Tastemakers: An Interview with Interior Designer Lonni Paul...

Can I just say I love Lonni? Popularly recognized for her appearance on Design Star and her nursery furniture & bedding line PetitNest, this Los Angeles designer is one I always look to when I need a dose of West Coast inspiration. Perhaps inspired by the laid-back California lifestyle and all that sunshine, this LA designer manages to effortlessly balance glamour and a "come on in and take your shoes off" air of relaxation in their work. I admire that skill greatly. 

When Lonni's smiling face appeared on Giuliana & Bill it was a welcome surprise. As the celebrity couple's designer, we saw her navigate the needs of these two very different personalities and the usual (and occasionally opposing) husband and wife desires in terms of interior design. The results (and broad client smiles) speak for themselves. 

The beautiful images seen here show her ability to balance the needs of a young family with those of a professional couple that loves to entertain. It's chic, it's pretty and yet it graciously lends itself to that laid-back vibe we all crave. Mom to twins herself, Lonni is a natural at serving up that special blend of glam-meets-casual. The result is a warm and inviting suburban pad with a generous helping of up downtown high-rise elegance. 

Design fans will note that the feature in Traditional Home appeared last fall. but I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Lonni, so it seemed apropos to showcase her work for the celebrity duo again. 

I am excited to share my interview with Lonni below. Suffice it to say this talented designer is just as lovely as her work. Read on to gain insight on how you can channel that West Coast cool into your interiors, relate to her love of wallpaper and learn how a good blowout can make a busy modern girl's life easier (and decidedly more fabulous)... 

Between Design Star and Giuliana & Bill, television has played a very positive role in expanding your fan (and hopefully client) base. You are such a natural in front of the camera. Since you’re based in LA, is being on air a natural extension of your brand building strategy - or were these happy professional surprises?
The shows I’ve worked on were really not part of a strategy.  In fact, I was very reluctant to audition for Design Star but was called several times and asked to send in a tape.  I finally did and as difficult as that experience was I’m glad I did it. 

For Giuliana & Bill, someone involved in the show’s production saw a house I had designed and recommended me.  Their show has definitely expanded my client base.  It’s amazing how many people watch the show!  It’s also been such a great experience. 

The Rancics are definitely the same people on and off camera and it’s been such a pleasure getting to know them and their families.  We have become close friends over the last few years. They are very supportive of me and truly want me to succeed.   


Club House Chair // Orchid Vessel // Bungalow Side Chairs // Safavieh Handknotted Wool Rug // Etched Mercury Glass Vessels // Venetian Mirror

PetitNest: It has always been very difficult to source great nursery furniture. Your line is modern, cool and yet somehow classic. As your twins grow are you looking to expand into beds and “young child” furniture? 
Thanks so much!  My twins, Jett and Sophie both have PetitNest dressers in their rooms.  Jett has the Odile, and Sophie has the Sophie of course!  I designed a bed for Sophie’s room as part of a young child's line for PetitNest.  I haven’t put them into production yet but it’s in the works!

How else do you see that line evolving over the coming years? 
I’d love to design a line of PetitNest accessories and a party line too!  

Tell me about LA style. Your work has such an effortlessly chic vibe to it. Nothing is forced and yet everything is fabulous. How would you describe your approach to interior style? How does the laid back California lifestyle reflect itself in your work? 
Wow!  Thank you so much for that!  That’s what I strive for so I’m happy you see it that way.   I think LA has such a relaxed atmosphere because the weather allows us to be involved in an indoor/outdoor lifestyle!  My approach to design is to sit down with my clients and really have a conversation about how they live. 

What do they do when they wake up?  How do they spend their weekends & evenings?  How do they entertain?  Do they have kids, dogs, parents that visit often or live with them?  So I take the clients lifestyle and put together an interior that works for the lifestyle. 

I love so many different styles of design. I like modern design but I also like classic.  So my designs usually lean toward classic with an updated feel.  It’s funny, I was just in Chicago at a dinner and someone asked me “what is your style”?  I said 'it’s whatever the client will love for years long after I’m out of there'. 

A contractor at the dinner said “oh no, she figures out the style and before she’s done she convinces you it was all your idea!!”  I thought that was very funny but maybe true.  It’s important to not only give your client a home they will love and feel comfortable in but to educate them along the way with ideas to make it even better than they were expecting.  Everybody needs somebody to help them push outside of their comfort zone a little!

Let’s talk balance: We all know work/life balance doesn’t really exist. How do your lovely twins influence your work? Are they quick to offer input on your designs or do you compartmentalize those portions of your life? 
You’re so right! It really doesn’t exist.  No matter how hard I try it’s such a hard line to walk.  I don’t always do the best job at it.  I travel a lot so when I’m home I definitely try to have alone time with each of them individually and together too. 

I chose to work from home (I have two separate offices there) so that I would be there when they come in after school before their activities start and then when they get home in the early evening.  It isn’t a perfect situation though. 

At the end of the day I can be on the phone with a client and hear someone bounding up the stairs yelling “MOM”!  I used to worry it came off as unprofessional but I’ve never had a client have a problem with it.  Anyone who’s a parent gets it!  And those that don’t are also understanding when I let them know my reasons for working from home.  

Recharging: The west coast offers so much visual inspiration. What are some of your favorite spots to catch the sunset or get out in nature to unwind? 
The ocean has always had such a calming affect on me, as I’m sure it does to most people.  I love to go down to Santa Monica or Malibu and watch the sunset from the beach.  I also love to try different restaurants with friends.  I love the food and the ambience!   I have a client from England who comes over several times a year and I think we spend more time eating than working!  

Beauty: You manage to stay so gorgeous while chasing twins and rocking it out for celebrity clients. Are there any beauty tricks or special products you’d love to share? 
Oh wow!!  You’re so kind to say that!  You haven’t seen me at the end of the day or when I drag myself out of bed! ha! I can’t stand to spend time on my hair or in front of the mirror.  I can put my face on in 5 minutes flat. I’m really lucky that I have thick hair so it doesn’t show easily that it’s dirty. 

I love DryBar.  It would take me twice as long to do it myself and it lasts over a week!  (unless I go to the gym—so I use it as an excuse—I can’t go to the gym and ruin my blow dry!)  My beauty regime is really simple. 

I use Clarins tinted moisturizer with sunscreen, Clinique blush, Clinique eyeshadow and Revlon mascara.  Oh, and Chanel lip gloss.  I do the same when I’m shooting but I just darken everything and add lip pencil, eyeliner and powder. I don’t wear powder in the day because I hate that dry feeling.  I have a lot of allergies so I’m very limited in things I can use.  I wash my face with Borage cleansing gel and moisturize with Borage sensitive skin lotion from Whole Foods!  


Clarins UV Plus with Tint // Clinique Blush // Chanel Glossimer Trio // Drybar Morning After Kit // Buttercup Blowout Kit

Let’s talk shopping! LA is known for amazing boutiques and legendary flea markets. What insider sourcing favorites would you say are a “don’t miss” for a designer visiting Los Angeles for a week? 
I love finding going down to the La Cienega Design Quarter on La Brea.  There’s some great shops there.  I love the Pacific Design Center to shop for fabrics and wallcoverings.  Beverly Blvd near Robertson is great for a more modern vibe and design inspiration.  

Your design for Giuliana & Bill’s Brentwood home was every bit chic, but definitely family friendly. That’s no easy feat. As a mom yourself, you must love designing for families. What are some of your favorite design strategies when creating a home for adults and children? 
I do love designing for families.  When I first started PetitNest I made all my gliders in fabrics that were normally used outdoors.  People thought it was such a good idea!  I thought it was common sense.  The glider in my twins’ room was heinous after a couple of years so that’s where it started for me.  I think an investment in a piece of furniture should last longer than that.  There are a lot more indoor/outdoor fabric choices now and more designers are using them indoors.  I just think about practicality. 

Depending on the home I like to have a casual family room that never feels off limits and then use the living room as more of an adult space but still doesn’t feel like it shouldn’t be used.  What’s the point of a room you can’t live in?!  In the family room I love a deep sofa so the family can spend time together watching movies. 

I also like to use a fabric ottoman because it’s much better for kids that are running around but I always add a big tray in the center for snacks!  When space permits I always put a small sofa in a nursery along with the glider so the dad and/or siblings have a place to sit when mom is feeding the baby. 

I LOVE LOVE LOVE wallpaper.  I really explain that small hands with chocolate or a sharpie is a death sentence for grass cloth but when people are fine with it, I use it in the living room and master.  If kids are older it’s great everywhere.  Many now come with a wipeable sealant on them!

You’ve really mastered “calm sophistication” in your work, yet you are not afraid to throw in some fun patterns and bold color. It is truly an art! What are your secrets for mixing patterns while still maintaining your signature sense of luxe zen in a space? 
I think it’s important to go neutral with your big investment pieces like sofas, but I love to bring in color and pattern on pillows, walls, accessories and even a chair.  It’s easy to change the look of a room with new pillows.  I always change my rooms up for fall and summer and then at Christmas it’s a whole new thing too!  

And finally… What’s next for Lonni Paul Design?
Right now I’m working with a production company on a new show. I’m also working on Giuliana and Bill’s new Chicago home and I’ve fallen in love with the city and the people.   I’m planning to open an office there next.  I work all over the US so it’s a good location for an east coast office.  I’m designing an adult line of furniture, a lighting line and fabrics!  I always keep myself open to new ideas and opportunities.  I feel fortunate to be doing something I love, so I’m really grateful everyday!

Don't you just love her? So refreshingly candid and so at ease doling out sage design advice. Hopefully we'll be seeing much more of Lonni and her work in print and broadcast. Her natural warmth and expertise comes through in everything she does. I'm sure her clients (celebs and otherwise) truly enjoy the process and find they've made a friend during the design process as well as a sensational living space. 

Thank you for reading! For more of Lonni's insights and inspirational design, find her on Facebook, Instagram & Twitter. Until next time... live stylishly! 

{images via Traditional Home

Interviews: William T. Baker on Designing Exceptional Residences for Exceptional Clients...

William T. Baker

We've all had the experience of driving into a community and encountering a stunning house that takes our breath away. The type of residence that makes us pause to quietly wonder.. Who precisely lives there? What type of fabulous fetes do they host - and for whom? What do they do for a living? And (if you're even one bit like me) what fabulous fashion investments are safely stored in the master closet? Oh, if walls (and Chanel bags) could talk!

We know these magnificent homes. Fellow Dallas friends can agree these are the noteworthy addresses embossed on invites for significant holiday parties, charity events or designer show houses. Once you've stepped inside one, life can never - ever - be the same. 

While we may daydream about the fabulous lives of the inhabitants (and one day intend to be one ourselves), I happen to know someone who designs such estates. The esteemed William T. Baker. This award-winning residential designer will be familiar to many of you in the interior design industry. He's been featured in glossy publications such Veranda, Arch Digest, Elle Decor, Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles and many others. I've written about his work here numerous times (see here & here) and have always admired his impeccable style. His homes are often decorated by such noted talents as Suzanne Kasler & Melanie Turner - two of my favorite interior designers.

Let's step inside the the mind of the man responsible for designing the private homes of influential citizens, successful corporate titans and successful entrepreneurs all over the globe. In celebration of his latest book, Great American Homes Volume III, I've take a moment to interview the talented Mr. Baker to learn more about the creation of these dreamy residences and what evolution he's noticing in the market.

Here's what he had to say...

Tell us what excites you most about the release of Great American Homes Volume III.
Having the opportunity to design families' dream homes is such a privilege! I am excited to share some of these incredible homes with the public.  These homes represent the finest in both comfortable living as well as residential architecture that will stand the test of time.  The reader will find that the book is illustrated with the floor plan for each home as well as the landscape plan. Together with the interior photographs , a reader can form a good impression of the total project. A careful study of the plans will reveal the continuing evolution of the American house plan.   

What project within the book do you feel will surprise readers & fans the most?
One of the hallmarks of my firm's work is that we are adept at designing homes in a number of vernacular styles. While some firms have a single trademark look, we pride ourselves in being able to "speak" many architectural languages. The readers will find a wide variety of homes from grand estates to more simple shake style homes.

Why is that? What makes that residence stand out from the others? A departure in style? An unusual location?
One of the reasons people love to follow my work is that there is an careful handling of the architectural scale and proportions. The details are thoughtfully considered and executed.  Our houses definitely set high standard for their communities and become cherished architectural treasures in the years ahead.   

