Monday, February 21, 2011


Well, it won't be long before the owner of this wonderful French farm home in the "South of France" will be back home to share the contents and the amazing collections of her trips to the country so many of us love................

I promised her I wouldn't bombard her with my camera and questions until she has a chance to unpack............................maybe the day after she gets home.  Only kidding.
I can't wait to show all of you this talented woman's home and what inspired her to treat her interiors the way she did.  In the meantime, I will be gone for about 10 days to the warmth of the Naples sun and the friendships that await us.

See you soon!   

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Good Morning................well my chairs are gone and the changes are going to be made.  As  interior designers know, we all get involved with the changes our clients wish to make in their homes and on many occasion there is no time left for changes within our own homes.  Plus, isn't it hard to make changes with what is familiar and comfortable?  Well, I have been thinking of making this particular change in my dining room for quite sometime and finally did it!!  I thank many of you who inspired me (yes, I need inspiration to move forward too!) to take the step.  Here are the BEFORE chairs in my dining room.............they are going to be painted and reupholstered.    Our home has been selected to be on a house walk in the Spring and the pressure is on...........BUT, it isn't as though I made a quick decision to move forward!  I had these re-upholstered over 20 years ago!


WHEW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Finally....................gone, out the door, decisions made.  This detail should prove to also have a very interesting finish.  Time will tell.

ANOTHER BEFORE AND AFTER...................

I have been working with a client in the next town for about a year.  This family has a daughter that is a music major in voice and more specifically JAZZ.  She has recently signed a contract with the son of Ramsey Louis at his studio in Chicago to create and record her first song.  This is the BEFORE of the music room she has practiced in within her home.  The drapes were a balloon drape and badly needed a new fabric resolve.....Her mom wanted her to pick the treatment with which she would be most comfortable.  After all, that was her music room.   I gave them some drawings and pictures to inspire and she chose the most theatrical!!  (I wasn't surprised!) 



Here is a closeup of the treatment which is called an Italian strung.  I selected a Rose Cummings silk taffeta stripe that complemented her beautifully fauxed walls.  This treatment is a little more than what I have been doing as of late............but, considering her sophisticated persona, it really worked.

                                                                         TOP DETAIL

              I was most pleased with the end result and I hope our future STAR will love it too!


while we are on the subject of BEFORE and of these is at birth (5 months ago) and one of these was two weeks ago.................our precious new grand baby.  If this doesn't remind us all
how time flies.  He is my husbands and sons namesake............that would be  " THE THIRD."

                           TWO DAYS OLD                                                        5 MONTHS OLD

                                                    HAVE A WONDERFUL DAY EVERYONE!

Monday, February 14, 2011


While going through some old papers and files last night, I came across some love letters
from my mom to my dad after they had become engaged.  The man she was going to marry
(my dad) traveled a lot and these letters are the letters that she wrote to him while he was away.  Strangely, it was Valentines Eve when I found them and they were beautiful.  It was
a piece of the past that so beautifully expressed their love for each other and the waiting game we all once played.  In fact, one had even been written on Valentines Day many years ago.  Since my parents are both gone, these letters are especially meaningful to me.  It was a gentle reminder on how fast time passes and how fortunate we are to love and be loved.

I adore tulips and three dozen of these wonderful tulips were waiting
for me when I got home from the airport.

                                             Our breakfast table this morning........

                        I wish you sunshine on your path and storms to season your journey.
                        I wish you peace in the world in which you live AND in the smallest corner
                        of the heart where truth is kept.  More I cannot wish you except perhaps love
                        to make all the rest worthwhile.  ~ Robert A. Ward


Wednesday, February 9, 2011


                                It is so hard to believe that somewhere underneath all of this
                                Midwestern snow,  lies my perennials ready to awake......

Pots ready to be created..............

GRACIE'S GARDEN  that will await these Impatiens

The snow has been non-stop for the past few weeks and the breaks have been
few.  But when I look at the photos of my garden, I am reminded to KEEP THE
FAITH................Spring is only about 6 weeks away.

I am off to Houston, weather in the low 60's to work on a design job.  I will be back in
5 days.

STAY WARM................

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Jennifer Bell is quite an extraordinary woman with a wonder and innate ability to understand, create and transform  the French and Italian man, woman AND child onto a blank canvas.  I would say her work is unlike any other artist that I am aware  and her ability so unique and eloquently captured tho' sometimes so simply.   She has lived in Vancouver, Canada  where she owned and operated her own store front and studio.  After a change in her lifes path, she left for Europe to paint.  Her initial undertaking upon her arrival was to assist in restoring the art on the walls of a Renaissance convent.   Somewhere along the way she met a wonderful Italian man and she married  and settled  into her  now familiar and  comfortable Italian countryside.       She lives in southern Italy in the agrarian heel region of Puglia.  She loves her Italian home and lives a life so different from  her Vancouver  roots and that of New York City.  

She writes and I quote, "I am drawn like love to this countryside where I live now. Olive trees are woven in the ochre-colored hills that extend from Altamura.  The land is raw. brutally honest and as passionate as the works of Van Gogh.  The people are tireless workers and the gatekeepers of traditions.  I am intrigued by their dark ebony eyes and antique profiles, beautifully weathered skin and stone chiseled hands.  A subtle, caramel color saturates my canvases as I paint the very old and the very young."

About 4 or 5 years ago, I was working for a client who asked if I had ever heard of Jennifer Bell.  She had been written up in a magazine and my client had been drawn to her life's story and her work.  I did some researching and soon realized that I too loved her distinctive creativity for the FRENCH people who at that time she was mimicking so well onto her canvases.  We had several of her canvas' shipped to the shop and I was a sub-rep for her wondrous works of art.  I own one of her canvases and it remains to be one of our favorite pieces of original art in our home. 

