June 8, 2009

at last! our HGTV air date has been announced!

Wow. Talk about surprised! :) After three and a half years of waiting, we are finally going to see our house on HGTV's "What You Get For The Money"!

HGTV's website lists our episode (episode 710) to be aired on July 5th at 12:30pm Central Time and again on August 24th at 6pm Central Time.

I admit to a little anxiety about all of this... as you all know, that house was our former home and there's quite a "story" there. (See this) Also, I don't think I'll even recognize myself or my husband anymore- along with our residence, we've changed after three and a half years, too! :)

On another more somber note, one of our neighbors (and beloved friend) that joined us with his family that day for the "lifestyle shoot" in our episode tragically passed away last year from an accidental fall from a ladder. He was only 45 years old, and he was the visible heart of our neighborhood. I'm not sure if his part of the film will make the edit for the show or not, but if it does it will be very difficult to see. :( We miss him so much...

So along with the excitement of this announcement, there's also some bittersweet memories involved. However, I know there is a "time to every purpose" and I also know the long delay in airing this show was certainly a Divine arrangement. I really look forward to sharing our former home with everyone through such a great venue. Wow. HGTV!! :)

I'll send another blasty-blast out again here when the date gets closer. I might regret these announcements after I actually see the episode, as it may be super goofy or something... but if that happens--- you don't know me. ;)

Happy Decorating!

April 7, 2009

home exterior color recipes - "as the wheel turns"

I have to admit, I'm obsessed with color. I know this isn't much of a shocker- it's a huge part of what I do, after all. But I worry about myself sometimes...

You see, I'm never without my Sherwin-Williams fan deck. EVER. It's with me at the doctor's office, it's with me in the back yard, it's with me in the shower, and it's with me on vacation. It's with me because it's in my HEAD, and let me tell 'ya- it never stops spinning!

I find that every space I enter is instantly processed and translated into the corresponding Sherwin-Williams color. I can walk into a home and spout off colors as we walk through the rooms, no fan deck required. I do it in the bank, I do it in hotel rooms, I do it when I'm sitting in the dentist's office. "Oh- there's restrained gold with Ivoire. And there's Sawdust... and Fireweed!"

Sooooo.... I was gathering photos to show an internet client some examples of exterior color combinations, and then it hit me- I could use these to let everyone in on my color wheel game- woohoo! Let's spin that wheel!

The photos below are not houses that I chose colors for, they are just a random sampling from around my neighborhood. I call these "color recipes" because they are just that: recipes. Just like in cooking- you can't go messing with the recipe and expect it to come out right. (This includes the roof color, which I didn't dare attempt- too many variables!) Every color has to be used with the others for the overall "look" to be achieved here. You can't go painting the brick the color of the recipe and then painting the trim a color that's not in the recipe. You know what that's a recipe for? DISASTER. ;)

All of the color recipes are really "educated guesses", but I stand behind them in case you're itching to get a paint gun out this weekend. :)

So let's break down this beauty up there... This has always been one of my favorite makeovers in my neighborhood- this house just oozes "bold and confident". Here's the recipe:

  1. Body- Cast Iron SW6202
  2. Shutters- Minwax stain Cherry
  3. Trim/Window Frames (and gutters!)- Tricorn Black SW6258
  4. Door- Minwax stain Cherry

This is another great little renovation, with the front porch as the star! Here's the mix:
  1. Body: Totally Tan SW6116
  2. Shutters: Coastal Plain SW6192, whitewashed
  3. Trim: Biscuit Sw6112
  4. Door: Rock Garden SW6195

I really like the drama in this one- all that gorgeous contrast really makes this little house "pop". The window frames painted black are a standout feature, also- very modern! Recipe:
  1. Body: Rare Gray SW6199
  2. Shutters/Window Frames: Tricorn Black SW6258
  3. Trim: Extra White SW7006
  4. Door: Heartthrob SW6866

