La Tavola

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“La tavola,” or simply the table, is a place where we gather with family and friends to join in a meal. The dining room is a place where we appreciate good food, fine wine, and great company. As we near the holidays, the dining room will become the spectacle and shining jewel of the home. The lights will be turned on, the linens will be pressed, and the fine china, crystal, and silverware will find its way out of the tomb to reveal a spectacular presentation. All of this occurs before the first crumb is ever prepared.

In most high-end homes, the luxury dining room will service a minimum of ten to fourteen guests. Lighting a long dining table is an art; a crucial and integral part of the design. The chandelier, the magnificent statement it is, is only there for mood lighting, and should have low candle output and sparkle only as an accessory – not serving as the task lighting for the room.

I have designed many custom residences with luxurious dining rooms, and while it seems pretty straight forward, proper ergonomics is essential. One needs to consider service of food, the overall extension of the chair when a guest is seated, and the elbow room from guest to guest. In addition, the design must respect the flow of food service from the kitchen or adjoining butler’s pantry. Will there be hired servers in larger parties, and how will the servers maneuver to present and remove dishes? Unlike a commercial restaurant, where you expect to see the action, this is your home, and we must consider the other 350+ days of the year that the dining room is just a lovely space in the residence.

I grew up sitting at the dining room table for every single meal. It was an Italian household, where the dining table is the center of the kitchen in place of an island; it sat eight to ten comfortably. A chef’s table, if you will, steps from the cantina where new barrels of wine were made every year, and prosciutto and salami hung from the ceiling! It was not a catered kitchen, but the chef of the night, Mom or Dad, had full command of the meal presentation and preparation. Timing was everything so the food was always served at the perfect temperature! As our family grew in size, so did the dining room. Now, choices that are different. The buffet, chandelier, and artwork on the walls can and should make a special statement. These furnishings are the focal point, the “pop” of interest that can easily change the room’s styling from common to unique and memorable. Let your personality have more freedom when selecting these “artistic” pieces, it’s an opportunity to reflect your personality into your social gathering place! The finale to “la tavola” is a great centerpiece and stunning tableware. It’s nice to have a staple design, a floral or everyday arrangement, but these are decorative items that can be changed easily to get into the spirit of the season!

This Thanksgiving, I hope you all have a great time with your loved ones around “la tavola,” no matter how big or small, have plenty of thanks for all of your blessings. Our early American settlers did not have Versace decor, but they certainly had all that was needed for a historically memorable event!

Le Bain

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In most homes, Le Bain or the bathroom’s sole purpose is that of convenience and utility. Yet when it comes to high-end homes, I have had the privilege to design very detailed and intricate master ensuites that showcase hundreds of square feet of prestige and pure luxury!

Based upon my experience, one has unlimited options when designing a luxurious master bathroom. Unique opportunities abound, ranging from customized “his and her” vanities with intricate interior cabinet detailing to storage spaces for powered gadgets or flat screen televisions hidden behind mirrors. There are endless selections of bath and jetted tubs in every style and size and marvelous showerhead combinations that provide enough bells and whistles that they qualify as a human car wash.

Let us not forget the chance for great lighting, especially for the ladies. Who wants a bad shadow when applying make-up? Aside from functionality, efficient and effective lighting design has the ability to create a warm atmosphere, producing a unique mood from morning to night. From tile details to frameless glass shower enclosures, planning and designing a true luxury master bathroom requires attention to detail and properly executed specifications, making it one of the most highly detailed rooms in your home.

After twenty years of experience in Interior Design, I find it truly fascinating that without fail the powder room is the crown jewel of every luxury residence. A small jewel box of “bling”, where vanities are specially made furniture pieces, countertops are dressed in precious stones, sinks and faucets let loose as the most unique and memorable functional pieces of art. Decorative mirrors dress the walls while unique sconces and miniature chandeliers are the icing on the cake! Not to mention the bountiful selection of wallpapers, faux finishes to trumpe ‘loiels, artistically setting the visitor of the powder room on a new adventure in just one quick visit.

