Friday Wrap Up: Life Lessons At Design Camp

Friday Wrap Up: Life Lessons At Design Camp

This week, just like last, was/is filled with travel

I had the honor of visiting Tobi Fairley & her esteemed Team in Little Rock, Arkansas for a fabulous few days of what is lovingly referred to as Camp

I like grown up camp. We stay in nice hotels instead of tents, have nice wine instead of cold hot chocolate and we can camp in heels!

My kind of camp. Yup.

The Capital Hotel in Little Rock. One of my all time favorites! We shot some videos here so be on the look out for those over the next few weeks...

The Capital Hotel in Little Rock. One of my all time favorites! I shot some videos here so be on the look out for those over the next few weeks…

Besides which, I get to see my peeps.

Want to make sure and share a few quick aha moments with you today. I will do a longer write up next week while High Point Market is in full swing, but want to make sure I share some of those things that really spoke to me:

1) Don’t take career advice from people in the stands

Do I know this? yes. Do I always follow this? no. I sometimes let those people shouting in the stands & not achieving who say they are “only giving me helpful advice” hurt me. Do any of you ever let that stuff in? Then let’s do this together!! No more of that :)!

2) Go after what you want if it’s true to who you are

Yes, I preach this constantly. It is nice to know others feel the same way. I believe this so very much. For those of you who have listened to the free webinar beta test we have out (click here to listen, we NEVER spam emails) you KNOW that about me, but I must say it is really encouraging to hear someone else say it.

3) Persist. And then persist some more. And then?…..persist…some….more…!

Great achievement takes time. I know that. But hearing it helps. Sometimes I feel as if I was more successful at 29 than I am now, and in some metrics that may be the case (ahhh youth) HOWEVER, it’s the total life envelope we are after. Whether we are designing our own homes as our own decorator or designer, working with clients, are artists…whatever our calling it’s a life thing, not a one time thing. I like being reminded of that. I think it’s hopeful.

Off to catch a plane before the dawn today – let me know if any of these reasonate with you!

The speakers were genuine, accessible and in this inimate small group setting, I was astounded at the access. With as many years under my belt & as many things as I have seen…this was graciousness at its best. It was simply a one time type event. Thank you Tobi and her Team (Brooke, Ashley) for bringing the A Game.

All that said? I am ready for home. Time for some capuccino from Berkeley, California & a little SF Fog before heading out again….

Friday Wrap Up: I’m ready for the weekend, how about you?!

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

xo Ann


PS: Do make sure and sign up for our Beta Test Webinar. The reviews have been fantastic. From “WOW!!!!!” to “changed my life” to “it felt fundamentally honest, open and real”…you are simply too valuable to not at least listen. This is the culmination of teaching I have done for over a decade. Even if you are not a decorator, designer…this can be a blessing to you. There is no pressure – we are in beta test. Just take some time & be fed. I know you “feed” those around you…this? is just for YOU!

Wednesday Style Points: What’s On Your Bedside Table?

Wednesday Style Points: What’s On Your Bedside Table?

I never thought I’d be able to itemize every little item that sat beside me as I slept…

But given my appointment with…let’s just call it…’forced rest’…I am now able to list every bloomin’ object on my night stand!

I have a poor man’s version of this chest on my side of the bed. It holds more than I can possibly hide! Mine does not have the gilding or original handles…but I love it still…

What have you got next to you?

Style Points!

I happen to love this feature in the publishing world

But nothing reminds me to update like comparing my list to theirs!

What have you?

Dare I say I take my tea in a pretty cup?


Mine are stacked high…

This book was given to me by Leslie Hassler, a dear friend from Mastermind. It is officially noted, tagged & highlighted!

Well, at least I can say I am learning…

Another book on my nightstand…

And always to keep me grounded…in the right place…this and the Good Book 🙂

What are your Style Points on your nightstand?

Would your nightstand make the magazines?:)

From House Beautiful.

I’m thinking about updating mine…!

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

xo Ann

Sunday Stewardship: Find Your Life Envelope; So We Can Steward The Design Part Easily!

Sunday Stewardship: Find Your Life Envelope™ So We Can Steward The Design Part Easily!


It’s all about making sure you take your ten talents & make 10 more

I know YOU have talents. And gifts. And fears. And HOPES. And DREAMS.

Do you ever feel overwhelmed and can’t cut through the noise to create a meaningful life?

Do you ever wish you could take back the reigns of your life & really DESIGN it so you have no regrets 10, 20 even 60 years from now?

