Style Icons: Grace Coddington


The epitome of style and grace, Grace Coddington expertly fits her name to a T. She’s truly a one of a kind fashionista, from her signature flame-colored hair to her love of unconventional beauty.  But what I love most about her is her vision for creating a sense of mood and fantasy in the photoshoots she directs.  It’s like being transported into another world or another time but yet somehow it feels relevant to today.

While Grace has been a dynamic force in the fashion industry for quite some time (Vogue’s creative director for 27 years), she became a reluctant celebrity when the acclaimed 2009 documentary, The September Issue was released. I loved seeing the behind-the-scenes as Grace tirelessly works with famous photographers, designer and models to see her incredible creativity and stylish vision come to life. As a creative myself, it’s always fascinating watching others work their magic and turn the everyday into the extraordinary.  Don’t tell Anna Wintour, but I think Grace is the real visionary for Vogue.

Even as I look at images that are 10 years old they still feel fresh and interesting.  Her 2003 Alice in Wonderland shoot with the legendary photographer Annie Leibovitz comes to mind. Grace enlisted the help of a few of her favorite designers to model including Tom Ford as the White Rabbit, Marc Jacobs as the Caterpillar, John Galliano as the Red Queen and many more. The result was a bold editorial shoot that has captured my imagination for years – its got whimsy, a sense of fantasy, bold colors, and wild  patterns!  It served as a point of inspiration for my design at the dream home in the merchandise mart.


If you’re looking to find out more of Grace’s world (believe me, you do!) check out her bestselling memoir, Grace: A Memoir, highlighting her early modeling career in England to her fashion career with Vogue. It’s such an interesting read, and you’ll love peeking behind the scenes to read about some of the Vogues most memorable shoots. Her fierce passion is inspiring.  Add it to your “must read” list for the summer!



Oftentimes when I’m interviewed a question will be ‘who would you most want to collaborate with on a design’ – almost always my answer is Grace Coddington.  I’d love to partner with her to create a vision and then pair my interior design with her fashion & photography knowledge to create something with as much fiery red personality as her hair.

Room Inspiration: A Nursery Fit For Princess Charlotte


There’s something lovely about a delicate sweet little girl’s nursery. Soft pastels, fabric canopies, vintage inspired touches and a feminine chandelier make a room that’s both chic and sophisticated but somehow charmingly sweet. In celebration of the new princess Charlotte’s birth, here are a few luxurious baby nurseries that would be fit for a princess. nursery inspiration

1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5 // 6 // 7

When designing in more muted palettes, adding layers of texture and pattern is critical to retain a sophisticated design.  These all look like they would be a relaxing and peaceful space for Kate and Princess Charlotte. I love old fashioned and vintage-inspired cribs either in white or bleached oak – they make a beautiful centerpiece in the room. Vintage wallpaper prints, touches of color, puddled curtains and canopies, and a few pops of soft colors (that turquoise velvet couch is just gorgeous, isn’t it?) give the space extra depth. And what nursery would be complete without a few quirky toys and stuffed animals.  Together, the pretty pink accents, charming touches and muted tones make for a room any little princes would adore.

I could easily see the princess Charlotte growing up in any of these beautiful nurseries – couldn’t you?

Style Icon: Iris Apfel




Whenever I think of funky, bold style, Iris Apfel immediately comes to mind. At 94 years old, Iris is the embodiment of the “more is more” philosophy. What I love about her is that she’s not afraid to play with mixed-prints, bold colors and luxurious textures – whether she’s dressing herself or decorating her Manhattan apartment.


Iris breaks all the fashion “rules”: There’s no pattern, color, or trend that doesn’t go together! Whether she’s at the Met Gala or home on the weekend, Iris seems to always be dressed up and ready to put on a show, and that’s one of the many reasons I love her impeccable and quirky style. I love her unapologetic attitude on fashion too. She was famously quoted saying, “If you don’t dress like everyone else, you don’t have to think like everyone else”, and I don’t think any other quote could capture her quirky style more perfectly.



Not only is she a fashion muse and icon,  but also a designer in her own right having worked on White House restoration projects for 9 presidents in her lifetime. Which seems odd to me given that, her home is a bold and playful environment, far from the stiff designs of the white house, but her involvement there was in recreating historic textiles.  I adore the way she uses pieces and inspiration from around the world to create a homey but elegant space. The details of those Moroccan throw pillows, the poppy red English chair, and gorgeous Dutch paintings all work together to create a lively room with lots of personality.

Her love of vintage decor and mix of colors reminds me of a Lincoln Park single family home I worked on. Both spaces blend antique pieces with bright, bold colors all the while infusing inspiration from cross-continental travel.