Our expectations of “home” evolve over time. What changes are you seeing lately in terms of features your clients are requesting in their homes?
The trend toward more casual living is continuing to the point that we are seeing the formal dining room evolving into a more open room located toward the rear of the house rather than being located on the front as is traditionally the case. We are also seeing the wine function moving upstairs from he basement so that it is now a feature wall in the butler's pantry or even the dining room itself. Master closets continue to expand and the in the master bath we are receiving see requests for his and her toilet compartments or even his and her baths.

For busy professionals, we often hear of the need for a separate exit from the master suite so the person with an early schedule can exit without disturbing their sleeping partner.  We are also seeing an amazing number of requests for indoor sport courts. These require 20' ceilings and are usually located below ground so they are major structures.
Your ability to personalize your projects to accommodate the unique collections or preferences of your clients has always impressed me. From statement-making leaded glass windows to antique French paneled walls, I love seeing spaces with treasured art pieces infused into the architecture of the home. Is there an aspect of a project featured in Great American Homes III that stands out for your creative collaboration efforts with the owners? Tell us about that project. 
The cover house certainly comes to mind as that was a wonderful collaboration between myself and the owner. The inspiration was a house in France that the owner knew and thus began a journey to create a limestone clad house with overtones from the original. The floor plan was designed around a major acquisition of a stained glass window for the paneled library. The axis of the central hallway allows the window to be seen from the owner's chair in the dining room. Furthermore, the great room is double height and we broke up the volume with banding and paneling that gives the room scale. 

These large rooms often feel cavernous but with the architecture of the paneled walls, this room feels comfortable whether its two or two hundred people using it. Lastly, we wanted the family room off the kitchen to have dramatic architecture so we designed it with a coffer barrel ceiling.  It took the trim carpenters weeks to build it out! But as the reader will see, the effect is wonderful. 

And finally, what can we expect next from William T. Baker & Associates?
Most people think of me as a designer of grand estates. But I have designed a number of resort homes at various coastal resorts, lakes, and mountain retreats. I think it would be fun to create a book featuring some of these amazing homes from around the country. 

William T. Baker

William T. Baker


In Manhattan? Meet Mr. Baker this Wednesday (November 29, 2017) from 6 to 8 pm at Rizzoli Bookstore on Broadway where he'll be signing copies of Great American Homes Volume III and participating in a panel discussion with Suzanne Kasler and Alec Michaelides for further exploration of the spectacular residences in this book and the families who call them home.

Interviews: Eavesdrop on My Pillow Talk with Restonic...

It's no secret that I love a good interview. This time, however, Julia Rosien turned the tables and directed the questions my way about my sleeping habits as part of their Bedroom Therapy series. Never one to turn down an opportunity to discuss luxe bedding and things I love, here's the low-down on my beauty sleep habits: 

How would you describe your décor style? 
Classic Glamour. I love timeless silhouettes and styles with an emphasis on glamorous fabrics and finishes. Think: cream upholstered headboards with demilune bedside tables and brass pulls. Quiet sophistication that will look great for years to come. While I favor texture over pattern and largely eschew bold colors, I've been known to add a wildcard fabric into the mix sometimes. Recently I added tow French Bergeres to the bedroom in Mary McDonald's Bargello in Blush Conch for Schumacher fabric. Crazy, but it works. Classic doesn't have to be boring!

What’s the most prized possession in your bedroom? 
My family! I'm a very proud mommy to two remarkable little girls. Cuddling is our specialty! For all the pretty things in my home, these happy little creatures are by far my most cherished possessions. 

How has it changed? 
Our bedroom has changed significantly over the years. We've gone from queen to king (no turning back now, baby!). We've added a reading nook (perfect for quality time spent with the girls or simply unwinding) and in recent years I've begun taking quality bedding very seriously. Great sleep is essential to a life well spent, so I prioritize investing in the best. Especially with children in my life, mommy needs her beauty sleep and she takes it very seriously! 

How do you use your bedroom? 
The bedroom is Life HQ for the Durbins. We truly maximize use of this room. It is our favorite reading spot, our movie theater and - of course - where mommy and daddy get our best sleep. I'm often found playing games on the floor with the girls during the day or perched up on the bed typing out a blog post in the evenings. We truly make use of this room for all facets of our lives, and therefore it feels most like "home" to me. 

How do you fall asleep – reading, digital devices, TV?
I love to read Flipboard on my iPhone. It aggregates news, design stories, blog posts, Facebook updates and product innovations all in one sleek app. I LOVE it and find it the perfect way to end my day. 

When was the last time you bought a new mattress? 
This is year four of our new mattress set. I really feel they should be switched out periodically to keep them fresh and at their best. 

What’s your mattress preference? Firm, soft or somewhere in between? 
If they sold "big puffy white clouds" to sleep on, I'd be first in line to place my order. I love them big, soft and a mile high. Pillowtop is a must, and I opt for the plushest option available on the market. It helps me sleep beautifully. 

Are you a back, stomach or side sleeper? 
The answer is yes. I am all of these things. I'd say mostly side. 

Do you make your bed in the morning? 
Right away! I'm a big believer in a perfectly made bed with fresh sheets, fluffed up down comforters and plumped pillows. I'm a stickler about making the bed right away, and I'm an early riser. You will not find me with a messy bed. Start the day with an espresso, a prayer of gratitude, a great workout and a beautifully made bed - my early morning essentials! 

Thank you, Julia, for including me! Want to recreate my luxe bedroom look? Here are a few favorite elements: 

Interview: Exploring the Chic Creations of Savannah Hayes...

While blogging affords many hidden benefits, there are two in particular that work together to fuel my creative hunger: discovering independent talent and having the opportunity to interview these lively entrepreneurs. One such recent discovery is Pittsburg-based designer Savannah Hayes whose introductory collection looks as polished as that of any long-running brand. Having worked with a handful of big name designers and brands prior to her entrepreneurial debut, it comes as no surprise that her designs have star power written all over them. Her graphic textiles, conversation-starting marble and striking iPhone cases dazzle my eyes and spark questions I simply had to ask of Savannah. Below I captured them to share with you. I hope this sparks a fury of creativity for you as the new year kicks off! 


Savannah, your work is modern, chic and yet entirely practical. What was the first Savannah Hayes product you created? Tell us more about the idea behind that piece…

My first finished piece was the Milas throw blanket. It started as a small scale drawing in my sketchbook: the result of an afternoon alone spent with paper, ruler, and graphite. The blankets are 50" x 60" and I scaled the design to fit that size. I love how dramatic it is opened up to show the full design and how subtle it is when folded.

Travel is a key influence for most, if not all, creatives. You’ve lived in many great cities but can you point to a specific vacation destination or journey that offered a heavy influence for your design aesthetic?

In my early 20s, I found myself in Rome several times in a matter of a few years. With my camera and my sketchbook, I devoured the city. I tried to capture the ancient architecture, the aged patinas, the abundant textures , the rich colors. Several of the designs in my inaugural collection were influenced by specific shapes and angles that I recorded on those trips.

Kelly Wearstler, Kravet & the esteemed Martha herself. What lessons from those past professional engagements guide you in your entrepreneurial pursuits today?

With Kelly, I saw firsthand how owning your own business can so positively affect a work/life balance. At Kravet, I learned how to style a collection. From color and texture to scale and pattern, it's a matter of balance. From Martha, I learned how big big can be!

Are there any great books you can recommend that delivered an “ah-ha” moment for you as a creative and/or a business owner?

Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon is a must read. I find myself rereading it in the bath! It's such a wonderful trove of encouragement and advice to help creatives stay at their most productive.

Let’s talk about your stunning products! Geometrics have a solid presence in the current collection. What can you share about your love of these modern shapes and designs?

I've been attracted to angles and edges for as long as I can remember. I always draw with a straight-edge and when I'm photographing, it's the linear elements in the environment that I'm most attracted to. I think bold, geometric prints pair well with the organic shapes of furniture and the softer design elements we so often have in our homes.

The Odessa Throw and the Aquino phone case make me weak in the knees. What are your current favorites from your line? 

That's so nice to hear! Hmm, tough question... Well, if my home is any indication, I've currently got an Izmir throw blanket on my sofa and a pair of the 24" Antwerp pillows on my bed. And the Ravenna case on my iPhone!

Without revealing too much… what’s next on your vision board or personal success plan?

Leather! Given the success of the phone cases, I'd love to expand our brand into other personal accessories.

Morning beverage? What’s inside your cup lately?

I'm a classic latte kind of girl. I also love Kusmi tea and a simple kale/pineapple juice I make with our amazing Nutribullet.

 I loved hearing the different yet key lessons learned from Kelly, Martha and Kravet. Huge names in the lifestyle brand category. It's no wonder Savannah's collection of accessories are so gorgeous. For more on Savannah, visit her site and prepare to find yourself quickly developing a list of must-haves from her stunning collection of goods. 

I hope you enjoyed the first interview of the year.Expect many more as we explore the inner workings of creative minds, edgy entrepreneurs and brand builders. 

{images courtesy of Janelle Bendycki for SavannahHayes.com}

Feeling Bookish: Florence de Dampierre Shares Lessons in Living French Chic..

There are no shortage of books discussing this and that a la Parisian. Perhaps they talk about masterful wardrobe editing or extol the virtues of living in the land of fresh croissants and ballet flat chic. But few books lay out in exquisite detail exactly how to go about living your existing daily life with the ease and confidence possessed by those rarified French citizens. In French Chic Living: Simple Ways to make Your Home More Beautiful Florence de Dampierre offers us very specific ways to infuse the spirit of dwelling in a manse in Provence in our daily lives.

This lovely text won't linger in a stack in my library, instead it will be kept handy for frequent reference. Why? Because it is literally filled with "I can use that today" wisdom and great ideas for the care and concern of all things chic living. Having spent time in the French countryside growing up, the viewpoint of the author is decidedly rustic French. But even a city mouse will love the timeless wisdom spilled out on each page. Shopping tips, cocktail party secrets and everything in between. 

From easy recipes to detailed suggestions on exactly what to acquire for your linen closet, how to grow and store your herbs, stocking the ideal pantry and natural cures for everyday niusances. This book, perhaps more than any I've read recently, is the exact gift to give to everyone on your list. From the young singleton in their first apartment to the busy mom of five, this book lays out in beautiful detail what a well-stocked (but never overstuffed) home needs. 

If the name Florence de Dampierre name sounds familiar, it is because she is literally a household name. From several other books (Chairs: A History and French Chic: The Art of Decorating Houses are but two of her other titles) to licensed lines with such brands as John-Richard, Surya and A&B Home, she is a bonafide authority on the topic of channeling je ne sais quoi into your everyday life. 


I was delighted to interview the author to pull out a few more gems of wisdom. I hope you'll enjoy our discussion! 

Florence, I’ve loved many of your books. Chairs: A History, French Chic: The Art of Decorating Houses are two personal favorites. French Chic Living was inspired from your childhood memories of time in France with your family. Can you share more with us about your early life abroad in such a romantic setting? 

Thank you very much. So happy that you like my new book as well. It is a very personal book, close to my heart. It mix together a lot of my memories from my grand-mothers. They were both strong characters in their own way and both had a way of making people and family around them at ease and happy.

Food and smells still are anchored in my mind,and to this day triggered lovely memories. 

The food was relatively simple but always with fresh products. Fresh eggs from the farmer down the road along with milk directly from his cows with the cream on top. All was used to make cakes. Leftover were always reused doing something delicious. No waste was ever a possibility for anything.    

I love that this is a true lifestyle book, offering a reader everything they need to know to set up house and garden in true art de vivre style. What inspired you to share this wisdom with readers? 

My friends have being for ever asking me about recipe for one thing or another or are marveling at some things I am doing. I realized how much of a desire for getting things done is out there and also wanted to share how easy many things are when you know what to do.

In the book you offer exceptional information on tips for selecting, storing and preparing food using natural ingredients - as well as recipes we can follow. I would love to hear about some of your early memories of cooking alongside your grandmother or mom and shopping for menu items at French markets. Any great stories to share?  

For me shopping at open market is a always such a pleasure. I love to look and to try things. It is a total experience and fun experience 

Your brand collaboration with A&B Home provides us with many of the French living essentials outlined in the book. From the perfect cream throw to gorgeous garden urns and elegant lanterns. It must me absolute bliss to see those ideal imagined creations come to life! How important is frequent international travel to your design process for products and interiors?  

Frequent travels are very important as it keep your creative juices flowing and keep you with the finger on the pulse of what is happening. 

Yes it is almost magical to see products that you designed and dreamed of becoming reality . It is a great feeling. 

