Essential Elements: Hunting the Elusive "Perfect but Pricey" Place Settings...

{image via  SMP // Pinterest }

{image via SMP // Pinterest}

I'm all for pulling out the finery on a regular basis. Why not sip your morning espresso in Wedgwood? Why not drink tap water from Waterford? Luxurious goods should not be left in the cabinet to gather dust, they should be used with enough frequency to create memories and, yes, occasionally get broken in the process. Why leave them in the dark all year only to pull them out on a stressful holiday? I say invest in the what you love and focus on obtaining the best you can afford.

Price causing you to wince? I understand, and I have solutions. A few tips: 

  • BE SELECTIVE: Spend time assessing what you REALLY want and then make a commitment to yourself to add this to your life. Don't need formal dinnerware? Perhaps that collection of Rosenthal dinnerware isn't the best use of your attention. Focus your attention on what suits your lifestyle. 
  • PACE YOURSELF: Add one place setting of your favorite formal china per month to your collection. In one short year you'll have service for twelve, which is a handsome collection by anyone's measure. 
  • PAY ATTENTION: Sales are our friend. Bookmark those items in your browser and watch for promotions, Friends & Family events or other discounts.
  • DO YOUR HOMEWORK: Reviews are God's gift to the novice researcher like myself! I love (or perhaps am a bit addicted to) seeking out reviews on products I'm interested in owning. While you won't always agree with the masses, you begin to recognize patterns in feedback and this will frequently prevent you from making poor investment choices. 

This week a few prized items are on sale at Macy's - at 25% off! It's a great opportunity to begin resetting my table with a dressier dinnerware solution. Here's what I'm really loving right now: Marchesa by Lenox Painted Camellia, the dreamiest of dreamy china patterns in my opinion. Gold flatware by the same brand and (true to form) I'm loving Waterford stemware. But this time I'm leaning towards a more modern, less fussy collection. See my selections below... 

What about you? What have you been holding off on obtaining? 25% off is a marvelous situation, especially for these incredible brands. I'd love to hear what luxe items you've been stalking! Here's the link to the sale. Use code FRIEND at checkout! 

Marchesa Painted Camellia Dinnerware // Marchesa by Lenox Imperial Caviar Flatware // Waterford Lismore Essence Stemware

Essential Elements: Cozying Up to a Romantic Fireplace Season...

Yes, it's that time. Cooler nights (and in some cases days) are here. The season of warming yourself by the fire, of snuggling under blankets and fighting the cold with hot tea and warm cocoa. But don't forget personal comforts like a cable knit sweater, fur lined slippers and a subtle hint of fragrance. Bundle up in little private luxuries and settle in to a season of romance. 





Essential Elements: Jaw Dropping Architectural Details Accessible to Everyone via Metrie...

**This is a sponsored post. All opinions are my own. Images courtesy of Metrie.**

Some of you may recall me introducing Metrie to you last year. While the concept of boiserie-on-demand was very appealing, this was the year I fully grasped the possibilities of the collections and gained true insight into the intention of the creative minds at work behind the scenes. What is Metrie, you ask? It's a brand that simplifies - for designers and consumers alike - the process and the selection of adding architectural details to a residential or commercial project. 

The details are not the details. They make the design.
— Charles Eames

While their dazzling website and catalogs certainly wow, stepping into a professionally designed space that has been elevated with incredible mouldings, exceptional millwork, coffered ceilings and rosettes leads to true understanding of the transformative power of what some might consider details. There's an "ah-ha" moment followed quickly by a "how quickly can I place an order?" urge. 

In July I visited BMC Dallas, Registered Metrie Design Collections Showroom and go-to Dallas source for all things custom millwork and beyond. There, Chris Ludwig (of BMC) and Nate Kuhns (of Metrie) opened my eyes to the true power of the collections and elements for designers, developers and architects alike.

In a sense, the brand has demystified the often intimidating process of selecting and procuring these individual architectural elements by offering them in a series of style families if you will, Modernists will appreciate the crispness of Very Square. Classicists might enjoy French Curves or Fashion Forward. Pretty Simple will appeal to those with minimalist leanings and a love of symmetry. Those seeking a grounded, natural look will gravitate towards the True Craft collection. Something for everyone, regardless of design style, from mod & sexy to classic and sophisticated. 