I always enjoy the design challenges of these intricate spaces. When the opportunity presents itself and you are remodeling or designing a home from the ground up, it is important to study the plumbing selections early and plan with your designer and general contractor accordingly. Many unique plumbing selections require advance planning for a successful installation. This remains especially true for faucets that are wall mounted, sinks that resemble bowls and stand proud off the counter to body sprays that are ergonomically laid out to the comfort height of your own physical form. I personally measure my clients’ thigh, lower back and shoulder height and specify this in my drawings to get the wall mounted body spays just perfect!

Material selections are also important for the styling and coordination of cabinetry, counter tops and tile. Selecting resilient stones and non-slip surfaces can sound generic but with Mother Nature’s bountiful selection of natural materials the possibilities are truly endless. I tend to start with what the earth naturally has produced and has found itself on a showroom wall as the selection of counters and flooring. I pick cabinetry next, as various wood species react differently to stains and glazes and can be mixed and combined to make the perfect compliment. Never ignore the overall design of your residence, for future resale you want your luxury bath to feel like it is in harmony with the rest of your home’s style. Nevertheless, the powder room is the ultimate exception; where ones imagination and budget can soar wild and free. It is not just the bathroom anymore; it is Le Bain!

Le Grande Salon

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Le Grand Salon, a unique and notable space, not found in every home. In fact, some luxury homes I’ve had the pleasure to design have steered away from including this space or they’ve minimized it to such an extent it could be considered as an expanded foyer, or enhanced greeting area.

I have had the opportunity to design some magnificent Grande Salons and they are precisely that: grand! From the grand piano, to grand fireplace with grand soaring ceilings, considerable planning is routinely involved as all details are meticulously crafted, leaving little to chance. A great analogy regarding the Grande Salon and the family room would be to compare it to someone dressed in a fine tuxedo or elegant evening gown, formality, and prestige abound while a family room evokes casual attitudes and utility; one can envision kicking back their heels on a plush leather sofa in their favorite pair of jeans. The formal Grande Salon and the casual family room fundamentally reside at opposite ends of the spectrum.

With that said; why have a Grande Salon at all? It sounds pretension, can be too big and many owners complain that it’s rarely used. After all, it’s generally a faux pas to put a TV in the salon so what could it possibly be good for! It’s a place to have tea while the philanthropist in you dishes out a check for you beloved organizations, it’s a place for your guests to sip an aperitif with hors d’oeuvres, and it’s a place to listen to your grand piano as the notes waft into the magically high ceiling above. But most of all, it’s a great place for a grand Christmas tree with thousands of twinkle lights, stunning glass balls and sparkly ribbon.

We don’t have a Grande Salon in our humble 1960’s “cottage”, but I love to hear how clients might be using them in their homes, so please share your stories! Perhaps you may use the Salon to pose for an artist portrait or maybe you just like swinging from the chandeliers!

I find staging Le Grande Salon to come naturally to me based upon my background in Theater design. As a Theater designer, one is focused on setting the mood by creating an environment with proper furnishings, custom details, and effective lighting. Since Le Grande Salon is generally used on special occasions and is viewed as a showcase piece as guests enter the front door, this room must remain “on duty” and ready at all times. With proper design, one would only need to whisper, “lights, curtain, action” and with a swift touch of a button your home can be transformed for “entertain” mode, as you stand charmingly by the front door welcoming in your guests! “Darling, the Culbertson’s are here.” (A line from my favorite Chevy Chase movie “Funny Farm”.)

Since this room is barely touched and is generally off limits to kids and pets, beautiful and collectible items may adorn the shelves, imported hand knotted rugs of wool, silk may grace the floor and an incredibly carved stone fireplace with above mantel detail that may stretch to the heavens. The Grand Piano positioned lovingly into the corner with lid posted high, showing off its strings, dazzling chandelier, and usually a magnificent and striking painting tells us all about your dignified and special taste. I adore le Grande Salon and if you want to crash on the sofa, you have the wrong idea; this room is for proper etiquette only!

