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

Tuesday Tidbit: My Christmas China Addiction

Tuesday Tidbit: My Christmas China Addiction

So, yes, you know all about this don’t you…

Spode Christmas Tree

Am CERTAIN some of you out there share this tidy little habit

Susan Wignet Christmas China, a pattern I bought for our cabin when the boys were young and learning to read. Silly part? They still ask for it when the season rolls around…

We have the luxury of hiding it away 11 months of the year, but come day after Thanksgiving…all bets are off!

My more grown up Hermes addiction fits in nicely…

What are YOUR favorite patterns?

Ditto an old Versace…

Have you ever had a CUSTOM China made?!

Rosenthal China is another one of my addictions (they are the manufacturer of Versace Holiday Patterns) and I have several of their non holiday patterns…this is an absolute favorite…image linked to

And yes, we use them all

Fitz & Floyd

I even went to my sister’s house this past week and complimented her on a plate…to which she replied “you gave that to me”!

This was the plate I had given my sister! Fitz & Floyd Christmas Deer Pattern

Knew I liked it ;)!

Confession? I have more……..

Since you know we love to entertain, yes, they really do get used.

Your turn – share some of your favorites!

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

xo Ann

Sunday Stewardship: 2 Hour Couture Chats Discounted for Christmas, Use Any Time in 2013

Sunday Stewardship: 2 Hour Couture Chats Discounted for Christmas for use within the 2013 Calendar Year

Do you ever wish you could have a fresh set of eyes as you manage your decorating or remodel?

Are you tired of asking friends & relatives which color of white is best for your kitchen?

Do you wish you could engage a Design Pro without the hassle of over the top budgets or over the top time?

Have you looked at those “Design in a Box” products on line but you’d prefer real interaction?

Do you wish YOU could take credit for designing your home but have some professional data points?

Does your daughter need a new room and she wants to decorate it, but she won’t listen to mom?

Do you ever think “I love my contractor but I’d like to know what else is out there for design finishes…”

Then our Couture Chats are for you

Our Couture Chats don't usually involve wine, but they could!

During the last two weeks in December, we discount this product for use anytime during the calendar year 2013*

Last year our friends enjoyed this offer

Here’s what Meg had to say about her 2 Hour Couture Chat

“I brought my plans & samples to Ann’s Home Studio. She listened, looked and made astute observations about finishes, suggested furniture placement and told me what things should cost. Her honesty and insight helped me decide what to use in my own home. Without her help I would never have achieved the look I love, but in the end, it was mine. I knew what I liked and wanted, she just helped me get there without wasting huge sums of money or time.”

Here’s what Betsy had to say about her Couture Chat with her Daughter

“I bought my daughter a Couture Chat as a Graduation present. She wanted to redesign her space but wouldn’t listen to me. We came to Ann’s Studio and reviewed everything. It was fun! We learned so much! My daughter got the space she wanted and I was able to help her execute it. It was neutral ground.”

Even at our Once Yearly Designer Clearance Sale, this product is not discounted.

What is a Couture Chat & What is included?

2 Hours in Couture Chateau’s Home Based Side Door Studio

Sit at “The Table” with Ann

Your Project, Your Questions, Professional Answers

Professional Working Suggestions, Quick Sketches or Lists as Needed

Who is a candidate for this service?

DIY Clients managing or thinking about a project

Full Service Future Clients who want HONEST answers before they undertake a large remodel or new build

Mothers & Daughters Re-Designing a Bedroom or First Apartment

Clients managing their own Projects

Clients thinking about a future Project

We engage Couture Chats with Clients who spend $525 to over $10 million

Why? Because they all recognize that verbal in person access to 25 years of experience will give them more than 25 hours of internet research

And no matter your budget, time = money

What just one of our Realtor Client’s in Lake Tahoe has to say:

“I give Ann’s Couture Chats as housewarming gifts. I know she actually cares about my clients. She keeps them from making poor choices when they are all excited about their new home. And as a favor to me, she schedules them in person at no extra cost when she is on an overnight project in the basin.”

QUESTION: I don’t live in the SF Bay Area or Lake Tahoe. How can I take advantage of this offer?

ANSWER: We offer Skype™ or FaceTime™, divided into 1 hour segments for more comprehensive counsel over distance. Simply indicate in the notes section when you purchase. If you are in the Lake Tahoe Basin area and are flexible on time, Ann will work you in on one of her many trips to Projects in the area at no additional charge.

Do not let distance keep you from getting the counsel you want

Couture Chateau Clients from 2012 alone have homes in Canada, Argentina, New York, Kansas, Florida, California, Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan and Nevada

QUESTION: Why are the Chats in the Studio and not at my Project?

ANSWER: We have found over the years that getting clients out of their space and into a neutral ground clears the air for design “aha moments”. The practical reality of preparing questions & thinking about a project to present and ask questions of a professional is a large part of the process. It’s the proverbial stretching before you exercise. It matters.


2 Hour Couture Chat, Regularly $700

25% Discount $525


Package of 3 Couture Chats, Regularly $2,100

40% Discount $1,260

How do I engage?

Email Rachel, our Office Manager at

She will then contact you with follow up instructions and payment information

It’s what we do

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


Ann McDonald & The Couture Chateau Team

*Terms & Conditions: 15 Available, Individual or 3 Package for Purchase between 12/15/12 – 12/31/12. Non-Refundable, Non-Transferable, Must be scheduled at least 2 weeks in advance for use within Calendar Year 2013. May only be re-scheduled twice due to unforeseen circumstance. Skype or Facetime Sessions will be divided into 1 hour increments to maximize content & should be scheduled no more than 2 weeks apart for content retention

Saturday Stuff: Setting the Precedent for Honor in our Homes

Saturday Stuff: Setting the Precedent for Honor in our Homes

As we grieve the tragedies around us, hope remains

Hope and Honor begin in our Homes

Detail Christmas Tree

Around our tables, on our sofas, in our conversations…

How we steward those we love, how we steward how we live

In my youth I worried that as a Decorator or Designer I wasn’t curing cancer or changing the world…that somehow what we did didn’t matter

It couldn’t be further from the truth

As you and I design & build our custom lives, may we rest assured that we set the precedent for honor in our homes.