Another "red door" beauty, with a lighter mix:
  1. Body: Spalding Gray SW6074
  2. Shutters: Tricorn Black SW6258
  3. Trim: Extra White SW7006
  4. Door: Stop SW6869

This is a very classic color combination, and it always works!
  1. Body: Compatible Cream SW6387
  2. Shutters: Rare Gray SW6199
  3. Trim: Dover White SW6385
  4. Door: Andiron SW6174

Here we have a very warm, welcoming color combo- a little rustic mixed in with the cottage style... Recipe:
  1. Body: Restrained Gold SW6129
  2. Shutters: Stained Minwax Golden Pecan
  3. Trim: Divine White SW6105
  4. Door: Stained Minwax Early American

This is a nice sleek, modern exterior combination. Kinda makes me think I'm going to walk into something really cool past the front door!
  1. Body: Anonymous SW7046
  2. Shutters: Iron Ore SW7069
  3. Trim: Interactive Cream SW6113
  4. Door: Fired Brick SW6335

I just LOVE this house... I stalk it regularly! ;) It reminds me of the houses in Sweden, which are so full of charm and personality! Here's the recipe:
  1. Body: Extra White SW7006
  2. Trim: Silver Strand SW7057
  3. Shutters: Composed SW6472
  4. Door: Silver Strand SW7057

There are many, many houses in the Memphis area that are done in this style- what sets this one apart and makes me head over heels for it is that wonderful rust wash on the door and shutters! (It's there year-round, not just for Halloween. I just happened to take the photo around that time...)

You rarely see this kind of creativity on a 1.5 million dollar house- most of the time these bold strokes are found on the smaller homes in Midtown, which is our more "artsy" area. I give mad kudos to the owner for showing some individuality- so refreshing and very unexpected!

  1. Body: Proper Gray SW6003
  2. Shutters: I'm guessing that this is a Modern Masters faux finish treatment- possibly using metal effects and a patina aging solution?
  3. Trim: Snowfall SW6000
  4. Door: Same treatment as shutters

Well, that's it for today's color recipes! Don't worry- I'm not done yet....there are more exteriors to post tomorrow on the next episode of "As The Wheel Turns".... ;)

P.S. If one of these photos is your home, please shoot me an email- I'd love to give credit where credit is due for these great color examples!

April 2, 2009

eyed at etsy: baby butterflies

Look closely at these little 3D hand-cut butterflies from AlmondTreeFrames on Etsy... they are actually cut from your own photos of your little one! I'm overdosing on preciousness here...

Since we're short on babies in the Champagne family, but COVERED in pets- I ordered one of these beautiful creations for my Mom-in-law as a Christmas gift, using photos of her beloved boxer dogs. It came out beautifully, and she was so thrilled with it that she cried- which made me very happy. This is my goal in all gift-giving efforts: CRY! Cry me a river! ;)

If you're not into the butterfly theme, you can also have these photo cut-outs created in shapes of airplanes, frogs, hearts, and dinosaurs.

The artist is in Australia, so there's a little bit of a lead time after you order- but it's sooooo worth it. As a bonus, you'll also be the hit of any birthday, housewarming, or gift-giving occasion by being able to say- "Oh, I got this for you from Australia". :)

Here are some other great designs from AlmondTreeFrames on Etsy:

April 1, 2009

got grout?

Grout, grout, grout. Who would have thought that such a thin little line could completely change the look of a whole design? (I'm rhymin' and stealin' today, huh?!)

Choosing the right grout color can drastically affect the outcome of your tile project, yet it's often a decision that is overlooked. So many people I have talked to have left this decision up to the tile supplier or their tile installer- and this can be a recipe for "not cute"! Most of the time, that means you will end up with gray grout- and that's not usually going to complement the tile or the overall project.

So why does it really matter? Check out these installations, using the same tile- but different grout colors:

Tile with black grout

Same tile with almond grout (laid on the horizontal, though)

See what I mean? This same tile takes on a whole new look with a different grout color! Here's another example using red glass tiles:

Red glass tile with red grout

Red glass tile with white grout

This is a more dramatic example, showing how a contrasting grout (the white) can really make a statement in the design. Contrasting grout color always brings out the geometry of the tile, and this is a strong statement in a room. That can be a good thing, but it's not always the desired result.

