at the table, to make decisions at the table, to learn at the table, to be accountable at the table, to cry if they needed at the table, to be SAFE at the table…

A Wine Cellar Dining Room from Arch Digest. Image Linked.

I DID NOT want them to swivel their way through a bar stool life….

So I put the Dining Room Table in the “Family Room” and made it a Dining Room…and set about planning a change, much to my dear husband’s chagrin

(he loves to swivel:)

The planning – the budgets – the eye rolls – contractors who told me I was foolish – framers who wondered what the “%$$” this room was….experts who told me I needed a Master Suite not a Dining Room for re-sale

It wasn’t easy

I don’t have a Master Suite – Option A

Bunny Williams has a Master Suite…so maybe someday I will too…for now that is ok! This image from Town And Country.

I traded it for a Dining Room – Option B

For who I am as a Wife & Mother, I’d rather have a Dining Room first…Image from Town And Country, Bunny Williams Dining Room

We could not afford both

At least not the WAY I wanted my Dining Room

And I love it

And we LIVE in it. It EVEN hosted our Clearance Sale last year…

And one son – home from college – looks to see if I’ve placed his Name Card…

of COURSE I had….it’s the Dining Room after all

Which napkins? Are the Holiday Dishes out? What will we talk about today?

What will we talk about today – away from the kitchen, away from the clatter & clutter, away from the couch…

The point is, a Dining Room isn’t for everyone

It was for me – and my family

What is it that is just for you? That will help you build your custom life?

 Guy Fieri LOVES his open concept kitchen

Guy Fieri lives in Sonoma County. His kitchen is open concept. Of course it is…it is WHO he is!

He is BLESSED because of it

Will you take the risk and really think about it?

Will you ignore the “What if ewwes, icks & gag comments”?

Try this sometime, have breakfast in the Dining Room on a weekday before school with the kids or before work with your spouse. Get up a little earlier, prepare a little more…drink orange juice from a pretty glass…use linen napkins. Open a book and read a devotion or kind word for the day over breakfast with them….

Special. You and they are special. Worth it. Custom.

And I want so much for you to “Live a custom life”™

Because there is “Only one you.”™

What is your room? What have you traded for it? Is it really you?

“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

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

Frugal Friday: An Easy Table Top from Andrea Brooks

Frugal Friday: An Easy Table Top from Andrea Brooks

This is such a wonderful time of year

Am grateful for dear friends who also happen to be fantastic designers

Today, take a look at an easy to duplicate Holiday Table Top

Why we like it?

You can customize it of course! No mint julep cups? Use your own coffee cups or tea cups that have meaning…

This is an excerpt from Andrea’s recent post in At Home in Arkansas:

How to create the mint julep cup arrangement

1. Cut a piece of green oasis to fit the full size of the cup.  It should fit snugly to help the arrangement stay close to the top of the vase/cup.

2. Add water to fully wet the oasis.

3. Add your cedar branches starting from the outer edges (I like to start at the corners and work in).  When trimming these pieces you will want to keep the outer ones a little longer to give them some drape.

4. Fill in the middle with shorter cedar pieces, pine and berries.  Remember, the more organic it looks the better!

Happy Friday

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

xo Ann & the CC Team!

Frugal Friday: Up-Cycle, Multi-Purpose Materials for Holiday Centerpiece

Frugal Friday: Up-Cycle, Multi-Purpose Materials for Holiday Centerpiece

We know December gets ridiculously busy

Today? One of the funnest & easiest centerpieces we’ve created to date

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

We put this together for a Feature on Recycled Christmas Cards but TODAY are focusing on the Main Elements that tie this together, those items you have around the house all year that can do double or triple design duty.

1. A Mirror. Lay flat on your table & use as a center tray.

Detail of items on mirror with shredded & upcycled cards. Even an over sized picture frame will do. Lay it flat in the center of the table.

2. Candle with glass hurricane

This is from Ikea. I like it because there is room between the glass and the rim of the holder to attach cards or other Decorative Holiday type things. We cover up the black & white for our purposes and when the Season is over, it transforms back to normal. We customize this silly little $10 product more than I can tell you!!

4. A basket or beanie or soft hat anywhere?

Yes, you heard me correctly. Turn an old beanie upside down, fill it with shredded paper (Colorful Christmas Cards) & plop your silverware in! It is now a Custom Caddy ;).

Yes, I will use most anything for a fab fun buffet set up. Shredded cards make a great “holder” and any beanie or soft bag turned upside down becomes a custom caddy.

Here we used another product from Ikea. These are soft storage & come in assorted sizes.

3. Any old carpet pieces or carpet squares?

I simply LOVE carpet squares

Whenever showrooms are done for the season, I ask for samples. We use them as table runners constantly. Cheap, colorful, often textural – they make great contemporary table settings.

This Hampen Rug from Ikea is about $20 & comes in a ton of colors. We have also used the small round red ones for Christmas Parties.

