Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Holiday Decor at the Blair House

Across the street from the White House, the Blair House is treated with royalty with beautiful festive holiday decor.

image Blair House has stood facing the White House for more than 180 years, witness to events of extraordinary importance for the nation and her people. For decades, the rooms of this stately home have played an even more active role, serving United States foreign policy as a gracious residence, meeting place and sanctuary for visiting heads of state.

The Blair house gets decked out for the holidays with the generosity of designers who were called in for help by Magazine Publishers of America to volunteer in designing holiday makeovers on 17 historic spaces. With only two short weeks notice from a half dozen lifestyle magazines, including Martha Stewart Living, This Old House, Traditional Home, Better Homes & Gardens, Mother Earth News and Natural Home. With such a huge task and so little time to create, let’s see how they pulled it off fabulously, shall we?

clip_image002[19] clip_image002[17] Martha Stewart Living designed a tiny replica of Blair House with lights in the windows.

With EXTREME care, they artfully decked the halls around the $100 million dollars worth of American antiques. No pressure or anything.

clip_image002 clip_image002[9] Lynni Megginson from L&M Designs used jeweled poinsettias, gold and crème silk ribbons, silver snowflakes and gold glitter "collars" on the reindeer adorned with pink glass ornaments on the fireplace mantel. Every single teeny tiny present under the reindeer on top of the sideboard has a miniature hand painted ornament tied to it.

The deadline was to finish for a special evening reception at the State Department that would be honoring families of government employees currently serving unaccompanied tours overseas that are in places to dangerous to have their families be with them.

They were certainly treated to some beautiful decorations that surely delighted them all. Along with a few delicious looking treats from the clan at Martha Stewart Living might have left them feeling a little hungry too.

clip_image002[25] clip_image002[27] Matching the colors of coral and pale green in the Blair House Dining room by making a candy theme, including a gingerbread Blair House along with lollipops and a pink feather tree hung with ribbon candies.

In the Truman Study, clocks were turned back to replicate a traditional old fashioned Christmas setting. Editors from This Old House contacted the Harry S. Truman Library & Museum in where they unearthed a list of Christmas gifts President Truman (who lived at the Blair House while it was being renovated) had received in 1951.

clip_image002[11] The staff at This Old House placed hand-knitted socks, vintage razor blades, a 1948 Life magazine, a soundtrack from "Paint Your Wagon, framed old photos of Truman, hand made ornaments and hung them on the tree. Three stockings, embroidered Harry, Bess and Margaret, were hung at the mantel.

Traditional Home magazine called in designer Barry Dixon to dress up the Lee Dining Room.

clip_image002[21] clip_image002[23] Barry set the table using monogrammed Blair House linen napkins mixed with colorful china and gift packages.

clip_image002[29] clip_image002[31] In the Lee Drawing Room, editors from Martha Stewart Living created ornaments based on the stylized birds on the 18th-century green Chinese wallpaper. Whimsical birds perch on the gold gilded branches that create an arch across the room. A peacock adorns the top the Christmas tree.

I am very grateful to all the designers and magazine publications that during these economic hard times were able to offer so much. As a result of their hard work brightening up the holiday for the deserving families. The men and woman that sacrifice so much to serve our country which we are very proud of, wishing all of them, their families and everyone a very happy holiday.

Most photos by Susan Biddle courtesy of Washington Post.

Monday, December 14, 2009

HOLIDAY DECORATING in a soft palette

When one usually thinks of festive decorating for the holidays, we might think of the contrast colors of red and green.   But, during the holiday season many might feel their stress levels rising, it can’t be just me……can it?   To see what seems to be the latest trend in holiday decorating of fresh crisp white and off-whites contrasted with green is a welcomed look that creates a soothing, calming feeling.

May you find some inspiration that might tempt/motivate you to create something to surround yourself in a soothing environment in this approaching too quickly holiday (again, is it just me that feels that way?)

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Merchandise display at Giannetti Home by Kate Burger of K8vision

DSC_1026 - CopyClient’s residence in Virginia by interior view

 image Image from Southern Living from Haven&Home 

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Images courtesy of Tobi Farley , visit for fabulous tips on Holiday decorating

imageCoastal Living




The shells and starfish remind me of someone else that looks towards nature and it’s elements for decorating.  The next post, as promised will include the much anticipated beautiful holiday mantel created by Gloria Blalock.  