The holidays are coming up quickly. Given your decidedly European approach to entertaining, could you offer insights on creating a relaxing and welcoming environment for large family gatherings? Any special tips to help us a create stress-free atmosphere as we cook up the most important meals of the year? 

My first tip would be to do things that you can do easily.Do not be over ambitious and try to cook, prepare and organized more than you can master. The goal is to spread joy and happiness around you. Not to be stressed out 

So pace yourself and do not do everything at once. Organization is key and knowing where to buy what, is good! A lovely presentation of a delicious store bought product is not a bad thing!. 

And finally, what can we expect from Florence de Dampierre next? 

Many more products for sure, to make your life better.  

I hope you enjoyed the interview! I found the recipes and entertaining tips to be very on point and applicable for all lifestyles and ages. Love the book and am so happy to have it as a reference. Below is a link to the book on Amazon as well as a few of my other favorite books by Florence. Enjoy! 


{Photos in this post are by yours truly, Franki Durbin}

Giveaway: Win $250 in Beautiful Goods from Bungalo...

Just in time for the wave of entertaining you are certain to enjoy this fall, Bungalo sweeps in with a sweet $250 gift card giveaway! If you've not yet discovered this great resource, your clean design loving eyes are in for a visual feast. Think: Scandinavian chic with an organic, artisan vibe. Tabletop goods, clever storage ideas and soft woven textiles and yes, golden flatware, await you on the virtual shelves of this online boutique. 

In a sea of over-designed and perhaps oft too fussy products, Bungalo excels at simplicity and "under-thinking" when creating their unique products. Their pillows, soft blankets, bowls, baskets and more address everyday needs with the elegant simplicity often reserved for high-end Japanese brands and Scandi-chic luxe goods. All without those high import prices.

So how did this mod chic brand come to be? Ahhh, that's all to the credit of the creative power behind Bungalo. If the name Regine Raab sounds familiar, it's because she is also the creator of Waggo and before that worked with such notable fashion brands as Marc Jacobs and Adam Lippes. So rather than simply offer you a much needed giveaway (an incredibly generous $250, friends!) I'm also deep diving into some of the thinking that makes serial entrepreneurs like Regine a different breed.

Please enjoy this interview with the lovely and talented Regine Raab...

Regine, I love a good serial entrepreneur, so thank you for taking time to answer a few questions. As the creative mind behind Waggo and now Bunglao Home, you have a knack for filling a niche in the market. Could you tell us the impetus behind the creation of the home goods at Bungalo? What was the moment or the turning point that inspired you to move into the home accessories market?

When I started Waggo, I felt like there was a gap in the pet market — modern, friendly, high quality dog products that actually fit into your home without being too much of an eyesore. As the business grew over the years, we started getting more and more questions and comments from customers asking us if we would ever do similar products for them in addition to their dogs! I can’t tell you how funny it has been to have customers tell us they have bought our dog bowls to use as casserole dishes! I knew when I heard that (time and time again), it was time to start building something for humans as well. Bungalo takes cues from Waggo’s modern aesthetic but definitely has a little bit more of a grown up voice while still being playful. We have been so happy with our customer’s reactions to the brand and are excited continue to expand the offering of modern essentials. 

Marc Jacobs, Adam Lippes… those are impressive fashion houses to have on a list of experience. What key lessons did you learn from that industry that helps shape your businesses today? 

There are two key things that I think about a lot that I brought from my past experience. The first thing is brand focus — you can’t be everything to everyone . At every fashion house I have every worked at, there was always a push and pull between what the customer is asking for and what designers and merchandisers develop. There is a happy medium in the middle where you can be both focused on the vision and future innovation of the brand while still satisfying customer needs. The other thing I learned a lot about was the importance of customer service. After all, you can have great product but if your customers aren’t satisfied, you have no business. I take a tremendous amount of joy in talking to our customers, making sure that their comments are heard, issues are resolved and that they understand we value them. There is nothing better than a customer that is happy at the end of an exchange. 

Design is obviously a key aspect that sets your products apart from other brands. Your cool, modern offerings are the stuff of Scandinavian dreams. Can you share when and where your appreciation for that signature minimalist-yet-warm aesthetic emerged? 

I’m not sure to be honest…  I have always been someone who wanted to love everything I own — I would rather have less and better. I think for me, when I come home I just want it to feel like a breath of fresh air and minimalism, classic stripes, beechwood, white with pops of color, all of that really does it for me. It makes me feel happy and light. 

I’m always interested in morning routines for high-output entrepreneurs. What does your typical workday morning look like? 

On a good day, I am up around 7 and my husband and I normally have breakfast together. I’ve gotten really into tea lately so I’ve been trying all sorts of weird flavors in the morning. I’m a big fan of CBS This Morning, that’s normally how I get my news for the day (I love that Charlie Rose) so I will have that on in the background as I get ready for the day. After my husband leaves, Benny (the Schnoodle) and I will catch up on emails that were received overnight — many of our factories and retailers are overseas so things are around-the-clock! I typically leave the house around 8:30 and Benny and I are lucky enough to walk to work just 15 minutes away! 

Most creative types have a voracious appetite for travel and visual stimulation. What is a favorite escape for you? Where do you love to (or long to) go? 

I do love travel and I have found that to be more and more important as the business grows and I am in the office a lot. It is so important to get out into the world and be inspired by your surroundings - that’s how all of the best ideas come. One of my favorite places locally outside of NYC is the Dia:Beacon — it is a former Nabisco factory that was converted into a contemporary art museum. The space itself is breathtaking — beautiful light wood floors, vast factory windows, beautiful but simple art at every turn. My husband proposed to me here almost 7 years ago inside a Richard Serra sculpture so it also has a sentimental meaning to us. We try to go once a year together. There are so many places I long to go – I would love to go to Vietnam or travel the beautiful countryside of Scandanavia — my list is very long! 

Best book you’ve read recently related to business? 

I really liked the Checklist Manifesto. It has a really basic premise but organizational structure at a small business is so important and I enjoyed learning about how the simplest things can sometimes make a significant difference in the productivity of a business. 

Advice you wish someone had given you at the start of building your brand? 

Slow down! You can’t do everything at once, pick and choose what you are spending your time on and have a long term vision for the brand, short term thinking can be overwhelming. 

And finally, what item (or items) are you currently wild about on Bungalo (I’m personally loving the gold flatware!)? 

I love the dipped storage bins – I have a few at my house because I LOVE LOVE LOVE to hide clutter. 

Great answers indeed! I fully agree with her higher quality lower quantity mentality. I also believe it is the genesis for luxurious design, as simplicity can indeed be stunning. You'll see I also have love for the dipped baskets as well since we've incorporated a few into my daughter's room. Storage for those things you possess is key to a chic and tidy space. 

So, are you inspired to enjoy a little Bungalo in your own bungalow? I thought you would be. Drop your comment below (with email!) to be entered to win the giveaway. Must enter by 12:00 midnight CST November 7th 2015. Winner will be drawn at random from qualifying entries and will receive a $250 gift card good towards their Bungalo purchase. Be sure to browse their site in anticipation of the drawing. And good luck! 


Interview: Going More Than Skin Deep with the Beauty Experts at Unit Skin Studio...

{ via  by Slavasan Lynam}

{via by Slavasan Lynam}

Instagram friends will have caught a glimpse of my tour of Dallas's Unit Skin Studio a few weeks back. The ultra-chic derm-on-demand outpost is novel in its approach and refreshing in its design. Nestled inside popular Preston Hollow Village at Walnut Hill and N. Central Expressway, this gleaming, light-filled space is a study in chic design (think: Slim Aarons photography lining the walls) and minimalist appeal. But to really tap into the true beauty of Unit's unique approach, we'll have to go more than skin deep. 

Rather than gush about their seriously state-of-the-art offerings and proprietary products (yes, they have them!), I'll let the experts on the team do the speaking. Please enjoy this in-depth interview with the delightful founder Lindsey Pineyro and partner & lead practitioner Sandra Witten, PA-C, MPAS. These ladies and the entire team were so generous with their time when I visited the location. I was wowed by the design of the space, of course, but it only took moments to suss out how passionate and knowledgeable the team was about their professional pursuit. Without further ado, here is what they shared: 

FD: Lindsey, from the moment you walk in the door at Unit Skin Studio, the atmosphere is decidedly stylish. Slim Aarons photography, modern furnishings & natural organic accents. Serene and professional but incredibly chic. Sandra credited you with the design for the interiors - which are amazing from start to finish. Can you tell me where you drew upon for your influences for the beautiful space? 
Lindsey Pineyro: I’ve always had a passion for interiors and really thinking outside the box.  We wanted Unit to feel like your ultra-chic living room that you never had.  From the coffee tables designed by Bret Comber out of Vancouver to the Stark Rug on the floor we thought of everything. 

We feel you can never go wrong with Slim Aaron I mean he defines luxury and jet-setting at its best and a picture is worth a thousand words.  It’s not just about coming to Unit for a “treatment” it’s about the way you feel when you are here, there is something that is drawing you the space.  We believe every touch point has a meaning from the Nespresso Coffee to the receipt paper it all matters to us. 

FD: I chatted with Sandra Witten and your team about everything from good moisturizers to laser resurfacing. From my discussions with Sandra and other team members it is clear your team is very, very knowledgeable about modern skincare technology.  appreciate that these advanced professional services are accessible in a boutique in a mixed use retail center. Why did you choose the Walnut Hill location for Unit? 
UNIT: Great question!  We chose Preston Hollow Village for many reasons!  We felt as though it would encompass a sense of community with all the great restaurants and residential space going in.  We knew that PHV needed a strong buy in from the community and held a high standard to the tenants coming into the center.  We were right on point with our choice.  From PHV we can serve the greater community plus individuals making their way home down the 75 corridor. 

FD: I was very impressed to see that your team has has developed your own line of professional grade skin care products. Unit MD Advanced Dermacare is not your typical line of serums and moisturizers. Between R&D and packaging, this is a major investment that’s been made in the brand. What drove the decision to develop your own line rather than carrying the typical skin care spa / dermatologist office brands?
UNIT: Here are Unit we wanted to be able to offer the best services and the best products!  As you can imagine there are many choices in the market place and yes some of them are great just like our line, however you cannot put a price on being able to speak to a true professional about your skin care needs as well as how our products can be incorporated. 

Investing in your skin is a commitment and we want to make sure that our clients feel confident in their curated plan when they leave.  Our line is unique in many way, we have the ability to compound some of our products such as Porcelain to the perfect strength for your skin!  You cant find that at the department store!

FD: Dallas loves its beauty treatments! Obviously the usual suspects - chemical peels and injectibles - are popular. You explained the myriad benefits of the Micropen and Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy to me. These were treatments I’d never considered and I’m very intrigued by the concept. What results could a client expect to see from Micropen and PRP Therapy?  
UNIT: Micropen + PRP AKA “The Vampire Facial” is one of the most cutting edge technologies available for skin rejuvenation. This technology was discovered from wound healing research and has been popularized for its effects in sports medicine. Tiger Woods and tennis great Rafael Nadal have received the benefits of PRP for their orthopedic injuries.

Micro needling alone, provides amazing results. Also known as collagen induction therapy (CIT) the micro pen creates tiny wounds into the dermis. The skin responds to this “injury” by creating collagen. The cells that are responsible for this wound healing and collagen production “speak” to each other as they did when they were much younger, creating a robust collagen response. We apply the patients own plasma topically, which is chalk-full of the their own stem cells. Nothing can talk to your own collagen like your own stem cells. The result? Turbo-charged collagen like a Maserati! What does this mean for me? Thicker, more dense skin. less sagging, fine lines and wrinkles reduced, and texture like a baby’s derriere!

(Editor's Note: hello, fountain of youth! Albeit a bit intimidating based upon the description, my curiosity is definitely piqued when it comes to the Vampire Facial! If I dare to do it, I'll be sure to showcase it here and on Insta!)

FD: What other Unit treatments seem to be trending since you’ve opened your doors?  
UNIT: Vampire facial hands-down.

(Editor's Note: Interesting!!!) 

FD: For those on the fence about seeing a skin care specialist to address concerns or simply to develop a preventative skin care routine, what can you tell that that describes the Unit Skin Studio difference?  
UNIT: Unit, Neimans or Nordstrom? Every Dallasite goes somewhere for her skin care. The Unit difference is the quality of the products, and the medical degrees standing behind them. We have prescription strength skin care, that must be dispensed under the supervision of a medical professional. Think of it as over-the-counter vs prescription strength.