Iris-Apel-Style-At-HomeI know, like Iris, that I will always be inspired by the intersection of the world of fashion and design – and I hope to be just as stylish as she is when I’m 94!  Is anyone else as obsessed with Iris Apfel as I am?

I Love Vintage: Karl Springer


(Original Image via)

Karl Springer was one of the greatest furniture designers of the 20th century. He always found a way to perfectly blend elegance and quirk – never safe, always interesting.  So of course his pieces often become a centerpiece in my own designs.  Most known for his use of exotic materials – shagreen, goatskin, lacquer – his work pops, both in terms of color and shape in almost any room.

Originally born in Berlin, Springer came to New York to pursue his passion of becoming a bookbinder in 1957. His first job in the city was working at Lord & Taylor, and he began to use his bookbinding skills to create objects made out of leathers and skins. After years of practice and several jobs at high-end retailers, he became more experienced and branched off to create his own line of furniture pieces, light fixtures and Venetian-glass objects.  Eventually, his work spanned the globe, and he had active showrooms in New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Munich and even Chicago. His attention to detail and unparalled craftsmanship made him well respected in the design community, and his work has always been coveted by designers and collectors.

As a lover of all things 70’s chic, I adore how Springer’s designs use a few of my favorite textures and materials: lucite, metals, goatskin parchment and gorgeous wood veneers.  I’ve snagged a few gorgeous Springer pieces that made the perfect accent for my clients.  You can’t help but be drawn to his pieces the moment you enter a room – they’re always eye-catching.


Top image: 24k gold leaf Onassis chairs // 1.  Plum goatskin and steel rotating side table //  2.  Emerald green goatskin table // 3. Pouf ottoman  // 4. Gueridon table // 5. Faux tortoise mirror // 6. Goat skin Onassis chair

I’ve used Karl Springer’s inspiring pieces in the past, including this gorgeous goatskin coffee table for the Palmolive building interior design project. It helped take the design and give it a bit more edge since the architecture and many other pieces were more traditional.



If you happen to snag a piece of Springer’s work, it’s sure to become one of your favorites. Which classic Springer piece would you love to add to your home?

Color Love: Bold Color in Interior Design

It’s no secret that I’m a lover of bold and quirky color combinations. I love the emotional connection and feeling color evokes when walking into a room, and creating wow-worthy color combinations that make an interior elegant, but never boring. I often find inspiration from the world around me – whether it be the colors of flowers I spy while walking through Chicago, or from my travel, or the world of fashion photography. Translating those colors into palettes for my clients is one of my favorite parts of the design process, and I love using inspirational images to come up with mood boards for my designs.

When working on the interior design for a single-family home in Lincoln Park, I loved using a mix of bright and bold colors in the family’s master bedroom.  This client was so much fun – she wanted everything to be daring and bold.  So that’s what we did…juxtaposing a gorgeous kelly green and white striped wall with velvet coral chairs and a glaucous powder blue chaise, giving the room plenty of pops of color while keeping the palette cohesive and fresh.

The result?  It’s playful, quirky, colorful, yet still luxurious.  I just simply don’t believe that luxury can only be attained in muted palettes – an interior can be chic & glamorous even with the bold use of color.  Check out some of the inspirations on my boards on Pinterest that match the color story and design aesthetic of this darling bedroom I designed (top image below).  And don’t forget to pin it yourself!

Orange-Green and Blue-graphic

Is it just me or does that coral clad flapper looks like she’s telling her puppy -“lets go home and recline on the chaise!”  And isn’t that color palette absolutely divine? I am obsessed with coral right now – it can range in hue but no matter the shade each seems to be the perfect mix of orange, pink and red.

What do you think – can luxury only be achieved in muted tones or do you believe in colorful glamour?

4 Coffee Table Books for Design Lovers

I’ve always had a penchant for beautiful, glossy coffee table books. Each page is full of colorful inspiration, and I often find myself flipping through a few of my favorites before diving into a new design project. It provides a glimpse into the world through the eyes of other creative thinkers whether they’re fashion designers, photographers, artists, or interior designers. Here are 4 of the books that are at the top of my list when it coms to inspiration.


1) Tory Burch : In Color – Tory has always been a style icon of mine, and I am completely smitten with her use of color and bold, playful patterns. I recently picked up her newest design book and absolutely fell in love with her incredible behind-the-scenes photos of her life and adventures around the world. From her personal photos of life growing up in Pennsylvania, to the incredible trips that have transformed her style, this book is a must have for anyone who finds creativity in the world around them and loves a little boho-chic living and the occasional preppy pattern. As an avid traveler myself, I can relate to Tory’s love of adventure and obsession with living a colorful life.



