Decorating for Christmas with SheKnows.com …

I know I am a lucky boy to have a garage (aka ample storage) in the city.  Walls lined with shelving is what helps me to keep my hoarding…errr collecting tendencies in check.  It also allows me to keep a nice little stash of holiday and other seasonal decor at my finger tips.  However, what happens when storage is at a premium and the thought of sacrificing precious closet space for Christmas ornaments is too much to bear?

Well that is exactly what we are talking about this month for my SheKnows.com column…..

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Matter of fact, what would you say if I said with some smart shopping, thoughtful planning and upcycling your year-round home decor, you could fit everything you need for Christmas into one box, including the a tree? Honest!  To get everything to fit into a box, think outside the box…..

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And what if I told you to forget about holiday florals?  Don’t want to waste the money on temporary arrangements?  I am all about ditching the poinsettia for something more hip and perhaps even permanent…..

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So are you tempted to learn more about my Christmas decorating secrets?  Well go visit SheKnows.com to find out how you can have a fabulously decorated Christmas that won’t burst your bank or leave you bursting at the seams!

[photo credit: photo by adza//art direction & styling: courtney lake ]

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.

Cleaning Out The Prop Closet…

There comes a time in every designer’s life when you simply have too much stuff.  Actually I used the other “s” word to describe my predicament.  Between keeping a ready supply of goodies for client installs and styling shoots for clients, I found myself with a storage unit full of lamps, accessories and odds-and-ends that simply were not being used.  I am as much a hoarder as the next person, but sitting on these beauties seemed foolish and honestly a tad selfish.

Being the giving person I am, I partnered up with a fab local company called Previously Owned By a Gay Man or as I like to call them POBAGM to sell my little treasures.  While the company has a funny name, it has an awesome concept; work with local designers and taste makers to cull their closets/storage units and curate collections of gently used home decor and accessories to sell to the general public at fair prices.  When the owners approached me for a sale, I initially shuttered at the idea of saying goodbye to any of my pieces.  However, I had to remind myself that it does no good having a beautiful things in boxes on a shelf…..they are meant to be shared, appreciated and make friends jealous of your superior decorating skills (wink).  So I am parting ways with all these great things and more …..

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1) Vintage Leather Trunk:  I am second-guessing selling this piece because it’s so beautiful.  The leather is perfectly aged and would make a great coffee table or a piece at a foot of a bed….

2) Thai Sundial:  I love things on a stand or pedestal – they instantly have presence.  I have used this piece repeatedly in shoots to fill console tables or shelving.  It’s the perfect object d’art …..

3) Tortoise Shell Floor Lamp:  This sucker is heavy and crazy beautiful when lit.  Tucked into a corner, it provides the perfect ambient glow for reading or pipe smoking….

4) Mirror w/ Nailhead Trim:  Masculine and oh so cool, I loved this mirror and used it in a shoot in a gentleman’s bedroom.  Hang by your front door to give yourself the once over before heading out……

5) Megaphone Pendants:  I was so bummed the client opted not to use these in their kitchen.  I loved their simplicity and geometric quality.

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6) Octagon Mirror:  It’s a big geometric beauty that I wish fit in my home.  Faceted mirror on all sides and angles that reflect light beautifully.  I am tempted to redesign our master bath just to keep this…

7) Persian Rug:  It’s a slightly larger than 5×8 wool antique Persian rug for cheaper than what you can get a synthetic bath mat.  I was smitten with the purples and red in the piece – dark, mood and dramatic….

8) Vintage Boy Portrait:  I like portraits.  Blame Emily Henderson…or thank her.  Regardless, I used his brother as inspiration for Christmas but couldn’t find a home for him.  So don’t let him be an orphan this holiday season.

9) Trio of Brass Cage Pendants:  Sometimes you buy stuff and think about it later.  Well it’s now later.  I bought these on a whim thinking that the right client would emerge.  They never did to my chagrin.  Brass plated with red wire and brass ceiling mount, these would rock on a bathroom or as bedside lighting for the more adventurous.  Can be purchased individually as well.

