Does Your Present Job Fit Your Passion?

 Allow me to paraphrase the lyrics of an old romantic ballad…”there is nothing sadder than a woman with a talent that got away.” For as long as I can remember I have been hearing the angst in women’s voices when they confide in me their desire to get into interior decorating, but feel compelled to remain in high-paying jobs doing work they detest.

One Decorating Den Interiors’ franchise owner referred to it as the “Golden Handcuffs.”  Like her, some of these women from the corporate world have come to the realization that if they applied the same amount of time and work effort into owning their own decorating business they would reap equal or better rewards than working for someone else.  Most important, they gained control of their lives and now look forward everyday to working at something they love.

 What are YOU waiting for?


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Accessories Make A Room Memorable

     In the parallel universe of clothing and home fashion what impacts a finished look most?  Incredible accessories.  Think simple black sheath, romanticized by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Without fabulous pearls, sunglasses, and elbow length gloves, Holly Golightly’s look would not have been as memorable. 

 The starting point in decorating a room might be a comfortable sofa and chair, but it will be those unique lamps, rugs, and mirrors that give a room its lasting personality.  Here are some crossovers between what was seen at New York Fashion shows and in High Point showrooms…

*SILVER METALLICS…Accessories to spark an outfit, accents to glamourize a home

*EXOTIC…Big cat prints (tigers and jaguars) on coats and jackets,  on pillows and throws.

*FEMININE…Clusters of rosettes on dress necklines, detailing on pillows

 *GLAMOUR…Pendant designs for earrings, shapes for chandeliers

*BOHEMIAN…Feather trim on jackets, accents on lampshades

In dressing your body or your home it is a relief not to have to follow any rigid guidelines.  When displaying objects, hanging art work, or lining up patterns on drapery panels, pillows, and upholstered furniture, take your lead from the biggest trend in jewelry, necklaces that combine ribbons, beads and pins in asymmetrical arrangements.  Your room will look as fresh and intriguing as one of those necklaces if you refrain from using too many pairs and too much symmetry.  Have fun injecting some new ideas and accessories amongst your old treasures.


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Decorating Den Makes A Difference

For years I have been touring the “to-the-trade-only” Home Furnishings Market in High Point, North Carolina.  At the recent fall Market I read an interesting article in a trade publication highlighting a situation that I encountered as a woman owner of a model home interior decorating company.  It is the tendency by predominantly male owners and sales reps in the showrooms to treat female interior decorators differently than their male stocking dealer counterparts.  However, I began to see a difference in their attitude 26 years ago after joining Decorating Den.

 In part it was due to the volume of business that Dec Den as a group is capable of giving to suppliers of home furnishing products.  More recently with so many furniture stores going out of business, vendors have a renewed appreciation for what our independent interior decorators add to their bottom line.


There is nothing like touring the showrooms with a group of my design colleagues.  In the past I have walked the Market by myself.  I have also toured it with my husband Jim, but that is about as exciting to him as sitting in a duck blind is for me.  As part of Decorating Den’s Market Days this October in High Point we attended special classes, were given private tours of showroom and factories, and were treated to luncheons and cocktail parties by our vendors.  For me, surveying the miles and miles of space with kindred spirits while sharing our excitement over new trends and products enhances the pleasure of what essentially is our job.  The benefit for Dec Den clients is that they work with the best informed interior decorators in North America.

*Pictures and Trend Report from High Point to be posted soon…


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The Pleasure of Rentree

After this beastly hot summer I am looking forward more than ever to la rentree, what the French call the passage  from summer holidays back to work and studies.  My love of September and what it represents goes back to the days when I could not wait for the first day of school and being handed a set of handsomely bound textbooks.  I was enthralled by the cracking sound when I opened a book for the first time, and loved the smart scent of the paper, but most of all I was ready to devour the knowledge to be discovered on each and every page.

 New clothes were also a part of my rentree.  Once I got past the Catholic school era of unflattering uniforms, I enjoyed pulling together a wardrobe for college that included sweater sets and plaid skirts, and a camel’s hair coat, which I read are all the rage again.  Now I can’t wait to store away my insipid summer clothes and begin wearing more substantial woolens. 

 Furthermore, I am anticipating transitioning from AC to watching logs burning in our library fireplace.  Diminishing sunlight capped-off with the end of daylight savings time does not bother me, quite the opposite.  I am enamoured of blue/black skies.  I think this is a result of growing up in NYC.  When I picture dark skies I see them dramatically electrified by the lights of Broadway and Manhattan’s skyscrapers.  And this year if I play my cards right, my 2010 rentree might include a few glorious days of autumn in New York.