Which would you choose? Sandra is a degreed medical professional with 20 years of dermatology experience and Plastic Surgery experience pre dating that… Who would you rather have analyzing your skin care needs? She can also write prescriptions if you have any other dermatological issues. Hop over from Neimans, to Unit, you skin will be in great hands!

FD: Is there one star in the line?
UNIT: Vitality!

FD: And finally - any takeaway tips you can offer readers for caring for their skin each day? 
UNIT: Sandra's mantra - Retin-A at night and sunscreen in the morning is like brushing your teeth for your skin.

(Editor's Note: NOTED! Reassuring to read this and know that I'm doing this faithfully.)

Well... now that we've tapped into their serious skin care genius, I'd love to share a promotion happening now: 

Unit Skin Studio is offering for the month of October in honor of Halloween. Through October when you buy one Vampire Facial at Unit Skin Studio, you'll get one half off! Nothing can speak to your body like your own stem cells. Below is a list of just a few of the benefits from the Vampire Facial, known technically as the Platelet Rich Plasma Facial. 

  • Reduces fine lines and wrinkles 
  • Builds collagen up to 1,000X faster than normal facial treatments 
  • Helps with tone and texture of the skin - sun spots, melasma 
  • Can be administered year round - no need to worry about avoiding the sun
  • Little to no downtime 
  • Little to no discomfort 

"Vampires may be scary, but our vampire facial is anything but! No tricks, just treats with our amazing Vampire Facial. Treat yourself this Halloween! This October Unit Skin Studio is offering a special so tempting, it's spooky! When you buy one Vampire Facial in October, you'll get one half off!"

DALLAS, TX, 75230
(214) 484-1221

TUES-FRI 10:00-6:00
SATURDAYS 10:00-3:00

So, girls and boys? What do you think? Is micro-needling something you'd consider? I'm curious, but I'm also keen to explore their skin care line. What makes it unique is its formulation and efficacy. They will not be able to sell it online, as it is more potent than the products available online without a prescription.  Before you plop down another $400 for a promised fountain of youth at a department store, consider swinging by Unit to explore their incredibly well priced line. Please tell Lindsey and the team I sent you. And if you do try micro-needling I would LOVE to see and hear all about it!  

Beauty: The Secret Behind that Fabulous Sophia Loren Smile...

You know many things about Sophia Loren. Her captivating eyes, her voluptuous bod, her undeniably Italian va-va-voom. But she is also widely known for that magnetic smile. The team at Dolce&Gabbana formulated a lipstick shade specifically in the beauty's honor. Sophia Loren No 1 is not your typical red, it is a berry stained shade that might entice all of us to give saturated lips a try this fall. 

I had the opportunity to ask D&G makeup artist Christian McCulloch his thoughts on the bombshell in an interview. I think you'll love his answers and insights. After the interview, stick around to read how you can get a booking in his chair and let the beauty guru give you personal tips and tricks to reveal your own inner icon. 

Here's what I learned about inner beauty, skilled makeup application and what he's drinking under that Starbucks lid:

Sophia Loren: Italian bombshell and beauty icon for legions of women for decades. She embodies all we love about feminine beauty! packing the power of her sexy confidence into a single lipstick color and gleaming gold tube could not have been a simple task. I would love to hear your thoughts on what makes Sophia Loren No 1 so powerful and why this might be the shade that makes us all dare to bare a red lip. 
Sophia Loren is that classic Italian beauty whose look and style resonates with women and men alike. Sophisticated, sexy, daring, feminine and bold all at once; she exudes confidence and timeless style. Sophia is living proof that women's beauty and grace is achievable at all ages and through the decades. 

This shade is a go-to winner for women of all skin tones. 

Let’s talk fall makeup! The Dolce&Gabbana introductions for #dglovesfall exude feminine romance. Antique rose, mauve, and a some unexpected shades like Tahitian Grey & Jaipur Blue - give us plenty to work with to achieve a wide range of looks What type of street style vibe are you hoping these pretty products inspire? What is your personal favorite “daily” makeup look heading into the cooler months? 
I often love a strong and sexy smoky eye with a pale neutral, soft lip color. Never fails! The eyeshadow shades in the Fall collection are the most incredible hues for big bold sexy eyes with added dimension. I love to play with the color and get it to be bold enough without overdoing it. A statement, but a sophisticated one. That look can be amped up by adding a winged liner. 

Deep bold glossy lips are making a come back. Experiment with red and deep violet / purple tones for this bold, glamorous look. Creamy matte velvet skin, defined brows, two-tone dimensional eyeshadow and a glowing cheek is my hallmark look for the new fall makeup.

In your work with models, celebs and beauty enthusiasts alike, what is a subtle trend you hear them all asking for? Is there a specific feature they are hoping to play up? Are there any emerging trends you’re noticing?
The flushed cheek with a pop of blush, combined with a strong contour and dimension has been on top of everyone’s request list.  The “sculpted” face!  Brows have also been a priority; everyone wants those thick, defined and natural strong brow. This is achievable with the Dolce&Gabbana Shaping Eyebrow Pencil

Since our last interview I’ve become far more familiar with the Dolce & Gabbana skin care line. Great skin is what it’s all about right now. I’m hooked on a few goodies like the Essential Toner and the Aurealux Serum. Hello, healthy skin! Could you offer any pro tips for keeping skin hydrated and radiant as cold weather settles in?
I love removing makeup and impurities with the Dolce&Gabbana Essential Cleansing Oil as it is both comforting and soothing to the skin.  To deliver extra radiant hydration; use the Dolce&Gabbana Aurealux Mask followed by the Dolce&Gabbana Aurealux Serum – velvety skin will be revealed.

Back to the subject of Sophia Loren and her inimitable beauty: What expert beauty tips could you offer us for channeling our own inner bombshell and embracing La Dolce Vita a la the Italian bombshell?
I think that brow shaping and defining is key for Italian bombshell Sophia-ness! Have them shaped gently by someone you trust! Extra lashes and liner on the outer corners to deliver that feline flick, that meets the brow is also key. Then shadow on the lid can be on the paler side for day and amped up heavier for night, I like to use a cream shadow like the Dolce&Gabbana Perfect Mono.Finish the look with luscious lips and contoured cheekbones – that’s how you find your inner Sophia.

And a few fun rapid-fire “get to know you” questions: 

Favorite summer escape? 
If I’m staying relatively local, I love heading to East Hampton, NY for the tranquil setting and boating. I usually spend Labor Day Weekend in Cape Cod; so gorgeous there. If I'm going offshore- Tulum, Mexico is a magical spot I keep returning to for the healthy lifestyle, food, yoga, massage, meditation, etc. 

Your typical Starbucks order?
My Starbucks order is pretty classic:  Grande Cappuccino! A Venti if it's a tough morning! 

Must-have items in your carry-on?
In my carry on:  Aside from my makeup brushes, I love to have a good book or great magazine article to get into. The New Yorker, New York magazine and Time always have something intelligent and current to absorb in my down time. I love learning more about the upcoming presidential race. Also the Beauty & Fashion mags keep me on my toes and inspired to do more great work. Then it's really the basics: iPad, toiletries, (Dolce&Gabbana Skin of course!) a Rose Water Mist and cashmere cardigan helps! 

Last thing you downloaded?
Latest download is the new Lana del Rey album. Always love anything new from Beyoncé - my girl from Houston! Also love that Diplo and Justin Bieber song!

Well don't you love him just a little more now? I do! (If you missed my earlier interview with him, check it out here.) For an up close and personal experience with the brand, Christian himself and that iconic lip color, here's the skinny on his upcoming Houston appearance at Saks Galleria:

Dolce&Gabbana National Make Up Artist, Christian McCulloch Private Consultations

Saturday, September 26th 11AM – 7PM

Saks Fifth Avenue at The Galleria
5115 Westheimer Rd
Houston TX

Call to make your appointment: (713) 627 – 0500 EXT. 5102


For you video lovers (raising hand high!), here's a fun backstage glimpse of Sophia introducing her signature lipstick shade:

Beauty: D&G Makeup Artist Christian McCulloch Reveals His Luminous Tips...

Can you tell I'm obsessed with makeup and skin care? I'd say a series of deep-diving beauty posts can attest to my dedication to perfecting the art & science of beauty. Today I bring you a VERY special treat. Makeup artist to the stars Christian McCulloch was kind enough to put down his brushes long enough to answer some very detailed questions I posed to him. 

But before I share his "get glowing" tips I'd love to familiarize you with his work. Do the names Scarlett Johansson, Emma Stone, Taylor Swift, Kate Hudson, Jessica Biel, Hilary Swank, Rachel Weisz, Shakira, Kate Winslet, Naomi Watts, Cameron Diaz, Anne Hathaway, Nicole Richie, Milla Jovovich, and Rachel Zoe ring a bell? I know I had you at Taylor Swift, but the list of famous clientele is impressive. The Sydney, Australia native has worked with brand giants YSL, MAC, Oscar de la Renta, Jason Wu, Tory Burch, Donna Kara, MaxMara and many more. Let's just say when it comes to getting gorgeous, Christian has the lock on all things beauty and everyone in the industry knows it. 

Through a series of fortuitous events I was able to ask Christian a few questions about the makeup techniques & products he'll be featuring at the Spring Looks Event in Houston. Utilizing the newest products from the Summer Shine Collection as well as those Dolce Matte lipsticks everyone is dying to get their hands on, Christian will be gussying up Houston's finest on May 30th at Saks at the Galleria. Yes, you too can have this supremely talented (and incredibly fun) makeup and skin care guru bless you with the gift of his artistry. (Don't worry... full details at end of post!)

Okay... ready for my skin care & makeup questions? I pressed him for his thoughts on how to prep your lips for those richly pigmented matte lipsticks, how important moisturizing is to the final look and his thoughts on getting that natural luminosity when the mercury rises. Ready? Here we go: 

Franki Durbin: Christian, thank you for your time. I love your ability to leverage makeup to bring out the unique beauty in your clients. It is truly a gift! 

On to Dolce & Gabbana Summer Shine look… the step-by-step instructions begin with application of the luxurious 10-minute Aurealux Mask. Can you share with us the transformative properties of the mask and the qualities it lends the skin in preparation for the makeup to follow?

CM: I love the Dolce&Gabbana Aurealux Mask. It's super refreshing and hydrating and boosts the skin's overall quality and texture leaving it very silky. The Mask is a serum-based formula with a gorgeous luxurious consistency. The key ingredients are an exclusive Gold Flavo-silk complex  - with gold silk sericin, Italian olive oil extract and Vitamin B3.   The Mask perfectly primes and conditions skin beautifully before makeup application.

FD: What I love most about the finished Summer Shine Collection is the pairing of luminous skin and dramatic eyes. I’d love to hear your preferred method for applying the Luminous Foundation. Are you a brush enthusiast? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the difference in the finished look when foundation is applied with a brush versus with fingertips. 

CM: I like to use all methods for foundation, brushes, sponges, and yes, fingertips.  Tools are more helpful if the formulation is liquid and runnier as you can get a little more control. Fingers and hands can be great when used as an "instant palette" for thicker, more heavily pigmented foundations and concealers. The warmth of your hands melt and break it down so you don't apply too much. With the Dolce&Gabbana Luminous Foundation I usually apply it with a foundation brush first, starting in center of face working outwards, and then finessing with fingertips and sometimes a sponge, as I blend outwards to a seamless and sheer finish.

FD: It’s refreshing to see the Summer Shine look emphasize facial curvatures by way of highlighting rather than shading. I love this for creating a radiant summer look. Could you offer tips for giving the illusion of fuller cheekbones by placing the Dolce Illuminator in just the right spot? It’s often a challenge to nail the art of placement without going overboard. 

CM: Highlighting the face with contour and dimension is so big right now! The new Dolce&Gabbana illuminator in Luna works incredibly well in tandem with the Bronzers and Cheek Colors because it illuminates the cheekbones and makes them pop when applied over the color. It really brightens things up!  I like to sculpt with a gorgeous Bronzer such as Desert first, under the cheekbone area, lightly dust the "apples" of the cheeks (i.e where you smile) with a peach or pink blush. The Illuminator goes on the upper outer cheekbone area, just below the eye contour area. Your guide is about halfway between your outer nose and outer eye area, where the light hits. Lightly dusted over the whole area, blending, blending - blending. It's also great as a brightening base for the whole eyelid and brow area, as it functions as a finishing powder. 

FD: Matte red lips done well are a sensual statement on a woman. What professional advice can you give to us on achieving a flawless finished lip when daring to use such a richly pigmented lipstick as Dolce Matte? 

