Here's a secret you might not know: I used to be an elementary, classroom teacher. Yup. I was Ms. Koplovitz, your 4th grade teacher
Math was my favorite subject to teach -- just as it was when I was a kid. I was one of those girls who was good at math.
There was one thing you could bet on: When you taught adding fractions, some kid would invariably complain: when am I ever going to use this? Convert fractions and add them? I am never going to do it in my life.
Well, Mr.-Smartypants-4th-grader, I use this skill ALL the time. Yesterday, I had a template scheduled for a fire place surround for my Cambridge job. Here is a mock up of the column design we are doing on the face of the mantle.
It was all about eights, sixteens, halves and quarters. Calculators make it more confusing because you have to convert to decimals and then back. An Excel spreadsheet would have made it easy, had their been a computer handy. (There wasn't).
So, I just took out a pencil, lined up those fractions and added. Old school. Yup. Math and Design go hand in hand. Or rather arithmetic and design...and certainly geometry and design. 2 trains traveling at different speeds? Calculus? Not so much.
I admit it. I LOVE reality TV.
I learn about sales from "Say Yes to the Dress" on TLC. It's about brides-to-be finding the right wedding dress from Kleinfeld's bridal boutique in NYC. The staff seems to deal with every possible sales situation, and they describe their challenges with a dose of humor and honesty. Sometimes associates forget to check on a budget or they do not realize who the decision maker is, and other times, they are not able to figure out what the bride wants.
One of the consultants discusses price point in a very creative way. She says, "They start at $1800 and go all the way to dream land." Love calling a high price point "dream land" because it does not place a judgment. And it's funny. When you are dealing with very (very) large numbers, it can be good to joke.
I also love how they ask: "Is this your dress?" when they are trying to close the sale.
Hoarders and Hoarding: Buried Alive are shows I am currently taping. I once had a client who was a hoarder. You can't decorate for a hoarder. They need professional organizers in addition to other help, but it was early on in my career and I didn't know better.
On these hoarding shows, stuff that takes over a homeowner's life. Some collect, some live in squalor, but the stuff has gotten in the way.
Most everyone has too much stuff. I grew up in a messy home, so I am a bit of an anti-stuff decorator. I know, oxymoron. But as I am also a human decorator, when I get super busy, my home can look like a hurricane passed through.
I definitely don't hoard stuff though. But what I have realized is that I hold on to files on my computer. I need to purge. Do I really need every "before" shot for projects completed forever ago? Do I need the blurry photos of my 2-year-old nephew?
The human condition can be about how loud a problem is. So here are my questions for you. How do you see reality TV pertaining to your life or those you know? What are your guilty pleasure TV shows. Is it true for you that all TV is a waste of time? Do tell!
Today I ventured in the rain to Southeastern Massachusetts. There are some shops I've been meaning to visit to for some time.
Meaningless information alert: Did you know that they call hot dogs "wieners" in SE MA and RI? There are a lot of wierner stands. I know this because I drove around in circles for about 2 hours and I noticed an unusually large number of weiner stands. (GPS I could have used.)
First stop, Staples Cabinet Makers in Plainville. They are known for their reclaimed wood tables. I've been thinking of one for myself for my kitchen. Do you like it? I might buy this one. I'd have to have them cut it down a bit in length. They said no problem.
If you are looking for something a bit different, that's green (most of the wood there is reclaimed lumber) and local, the work is lovely and there's a real sense that someone touched the items. The folks there were just wonderful. It's a family run business. They are kind. Real. They care about what they do. Had a nice conversation with them. The shop was busy, which is also nice to see.
Then I went to another store in MA, right by the RI border. This is a well-known antiques store that shall remain nameless and although what I am about to report is true, and actually happened, my sister, the lawyer, says I should not name the company.
I walked in.There was a young woman at the front desk. She did say hello. And I also encountered a few sales people as I walked around the shop, which has many rooms and a few floors. NO ONE SAID ANYTHING TO ME. No connection. No attempt.
I don't like the sugary, sweet "hello" from a mall greeter. That's super annoying. But the way staff connects with a potential customer is an important extension of the company. It tells you a lot. Robotic, fake, real, nonexistent. I prefer real. But most importantly make some kind of attempt.
Unless I was in the need of a bed, I would not come back to this shop. Not only because they barely acknowledged my presence, but also because their stuff is yawns-ville.
I wonder whom they are selling to? I wonder if a tour of wiener stands of Southern MA and RI might be worth a second road trip?
Then check out this slide show highlighting B.M's various homes and their contents.
Weird. Weird. Weird.
And then on the plus side, you'll see stunning homes, amazing rugs and some great antiques.
Shamefully voyeuristic. (Shame on him, too.)
I am so sorry for not posting in a while. Things have been NUTS around here.
A new staff member, Carey started about 2 months ago, full-time. Please join me in welcoming Carey. He's been a huge help, a great addition, but training and getting used to each other takes some time.
My work load is up to better than before the economy tanked. Thank goodness.
Phone's been ringing. Looks like we are gearing up for a busy spring and summer. Projects seem well paced as I write this, with room still for a big project or two, in case you are wondering.
What does your home mean to you? Are you a decorator? An aspiring designer? Someone who just likes design and beautiful homes? As a professional designer what I do for clients and what I do for myself are different things. There's always that schism. Part has to do with budget, another with personal taste and still another with my challenge making decisions for my self. A recent first-time home owner, It's been stressful for me to make decisions and I know, I know -- I have been whiny about my inability to pick a fabric for a new sofa bed I plan to purchase.