10) Pair of Silver Lamps:  Art Deco in feel but with a jute/linen shade….it’s like the Beverly Hillbillies!  These were used as desk & bedside table lamps and now they can serve you!

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11) White Shield Mirror:  I love this mirror – it a class shape and the white makes it so fresh.  It wanted to use this in a bedroom but got nixed.  Sadly it never found a home after that…..

12) Brass Urn Lamp:  I call this lamp Earl.  I don’t know why but when I found it at an estate auction, I was instantly smitten with its massive side and grandeur.  This could look “hotel-y” in the wrong room, but i would center it on a console in a hallway and flanked with piles of books, everyone would call you the Earl of Cool….

13) Jonathan Adler Sconce:  Funny story about this sconce….actually not that funny because I bought the wrong thing for a client.  Somehow I bought the sconce when we needed the pendant.  So my stupid mistake is your gain.

14) Tripod Floor Lamp:  So this lived in my home for many years and eventually it found itself in the garage along with numerous other lamp casualties.  It’s a great lamp with a telescoping base but as with all things in life, my style changed and the lamp needs a new home…

15) Seascape Painting:  I initially bought this piece for the frame but the oil painting grew on me.  This would be great as part of a larger gallery wall or simply hung by itself.  The frame gives this piece such presence as I could see it as part of a simple but striking vignette with the brass urn lamp….

16)  Silver Urn:  This has been an umbrella stand, end table and planter in different photo shoots.  Translation – this little guy is versatile!  

I am adding more items as things sell, so check back to see what other goodies I weed out.  I wonder if doing all this sharing can get me off Santa’s naughty list because y’all know I need all the help I can get!  Now quit reading and start shopping!

[photo credit: michele hofherr]

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.

Talking Out Loud With Janet Kain …..

There has been an explosion of entrepreneurs that are not in dot-com or finance.  These new waves of intrepid business owners are embracing more traditional job paths that forgo IPOs and embracing alternative careers.  They are artisans, crafts persons, shop owners and skilled collectors who are keeping time-honored traditions alive.  ”Talking Out Loud” is a chronicle of the conversations with these people about their work, life and inspirations……

I was introduced to pillows and soft goods of Janet Kain by a mutual friend and business colleague.  I am always excited when I meet individuals who find their passion a little later in life as I truly believe that it is that time we spend “marinating” that allows us so many distinct advantages in filling a market need.  Janet and her business partner, Sarin, sat down with me to talk pillows and what it takes to make the ultimate place to rest a weary head……

Janet Kain Collage

With all the various home décor products you could design, why pillows?

(Janet) While I was decorating my own home, I found that it was very hard to find high quality pillows that made a statement – bold colors and graphics, without having them custom made.   I realized there was a gap in the marketplace for people who wanted fabulous high quality pillows without waiting months and meeting fabric minimums to have them custom made.  Pillows are the one home décor product that has the ability to transform a room and can easily be changed whenever you or your room needs a pick me up!

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What makes a “good pillow”?  What are the three key things consumers should look for when purchasing a pillow? 

(Sarin) What we think consumers should look for is not just a good pillow, but a great pillow!  The first thing to notice is the quality of the sewing (things such as pattern match up, high quality threads and invisible zippers).  Next, great pillows should have the same high quality fabric on both sides of the pillow, not a less expensive fabric on the back.  Last but not least, look for generously stuffed inserts made of feathers and down.

(J) I jokingly say that if a fabric doesn’t scream “touch me” as I walk by, it is left on the bolt.  When selecting a fabric, what things are you looking for?

(J) Excitement of colors is the first thing that catches my eye, bold colorful graphics that make a statement.   Linens, woven cottons, silks.  Coolness to the touch for summer fabrics, plushness and luxury in heavier fabrics for winter and year round.  When looking at neutrals we are drawn to dimension such as cotton velour on top of linen ground – those definitely call out to be touched!

Decorative pillows are what I call the “crown jewels” of a finished room.  What are 2-3 other things you think complete a room.