North Carolina

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We had just crossed the Georgia border traveling south into Florida; we still had several hours to go before arriving at our home in Naples. I looked down at my watch and realized it had stopped before we even left North Carolina that morning. That, my friends, is where this story begins.

Eleven years ago, my husband JR and I were returning from our honeymoon trip to the mountains of North Carolina. We had a great time exploring the Great Smokey Mountain National Park, traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway and stopping at breathtaking vistas of mountain peaks smothered in soft clouds. I was still white knuckled from grabbing the welfare handle above my head in the Land Rover and still feeling queasy from the curving and sometime precarious situations we were in as we scaled up and down thin gravel roads. We were continuously awed as we reared another corner to find boundless views or a picturesque waterfall inconspicuously tucked into a secluded space of its own. When I announced my watch had stopped, JR replied that is was a sign that we should not disregard. We immediately called a realtor to discuss a property we had found, to make a long story short, we owned our own piece of heaven in the Blue Ridge Mountains before we pulled into our driveway in Naples. We have been visiting western North Carolina ever since! As the years went by the maps were put down and the GPS turned off, we passed cars with Florida licenses plates and muttered smartly, “Learn how to drive, Flat Lander!”

We started Odyssey, our own Interior Design Firm, about this same time in Naples, Florida. We always had intent to capture the clientele that lived amongst us is south Florida and help them with designing their dream homes in Western North Carolina. Over the years opportunities in Linville Ridge, Hendersonville and Ashville presented themselves and we were always very obliged to be a part of these projects. Seven years ago we added a division of our design studio devoted to cabinetry. We became dealers of a product line named Mouser Custom Cabinets. They have been building custom cab- inets in Elizabethtown Kentucky for fifty seven years and offer a diversified and very customizable line that is discerning to the quality of homes we design. The projects are always a success, our Naples residents have our wielding commitment, our studio for design meetings, presentations and planning of their North Carolina homes and still make their golf game! We are well versed in working out of state, as we have competed projects in Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, Illinois and Ontario as well. Experience of jobsite conditions, our clear communication, great drawings and natural knack for understanding the complexities involved in construction aids in our ability to work off site. When duty calls at appropriate times during a project we pay job site visits for site measuring and meetings with the construction team.

We feel very fortunate to own our little pieces of heaven that range from a mere four up to four thousand feet above sea level. We appreciate our blessing of our business in Naples and the opportunity to have met and served our mountain friends with hopes to continue making more of your acquaintances.

Blue + White: Coastal Trends

The coast calls to us and we migrate to the water whether we live near it or love to travel to visit it.  The lifestyle is a little more relaxed and the pace a little slower; we replenish our spirits with each trip to the coast and absorb the energy it provides.
From Naples to East Hampton to the Amalfi coast, the joy weexperience is tangible and we try our best to recreate the feelings in our living spaces.  The colors and finishes we select may remind us of a special trip or be an overall nod to the sun, sand and water that we love.
Sand and Driftwood beach tones, dark cherry British West Indies styles, and the always classic whites are utilized in the furnishings and cabinetry which provide a base for the style that our clients wish to create.  We often mix in natural materials such as rattan, bamboo and woven seagrass to add texture and a tropical touch to our Florida homes.
The backgrounds may be kept light and airy with neutral upholstery and soft wall colors, or be rich with the colors of our flowers and tropical foliage.  It’s very common to bring in at least touches of vivid coral and fuschia florals or pillows or artwork, aorother bright tones like yellows and purples.  Silk greenery and other green accents, again, in soft goods or artwork, is a natural mix in almost every home.  Humans need the natural environment to maintain psychological balance, hence the efforts to add green spaces and roof gardens in cities. There’s a strong effort here to bring the outside in, with plenty of windows to view our lush landscapes and waterways.
Blue is also a very natural color choice for us here with deep water tones and bright sky inspiring us.   Although some people favor warm tones over cool tones, the blue almost invariably shows up, at least in artwork, to balance all the warm corals and reds and yellows.  Wherever your preferences lead your choices, the key, as always, is balance.  Let the environment inspire you!
Accessorizing is a great way to be bold with your color accents without a big commitment.  Pottery, glass, pillows, lamps and artwork are a great way to have a little fun with color and are easily refreshed later.  Tabletop accents in place-mats and napkins or colorful glassware are another way to add variety.  The finishing touches are very often the most important.