I know I do

I know my clients have

The core of my Design Business has always been about building a COUTURE LIFESTYLE.

Sure we pick the right sofa (remember the Frasier example)

But the process is about equipping to take control of our homes, intentionally, so we can live out the life we are called to live. Where ever you and I live. From India to Canada, US to China…UAE to France…it matters not.

If we are to live a life of meaning, it must be intentional.

But it must be OUR – YOUR intentional. Not the catalogs, or the prevailing wisdom, or current trend.

Check out my video on our new Design Systems Simplified Products. THIS is what I am working on.  It’s the process that equips us to get there. I hope it excites you the way it excites me.

It’s all about cutting through the noise of life and getting to WHO you are, WHERE you are and designing your custom life from there. Whether it’s an apartment or a 22,000 square foot home.

Design Systems Simplified. Come on the journey with me. For the first time ever, I am opening these very private doors and sharing the soul behind the brand. I created this company because I needed to live it. May it bless & equip you, may I have the honor and privilege of walking shoulder to shoulder as we discover YOUR custom Life Envelope™ so you can get on with the living.

If you are interested in our products & services after watching the video, email me:

These new to market “Design Systems” will not be publicly available until after March. Our Full Service Clients use them every day.

Our mailing list is small and intentional. Our mailing list includes those who want to make a difference with their life. I hope it includes you.

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

xo Ann


Mission: To EQUIP those in an overwhelmed world to design their homes & lives with intent and purpose so they can live the custom life they are called to

How: simple repeatable scalable systems designed from 20 years in the trenches of luxury interior design

Wednesday Style Points: Decorating For Your Life Today

Wednesday Style Points: Decorating For Your Life Today

We have been diving deep lately with all our Decorating Principles & Systems

Lots of chatter with Safety + Order + Beauty…our Top 10…all that stuff

Today I wanted to share some of the things that are inspiring my decorating TODAY

I am loving the inspiration from Classic Damask patterns. As we work on some custom designs for Clients, these are fantastic jumping off points. I love taking these and breaking them apart to form unexpected repeats…sweet…STYLE POINTS!

These are beautiful vignettes to me

I am loving the stark contrasts here….just am.

I hope they bless you

If you are a faithful blog person, you may have seen this already but I absolutely love the combinations here. The power pack punch of Red & White…throw in some black and = love. Style points. From Belle Maison 2009. Yes, I know it’s “old” in Design Speak, but I am still in love. Image Linked.

From Apartment Therapy. I love the high gloss floors. When we remodeled our home, I thought long and hard about using this vignette. I knew however with 2 boys and several dogs it wouldn’t work. So I admire these from afar…

One of the reasons I shared the photos above is that they each have a style.

Just like you. Even if you think you don’t…you do…

May today be a day you embrace it.

With style…embrace them with style!! When we get to that place where we realize no interior will ever be perfect…we are free to take risk with design.

What will your Design Risk be today?

How many Style Points will it total?

Tally those personal design risks that are good + authentic…the ones that bless those around you…it’s your fingerprint. Your style.

I’m playing too….will keep you posted!

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

xo Ann

Thursday Spotlight: Couture Chateau Decorating Principle # 5, This One? Sometimes = Tough

Thursday Spotlight: Couture Chateau Decorating Principle # 5. This one? Sometimes = Tough

Couture Chateau Decorating Principle # 5: Personal issues must be addressed for Decorating to Delight

On Sunday of this week, I started sharing my Couture Chateau Decorating Principles

Normally these are reserved for our Full Service Clients

However, in the spirit of being FEARLESS for 2013:

1) I am sharing nugget versions on the blog

2) I am putting together an affordable downloadable e-product as well

Universally Applicable + Uniquely Customizable

I created processes + binders, surveys & systems which are extensive

Nuggets = Digestible

Remember the Principles we’ve shared so far:

 #1. Decorate with no more than 7 years in mind

#2. Remove any item that is emotionally unsafe

#3. Fiercely protect the heart of your home

#4. For Decorating to inspire it has to be authentically you

I share my next Decorating Principle carefully

Personal issues are tough

We feel stupid when they are exposed

Boiled it down but still included 3 of my parameters (there are 12)

Parameter #1) personal issues DO NOT need to be resolved, but they MUST BE addressed


Parameter # 2) personal issues CAN get messy, but messy is ok

Example: Client is “Destination House C” owned by a Multi Generational Extended Family Trust

Many cooks in the kitchen

Parameter # 3) Messy ONLY equals dis-function if we pretend we aren’t

Enter Decorator & Decision Time

A property could be vast & exquisite….