(J) We fully agree with that!  I always say pillows to home décor are the equivalent of dazzling accessories to a little black dress.  A coordinating throw and a fabulous tray are two other finishing touches that tie a room together and complete the look.

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All of your pillows are made in upstate New York.  Why was it important to you to have your products manufactured stateside?

(S) Quality.  To ensure the craftsmanship lives up to our high standards, we feel it is important to have the sewing done in the States to maintain the quality control.  It costs more, but it is worth it for quality.  We are also proud to be able to do our part in keeping jobs here in the USA.

You opened the business in 2008, right before the recession, but weathered the storm.  What did that time frame teach you being a small business owner?  Any words of wisdom you would share?

(S) What we found is that even when you’re not able to spend the money to redecorate an entire room, changing pillows is a great way to transform the room and freshen up your existing furniture.  For this reason, our pillows sold very well during the recession.  Starting a small business is tough in any economy, but as long as you don’t cut corners on quality, you can hopefully ride out the hard times.  A great tip we can pass along that we have learned is when budgets are tight, social media is an inexpensive way to get the word out about your brand, so don’t underestimate the power of that medium!

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Many designers dream about launching a signature line of home décor and accessories but you did.  What do you think was the one thing you would share with someone contemplating a similar move?

(J) Stay true to your vision and don’t deviate from your look.  Select items that complement your main product and fit within that aesthetic.

You have several collections on the web site.  What goes into creating a collection?  What can we expect from future collections?  What’s on the horizon?

(J) Pattern themes, colors that work well in certain settings and where we envision them being used.  We always stay ahead of the curve on home design trends.  Right now, plum and charcoal are hot, which we had in our fall collection and we see that continuing through the winter.  We watch fashion trends closely because of the strong tie between fashion and home décor.  Not ready to give up our secrets yet on what’s next, but you can sign up for our email updates to see what we have in store for next spring!

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Life, like pillows, often gets tossed around, so as the final question, what would you say is your “recipe” for being on course and not letting the things that life tosses at you get in the way?

(J & S) The partnership between Sarin and me really helps keep us on track and focused.  We have very different skill sets and backgrounds and are able to bring both to the table to complement each other perfectly.  Having passion for what you do, setting priorities and a great partnership is the recipe that has led to success for us!

Thank you Janet and Sarin!  Check out all the beautiful pillows and soft goods on the Janet Kain website!  I have my eye on a pair of the Criss Cross Pillows and the cognac leather tray for a client…..and perhaps the  Sea Breeze Hourglass throw for me if I am a good boy come the holidays!

[photo credit: Janet Kain]

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.

Weekend Reading…..

If you have some free time this weekend and want a healthy dose of design, check out some of the articles I have written this month as well as one I was featured in……

I remember my first apartment.  It was in the basement of a very lovely home in the Tenleytown neighborhood of Washington, DC and every time it rained, crickets would invade the space in droves.  It had one closet the size of a shoebox, no oven and every piece of furniture I had come from Ikea.  I loved it!   I channel those memories as I help a young client decorate his first apartment to accommodate sleeping, working and the occasional dinner party  – all in 500 square feet of for my monthly column with  SheKnows.com ….

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Switching gears from studio apartments to prefab homes, I recently wrote an article profiling BLU Home for California Home + Design blog.  BLU is one of the leaders pushing the definition of what a prefab home can look like.  And seriously, just drop the “pre” part because the house I profiled at their Sonoma location is just darn FAB…..

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And the lovely folks over at Interior Canvas blog interviewed myself along with fellow designers Jonathan Savage and Grant Gibson (love those boys) as part of their profile on the online retailer Zinc Decor.  I love the store’s modern slant and the ladies behind the brand are honestly two of the most amazing folks I know – design savvy with business acumen…..plus they are super cute to boot (some folks have all the luck!) ……

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(Wendy & Tiffany of Zinc Door — told you they were hot mommas….)

Okay I am off to do a final push for a client presentation on Monday!  Have a great weekend……

[picture credit: Photo by Adza/BLU Home/Zinc Door]

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.