CM: Dolce&Gabbana Dolce Matte Lipsticks rock! They are the most amazing rich velvet lipsticks, packed with color.  The application is very smooth, especially for intense color with such a matte finish. I tend to apply it to the bottom lip first. That's easiest and the fullest area so you get an immediate sense of the color. Then I lightly rub the lips together to transfer the color straight up to the top lip.  This gives a great natural shape to the lips. Then I use a brush to finesse the edges, making the outside line more precise. Then if I want to really go for long wear, or super precise shape, I'll use a Dolce&Gabbana Precision Lip Liner Pencil in the corresponding shade to make the lip edges flawless. The resulting look can be very dramatic; without the pencil the delivered look is that of a softer edge. Depends on the occasion! You can always blot the lips with a tissue and reapply the lipstick to make sure it's really not going anywhere! 


So allow me to talk about a few of these items. I just tried the Aurealux Mask and could not believe the instant plumping it delivered. My skin absolutely glowed for a few days after use and somehow, magically, my makeup seems to glide over the skin now when applying. Hydration is definitely key, and even more so as your skin adjusts to changing seasons. 

I loved getting his thoughts on brushes versus fingertips for foundation application. I've learned the value of a brush, but I admit to being a creature of habit and LOVING my fingertips for immediate (albeit messy) application. Tools definitely keep the hands clean, and the result is a very different finished look.

For D&G's Luminous Foundation I would suggest that either method delivers a stunning look. The product comes in whipped cream or liquid formulas, so you can choose the one that best suits your preference. But, ladies... do consider sitting with a pro at the counter and discussing brushes. I'm leaning towards their use more and more for that airbrushed look we all crave.

And about those red lips - as you know I'm a nude lip girl. But... his insights on a "softer" version of this look were eye opening. I've actually never heard the suggestion to apply on bottom lip and let the pigment from that lip color the top. The result would certainly be softer and more natural. This is a look I might actually be willing to try! What a  brilliant suggestion for those of us looking for a less dramatic result. 

For highlighting I am smitten with the Luna Illuminator. Just enough shimmer, not glittery at all. It is absolutely stunning and, as the name implies, is as subtle as moonlight on your beautiful face. If you're looking for a believable glow on the peaks of your cheekbones, this gorgeous illuminating powder is the one you seek. It's a keeper!!! 

Now... about that event. Mark your calendars and get ready to get gorgeous. Christian will be here in Texas making everyone who sits in his chair more beautiful. It's a great opportunity to sit with a pro and try out a new look. He's sure to teach you quite a few new techniques and arm you with a new (or at least expertly improved) approach to warm weather beauty. 

Need more inspiration? Here's the D&G behind-the-scenes video exploring the skin-celebrating look: 


Dolce&Gabbana Make Up Hosts Spring Looks Event with Christian McCulloch in Houston


Dolce&Gabbana National Makeup Artist, Christian McCulloch
Christian is known for his keen eye in designing chic and sophisticated beauty looks for top celebrities and major publications.  He has recently worked with: Kate Hudson, Camila Alves, Scarlett Johansson, Kate Bosworth, Emma Stone, Michelle Williams, Katie Holmes, Christina Hendricks, Olivia Wilde and major publications such as: Vogue, Vanity Fair, and Marie Claire.  


Christian McCulloch and top Dolce&Gabbana make up artists will be on-hand to introduce the Dolce Matte Lipstick Collection and Dolce&Gabbana Summer Shine Collection and will be creating custom makeup applications inspired by Spring beauty trends.  

Customers are invited to make an appointment with Christian and the team as he reveals his insider makeup tips and demonstrates the newest Dolce&Gabbana trends and application techniques. 


May 30th, 2015; 11:00 – 7:00pm
Saks Fifth Avenue, The Galleria
5115 Westheimer Road
Houston, TX 77056

For appointments please call: (713) 627 – 0500 EXT. 5102

*Editor's Note: this is not a paid post, but the team at D&G Beauty were kind enough to send me a few samples to try. All opinions are authentic and unbiased and you can rest assured I do not author content or make product suggestions unless I'm personally impressed by the products and a fan of the brand.  See my FAQs for more on this and other topics. 

Interview: Inside the Studio with Serena Dugan and Lily Kanter of Serena & Lily...

Ahhhh, Serena & Lily. Just thinking of the brand reminds me of trips to the beach while growing up in North Carolina. Salty air, boardwalks, sand dunes and a certain easy way of living are all part of the vibe this laid-back lifestyle brand suggests.

Last week I featured their initial capsule collection of apparel - the Serena & Lily's first foray into fashion. Seeing the simple silhouettes and everyday styling made realize that most clothing these days is over-designed. Somehow the creative minds behind this small collection had tapped into our collective desire for beautifully tailored clothing that feels effortless and natural to wear. They've created exactly that with these simple yet lovely dresses and casual separates - and managed to time the launch perfectly to coincide with our season of trips to the beach. Genius indeed. 

I'm pleased to share that I was able to interview Serena Dugan & Lily Kanter (yes, the real women behind the brand) to discover what makes them tick, what inspired these fresh pieces and whether or not we might see "mini-me" dresses coming online anytime soon (spoiler: nothing is impossible for these two).  

There’s no easy road, you have to remain optimistic, keep an open mind, and you have to be tenacious.
— Lily Kanter

Are you ready? You will be once you see their fantastic answers! Read on to get to know the brains behind this wildly successful lifestyle brand: 

Thank you ladies for taking time to dig a bit deeper into your capsule collection. I love that the collection was inspired by what you deemed a void in the market. I happen to agree. Where did you look for inspiration for the simple silhouettes for the Serena & Lily apparel? 

Serena Dugan:  I designed the collection to be classic in reference, flattering in fit, and timeless in your wardrobe.  I was the target audience for the collection, as it is exactly what I was missing and wanted to see.  Much of the collection was assembled around vintage pieces I had kept in my closet, knowing that they spoke not only to my aesthetic sensibility but to any female's...and were surprisingly hard to find.  

Your unique textile designs have played a key role in differentiating your brand. Tell us about the nuances of designing those textiles for dresses and pajamas versus those for bedding and other home textiles? 

SD: Ultimately designing for home and designing clothing is complementary. Our point of design differentiation for both categories is our attention to detail, quality construction, and our timeless silhouettes. We’re able to apply much of our knowledge of textiles and construction and production to apparel, while bringing a more feminine sensibility and fashion aesthetic.

I love that the limited collection focuses mainly on effortlessly chic dresses. Do you both find that dresses are your “go to” look for busy days? 

Lily Kanter: Yes, the shirt dress in particular is a favorite for me. The Jane dress is the perfect fit, impeccably tailored with just the right combination of fit and flare to take you from day to night. We are introducing four new colors with our fall collection, launching on 8/18.

You’ve imbued the capsule collection with that special southern California bohemian vibe, but still masterfully nailed the art of tailoring and fit. This must have been quite a learning process, moving from bedding and draperies into fitted garments. Tell us about that learning curve and what drove you to persist in spite of the challenges that are always paired with pushing ourselves to learn something entirely new. 

SD:  We learned that much like with home items, the fabric selection was incredibly important. We chose fabrics according to the fit and drape that we wanted the garment to have.  Our more tailored pieces needed fabrics with structure (which is why we chose an almost taffeta-like cotton for the party dress), and our flowy pieces needed to be silk, to get the effect that we were aiming for.  It’s not unlike décor:  You choose a material that fits the desired effect.

This is one of those instances where your brand extension leaves us (as fans and loyal customers) thinking “Yes, of course!” It feels like an organic and surprisingly obvious evolution of the Serena & Lily lifestyle brand. When did the idea first occur to dive into fashion and how long did it take from truly making the decision to develop a line until it hit production? 

SD: I’ve always wanted to design apparel, but it really began to take shape as we imagined people living in the environments we were creating for our catalog. It was a natural segue to envision their style and what they’re wearing.

It’s no secret that the collection as a whole has been favorably received. Many items are even sold out, so congratulations on nailing your vision and executing a very successful first foray into our closets! What has been the most satisfying part of seeing your creative and strategic vision come to fruition? 

SD: Many things about this collection and launch have been rewarding, but I think the best part has been seeing people react to and fall in love with the garments. I can’t wait to do it again for fall.

The entrepreneurs that succeed get knocked down every day, get up, brush themselves off, and start a new day.
— Lily Kanter

Can you share any insights for business owners and entrepreneurs considering extending their brand beyond what others might see as their obvious niche? 

LK: The entrepreneurs that succeed get knocked down every day, get up, brush themselves off, and start a new day. There’s no easy road, you have to remain optimistic, keep an open mind, and you have to be tenacious. Surround yourself with smarter people then yourself. I know I make it sound easy. It has not been easy and takes a lot of perseverance. 

As a mommy to two young girls I’ll just add this: I’d love to see a girls collection emerge next year. We live in cotton dresses all spring & summer long! 

LK: Nothing is out of the realm of possibility for us!

Oh, I love a duo on a mission, don't you? Based upon their vision, drive and history of successful designs I feel there's nothing out of reach for Serena & Lily - the women, the brand, the visionaries.  


Love hearing entrepreneurial stories? Be sure to see my interview series, filled with inspiration and ideas for your mind & soul. 

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:


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. 


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. 


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! 

Interview: Discussing Timeless Design with the Illustrious Jan Showers...


Photograph by Eric Piasecki for ELLE DECOR, featured in March 2015 issue.

A recent issue of Elle Decor featured a beautiful project from Jan Showers. As you know from reading, Jan is one of my absolute favorites when it comes to making interiors look positively gorgeous and timeless but still fresh and exciting. It's a delicate dance, but the gorgeous blonde Texas designer seems perfectly suited for creative luminous interiors that balance glamour and sumptuous comfort.

This project, however, posed an unusual challenge: the client was her very own daughter Susanna. Fascinated by the idea of family dynamics and the normal client-designer tango, I reached out to Jan to ask about the project as well as tap into her glorious wisdom on all things beauty, style and design. 

Pull up a tufted velvet chair and ready yourself for Jan's infinite wisdom (and a few lovely tips for you fellow jet-setters):

Jan, first - thank you for your time. You are a shining star in the design landscape and a professional icon for many of us. It is a pleasure to talk with you and glean a bit of insight into your approach to design. With that, a few fun questions…
Thanks for you kind words!
I loved the Elle Decor feature about you and your daughter Susanna working together to freshen up her family home in Houston. It’s clear that you both have great appreciation for one another and the collaborative nature of residential design. She really embraced the strong influence of color and you honored her personal attachment to many furnishings and special pieces. How was this dynamic different from the normal give and take process with other clients?
It was actually very similar---we always try to incorporate pieces that have special meaning to clients and certainly colors that are complimentary to the clients or the art.  I suppose that it could have been different in that Susanna and i certainly speak the same design language (at least 95% of the time).
Often, spectacular results come from happy accidents. Was there a particular area or feature of the Moldawer redesign that resulted in a “wow moment" due to a mutual compromise where each of you had to “bend” a little? This is a great question!  Because I love happy accidents.  I honestly cannot remember one on this project---we thought everything through so completely---Susanna is very detailed and knows what she wants.
Susanna, like you, has a tremendous respect for family heirlooms and antiques. When did you first discover your passion for furnishings with history?  
When I was in my early teens---i most fortunately had a mother and grandmother who both had a great eye and amazing taste.  
How has that influenced your work?
I go to Paris once or twice a year to buy antiques and have for the past 20 years.  Before that, I was going to New Orleans, New York and LA to buy with occasional trips to Paris.  I am so inspired by unusual pieces, particularly those with a history.
Amazingly, I've never seen a Jan Showers project that looks dated. Your timeless style is nothing short of impressive. And yet you are able to achier a fresh, fun, contemporary feel to your spaces. How would you describe your creative approach to designing timeless interiors?  
Thanks, again!  This is what I strive to do at all times.  I think this happens because i am not fond of trends—i never want to use fabrics, colors, wallcoverings, etc. That are trendy.  This is why I love the work of Billy Baldwin, Mark Hampton, David Hicks, Frances Elkins and Sister Parish----their rooms stand the test of time because they ignored trends.
Chic high-rises, sprawling vacation retreats - you master them all. Can you share any favorite projects that you look back on and feel they perfectly captured your vision and aesthetic?
This is a question I never answer---I love all my projects and hope that they fit my client, not me.  Guess i would pick our two houses since they reflect exactly what I like.  Our country house is more traditional and our city townhouse is a bit more modern while still comfortable and inviting---two elements that must be present in any project I do.
Your book "Glamorous Retreats" offered us insights into vacation homes and hideaways of some of your clients. Designing in various locations offers exciting challenges. What is it about designing secondary residences that you find rewarding?
In general, they are lots of fun---clients tend to take more chances with their second or third homes---they always want their second residence to be different from their first.  It's fun to have the challenge of making the project appropriate to its environs.
How do you recharge and unwind from professional demands?  
I love to read, watch movies and great cable tv shows which i record---i love bbc mysteries if they are well done---foyle's war is a great example.  Writing relaxes and challenges me---i love to write on my mac air on the weekends.  The most important thing for me to unwind is to get to our country house at least every two weeks----every week is even better!
Travel is a necessary part of your profession. Often there’s the need to be fresh & fabulous as you step off the plane and into a client meeting. Any “must-have” items in your carry-on you could share for keeping chic on the go?  
I always wear something that will look good when I arrive---in other words, no fabrics that wrinkle easily.  I carry makeup essentials in my carry on so that I can freshen up on the plane.  I also carry a scarf in my handbag to add to pants and a blazer when i arrive---a trick that all french women use.
Dream project… what type of challenge would set your heart on fire if the call came to your studio today?  
We just got a job for an apartment in new york and have done 2 projects in London, one in Toronto---i would love to get a project in paris.
And finally… what can we expect to see next from jan showers?
I am doing a wonderful lifestyle line for Kravet Couture that will be introduced in the spring of next year. We have been working on it for well over a year---very exciting.  Details to be released later this year.