Or it could be an Alpine retreat someone bought decades ago for adventure. It matters not. The issues we deal with are the same.

Trustee M: “The Decorator is moving the Miro into the 2nd Floor Lakeside Suite”

The Melancholic Singer by Joan Miro #1480. 

Trustee F: “Don’t you stay in the 2nd Floor Lakeside Suite?”

From Elle Decor, Charlotte Moss. A Master Suite.

Trustee M: “Not always”

Alexa Hampton

Trustee F: “Yes you do, you can’t have the Miro, I want it to stay in my room”

Trustee M: “We don’t have rooms. The house is owned by the Trust.”

Trustee F: “Then I want to stay in the 2nd Floor Lakeside Suite”

Trustee M: “I thought you stayed on the 1st Floor because the morning light bothered you on the 2nd Floor”

Does the painting get moved?

How is the issue resolved?

Does it matter?

Sound ridiculous?

Have you ever heard someone describe a family that disintegrated over something seemingly small?

Me too

Personal issues. Everyone has them….

I don’t want to decorate where a family can disintegrate over something small

Addressing the personal issues AHEAD of time can prevent that

What we find out in the Decorating Principle Process:

Grandmother bought the painting when it was inexpensive, as a child, with her father because she liked the patterns

Grandmother cannot travel any longer to “Destination House C”

Her ONLY wish for the Decorator is to move the painting into the Lakeside Suite on the 2nd Floor because the colors & patterns reflect beautifully when the sun streams in. It reminds her of when the painting was in her room as a child, when it was inexpensive & she just liked the patterns & shapes…


For the Decorator to have a beautiful photograph taken of that vignette to hang in her current home

Do you know this?

Or are you still mad about not having the Miro in “your suite”

Or are you still ticked at Trustee F for derailing an efficient business meeting? I mean ruuheally…can’t she get a life?

Decorating Principles Processes? = you BOTH know it and are at peace with it.

You know WHY the painting is being moved.

Personal Issues. Everyone has them….

Enter Delight

We moved the painting to Delight someone

If we are hung up on personal issues, we CAN’T delight for Grandmother

If we are hung up on personal issues we don’t WANT anyone else to delight

Trustee F will PERCIEVE Trustee M is trying to control things

(Trustee M is the Trust Director & runs a successful business)

Trustee M will PERCIEVE Trustee F is indecisive and jealous

(Trustee F is an Artist who is deeply fond of Miro)

Addressing personal issues makes room for grace which leads to ability to delight

The point is, personal issues can be anything

Dogs, Paintings, Colors…Patterns…Memories…even Moods & Goals…

Think about it – what are some of yours?

Since we are only working in 7 year increments, they aren’t forever….

We are all messy. Trust Funds or Trailers. All.

Messy does NOT have to equal dis-function. Messy can be cleaned up.

It’s why I developed these Principles. They help us navigate & clean up.

Thursday Spotlight

Spot clean the mess. So YOU & YOURS (mine + ours) can delight.

And yes, the Miro got moved

for 7 years…


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

xo Ann

Monday Matters: Back To Work For 2013 Fearless (well, one day at a time at least ;)!

Monday Matters: Back To Work For 2013

My Word of the Year: FEARLESS

(well, one day at a time at least ;)!

I can tell you my list of regrets is a mile long. I have never regretted TRYING however.

Back to work, back to the Studio

I am excited about 2013

Really trying to focus on the great

As such, I was challenged by Tobi Fairley to come up with a Word of the Year

I thought, ok, I will try it

The list of words was long in my head:


I like the term fruitful. This quote resonated with me because it drives home the principle that even our errors can manifest into blessings. It’s as if no part of life is wasted.








even Urgent came across my brain as I sense an urgency to make sure we get the Couture Chateau Vision out there – beyond these four walls & our few faithful readers, clients + friends

My inspiration came from yellow flowers in my blue kitchen sink (behind) & red cake was one of those mornings when the aha moment came!

One of my kitchen sinks is mosaic tile made from crushed china. I love the imagery because it reminds me daily of why I founded Couture Chateau. It is a passion to share + encourage + equip custom lives. I have tried to not do this and my soul dies a bit if I stop…it is who I am. We must journey who we really are.

but there was only one word that met my head + heart together


I love this. It allows for the process of growth. I have been afraid…I will try to be fearless this year…I will try to LEAD fearless this year

Monday Matters: Back to Work Fearless

I will tackle this with you all year here & there. We will figure it out together, what it really means.

