Saturday, October 20, 2012


If you are on pinterest, I am sure you are seeing succulent plants all over the place these days.  I thought they might be a new trend, but after writing this post, I have come to the conclusion that they have been very ‘in’ for years in certain circles – like for those planning weddings or events.  

Succulents are plants that have some parts that are thickened or fleshy, as this enables them to retain water, a great feature in dry and arid environments.  I am very drawn to succulents because of their beautiful sculptural shape, and their hardy nature that allows even a black thumb like me to make them last for a long time.   I have bought small pots of succulents from Ikea for years (when I can find them – they sell fast), but I am sure they are available at your local garden store or even on the internet (Amazon sells them).

This is one of the first succulent pictures on pinterest that really caught my eye; I thought it was a charming way to create an interesting centerpiece or place setting. 

Apparently succulents have been very popular in wedding design for years.  Since I am celebrating my 20th wedding anniversary next month, I am way out of the loop on what is current in wedding design, but pinterest is giving me a little glimpse into some of the current trends. Via pinterest.

Succulent bouquets – I think they are really beautiful.  Via pinterest.

This bouquet combines the traditional rose with lovely rosette style succulents – traditional with a twist always appeals to me. Via pinterest.

The gorgeous bow like shape of this type of succulent is perfect for a boutonniere.  Via pinterest.

This picture makes me happy – all of my favorite colors, from blues to purples to pale lilacs, and the sheer variety of greens ranging from the palest shade to a beautiful blue-green.  Via pinterest.

A succulent wreath – love it. Via pinterest.

One of the few images I found of succulents in interior design, found on Diane James home.

There is such a sculptural quality to an arrangement of succulents. Wouldn't this look beautiful on a side or coffee table? Via pinterest.

Looking on Amazon, the succulent container garden book that appears to be the definitive guide has 60 reviews and rates 5 star – this book is going on my list.  To purchase on Amazon, click here.

The author’s original book on succulents is also 5 star rated and appears to address the use of succulents in landscape design.  Click here to purchase on Amazon.

Speaking of Amazon, I read a tip that succulents can be purchased on Amazon of all places. One enterprising seller has even created a ‘party/shower favor’ collection of 64 rosette style succulents that can be purchased and delivered straight to your front door! Click here to view on Amazon.

Or, a group of 128 would work well for a smaller party to create a few groupings. Click here to see on Amazon.

Have you noticed the succulent trend?  Do you have succulents in your own home or garden?  I looked for images of succulents in home décor pictures, but perhaps they are not used very often for styling a space.  I am curious if they are truly prevalent in wedding design.  If anyone out there is getting married or has recently been to some weddings, please let us know if you have seen succulents being used for bouquets, arrangements, or party favors. I am fascinated by this trend, and absolutely love all of the succulent inspiration out there on pinterest!

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Interior shutters

In the fall of 2010, when we were in the midst of building our house, I started a post on interior shutters (and never posted it!).  I was coming to realize that interior shutters might be the best solution for some of my windows given that I have European in-swing casement windows in most of my house.  In-swing windows are wonderful – so easy to operate, so beautiful to look at, and window cleaning is very easy - but they make window treatments a huge challenge in certain spaces!

I have been slowly but surely collecting images of interior shutters over the past few years, and here are a few of my favorites.

I just found this gorgeous image from Atlanta designer Margaret Kirkland’s portfolio.  What a stunning house – and of course I noticed the interior shutters on the French doors in the back.  The three interior doors are interesting because they translate as interior shutters too.  This is a beautifully detailed and designed house – I would love to see more of it.

Here is a close-up of the folding shutters from the same house. The depth of the bookcase creates a great place for the shutters to  ‘stack’. Via Margaret Kirkland’s website.

I love this bedroom for so many reasons – the limed beams on the ceiling, the beautiful bed treatment, and of course the charming casement windows on either side of the bed.  I especially like the small folding inside shutters on the window – what a great way to block the light without using window treatments (especially for those upper windows).

When looking for images for this post, I came across this one – an interior shutter painted blue.  It looked familiar (one of the issues with pinterest and other internet images is that pictures often become separated from the source)…

Then I realized that it was part of an Atlanta house I have long admired, with interiors by Barbara Westbrook.  These interior shutters are particularly interesting to me as they are one of the few images I found where the shutters are flush with the wall – which makes them more prominent and more a part of the décor (they were more than likely added to the house during a renovation).  In fact, if you look closely, I am not even sure there is enough space between the windows for the shutters to be fully open.  Image via House Beautiful.

