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

Wednesday Style Points: A Cabin Christmas

Wednesday Style Points: A Cabin Christmas

I simply love formal…truly

And casual cabin kitsch

Log & Timber Homes, Telluride. Image linked

Wear a ball gown to the studio? In a heartbeat if I could

Flip side is I simply love the mountain air & what it does for my soul

Lake Tahoe California

And the mountain homes

And the mountain projects

There is something crisp and uncluttered about the smell of the air

Those who share my passion, know what I’m talking about

It’s as if the air is custom made…this sweet aromatic perfume, simple + elegant

This week we are putting some finishing touches on a project in the Lake Tahoe Area

Belly of the Beast - Notice the blue drying fans

Belly of the Beast – Notice the blue drying fans

Should be finished near February or March…give or take 10 feet of snow…

As we headed out of the Studio in the Bay Area to work, I was grateful to pass on some of the chaos

My Favorite Style Points for a Cabin Christmas?

1. ACE Hardware is a perfectly appropriate place to shop for a Cabin Christmas Present

Ace Hardware in Truckee is so much fun! From Christmas Ornaments to Power Tools…what could be better…

2. LOCAL Coffee Shops know your name and how you like your custom topping. Marge doesn’t judge you for ordering whip cream on your latte.

3. The air is cold & it feels good on the soul

4. Working 0veralls are perfectly acceptable attire

5. Norwegian Sweaters look appropriate with my work overalls OR slim velvet pants with boots

I mean really, this classic from Dale of Norway isn’t over the top…$427, works with overalls & velvet skinnies…:)!

Have a fabulous day today….

Style Points. You’ve got them, use them!

“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!

Monday Matters: December 10th & Counting…is your Decor Done?

Monday Matters: December 10th and Counting…is your Decor Done?

Just to put you at ease

We just decorated our Christmas Tree at the Cabin

White Resin Antler Ornaments

Yes, A Designer waited until December 8th & 9th to pull out the ornaments…

This year I collected over 30 wood ornaments for the cabin tree. Combined with antlers, ribbon & some simple plaid globes…a very Custom Cabin Christmas Tree

I like to take the time IN December to put the music on and make Holiday Merry in our Cabin in the woods

One of the things clients and friends ask often

“How many days should I spend Decorating?”

Have you ever wanted someone to just pull out the buzzer and say “game over” on the Decorating?

I have

So years ago, I came up with some very simple rules of thumb

# Days on Holiday Decorating = Per Thousand Square Feet

3 Days = 3,000 Square Feet

Any more and it might be time to watch Danny DeVito in some Christmas Movies for some perspective…

From Deck the Halls

So this weekend, we spent 2 days decking our cabin out for the Holiday

When we have Christmas Parties, ok…I confess…I will spend a solid 4 days & corral some help

But that is still within our guidelines (almost;)

Give yourself permission to put the ribbon down & enjoy the fruit of your labor!

This reasonable timeline has helped me enjoy the process for years

You and I are creating our custom holiday homes

So as this “Power Week” (what I refer to the second full week in December) rolls in

Rachel Ray’s Egg Nog. Image Linked.

(Parties, Luncheons, Drinks with friends, Office Parties, Cards to mail, Presents to buy….)

Remember that rule of thumb

Monday Matters: Ready for a productive week?


Every Claus needs cute boots!

Be sure to check our Holiday Help Page. You will find this and other tips from Designer Friends all week!

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

xo Ann

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

Wednesday Style Points: Tole Cache Pots = “LBD” of This Time of Year

Wednesday Style Points: Tole Cache Pots = “LBD” of This Time of Year

We’ve been BUSY these past few days…so I will get right to it!!

(Fact: We have been using Tole Cache Pots all week & so have our clients)

1970’s French Tole. Missed this sale on OKL, but am SURE we could find someone to fabricate something similar with our Couture Chateau “made just for you” on the underside…;)!

tole also tôle  (tl)


A lacquered or enameled metalware, usually gilded and elaborately painted.

[French tôle, sheet metal, variant of table, table, slab, from Old French, from Latin tabula, board.]

So yes….this happens to be an official waste basket, but I have been known to use these for fabulous mini evergreens around this time of year!! I mean, something this pretty should be “up”! Image linked: Pink Palazzo Tole Wastebasket, Taigan

Love it.

Why the “LBD”?

a) it lives in your home all year

b) it fits your home decor all year

c) it can be “dressed up” or “dressed down” = customized per occasion

d) it faithfully pulls through as a design staple

I mean…good enough for Brooke Astor…good enough for me…;)!

These were auctioned off by Sotheby’s from the Estate of Brooke Astor. I can see them bare like this or filled with delightful things!

Later I will show you some of the variations we have scattered throughout my home & my client’s homes. Just yesterday, we received a cell phone shot from a client hosting Thanksgiving. She used wheat. Next month am certain it will hold greens. Lovely!

We found this stack on Hound Hill Design. What I like is that you can literally shop Home Goods to Sotheby’s for the ones that fit your home. Contemporary to traditional. No excuses!

oh, and…..

e) I simply LOVE them empty. Austere. On a clear clean table or chest. Just like that perfect “LBD” it can stand alone!!

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

xo Ann