2) Romantic Irish Homes – Designer Robert O’Byrne is one of my all-time favorite interior designers, and I love this book featuring impeccable romantic, lived in homes. His gorgeous designs and photos depict well lived in spaces, with the perfect mix of color, texture, and rustic elegance. Every home in it has petina and character – they’re perfectly imperfect, you might say.  I love rooms filled with old, beautiful books, and Robert showcases a few libraries and living rooms worth lusting over. If you’re a fan of lived-in elegance, this book will be a new go-to.



3) ABC DSC  – British designer David Collins is great at creating luxurious modern interiors. I love how they transform me to another time and place – for example – turning an everyday bar into a grandiose ballroom. A simple dining room becomes a glamorous Russian train-esque space – with rich woods and deep cobalt blue velvet details.



4) Ann Getty Interior Style:  Ann Getty is a Go Big or Go Home designer, and I love that about her. Her over the top glamour combines great textures and materials to create inspiring public spaces. I love her “more is more” aesthetic.  It reminds me of this incredible project I worked on recently in Lincoln Park. I adore her fresh, bright and simplified color palettes that she adds to so many of her design projects, as well as her attention to detail.



What are your favorite coffee table books to draw inspiration from?

Style Icon: Tory Burch



Tory Burch is a modern style icon.  But not only for her fashion – she’s built a killer business, has the most amazing houses, supports women entrepreneurs, and of course she looks great while doing it all!  Each season I’m excited to see the ads her brand creates.  They have this way of setting just the mood she was after – sometimes dreamy, other times more preppy or boho.  I love using a mood to set the tone for a design so oftentimes will build a room around a mood, a place in time, a photograph, or an outfit – those will serve as the inspiration and jumping off point for a design.  I often look to Tory’s ads or fashions for inspiration, and adore her ability to mix vibrant colors and patterns in unexpected ways.

Tory-Buch-Office-ChicAn entrepreneurial woman’s office is her castle, and Tory’s Manhattan home office is incredibly (and expectedly) chic.  Beyond her status as a fashion icon, I also see her (most importantly in my world) as an interiors icon. Each of her stores, offices, and homes are the perfect mix of classic style with a bohemian bent. I love the way she deploys bold color in an ever so chic way & how she mixes patterns with abandon not only in clothes but in upholstery.  In her office I love the mixed shades of blues as well as her attention to the tiniest details – the perfect place setting, a trim detail on a pillow or sofa, a pop of cobalt china on the wall.  Those details are what make the design.


Similarly to her interior design aesthetic, her iconic pieces are timeless & classic but still bold.  Depending on the season and collection they vary but always maintain a chic feel with a dash of boho-whimsy.  Most people gravitate towards her preppy patterns, but I’m personally a fan of some of the edgier pieces in her collections.  A hint of 70’s, a moody dark lace, a bold contrast stripe or an asymmetrical skirt.

Tory Burch in front of Patterned Wall and Window

But what I love most of all about Tory…that she does it all while looking so effortless!

What Tory Burch pieces or spaces are you inspired by?

Artist Profile: Tim Anderson – Chicago

For many years my husband and I have been really interested in, and have begun collecting painted portraits.  We’re starting a small collection which are lining our entryway and stairwell.  Most of the portraits are vintage and antique portraits, but we’re starting to mix in some new/contemporary works as well.

A friend of ours who also is our very talented website designer, Kyle from Knoed recently posted on facebook a request for friends to share their favorite Chicago fine artists.  It made us think about all the artists we’ve used for our interior design projects, and while some were Chicago-based, many were from other parts of the country.  But one of the artists suggested was Tim Anderson, whose work we’ve admired for a while, and is of course focused on portraits.  They’re somewhat abstract but not completely removed from reality.  And there’s great range – some are more ‘real’, while others push more abstract.  Below we’ve included a few of our favorites.

We think they’re just beautiful. Hope you enjoy them as well. Who knows, maybe we’ll have one of his works hanging in our hallway before too long…

Tim Anderson - Chicago Artist - Portrait #8

Tim Anderson - Chicago Artist - Vulcan Portrait

Chicago Portrait Artist Tim Anderson - Paloma

Tim Anderson - Chicago Portrait Artist - Prometheus

Tim Anderson - Chicago Portrait Painter

Chicago Artist - Tim Anderson Portraiture

Oh, and you can buy his work from Thomas Masters Gallery in Chicago

Who are some of your favorite living artists? 

Anyone from Chicago?

