Introducing Monogram Decor …

I started this blog in 2010 as a way to chronicle my adventures in culinary school.  Well culinary school quickly fell by the wayside but blogging continued.  The focus changed from school to work and I quickly found myself documenting the process it took to decorate our new home in Oakland with some blood, sweat and DIY trickery.  That experience opened up doors, opportunities and created lasting friendships that I am forever grateful to have had and know.

But something else happened.  As I toiled away trying to decorate my home, others started asking me for my assistance in decorating their abodes.  Flattered by the attention, I said yes to helping friends and family (and the occasional stranger) turn their houses into homes, fluff their surroundings and help make their lives a more beautiful experience.  And I felt fulfilled.  I felt alive.  I felt I was good at something and let me tell you, after spending a decade second guessing my career aspirations and licking my wounds from the failed bout at culinary school, finding something that I found peace AND excitement in doing was a tremendous feat.

So I tool classes, knocked on doors and even flew to Canada (hi Meredith!) to get what I could to learn the business of design better.  And I came back and toiled.  And floundered.  And flailed.  But I survived.  I wasn’t rich and barely turning a profit, but I was enjoying the process and so it went.  I hung my shingle and Courtney Lake Interiors was born.  Along with the blog I carved out a small niche in this world of design and tried my best to make my mark.  But something wasn’t right and this time I knew what it was.

I had spent this time, money and effort trying to build a brand on the back of something that wasn’t meant to house this aspiration.  Some people can do several things really well.  I cannot and it was becoming more evident that I had to make a decision.  However, I had to answer a question and this question would confirm how I would proceed not only with 2014 but with my career…….”was I a blogger or a designer?”

It was simple.  Through sheer will and dumb luck, I had emerged as a lifestyle blogger and was pretty damn good at it.  But I was building a business as an interior designer/decorator.  And my business was on the back of this beast called blogging.  It was a messy and incest riddled relationship that was causing confusion for clients, for the press and for me.  What as Courtney Lake Interiors?  What was Courtney Out Loud?  And in the end, I realized I needed some separation.  I needed to evaluate what kind of designer I wanted to be outside of the format of the blog.

I had spent years developing a voice for Courtney Out Loud.  I knew that person.  They were me.  Courtney Lake Interiors, I didn’t know.  It was what I thought I should be as a designer, not what I aspired to be in my heart of hearts.  So I opted in December of 2013 to change that.  I stopped blogging and focused on how to make the decorating business work.  I made a decision……

I wanted to be a decorator that blogged, not a blogger who moonlights as a decorator.  So that meant some changes.  The first was that I got help.  I worked with a great team of experts at Skout It to hone what I wanted the business to become.  I dreamed big and what I ended up with is a business that encompasses all the facets of what makes me excited to do design.  I would like to introduce Monogram Decor…….

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Monogram Decor is my attempt at making an indelible imprint on the design landscape.  It encompasses my design firm (Courtney Lake Interiors), my staging and photo styling business (CLIC) and lifestyle writing/speaking engagements.  It’s a young and fresh approach to decorating that doesn’t worry about perfection.  It’s about allowing the best of the client to shine in whatever project we are working on.

Am I scared?  Absolutely. Aside from officially debuting my design portfolio it is the first time I have been honest in what I want from myself professionally.  I had spent years being afraid of being 100% me in all aspects of my life and work.  Yet, the series of events in the last few months have just affirmed that when I am fully “me” the universe rewards that honesty.  Business has increased.  Press is seeking me out.  And I am confident.

And what about the blog?  It will exist but just like the business, it has matured, evolved and will be taking a different direction.  From the start, the blog was meant to chronicle the life’s adventures and it will continue to do that as part of Monogram Decor.  However, that means the blog as it currently stands will cease to exist which does give me a pang of sadness.  This has been my baby for several years and I can’t imagine where I would be professionally without it.  But I encourage you all to come experience the Monogram Decor Blog and see what it has to offer.  I don’t think you will be disappointed.

So lets recap: New year. New business.  New web site.  New blog. New experiences.  So let’s get started…….

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CA Home+Design Awards Design Tastemaker of 2014 …

So I am hoping that your Thanksgiving holiday found you well fed and well-loved.  And if you did venture out yesterday for Black Friday that you scored some amazing deals and not too worse for the wear.  Did I also mention you look pretty today ……

The reason for all the sweet talking?  Well once again I am asking for your help to win something.  The editors over at CA Home + Design Magazine have this strange notion that I know a thing or two about style and design, so they nominated me for their 2014 Design Tastemaker Award! I also with 29 other amazing, talented and design-savvy individuals throughout California are up for this prestigious award.  Yes, I am competing against 29 other people for one award, so this is where I need your support.  From now through 5pm Monday (12/2) I would love, appreciate and desperately want you to vote for me (#28) on the list …..

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CA Home Style Tastemaker

Voting literally takes 30 seconds — click on #28, input your email and you are done.