What impressed me most is how designer-friendly the products are. The beauty of the collections is that it makes building a cohesive visual story very easy to do and gives pros a leg up on delivering a very finely appointed finished look for clients. It demystifies what can often be an overlooked (or avoided) step in design through their intelligent product presentation. It's a system they've built that streamlines the selection process by providing a creative story from which to build upon.

For me, the advantage of the collections are obvious. Serving up runway-worthy looks time and time again for clients - regardless of project size or personal style. The flexibility of the various styles makes it easy (even for the non architecturally inclined) to create a stunning custom design for clients - down to custom paint finishes and stains. Couture for the walls and ceiling? I'll take it.

But for clients who need a bit more convincing, communicating the ultimate creative vision is everything, and Metrie delivers here. Big time. The style finder quiz & room styler make it easy to render the design and flesh out finer points of the resulting look. Again, I find myself smitten by just how designer-friendly the system and the online offerings are. It's a dream come true for those of us looking to deliver incredible finished projects without the largess of a team to sketch out those scene renderings or laundry list the many individual elements necessary to achieve the design. Metrie steps in to save the day. 

Intrigued by what I saw at the showroom but still left with more questions, I interviewed the creative team at Metrie HQ. Here's what the talented visionaries shared about the products and the thinking behind those stunning scenes: 

Q: First, let’s start with how beautifully the Collections help designers, builders and consumers visualize the end result. They are just diverse enough to help anyone achieve the unique look they desire. Can you tell us about the behind-the-scenes thinking and creative process for arriving at the five distinct Then & Now Coordinated Collections? I am envisioning a group tour of Europe to visit some of the most fabulous architectural properties in existence! 

A:  Thanks Franki, I’m glad that we’ve achieved our objective! Although a European tour would have been fabulous, our design team had almost as much fun scouring museums, libraries, online resources and locales a bit closer to home to identify the five key interior design styles that make up our Then & Now Finishing Collections™. We curated some of the most iconic shapes and looks from thousands and thousands of samples and images and then reinvented them with today’s homes in mind.   Our vision was to create collections that were timeless with their nod to the past and the look forward to the future. 

Q: I enjoyed the video featuring the designers tasked with designing rooms from scratch using one of the five Finishing Collections. Creatives  - being the visionaries they are - often push the boundaries or break the rules on what products might be originally designed to do. Can you share with us how designers have inspired your team at Metrie to consider new introductions or demonstrate additional applications for your finishing products? 

A: We are on a constant quest to transform our perspective.  To view design, style and art through different lenses.  Spending time with designers, artists and creative people from all walks of life reminds us that our job is never done.  There is always something new to create, and fresh and inventive ways to bring our ideas to market. My current favorite from one of our interior designers is a layering technique using an inverted baseboard paired with a crown moulding to create more definition and texture where the ceiling meets the walls.  It’s a perfect way to enhance a tall ceiling or balance a larger space like a great room. 

Q: Your site and your Pinterest boards offer tremendous visual inspiration and explanation for uses of Metrie products. However, in terms of practical application and powerful client tools, the Style Quiz & Room Styler are fantastic for helping clients identify their style and visualize the finished look. They help focus the client as well as make specification very easy. Where did the idea originate for the development of the online tools?  

A: As much as this category is what we at Metrie live and breathe, we understand that selecting mouldings and doors can be daunting.  These aren’t products that you necessarily think about everyday yet they are the backdrop to every single space in your home.   So we knew that we wanted to do something really fun to help people hone in on what they like and how they think about their lifestyle.  Once we are able to identify your style through the Style Quiz we can help you bring that style to life with the Room Styler.  The best part about having this visualization tool is that it can also help you feel comfortable to step out of your comfort zone and go beyond the basics to explore new possibilities such as wall treatments and ceiling treatments.

Q: It’s great to see the option for Green building with the SPERO™ products. Have you seen a consumer-driven increase in the interest towards eco-wise building and designs? Or does it feel as though its builders & designers are driving the green development projects these days? 