The smell of great interior design…

We’ve all had those times when we walked into a friend’s home and immediately notice a distinctly pleasant aroma.  Sometimes its fresh flowers, sometimes its baking cookies, and sometimes its a delicious candle.  In the winter, it just has that warm and enticing aroma that you’ll envy for your own home, and it somehow makes any space feel that much more inviting and comforting.  So I’m oftentimes looking for great looking, aesthetically pleasing ways to incorporate the sense of smell into my designs.  I burn candles in my home all winter long, and when I fall in love with a scent, I’ll take it in any form I can get.

Right now I’ve been really loving musk & amber smells.  I know that sounds unappealing, but trust me, when its 5 degrees outside this warm, rich aroma makes you feel cozy.  Think of a great aged wine or an 18-year scotch…it smells like neither (thankfully) but it feels historic, aged, and deep.  My husband is wearing Kiehl’s Musk eau de toilette for cologne, and I’m buying bath soaps, lotions, and candles that have the smell whenever I see them.

Merz Apothecary

Merz Apothecary - Established 1875

This past fall I took a trip to Merz Apothecary here in Chicago – they have locations in the Palmer House Hilton as well as on Lincoln.  It’s just what you would imagine of an old fashioned, established in 1875 apothecary shop – tin ceiling, wood pharmacy bookcase walls covered in every scent imaginable, old fashioned shaving kids with straight razors & brushes with bone handles, and more.

Merz Apothecary Interior Design

Merz Apothecary - Old Fashioned Grooming Products

And that’s where I first discovered Boticario de Havana, one of my favorite candle and scent makers – they’re both aesthetically pleasing (beautiful bottles) and smell amazing.  And of course I love their bath oil, lotions, etc too because they are in gorgeous bottles (so they look great in a bathroom), and they leave me smelling like my favorite scents all day long.

Boticario de Havana


This winter we received a great gift package from Archipalego that included some of my favorite scents.  Our whole office was celebrating!!  We loved the variety of products they had – Boticario de Havana as well as others – so you can get any scent that you’re searching for. Check em out at

And of course now I’m curious – what’s your favorite scent?

Or do you have a particular scent that you like in your home?



Buenos Aires Flea Market

As many of you know, I love to travel.  And when I travel, I oftentimes visit the flea markets of the cities I’m visiting.  Whether it’s Paris or Palm Beach, visiting the flea markets is always a fun way to see the history and culture of a city.  I’ve been to the flea markets in Russia, France, Argentina and several throughout the U.S.  This March I took a trip to Buenos Aires Argentina to visit one of the world’s largest flea markets as well as to enjoy some great food, local wine, and a unique blend of French and Italian inspired architecture.  But beyond the expected steaks and tango, I found a culture with passion for art and history and an eye for aesthetics that surprised and delighted me.

What I found surprising on my trip though was the contrast of old world formality contrasted with streamlined modernity –  rococo vs. graffiti, french settees vs. mid-century modern, taxidermy vs. industrial sleekness.  The contrast was quite amazing, and it is a similar sense of contrast that I often bring to the interior design projects at Summer Thornton Design where we blend new with old, antique with modern, and so on.   Of course as Buenos Aires was originally settled it had an influx of beautiful antiques from France and Italy, and we loved seeing those pieces at the flea markets.  Check out some of the antiques and photos that we took on our trip below…

Recoletta Cemetery in Buenos Aires

Recoletta Cemetery in Buenos Aires

Graffiti Art Painted House in Buenos Aires

Graffiti Art Painted House in Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires Flea Market covered shops

Buenos Aires Flea Market

Furniture at the Buenos Aires Flea Market

Furniture at the Buenos Aires Flea Market

Buenos Aires old world architecture contrasted with contemporary graffiti

Buenos Aires old world architecture contrasted with contemporary graffiti


Summer Thornton’s Condo – SOLD in Lincoln Park

Update – Condo Is SOLD…

Not quite a true interior design ‘inspiration’ post, but thought we would let everyone know that I’m listing my condo for sale.  It’s definitely a bittersweet moment.  Josh and I have loved living there, but alas, it is time for a move to get a bit more space.  Sad to leave it, but hoping that someone will buy it who can enjoy it as much as we did.  It’s been such a fun place to live, and we’ve enjoyed seeing it published in so many blogs and magazines (House Beautiful, CS Interiors, Tribune Magazine, Apartment Therapy, and so many more).

