Happy Anniversary to the Urban Electric Company!

I’m thrilled to tell you that my great friends at the Urban Electric Company in Charleston are celebrating a special milestone:  A decade of American craftsmanship.

I placed my first order with UECo nine years ago and instantly fell in love with both their handcrafted lighting and their incredible service.  This is a company in a class by itself, as you’ll see in this celebratory anniversary video.

Thank you, UECo, for including me in your celebration.  Happy, happy birthday and many more!

sunroomThe Urban Electric Company's Garrison Wall Lightkitchen clg052410920053

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Chapter 1: Book-Filled Spaces with Volumes of Style


For someone who blogs on the subject of Slow Luxe Living, the pace around here has been anything but slow. So…..my sincere apologies for the blog hiatus. I assure you I was not snoozing, although that certainly sounds appealing. I’ve been operating at warp speed the past few months.

One of the things I have been doing is working on the La Jolla view project I mentioned about a month ago. Last I posted on this project, we were in schematic design phase. Well, now we are getting close to submitting plans. One of the must-haves on this project was room for lots and lots of books.

I love that!

Books add warmth to a home–and I don’t think you can say that about any electronic reader, can you? Here’s how I see it: Books tell you a story and then they tell your story.

If you’ll allow me a brief rant, I’m just not crazy about the current trends to turn all your books spine side in on the shelf, to color coordinate books or to buy vintage books simply to merchandise a shelf. I’m simply not a fan of any design trend that feels like it’s trying too hard.  To me, books aren’t props or accessories.  But, I won’t belabor this point…..

What’s your take on this?

Anyway, it’s always a privilege when I have the chance to work with clients who value books. And, in this case, we were inspired and challenged to create some very unique spaces for books.

One of these spaces is a “glass box” library that will sit off a main hallway–a bit like that wonderful library in the first image.

Another book-filled space will be the dining room. Finding a spot for this was a challenge because of the traffic pattern and the amazing ocean views. We came up with something like the floating bookshelves in the bottom image by McAlpine Booth Ferrier. We’ll have one of these between the kitchen and dining room, with room for an existing furniture piece on the kitchen side and bookshelves on the dining side.

So tell me, have you carved out any novel spots for books in your home?  And have you read any good books this summer?  Do share!

All images via Pinterest

My Slow Luxe Life, Unplugged and Recharged

I just spent a week unplugged.  Not wireless, but totally unplugged.  Off the grid.  As in no iPad, iPhone, MacBook, iPod or other devices.

First, my husband and I spent a few days in Texas with my parents and my 99 year-old Grandma Lola.  Fortunately, there was not enough time for a Scrabble game because she still beats me every time.  It must be all that practice doing the New York Times crossword puzzle….

After that, we headed to my parents’ cabin in Ruidoso, in the mountains of southern New Mexico.  We loved being in the cabin and in the pine forest, hanging out on the porch with my folks and starting the day together with a long hike.

The deer and elk, by the way, live on the river facing their cabin and they come right up to the house every morning.
As always, I was inspired by my mother’s design sense.  While my parents’ home in Texas is edited and sophisticated and the cabin in Ruidoso is full of unusual collections and it’s a bit intentionally rough around the edges, both homes have a distinctive narrative.  They tell the stories of their city life and their country life, their family and friends and they tell the stories of artisans and craftsmen who have contributed to them.

The cabin is full of art done by local artists (friends of my parents), books, family photos, quirky collections like my mother’s paint-by-numbers, embroidered testers, Western bronzes, bears in trees and the menus she collected when we lived in Paris.  In anyone else’s hands, it would be a horrifying hodge podge, but Phyllis May’s curatorial eye organizes all this into something so wonderful you don’t ever want to leave.

Moving on, we spent the last few days of our vacation in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, with my brother and sister-in-law and our cute, cute nieces, Tessa and Samantha.  Hiking through the mountains in the morning is awe-inspiring.  It reminded me of something I was told years ago and try to remember:

All of your design problems are solved in nature.

What do you think of that?  Is Mother Nature ever “off”?  How are you inspired by nature in your own design?

Happy to be back and feeling quite energized by my technology break!  Have a great week…..

One Door Closes, Another Door Opens: New Projects!

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Right now, I’m tying up loose ends on a few projects–and I’m digging into some fantastic new construction projects right here in La Jolla.  I’m so excited about this!