A: Sustainability is at the core of every action in our company.  We minimize emissions from transportation by sourcing wood from local, responsibly managed forests while working diligently to virtually eliminate waste in our mills.  While most of the Green development projects we see are in the commercial space, we are always excited to hear about the people using SPERO in their homes.  It’s also a really nice feeling to be involved in making products that have a long existence in someone’s space.  

Q: Metrie seems to make marvelous effort to educate designers on the products. Online courses, “grocery” list style breakdowns of what elements are used to achieve various looks, etc. The product lines, catalogs and site are all very user-friendly. Are there any common questions you field from designers who are new to the brand? Are there any “aha” moments you’d like to share to enlighten my professional designer and design-savvy readers to help them instantly understand the solutions that Metrie provides? 

A: Our ‘aha’ moment came pretty early on in our journey to discover what we could do to help designers choose their product.  We found out that there was very little, if any, information and education on interior finishings in design curricula.  This prompted us to get working on developing our Continuing Education Unit (CEU) courses right away to help shed light on a subject that is often seen as an intimidating design task.  This was the inspiration for creating our Then & Now Finishing Collections, which we designed to the right proportions and scale.  A designer could be creative and have flexibility in their designs, yet still have the confidence that everything works together as they see their project come to life.

Q: And finally… can we expect any new Collections or innovative new products to be added soon? 

A:  This is my favorite question! Our passion for design, innovation, quality and providing an impeccable experience is what drives us.  We are constantly exploring new ways to make using interior finishings a creative and fun process.  We have some great designs and new concepts on the boards.   So my answer is yes, but you’ll have to wait and see!

Okay, friends. That's all I have to share for now. Thank you, Metrie for inviting me to enjoy a closer look at your collections and your creative process. I definitely gained a rich understanding of the value to professionals (and their lucky clients) by diving deeper into brand. I personally can't wait to put the collections to good use. 

Enjoy their blog The Finished Space for major interior inspiration and idea sparking images. Here are a few more dreamy images from their site and a video of a gorgeous bath worthy of Holly Golightly. Enjoy! 

Essential Elements: Here Comes the Sun...

Try as I might, I can't resist confessing my ongoing love of sunburst mirrors. These gilded accents cast an almost heavenly glow in any room of the home. Aside from their historical charm (they are dripping in rich historical significance) it is undeniably one of the most dramatic shapes you can add to a wall. One nail and BOOM, you've sealed the deal on your dramatic look. How's that for design power? As much as I tried to brush these off as trendy and passe, the truth is that these are classic pieces with serious style punch. Below I've sought out the very best and gathered them here for your perusal. Trust me, you'll love them forever on your walls!


Essential Elements: God is In the Details...

I've been pinning my heart out lately. One such board is focused on spectacular ceilings, coffered and otherwise. Another delights in the beauty of boiserie. These are architectural details that so often today are not part of the modern construction process. Cost is an obvious factor, but I believe a perceived lack of interest and inspiration are the true culprits.

Until they reached out to me and asked to be a blog sponsor, I'd not heard of Metrie. One look at their beautifully designed site and AMAZING products won me over. They step in where builders often step out. Adding layers of details such as these is a labor of love, not born of necessity. The trend towards modern and transitional interiors have given some builders even less of a reason to consider paneled walls and coffered ceilings. Yet in that absence of detail a craving for the fussiness and fabulousness of the past is born.

I am grateful to live in a home with detailed millwork and substantial architectural details on the inside. These are aspects of my home's design I appreciate each and every time I see them. Sculpted baseboards, paneled library walls, rosettes and wall moulding lend interest to the bones of the house and make it a joy to live in. It's no Chateau du Grand-Lucé, I assure you, but I love it nonetheless! That said, a modern house can still benefit from interesting details. A herringbone ceiling, raised panels... it all tells a story and creates a feast for the eyes. Repeatedly, I see spaces that ooze a certain sense of modern cool but possess innovative architectural details.