But tonight, with the tragedy that is going on in Haiti, house envy and indecision seem so petty and frivolous.
I am thankful -- more than that -- grateful to have a warm and safe roof over my head. I just donated to the American Red Cross and I urge you, if you have a safe place to sleep tonight to donate to the charity of your choice or volunteer in support of those who do not have a home. Whether local, national, or international, let's all reach out in support of people who need shelter, the most basic of human needs.
Tonight I cry not only for the children, but for the mothers, the fathers, the sisters and brothers of Haiti.
Looking out the window, all I see see is melting, slushy snow. So, I dream of May when I can get in the garden. Landscaper I am not, and doing exterior space is not something that comes easy. That's why I am an interior designer, after all. One thing I am thinking of for this spring and summer is hard scape.
Check out the The Master's Mosaic's slide show of Jeffrey Bale's work from the article Turning Every Stone for a Perfect Fit from the New York Times. He makes these absolutely incredible pebble mosaics.
Update: after posting, Jeff sent a note:
"Well, one thing the article said is that I am booked out two years in advance. Not true!!! So, if any of your readers wants to commission one of these works of art, you can contact me from my website at www.jeffreygardens.com."
Some days do not go how you expect them to. Some surprises are good, others, well more trying.
Flexibility is key in this business. So is ice cream.
I guess I should have known it was going to be like this when the doorbell rang at 8:30 AM, and I was not yet dressed. I figured that it might have been the painter who had told me he wasn't coming today. Well I guess his plans changed, so still in my bathrobe, I let him in. (There's something about taking a shower when the tradespeople are in the house that's a bit odd. But he's a nice guy. It was OK.)
As I am heading out the door to see a client, the phone rings. It's another client whose house is being built by some Russian guys. They NEED the stone for the back splash tile in the kitchen. They also NEEDED the lighting and the attic carpet YESTERDAY which meant I nearly killed myself this week to get this all done for my client, and in the end, none of it was needed YESTERDAY. (By the way, I knew this would be the case.) Today they totally stress out my client over something that was already decided and scheduled, but because the two partners didn't communicate with each other, one of Russian guys has his knickers all in a twist, and has my client worried when THERE IS NO ISSUE. My client is the nicest lady. She really is a good person and the contractor really made her worried... for no reason. I felt bad.
I told her that I could take care of the back splash Monday morning, but about 15 minutes after I got off the phone, I decided that IF rearranged my schedule, I could take care of it this afternoon for her. I was planning on a full day at the design center, starting with a client meeting, but I could do an about face after the client meeting and return to the burbs to the Russian guy's stone place. The plan before I woke up was for a sane and organized day at the Design Center... but what I got was a running around day instead.
The upshot? I could take some stress away for my client. That's an important part of what I do. The other upshot? The tile place is near a great ice cream shop, so I ended the day with a mocha milkshake. Mmmm. That made everything good in the world.
Like my friend Ellen used to say, "It's just carpet."
I don't pretend that what I do is brain surgery. No one is going to die because the lights are delayed. But it can be stressful (and sometimes annoying in the short term) so it helps to keep things in perspective.
So that was my day. Which got me thinking: What kind of decorating drama have you experienced lately? What was your antidote?
Today is a day of questions.
At lunch in Whole Foods, a 60-year-old man walked by with a ponytail. That's what got me started. I asked myself this question: If there's that unwritten rule that a woman should not wear mini skirts past 40, at what age should a man lose the elastic band and get a hair cut?
At the Design Center, talking to a designer pal and a showroom manager.
Question: How much of the truth do you tell your clients when there are problems? One of showroom staff noted, "What good does it do to say that someone stole the fabric from your reserve. (We reserve the fabric for a client, but sometimes it isn't available when they say it is.) It's easier to just say: there was an issue with the fabric when they rolled it out. Either way you are not getting the fabric." So can I can trust what she tells me from now on. Or, I wonder if I always wonder if there another story behind what she tells me. What level of the truth do you share? My policy has been "tell the truth." That way, you don't have to remember what you've said (and plus it's ethical). But is this always the best policy? What do you think?
Question: Why do so many people want a tan sofa? There are so many neutrals to pick from. Today I was searching for a specific green and a specific blue for a client. Challenging. What do you think about a neutral palette?
Question: When is it a good time to fire a client? Or not take a client? This is a question that I do not know the answer, especially in this economy. I recently interviewed for a job and the job was not a fit for me. The clients were great. I liked the house, but it was toooo technical in terms of the renovation -- moving a stair, historic commission, not what my brain does with any kind of ease -- I do renovations all the time, but this one, my gut told me would make me nuts. It wasn't about big changes, but inches. So I told them and gave them my friend's name who was a good fit. What's your experience here? Do you have guidelines for yourself? Or are you like me and go with your gut?
This evening on the phone with my niece. Question:If someone shares something in confidence, does that mean you cannot tell your mother? (It's what my niece thought. She's 8. Somehow telling your aunt on the phone is OK though -- cute.) I told my niece, even if someone else tells you: "don't tell anyone," but you can always tell a grown-up you trust, which includes your mother, your father, your aunt, your grandma, your teacher. But if a friend tells you a secret, you might not want to blab it to the whole 3rd grade. This is the only question of the day whose answer I am confident about. And perhaps the only one that really matters.
What do you think?
Watch AbbeyK on TV on New England Dream Home!