Monday, December 15, 2008

Right Here in Baton Rouge

Who would believe that this is Baton Rouge 2008! If only for a day - or a part of a day - we had our winter wonderland.

Last Thursday we all woke to find our city blanketed in a white, snowy cover. Of course we all ran out with our cameras to capture the sight before it melted. I can well remember the many mornings in Salt Lake City when I would awaken to the sounds of "snow quiet". It is amazing how quiet it becomes when snow covers the streets. You can almost hear the flakes as they swirl by the window. I don't miss the rest of the snow routine - salt in the trunk, shovels at the ready, scarves and gloves hanging by the fire to dry before we put them back on again, and the ever present ice scraper on the seat in the front of the car just in case you got blasted again while at work.

No, today was special - none of the usual snow duties, just the chance to enjoy and dance around a bit in celebration!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Right Next Door!

Can you imagine the fun I have knowing what is right next door, and being able to just browse and watch while they create these wonderful pieces?? I love their building (I rent my space from Jon and my building is just as wonderful in a completely different way - more later about that) and the way it translates into any time or place. It is the perfect place for a studio/showroom/gallery and we had a long battle convincing Jon to open the space to the public so that they could enjoy all of this too. The actual workshop is at the back of the building, and I will be taking a photo journey through there in a few days so that you can see how all of this comes together. For now, let's just enjoy what's up front!!

I can't imagine any home that couldn't use one of these great pieces! I am fascinated at the process that creates this finished product. And it is absolutely amazing to see bits and pieces of wood and plaster come together in such a beautiful way. I have my eye on one of these with the fleur de lis!

If ever I needed or wanted a mantle this would be the place to hunt and search. They are massive and at the same time delicate in their detail. These are just perfect for a study/library, family room, or formal living space. And one in the bedroom? Oh, yes! Jon and his crew work with architects and builders during the design process so that what the owners see is the perfect piece in the perfect place. Many homeowners who have been bitten by the renovation bug come to Jon before they begin the destruction/construction process so that they can incorporate one of these works into the final plan.

I am considering an over the cook-top pot rack for myself. I have been wanting one for a long time now, and with Jon next door, I have no excuses left for not starting the project. That will be another series of blogs I am sure!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

What did you do Friday night?

Every Fall around this time the Baton Rouge Mid City Merchants hold their wonderful White Light Night celebration. Merchants up and down Government Street open their doors from 6pm until 10pm (or until the wine gives out and there is no more room to fit another person in the store) to showcase local artists and the new holiday gift selections that have just arrived. We were happy to have one of our favorite local artists here with us again this year. Kyle Rainey has a distinctive style that has become his trademark near and far. Some of his works are shown above. It is an unusual way to display such works - propped up on shelves, standing against display cases, and sitting on easels all around the space. This year we were fortunate to be able to have some of Kyle's works on display in the studio/workshop next door where Jon McArthur and his crew manufacture chimney mantlepieces, trumeau mirrors, and kitchen island hoods. The juxtaposition of vibrant, mixed media canvas with the gold leaf and classic lines of Jon's works was a sight to see. The contrast brought out the best of both!
Tomorrow we will post some photos of Jon's works - they are absolutely fabulous and will make everyone want to add at least one of his pieces to their homes.

Monday, September 29, 2008

It's been a long, long time

Here we are at the end of the month - and it seems as if it were just beginning. Actually, it was just beginning and then Gustav and Ike blew through town and turned us every which way. This has been a really short month for the retail scene - store closing for the week-end on August 29th and not opening again until September 15th! That kind of schedule will ruin the bottom line, you can be sure. And to top it off, it has taken us the rest of the month just to find all the things we put up to save them from the storms! I stood at the front of the store and tried to remember all the things that had been ruined during Katrina and exactly why. Broken windows brought the wind, rain, and then the intolerable heat and humidity. So, I went about frantically putting everything in drawers, up high and at the back of shelves, and as far away from the windows as possible. It made sense then, but now as I try to remember what went where, I can't fathom what I must have been imagining! We had no damages, no broken windows, and only a few days without power and telephones and computers.
Today and last Friday I spent my time trying to re-invent the practice of display design. I moved everything from one side of the store to the other, then from front to back, and then everything made a few more moves. Am I pleased with the result? It looks just about right, but you are never done with this fun part of the job. And if you do it just right, some one will purchase the integral parts of your "work" and then you get to start all over again. To call this work is just not honest!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Back to Work