Talking Out Loud with BEAM …..

There has been an explosion of young entrepreneurs that are not in dot-com or finance.  These new waves of young business owners are embracing more traditional job paths that forgo IPOs and embracing alternative careers.  They are artisans, crafts persons, shop owners and skilled collectors who are keeping time-honored traditions alive.  ”Talking Out Loud” is a chronicle of the conversations with these people about their work, life and inspirations……

You just never know.  My clients-turned-dear-friends invited The Partner and myself to go to Palm Springs with them a  few months ago along with a few of their other friends.  One of the other people on the trip happened to be my client’s best friend from college, Ali.  What struck me immediately about Ali was his almost encyclopedic knowledge about furniture.  While law may be Ali’s profession, design is his passion, so much so that last month he took a leap of faith. teamed up with a business partner and opened up a fantastic retail store in Brooklyn called BEAM.  As Ali puts it, the store’s style” is a bit mid-century, and a bit rock and roll with a healthy dose of humor.”

Sounds like a place I could quickly fall in love with.  It’s also why I cornered Ali and forced him to this interview……

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Finish this sentence…. “A lawyer and an antiques dealer open a home décor store and…..”

… both Elle Woods and Hanna Horvath shop there and love it!
 
The trend over the last few years has been to open an online store, so why did you decide to open up a physical storefront?
 
Personally I love the experience of shopping in a physical store — all of your senses are engaged, you can touch and feel the product, there’s a social aspect if you are shopping with a friend or interacting with the store’s staff, there’s the thrill of discovering something really special that you fall in love with.  Online stores are convenient, but I don’t think they will ever be able to re-create that experience.  That said, we are planning to launch an online store soon, to complement our physical location.  You almost have to have an e-commerce presence these days, because even if people love and visit your brick-and-mortar store, they want the option of being able to shop from home as well.
 
The store has an emphasis on nurturing emerging talent.  Who are some of the new designers and their products in the store?
 
We are lucky to have so many talented artists and designers in our backyard!  Right now, we’re showcasing Deborah Shavlik’s wool and cashmere pillows and bags with pills, lips, and starburst designs on them, which Deborah makes using a felting technique not unlike tattooing; byAMT’s leather strap baskets, which make handsome storage for your magazines; and Colin Adrian’s stained glass feathers, which create a great visual when hung up in a window and the light reflects off the different colored glass.

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What are the hot sellers in the store right now?  Are you noticing a trend in what people are buying for Fall?
 
Anything in a warm metallic, like copper or brass, has been big.  Japanese shibori tie-dyed textiles have been popular.  People also love this very unique Seletti dinnerware set we found, which melds traditional Eastern patterns with Western designs to create “hybrid” pieces.

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As Christmas draws, what 2-3 things do you think would make a perfect holiday present that you currently have in the store?
 
Everyone on my holiday list is getting a “Brooklynese” coffee set, which comes packed with two “Cawfee” cups, a “Shuguh” bowl, and a “Creamah” pitcher – great for anyone with a special place in their heart for New York.  Alexandra Ferguson’s bold typography pillows have fun sayings on them like “Let’s Make Out,” “Be Nice or Leave,” “Go to the Gym,” “Call Your Mother,” and so on.  There’s a saying for everyone, so you can get through you holiday shopping list pretty quickly.  Jon McCoy’s crystal votive holders are really special and make great gifts.  They are handmade using crystals like amethyst and quartz, and when you light them up, they literally glow from the inside.

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Having spent time on both coasts, have you noticed any major differences in how people decorate their homes in NYC versus Los Angeles? 
 
One of the things I love about LA is that the weather allows you to create these great indoor-outdoor living spaces, which isn’t as easy in New York.  Folks in LA aren’t afraid of color, and the style is more casual.  New Yorkers like things a bit more polished, architectural, with clean lines.  Most New Yorkers also have space issues, so finding furniture and accessories that serve multiple purposes is more important.
 