Stay tuned…..

Happy Holidays…..

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Designer Holiday Decorations for the Georgetown Jingle 2009

Designed to Fight Childhood Cancer

Fourteen diverse and talented designers participated this year in the Georgetown Jingle, a notable cause that they are all honored to be a part of.  The Georgetown patients of Georgetown University Hospital’s Pediatric Hematology, Oncology, Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program will benefit from their support and hard work ensures that families facing cancer will have brighter holidays to come.

The designer’s magnificent holiday trees are on display at the Four Seasons in Washington DC, are infused with warmth and spirit, and overflowing with creativity and imagination.  The trees will be auctioned off for this great charity.  I am very happy to report that at least two of the trees have already been sold prior to the big event that will take place at the Four Seasons Hotel Washington DC, Sunday December 13, 2009.

Each designer was touched even more so, for this year they were each paired with a young cancer patient. Its motivation is evident; every tree seems to capture the essence of each child’s individuality.

Below are just three of the designers and some of their thoughts on creating magnificent trees for this wonderful cause.

First up, the team  for David Iatesta:

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Just as David Iatesta’s team put the finishing touches on their striking driftwood tree, a doctor who is regular VIP guest of the Four Seasons wanted to know which tree was the most expensive.  Dr. Alexander Karp of Palantier Technologies then purchased the tree for $15,000 in which he generously donated back to be given to the young patient or to display at the hospital to be enjoyed.

Matt Quinn the lead designer for the driftwood tree is Iatesta’s chief executive officer, said the tree took 500 man hours to construct.  The tree is assembled from driftwood collected throughout the summer on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay.  The perfect trunk for the tree came from a 9-foot-long salvaged cedar log that had been wonderfully weathered to a silvery gray.  It is strung like one of Iatesta’s exquisite chandeliers, using $3,000 worth of European crystal, and lit with the help of 20 battery packs hidden under the tree skirt.


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Gloria de Lourdes Blalock of Blalock Interiors tree “Let There be Light”.

Gloria says,“This title provides the association I have always felt is inherent between the words ‘light’ and ‘hope.’  For if we shed light on the issues associated with finding a cure for cancer, then we have equally put hope in the hearts of many. The many individuals that make the Georgetown Jingle such a success are doing just this. They are all pillars of light carrying the hopes for a cure in their tireless efforts to fundraise for this amazing event”.   ‘Let There Be Light’ and in its wake leave a trail of hope for the smiling faces and the tender hearts of our young heroes it has chosen to enlighten!”

Gloria’s source of inspiration for her tree, Eliza.  “She is a beautiful and brave little girl who battled with Lymphoma when she was only weeks old. Today, thanks to the care of doctors, such as Dr. Aziza Shad at Georgetown University Hospital, Eliza is a healthy little girl whose cancer has been confirmed to be in full remission”. 

Gloria’s tree has been sold to a generous gentleman who purchased the tree she designed last year.  He is so impressed with Gloria, her talent, her spirit and enthusiasm that he purchased the tree sight unseen.

Gloria’s tree showcases some of the holiday décor available from Pottery Barn on a beautiful ten foot Sugar Pine tree.

Last but not least, 

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Lynni Megginson of L&M Designs “Aspen Holiday” stunning tree is all about her adorable patient  she was paired with, Nicholas.  “Nicholas loves Christmas, he loves everything about Christmas and has the magic of Christmas in his heart. I wanted to evoke the dream of what Christmas would be – all the winter elements, combined with the fact that the tree is done in his honor”.  “Nicholas is one of the bravest little boys I have ever met. He was diagnosed with leukemia when he was 1 ½.  I took the spark in Nicholas’ eyes and translated it into a tree design that truly evokes the magic of a Traditional Christmas”.

Snow covered branches and bird nests, oversized sugar pine cones and puffy snowflake ornaments with yards and yards of plaid ribbon garland, iced twig clusters and festive holly stems all in a traditional red and green palette.