It seems weeks since we were here at the store - and it has been! We closed the door on Friday, August 29th and this morning hung out the Open sign again. It has been an up and down ride for sure - first Gustav roared through suspending all power, phones, and cable internet. After 8 days of no services we were ready to head back. That is when Ike decided to pay a visit. So here we are - finally - back up and running again. The city is still in a state of distress as piles and piles of trees stand at attention down all boulevards and lanes. Some of the areas still have no power and won't have until a few more weeks. This is such a difference from Katrina though that I am really considering myself lucky and happy to be able to be open in just two weeks. Our streets are not filled with water, there are no high water marks on all the houses and buildings, and almost everyone has a house in working order. True, there are holes in the roof and porches knocked sideways for some of us, but it is nothing on the order of a Katrina recovery.
So, for now, it is putting back all the things that we safely stored and trying to remember what it is that we were doing. Nothing like a few days away to give you a new perspective on everything!

Friday, August 29, 2008

We try to always be ready

It is hard to believe that we are once again awaiting arrival of evacuees from New Orleans. Gustav is bearing down on the Gulf Coast and already New Orleanians are making ready to flee the Crescent City. As I packed things into drawers at the store and tried to remember what exactly I needed to do to get ready, I had to stop and take a deep breath. Out of nowhere comes the threat once again. It is easy this time as the store is here in Baton Rouge with me instead of 75 miles down the I-10. But New Orleans is home to so many of my family and beloved friends. I am anxious for all of them, as well as for us here in Baton Rouge. I find that I am holding my breath and beginning my singular trait of "pacing in circles" to calm my mind and runaway emotions. I know that we will all come through this once again, but it is so hard for those who have spent the last three years rebuilding homes and hearts. There have been far too many casualties as a result of Katrina. I am not sure any of us can take another round of disruption of life for all those who will be displaced - even if only for a few days. Please take the time to think of them, and offer a prayer or wish for safety and well-being. I hope to be back in this space over the week-end and to celebrate Labor Day with a light heart and full laugh!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Fifth Avenue and Beyond

Yes, it is time to scramble to the airport while still jamming last minute notes into my bag, and head for Manhattan and Fifth Avenue. The last of the summer markets is about to happen, and this is the one we all plan to attend, even if we have to cancel at the very last minute! Just thinking about all the things that are possible is enough to cause a mild burst of visual overdose.

This time next week I will have been through the Javits Center at least once, and will be visiting the Piers to see what new and exciting things there await our attention. It is like a bazaar, a huge flea market, an organized garage sale, and Christmas morning under the tree all rolled into one time and space. Trying to sort through all the thousands and thousands of exhibits can cause mental meltdown and necessitate a stop at the nearest Starbucks for mega-doses of pure caffeine. And then it's back to work. This time I will be attempting to resource new lines and entire categories of items to fill the shelves of the store for the upcoming Fall Football Frenzy that just goes and goes until we cry Uncle at Christmas time. Shopping for a store located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana is still somewhat of a mysterious process. I have yet to figure out the universal appeal of some things that do quite well here. They all seem to be those things that were absolutely ignored and passed up by shoppers in the store in New Orleans. Now, I know that the perspective of the generic shopper of each area is quite different, but I would have expected that there would be some overlap. Perhaps I need to rethink this entire process - again!