The blog Belgian Pearls has been a rich source of images of interior shutters over the past year.

This picture clearly shows the accordion style of the shutters, particularly on the left shutters. Via pinterest.

The upper shutters are separate from the lower shutters. Via pinterest.

I prefer the look of solid shutters – not the plantation shutter style – but I thought this image was pretty and the folding style of the shutters works well for wider spaces.  I also love the details of this picture – the arch before the area that the bathtub is tucked into, the chandelier above the tub.  Via pinterest.

Another tub with shutters on the window.  Note the gorgeous circle detail on the shutters.  Image via Belgian Pearls.

Love the green color of these interior shutters. Source unknown.

It looks like a radiator is below this window, but the window is also recessed to provide the depth for the interior shutters. Source unknown.

This interior shutter has hinges and multiple sections due to the width of the window. Via Belgian Pearls.

In this picture, you can actually see how the inswing window rests against the shutter when both are open.

One of my favorite images of interior shutters, via Verdigris Vie.  When I saw this picture, I got an idea for how interior shutters could be used as a solution for a tricky area in my house.  Note how both sides of the shutters have paneling, making them equally beautiful when open and shut. 

In the master closet, we have a window that has drawers underneath, and required some sort of covering for privacy reasons.  We thought about multiple solutions – a roman shade or curtains were initially considered – but we wanted ease of opening and closing, and realized that if we had a shade it would end up closed most of the time (making the closet a very dark place).  The hanging sections on either side of the window reminded me of the deep recess of the European windows in the pictures above, so I asked my architect if we could do a solid interior shutter.  He sketched one up, and we had a shutter company fabricate it.

Here is a quick iphone snapshot of the finished product!  We did molding on the front and back of the shutters as they are viewed from both sides.  The interior shutters have proven to be an excellent solution for the space – they are easy to open and close, and look great both from the outside of the house and the inside. We had them painted in the same custom paint blend used in the bathroom, a greyed blue.

Have you seen interior shutters used much in your area?  I suppose plantation shutters are a form of interior shutter, and they used to be very popular in Atlanta when I first moved to town, in the late 90s.  It seems as if plantation shutters are often fixed, and they typically have the slatted openings.  For my project, the solid shutter seemed like the best solution for the space and for the style of my house.

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Sneak peek at the new House Beautiful featuring Atlanta designer Margaret Kirkland

Readers, here is a little sneak peek from the November edition of House Beautiful – and this one features Atlanta based designer Margaret Kirkland.  I was not familiar with her work, but I am so glad for the introduction to this talented young designer.  Her work is classic and elegant, and after looking at her portfolio it comes as no surprise that she worked with some of the greats of the Atlanta design scene including Dan Carithers and Robert Brown. Margaret established her own firm in 2010, and she has a wonderful portfolio.

Margaret was selected as the featured up and coming designer in ‘The Next Wave’ section of the November House Beautiful (a monthly feature that focuses on the rising stars of the design scene).  This beautiful room designed by Margaret is featured – as well as many of Margaret’s favorite stylish things in the design world.  Her style is described as classic, feminine, and Southern inspired – and her picks clearly reflect this.  Her style is definitely right up my alley! 

What is your favorite thing about this room?  I am loving the soft color palette, the architecture of the space, and the luxury of light coming in from three sides.  Margaret works with the architecture and scale of the room as well as the abundant natural light to create a beautiful and nuanced space. I can imagine that this room must have been tricky for space planning given the length of the room and the sheer number of windows (and the resulting dearth of usable wall space).  The wall mounted lantern is a great touch, as is the easel to display the art – a great way to incorporate art into a space that has so many windows.

I took a quick peek at Margaret’s portfolio and her work has a timeless look and feel – this bedroom caught my attention; I particularly like the soft color palette and the little Swedish touches in the room. The settee reminds me of one that I had my eye on at A.Tyner Antiques many years ago (it sold before I could make up my mind).

Another intriguing project from her portfolio is this house – there are quite a few pictures of it in Margaret’s portfolio – it is a wonderful combination of the feminine and the masculine, the refined and the gently rugged.  I spy another easel with art through the right door…perhaps a signature touch?

To see more of Margaret Kirkland’s portfolio, visit her web site:  Look for her ‘The Next Wave’ feature in the November House Beautiful, on newsstands next week.

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Thursday, October 4, 2012

A successful party!