About Georgetown Jingle:

In 2006, the Georgetown Jingle was created by the Four Seasons Hotel Washington, JDS Designs, Inc., The Washington Design Center, and the Georgetown BID to raise money for pediatric oncology programs in the Washington DC Metro area. Thanks to the generosity of area businesses, restaurants, and design professionals, the Georgetown Jingle has raised $970,000 for the Pediatric Hematology, Oncology, Blood & Marrow Transplantation Program at Georgetown University Hospital.
The purpose of this family-friendly event is to celebrate the fashions of the holiday season and to support families battling cancer.  Support will be extended in 2009 to include Georgetown Hospital’s pediatric bone marrow transplantation program & their Childhood Cancer Survivorship Program, both led by Dr. Aziza Shad.

The Event:

Please come out for a fabulous cause,  purchase tickets  for the great event to the Georgetown Jingle Sunday December 13th 2009 from 4:00- 8:00 pm at the Four Seasons in Georgetown.

To read  about all the  designers and the wonderful trees they have created for such a great cause, please visit Washington Spaces Blog and Home and Design for more. 

Thank you to all your work and generosity in making the holiday season special.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Raising Money For Autism With Talent & A Love for Animals

Every once in awhile with no explanation,  sometimes with no warning, there is something that  moves us, that finds us inspired, giving us a a desire to share with others.  This can be a moment, a visual or perhaps a touching story.  That moment happened to me recently as I was perusing one of my all time favorite publications,  Traditional Home.  The November 2009 issue is filled with pages of the 2009 Classic Woman Awards, which share the stories of the devoted women that are caring and the ways they give back.   These women are all  inspirational with their amazing stories,  and one of these women, Kathryn Finney, a talented artist from Des Moines, is the heart warming story I am touched/inspired by that I would like to share. 


Artist Kathryn Finney is a  loving mom of an 11 year old son, Arthur who is autistic. Kathryn,  a devoted  mom, speaks fondly about her son  when asked to share some words. Arthur is a blessing and teaches me something every day. He is not very verbal, but works hard to please us/his teachers and enjoys his schoolwork. He has a long way to go to develop the skills to enable him to function independently in this world. It is, I'm sure, every mother's dream for normalcy for their child. This has always been our normal and we do believe there is something that he can contribute and we will find those skills and nurture him.”

One way she helps her son Arthur develop his skills is through participation in dog agility training as  part of his therapy.  Kathryn feels extremely blessed for the help she receives with Arthur’s  therapies and is gratified by any way she is able to give back.  She combines her love of animals and her talents to create wonderful pet portraiture.  25% of the price of all prints purchased from Finney Fun now through December 31, 2009 will  go to OAR (Organization for Autism Research) to benefit those with autism.  Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, is a neurological disorder that impairs a person's ability to communicate and form relationships with other people.

image     image      image Kathryn’s pet portraiture began 12 years ago when she painted her own Old English Sheepdog.   Animal owners can submit favorite photos of their beloved pets to give her an idea of the pet’s personality to allow her to transform them into a memorable painting that all pet owners will cherish.

Kathryn’s  fun, happy, touching art would fit in many places in a home,  especially in a child’s room, where they would be sure to put a smile on their faces.

image    Trad Home Kathryn Finney Golden ret art   image 

Kathryn Finney shows her caring and kindness in more ways than one. “With Arthur being autistic, I don't find it unusual to try to do something for the helping and inner healing of children with autism.  I starting raising funds for the Organization for Autism Research three years ago by running the Chicago Marathon. I thought, if I'm running, I should see if there is a relevant charity to contribute something for my efforts. The response to a short letter to family and friends was so overwhelming that three years later, I've raised over $23,000 and it continues.” 

Her generosity is also apparent in her volunteer work with a local Human Services agency where she teaches several autistic adults how to paint.  They come to my studio garage, have fun, and learn the rewards of painting. You would be amazed at their abilities. Often, I'm humbled by their talent.”

Kathryn also works with photographs to create colorful garden plans and landscape drawings to create beautiful works of art. 



Another notable mention raising money for Autism research, awareness and care, is:
The Acoustic for Autism Compilation, featuring compelling independent (and in some cases, unreleased) music specifically chosen to convey themes of hope and healing. image

 I highly recommend the purchase of these beautiful songs worthy of a great cause.  They are available everywhere digital music is sold, such as I-Tunes and Amazon.

Acoustic for Autism is a collaboration between childhood friends Louis Gendron and Michael Cusanelli. After 20 years, they reconnected and discovered the many things they still had in common, including careers in the entertainment industry, a continued passion for music, and the way autism had touched both of their families.