If you’re curious, here are some of the things we’ve done to the place since we originally bought it back in 2007:

  • Renovated the Kitchen – custom cabinetry, high-end appliances (Bertazzoni range, F&P fridge, Bosch, etc), marble countertop and shelves, mirrored backsplash, Brass and gold fixtures
  • Installed new electrical and lighting in kitchen
  • Added built-in bookshelves in Living Room
  • Added in-unit washer and dryer (full size)
  • Renovated the bathroom – new custom vanity, herringbone ceramic wall tiles, new marble mosaic floor, polished nickel fixtures, updated plumbing to all new copper (both in-unit as well as risers from the basement)
  • Restored molding and trim to original condition
  • Installed new closed-combustion furnace system
  • And of course we decorated it…we’d even sell it furnished for the right price ;O)

Lincoln Park Condo of Summer Thornton

Summer Thornton's Kitchen with Black Glossy Cabinets

  • More photos can be seen on our site here.
  • And of course the full real estate listing can be found here.

Can’t wait for someone else to enjoy this place as much as we have.  And the best news is, once we sell it we’ll have another project to share with you as I’ll be taking on a new home design.  So with that, if you’re in the market for a condo in lincoln park, or you know someone who is, feel free to pass it along…

Artist Profile: Irving Penn – Photographer

Feminine, chic, glamorous, and intimate.  I’ve been loving photographs of Irving Penn’s for a long time, but recently I’ve been loving the depth and intimacy of his images.  I ran across a quote of Penn’s which speaks to the power of his images:

“Sensitive people faced with the prospect of a camera portrait put on a face they think is one they would like to show the world. …Very often what lies behind the facade is rare and more wonderful than the subject knows or dares to believe.”

- Irving Penn, 1975

That statement is so true and so insightful about our society.  We all put on our best face, a bit of a facade, but underneath that is something more interesting, beautiful, quirky, and original than the surface would show.  Which is why I love Penn’s images so much – in them we’re able to get to view the subject on a deeper level when they really become interesting.  It’s when you find out something about them that few others know, or you see a moment of weakness that they become real – and its in those intimate moments that you can connect with them.  And now for what may be a big leap – I hope that is what I can do through interior design – create spaces that while beautiful and glamorous are still intimate and are a peek into the quirks and interests of my clients.

Is anyone else a fan of Irvin Penn’s photography?  His ‘corner’ series which is always copied and never duplicated is one of my favorites…how about you?

Irving Penn Photograph "Ballet Society"

Irving Penn Photograph - "Ballet Society"

Irving Penn Corner Photograph "Duchess of Windsor"

Irving Penn Corner Photograph - Duchess of Windsor

Irving Penn Photo - "Igor Stravinsky"

Irving Penn Photo - Igor Stravinsky

Irving Penn Photograph of Salvador Dali

Irving Penn Photograph - Salvador Dali

Irving Penn Photo - Mrs William Rhinelander Stewart

Irving Penn Photo - Mrs William Rhinelander Stewart

I can only imagine a salon wall like the one I did in the Palmolive Building with Irvin Penn’s intimate images next to the more glorified/glamorous images of Slim Aarons.  Whose work do you prefer?  Or do you like them both but in different applications?

For more examples of Irving Penn’s photography, see Retronaut or for a list of Irving Penn’s books see the Irving Penn Foundation

Artist Profile: Slim Aarons – Celebrity Photographer

Slim Aarons lived by the mantra “attractive people doing attractive things in attractive places.”

And it’s true, he photographed some of the world’s wealthiest celebrities, jet-setters, and royalty, but somehow with a feeling of approachability and closeness.  From his NYTimes obituary it seems as though Slim had become one of them.  He was actually close to these socialites and was able to photograph them freely in situations where other photographers (and the public) were not allowed: their Palm Beach estates, private parties, terrace pools in Greece, and so on.

I came to know Slim Aarons’ photographs this past year as one of my clients purchased some prints of his.  I can’t wait to finish the rooms that his photos will hang in.  They’re modern and moody, sophisticated but not overly stuffy.  I’ve read was that Slim never used a makeup artist or a stylist in any of his photos, and that’s why I think they feel more approachable, more real than many of today’s celebrity photographs.

What do you think – do Slim’s photos feel intimate despite his subject being so glamorous?