Unlike the other photos, the red glass tile with the white grout is not one of my own installations. I don't use white grout, even on wall projects. It is such a high maintenance choice, and rarely stays white- even with sealer or frequent bleach pen treatments. It's evil. Just don't do it. If you do anyway, come back after three months so I can say "I told you so." ;)

Grout in the same color family as the tile (the red on red example) can make the overall installation appear larger and more uniform. It also gives a sleeker, more contemporary look.

You may have chosen to use a multi-colored tile (as shown in the hexagonal mosaic above) so you'll have to make a choice from several grout color options. In that situation, go with the most predominant neutral color in the tile or choose a grout color that is the same as the paint or countertop in the area.

Not everyone gets to start from scratch, of course. If you've "inherited" a place with some grout that you hate, never fear... there are options!

  • You can scrape out the existing grout and re-grout. Good luck with that, it's NOT a fun project.
  • If you are wanting darker grout, you can stain it yourself. Here's an option. Some products say they can take grout from dark to light, but I haven't seen this with my own two eyes. If anyone has done this successfully, please let me know!
  • You can actually hand paint your grout with flat paint. Here's instructions for that.

If anyone has any other option or method that worked well, please chime in and tell us what you did!

Happy Grouting-

March 30, 2009

a house sinks, a heart rises.........my journey to: “ I AM”

It’s been exactly a year since I’ve been “here” on my blog… a maddening, saddening, gladdening year. So- what of my unexplained absence, you ask?

To begin, this won’t be one of those short, sweet, twitter-type entries… this is a manifesto, a dissertation, a “take-your-adderall–and-concentrate” kinda saga. This is a true story- a (formerly) painful story I know I’m supposed to share. This is the tale of losing a house and finding a home...

A year ago today I realized we were going to be moving, whether I liked it or not. Moving from the custom house that we had just built less than three years before. Moving from the house that I just felt like we had settled into…. the house that was published in magazines, filmed for HGTV, and was the closest manifestation of who I was.

You see, the house was sinking. Sinking like a rock. Sinking like the sunset. Sinking like the friggin’ Titanic, people.

We noticed the cracks in the bricks first. Soon to follow was doors not opening and closing, cracks throughout the floors, sinks dropping away from the granite tops, and doors finally getting to the point where they had to have paper towels wedged in them to stay closed. We couldn’t have locked the house if we wanted to! (Thank goodness we lived where we didn’t really need to lock the doors.)

The nightmare really kicked in turbo when the builder’s insurance adjustor visited and later deemed the house “the builder’s art”, which excluded it from coverage. Don’t laugh. (I did.) I wasn’t laughing in the end when it actually held up after lawyer review.

We held on and kept fighting for the house throughout the next months- it was an exhausting cycle of lawyers, paperwork, money, lawyers, crying, stress, money, lawyers, paperwork, stress, crying, lawyers, money. Yeah, fun for the whole family...

Oddly enough, I didn’t realize how truly awful everything was during that whole time until much later. (Don't think the cruel irony of this happening to an interior designer passed by me, either...) But now, with my new-found perspective, I realize it was literally like living inside a horror movie. Due to the cracks in the foundation, walls, floor, and doorways, the house was overrun with spiders. It was uncontrollable.

Over three months’ time, I got three brown recluse bites and my husband was bitten by a black widow. Random factoid of the day: brown recluses and black widows don’t respond well to pesticides, especially after they have established themselves in abundance around your home. They need to be totally saturated in the stuff, but they hide during the daylight hours. They will, however, find the time in their busy breeding schedule to come out at night and bite you while you sleep. If you didn’t already have arachnophobia, I apologize if you do now!