This is one of the parts of any project I love the most:  the blue sky phase.  This is where we bubble out all the need-to-haves and want-to-haves and discover how we can make the home significant for the homeowner.

Then, we go to work on the schematic design.

The lot on my first project has a fabulous ocean view, so siting the house right is absolutely critical.  We’ve spent hours looking at the grading plan, walking the site and scurrying up and down ladders to get onto the existing structures so that we know exactly how everything looks from every spot on the property.  For the record, climbing onto roofs is not my favorite part of the project!

As I said, we’re just beginning the project and everything at this stage is still very schematic.  In other words, we have a general floor plan in place but we haven’t fully fleshed it out–not by a long shot–and everything is still shifting.  So, I’ll wait until we are more finalized on that to post about the floor plan…..

By the way, I’ve worked with the architect on this project for many years and because we’ve done so many projects together, we have an almost telepathic work style.  It’s going to be a lot of fun to team up with her again!

This family wants an indoor/outdoor home, comfortable for entertaining on an intimate as well as a large scale.  Since this La Jolla beach house will be a place for friends and family to visit and to gather, I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about how to accommodate guests of all ages.

So, here are some of the thought bubbles I have so far, via Pinterest.

I’m really liking the idea of using part of the second floor family room for bunk beds.  It’s an efficient use of space.  I love the feel of tucked-away, cozy spots, which can also multipurpose for reading or just hanging out.

Or maybe building a great multi-bunk unit in one of the secondary bedrooms is the way to go.

What do you think of the bunk idea?

Looking forward to sharing this project with you as it progresses!  Hope you are all off to a great week.

Images via Pinterest.

My Mid-Week Made-In-America Slow Luxe Design Series: Galbraith & Paul

Yesterday, my very stylish friend and nieghbor, Sue, told me she was ready for a refreshing redo in her wonderful, breezy ocean view La Jolla home.  Immediately, the subtle block printed fabrics of Galbraith & Paul sprang to mind.  They are a perfect combination of elegant handmade artistry, fresh, yet sophisticated, colors and intricate patterns that seems perfectly suited to my friend and her amazing home.  And guess what?  Galbraith & Paul is perfect for today’s Mid-Week Made-In-America Series!

Galbraith & Paul was founded in Philadelphia in 1986 by Liz Galbraith & Ephraim Paul as a hand papermaking studio specializing in lighting.  Now, this studio workshop specializes in hand block printed textiles, handmade rugs, and studio printed wallpaper available to the trade. The wall covering is a newer addition and it is designed by Liz Galbraith.  (I am definitely seeing my friend, Sue’s, powder room in one of these gorgeous papers.)

By the way, these talented artists also make a line of block printed pillows and lighting exclusively for Room & Board.

Artisans in the Galbraith & Paul Studio work together to create fabrics with a subtle and elegant spirit.  In true studio workshop tradition, designs evolve in original and unexpected ways.  In my mind, this is what truly sets the design experience of using a handcrafted product apart from a machine made product.  Galbraith & Paul studio members care about the process of making as much as the product itself–and their dedication to their craft truly shines through.

What I love about Galbraith & Paul are the wonderful tiny imperfections in the hand-blocked surface. These are the telltale signs of craft.  If you take a look at the image of the G & P artist creating this Lotus pattern below, you can see what that is about.  Aaaah, Galbraith & Paul….you’re not perfect, but you’re perfect for me. Wasn’t that a Grace Jones song back in the ’80s?

All images via Galbraith & Paul.

My Mid-Week Made-in-America Slow Luxe Design Series: Leontine Linens

Welcome to the first article in my new Mid-Week Made-In America Slow Luxe Series!  I can’t tell you how excited I am to share this with you every week.  Sourcing luxurious locally and domestically handcrafted items for the home is so key to my Slow Luxe Design philosophy that I really want to let you in on some interesting Made In America stories.

Well, there are few Made in America companies that epitomize the luxury of local hand craftsmanship more than New Orleans’ Leontine Linens.  So here’s their wonderful story:

While preparing for her wedding, Leontine Linens’ founder, Jane Scott Hodges, came across her grandmother’s trousseau in the cellar of her parents’ 1780s Kentucky farmhouse. Inspired by her discovery, she began seeking for her own bridal trousseau emblazoned with her new monogram. After scouring the New Orleans shops and boutiques where she and her soon-to-be husband lived, Hodges was surprised and disappointed by the lack of custom fine linens, identifying a need in the marketplace. Shortly after, she discovered the Kentucky-based Eleanor Beard studio, an historic all-female company that, since 1921, has hand-created linens known the world over for their superb quality.