It matters.

The tone for joy and delight, hope in the face of all life hands us begins at home

For today, be intentional about YOUR life, your blessings

I am grateful for you

We want to equip you, walk along side you as you create an intentional life from a place of safety, order and beauty

“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

Be SURE to sign up for our Newsletter:
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Special Couture Chateau Offers, First Look & Sneak Peek Projects are just some of the exclusives for subscribers.

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

xo Ann & the CC Team!

Thursday Spotlight: Easy Holiday Decor Tip from Leslie Hassler of Luxury for the Home

Thursday Spotlight: Easy Holiday Decor Tip from Leslie Hassler of Luxury for the Home

Simple, 3 minute very casual video tip from Leslie in Dallas. Why do we like it?

Because YOU can customize your table with items from your yard or friendly neighbors!

Have a great day – this is now added to our Holiday Helps Page…


Easy & Fast (Frugal) Table Setting.

Merry Christmas.

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

xo Ann & The CC Team

Wednesday Style Points: Why Do Last Year’s Ornaments Look Tired?

Wednesday Style Points: Why Do Last Year’s Ornaments Look Tired?

Each year, Clients ask the same questions…

Last year we used this ribbon for the office tree. This year we changed it up

Why did my ribbon look so great last year when I bought it and now I don’t like it

What about those ornaments…they look tired this season & last year were all the rage

Last season, we had a white tree in the office, this season a yellow themed tree to coordinate with the French Custom Carpet Squares

Why can’t I get my Christmas Tree to look as nice as it did last year?

I haven’t changed anything….

Well, therein lies the problem

Elastic Polyester Pants from the 1970’s….do you want your Tree to look like these in context? When we let the years pass & don’t modify even a bit….we are the frog in the boiling pot….dead before we know it!!

Some Cliff Notes on Custom Holiday Decorating Gleaned Over the Years:

1. A Tree (Living or Fake) & the Ornaments that live on it = Decoration

2. A Decoration (even if it cost you $1,750) is not an investment piece of furniture

3. A Decoration….is just that. It decorates something – temporarily – for a season or time

4. Decoration can last decades, but that is still just a season or time

5. Decoration = ultimately temporary

6. Decoration = Seasonal, Whimsical & Fun

7. Decorations, especially Christmas ones evoke emotion.

There in lies another problem. They evoke emotion.

That emotion draws us into a White Christmas, Bing Crosby vision of heirloom ornaments handed down from generation, hand made, custom fabricated, designer labeled…music & snow swirling...tree the same each year...It’s a Wonderful Life type of thing…

Truth? We can’t recreate or duplicate the past

That includes past Christmas Trees

Let me state that again because it is so important when it comes to this issue: we can not recreate or duplicate the past.

We CAN honor the past (also known as tradition) but we cannot freeze frame

If I had a dollar for every client who said: “Oh, I’ll take a picture of the vignette so I can duplicate it exactly next season” I’d be on my private 747!

Pardon me, but (edited bad word was here:).

Time for GRACE! Really? Will you be the exact same next year at this time?

Why would you want your Tree or Centerpiece to be the EXACT same?

YOU are custom. YOU are special. Why wouldn’t you want your space to reflect who YOU and YOURS are today?!

Use the same elements? Of course. Use the same Faux Tree? Yes, fine.

But please, change it up a bit…..

Trust me, your family will have changed…let’s HONOR the past while LIVING in the present

I liken it to this:

Imagine you wore a beautiful couture dress to “Friend A’s” Christmas Party in 2011.

Now, will you be wearing the EXACT same dress to the EXACT same party this year? Same shoes? Same hair? Same makeup? Same stockings?

Nope. Everyone would think you’d gone bonkers.

Your Holiday Home is the same way.

So, rules of thumb for refreshing your Holiday Decor? Check out our Holiday Helps Page with New Tips Today

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

xo Ann

p.s. we will miss you Noble. You were a great dog.

Tuesday Tidbit: My Kitsch Christmas Ornament Habit

Tuesday Tidbit: My Kitsch Christmas Ornament Habit

Yes, it’s true. I have – well, let’s just say more than one Christmas Tree

Flocked Fake Christmas Tree

My favorite?

Hard to say. Why? Because there is a place for all those misfit ornaments on at least one of those trees…

Today? My heart swoons for our Cabin Tree

Kitsch in all it’s glory

My excuse? Even Neiman Marcus sells Kitsch in Context!

Michael Aram Ornament from Neiman Marcus. About $60. Truth? I simply LOVE white ornaments against a classic fresh green tree.

…add a dash of Cabela’s

Hummm….rather fun. No I don’t own these nor do I plan on purchasing, but yes, rather fun…

and customize each ornament with a small label or lining in Buffalo Check Plaid indicating it belongs at Mac Mountain Lodge (our cabin)

Just a small piece monogrammed on the back or bottom of ornaments can provide a visual treat. When you see them from below or glimpse them from around the tree this simple custom detail makes a huge difference!

I simply love collecting large groupings of custom or kitsch ornaments

In context? They can lighten the Holiday Load…remind us that a bit of Charlie Brown lives in all of us

Do you collect ornaments? Is there a collection of hand made, glittered globes somewhere in the attic? What would you line or back your ornaments with to indicate they lived in your custom home? Plaid? Toile?

We’d love to know!

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

xo Ann