Monday, August 4, 2008

And then there was Atlanta

"Going to market" is such an exciting phrase - it just fills your mind with pictures of all kinds of exciting adventure. In reality, it is just another name for "work"! Truth be told, it is exciting, fun, and fast-paced - as in Mardi Gras, carnival time, and the circus. After the trip to Dallas it was time to repack the suitcase and head to Atlanta. This time it was Delta Airlines and not the new car that provided the transportation.
It is always fun to be at Americasmart in Atlanta. Right across the street from the hotel sits an entire world of innovation, experimentation, creativity, and madness. Walking the halls is the usual agenda for the first day as that gives me the opportunity to get the feel of what are the "newer than new" items that everyone will want to have on their store shelves when the Fall season rolls in. While almost everything that I can see in Dallas is also here in Atlanta, this market has lots more going on as well. There are many vendors who do not "show" in Dallas so I have the chance to find some new resources that just might not be all over town at home. And it is fun to see the folks in the showrooms and catch up on what has been going on since the last visit.
This time around the halls were a bit less crowded, well actually they were a LOT less crowded. Of course that makes seeing things a lot easier, but it is a telling indicator for business in the coming months and perhaps into the coming year. If the merchants aren't there buying the new merchandise, it won't be on the shelves. Perhaps the reason it won't be on the shelves is because the retailers have already seen a slowdown in customer purchases. And of course, the customers are having to endure the same things the stores are -- higher costs of energy, slowdown in employment, the threat of rising taxes, grocery prices going through the roof, and around here the hot weather keeps us all inside as much as we can manage it!
There are always bright spots in any situation, and in Atlanta it was no different! Almost every showroom I entered had something new to show us and some of the things were obviously going to be big hits for the holidays. It is sometimes hard to think Holidays when it is in the high 90's outside and the sounds of Jingle Bells seem a bit out of place.
All in all, it was a good trip, and I can't wait for the UPS truck to start delivering. I will have lots to show you in the coming months -

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Travels to Market

Tomorrow morning the car leaves for Dallas and the twice-yearly trip to market. It is here that we fill the shelves with all the new items for the holidays, get an advance look at what will be seen in shelter magazines for Fall, and sometimes have the opportunity to visit with celebrity designers and business moguls who are at the Dallas Market Center. It is an exciting time to be sure, and almost always full of neat surprises. Just yesterday I watched a video in which a designer for one of the national showrooms was elaborating on the colors that will be BIG this Fall and Winter. Guess what? We are already there!! Black and White is the pick of the Global Views showroom team for the really big colors for the season. That is good news for us because we are already using our black and white as many ways as we can. So now it will be a priority to find the really hot "accent shots" to use with our things to bring some excitement to our tables and rooms and to generate some energy into the gatherings that we attend.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Final Touches

And now we are ready to sit back and enjoy our gala! Adding the hot pink of the cutlery and flatware adds just the right amount of color to give the table that spark that it needed to come alive. The red of the beads on the center candleholder and the green of the leaf motif are short bursts of energy created by our choice of color. It is quite a bit of fun to create a "stage" for your dinners when you let yourself be guided by what you have at hand. It is not only the things that we have, but how we use them that makes our tables come alive and add to the fun of the event.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Create the Contrast

And now we add some contrast to create the visual interest - black and white against the beautiful patina of the fruitwood table. Using the Frances Palmer plates and bowls gives us the wonderful geometry created by her use of shapes and textures. Each piece has its own unique "feel" and together they form a continuous thread that weaves its way down the tabletop. We add the brilliant napkins with a classic damask design printed on them which is a nod to our history and play on the legacy of table linens themselves. Now we need to create a spark with some additional color and perhaps some height at the center of the table to give it a focal point around which we can build the rest of our tablescape.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Let's Take A Look

Now that we know the table, let's start laying some things down on it and see what we get. For starters, I love these round open and airy feeling mats, so I am going to use them. As you can see from the picture, they are pretty dark against this fruitwood tabletop so I will have to be sure to put some color in there for contrast. That is what I like to do, but if you are not a "high contrast person", you can go with a more sedate plan! This is a really small table that we are working with so we are fairly limited in the size of mat that we can actually use. I am thinking that this table had leaves that would expand the size, but they were long gone before I acquired it. So this will be a cozy dinner for four and we will leave the big parties for the big tables!
So we are set to start selecting some actual dinnerware to build our stage - let's go have some fun!!

Monday, April 21, 2008

First Things First

This table is a special favorite of mine. I loved it the minute I saw it in an antiques store about 7 years ago, at least. I was, at the time, looking for a table to place in the "family" room so that I could sit and work on papers and also serve dinner while we watched some captivating television. Of course, it didn't work, but the table stayed anyway. Then I had the brilliant idea to truck it down to the store on Magazine Street in New Orleans. It resided there for the duration and at least once a month someone would try to buy it. But, oh no!! That is MY table! And then the ravages of the hurricane got us. Lucky for me the people who broke into the store did overlook my treasure when they ransacked and hauled out what they could. And now this old friend is here with me at the store on Government Street in Baton Rouge. I still love it, and I am still thinking of any way that I can make it work at home. The table in my dining room is so much larger (hmm - I think we have actually had 20 people seated around it at one time and yes, they were really good friends or at least family members!) that I know this little gem can never replace it.

