The Art of Living: Giving Your (Real) Desktop a Chic Refresh...

Somehow, someway my sweet little office constantly needs a little refresh to feel "alive" again. Fresh flowers, a pretty journal, a zingy candle... periodically this overly familiar work area needs a sensory lift to reenergize my mindset. Do you find this to be true for you too? I'm certain I'm not alone. 

For me it means grabbing a few new notebooks, a diffuser for my credenza, a candle for my desk, bright flowers (or super pale, depending upon my mood) and of course... something gold! Below are some of my recent discoveries (and acquisitions) that have sparked a new round of creativity and injected vitality into my office once again. 

The lesson here: don't hesitate to mix things up if you feel your office (at home or otherwise) needing a jolt of color or even just a remix. Move your desk. Switch out your artwork. Invest in a new package of pens. Open the blinds. Reorganize your books. Do something to create a new flow, a new vibe, a new energy in the space. Life is too short for sameness day after day! 

ELEMENTS FOR A CHIC DESKTOP REFRESH



The Art of Living: 5 Ways to Be Happier...

Need a few quick ways to feel happy? I'm all about channeling energy into something positive or creating momentum when none exists. Ready for five of my surefire tips? Here goes...

1. Feel an inner urge to chase a dream? Don't hesitate!
Stop what you're doing and book that class, buy that ticket, make that call - whatever that first small step is - take action NOW to put your life in motion towards achieving what your heart desires. The simple act of taking a meaningful step towards doing and completing something you've been putting off (or were previously afraid of starting) will fill you with a natural thrill and enliven your body and mind. Do it. It feels so good you'll notice you feel more bold in a wide range of areas of you life. This snowball effect is incredible and will open you to many serendipitous moments. Just do it. 

2. Cherish your "ride or die" relationships. 
There are certain friends & family members that are there for you no matter what. No matter what. These are your anchors in life. Draw near to them and invest a significant part of your life in furthering those relationships. Be there for them with the same intensity. These people are rare indeed! Dig in to them and don't forget to hug them. Hugging is good for you and essential to your satisfaction in life. 

3. Learn to say no without guilt.
Simple fact: you cannot do it all. Time does not allow us to agree to every invitation that crosses our threshold or accept every project that tempts us with its shiny gold coins. You simply must choose wisely and commit to those things that you value most. 

4. Move your body. 
Sorry, lazy bones. You need to dust off your dancing shoes and get moving. Yoga, running CrossFit, tango lessons... something must lure you off the sofa and into an intense session of moving that body. Motion = emotion and I promise you the healthy endorphins that will flow through your body will be all the reassurance you need that you need to shake that booty more often. 

5. Laugh with reckless abandon. 
Find the humor in life and let the uncontrollable urge to laugh rise up and out. Studies have demonstrated again and again that laughter is indeed the best medicine. Need help? YouTube is loaded with humorous clips and cray cray silliness. Go get your giggle on. 

BONUS:
6: Let the sun shine. 

There's no disputing the mood elevating effects of sunshine. Whether it's restoring your supply of natural vitamin D or simply feeling those warm rays on your face, make it a point every day to get out in nature and feel the freedom of the wind in your hair. Extra points if you can get your daily workout session on in the great outdoors. Be it a trail, a sidewalk, a rooftop or simply your 2 block stroll to get coffee, step outside EVERY day to let the sun kiss your face. It loves you. 
 

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The Art of Living: Designing the Ultimate Bed for Dreamy Nights...

It's no secret I'm a little obsessed with bedding, linens and all things sweet dreams. I thought it would be fun to bring in the expert advice of a self-professed linen aficionado and glean wisdom from her personal experience and professional expertise. Who is she? Felicia Marquie, owner of luxury home goods and accessories boutique Lucky Den. She was kind enough to answer all of my questions about selecting the right sheets, caring for linens and making what she feels is the perfect bed. I hope you'll enjoy the read and more importantly, I hope you'll learn a few tips for guaranteeing your own night of blissful rest. 

(Also... read to the end for a special promotional discount to make achieving that perfect bed a bit easier on the Amex.)