Poolside Gossip in Palm Springs by Slim Aarons

"Poolside Gossip" in Palm Springs by Slim Aarons

Slim Aarons "Kaufman House"

Slim Aarons - "Kaufman House"

Slim Aarons - "Pop and Society" feat. Mick Jagger

Slim Aarons - "Pop and Society" feat. Mick Jagger, Marianne Faithful, and Desmond Guinness

Slim Aarons - Eden Roc Pool @ Hotel Du Cap France

Slim Aarons - Eden Roc Pool @ Hotel Du Cap France

Slim Aarons - Beauty and the Beast feat. Lady Daphne Cameron in Palm Beach, Florida

Slim Aarons - "Beauty and the Beast"

Slim Aarons - "Nice Pool" in Palm Beach

Slim Aarons - "Nice Pool" in Palm Beach

Slim Aarons - "Leisure and Fashion" - Poolside Fashion Show in Palm Beach

Slim Aarons - "Leisure and Fashion" - at a poolside fashion show in Palm Beach

Slim Aarons - "Jean Serpieris" - at Tour La Reine Athens

Slim Aarons - "Jean Serpieris" - at Tour La Reine Athens

Slim Aarons - "Penthouse Pool" - in Athens

Slim Aarons - "Penthouse Pool" - in Athens

Slim Aarons - "Family Chair" - A Flagler heir sitting in HM Flagler's favorite chair in front of Flagler Museum

Slim Aarons - "Family Chair" - An heir sitting in HM Flagler's favorite chair in front of Flagler Museum, Palm Beach

Which is your favorite Slim Aarons photo?

If you’d like to see more, other writers’ thoughts, or even purchase his work, follow the links below:

Or if this put you in the Palm Beach mood – check out my post: Palm Beach Interior Design Style

Interior Design Inspiration on Pinterest

Pinterest Inspiration Board

Pinterest Inspiration Board for Summer Thornton

Recently I’ve found a pretty phenomenal online mood board of sorts where I’ve been keeping a lot of my interior design inspiration for projects – its on Pinterest.  If you aren’t familiar, Pinterest is basically an online inspiration or mood board that you ‘pin’ photos to digitally.  And all your facebook/twitter friends can ‘pin’ theirs too, you can see each others pins, and so on.  I’ve really come to enjoy it because sometimes I’m looking for fresh new material – new fashion looks, new color combinations, interior design inspiration, etc and a lot of really active twitter users, bloggers, and aesthetically inclined folks have adopted to pinning their favorite things.  So rather than checking every single blog, I just check the pinterest board featuring all of my friends – it shows what they’ve been pinning recently.  So fun!

If you’re curious about what I’ve been pinning – check out for my inspiration wall.  For me I’m focused on pulling creative looks that can be reinterpreted into interior design applications…and of course I’m already pinning interiors that I love.

If you aren’t a member yet, request an invite (it just takes a day or two for them to send you access), and then start pinning away.  You can segment by all sorts of different things – food, fashion, interiors, etc – I’ve just used it as a catch-all for inspiration so far.  And of course if you log-in via twitter or facebook you can see what your friends are pinning too.

So check it out and follow me on twitter at so you can see what I’m pinning.

Oh…and if you see anything on my site that you find inspirational – whether in the inspiration blog or in one of my interior design projects – give it a pin so your friends (including me) can see!

Gold Gilt Details

Gold Gilt & Mirrored Ceiling at Hotel Savoy in Moscow

Gold Gilt & Mirrored Ceiling at Hotel Savoy in Moscow

Gold Gilt Columns at The Hermitage - St. Petersburg, Russia

Gold Gilt Columns at The Hermitage - St. Petersburg, Russia

I was looking through some photos from our trip to Russia this past summer when I noticed these two photos of gold gilt details.  The first is gold gilding on moldings and the ceiling in the dining room at the Hotel Savoy in Moscow.  The second highlights gold gilded columns at The Hermitage in St. Petersburg.  In both cases they add the shine that puts the interior design into a different level of beauty.  Certainly it is borderline tacky, and can easily cross that line in today’s interiors, but if it can walk that fine line without crossing it, gold gilding can be a gorgeous statement…

What do you think – can you see an application for using gold gilding in an interior design that isn’t a palace?  Would you put it in your own home?

Design Do: Decorative Ceilings

Decorative Ceiling at Versaille

Decorative Ceiling at Versaille

Exterior Ceiling at Sacre Coeur
Exterior Ceiling at Sacre Coeur
Ceiling at the Baccarat Crystal Museum - Paris

Ceiling at the Baccarat Crystal Museum - Paris

Gold Ceiling at St. Mark's Cathedral, Venice

Gold Ceiling at St. Mark's Cathedral, Venice

Wood Library Ceiling at The Hermitage - St. Petersburg, Russia

Wood Library Ceiling at The Hermitage - St. Petersburg, Russia

Ceiling at the Doge's Palace - Venice

Ceiling at the Doge's Palace - Venice

Ceiling at Doge's Palace (Venice)

Ceiling at Doge's Palace (Venice)

Recently I’ve been noticing and admiring decorative ceilings – the photos above are from trips to Paris, Italy, and Russia where I saw a more notable use of decorating ceilings in these historic palace interiors.  So after admiring the interior design of these palaces, I’m determined to use decorative ceilings to create additional interest and intrigue in the rooms I design.  And I’m not talking about faux paintings of clouds – eek – I’m thinking of gold gilding, patterns, and wallpapers to draw your eye in a sophisticated way.