YOU now have a custom centerpiece my friend!


Shred strong colorful cards. Throw in metallics.

Trim carpet squares to fit the center of your table. Mine is super wide. Attach with pro quality carpet square adhesive squares

This mirror is a discount closeout from Marshalls. I bought four and line them end to end for big parties. We also use matching shell picture frames as mini servers.

I love Frugal Friday. It’s my confessional time ;).

We will consolidate our Blog’s Holiday Tip Page with more pictures on December 4th so be SURE to let us know if you have questions or comments!

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

xo Ann

& Holiday Cheers,

The CC Team

Frugal Friday: My Go To Place Card Holders for the Thanksgiving Table

Frugal Friday: My Go To Place Card Holders for the Thanksgiving Table

I am rarely accused of setting a casual table

Love place cards, salt cellars…specialized china, framed menus…all of it

I do have one Fun Frugal place card holder though.

It’s actually a standby + fill in. Works with just about every setting.

Don’t laugh. And if you already use this type, :)!

Simple, clear glass base. The ones I have are stars and we use them all year, for all occasions. The metal can easily be shaped & twisted around a nice quality card. I like them because you aren’t married to the shape.

Pier One Photo Holders. The CLEAR ones.

3 in a box = $5

Remember: the wire bends! You aren’t married to the motif.

Current stock at my house? Well, let’s just say I first discovered them when they were on sale & I “took out” three stores

Self Print Business Cards make great Frugal Name Cards. Not too heavy = no “fall down”.

This is a simple, inexpensive way to add those detail touches without breaking the bank.

Besides, the clear glass doesn’t compete with a beautifully set table.

Customize the business card to your hearts content – especially fun to see which “Business Card Template” happens to work with your Table Setting! You’d be surprised!

Have a great day.

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

xo Ann

Frugal Friday: My Favorite Frugal Lamps to Customize

Frugal Friday: My Favorite Frugal Lamps to Customize

+ 1 really cool chandelier (luv RL)

I love lamps

Problem is most of the ones I really covet are terribly expensive

Here are my tops for go to FRUGAL lamp + lighting and how we custom upscale them

1. Pier One

Fabulous Coral Lamp from Pier One. If you look closely at the Beach House on ABC’s Revenge, you’ll see it there too! At $125 a complete steal.

I own two. Painted Coral? Navy? Yes. Easy to customize with color + shade is nicely constructed. Takes a monogram or transfer nicely.

2. TJ Maxx-Tuesday Morning – Home Goods

Ralph Lauren Perry Chandelier, in Brass, which I found at a TJ Maxx. Granted, knew what I saw when I saw it…but the point is, you CAN find some great things here at this “Family” of stores

What we did: customized with a fabric sleeve to cover the drop. We had to modify the lamp due to a sloped ceiling and thought why not coordinate that with the bed skirt in the room. Almost ready to be photographed, not quite!

3. Target

These are really beautiful lamps from Target. At $194 for two, a real deal. They look so much more expensive than they are.

Why I like these from Target. They are so sleek. I think they’d work in just about any setting. Here I do recommend changing out the shades for a true lux look. Sometimes the “give a way” for a less expensive lamp = standard shade.

4. Home Depot

Home Depot Antler Chandelier $189. Can’t buy the box for that!

Do you remember earlier in the week when I shared the painted antler pic? Can’t say that I would use this without some kind of customization – but will share that we have now used this actual chandelier as a “base” over 7 times. The price simply can’t be beat. All white? Solid Silver? Combination? Bring it on…besides which it gives off fantastic light!

So there you have it. Some of my favorite customizable frugal finds = lamps + lighting.

Have a great day!

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

xo Ann

Frugal Friday: Semi-Upholstered Walls

Frugal Friday: Semi Upholstered Walls

I love Frugal Friday…it’s the day we quietly slip off Louboutin and put on DSW

Hello classic. Louboutin at Niemans. $700+

you know you have done it…:)

Sweet fun. Marc by Marc Jacobs at DSW. $199 – ish


How to customize your Couture Chateau when you really want fabulous upholstered walls but need that frugal alternative

This Lee Jofa Silk has such a beautiful hand. Found this beautiful picture on ebay of all places…

I blame my training in NYC for this obsession

 Silk Taffeta in a Park Avenue Private Elevator & Entry?

What a way to learn. Divine.

Problem was, I spent the next few years trying to figure out how to DIY it…(sort of)

Here you go:

1) Drywall Panels. The Acoustical Kind. 4 x 8 sheets. Hardware Store or Lumber Yard. Pay for delivery if no big suv = cumbersome & semi-fragile. Have used 1/2″ & 3/4″.

Basically Drywall that is rated for Sound Proofing. Different Texture than regular drywall. Brown or white, available at Lumber Yards. Has a “cottony” texture on the face.