Acoustic for Autism relies solely on word of mouth, so please tell others about this lovely music, and of Louis and Michael’s generosity to donate 100% of the net proceeds to autism charities for research, awareness and care.

CD’s will be available mid December.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Fall Inspiration & Ghoulish Halloween Magic

Tis the season…………….OK, maybe not just yet, although it is approaching a little too quickly for many of us. So, prior to cutting down the tree and setting out the stockings, let’s focus on burgundy and golden hued tree lined streets,  The wonderful time of fall, the inspirations conjured by nature’s bounty, and how a little imagination can go a long way.

Fall and Halloween_-2-2  reedsw-spider  THEtree  
For true design inspiration on how to decorate in style for this spooky holiday, we turn to my dear friend Gloria de Lourdes Blalock’s Halloween Mantel. The following paragraphs are in her own words: (pic: Gloria loving fall)Luly-5

“With each and every season comes a fresh start, especially in the fall. On September 1st, no matter the year, the wind blows differently and slightly cooler. My thoughts turn to Autumn’s candy-corn colors, pumpkin patches, and the smell of wood burning  fireplaces wafting under an early evening sky. As the leaves begin to turn and cascade from the tall oak and maple trees, the once densely leafed branches begin to show their skeletal forms. And in these, and because of these, I find inspiration in the shadows they create.


For my 2009 Halloween Mantel, Manzanita branches anchor the vignette and help ground the grouping of ghoulishly inspired accessories. Two black crows perch  on the branches and watch the skeleton heads as candles flicker in their midst. An antique glass decanter filled with colored water, sits next to a fabulous bottle of Bubble Bath, and two crystal glasses sit to their left. The idea for this came from the phrase” ‘Pick Your Poison’. By positioning them side by side, it offers a subtle temptation for the not so feign at heart. An arrangement of dried white roses in an old Wedgewood black vase, serve as a backdrop for a small picture of a single eye. The eye watches you as you approach, and it sets an eerie mood around the display.


Finally, the old map of Cuba was the perfect background for a season of change. A feeling of decay looms below it on my mantel. It is my personal hope that the poison that surrounds my birthplace,  will find the joy it deserves in my next mantel and Laura’s future post: The hope, love, and light of the final Christmas in the first decade of the new millennium. And for Cuba… and for this Cuban born interior designer… a 2010 filled with the winds of change and a new beginning and branching out …on many different levels and in each and every season it will celebrate!”         

  skeletons grilling Fall and Halloween_-2  Fall and Halloween_-4    Fall and Halloween_-5  Fall and Halloween_-7     Fall and Halloween_-3     Fall and Halloween_


Photos above were taken in the Aurora Hills neighborhood or Arlington, Virginia, located just 5 minutes away from our nation’s capital.

Thank you to Gloria for sharing your beautiful words and awesome inspiration.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Exterior Lighting for Interiors

After much thought/debate on non rated UL fixtures in a bathroom from a previous post Chandeliers Brightening up the Bathroom the thought ran through my mind…….”just what exactly are some attractive options of exterior fixtures that can be used on the inside?”  With that question looming, it felt like it was time to source and share some products that are rated for wet locations that would compliment many interior settings.  Along with these products are several (OK many) inspiration rooms with fixtures that have the look (or maybe are) of exterior fixtures.  Since this concept seems to be quite popular, there is an abundance of wonderful items and images shown and it was hard to limit the choices.

Welcome, let’s see how an outdoor styled fixture can invite guests into your home.  image image 
An iron lantern takes center stage with the dark wood doors (Image left). Phoebe Howard designs a house in the Hamptons which has guests greeted by a beautiful staircase and antique styled lantern. (image right)

If you love good design, amazing quality and attention to detail, than you are going to want to become familiar with  FINE ART, a premier U.S. manufacturer of designer lighting. All their designs are developed in-house with a team of over thirty design and development specialists.  Be ready these are some pretty scrumptious outdoor hanging fixtures.  Any of these beauties would look lovely hanging in a foyer or staircase landing.
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Jessica Lagrange Interiors (Image left).            Kay Douglas (image right)

image Phoebe Howard  with that fabulous railing she pairs it with a white lantern in the upstairs landing.  In the background a lantern that draws you and your eye into the bedroom.

image Nate Berkus uses a lantern sconce in a hall, then take a peek at that fabulous round flush mount light in the bedroom at the foot of the bed.