What is your word of the year?

Monday Matters. It set’s the tone for the week. Maybe even the year!

I’d love to know. We walk this custom journey together…

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

xo Ann

Wednesday Style Points: Designing Life As A Process

Wednesday Style Points: Designing Life As A Process

As the New Year begins, I want to share one of my favorite things

Designing Processes

Just like we innovated a custom striped tree. designing processes is innovation. The process of seeing something in a new way

Just like innovating a custom design, designing processes can get sticky. The process of seeing something in a new way requires fearlessness & an acquired taste for the occasional mess!

Yup, sounds rather silly…but I love it

I cannot make a spreadsheet, remember?

I cannot find the receipt, remember?

But I CAN design…and so I design PROCESSES or SYSTEMS that work for life + business

A Matrix

SYSTEMS that are easy to replicate

PROCESSES that are easy to duplicate

…CUSTOMIZABLE to the Client or Situation or my own life!

I actually LOVE creating these


Because sometimes there is just too much input “out there”

Do you ever feel like you can’t possibly get all the research done to make a decision you are proud of?

Do you then just throw in the towel and jump before you should?

I am not one to leap off a cliff…my Louboutins might get stuck ;)! but I do love the imagery…

Or before you think you should?

Not sure?


As a Designer I have created these custom systems my whole career to help me prevent:

Chess is essentially a Matrix

Researching to the point of indecision

Leaping before I know I should

Flipping out on the fall after I’ve made an unchangeable design leap


These little systems help me:

Decide + Do with No Regret

I mean….there must be others who struggle with this…there is an “App” for it :)!

They give me boundaries that are pleasant

Not too much – not too little

I can stretch them – make them more complicated if need be or keep them super simple if needed

I even teach them in our Couture Chateau Seminars

So am kind of a dork for these systems

I then turn them into matrix

I had no idea what “The Matrix” was (still not sure I understand it) but it must be inbred somehow because when my son returned from college for the Holiday, this was his screensaver….a matrix!

In pretty drawings of course 😉

All color coordinated boxes with proper shading & highlighting…

A little more my speed!

But matrix just the same

Why I like them?

Style Points 🙂

You have them, remember?! It’s how you embrace the process of living

Over the course of the next year I will be sharing some of my favorite systems with you and how we use them

How we stretch them or shrink them

What has worked for us

And hopefully will work for you

For now? Style Points!

I’d love to know some of yours!!

Share. I know you have them. Because you are YOU!

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

xo Ann

Wednesday Style Points: My Interior Design Go To Furniture Basics, the Farm Table

Wednesday Style Points: My Interior Designer Go To Furniture Basics

Farm Tables: I LOVE Farm Tables with Attitude

Painted Farm Table: French. I have two of these in my own home. Love them.

Another Side View. At 85″ Long and just the right height, a farm table works for dining, studying, a buffet, office desk…just about anything! Including standing on when you need a dress hemmed!! 😉

Why do I love this style? Because even if budget doesn’t allow for the Vintage French Version Above…you can EASILY Build one! (or have your carpenter build one)

Seriously….4 Gorgeous Legs….Some Pine….and Voila!

One of my FAVORITE sites is Custom Made

We OFTEN build a simple custom table that is JUST RIGHT for our client…

We have a Custom Draw Leaf Table in our Office…

Love this because it so easily adapts to conference length! This one has turned legs, the one we kept has fluted legs.

What does your Favorite Workhorse Table look like?

xo Ann

Wednesday Style Points: Behind the Scenes at Jason Wu with Brizo Faucet!

Wednesday Style Points: Behind the Scenes at Jason Wu’s with Brizo Faucet

Jason Wu Collaborates with Brizo

So, no WE aren’t this season…but some of my friends ARE!

Jason for Brizo

Stay tuned as we stay in touch with Jennifer Reynolds

Jennifer Reynolds

Denise McGaha

Denise McGaha

Traci Zeller

Traci Zeller

Lisa Mende

Lisa Mende

and Stacy Naquin

Stacy Naquin

We will stay in TOUCH with these ladies over the next week. They are the real deal. Hard working, smart, beautiful inside and out. BLESSED to call them friends.

I will be with these amazing women next week – but as we get updates will share on our Facebook page! xo Ann McDonald

xo Ann