Monthly Archives: July 2010

Summers In Paris

The summer of 1984 was extremely memorable for a couple of reasons.  For years I had been receiving alluring brochures from the Parsons School of Design announcing their summer program in Paris.  Previous times I relied on the usual bag of excuses for not signing up.  I don’t have the time.  I don’t have the money.  I don’t want to be separated from the man in my life.  But that year I made up my mind to make the time, find the money, and grab the chance to be on my own.  The Parsons program would not only get me back to Paris, but allow me to experience my fantasy of living there as a student, albeit a senior one.

 Familiarity with the layout of Paris, a Metro pass, and my garret-sized room on the Left Bank eased me into feeling like a Parisian.  Each morning fortified with coffee and croissant, we toured the city listening to our erudite professor bring alive the structures and former inhabitants of centuries old edifices, churches and neighborhoods.  In the afternoon, following a leisurely two-hour break for lunch, the group reassembled at the Louvre’s Musee des Art Decoratifs, where another distinguished professor lectured us on French interiors, furnishings and the decorative arts.

My darling husband Jim called me daily, sometimes in the middle of the night when he forgot the time difference, or when he could not wait until morning to reveal the latest bit of positive information he had uncovered while exploring Decorating Den as a way out of his early retirement.  We were both having the time of our lives, but on two different continents.

When my Parsons school days were coming to an end, I feared post-Paris depression, but Jim was already making plans so I would not have a free moment to feel blue.  What I had anticipated as an anti-climax turned into a crescendo that has yet to peak.  By the time I returned home, our getting involved with Decorating Den was a fait accompli. 

A living room recently decorated in the French style by Anne Fawcett.

From the beginning what made us feel good about our company was the realization that Decorating Den’s interior decorators, like Anne Fawcett, were making the world more beautiful one room at a time.  When Jim was looking into the company twenty-six years ago Anne was one of first franchise owners he interviewed and one of the ones who convinced him that he and I were a perfect match for the Decorating Den business model. 

Anne continues to amaze us with the gorgeous rooms she creates for her grateful clients.  Next summer when Jim and I lead our Decorating Den colleagues on a grand tour of Paris Anne and her husband Don plan to be a part of our genial group.

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Point of View

Friends and family, my husband included, kept asking me what my blog was all about.  The other day in Metropolis magazine I happened on a phrase that describes best what I have in mind, “opinionated commentary.”  A large part of my blog will revolve around thoughts I have been venting everyday in my personal journal.  The other part will be a collage of happenings in my life.

 There will be personal stories like the wedding we hosted at Poverty Point, beloved quotes from my collection, and reports on favorite books, movies, and travel.  And, since Decorating Den Interiors dominates so much of my life I will be sharing the transformations our decorators make on their client’s homes, providing updates on trips and conventions, introducing you to new products from Dec Den’s roster of suppliers, and giving periodic reviews of color and style trends. 

 In the future I plan to do some surveys to find out more about the people who are reading my blog.  I welcome your comments, and as my daughter Darlene suggested, I promise to show more pictures to go along with my commentary.

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Original Sin

What’s totally new?  How much in life is conceived without credit to those who have gone before us?   Artists look for inspiration from a Mary Cassatt or an Henri Matisse, comedians study the timing of a Lucille Ball or a Jack Benny, writers read the works of an Emily Bronte or an Ernest Hemingway, and interior decorators reference the rooms of an Elsie de Wolfe or a Billy Baldwin.  We’re all guilty of emulating the best in our respective fields.   

 If you believe this is a sin, perhaps a definition of originality I once heard will make sense, “Something old worked over by a fresh mind.”  I love Billy Baldwin’s endorsement of Pauline de Rothschild, a woman noted for her great style, “She never copied conspicuous details, but borrowed freely from subtle atmospheres and feelings.”  

My fabric design "Partner's Legacy" was inspired by traditional French Toiles de Jouy

 In Natalie Goldberg’s book “Writing Down the Bones” first published in 1986 that I wish I had discovered sooner, but perhaps I was not ready to fully appreciate her brilliant dissertations on the subject of writing, she states, “We are very arrogant to think we alone have a totally original mind. We are carried on the backs of all writers who came before us.”  

 No matter where the inspiration comes from, our individual interpretations to society are as unique and original as our DNA.

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The Personal Professional Touch

Pardon me for appearing as outdated as the lady in the hat and white gloves boarding a plane in a 1960s PAN AM ad, but I have to admit that I miss the service, courtesy and pampering offered by a live sales person in the great department stores of old.  Today’s young women are used to rummaging through racks of clothes hoping to find something they like, in their size, worth trying on.  Most of the time there isn’t a sales person in sight, but we must suffer the indignity that cameras are watching our every move.