Earth Day Anthem

Earth Day Anthem 
song along to Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy
Joyful joyful we adore our Earth in all its wonderment
Simple gifts of nature that all join into a paradise
Now we must resolve to protect her
Show her our love throughout all time
With our gentle hand and touch
We make our home a newborn world
Now we must resolve to protect her
Show her our love throughout all time
With our gentle hand and touch
We make our home a newborn world.
Did you know that Earth Day was first observed in 1970 and is now celebrated worldwide in over 175 countries?
Earth Day is about rejoicing and respectful reflection of our beautiful Earth, and recognizing the sensitivities of our natural environment.  It is an awareness reminder in our busy lives of how each individual can change their family, community and nation, to take steps in the care of our fresh air and clean water, not only for us, but for those we love and will leave the world to!

The Color Green

March is another month that is undeniably surrounded in a color: the color green.  As St. Patrick’s Day turns the corner, I was thinking how I never have celebrated the holiday…so I really can’t speak of the this green beer day. I was raised with red wine next to the formaggio and prosciutto served on a bruscetta. However, those who know me well know I don’t give up so easily, so after a little research I did learn that it was the early Romans who first carved into crosses and laid into mosaics what we now know as the Celtic knot.
romanesque cross
Ah ha, maybe an Italian can enjoy the Celtic designs that are usually reserved for the Irish! Besides, Italians do have a big stripe of green on the Italian Flag!   As with the color red I spoke of last month, green, too, has many associations:  especially that with nature, a symbol of environmentalism, a color of capitalism, the American Green Back and of course the lucky four leaf clover. 

St. Patrick held the green clover as an example of the trinity and as a nod to his native Ireland. He was born during the time of the Roman-British empire, when the Roman empire ruled most of Europe. All I’m pointing out is it may be another reason for an Italian to celebrate St. Patty’s Day! 

Anyway, the color green is truly one of my favorites and I will never forget returning to Naples after my first winter trip home to Canada.  I remember being out one night on Queen Street, downtown Toronto, and I couldn’t quite pin point what was missing…

ariel of green

A few days later I was looking out the window of the airplane as we approached RSW and I had an Ah ha moment…color!!! Bright, vivid, beautiful Green!

 I had a flash back to the downtown scene shaded in black and white, with people crossing the snowy sluggish blacktop in their black winter coats and boots…maybe a green traffic light glimmered in my memory.  I knew then, that Florida was very special and the 365 days of Green is purely an awesome example of Mother Nature’s treats.

The Color Red

People have strong emotional ties to colors and a color can affect someone’s mood and their thoughts. During February we are surrounded in a wash of red everywhere we look as Valentine Day approaches: from red roses to red packaged confections to big banners and signs.  Red is everywhere!

It’s meanings are strong:  guilt, sin, anger, passion, courage, sacrifice and love!

I was told once that when I have a long meeting with a client to never wear red, since before long the color will start to mentally exhaust my clients and they will begin to hate and despise everything I say….well, I never wear red to a meeting and so far so good!

I also learned, in the school of color theory, that if I want an instant sale, show the product in red first; for a quick moment in someone’s mind it evokes a passionate and impulsive attraction.  I was given an example of one red watering can that a man had on his showroom floor:  he sold tons of them…but never in the color red!

As Presidents’ Day also approaches we have different feelings that are translated by the tapestry of our American flag. The red stripes represents the courage and sacrifice of our early forefathers that liberated our country, a symbol of the blood shed for our freedom.

Warning symbols are largely in the color red – with stop signs to warning lights of danger ahead to our highest national security alert color…red meaning take cover, I think!