Being in the home décor business you are exposed to a multitude of “lust worthy” items.  What are 3 things that make your heart go “pitter patter” that you would love to own?
 
It’s hard to pick just three, but right now I’m lusting after Tom Dixon’s black velvet mohair highback chair, Bocci’s globe pendant chandeliers, and Brian Gennett’s line of trays and side tables made from vintage leather book covers and antique brass (which we will be carrying in the store soon!).

Ali Collage

As a small business owner, what two pieces of advice would you give to someone planning on opening his or her own store?

First, have a concept.  The most successful small retailers have a unique perspective or point of view, and their customers return to them again and again because of that.  Second, do your research.  The technical details can be boring, but you have to know the demographics of your market, who your competitors are, where you are going to source your product, how much it is going to cost, how long it takes to make.  As a small business owner, every decision counts, so you have to arm yourself with as much information as possible to make informed decisions.
 
If you had to describe the ingredients that went into making Beam the strong brand it is today, what would you say they were?

Seeking out good design for our customers is at the core, because we strongly believe that good design makes your life better.  A sense of humor is also important, because these days people lead such stressful lives, it’s nice to see someone come into the store, pick something up, and smile.

Thank you Ali and I am so excited to spread the BEAM gospel of good design mixed with a healthy dose of humor.  That my friends is a recipe for success in my book!

[pictures courtesy of BEAM, Deborah Shavlik, byAMT, BEAM, Brian Gennett, Tom Dixon & Bocci Lighting]

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Motivational Monday: Value Your Work…

Artist Quote

This weekend, I had an email exchange I wanted to share ……

Dear Courtney –

I recently discovered you from your SF Chronicle profile and love your work. In particular, I love the condo you did in SF that was profiled on Pop Sugar recently. I was curious where you got the furniture in the living room and dining room. I can’t hire you but I was hoping you would willing to share where you got everything from so I could recreate it.

Thank you,

XXXXX

—–
I responded with this ….

Dear XXXX –

Thank you so much for reaching out to me. The space you are referring to was one of my favorites to work on with the client. It really is a great space that highlights some really great design and paint techniques. I can’t in good faith give you my resources since my client made a considerable investment in having me complete that space. It would be unfair to them and also unfair to me since designing spaces is how I earn my living.

However, I am happy to talk with you to see if we could do a scaled back version that would fit your budget. Hiring an interior designer isn’t as cost prohibitive as many people believe. In any case, thank you again and all the best.

Regards –

Courtney
——

And this was her response ……

Courtney –

I think it’s stupid you are asking me to pay to work with you. The stuff is out there and I am sure if I searched I could find it myself. I thought I would ask to be nice but clearly you are full of yourself.

You have a high regard for your work (which is only ok) ….

Whatever.

I share this not to publicly ridicule the woman who wrote this but to address a point that I have encountered over the last two years doing design.  Among some circles there is a notion that what artists, designers and other creators of beauty do is not “work”.  That the hours of training, years of experience and a career of cultivating industry contacts isn’t work.  That negotiating with vendors, strategizing with contractors and working hand-in-hand with fine craftspersons isn’t work.  That guiding clients through a myriad of decisions, juggling a budget with 100s of moving parts and ensuring that your own business affairs are running smoothly isn’t work.  In one sense, they are right, it isn’t work because work has an inferred concept of a definite start and end.  For many of us, we just don’t “work”, we live our careers…..

A career is defined as “an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life and with opportunities for progress.”  We sacrifice weekends, nights, family events and sleep to make sure our clients are happy. In turn clients pay us for our dedication to the craft and attention to detail.  The investment our clients make is one in their happiness but also a reaffirmation of their trust in our skills.  Their investment ensures that we can pay our bills, pay our employees, pay our vendors and when all is said and done, pay ourselves.  You see here is the dirty secret about design, I have to pay everyone who works on a project.  No one works for free as much as I would like them to but alas I have not figured out that hat trick.  I run a business and as such, need to compensate my employees.