Felicia, your love of fine linens and fabulous accessories certainly shines through on Lucky Den. What events led you to launch your online boutique?
Not to sound like a cliché, but I have always daydreamed of owning my own linen line and flagship store.  Lucky Den is the first step in accomplishing this dream.

Lucky Den carries several of my favorite brands. Lily Alessandra, Arte Italica, Ankasa, Trina Turk and others. What criteria do you use to select your vendors?
I am always looking for great design and exceptional quality, but my interest is piqued by how the item is made and the materials used to construct each item. Everything we use has a story behind it. We don’t always think about it; we just logon or walk into the store and buy it, but the product we sell at Lucky Den were once an idea that eventually materialized as a piece we like to showcase and sell.

Handmade versus machine made linens: break it down for us. Aside from the romance of a duvet was hand embroidered in Italy (which, in and of itself is pretty spectacular), what makes the quality of these artisan products superior?
The artists are creating heirlooms;  One might argue that the difference is in the eye of the beholder, but I believe that the relationship between an artist and their creation is passed on with care from one generation to the next, whereas many items mass produced are more disposable and not made for longevity.

One look at my bed and you’d definitely label me pampered princess. I love fluffy down comforters, pretty white sheets and embroidered pillows. They make me happy. Would you share with us how you dress your bed?
I thought you’d never ask. I love making my bed, and I do every morning. I start with removing everything except the fitted sheet and then start layering from there; starting with my flat sheet, which is smoothed out evenly on either side. I don’t tuck, my husband is not a fan. Next, I spread a cotton blanket over the flat sheet and then my coverlet goes on.  After that, I fold the coverlet, the blanket and the flat sheet back exposing the banded part of the flat sheet. Now I am ready to add my pillows, my many plush pillows. I use between two and three Euro shams on our Queen bed, one or two propped against the headboard and one flat next to them and two standard shams, one standard sham lays flat on top of the Euro sham and the other propped in front of the two Euro shams against the headboard. Lastly, I toss a couple decorative pillows in front of the standard shams and neatly fold my fluffy duvet in its cover at the foot of the bed. Now, I love bedding, and this is one of the more elaborate ways I like to dress my bed. I like to keep it fresh and rotate between several sets and my Euro shams get changed just as often as my sheets. My advice is to have fun with it and get in the habit of making your bed every morning because there is nothing else more relaxing after a long day than crawling into an inviting bed.  

Sateen versus percale. I know some people are firmly in one camp or the other. For me it’s a seasonal choice. Warm weather = percale. Cooler months = cozy sateen. I would love to hear your thoughts on this epic debate.
Ah, the debate continues; it is true, sateen or percale is a personal choice. I happen to be neutral on the subject. I have linen, silk, sateen, and percale sheets and long for each the same when they adorn my bed.

I’ve heard that three is the perfect number. How many sets of sheets do you feel savvy homeowners should have on hand for each bed?
Three is a good number because one is always in the laundry because of breakfast or picnic in bed spills, the occasional “I want clean sheets tonight” night. 

Talk to us about maintenance. How do you suggest we care for our linens?
It is all ways best to follow the care instructions on your linens. However, I would suggest line drying, weather permitting.  If you can’t, then remove them from the dryer before they are completely dry, damp, and air dry them around your home.  The aromas of the detergent and fabric softeners will lighten the home as a pleasant side effect.  

The weather is warming up and I’d love to lighten up my home. What three things would you suggest to freshen up and signal “summer is coming” inside the home?
Aside from changing your linens and air drying them around the home, I also like to lighten up the bathrooms with a new shower curtain, bath mat and towels to match. You can also bring the outside inside by adding freshly cut flowers to the rooms that you use the most and I am a big fan of filling the fruit bowl with seasonal fruit. The colors and aromas are fantastic for the sprit.   

My most important question… any tips for getting a better night of sleep?
Yes, and practice makes perfect. Prepare yourself for bedtime, start a ritual, a bedtime ritual that includes some pampering and do not bring electronics to bed. I am a firm believer in getting eight hours of sleep a night.