Isn't she just a jewel? Jan is widely regarded as a Texas favorite and Dallas couldn't be more proud to call her their own. If you haven't yet visited her site, I encourage you to take a closer look at her portfolio and designer collections for serious style inspiration. Next, grab Glamorous Rooms and Glamorous Retreats and consider these two critical design books for your private library. Yes, they are gorgeous, but each volume is also filled with fantastic ideas and solid wisdom from the AD100 designer herself.  While we're a bit spoiled by our ready access to her furnishings at local showrooms, you too may have a Jan Showers Collection showroom near you. If so, I encourage you to step inside and immerse yourself in her beautiful world of effortless glamour.

Now, for a bit more inspiration....


Consider a sinewy curved sofa. It encourages conversation and lends subtle energy to an otherwise linear floor plan.
(Velvet Curved Sofa via Horchow)

I can't help it. When I think of Jan my mind immediately imagines stunning sunburst mirrors. Classic, chic and always visually appealing.
(Gold Mirror via Horchow)

Set the tone for functional glamour with gilded tables featuring tapered legs and durable marble tops. Form & function align to create small (and incredibly useful) masterpieces.
(Global Views Table via Horchow)

A little reflection is good. A little eglomise? Even better. Place a showstopper like this gold leaf-edged chest on a long wall to make a grand statement without saying a word.
(John Richard Mirrored Chest via Horchow)


Add a bit of verve to shake up a room. This exotic leopard curule seat is a regal as it is feisty. 
(Macayla Bench via Horchow)

No doubt about it, art sets the tone for a home. Add a cheerful, colorful painting to your walls for an instant mood boost.
("Cherry Nuance" via Horchow


Interviews: The Novogratz, A Family Affair...

Watching the first episode of 9 by Design filled me with wonder and awe. Not because it was so different from everything else on air (and believe me it was)... it was because I was living it. My first daughter was just a baby and my design business was also in its infancy. I was sure I was the only one in the world taking a Bugaboo to fabric showrooms and a baby (and husband) to High Point Market.

And then there was Bob & Cortney...

Here was this dynamic couple, embracing both family and a full-throttle creative business. Where was the usual distinction between the two lives that we usually see on television? Where was the sense of complete separation between being a mom and being a professional? I watched this couple seamlessly mix the two worlds in much the same way I was living my own life.  

To say I've adored them ever since is an understatement. Fast forward to today, my daughters are as well known in Dallas's design district and showrooms as I am myself and it's become understood that when I'm attending an out of town design event I will more than likely have my small tutu-wearing crew in tow. It's how I roll. 

The Novogratz clan, however, takes this to another level. They operate as one amazing, creative, collaborative, individuality-embracing team. It is a thing of beauty to behold. Cortney and Bob may be the dream team of top to bottom renovations, but their growing family members are quickly earning spots at the creative round table of product design. This work-life experience is truly a family affair when it comes to the couple and their seven gifted children. 

I had the rare privilege to interview the couple this week and am excited to share what they had to say about collaboration, creativity and family...

What I have always loved about both of you is your ability to embrace the family-meets-work dynamic rather than struggle to keep them separate. How much influence has your gifted young posse begun to have on your projects? Which of them demonstrate a passion for the field of interiors?

Well, as we get older and therefore less cool, our kids definitely keep the family’s take on things fresh. Everything they’re interested in, from fashion, to music, to social media, really inspires us and helps us to keep our designs young and hip. Between our kids and the big cities we love and have lived in, we’re constantly inspired.

Your business has evolved tremendously with several product lines and a history of impressive renovations. Are you still able to work side by side on the designs? How has that process changed as the business (and the family) has grown?

The process hasn’t changed much, even though the types of projects we’ve done have evolved through the years. Our mantra is always to divide and conquer, while still communicating about each major decision. We love what we do, so our jobs are really just an extension of who were are. This process has remained the same even with 7 kids, although nothing could have prepared us for teenagers!

As an creative entrepreneur who often collaborates with her husband, I find that it only works for us because we have very different areas of expertise. There’s no overlap in our skills. You are both so incredibly creative and innovative. What are the differences in your areas of expertise? What do you do when - inevitably - you disagree? 

While we’re both really similar, I think that we work well together, as neither one of us has a huge ego, and we both care most about the projects themselves. And of course, Robert always gives in to my opinion at the end of the day! Ha. (From Cortney)

9 by Novogratz is a very young & modern approach to home decor. What impact did your kids have on the designs? 

A couple of our kids helped with the designs, as they’re just as design oriented as we are. They’ve really all been involved with the design process at one point or another. Our daughter, Bellamy, had the idea for the #9 pillow in our new walmart.com line. Again, we’re inspired by everything they’re interested in, so we don’t think any of our designs would be the same if not for them.

Novogratz Collection for CB2 is gorgeous and truly diverse. It seems to beautifully reflect your eclectic style and ability to mix modern with classic pieces. Tell me about that amazing acrylic locker. What inspired that piece? What do you love about the collection overall?

We love CB2! It’s really a tremendous company, and the people who work there are amazing. Our goal for that collection was to bring a classic look to modern design. CB2 let us have complete freedom in the design process, which is really rare, but which almost always results in our best work. That locker was inspired by one we saw at a Paris flea market a long time ago. We’d always wanted to design a similar one, and CB2 was able to engineer a high quality locker that embodied the feel of the Paris locker. Whether modern or traditional, the key to great design is to achieve a timeless feel.

Let’s talk art! It is a integral part of life and your designs. What advice can offer to my readers on growing their personal gallery? 

Our best advice is to buy what you like. Go to galleries and museums, and start small. Photographs and prints are a great way to start a collection. If you’re ready to purchase something that’s more expensive relative to your budget, do your homework first.

You’ve traveled far and wide as a family. I can attest to this feat not being easy. What tips can you share on going abroad with your brood? Where do you love to go on vacation?

We have a home in Trancoso, Brazil, which is a really special place for us. We also love traveling to France, as we’re truly Francophiles. To keep the kids occupied while traveling we pack Mad Libs, and to keep them clean, we stock up on disposable, prepackaged toothbrushes. We also let each kid be responsible for his own carry-on suitcase. This makes traveling more fun for them and gives them a sense of responsibility, which is great. You can start them earlier than you’d think! It’s not easy traveling with such a large family, but we’ve just learned to not sweat the small stuff, both at home and while traveling.

You recently made the move to California. The west coast sounds perfect for your family. The kids will surely flourish there with so much to do outdoors. What inspires you most about California living?

Everything about it inspires us…the weather, the fresh food, and the laid-back vibe of the people here. Living a creative life is really about embracing change and being open to new ideas, and after so many years in New York, it’s wonderful to see how people on the West Coast are able to balance work and family life so gracefully. The environment has definitely rubbed off on us- we’d like to think we’re becoming a little more zen and settling down from the intensity of New York.

Let’s talk dream projects: is there one building or home or client you secretly dream of taking on? 

(Cortney)- Honestly, we think it would be a blast to help bring some color and style into the Duggars' home, from 19 kids and counting! We definitely know the chaos of having a lot of children and staying busy with all of their schedules, but we’re such believers that chaotic schedules shouldn’t keep you from living a life of style. We love how family-oriented they are, but every mom needs to treat herself once in a while, and Mrs. Duggar is no exception.

Your fans read your books for design insights and “ah ha” moments. What do you read for ideas and inspiration? Magazines? Books? Blogs? 

We love too many blogs to mention! We’re so grateful for how graciously the bloggers have helped us spread awareness of our new lines, including your blog. We feel it’s really a great way to be in touch with the rest of the world’s design aesthetic at such an individual level. As per magazines, Living, Casa Vogue, and Australian Vogue are some of our favorites. We’re also really inspired by fashion and design books, and keep a board in the office for pinning all sorts of inspiration images.

Finally… what truly excites you about your next project?

The ability to bring cool and affordable design to lots of folks.

If I admired them before, I believe they are genuinely amazing now. Bob & Cortney really "get it" that this life experience isn't a dress rehearsal. You've been given one precious lifetime to enjoy. Seize the day, embrace the moment and enjoy the ride - the ride you should take part in designing yourself.

As a creative professional and mommy of two growing forces of nature, it makes so much sense to me that the Novogratz have embraced the concept of work-is-life-is-family. Trying to keep these two worlds separate is fruitless and less fulfilling for all involved. Once I let go of that inner resistance and allowed myself to embrace the beautiful opportunities of exposing my children to my work and my work to my children, life (and business) flourished. It is not always easy and I've certainly had to make adjustments to succeed, but the blended life experience is rich with authenticity, creative inspiration and a feeling of "we're in this together" on a daily basis. 

This is something Bob & Cortney do with great aplomb and I can only hope we begin to see more examples of families like theirs in the future. 

Another aspect of the daring duo I respect is their creative integrity. To the outsider looking in, they've not compromised their distinct approach to life or design to become successful. Bob & Cortney celebrate their unique creative point (points?) of view which sets them apart within the interior design community. They have built a family of successful brands on their vividly colorful outlook on stylish living. They've published two remarkable books. They've conquered unbelievable renovations in cities all over the globe. They've become household names due to their successful television shows. They are truly a dynamic duo that shows no sign of slowing down or turning down the volume on their signature style. 

It's a beautiful thing and I can't wait to see what cool things the entire talented nine will do next. You can bet it will be authentic and truly creative, just like each of them. 

Discover more at thenovogratz.com.

Gent Style: Coming Clean - A Modern Take on Male Grooming...

In case you've been in space or on an island for many, many years you have noticed the continuing shift towards fastidious male grooming. No longer the domain of a select few finicky fellows, today's male is broadening his personal grooming repertoire in ways that may have made his father or father's father blush. From obsessing about the precision of his stubble schedule to outfitting his medicine cabinet with an arsenal of pomades, waxes and creams, today's guy is quietly becoming more educated about his appearance. 

Blame Adam Levine's perfect stubble, David Beckham's gravity-defying coif or our selfie-obsessed culture, it's clear that our dear male counterparts have been given no choice but to step up their self-care game. Everywhere you turn the focus is shifting on male body perfection, obsessive grooming and more than just a little fixation on hair. Welcome to our world, boys. Life from this moment will never be the same. 

But... none of this is typically talked about. It's all very hush hush, you see. It still isn't an area men are terribly comfortable talking about in public - or even in the barber's chair. Speaking through the lens of my husband's experience, finding the right place for men to get a decent haircut can be a challenge. Dallas is loaded with high end male-centric salons where a bartender offering a brandy snifter greets you at the door and the requisite sport is shown on a flat panel TV nearby. These luxury salons are the handsome equivalent of a day spa for women. And frankly, I think these are a bit much for "shave & a haircut" guys like mine. On the other end of the spectrum you have walk-in salons where you may or may not be able to identify the stylist who served you several weeks back and the resulting 'do is unpredictable at best.

Dallas's newest male grooming experience has just arrived in Plano. It lives somewhere between the above two extremes offering an experience tailored to a fellow's needs without feeling suffocatingly pampering. I had the opportunity to sit down with the owner and learn a bit more about how "the other side" thinks and what makes this new male salon experience different from the rest. 