Here is the important part – you can vote once a day through 5pm PST on Monday, so that is 3 votes from each of you.  Each of you made it possible for me to win the trip to London and this could be a culmination to a simply amazing year.  The winner receives not only the accolade of 2014 Design Tastemaker but also a feature in the print issue of CA Home + Design!  A print feature about the business in a major publication is something I have dreamed about and I can’t fathom what this kind of PR would do for exposing a broader audience to my work.

And it’s all in my grasp but I can’t do it without each of you.  Let me stress that each and every vote is important.  For those of you who don’t remember from the Modenus contest, I won by less than 20 votes so don’t think that your vote won’t matter because it does!

On a final note, I again want to say thank you.  Thank you for your support, encouragement and motivation.  This blog has brought me so many opportunities that I never thought I would have or experience.  I take none of it for granted.  Even if I don’t win (but I really do!) I have hit the jackpot with friends, work, new colleagues and fantastic readers.

So unless you want to see a pic of me on my knees pleading (which I am not above doing), please go vote!  THANK YOU!

Check out my online Christmas shop at Joy & Revelry. Also find me on PinterestTwitter and Insta.gram if you are in the mood for more musings on design, food and just plain randomness.

Artist Profile: Crystal Morey

This month I did a story for California Home + Design’s blog about animals as creative muses in artwork and profiled three great artists …..

CA HOME Collage

As with most writing assignments, you stumble upon more amazing information than you can fit into a piece.  However, I was smitten by sculptor Crystal Morey’s hauntingly beautiful work and reached out to her to see if she would be interested in being profiled on the blog.  Fortunately Crystal said yes and we began a hot and heavy email exchange — actually to be honest, it was pretty one-sided in that I couldn’t stop complimenting her pieces.  What struck me as most interesting is that her work reminded me of the Native American concept of spirit animals – the notion that within us all we have an animal counterpart.  For me, it was as if Crystal made the novel “Where The Wild Things Are” come to life and depict that unseen connection between man, beast and nature…..

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Looking at your work, your sculptures reference animal motifs juxtaposed with humans.  What is it about the connection between humans and animals that interests you?

I am interested in human and animal wellbeing, and how both species’ fates are woven together and will have a similar outcome. When making pieces I think about how we are all dependant on each other for the health and balance of our ecosystems and habitats. The relationship between humans, animals and the earth is very delicate and I want to raise awareness of this fragile connection with my work.

Your Totem series is beautiful.  Can you explain the concepts behind these pieces?

I had been working on a series of human figures interacting with endangered and extinct animals that are/were affected by hunting and habitat loss. As I worked through that body of work, I realized I really wanted to join the human and animal components. I felt this created more of an interrelated unit that presents the information while also creating an imaginative narrative. I started to look at animal totems, indigenous masks, and Egyptian iconography. I took ideas I found in images and stories and reworked them, thinking about modern environmental issues, like animals with stressed ecosystems due to human impact.

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Your childhood in the Sierra Nevada foothills seems to have deeply influenced your work.  Has your time in more urban areas, like your current home in Oakland affected your work?

I felt very close to the natural world growing up in a rural landscape. I remember being a small child, sitting on the back porch and looking out over an expansive array of pine, manzanita, and oak trees. The forest filled my entire world, extending down into a river valley, up the other side, and into the distant mountain ranges. I remember hearing about places where all of the trees had been cut down and I couldn’t even imagine how that could be possible. The world feels a lot smaller to me now, I live in Oakland and my connection to nature is more complex then it used to be. Living in an urban landscape I am very aware of how humans can control and contain the landscape. Living in both rural and urban areas has made me aware of this tension and it has become a great influence on my work in the studio.

I hope that as a viewer looks at my work they think about human, animal, and environmental relationships and the friction created between entities that are both contained and wild.

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What would you say is the common thread that links all your works together?

I am continually interested in how we as humans think about and relate to natural environments and other living creatures. These themes occur in my work in many ways and in many configurations. I always try to show grace and beauty in ideas that may be dark or difficult to think about.

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There is an idea among many cultures that humans have “spirit animals” which represent an aspect of ourselves.  What would you think your spirit animal would be and why?

That is a great question and one that is very hard to answer! I am interested in all kinds of animals (gazelles, deer, rhinos, giraffes, markhor, blackbuck, hawks, pigeons, buffalos and owls being at the top of the list). But if I had to pick one, it would probably be a black bear, who hibernates in the ground or holes in trees, forages for nuts and berries, and eats insects, fish and small animals. I have an affinity for bears because in many ways, they seem so human-like, while also being instinctual and dangerous. While bears are strong and fierce they are also one the first species to be affected by environmental change since they are near the top of the food chain. I think they are fascinating creatures and an interesting indicator of the health and balance of our ecosystem.

Seriously – isn’t Crystal’s work amazing?  I can’t wait to introduce her pieces to a few clients to get their reactions!

[photo credit: thailan when//earl gramling//sharon montrose//crystal morey]

Check me out on PinterestTwitter and Insta.gram for more musings on design, food and just plain randomness. You can also find me at my online shop for Joy & Revelry.