Since no one knows her merchandise as well as Felicia, I thought we'd ask her to point out her favorite products and give us some insights on why she adores them so. Let's peek at some of the special Lucky Den items she's featured:

SILK BEDDING 

You might not know this, but silk is practical enough for everyday use, and naturally hypoallergenic - making silk is a wonderful option for people suffering from allergies and asthma. And have you ever slept on a silk pillow? I rest my case. It's a luxury you'll try once and look forward to forever. Discover her Kumi Kookoon Classic and French Pleat options to make your bed a hypoallergenic haven. 

FRESH & CLEAN WHITES

Nothing beats the luxury-hotel bedding of choice: opulent white bedding. My personal favorite. Felicia has rounded up quite a few of her private selections as well. Begin by using Lili Alessandra's Therese Lace bedskirt, top the mattress with Lili Alessandra Lace sheeting, add Anichini's White Chevron Blanket, encase your duvet in Anichini White Claridge Linen Bedding, use Anichini's Canette Shams on your euros, place the Rani Arabella Duke throw in beige at the foot of the bed, finish with Pyra & Co's very opulent Lili Pillow - and voila! You've design your very own Ritz-Carlton worthy bed prepped for a serene night of shut eye. 

BRIGHT & CHEERY

You bolder types (and me on rare weeks!) will love this section. These are color-happy options that would make even Jonathan Adler downright giddy. She loves a mix of Stamattina's colorful orange Sophie bedding and the brand's Kyara bedding in 100% Egyptian cotton for a bit of pattern play. The Giulia sheeting & shams with it's single band of colored embroidery plays well with the previous two collections. Rani Arabella's orange cotton throw adds a moment of Hermes chic to the foot of the bed. Finish with an array of Pyra & Co's Janagali pillows in Tangerine for shimmery & colorful appeal. Now that's an anti-depressant bed! 

Now... about that sweet dream of a deal I mentioned earlier. Simply use code MEMORIALDAY15 at checkout to save 15% through (you guessed it) Memorial Day at Lucky Den and enjoy your blissfully chic nights at home. I hope you enjoyed learning the art of bed making and gleaned a bit of wisdom about selecting and caring for your linens. Thank you, Felicia, for your time! 

The Art of Living: Wrinkle-Free Window Treatments...

My signature window treatment has long been the floor to ceiling silk dupioni panel. It's a look I love and can't imagine giving up. What I don't love is softening those creases that occur when moving or installing these lengthy creations. Since I like dusting my panels from time to time, it has served me to learn how to properly care for them without sending them to the cleaners each time I decide to spring clean. Besides: all that dry cleaning fluid can damage delicate textiles and mistakes do sometimes occur. Thus, it pays to learn a few methods of cleaning and caring for these simple window treatments on your own so you can keep them clean and crisp on your own schedule. 

This annual task used to befuddle me. Fortunately I've invested in a few tools of the trade and learned quite a bit about maintaining my silky creations. A commercial grade steam iron, for one, has made life significantly easier. Those cool new "crease release" sprays are another (high five for that one, scientists!). And let's not forget the good old iron. But caution: test all products or methods on a small area to ensure you aren't leaving spots or scorching your fabrics. 

Silk may be tricky, but those of you rocking linen or cotton panels can relax knowing that steam can power out any wrinkles your little heart desires to force out. My tip: Iron the top on a classic ironing board. I actually like using crease release fabric in lieu of starch as it really encourages the fabric to let go of those folds.

I like to iron the back of the panels to protect the integrity of the front-facing fabric. It's also a great moment to mist with fabric freshening liquid with a light clean scent. The Laundress makes a great one I love using. Even if the window treatments are new, this is a rare opportunity to add a "clean" scent to the fabric before they are installed. Why iron the top? The top dictates how the bottom and "body" of the panels will hang. Eliminating wayward wrinkles and unruly folds is key to allowing the length of the panels hang how you wish them to hang. 

Once you've achieved a few feet of flawless fabric at the top of the panels from the iron, hang those panels and hang them high. From there I move on to a professional garment/upholstery steamer. I use a Jiffy, but you can shop around to find what meets your needs. I gently pull on the fabric to "train" the folds of the panels as I go down to the floor. I like having a handheld option too for those hard-to-reach areas.

Again, work with what seems best for your fabric. Cotton and other natural fibers can handle the heat of an iron. Synthetics and delicate textiles like silk require more of a delicate approach and you'll want to experiment with heat settings and techniques to see what works best for you. 