Step inside the male mind in this interview with 18|8 owner Albert Marquez:

Albert, we’re seeing men-specific salons pop up everywhere. What do you think is behind the trend? 
I think consumers in general are better educated, so they don’t have to settle.  Sites such as Yelp and other social media have helped inform men of the available services.  And once men experience a higher level of service, it’s difficult for them to settle for less.

How does this differ from a barber or simply using a traditional (albeit largely female dominated) hair salon?
Our semi-private stations are a big component,  It allows men to have a more private consultation with their stylist/barber.  In traditional barber shops, men can’t really talk of their needs and wants without airing it out in front of everyone.  Also, men don’t like to be paraded around from shampoo stations to the barber chair or to a shave station.  At 18|8, all of their services are conducted at the same place, in a comfortable chair designed for a man.  Men are simple and aren’t there to be "show boated".

We’ve also found that our clients expect great service.  And we’re making sure that we provide that from the second they walk in, to the second they leave.  We try hard to couple the service, great craft and great experience.

Men in general seem less inclined to experiment when it comes to hair and grooming. Are you noticing any changes in this area?
Men aren’t comfortable talking with other men about hair trends, products and styles.  At 18|8, we pride ourselves in allowing time, in a semi-private environment that allows men to ask questions and be informed where they can make a contentious choice.  And our stylists do a great job recommending products that suite the clients needs.  This is helpful to our clients as we find men don’t do a lot of product research on their own.  When it comes to experimenting, it helps that our clients can speak freely without everyone else listening to their desires.

Aside from a great haircut, what is the most common grooming service your clients request?
The hot lather shave has been a huge hit!  Something about a shave that makes men stop in their tracks.  I’ve also been surprised at how many clients come in and request a nose or ear wax.  Not sure that’s yet possible at a discount hair place.

Tell us about you, Albert. Why are you passionate about the business of upscale men’s grooming services? 
The concept of semi-private made an immediate impact with me.  I’m the traditional guy that never changed shampoos or hair style because I didn’t want to have a public conversation about it.  I dreaded going to get a hair cut because I never knew how long I would sit with everyone else.  And when I was called, my name was hollered out or someone at the back would scream out to welcome you.  When I was introduced to this concept of not having to wait, getting a great cut in a  very pleasant and relaxing environment, I knew I wanted to be part of that experience.  I want to offer others the same experience and change the concept of the services men get.  All in a man environment that can be relaxing, stress free and enjoyable.  I like the idea that we have a choice!

As an industry insider, where do you see this category going? How will men’s salons evolve over the next ten years? 
No doubt, men’s grooming will continue to improve.   With these improvements expectations will also rise.  We’ll see a demand for better products, services and choices.  

What makes 18|8 unique?
The first obvious is the quality of the craft, the hair cut is like none you’ve experienced.  The salon experience is unique in Men’s hair, the semi-private stations are a huge success, the focus placed on the client’s desires and needs.  No one at home, your job, or any other place you visit will welcome you and treat you like we will.

Finally: a gentleman has an interview tomorrow. Give us your top grooming tip(s) for making a killer first impression: 
When you look good, you feel good and you’ll perform better.  Nothing protrudes confidence more than a well groomed person!

While I grilled Albert for answers, my husband was offered a range of treatments. True to form, he stuck to a classic haircut and shave - reinforcing the point made earlier that men don't often break from form especially with the wife in tow. In addition to it being the best cut of his life (my expert opinion) it was the most attention I've seen someone else take in his appearance. The shave and cut were tailored to his physical characteristics, preferences and lifestyle. Perhaps over time (translation: sans moi) he'll venture out into more "daring" adventures like a manicure or a brow wax. Baby steps, folks. Babysteps. 

The next time your manly man is ready to book his next appointment pop over to see if 18|8 has a location near you. It is a different male grooming business model than the others on the scene and strikes a great balance between luxe and professional. In Plano? Go see Albert & his team (just steps from Neiman Marcus Last Call Studio). Your man might not admit to having a little waxing done or buying a new pomade, but he'll come back impeccably groomed with a little skip in his step. And that, dear readers, is exactly what a good day at the salon should do for you whether you're a manly man or a girly girl. 


Globetrotters: Charlotte Shares All...

I feel blessed to have several world-class travelers in my family. On my side I have my aunt and uncle who actively seek out exotic locales and once in a lifetime experiences to enjoy. They've been to remote islands on the other side of the world and tell dazzling tales of tucking into bizarre little hidden shops in hectic Hong Kong. They've choppered into Monaco and have traveler's tales any of us would love to call our own. 

My husband's sister Charlotte, on the other hand, has actually lived abroad due to her husband's work and certainly has a more global perspective on travel in general. Her husband has a passport littered with stamps from all over the globe, and Charlotte herself can boast of living in England and France with curious tales and charming stories to share about both. Each of her three children were born in different countries and she's had the rare pleasure of living in a small French village without another American in sight. We all should be so lucky to have tasted the breads and fine wines she surely has enjoyed! 

In this interview with Charlotte we learn what this seasoned traveler has learned along the way. What to pack (and also what to leave at home), how much to prepare for a trip, why a cardigan is a traveler's best friend and where her dream trip will take her. Ready...? Let's go! 

How many continents have you visited?
Three personally, but my husband Tom has been to all but Antarctica.

When did you know you were hooked on travel?

Are you an on-the-fly adventurer or do you map out your full itinerary ahead of time? Why?
Both. Some plan is good so you don't find out that your favorite museum is closed. Truly getting to know a culture, I need some unplanned time to "get lost", so it's a good idea to map out with days planned for "no plan" to allow for relaxation and exploring. 

Best repeat performance: what spot do you visit again & again?
Prague and France. Worth it every time.

Okay...tell us about the best trip you've ever taken...
Budapest! I ran a marathon there and it was exhilarating conversing along the run with people from other countries and crossing the finish line and hearing my name and then  hearing them shout "USA!" behind it.  

Do you seek out luxury or do you consider yourself a budget traveler?
Luxury on a budget. I love luxury but would rather be able to travel more often than spend all of my money on a single trip.

What personal travel indulgence do you consider an absolute necessity?
Antibacterial wipes and (most importantly) a copy of my passport! 

Most memorable hotel room...
Germany. The bed was so big it felt like two king size beds combined. Another night we stayed in castle France where the suite was in a turret, it was amazing because the room was round.

Craziest travel tale...
Ordering in French to our waiter in Italy when the waiter nor us spoke more than basic French. Bizarre!

Best vacation meal ever...
I've had amazing meals in both Italy and France. 

Most remote location you've ever visited...
Belize before it was so well known

What destination surprised you the most & why?
Prague for many reasons: architecture, communist site, history and the beauty of the city.

Do tell: what's your secret to smart packing?
You can buy almost anything anywhere these days, so less is more. When packing stick to a single color scheme and always remember to bring a jacket or cardigan.

Tell us: what do you keep in your carryon?
Everything, I don't like bringing checked luggage. 

Advice for others eager to dog ear their passport:
Learn some basics like "hello, please, and thank you" in the country's native language. It is fine if your accent is terrible... they appreciate the effort.

Tell me about your ultimate dream trip:

Where are you off to next?
The next country is probably Costa Rica. 

Thank you, Charlotte! And stay tuned, readers! There are more in the lineup for the globetrotter series. Want to be featured? Shoot me a note!

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Tot Fashion: Fitness Apparel for the Younger Set...

If there's one thing I've learned in the past 6 years it's this: there's an enormous surge of startup businesses and budding brands launched by moms who absolutely needed something that did not yet exist. When we discover our child has a pressing need or is in danger, we will do anything in our power to bring that creation into our lives. Often this means we have to create it ourselves.

Such is the story with Kickety Split. Faced with the report from medical professionals that her child had poor muscle tone, Kickety Split founder Tracey Johnston set about to get her 18-month old daughter moving. When shopping for fitness clothing for her little one she discovered what many of us realize when shopping for something specific: it doesn't really exist in the marketplace.

Thus, a new apparel line was launched that makes athletic clothing available to the younger set. Yoga pants, sweatshirts and coordinating tops set the foundation for wardrobe pieces ready for action. What I really like about Tracey's brand is that she's not solely focused on the problem, she's hoping to be a part of the solution. Childhood obesity is on the rise and much of childhood "play" takes place on mobile devices these days. It is her mission to help you get your little ones MOVING and encourage them to move their growing bodies and enjoy the freedoms and fun of childhood. After all, play is the work of children. 

As a business owner and mommy to young girls, I couldn't wait to as Tracey a few questions. read below as she shares some of her journey into product development and business launch with us: 

Is Kickety Split your first foray into the entrepreneurial world? 
Yes. It's exciting and scary because prior to this I always worked for big firms in the financial industry. I have no experience in fashion or running my own business but I feel so strongly about the importance of an active lifestyle for kids that I jumped in with both feet. 

How has your journey been as you've launched the brand? 
It has been equal parts terrifying and exciting and by far my biggest learning experience since becoming a new mom. I'm loving every minute. 

What is the best business advice you've heeded and adopted? 
Everything takes twice as long and costs twice as much as you budget. I'm adding a bit of humor here but it is very true. I've also learned that I have to be flexible in how I run the business because listening to our customers and providing what they are asking for is critical to our long-term success. We are always ready to change and adapt if it is what is best for our community of customers 

Any sage wisdom for fellow (or future) product developers? 
Bring your passion and your backbone and be ready to adapt and change because nothing goes quite like you envision it at the start. 

How has running a business impacted your family? Are your children aware of mommy's rock star status? 
It's actually a better quality of life then when I was working a more typical desk job. I have flexibility around when I do my work. I do a lot when my kiddos are at preschool and after the house gets quiet at night. 

I wish my kids thought I was a rock star! To them I'm just the lady who does silly dances during our family dance parties, encourages/sometimes bribes them to eat their fruits and vegetables and constantly reminds them to treat each other with respect. I'm not exactly sure what to call my status with them but I love my role in our family more than any other role I play in my life. 

How do you see Kickety Split growing in the future? 
We definitely want to add a boys line ASAP. We are in the process of creating designs as we speak. (We encourage and welcome any feedback from moms of boys during this process and always.) We also hope to add several more warm weather items and expand our size options for girls. 

Lastly, we are continuing to provide healthy activity ideas, healthy cooking recipes and child expert blog content to our website and social media platforms. We want to be more than just a clothing brand. We want to be a place where families can find information, ideas and products that support and encourage healthy, active kiddos.

For more on the brand, visit Kickety Split and dive into her About Us section where she shares more details of her journey into being a business owner.

Globetrotters: An Interview with Alexandra D. Foster...

global hot spots

The only investment in yourself that I believe genuinely rewards & repays you tenfold (aside from striving to improve your health) is world travel. As you know, I suffer greatly from wanderlust and find great pleasure in travel. I also indulge in sharing my own tales and learning about travel adventures of others.

Today's in-depth interview is with the lovely Alexandra D. Foster. This passionate creative force thrives under the belief that everyone should live life beautifully.  How do you not love her already? Her professional path has taken her from Boston to Bloomingdales and ultimately on to London where she successfully launched a brand new range of furnishing fabrics for quintessential British brand Liberty.

As a globetrotter, home accessory designer and blogger extraordinaire I knew Alexandra would be the perfect fit for The Globetrotting Series we're launching here on Life in a Venti Cup. Throughout this series we will dive into the experiences of those who see continent-hopping as their God given purpose on this adorable blue marble of ours. Alexandra is such a person, and therefore having her kickoff the series is quite apropos.  

Readers of Destinations Perfected are familiar with Alexandra's passion for seeing the world and savoring every far flung experience. Now it's time to familiarize yourself with her stunning silk pillow collection inspired by some of her favorite destinations.

Without further ado, let's dig in to her well-traveled journey and learn some of her favorite global hot spots and her best kept secrets for looking refreshed after a red-eye flight:

How many continents have you visited? 
Four down, three to go. 
When did you know you were hooked on travel? 
The very first time I went abroad as a young teenager with my best friend’s family to their home in Ireland, I was hooked on travel. It seemed like such an adventure crossing the Atlantic and not being with my own parents, with whom I always traveled. That first trip opened my eyes to how much travel changes and challenges you. I ended up studying for three semesters abroad in college (London, Rome, Padova) after that.  