Laying It Down

Now the fun part--putting it all together!! It always seems as if setting the scene is half the fun of the party - that's the time you turn on the music and just let the ideas fly by. Some can create the perfect table in their heads and then just lay it down. I, on the other hand, have to move stuff around and walk around the table a few hundred times just to see "how it looks". Don't know which way is best, but this is by far a lot more fun.
First lets just clear off the old stuff on that table and take a good look at it before we start in building our stage for the great dinner production. I think I'll start on the fruitwood table and see how that one shapes up. Please excuse the background "noise" in all these pictures as the tables are all sitting here with me in the store and it is fairly hard to imagine them in an appropriate room setting. But we will try our best! and I am thinking right here that the best way to handle this is to just take each table as a separate entry and see how that works --- so here goes!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Serve It Up

When planning a dinner, the service utensils can take center stage in providing the glitz and glamour for the table. While color is one of the important factors, shape can be just as interesting and exciting. Here we have an assortment of shapes and styles that can lend their particular character not only to the table setting, but also to the menu for the day. The beautiful detail in the sculpting of these pieces gives them an added dimension that reflects the artistic design in each of them. You can just imagine the vivid greens, red, and yellows of roasted peppers set against the creamy white of the large serving bowl or the spring green of grilled asparagus as it sits on the large oval platter.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Placemats and Napkins

There are many possibilities from which to choose when we start with black or white for our placemats at the table. Black can be the perfect background for colorful chinaware or a stark contrast for white. When you add napkins you can either stay with the same color choice or introduce another color. For now, we will stay with the black and white and introduce color with other tabletop elements. Among our choices of mats are a beautiful black passamenterie, a black linen with rings stitched along the edge to create interest, a cotton off-white with black applique along the hemlines, and a casual black straw mat.

The napkins can be either formal or playful, depending on what statement we will be making when the diners approach the table. Here is a nice variety from which to choose, some making a bold statement with pattern, others with adornment such as the rings along the edges or the contrast stitching.
The fabrics from which the mats and napkins are constructed also adds to the total design of the tabletop. A soft, drapable linen damask will sit differently than a starched cotton or cotton blend. If we are using napkin rings or holders that will also be a determining factor on our choice. We can also elect to fold the napkins using one of the creative and fun folding techniques that are popular today. Entire books have been written about the art of the napkin fold, and we will investigate a few of them later in our project.
Having always loved the look of the passamenterie placemats, I will use them as the first element of our design. With this as our "jumping off" point, we can't help but have a good time before and during our dinner!!

Gather Round the Table

Now that we know we want to deal in black and white as the focal point for our table setting, let's find a table to use as the stage. Two of the tables here at the store are good candidates. A nice fruitwood in a tradional style would be a good choice as would an outdoor picnic type table with iron scrollwork as a base. Both tables are ones that are at home in New Orleans either in the dining room or on the patio.

Let's set both tables just for the fun of creating an exciting scene. We can then decide where we wish to entertain when we know more about the weather for the evening. Dining outdoors lends another magic dimension that lets us be more adventuresome in our settings. There is something about the lights on the patio that make everything seem a little more soft and mysterious. Indoor settings are often more dramatic and "formal" which lends a certain tone to the event. Setting the stage often determines the entire menu plan and seating arrangements. So let us go about setting both our tables and making those decisions before we move on to location and menus!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

It's All Black and White

Sometimes it takes a bold statement to really catch your eye. We make those statements around the house when we push vibrant colors against black and white and watch them dance. There is the belief that black and white, either alone or in combination with each other, are never out of style. I think that is especially true for those unique individuals who ARE their own style. They can take just about anything and make it work, and make it work really well. I have always been a "high contrast" person who needs that sudden jolt of color to capture my attention. As a result, I have always been drawn to the creative possibilities of taking simple black and white and building a series of designs from that base. In the next few days I will be attempting to do that right here on these pages. We will use our favorites from the Frances Palmer Pottery collection that we have on the shelves. There are so many wonderful large platters and other over-size pieces that contribute a real visual target. I will start out with just the basic table "canvas" of place mats and napkins. We will play with black, white, and the two together in prints. After that we will go where our spirits take us - listening all the while to the whisper of the quirky and funky!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