Jennifer has named this piece of art, THE GOVERNESSES.  I simply adore the content, their characteristics which she so beautifully captures and their red noses which are always a part of her French interpretation of the people. 

Now that she paints the Italian people, I understand and for whatever reason that their ears are characteristically strong.  Jennifer documents in her own unique way, snapshots of moments where observation and imagination merge in her mind as she magically translates those moments onto canvas.

I encourage you to go to this website and look at her work............the slide presentations are out of this world and captures her, her life and her work.  So worth taking a few minutes to visit.

Jennifer's artwork is in a gallery in Austin, Texas.   I welcome you to go to their link and  website,  you are in for a real treat as you view her personal gallery.   Gallery Shoal Creek~ Ph. 512-454-6671

Saturday, February 5, 2011

I NEED SOME PINK DISHES................

                               The Saturday before the big snowstorm, I had a mission.  I really
wanted to find some pink dishes and I wanted to find old ones.  I decided I would start
out at Jackson Mall in La Grange, Illinois where there are many wonderful dealers touting their wares. Two floors of everything and anything.   You can almost always find something quite special, as it is loaded with every collectible you can imagine.  If I didn't walk in the door and find exactly what I was looking for and almost immediately!  I wanted no design, I wanted a soft pink tone and I didn't want to spend a lot of money.    There they were, I didn't think twice!  Can you believe 6/$14.95 ?  My guess is they are probably from the 40's or 50's.  I just love them.

I love to set a table and I love to create ambiance.  I had just had my dining room walls painted a Farrell and Ball color called Hardwick White.  It is actually a very warm and soft gray.  I am getting ready to paint my old French Chairs and recover them.  In fact, this was the last dinner party for them.  They will be picked up next week and the changes will begin.
Because of my new gray walls it was time to add a color that would welcome spring and summer and one of those colors would be pink.

The centerpiece is actually the French tubes that I first bought in New York.  I learned that they were made in France and when I attended Maison d' Objects in Paris, I found  the vendor and I bought them for the shop.  We sold out immediately.  You usually see them in my kitchen in front of my mirror and over my sink.  I gathered them into a circle and used them as a centerpiece on my dining room table.  Loved that too!  I then added Baby Tears in antiqued grey miniature urns on either side......not too much, but a great balance with the green.

 Over sized wicker chargers, dishes are from Casafina, the lace and linen napkins are about 75 years old with hand cutouts of lace which have been hand sewn.  I chose not to use my handy dandy silver napkin rings, because I wanted the beautiful lace to show.

                Note the bay window with the French doors................I am struggling with
what to do at those windows...................I want a very simple drapery treatment.  I think I will do  a white silk tailored  balloon treatment......panels are tough because of the sofit.  Any ideas?

     I purchased this sideboard a few years ago after I had sold the huntboard to my original dining room set.     It was a matched  set and I was ready for something new.  Painting the matching chairs to the set will give it still another whole new feeling.  It took some talking to, to you-know-who, but he said, I am sure it will look wonderful AND I just know that it will!   I will show you the before and after pictures when complete.

Bought this side board in a resale shop.   All of the carvings have been done
by hand.  I have no idea of where it came from or where it was made.  Nothing
on the drawers to indicate.  My guess on the vintage is  somewhere early Ninteenth Century and I would guess European.

It was fun playing with this table the morning after the blizzard.  I put this table
together just for you.................and then I had an idea.  I picked up the phone and called
dear friends on the spur of the moment and VOILA a dinner party was born.

I prepared a brisket of beef, with potatoes, lots of sweet onions and carrots.  The brisket and onions
cooked for 6 hours at 275 degrees, covered tightly.  I added the carrots and potatoes
the last hour.  I made a Baby Arugula salad with a sweet/sour vinigrette and popovers!

Our friends brought dessert:  Fresh Apple Tarts with homemade Ginger Ice Cream, served at fireside in our Great Room.    Our guests loved the table...............with a laugh, I said
it was originally created for my friends all over the world.  Now, wouldn't that be
a dinner party of magical proportions.

Enjoy your weekend..................I will be in touch next week.

Mary Anne  ox

Friday, February 4, 2011


PREDICTIONS......PREDICTIONS...... AND..... more predictions.  All  that had been
on the news for about  the past week really did come true!  It was definately a wake up call that no one was going no where as the storm progressed.  It snowed  for about 30 hours and when it finally stopped (yesterday a day without a FLAKE), the sun came out and it was beautiful.  Mother Nature created a snow carpet of beautiful images that I wanted to share with you.

Could that be a touch of a Zook designed roof over that small window?


My Winter wreath was coated with real snow. . .

Of all of the landscaping in front of our home, only the Blue Spruce
shows its snow carpet of design, everything else has disappeared

                        That mound of snow is our mailbox............not to worry,
                                                   there was no delivery!

                             This shot was taken before bedtime outside our front door

This shot was taken very early  early in the  morning (and the snow had stopped)
or so we thought..................

                      From the Great Room and the door leading to our deck...............

We opened the door. . . . . .

Our deck and hot tub........... hanging water fountain

It was quite a few days of interesting weather to be sure.  It was a time to reflect, collect and ponder what could be done inside and I promise you there was plenty to do.   A few snow ball fights with the neighbors caused a little bit of a distraction, but got everyone outside, laughing and enjoying that gift of Mother Nature at her very best!

and then I had an idea...................................on the spur of the moment I called some dear friends and asked them to dinner. Lo and behold, they accepted!  The roads had been plowed, sidewalks had begun to clear and driveways were passable.   Afterall, my table was done............but now for dinner.
STAY TUNED......................