Flip the world over and view red from China and they have additional emotional ties and  meanings associated with red that stand for success, fortune, fertility and happiness. In Japan and India a symbol of purity is a beautiful bride in a red dress.  In the Western world we might think a little differently of a bride in a red dress!!

How can this be?  The color red can be simply lovely and exciting to you, or extremely dangerous and vengeful, but always passionate.  Love it or hate it, eliciting a response is what it’s supposed to do.

“Red sky in the morning sailors take warning.

Red sky at night sailors delight.”

“Red on black, friend of Jack.
Red on yellow, beware fellow.”

Friend or foe, from here on out I will refer to the color red as “my girl Scarlet”; she deserves a name that is as equally feverish as she is lovely.

The Paradise Coast

I looked back and found that I had written about our Paradise Coast before, but thought it was important, as the seasonal traffic arrives, to think about the real draw to Naples, from our pristine beaches to our manicured roads, parks and upscale plazas, where Brie bakes fly off the shelf and buying a thirty dollar box of confections at a chocolatier shop coupled with a fine bottle of wine is a completely normal way of life.  Who would think of having anything less, in Naples!
JR and I often take the kids to our  farm, where they learn some pretty simple enjoyments like a tire swing, a walk in a stream or fishing for the afternoon.  Somehow though, when we get back to Naples, a trip to the olive bar at Fresh Market or a great cut of filet mignon is always in order!
I moved to Naples almost 17 years ago; my first project I worked on was a twenty thousand square foot home on the beach next to the Ritz Carlton. I learned about tromp l’oiel, book matching rare and expensive wood veneers, motorizing everything and bathing in walls of onyx slabs.  I learned over the years how anything I dreamed of could be made and made really well. One time I wanted two lions carved in Italy, precisely to a specific dimension to grace the front door of another twenty thousand square foot home I was now doing years later…easy-peasy, right? Delivered and installed – again, what less would you expect in Naples?
The friendships, though some of them seasonal, are rich with reunions and invite great gatherings all winter!  Our home becomes our palace and place to entertain, and a place for R&R when returning from our escargot appetizers followed by (you fill in the entree) and a tirimisu that topped off the night. After all, what else would you want in Naples!
As your professional Interior Designer, with memories of our trips to the farm, I know that the finer things in life are not always things. However, there is the saying “when in Rome!” and in our case we should say “when in Naples, do as the Napoleons!”
I believe this is the draw to Naples, so enjoy, live well, laugh often and a big toast to Naples and our Paradise Coast this New Year!
(With a fine bottle of champagne, of course!)

Florida Style

What a beautiful name for our unspoiled beaches, white sand and bountiful seashells that line the coast.  Every now and then a stop on the beach reminds me of where we live, the attraction for visitors and the natural beauty we have to embrace along the paradise coast.
For sixteen years, living in Naples designing around Tuscan style architecture, sometimes contemporary spaces or even an Island appealing style…
It makes me wonder…how about Florida style?
I think the days of washed out coral and aqua upholstery on pickled wicker may have ruined the “Florida style”!.
Somehow the traditional known colors of Florida were traded in for the dark earthy and jewel tones associated with Italy.  The “Tuscan Sun” versus “Sunshine State”.
In July we were contracted to decorate a big event for the Naples Beach Club and Hotel for a group of four hundred people. The guests were paraded on the beach to the pool area and lovely Watkins Lawn for a beautiful West Coast party at sunset.
A theme was needed for the party….I suggested that they embrace the fun retro look of the past combined with the Legacy of the Hotel dating back to the 1940’s-50’s.
 chairIt was a great experience to decorate for this theme.
 It was fun getting in tune with “Old Florida”
We designed and made every arrangement,
70 in all!
To the tune of 200 stems of Orchids…600 individual orchid blooms, 300 mini tropical drink umbrellas…more than 600 sea shells…
the list goes on!
The only thing missing…the Pink Flamingo right? You can take that up with the Beach Club Committee… it made me sad to not to have them there too.