A couple months ago I completed an interior for a nursery where we wallpapered the ceiling – it took the design to a whole new level (photos to come before long).  After noticing all these beautiful ceilings it made me think, “Why are so many ceilings so boring!”  Out with the white, and in with the gold gilding and molding!  Hope you find these wild ceilings inspirational, and they push you to use all your surfaces as an opportunity to express yourself!  Personally, my favorites are the portrait-filled ceiling at the Doge’s palace in Venice and the pink and gold gild ceiling from Versaille.  What’s yours?

Palm Beach Interior Design & Style

Palm Beach Chair

Palm Beach Chair

Pink Goatskin Parchment Mirror & Console at West Palm Beach Antique

Pink Goatskin/Parchment Mirror & Console

Goatskin Parchment Cabinet Dresser

Goatskin Parchment Cabinet Dresser

Coral dressers at Palm Beach Antique and Design Center

Coral dressers at Palm Beach Antique and Design Center

Shell Chandeliers @ Christa's South Antiques & Seashells

Shell Chandeliers @ Christa's South Antiques & Seashells

Shell Lamp from Christa's South Antiques & Seashells

Shell Lamp from Christa's South Antiques & Seashells

Palm Beach Interior Design

Palm Beach…ahhh, where it is always 80 degrees, sunny, and the beach is never more than a few block away!  Plus, it has gorgeous gardens, great architecture, and some tasty restaurants too – all in one small island.  It’s no wonder why so many people flock there during the season – it has this distinct style that’s a blend of wealth, class, and glitz!

Last week, we took a trip ourselves for a little R&R, to do a little vintage and antique shopping, and to check out a few sources that we use for our interior design projects.  The interior design aesthetic here pushes the creative envelope with color and materials – I love it!  Mirror, goatskin, lacquer and shells – yes please!  But I also love mixing pieces from Palm Beach in to designs that aren’t all glitz – check out our Palmolive Building Interior Design or the Poolhouse we did – both include several pieces from Palm Beach.

Our leisure time was spent on the island where we laid by the pool at the Brazilian Court and rode bikes around to check out some of the houses on financial row.  Some of our favorite meals were at Buccan, Cafe L’Europe, Cafe Boulud, and Pizza al Fresco – all of which I would recommend – but Buccan was probably the best food and overall vibe for dinner while Pizza al Fresco was just great italian pizza for lunch in a cute little courtyard.  We also wanted to see a lot of the homes in the area, so we rode bikes around most of the town.  Check out the photos below to see some of the hedges that surround the homes – it’s a stunning scene and bikes are the perfect way to see it all.

As far as shopping goes, we didn’t spend much time on Worth Avenue – where the likes of Tiffany’s, Chanel, Hermes, Louis Vuitton, and so on have stores.  Instead since I’m an interior designer I spent most of our shopping time across the bridge at West Palm Beach Antiques Row on South Dixie Highway.  It’s the source of all things flashy – lacquer, goatskin, and lucite – oh my!  But if you’re in the market for something a little bit wild, there’s no better place to shop than West Palm Beach.  Where else could you find a fully mirrored grand piano (which we saw)?  So find a time during the season (winter), and head down for a visit to enjoy the weather, food, shopping and architecture.

And I’m more than glad to say that I’m taking interior design clients in Palm Beach!  Can’t wait to get back!

Hedge Archway Entry in Palm Beach

Hedge Archway Entry in Palm Beach

Square Hedges in Palm Beach

Square Hedges in Palm Beach

Hedge Lined Street in Palm Beach

Hedge Lined Street in Palm Beach

Taxidermy – love or loathe?

Taxidermy at St. Ouen Flea in Paris featuring Zebra taxiderm, horns, ostrich taxidermy

Taxidermy at the St. Ouen Flea in Paris - Zebras, Ostrich and Monkey's oh my!

Taxidermy Birds

Taxidermy Birds

Taxidermy Museum in Paris - Musee de la Chasse et de la Nature

Taxidermy Museum in Paris - Musee de la Chasse et de la Nature

Taxidermy in Interior Design

One of the most visually arresting ways to add intrigue and character to a room is through the use of taxidermy.  It makes a statement as bold as the wildest wallpaper or furniture piece, as big as any super saturated color palette can do.  And what I find so interesting about taxidermy is that is can be done really well, or it can be done really poorly.  I think we’ve all seen cabins and hunting lodges that were just distastefully ‘rural’ in their design, but we’ve also seen taxidermy blended with modern twists to ensure a fresh feel.

