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 ….


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…..


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!) ……


(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……


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.

Deborah CollagebyAMT
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.

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.

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]

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.

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,


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 –


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) ….


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.