Jane Scott began Leontine Linens in 1996 to showcase the artisinal work of the Eleanor Beard Studio.  In 2002, Leontine Linens acquired the historic Kentucky-based studio and to this day carries on its tradition of guiding clients through the selection process and crafting each piece of couture linen entirely by hand.

And, by the way, it is a swoon-worthy selection process!  In addition to all of the exquisite monogram styles Leontine Linens is known for, there are so many elegant border treatments, edge trims, accessories, fabric choices, and of course, there are beautiful quilts, table linens, sheets, towels, blanket covers, nursery accessories……  So many completely delicious choices!

So back to the Eleanor Beard Studio:  Everything Leontine Linens creates is tailor made to order by one of the 25 specialized artisans in the original Eleanor Beard Studio workroom in the tiny town of Hardinsburg, Kentucky.  The Studio’s first product and main focus for the first years of business was the hand-quilted comforter.  A special form of quilting called Trapunto was revived by the studio and is still done today.

I absolutely love receiving an order from Leontine:  Each piece comes with a beautiful card signed by every one of the artisans who created the piece.

Leontine’s flagship store on Magazine Street in Uptown New Orleans, opened in the late summer of 2005, was inspired by the Eleanor Beard boutiques of the 1950s.  This serene and airy space, designed by local New Orleans architect Brian Bockman, serves as a refuge from the typical retail experience and recreates the “salon” atmosphere that Eleanor Beard herself pioneered in her couture linen stores.

I could possibly go on all day about Leontine Linens, but here are a few things I haven’t mentioned.  First, what Leontine Linens has brought to heirloom linens is a youthful, fresh approach.  It works as well in traditional settings as it does in modern settings.  It goes places no monogram has gone before.  It just plays well with others.  In the room with the punchy yellow monogram (that’s Alcott), I paired it up with Kelly Wearstler for Groundworks Lee Jofa prints on the window and bed drapery and Studio Bon for Schumacher on the bench.  That hardly says “Meemaw”.  In the more classic blue and white room, I used the Trey monogram with an Oscar de la Renta chevron ribbon silk drapery backdrop.  It’s timeless.


Now, here’s the most fantastic thing about Leontine Linens’ couture products: They are meant to be used and enjoyed every day. And that’s the ultimate luxury. Speaking of which, enjoy your day–and the rest of your week! Back Monday…..

Doodle Home Illuminates Some Great Strategies for Choosing the Right Light

One of the first changes we made in our home when we moved into it 19 years ago was adding dimmer switches to many of our lights. They make a lot of sense, adding more light when needed and allowing for a softer glow for parties or a romantic dinner. Those dimmers were smart remedies, says North Carolina-based Margi Kyle – “The Designing Doctor.”

“We live with way too harsh of a lighting system in our homes,” the “doctor” recently told me. Kyle, who has worked in interior design for some 40 years and was based in San Francisco, Vancouver and Toronto before moving south, is sharing those thoughts and others this month at High Point Market (April 21-26) in High Point, N.C. Kyle’s “Power of Color & Light Working Together” seminar helps attendees narrow down the selection of colors in a home and then discusses how to properly illuminate the spaces.

As past national chairman of the board of the Interior Design Society (IDS) and vice president of networking for Women in the Home Industry Today (WITHIT), Kyle has much to offer.

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Margi Kyle, “The Designing Doctor”

Here, the good “doctor” sheds light for Doodle Home members on ways to illuminate interior spaces:

Q: What type of lighting should every room have?
A: There are three levels of lighting that every room needs. First, consider, say, an overhead light, like a fan with a light on it, which I try to turn off as fast as I can. That overhead light is just for getting into a space – anytime you have lighting from above, it causes stress so I try to turn that off quickly.

Then you need task lighting, which are lamps and pendants, etc. for reading, crafts, writing, etc. And finally there is atmosphere or mood lighting, which comes from below and shines up. And don’t forget about unusual lighting, like rope lighting for the outdoors or a porch, candles and more.

Q: How do you get it just right?
A: Play with it. Get different looks and feels. When it seems just right, keep it. When I do a house, I’ll go in with different types of bulbs, lamps, etc. and play with the effects until we’ve reached the best for the client.