Then, for lasting gentle folds where you want them, grab some scarves or other fabric ties to train your panels to hold soft creases where you want them. Give them a day or so to "set" and voila! Fabulous, crease free drapery panels just the way you've always dreamed you'd have. 


Finally...stand back, take a deep breath and admire your work. No need to think about these beautiful window treatments again for a year. And by then you'll feel like a boss when you tackle the task. ;) 

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The Art of Living: Write It Down. Get It Done.

Let me guess... you got this, right? You've got a mental list or a scrap of paper somewhere (wasn't it just here?) with your to do list on it. Or part of your to do list. Sorry, Charlie. This approach to life isn't going to land you in Forbes anytime soon. Putting pen to paper (yes, a pen to actual paper) is the only way to go. 

Time and time again studies and examples have proven that the very act of writing down not only your "to do" list but your "to BE" list will radically alter your future. The very process of articulating to yourself what you intend to accomplish ("build prototype" or "book first training session with Matt") is enough to begin propelling you in the direction of DOING the thing you intend to do. By writing it out in bold black and white (or blue medium tip, as I prefer) is enough to begin changing your perception of the task. It now becomes an ACTION item on your life list. It's now in front of you as a more concrete facet of your life. Before it was just a thought or a "should" and now it is a MUST. But... you've got to write it down. 

I'm don't mind embarrassing myself by telling you that I prefer not only a pretty little journal but a pretty little pen. Sorry, it's true. Perhaps it makes it all so much more enjoyable to do. Regardless of the "why" I can tell you that having one set destination for fresh ideas, "aha" moment, clear thoughts and daily "to accomplish" lists helps keep my creative brain focused. 

Best part? Crossing out things I've done. Oh, yeah. This is incredibly satisfying. It tells my brain that I'm getting closer to my goals. It feeds my subconscious a steady diet of "you go, girl!" reinforcement to encourage me to keep doing this very small act of life discipline. 

Will you join me on this? Will you buy into this concept? Will you just WRITE. IT. DOWN?Will you?

If you're lured by pretty things (as I clearly am) give Anthro a try. They have these pretty botanical notebooks (I die!) and these artsy marbled versions as well. Pretty pens don't hurt either (especially those with caps that keep you from having mishaps in your handbag) You'd be surprised by how a small investment (all of these are less than $17) can make your lofty dreams suddenly seem more fabulous and your action items seem more important. Do it. Do it and watch your life change and your days stop blurring together. Do it and do yourself the favor of actually running your days instead of having them run you (and run you over). 

So... what is your assignment? It's simple. Get yourself a notebook, a journal, an agenda or SOME specific bound book to write EVERYTHING down. Get one fast, honey, because we're already midway through January. Next: actually write it down. "It" can be anything, but the more you express, the more you'll accomplish. 

Now... go out there and be the Beyonce you were meant to be. 

 

The Art of Living: Leisure...

It's (almost officially) the weekend and I'm already thinking of palazzo pants, sunglasses and poolside umbrellas. The life depicted in a Slim Aarons photograph seems ideal right now, doesn't it? Bronzed skin, a life of leisure and a (seemingly) stress-free existence in a picturesque environment. Enviable, no?

Whether or not it's attainable for most, we can all agree that the life of luxury and ease captured in these timeless photographs casts a spell upon us. No matter our station in life, we all find the life of the jet set to be appealing.

My local Trina Turk boutique does a fabulous job curating books. They always have a stash of Slim's books on hand and other Taschen & Rizzoli titles that evoke thoughts of the privileged lifestyle. It isn't that the good life doesn't exist today, it's that Slim's images remind us of days when we weren't hiding from the sun's rays or worrying so much about global events. It seems to be a celebration of "the now" in these storied photographs. No iphones, no disconnected friends. These photographs all capture people interacting with one another and these stunning locales. You long to be there and you desire to be them.

Here are a few of my picks to get you in the jet set mood this weekend. May you sip your iced beverages with a bit more style and a lot more sophistication!

CHANNEL YOUR INNER CZ GUEST

Enjoy more Slim Aarons photography here. All images sourced via Pinterest