But- that wasn’t the only type of critter
that got through the cracks everywhere… let’s just say thank God I have four cats. I remember the first time I caught them all staring at the bottom of the refrigerator. They were all fascinated, and I couldn’t figure out what in the world they were doing! I posted a photo of the cats staring in a semi-circle on a decorating forum I’m a member of, and the girls on there told me exactly why they were staring at the bottom of the fridge. I thought I was going to pass out…

In recalling all of this, spiders and all, I’m just laughing now- but it wasn’t funny back then. I mean, my pest control guy came out so often and we got so close that I didn’t even bother to be home when he sprayed every 10 days or so!

Despite anything
regarding the legalities and where all that stood, there came a time when the house was uninhabitable. A contractor friend of mine had to break the news to me that the next episode of the “sinking house show” would feature the plumbing bursting under the concrete slab. Since it didn't (and never would) make sense to attempt to invest the almost 200K it would take to repair the house, it was time to go. I just didn’t know how I was going to do it. My heart, soul, and life savings was in that house. Or so I thought.

The life savings part
unfortunately still rings true, but a funny thing happened on the way to the moving date… I found my heart again, and my soul started to sing the sweetest, most authentic and joyful song. It was the song of “I AM”.

“I AM” really began early in the year, before the major drama. I started realizing that the house was big, and I had a lot of “things”. It also dawned upon me that there had been times when I didn’t even go upstairs for two months. TWO months. I had no reason to! My husband and I truly lived in about one-quarter of a 3500 square foot house. That’s crazy. Crazy, I tell you! I AM crazy.

Upon realizing that this move was really going to happen, I decided to have an estate sale. After I actually had to go upstairs to prepare for the sale, I soon realized that I had more “stuff” than anyone in the free world. Stuff I didn’t care about. Stuff that had no emotional pedigree. Stuff that was pretty, stuff that was nice, stuff that filled a space. Yet that stuff that was filling a space was emptying my spirit. I AM drowning in banality.

A house is a kind of living, breathing thing to me. This means that if I’m inhabiting a house, I feel I should have a relationship with it- a true connection. The house should hug me when I get home, comfort me when I’m sad, and welcome my friends when it’s time to celebrate. It should be a reflection of me, and I should be a reflection of it.

The only way this synergy and reciprocity is going to happen is if I share my true self with the house. If I fill my house with random stuff that looks great, but has no story and no resonance with me, how can I call that house mine? It could just as well be a builder’s model home or a staged house for sale. I looked around and the fact became clear: I AM not reflected in the space I’m living in.

The journey to “I AM” continued with the unavoidable repetition of this whole story to friends and neighbors. I began to realize that every time I told the story of the situation, people would either get really mad that the whole ordeal happened to me, or they would give me that look you get when you tell someone your pet passed away. I also realized that I didn’t feel either way about the whole thing. I didn’t want to kill the builder and get revenge, and I didn’t want to sit around crying and eating cheetos every night. I wasn’t angry, and I wasn’t sad anymore. It dawned on me: I AM just not feeling “loss” in this situation.

Actually, I was happy and “light”, for lack of a better word to describe the feeling. You see, the big houses come with big responsibilities... they can be quite a time-suck. There’s so much upkeep to be done all the time, it’s just non-stop. Added to that, there’s the neighborhood pressure that’s constantly there. It was a very nice neighborhood- and you know, you don’t want to be referred to as “THAT yard”! So- every time a single weed would pop up in between yard-cutting days, I felt the pressure to immediately go out and whack it. I became the Tony Soprano of the yard. I dared a weed to pop up! Yet, as Tony discovered also, it’s quite stressful having so many to kill and so little time. I realized I AM not a large house person, and I AM not a yard work person.

When the search finally began for another house, it was pretty overwhelming. The whole reason we ended up building before is that we couldn’t find the perfect fit in a house that was already on the market. I realized things hadn’t changed on the real estate front. But I had.

Several entries back on this blog, I posted a whole plethora of cottage photos. I’ve always loved the look and feel of cottages, and I intended to do a whole little series on here about “the cottage”. Little did I know, my heart had its own intentions regarding cottages. It was going to live in one, and it knew it a LONG time ago.