2) Proper Framing/Fir Strips or Attachment for Hanging. We use 3/8″ plywood strips at upper edge & attach cleat hanging systems (metal or wood).

a fir strip is essentially a piece of wood used to stabilize or even out a surface. for our purposes we attach at the leading top edge on the back and use it to strengthen the hanging cleat. if fabric won’t hold with staples into panels, use additional fir strips around the perimeter of the entire panel on the back.

3) Wrap, Upholster (no batting), Install.

4) Trim out with fantastic gimp & nail heads.

We have 10 custom panels in our 600 sq foot Design Studio

Why I like this Custom Alternative (where appropriate):

A) Custom Wall Upholstery is expensive. Very. Especially done right.

B) This = slightly temporary. And easily customized. Can morph from frugal headboard (no batting, no plywood in size) to pin board upholstery in teenagers room to simple wall upholstery. It’s easy to make it “you”.

C) If you have a fabric you love but don’t have $$$$ to purchase the 120+ yards necessary this is a FRUGAL alternative


You know the drill…skill & time. Rush + poor execution = looks cheap!

This is not “cheap Friday”, it’s Frugal Friday….;)


When I “unearthed” this trick, I was a (broke) 20 something designer watching a temporary installation going up. I asked what the set designer was using.


You can learn a LOT from set designers ;).

They are always making custom spaces and places, “couture chateau’s” for peeps.

Have a fantastic weekend. And remember…

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

xo Ann

Frugal Friday: My (not so secret) Party Table Top Placemats

Frugal Friday: My (not so secret) Party Table Top Placemats

Big family, love to entertain, love to host, love to decorate = $$$$

Today? My secret table top placemat tip

When we design a Dining Room, we include custom lined and interlined Couture Chateau Placemats, Table Runners and Napkins

When I host a party & need a frugal fix for placemats…..shhh……:

1. Source bulk inexpensive fabric. I try to plan for 2-3 yards per place setting. 2 of my FAV online sources: Design Diva & Glamourous Fabrics. Both of these retailers carry overstock or out of season designer brands including Clarence House, Donghia & Brunschwig. They also run sales & specials. I have purchased fabric as low as $8/yard.

From Design Diva Fabrics, Clarence House $17.50/yard Special for 1 Day only. I think a gorgeous white china would look divine on this classic pattern.

2. Grab your: Cork Boards or Cardboard Boxes Cut to Size

If you have some table space, cork boards are super fun! Keeps the settings “tight”. People love the innovation. It’s a party afterall.

3. Start wrapping, duct taping, glue gunning, double sided taping that designer fabric on

Yes, this Couture Chateau girl wraps & glues in the name of a fabulous sit down dinner party

I have used: Toile, Chenille, Plaid, Burlap, Quilting, Suede, Linen…heck, I even used SHAMS. Yes, I used shams, twice actually: Ralph & Peacock Alley. Just cut heavy duty cardboard and slipped it inside, taped those puppies shut and voila.

Peacock Alley makes nice product 😉

Peeps thought we had suuuupppper xpensiv custom placemats

Royal Crown Derby China from grandmother helps…but…

I love this pattern…we used Blue Mikado on the White Shams…

yes, of COURSE I gave it up….notice the title (not so secret)….!!

My point: Frugal Friday = making your custom home “you”

Don’t be afraid to TRY an idea

Point of order: DO NOT RUSH, especially with these “crafty” type things

If you do…it will look cheap. Trust me, it will.

Remember that old saying? Good – Fast – Cheap?…you only get two at a time

So pull out the thinking caps & remember

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

xo Ann

Off to Arizona this weekend…will see you Monday!

Frugal Friday: Couture Chateau on Joss and Main Vintage Trove Today!!

Frugal Friday: Couture Chateau on Joss and Main Vintage Trove Today!!

Sign up for the sale HERE:

We are so excited! I honestly never thought this day would come. Having a grateful moment this morning.

Thank you to all my friends (KIM!) (Faryn!) who walk along side and teach me. We thrive in community.

Today on Joss and Main, Couture Chateau is honored to be part of Vintage Trove

Two of the items pictured above are from us, can you guess?

Hint: I love jars….and all things French…and Italian…and…

Italian Tole Lamps. Tole refers to painted , enameled or lacquered decorative metal, usually tin plate. These lamps are my favorite. Whimsical with original shades. Some repair needed on shades, but to even have the cardboard shades when they are close to 100 years old is remarkable. I hope they find a happy home! Made in Italy.

I have always sourced and sold Antique and Vintage pieces.

Absolutely LOVE scouring for fabulous product. The quirky, the overlooked, the “need love” pieces.

Gorgeous Acquired Set, Queen Anne Chairs. Delightfully quirky and beautiful. Reversible cushions held on with tassel ties. Original finish.

Hope you can find a delightful item to brighten your home.

Happy Hunting!

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

xo Ann