A beautiful bar set up for one of author Danielle Rollins' parties

We had a successful party last weekend (see my post on the pre-planning effort here)  – although nothing turned out as I expected, mainly because of the weather! More on that later….

Some of you commented that I was quite late planning a party that was taking place in a week.  This was a school sponsored party, so my only job was to have my house ready and think about space planning.  We had a team of parents who were working with the caterer on the food and drink, and managing the invitations and RSVPs.  It made things easy on me!
We were expecting 150+, and I have never had that many people over to the house, so I knew that where things were placed and how things flowed would be very important. 

That’s why author and entertaining specialist Danielle Rollins (whose new book on entertaining was released this week) was such a big help; she has a tremendous amount of experience entertaining in all different situations.  The intent was for the party to be mainly outside, and we walked the property and discussed where to set things up.  We spent a little bit of time talking about how things should be set up in the event of bad weather – but since the past week had been picture perfect in Atlanta, we thought that was a remote possibility.

Here are some tips from Danielle that I thought were particularly good, and apply to all different sorts of party situations:
  • Think about who you are inviting, and what will make them most comfortable.  Do the guests know each other, or are you bringing together people from different backgrounds and perspectives? What seating/food/table set up makes most sense for the intent of the event.  For the event last weekend, the common bond was our 7th grade children, but it is a large grade with many new parents, so there are people who don’t know each other. A stand up reception featuring a light cocktail supper, with a little bit of individual seating, was most appropriate for the size and intent of our function. Also try hard to minimize any situation that might cause discomfort or intimidation during a party.
  • Danielle is very big on reusing things, and likes to avoid any purchases for a party that are for just one event. ‘Use what you have, and have what you use’ is one of her mantras.  If you plan on entertaining regularly, buy things that you can use for many different kind of parties – often keying the color to work with the environment (the colors you use in your house, or the colors of nature in the yard) are most versatile.   Danielle often mixes the high and the low, and often sources party supplies from IKEA and Cost Plus World Market.
This was our centerpiece for the food table - a pretty potted hydrangea that the party planners gave me as a thank you gift.   The cut flowers I purchased have already faded, but this arrangement will last for weeks!
  • Danielle prefers to spend the budget on good food and drink, and not on flowers. She often uses things that are in her garden, or uses potted plants that can be put in a pretty planter and enjoyed for weeks or even months before and after the party.
Sometimes parties require more elaborate arrangements based on the formality of the event (this picture is from a formal event hosted by Danielle) but even a lower key event can make the bar pretty with candles in hurricane lamps, and a nice tablecloth with whatever you have at home.
  • For a large party like ours, she suggested setting up two bars to minimize wait time for drinks and to encourage party flow.  The main bar should be decorated in a special way – perhaps with a set of hurricane lamps with candles (enclosed flames are better for the bar). The secondary bar can be simpler and self-serve.  Also nice is to have a few easy but flavorful food items at the bar (like honey roasted peanuts, olives, thick cut chips) as people often like to nibble while waiting for a drink, or while mingling by the bar.
  • If the party is going to be indoors, and especially if it is not sit down, try to plan food that is not too greasy or oily and can easily be eaten with a fork or the fingers. Also, when selecting a menu, think about your guests (possible food issues) and try to have your food go well together from a flavor and type perspective.  For an event that is a light cocktail dinner, she likes for food to be passed – and the host/hostess are often wonderful food passers as it gives them a chance to interact with many of their guests in an easy manner. It is better to have fewer food choices that are very well prepared and not too fancy, versus many different options and esoteric choices.  Also, in Danielle’s experience, guests don’t tend to eat a lot of dessert if there is a meal, so keep the dessert items simple and small – and often it is best to pass dessert or bring it to the table if the guests are seated, otherwise it might not get eaten!
  • Have a bottle of ‘Wine Away’ stain remover on hand in case of spills (I already owned a small bottle, but have since ordered more on Amazon)
  • If your party will be large, it is helpful to clearly mark the powder room with a sign so that people don’t wander around opening up every door trying to find it (I did this and it worked well!).
  • If you are using caterers, make sure that everyone knows where the trash is located – what comes in must go out (and parties tend to generate a fair amount of trash). Set up trash cans near the bar and in discrete places, and have a location outside where all the trash can be placed. 

I started watching the weather a few days before the party.  A big system in the Gulf of Mexico started to form, but all predictions were for it to hit Atlanta after the party.