Are you an on-the-fly adventurer or do you map out your full itinerary ahead of time? Why?  
Both actually. If I am going to a place I have never been, I usually do a lot of research beforehand so that I can maximize my time there and make sure to hit all the hot spots. As a travel blogger, I feel it is my duty to report back to my readers on the best of the best that each location offers. However, this past January, I did actually touch down in London from Los Angeles (with a one day stopover at home in Boston), threw all my bathing suits out of my suitcase and re-packed all my heaviest winter clothes for a last minute trip the next day to my friend’s ski chalet in Megeve (French Alps). The four time zones in 96 hours made for some interesting jet lag!  
Best repeat performance: what spot do you visit again & again?  
Italy. I’ve lost track of how many times I have been, but it must be well over 30 times now. The food, fashion, art, culture, people watching, and stunning natural beauty are really unparalleled. I’ve also been going to St. Tropez in the south of France every summer for the past ten years. I’m a big fan of their local rosé wine and stunning sunsets.  
Okay...tell us about the best trip you've ever taken... 
I was just blown away by Marrakech. I stayed at La Mamounia and the Royal Mansour and honestly received celebrity status treatment at both properties. Even Yannick Alleno, the three Michelin star chef from Le Meurice in Paris, was on hand to cook me my own special meal at the restaurant at the Royal Mansour. From a design perspective, the level of detail, colors, patterns, craftsmanship, fabrics, furniture, marble, lighting, embroideries, traditional cedar wood, sculptured plasterwork, and carved ceilings are almost unfathomable. You could sit in one single room at either of these hotels for hours and still not be able to absorb everything around you. Meanwhile, the city of Marrakech itself engages absolutely all of your senses. 
Do you seek out luxury or do you consider yourself a budget traveler?  
During college I definitely put in my time traveling Europe with a backpack and bouncing from hostel to hostel (oh the stories!). Now I definitely seek out the more luxurious properties. That being said, I always book my flights and high-end hotels through discounted travel websites. I don’t believe in paying rack rate anywhere! 

What personal travel indulgence do you consider an absolute necessity? 
An excellent piece of luggage that will last you for years. My biggest indulgence is my orange Goyard Boeing carryon with hand-painted initials. It is the perfect size for a weekend away and fits in any overhead compartment.  
Most memorable hotel room… 
The corner room perched on a cliff overlooking the ocean and Mt. Vesuvius at Maison La Minervetta in Sorrento, Italy. All the walls facing the ocean are windows, so you feel like you are on a ship at sea. If you open the windows before you go to bed you can be lulled to sleep and woken up by the sound of waves lapping below. 
Craziest travel tale…  
I took a picture of a snake charmer in the Medina in Marrakech, which evidently you are supposed to give them money to do. He then proceeded to chase me halfway through the souk, threatening me by waving the snake in my face, until I deleted the picture from my camera. If you know how much I hate snakes, being chased with one was terrifying!  
Best vacation meal ever... 
The Restaurant at the Setai in South Beach, Miami. They’ve now sadly changed the concept, but at the time the menu items transported you through China, Thailand, Singapore, India, Indonesia and Malaysia. We ordered from a menu (and a kitchen) that was divided into five sections: The Wok, The Steam, The Tandoor, The Curries and The Rotisserie & Grill, each style of cookery prepared by its own individual chef. We ate Peking Duck, Dim Sum, and Indian curries with homemade naan bread, among other things, all in one sitting, finished off with a warm molten Valrhona chocolate cake. I’m still dreaming about that meal! 
Most remote location you've ever visited... 
A suburb of Taichung, Taiwan. Our factories were located there when I used to create new footwear styles for PUMA. It was the first time I felt like I was really very far from home. 

What destination surprised you the most & why? 
I think I was surprised by how tiny the living quarters are in cosmopolitan cities like Hong Kong and Tokyo in Asia. Given the population and the cost of living, families of four can be found living in 500 sq ft. Space is at such a premium that apartments are downright claustrophobic.  
Do tell: what's your secret to smart packing? 
Never pack anything that you are only going to wear once. Make sure you bring items of clothing that can work double duty and be worn often, either dressed up or dressed down. This will also help you lighten your load.  
Tell us: what do you keep in your carryon? 
My iPhone, professional Nikon camera, a book, Louis Vuitton epi leather passport wallet, water bottle, Carmex lip balm, Evian facial spray, Clarins moisturizer, and a cashmere scarf for when the plane gets chilly.  

Advice for others eager to dog ear their passport:  
You don’t always have to go to far-flung destinations; sometimes we overlook the beauty in our own backyards. Spend time being a tourist in your own city, or get in the car and take a long day or weekend trip to a part of your state or country you have never seen. My friends in London seem to hop on a plane almost every weekend, even though there is so much to explore right here in England. 
Tell me about your ultimate dream trip: 
I am working on an interior design project right now in the Seychelles, off the coast of Africa, and can’t wait to visit. Prince William and Kate Middleton spent their honeymoon there and, from everything I’ve read and researched about this archipelago in the Indian Ocean, it seems simply idyllic.  
Where are you off to next?  
During the last two weeks of August my factory closes in Italy and most people are on holiday in London/Europe, so it’s the only downtime I get all year. I’m heading to my family’s beach house in the picturesque New England seaside town of Rockport, Massachusetts. It is the perfect place to unwind and chill out. Come October I am hoping to do a tour of the Middle East. 

That concludes our interview, lovely readers! Learn more about Alexandra and her adventures via her boutique and her lovely blog. Until next time, keep those passports active and stay curious. The world is a big place and we should all strive to explore it far and wide. 

Tastemakers: An Interview with Ron Fiore...

Lately it seems that durable pieces of furniture look...well, durable. Not stylish. Not luxurious. Not achingly beautiful. And the pieces that I typically do pine for simply aren't designed to endure the challenges that my husband and tiny daughter are sure to put them through in years to come.

I've scoured catalogs, showrooms and web sites in search for pieces that look sensational and can hold up over time. I've spent the past few years convinced that these pieces existed. There must be furniture that gets better with age. Louis Vuitton luggage, a prized vintage bottle of Lafite Rothschild, George Clooney...some things simply improve with age.

So surely a settee, a sofa, an end table, a dining room chair could look as timeless and grand in 20, 30, 50 years as they do today. Well...they do. I've seen them. I've sat upon them, I've touched them, smelled the kiln dried wood that they are made from and - yes - met the man largely responsible for their beauty.

Ron Fiore, creative director for Hickory Chair,  is a creative visionary with a "venti cup" outlook on design. Rather than ask why, he and the team at Hickory Chair ask "why not?" The result is a brand of furnishings unlike any I've ever seen. Handcrafted, made in the United States, allowing customization down to the most minute details. This, my friends, is the very furniture I've been seeking for years. Sophisticated, sexy, classic and timeless.

I had the privilege of asking this creative genius pressing questions about style, today's clientele and even what lies beneath the lid of that Venti cup. Ron shared so much insight that I've decided to break this into two posts. Pour yourself a fresh cup and settle in to see what he has to say today...


You worked in the fashion industry prior to becoming Creative Director for Hickory Chair. There's certainly a visual dialog between trends in fashion and changes in how we style our homes. How strong of an influence would you say the fashion industry has on home furnishings? How do you consider those changes in your work?

Fashion has a huge influence in home furnishings. By the way, I just saw a fabric collection by TRINA TURK for Schumacher. It was awesome. It really, really looked like her clothing. The color is amazing. Anyway, fashion is a part of our culture. Incorporating it into the home is a bit more difficult. Clothing and accessories are more “throw away”. Furniture and renovation projects are more permanent. For us fashion works best as an accessory….. Throw pillows, bed dressings, accent lighting……you get the idea. Design and fashion oriented fabrics are great for wood frame chairs, large ottomans, fabric covered screens, accent type furniture, etc. because they are easily and cost effectively recovered and changed out. Very tailored slip covers are also great for this reason. Paint is another great way to refresh a space and create a “fashion moment”. 

A very long time ago, I worked on a study about HOW WE DRESS vs. HOW WE LIVE. The most interesting thing that came out of it was the greatest percentage of people who dressed classically usually lived very classically or minimally. But, the greatest percentage of people who dressed modern and chic usually lived with a more vintage style………I’m taking COUNTRY here. Interesting…………………right? But, that was a long time ago. I often wonder if that has changed a lot since that time.


Customers are so informed today. We know what's happening on the runways, we've seen interiors of otherwise private homes around the world and we've got an eye on international style thanks to technology and our the ease of international travel. Even ten years ago this kind of VIP access to otherwise elite information was almost unimaginable. Customers are more informed or at least more interested in design, it would seem. What observations can you make about designing for the more informed client?

People are more informed about design. Many people just don’t know where to start. There are many, many beautiful images out there. Some are “staged” within an inch of their life. But, I think the bottom line is what are their needs or how do they live……being honest. Are they a cook, do they work at home, do they have children, do they entertain a lot, etc. I also like to take a look in their closet……how they dress or favorite things. Checking out their personal style is essential. If someone doesn’t wear color or pattern, they probably can’t live with it either. She may have a closet full of black /white and neutral clothing, but the handbags, shoes and accessories are vividly colored. Which, for me, would mean a whole house full of neutral backgrounds with colorful accessories…………..simple, right? Favorite possessions are another indicator. At some point it all should come together.


There's a lovely quote from you regarding Alexa Hampton's collection for Hickory Chair: "I think that the whole world has been looking for what's the next traditional. And this may be it." It's an interesting way to phrase it... "the next traditional." How would you describe today's "traditional" look and what does that say about how we live? Are we rejecting the past? Embracing it? Where do you see us going in terms of interior style?

Never, ever in a million years ever reject the past……………reinvent it. Today’s classic look is not all buttoned up. It is very easy, personal and livable. We don’t live in museums. We are using all of our living spaces. Alexa’s collection is all about that. It’s all about comfort. It’s all about mixing it up. These are great classic pieces that mix well with both antiques and modern furnishings.


In the showroom, you mesmerized us with tales of various muses. Sometimes it's a destination, a shop, an object, etc. But I am always intrigued with the idea of a person as muse. I've often wondered...how closely do you like to work with a muse. Is it a glimpse from across the room and an idealized vision of his or her lifestyle that fuels the imagination? Do you like to leave most of it to mystery or does it help to get to know them? Do tell...

I gotta have a muse. It makes all the work interesting. When you are merchandising a showroom as big as ours that character becomes apparent without even knowing what the story is all about. The muse creates a visual dialogue or reference………….it creates a familiarity. “This reminds me of something” ……………you know what I mean? And, you know, that glimpse from across the room always works for Hickory Chair.

 Ron shared so many insightful observations that it warrants two separate posts. Tune in tomorrow to find out where he goes to get away, his thoughts on collaboration, what his favorite pieces are and - last but not least - what's keeping warm under the lid of that venti cup. 


Hickory Chair has teamed up with some amazing designers to create collections. Suzanne Kasler, Thomas O'Brien, just to name a few. It takes confidence to invite the disruptive force of outside ideas and opinions. Is it challenging to ensure the capsule collections relate the "whole" of the company's furnishings? How does the collaboration process work? What is it about these designers that make them ideal for collaboration?

"The collaborations between Mariette Himes Gomez, Alexa Hampton, Suzanne Kasler and Thomas O’Brien are amazing. These are real people. Each one of these designers brings something unique to Hickory Chair that complements the other and the architecture of our merchandising philosophy. They are family…………..family with great style."


In my mind it would be a dream come true to design beautiful pieces of furniture. The concept...the sketches, the revisions, the finished work. It is an amazing profession. But we all need to get away once in a while. Where do you go to relax and refuel? Do you love to travel? What does Ron Fiore do to recharge his creativity?

"It’s great when it all works. At the end of the day though, it’s most gratifying when you get an order……you know what I mean?

Honestly, I have traveled all over the world and have worked in amazing, amazing places. Never in my life would I have thought I would have been allowed such a life. But, I actually love to stay home, clean, move things around, read, watch sports on TV. I’m kind of boring, really. Books allow me to recharge and refuel. I am able to travel in my mind. Been there, done that. 

I was at an event recently (you know I am not going to tell you where or what) and was told the event was designed in the Belgian style. Unfortunately my response was “Have you ever been to Belgium?” Travel makes you honest."


I must know... what are some of your favorite pieces and why?

"Hands down it has to be the Hallings Secretary from the Thomas O’Brien Collection. That piece just works……..with anything."


"I am typically sipping an Americano with WHOLE milk and REAL sugar OR I drink an espresso doppio with sugar………not in the Venti cup."

Ron's take on coffee pretty much sums up my view of him as a designer and by extension, the essence of the Hickory Chair brand. The focus is on top quality ingredients and authenticity. There are no shortcuts, no substitutes, no quick fixes. Start with the best and the results speak for themselves.

Thank you, Ron, for taking time out of your busy schedule. We look forward to seeing what your next muse inspires you to create!