On a recent trip to Paris we saw lots of Taxidermy.  We visited the St. Ouen Flea market where there was a vendor with tons of exotic, rare, and unusual taxidermy.  We also visited Deyrolle (a vast taxidermy shop) and Musee de la Chasse et de la Nature (which has a vast collection of exotic taxidermy from a private collection).  To the French, using taxidermy in interior design is quite chic and rarely has the resistance that it has here in the states.  You can see they have giraffe’s, zebras, and a whole slew of exotic and african taxidermy that would make the US border patrol and animal protection agencies cringe.  To the French, it is art, and a way to preserve the beauty that is nature and to showcase it within the home.  And broadly speaking, I tend to agree with them (with exceptions of course).  I can’t help but admire the beauty that is a zebra’s coat, or the wild swirling horns of a Kudu, or the unique ‘mask’ pattern that you find on a gemsbok.

And speaking of gemsboks (is that the plural of gemsbok), we just picked one up for a client, and we’re trying to talk him into a full size (entire body) piece of taxidermy as well.  Lets see if he goes for it.  Can’t wait to share the design with you all once we finish the project this winter/spring.  If you’re looking for a few other designs of ours with taxidermy, check out my home design which features two small pair of antlers, or the downtown Chicago interior design project which features some horn lamps in our portfolio.

So what’s your opinion – love or loathe the use of taxidermy in interior design?

For me taxidermy is a way to bring the beauty of the outdoors, indoors, so I have to say that when done right, I love it.

As an aside – I do want to reassure some anti-taxidermy folks that there are humane ways to acquire taxidermy.  I have a vendor who actually sources all their animals from Zoos where animals have died of natural causes.  And beyond that, I’ve actually seen a faux rhino that was so realistic I would have bet my life that it was the real thing, but in fact it was all made of plastics, clays, fiberglass, and makeup.  So if you love the look, but want to ensure no animals were harmed, that’s an option, for a certain price.

Eliseev Gastronome’s Interior Design – Moscow Grocery Store

Eliseev Gastronome - Ornate Interior Grocery Store In Moscow

Eliseev Gastronome - Ornate Interior Grocery Store In Moscow

Grocery Store with Chandeliers (Eliseev Gastronome)

Grocery Store with Chandeliers (Eliseev Gastronome)

Columns and Archways at Eliseev Gastronome in Moscow

Columns and Archways at Eliseev Gastronome in Moscow

Columns and Windows at Eliseev Gastronome in Moscow

Columns and Windows at Eliseev Gastronome in Moscow

This past summer we went on a tour of a few Moscow sites.  The oil tycoons and the nouveau riche of Russia have really changed the way luxury interiors in Moscow are designed.  Sure the palaces of Russian Czar’s were grand, but who would have thought that a grocery store could be this ornate.  In fact, growing up my dad used to crack jokes about things being as ‘barren as a russian grocery store’.  Needless to say, he hadn’t visited Eliseev Gastronome in Moscow.  Things have changed thanks to the Russian oligarchs, and this grocer makes Whole Foods look like a discount grocer.

My personal favorites are the chandeliers – they are just gorgeous.  Ornate without being too formal – they still have movement and whimsy.  They remind me of my post about chandeliers in the kitchen.  The rest of the decor isn’t my personal taste, but it was amazing to see.  Worth a visit if you’re in Moscow, and great inspiration if you’re designing a restaurant or boutique retail store.  While we had nothing that we needed to buy, the sheer atmosphere caused us to buy $20/person in random snacks.

While I wouldn’t have ever thought of designing a grocery store, if I had this type of creative license it could intrigue me.  What do you think – does the decor or the interior design of your grocery store influence your mood, cause you to visit a different store, and/or change how much you purchase?

Art in Unexpected Places

Public Artwork in Moscow

Public Artwork in Moscow

Art on exterior walls in Moscow

Art on exterior walls in Moscow

I’m a big fan of public artwork.  But in Chicago we usually see it in the forms of sculptures and installations.  While in Moscow this summer we ran across some installations of paintings placed atop building exteriors.  They took what was a simple cinder block building and gave it a punch of beauty.  They distracted from the burglar bars, the graffiti and the worn paint.  They gave it humanity, comfort, and almost a feeling that it was a well designed interior (instead of an exterior) – all of a sudden it felt intimate and personal.

But what I found most inspiring and interesting about the paintings was that none of the graffiti artists had defaced them.  The rest of the walls were well tagged, but the graffiti artists respected the painters enough to only tag the buildings and not the art.

Mutual artist respect – now that’s inspiring.