It must be Spring

Surely Spring is here, no April Fools joke about it. All the color around the gardens is certainly proof enough that already the April showers are at work. Pinks, oranges, yellows, deep violets - all these colors are jumping out at us as we stroll the neighborhoods right now. At least here in Baton Rouge they are.
These gorgeous Spring colors are just as vibrant indoors when we look at the Mustardseed and Moonshine bowls and mugs that we have sitting near us. With something as lovely as these to start our mornings, how can we help but know that everyday is special?

Monday, March 31, 2008

And Now Where?

With the advent of Spring and all the beautiful weather that comes with it, it is becoming a daily ritual to have at least one meal on the patio or porch. And if that doesn't work, perhaps a glass of wine as the sun goes down, or that first cup of coffee in the morning. Beginning to plan for all the "al fresco" events in the coming months is a chore everyone is glad to contemplate.
Whether it is formal, picnic style, or catch as catch can - the things we use to make the shift from inside to out are some of the most special and most festive. That favorite mug is great alongside the brightly colored flatware that just smiles at us each time we see it.
And what better bowl to have on the patio than one the fits right in beside the flowers in the garden? We don't need to wait for the April showers to get our May flowers from Mustardseed and Moonshine's beautiful and colorful creations. Our store is ablaze with the glory of the Lilies and Poppies whether they are mugs, ramekins, or beautiful bowls. Visit our website to see firsthand what quirky luxury you can add to your collection!

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Lamp

When you think about them, lamps are really such multi-purpose objects. Primarily they serve the function of providing light, either task or ambient. And when you need one, there is no getting around it. Then the task begins of hunting one down, finding the appropriate spot to place it, and then stepping back to admire it. After that lamp is placed on its perch, the real fun begins. This same functional object now becomes a work of art - setting the tone for the rest of the room. It serves as sculpture in many instances. In other places, a simple lamp creates a focal point that quickly becomes a conversational subject. The right lamp can introduce color, form, and dimension into an otherwise blank spot. Some of my favorite lamps are those created by Elaine Gleason of New Orleans. Each one has an organic feel that is at home in almost any setting - bedside, in a foyer, atop a desk, or just at hand on a credenza or chest in the kitchen or dining room. The subtle tones of the metallic finishes give a glow that is reminiscent of the sun sinking below the horizon over the river on a sultry Crescent City evening. We love these lamps and have them everywhere we can in our home and at New Orleans At Home. An Elaine Gleason lamp is one of those quirky luxuries that will help make your everyday special!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Real Lemon

Somewhere, some time ago, someone dreamt up a new utensil and out of need came the lemon fork. We can probably count on the fingers of one hand the number of times we have actually used such an implement. But almost every sterling silver pattern or silverplate pattern has just such a fork in its inventory. What exactly do these things actually do? I will be attending a "tea" one day soon, and I suspect that there I might just find one hanging about with sugar tongs, tea diffusers, gallery trays, and some teaspoons.

I have used my lemon forks for all manner of stuff - from stabbing at olives in a small bowl to unravelling sardines on a plate. I am sure that we could all come up with at least 10 more interesting things we could find to do with the lemon fork. They are rather cute little things, all shiny and delicate and just waiting for us to put them to good use. I have taken some of the more interesting ones that I have here in the shop and put them out for you to see. What wonderful ideas do you have for the little lemon fork that can make it one of those quirky luxuries that make our everyday special??

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Am I Blue?

In the realm of what we call neutrals, BLUE is my favorite. Clear, clean, and vibrant or pale, soft, and heavenly - blue is the perfect backdrop for any occasion or space. There are literally thousands of blues and almost never are any two even close to being equal or "same". Here in the store we have many blues - from bed linens to floor coverings. Some of them are really special and have that magic quality about them that makes them sing to us. Each time we use these items we are reminded once again why we chose "blue" over any other color it offerred.
I have pictured some of the special blues that we have collected here and that we display often so that we can share them with our customers and friends. There is no such thing as having "the blues" too often when it refers to music or our everyday things!