I’m gonna break left on you for a minute and tell you about my heart’s intentions. I have to watch what my attention is given to, because attention seems to turn into intention, and then things tend to just “happen”! I don’t mean that it’s just me going all "law of attraction" and manifesting all kinds of stuff out of the blue- I think it’s a result of praying, God’s will, and my desires all merging together somehow…? I’ve found if my heart is set on something- is truly adamant about it- and is unafraid- it happens.

All of this is important you see, because my heart wanted a cottage. It was no coincidence that I blogged about them, or that I kept reading about them and thinking about them. My heart was really, REALLY set on one, and I’m thrilled to say- my heart now lives in one! We moved into a precious 1941 post-war cottage in an awesome neighborhood that is full of activity and optimism. People are always out walking or chatting, the trees are tall and beautiful, and birds and squirrels are everywhere… bliss!

Our cottage is around 2000 square feet, which is just right for us. It also needed lots of updating, which I was all too happy to begin! (Still in process...) This house is perfectly imperfect, which I have found to be sooooo liberating. The beauty of an old house is that it has this laid back character, which shows itself in a slightly slanting floor here, an uneven countertop there, and some chipped cobblestones on the pathway out there. These are things that I'm normally asked to correct as a designer, but for me, right now- I love the irregularities! These badges of time help to relieve the pressure of maintaining a state of constant perfection.

When a house is new, your goal is to keep it looking- well, new. I’m here to tell ya- that ain’t easy, unless you’re willing and able to hire everything out. The cottage doesn’t demand all of that, it just exudes comfort and ease. I'm working towards mine also exuding "modern" and "bright", but that's another post. ;)

I only wish other people understood all these positive things. I wish they understood how much the whole situation has transformed our lives. After moving in and running into people who inevitably ask about what happened and where we’re living now, I realize I’m getting that “your pet has passed away” look again. People seem to automatically view any version of scaling back as negative. It wouldn’t matter if I told them the house was made of platinum and gold and has bonafide angels protecting it… I still get “the look”- because this house is smaller than the other one, it’s in the city (its own stigma to some), it’s not custom built or brand new, and it’s not the house that was in all the magazines and filmed by HGTV.

But I can tell you what this house IS. This house is who I AM.

The other house was who I thought I was supposed to be. And I've finally found the beautiful joy that comes from knowing the difference. :)

March 30, 2008

doing what you're meant to do

snowstars (by champagne.chic)
Illuminating life's path

Holly over at the superb Decor8 blog had a reader who inquired about "...how to find your calling in the design world." Holly put it out to the blog readers to offer suggestions, which got my mind turning! I wanted to share my response here, as well... Here are my thoughts:

Other than design, there isn't a subject I'm more passionate about than finding your "calling", "life's path", or "destiny". I've been fortunate enough to find mine, but it was a curvy road- not a straight path!

At the risk of sounding WAY "out there" (I'm not, I promise!), I have to say: I'm someone who believes in connection. I think there's a reason for what happens in every single moment of every day. (I think there’s a reason you’re reading this right now.) I also think if you stripped down the diversions in your life, you would discover that every person was born with specific talents to contribute to the world. I feel these talents are what connect us together to create an interdependent society that can sustain itself. The problem with this potential for utopia seems to be the "distractions" we encounter along the way...

What are the distractions that prevent us from finding our true calling? They are varied and numerous!

Money is a huge distraction. It's a necessity, of course, but it can also be a destiny-blocker.

I had a cushy corporate job, but I was using about 5% of my true talent and I was successfully "faking" the other 95%. After a few years of this, I hit the proverbial rock-bottom. There came a day when I said (out loud): "I would rather sell our house and everything I have than do this another day."

I quit my job the next day
and began designing full-time... I didn't have to sell off everything in the end- but I was willing.

Are you there yet? Are you willing to sacrifice some things of comfort to do what you love? Will you put your life in a state of upheaval to fight for this dream? If you can answer "yes" to these, then you've already found your true calling. That dream that you'd fight for is your gift and your calling- do it!