Let’s see what is cooking up in the kitchen, shall we?

Multiple interesting shaped pendants hang over the island and in front of the windows giving the feel of a  rustic yet sophisticated space with it’s leather bar stools and dark wood cabinets. 
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Some rustic and refined pendants that could be comfortable lighting up any interior. 

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image The iron pendant lights over the granite island adds warmth and character to this elegant kitchen.

clip_image002[11] This generously sized cathedral-shaped fixture from Restoration Hardware would look very much at home indoors, in fact…..image

This striking kitchen displays a large lantern over the wood top island that resembles the one from RH.

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Corbett Lighting offers an attractive scroll detail on their outdoor Vineyard Hill Collection.  A pair of like lanterns hang beautifully in this charming kitchen. 

 TIME TO EAT: image
RIVER DUNES IDEAS HOUSE: The interior designer uses large-scale accents for instant impact. Here, the bold oversize hanging lantern will illuminate the space with its size and proportion create a simple yet graphic look.

                    image Elle Decor
The men behind Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters give 'eclectic' a new attitude in their Manhattan Apartment dining room with an antique French lantern over an English table with a billiard bench.   

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An array of lantern styled UL rated options: (click on photo for source) image

Loi Thai, owner of the ultra chic antiques shop Tone on Tone in Bethesda, illuminates his light and airy dining room with an oversized dramatic lantern. Grounding the space balances out the gorgeous table.

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An assortment of iron and glass fixtures that would work nicely in a range of interior settings.image A classic vintage looking lantern paired with gorgeous old French door cabinet creates a nice ambiance in which to enjoy a meal. Cottage Living.

 TIME TO RELAX:  Don’t forget to bring your glass of wine……….

 image Eric Cohler 

image The very affordable Pottery Barn Armonk Chandelier  would work in various places throughout the home. 

 image Kay Douglas
True to the Belgian style, this family room is comfortable and inviting but without a lot of furniture. Ancient French doors open into a custom media cabinet and provide the room's dramatic focal point.  With the hefty antique iron chandelier competing for it’s presence to be noticed. 

imageAnd……the living room that needs no introduction, Joni’s from Cote De Texas, who wishes she had made the switch from ceiling fan to lantern sooner.  Joni recently did a blog on her Top 10 Design Elements #5 Lighting and as always offers a wealth of information and displays an abundance of gorgeous images. 

Let’s go find a good book: imageBarry Dixon creates a cozy retreat in a expansive upstairs landing by grounding it with a massive lantern.


image  Barry Dixon (again, what can I say, I love that man!) the luxurious rustic & refined lantern adds yet another romantic element to this already dreamy divine bath.

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I  love these exterior fixtures by Troy from their Portola Collection.  With their hand forged iron, they have a vintage somewhat Parisian flair to them that would work well in a bath, sunroom, or porch.  But, would also look just at home over a great dining table or kitchen nook, or even a bedroom.

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UL rated lights can be found in many shapes, sizes, and styles, including oodles of wall scones that work well in many interior applications. 

imagePhoebe Howard from Cote De Texas   I am just crazy in love with the pattern on the floor.

TME TO RETIRE: Where shall we lay our head to rest? image image
Phoebe Howard (yes, again, I love her too :)) Imbues a nice balance of elegance and casualness by introducing lanterns into the bedroom.

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Jessica Lagrange adds a touch more femininity by introducing an attractive scrolled lantern over the bed.

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In a city apartment Phoebe Howard uses a beautiful glass lantern in this relaxing bedroom.

There are also wonderful opportunities to find an old fixture and have it wired, updating it to code. Not rated for wet locations, but these are just too pretty that it would be a shame not to share them.
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South of Market has some amazing antique lanterns and other light fixtures sourced from France and Belgium. Since the stores conception, the hunt is ongoing for the rare, the beautiful and the can’t live without items for the home.

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Also, not intended for outdoors are these lovely lanterns that are reinterpreted for indoor use are Restoration Hardware’s replica of a 19th-century Italian gas streetlight is true  to its Amalfi Coast roots and would make a substantial statement. in any space.