Q: How do you feel about LED (Light-Emitting Diode) lights?
A: Designers are freaking out about the new LED lights. I absolutely love them. I switched my whole house to LED, which provides triple the light and less wattage, less energy. It’s cleaner lighting; you can see better and you don’t get that yellow glow, which in my house looks ridiculous.

Q: Do you have any unusual lighting in your home?
A: I’ve got rope lighting in my laundry room. It’s fun and creates a super-cool ambiance.

Here, we flick the switch on some of our favorite lights:

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Photo Credit: Bronson Pate of Bauman Photographers

SHIP SHAPE “I try to look for great stories in lighting,” says designer Andrea May of California-based Hunter/Gatherer. “My passion is ‘slow luxe design’ – inheritable design, which is mindfully choosing high-quality, handcrafted and vintage pieces with a story. I can’t think of an area where that is more important than lighting.” For about 40 years, this chandelier sat over the bar at an elegant seafood restaurant that May and her family would frequent for special occasions. “My 20-year-old son, from the time he was a very small boy, loved to look at the ship,” May recalls. About 13 years ago, the designer noticed the restaurant had undergone renovations and the ship was gone. “I asked the manager what had happened to the chandelier and he told me to call someone at a warehouse.” Long story short, a week later, May was the proud owner of a beautiful 1940s French ship chandelier.

Recently, the chandelier went into this kitchen cupola, which is papered in gold Threads Raindrops wall covering. (“It looks like tiny champagne bubbles drifting up from the ship.”) For contrast, May partnered the ship with more modern lighting from The Urban Electric Company over the sink and across the kitchen over the banquette (not shown). “These lights are handcrafted, timeless and made in America, which are the things I look for in new lighting.”

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Photo Credit: Grey Crawford

BRANCHING OUT Lighting makes for interesting focal points in this room, designed by Elizabeth Gordon of Elizabeth Gordon Studio in California. “The hanging fixture was a custom faux bois piece that I designed to add an organic element, in lieu of a more traditional chandelier,” explains Gordon. Her goal was to tie the lighting in with the cool-green palette and woods-inspired wallpaper. “It’s a wonderful tongue-in-cheek take on what a light source would look like if it were made from tree branches,” she says. The lamps on the sideboard are vintage ceramic pieces that Gordon found locally. She paired them with new custom linen shades. “Their color and classic urn shape added enough of a classic traditional touch to keep the room truly transitional in style.”

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Photo Credit: Alexia Fodere

SOME SIXTIES SASS The artichoke Murano glass chandelier in this room was created in the 1960s, explains Ivonne Ronderos, owner of DKOR Interiors in North Miami, Fla. “We wanted to balance the space,” Ronderos says. The dining table is a midcentury modern piece refurbished with brass. “We didn’t want anything with metal on top; that way we could keep the balance.” As for the ceiling, Ronderos says that if it were all white, the glass in the fixture and beyond would not be as appreciated as they are with the special papered backdrop.

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Photo Credit: Lesley Anton

ORIGINAL ORGANIC Ceramic artist and designer Lesley Anton is inspired by many sources – the natural world, architecture, the human form, and machinery. Her lighting designs are a surprising and intriguing addition to any interior. Take, for example, this barnacle pendant, a departure from her traditional table and floor lamps. “The pendant elevates our ceramic forms to new heights,” says Anton. A cluster of peaceful, organic forms hovering in the atmosphere, the light’s design features a sea green glaze on the interior with an unglazed exterior. “It’s wheel-thrown porcelain with satin nickel hardware,” adds Anton.

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SMOOTH IN SILVER This table lamp from the Allegretto collection by Fine Art Lamps comes in a platinized silver-leaf finish and features subtle brown highlights. Its white textured linen shade adds a polished touch.

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A NEW LEAF A wrought iron, lighthearted sconce with delicate twigs and leaves adds character to interiors. From Currey & Company, the Tivoli Wall Sconce can be hard-wired or plugged in.

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KING OF THE LIVING ROOM Not just for Leos, this 20-inch-high Barbara Cosgrove lamp with a lion’s head evokes a regal feel, thanks to the intriguing resin sculpture.

Megan Swoyer is a Midwest-based lifestyle editor and writer whose work appears in Michigan Blue magazine, Sherwin-Williams’ swstir.com, Detroit Home magazine, Country’s Best Cabins magazine, Shore magazine, patch.com and other print and online publications.