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My Dream Home

The way the infilade is decorated today.

When I go shopping I often have a picture in my mind of exactly what I am looking for, other times it is simply a matter of, I’ll know it when I see it.  I was thinking the latter on another sweltering August day thirty-five years ago when I set out to find us a new home.  I say new, but not new as in the model home projects I was decorating at the time, but different, more spacious from the house we were living in, yet remain in Chevy Chase, Maryland.  

 A real estate contact gave Jim the addresses of a few houses on the market.  My husband offered me the choice of looking at them on my own, or going with him later that evening.  Lacking the patience to wait I jumped in my car and began cruising the neighborhood.

 The first two houses on the list held no interest since they were not much of an improvement over where we presently lived.  I drove across Connecticut Avenue down a tree-lined street of typical traditional houses.  In their midst one Mediterranean style home stood out from the colonial pack.  The first time I laid eyes on Jim did not elicit the coup de foudre reaction I felt at that moment.

 My elation turned into dismay when I realized there was no “For Sale” sign out front.  I figured I had made a mistake in recording the address, especially after I noticed another house on the block with a sign in the yard.  But that one had no appeal for me.  I had already been seduced by my dream home. When Jim verified I had the correct address it was like finding out the stranger you just fell head over heels in love with was not a married man. 

 I had to control my emotions until the following weekend when we would be able to take a tour of the inside. The owner lived in New York and preferred not to inconvenience his renters with people traipsing around the property until Sunday’s “Open House.”  In the meantime, Jim insisted on looking at every other house that met our requirements and was listed for sale within the Metropolitan Washington D.C. area.

 All week long I kept driving by my dream home.  Each time I noted the details that took my breath away; a circular driveway, the tall French windows, a pair of impressive front doors.  I observed how the above level basement served to increase the height of the generous façade, the same way high heals serve to visually enhance a great pair of legs.

 Enclosed extensions on both sides of the house maintained the informal Mediterranean style, yet promoted a sense of grandeur.  To make matters even more enticing, the renters always had the windows invitingly open with sheer curtains breezily flapping outside the casement frames.  It was as I imagined houses looked in the South of France.

 On Sunday I made Jim arrive promptly at one o’clock.  The interior was even more enchanting than the exterior promised. All of the high-ceiling rooms on the first floor opened up to one another across the front of the house, infilade style, a characteristic of the floor plans in many French homes.  Large doorways led to the living room and sunroom to the left off of the center hall and on the right to the dining room and a library.  An ample, but dated kitchen with a memorable red refrigerator was located at the rear of the house.

 Upstairs there were three average-size bedrooms, and one luxuriously scaled master bedroom with a fireplace.  When I learned that this charming house had been on the market for many months, I was astounded that no one had snatched it up.  The fireplace in the master bedroom alone would have been enough to sell me on this house.

The fireplace view from my bed.

 Prospective buyers had allowed miniscule closets, pitifully small bathrooms, no air conditioning, and the general deterioration from seven years of renters blind them to the house’s otherwise enticing attributes.  I was selfishly grateful for everyone else’s inability to see the property’s merits.

 I digress to tell you that even at a relatively young age I had the smarts to see the futility in anything, environments in particular, labeled impeccable, pristine or flawless, those terms so wantonly bandied about in shelter magazines.  Perhaps it is my defense mechanism for not wanting to put in the time, effort and money required to contrive and maintain perfection.  Imperfection’s appeal is that it is far less demanding.

 At my insistence Jim made an offer on the house, but since he saw property solely as an investment, he made the bid lower than the asking price.  “Carol,” Jim advised me, “Never fall in love with real estate. There will always be another house.”

 “Not for me!” I pouted, implying the worst ramifications for Jim if his lower offer lost us my dream home.  I was annoyed to put it nicely, but a low bid was better than no bid at all.  By the end of the following day, the owner wired his representative that he accepted our contract. 

 I get a kick out of some people calling our house an ideal “downsizer”.  Beauty and size is in the eye of the beholder.  It’s true, it is not as big as the houses of a lot of our friends. We have never added on any rooms, or enlarged the kitchen, but for me it is grander than any home I ever envisioned owning one day.  What I love about living here is that it is quite manageable whether you are in the junior or senior stage of your life.  Plus I enjoy the deceiving appearance of my home.  In true French trompe l’oeil fashion, the façade and high ceilings mislead people into thinking the house is much larger than it really is.

 For thirty-five years whenever I pull in the driveway I fall in love with my house all over again as if I were seeing it for the first time.


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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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