Only senior members of AARP will have lived long enough to remember the days when sales ladies approached you, inquired about your needs, brought a selection of clothes into your dressing room, then stayed to make sure everything fitted properly before returning with alternate suggestions.  And I am not talking about a service reserved for couture customers.  Once these were standard shopping procedures.  

With so much of today’s commerce done online there is another aspect missing from merchandising products to consumers, literally being able to caress a cashmere cardigan, or handle a silk being considered for draperies.  The best imagination cannot duplicate the actual feel of a fabric touching your hand, or bring back the personal service that was once was the norm.

          For a time I worked in the design department of Stix, Baer & Fuller, a fine St. Louis family owned business.  Stix had an impressive training program where all employees were indoctrinated into the founder’s service-oriented philosophy.

Stix, Baer and Fuller, B. Altman in NYC, and Garfinckel’s and Woodward & Lothrop in Washington D.C., along with many other stores of their ilk and time that catered to their clients are out of business.

What set these department stores apart was the range of products and prices they offered, but no matter whether one bought an inexpensive blouse, a moderately priced business suit or a couture gown every customer could depend on quality products and top-notch service.  This old-fashioned woman is pleased to report, Decorating Den Interiors continues to follow in those traditions, but goes them one better…we come to you.  

I would like you to think of a decorator as a personal facilitator, with the ultimate mission to guide you to the most direct and pleasing conclusion. In the business world, a facilitator keeps everyone on track, guides random ideas, stimulates discussion, asks thought provoking questions, and offers suggestions.  At Decorating Den we believe that every homeowner—no matter how modest a residence or a budget—deserves not only the services and sources of an interior decorator, but their professional attention and the personal touch missing from most retail transactions, but still coveted by consumers.

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Somethings Never Change

When I finished at the International Institute of Interior Design those already in the business informed students with a glint of schadenfreude, “Without any experience it will be impossible for you to find a job!”  That scenario has not changed in the forty years I have been in the business.  In fact that “exclusive club” attitude goes as far back as the 1920s when Syrie Maugham, the wife of British playwright and best-selling novelist Somerset Maugham, who when she decided to try her hand at interior decorating heard these discouraging words from her American rival, Elsie de Wolf, “You’re much to late, my dear, much too late.  The decorating field is already overcrowded.”

 Syrie Maugham paid no attention and instead daringly created sumptuous, but impractical all white rooms that inspire decorators to this day.  I too ignored the warnings and have been engaged in interior design since I went on my first interview for a job at W. & J. Sloane and was put on their measly payroll.

 TIMING

 Another long held myth is the general consensus about when not to look for a job; summer is not a good time everyone is on vacation, or everything shuts down between Christmas and New Years, and surely you would not think about trying to get into interior decorating during a recession.  Even with my husband’s hearing aids in, Jim is deaf to those types of pronouncements.  You cannot work for him or be his wife without accepting his no excuses and no time like the present attitude. 

 I had taken a couple months off after Jim and I moved back to Maryland.  Once we were settled in our home and the winter holidays were coming to an end, I was anxious to get back to work. I planned to wait until after the first of the year to begin looking for a job, but Jim prodded me into not procrastinate, so on December 26 I read a classified ad for a model home decorator.  I interviewed for the position the next day, and on January 2nd I was back at work. 

 SALES & MARKETING

 Decorating model homes was my perfect niche, but after a few years there was a decline in the housing market.  Jim of course had an answer for my whining about the business downturn and asked, “Why don’t you bring some business into the company?”  It was not that I abhorred selling, as do so many designers, I simply had not given much thought to that aspect of the business.   But under Jim’s tutelage I honed my sales and marketing skills. Without these I would never have had the confidence to eventually open my own Model Home Interior Decorating business. 

” A main step for achieving enlightment is to discover your right livelihood.”                                                                                   Buddha

 My advice to recent design school graduates, decorators out of job because of furniture stores going out of business, and those who are delaying pursuing a passion for decorating while they stick it out at a job they detest, please don’t allow others or let timing myths prevent you from taking charge of your life. There are opportunities out there.  Decorating Den for one is always looking for good people who want to own their own business or who would like to work as a decorator in an existing Dec Den business.

 DECORATING DEN CHANGING LIVES SINCE 1969

An urban condo by Dec Den decorator Roz Redmond

 Some things never change.  For the past 41 years Decorating Den has been changing the lives of both those seeking a career in interior decorating, and those looking not only for the services and sources of an approachable decorator, but their advice and encouragement as well.   To learn about career opportunities and see how Dec Den decorators are transforming the homes and lives of their clients go to www.decoratingden.com.

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