Yes, employees.  I bankroll on any given project, a minimum of 10 different craftspersons, trades and labor.  The business of “pretty” isn’t easy work, regardless of what blogs, tv and magazines say.  There is blood, sweat and the occasional tears (mostly from me) to ensure that a client’s project not just meets but exceeds expectations.  So when you ask me to work for free, understand I am not saying “no” because I am some greedy designer looking to bilk you out of your hard-earned cash.  It’s because I value my vision.

Envisioning a space and figuring out how to execute on that vision is my job.  In some way, my job is no different from most others – I go into my office with a list of tasks to complete to ensure that a project moves forward.  But here is the difference; I don’t believe anyone would stand for being told that their co-worker wants to copy their project, claim it as their own and receive no additional compensation.  Why?  Because they value their work and see it as their own.  Now imagine if you have already been paid for said project, gave it to your client who thought they had something unique only to discover that the project they had paid you for was given in its entirety to another organization to use for free?  Don’t you think that your reputation in the industry would quickly be tarnished and eventually people would stop seeking your services?

If you want to knock me off, that is one thing but I will not be an accomplice.  In its base form, I am stealing from my client.  But on a larger level, I am now stealing from the countless people I employed to help me complete this project because there is a strong possibility you will not seek out their services to recreate the space.  Last and on a meta level, I am devaluing myself.  By giving away my work for free, I send the signal to every person that my work is not worth payment.  That my experience, vision and execution is something that should not be valued and compensated.  In the end, I give to you for free and rob myself ……

So you see XXXX, I do think of myself highly.  But I also think highly of my clients and my extremely talented team.  It’s only you that I don’t think highly of……

[pictures courtesy yours truly..]

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.

Pen to Paper: Menlo Park Project….

A college friend contacted me last year to inquire if I would be interested in helping him update his Menlo Park condo.  Knowing my friend’s taste and his easy-going persona, I immediately jumped aboard.  Then things promptly came to a halt — my friend’s work schedule was already hectic but then he became fully immersed in a new business venture that ate up all his free time.  We were finally able to nail down our schedules and get back on track.

Last week, we presented to him the full concept for his space — a mix of mid-century (my wheelhouse), contemporary and a touch of  70’s chic — because if I learned anything having nourished myself on a steady diet of the Brady Brunch, every house owner needs a bit of swinging awesomeness to make it their own.

Here are the sketches of the two spaces and a quick synopsis of the proposed changes and furnishings…..

Living room Sketch

The fireplace gets re-imagined with white stacked stone, gas insert and extended hearth for extra seating.  The stone wraps around to the adjacent wall creating a focal point in the living room.  The existing built-in is updated with paint and a cool wallpaper treatment on the back.  A new couch is being made from linen and the most yummy leather seat that speaks to the sling chair in the corner of the space.  Ottomans finish off the sitting arrangement that we are recovering in a fabric from Kelly Wearstler.  Geometric wood side tables and an amazing floor lamp from Diesel (they do more than denim!) finish off that space.

Dining Sketch

The dining room we are installing a beautiful metallic gold grasscloth on the walls that will play so well with the copper chairs I have my eye on for around the live edge dining table.  And before you point out the obvious, the French vintage cabinet is going bye-bye!  Sometimes a client is set on using a piece, even when you it is dead wrong for the space.  So you run with it.  Showing the piece in context to the rest of the design was the exact nudge the client needed to move forward with my other set of ideas for a free-standing piece that I am positive will knock his socks off and just may set me up to be the best designer in the world…..or so I like to tell myself when I am accepting the imaginary Emmy for Best Interior Design in a dream sequence.  But seriously, the new shelving unit fits in perfectly with the vision for the space and provides a ton of storage and a nice counterpoint to the stone wall.

So there you have the Menlo Park project in a nutshell.  The team is finalizing POs and delivery schedules but if all goes well, we should be entering construction in the next month and finishing everything before Christmas — well that is if my own Christmas wish comes true 🙂

If you need design assistance in the Bay Area, feel free to shoot me an email at courtneylakeinteriors(at)gmail.com to inquire about my services!

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.