Metrie was created for fans of such details - whether or not the builder shared that vision from the start. From solid core doors with Neo-Classical designs to marvelous mouldings for ceilings and walls, Metrie makes it easy for designers and decorators to give their clients the rich interior architecture may of us pine for these days. I can assure you, any nursery I decorated in the past would surely have benefitted from a glossy coffered ceiling to highlight a glistening chandelier. Those details make a room sing and set the stage for elegant living - the goal of every great design plan. 

But I digress... back to my thoughts on this brand. The lovely team at Metrie asked me to look around their site as well as The Finished Space for inspiration. I assure you, very little prodding was necessary. Between the Style Quiz and the Room Styler it's clear the brand is focused on ease of use for the end user. No guesswork is necessary. The quiz nailed my preferences perfectly: I'm a girl with a weakness for the French Curves collection. Classic details inspired by the Baroque and Empire periods that lend a romantic and glamorous look to any room. No surprise there!

The room visualizing tool, however, was even more robust. Using any collection chosen, it allows you to visualize a room outfitted with a variety of product options. Paneled walls, baseboards, rich moulding options and color choices make this a really smart tool for communicating your vision to design clients. I loved the playfulness of the tool and the super simple ease of use. The bold among you can simulate painting those panels hot pink or you might opt for more reserved options as I have and stick to a monochromatic 

Whether you're a designer friend of mine or just a design enthusiast, you'll want to have a look Metrie's beautiful collections. Created with designer collaborations and usage in mind, this brand is sure to be a new favorite for many of you out there. 

Follow them on twitter at @OfficialMetrie like them on facebook and visit them online. Be sure to take the quiz! You'll love seeing how it perfectly identifies your interior preferences by asking just a few easy questions. Special thanks to Metrie for reaching out and saying hello. I'm thrilled to now be aware of your beautiful products and I look forward to dreaming up ways to use them on future projects. 

{image credits: metrie // metrie // metrie // metrie // the finished space // pin // pin // pin // pin}

Essential Elements: Feathering Your Nest...

Nothing personalizes a room like art. It establishes your taste. It indicates your passions. It delights you. It intrigues you. It pleases you. With all of these great reasons to surround yourself with artwork I'm surprised so many of us don't. Affordability is no longer an excuse thanks to outlets like eBay and etsy where aspiring (read: sensibly priced) art can be found. In terms of judging good art from bad, the only thing that matters it speaks to you.

For many years my true art passion was sculpture and black & white photography. Lately, however, I feel so moved by color. I'm inspired to move to the canvas and fill my walls with pieces I create. I love charcoal sketches. I adore figure drawings. I love line art and fashion illustrations. If you can frame it, hand it or stretch it onto quality canvas I'm in heaven.And it's a skill I've let slide sue to work, interests, growing up, being busy... you name it.

As I surfed for fabulous images to illustrate my point (in more ways that one) I came across Tobi Fairley's 2011 goals. Amazing how similar hers were to mine. I've noticed all of my blogger/designer girlfriends are fiendishly working, building our brands, barely taking time to breathe. We are self-professed high achievers. We set goals and we accomplish them. We want it all and we are going for it. We're investing our hearts and souls into our work - our passion - but we're often losing that balance (or at the very least the sleep) we so desire.

This year I commit to spending more time pursuing my passions (creating art, making more time for photography and creating Blurb books from the best photos) and seizing the moment. The days flew by last year. I don't want that to happen in 2011. I want to be present. I want to be in the moment. More importantly, I want to document my life and adorn my walls with evidence of a life richly lived.

For me, art does this. Painting does this. Sketching delivers this. I'm away from the laptop. I'm in my "element" and I am in the zone. It puts me under somewhat of a spell and helps me tap into parts of my brain that I am often to busy to hear. Right now I need that kind of an outlet.

I've found that by stepping back for those moments to be in my own element I am actually more alive, more present and more engaged when I'm with others. It isn't a selfish act at all. In fact, it would be more selfish to not pursue those interests and tap into my true creativity.

If you've abandoned a passion of yours lately due to a busy schedule or mismanaged time, it's time. Write that book. Make those calls. Take that trip. Wherever you passion leads you - follow. Your work, your family and your friendships will all be enriched by the journey.

{images all via Suzanne Kasler's portfolio... she understands the power of art to transform a life and a space}