On Sunday morning, the satellite looked like this. Ever the optimist, I was hoping that the rain system would be very slow moving and come into the Atlanta late in the evening.

It was mostly overcast at 4 pm, with less than 2 hours until the party start, and I was feeling hopeful that the weather would hold though the party. Then I checked the radar, and saw the monstrous green blob that was about to descend on Atlanta.

So, the parent party planners and I decided to set things up inside, with the thought that we could still use the outdoor spaces for mingling if the weather held out.

And here was the radar at 6 pm, party start time.  Atlanta is the green pin seen in the middle – and we were at the start of a big long entrenched rain system with 150+ people expected at my house.

And it all worked out fine!  We had an amazing group of parents, great food from a wonderful caterer, plenty to eat and drink, and a fun time was had by all.  Our house was able to handle the numbers although it was close quarters at the peak of the party – but that made for a more intimate experience, and also ensured that most of the food was eaten!

My brilliant friend Natasha suggested using a rolling rack for wet raincoats, and I happened to have one from a yard sale I had a few years ago.  When thinking about where to put it, I had the brainstorm to use our porte cochere (which is a covered side entrance for cars) as the entrance in case of rain – and it proved to be a very handy place for the wet umbrellas, the check in table for name tags, and the rain coats. We even had some passed hors d’oeuvres in here as it was the official starting point for the party, and it worked so well!  My side entrance is pretty so it was not strange to use it instead of the front entrance, particularly given the extenuating circumstances. The cool air that the rain brought made this a very pleasant place to be.

I tried to take pictures of the interior during the party, but they really did not turn out. It was very gloomy outside, and I had the lights dimmed on the inside (I will never forget the blog post by Maison 21 – back in 2007 – on the critical importance of dimmed lights when entertaining). There were so many people in just about every space (except for the dining room, since we did not put food in there and it was not a sit down type party).  We had more light in the kitchen, where the caterers needed it for their prep work – and where we had the food set up on the kitchen table, which is located right between the two bars we had set up. 

The one thing I might have changed– with the number of guests, and no possibility to go outside - it might have been better to have the caterers use the garage for their prep and staging.  It is fairly common to have the caterers use the garage when entertaining at home in Atlanta, if the weather is not too hot and the house has a set up conducive to this – it frees up the kitchen for the party. With so many kitchens now open to everything and central to the house, this makes a big difference.  But everything worked out just fine in the end.

I would say that the location of the bar(s) is one of the most important decisions that we made – we put one in the corner of the living room (with a tarp underneath to protect the floors and carpet from spills and leaks), and had the containers holding the drinks just outside the door on the bluestone, so the bartender could easily access the supplies. We had a large Frontgate metal tub on the table with the open wines, ice, and a selection of beers, softdrinks, and water, and this was replenished from the extras on the bluestone patio, just outside the open door. Normally we put the bar outside on the bluestone patio, but it simply wasn’t possible because of the horrible weather. (I wish I had taken a picture of the bar at the beginning of the party!).

The morning after the party, the metal containers that held the drinks had drained – this shows you where we put them (although more in alignment with the far door, for easy access).

This picture was also taken the day after the party, but shows where we put the second bar – along the far wall in front of the opening.  We moved the two side chairs to either side of the fireplace, and moved the sofa as far back as it could go. The bluestone top tables weigh a ton and we decided to keep them where they were! Our original plan was to have a second bar by the pool, but again the weather required us to make some last minute changes. During the party, this area was full of people, and the two locations of the bar (with the food on the kitchen table in between) created a wonderful flow throughout the house, and allowed for people to spread out.

I have had the chance to read Danielle Rollins’ new book, Soiree: Entertaining with Style and thoroughly enjoyed it!  It is a lovely book, and combines great tips on entertaining and thinking through an event, with a fascinating peek into a glamorous lifestyle, as well as glimpses of beautiful interior and garden design.   The book is written in a fun and lighthearted style, and is well organized to profile 15 parties that Danielle has held (from large to small), with the preparation, decisions, and menus outlined and discussed for each party.  Many of these parties also take place in fabulous locations including Miles Redd’s NYC brownstone, Lela Rose’s lovely NYC abode, a villa in France, and Danielle’s own beautiful home (including a party in her Indian theme theater room, which has not been published before). Woven throughout are entertaining tips and tricks which are applicable to any party, large or small.

Houses, gardens, people, lifestyles, recipes, entertaining – all in one. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it is a beautiful book to have on the coffee table too!  To purchase on Amazon, click here.

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