Another distraction on your road to "you" could be your parents and friends' thoughts about who you should be. Although other people's input can open your eyes to facets of yourself that you may never have considered, their input could also be leading you down THEIR path- not yours.

If you take nothing else away from what I'm writing here, take this: Stop asking for permission to be who you are! Do not allow others to tell you that you can't do something or can't succeed. Also, do not allow yourSELF to tell you this, either!

See, my big barrier was myself. I thought I had to go back to college to get a design degree to do what I loved. I was SO wrong.

The truth is,
if your dream is to be a decorator you don't need a degree or certification for this career. You do need innate talent and business skills... both of which came from my parents, not the university. If I would have waited for the university to tell me that I was an "official" decorator, I'd still be there now! (Don't confuse interior decorating with interior design, which does require a degree for certification.) Stop waiting for outside verification of your abilities and start refining them and sharing them now!

Another way to remove the barriers to finding your path is to erase the outside influences for a while and be QUIET with yourself. Turn off the TV and computer for a week and sit. Your mind will eventually lead you to what you are most interested in when it is stripped of superficial guidance.

Write down what you start thinking about or what you start doing during this time... you will be able to make the connections when you re-visit this journal later. This is a wonderful exercise to find your natural interests and talents!

On the opposite end of the exercise above is the distraction of looking too hard. This one is easy. It's the same story you hear about people who are looking for their soulmate: The minute they stop trying so hard, it happens!

If you are frustrating yourself in your quest for your destiny, you won't be in the right state of mind to see your little opportunities and "signs" along the way. Look for your calling, but don't obsess over it.

Along those lines, don't dismiss the people and things you are experiencing before your big "life epiphany". Everyone you are coming in contact with now is a piece of your puzzle. I can't count how many people that were put in my path before my career change that were somehow a part of my success afterwards. Remember... a completed puzzle is made up of many tiny pieces. Your "pieces" are the moments you are living right NOW.

Speaking of life's "moments"...
I mentioned above that I never had to sell off things to sustain myself after I began designing full-time. How did I do that? I didn't plan it on a spreadsheet, create a sales forecast, or do a powerpoint. So why was I able to be successful on my own, without the corporate check?

The answer is: I have no idea!
What I DO know is that after I began practicing my true talents and sharing the gift of decorating with others through my business, my life took on an inertia that wasn't there before.

I became opportunistic of every moment
and recognized there were chances for success in each one. I treated each moment and each person as if they would make or break me. That's when the business grew FAST- like "magic".

This is described by athletes
as "flow" or "being in the zone". I believe it to be God's affirmation that you are doing what you were born to do. Doors will open for you, "coincidences" will occur frequently, opportunities will come your way, and authentic success is yours.

Authentic success should always be your goal in finding your calling. This isn't necessarily monetary success. It's REAL satisfaction with your work, your contribution to others, and your "self". It makes you feel like the best version of who you are- right now, in THIS moment.

You only have THIS moment, so authentic success is never absolute. There are other moments to come, and more ways to learn, grow and give along the way.

That's the beauty of finding your life's path-
it's a PATH, not a destination. The creation of yourself never ends, so get yourself on your path and begin enjoying the magic along the way! :)

February 27, 2008

get thyself to ebay expeditiously

whisper @ elvismas (by macwagen)

Of ALL the designer secrets in the world,
Ebay has to be the biggest and best. If you take nothing else with you from reading this blog, take this: Get thyself to Ebay for the best deals on everything design, decor and renovation related! There is no substitute.

This tip was inspired by
my recent trip to a local retail showroom. I was minding my own business, casually viewing a collection of faucets... when BAM- I literally backed into this sink:

I almost spit up my Diet Coke
when I saw the price tag... Surely they jest. This is just crazy talk.

I say that because of this:

In case that's too small, the total price of this sink (with shipping) is $124.95.

Yes, it's the same sink. The same gauge, the same size, the same everything.

I rest my case. :)