Au revoir Blanc d'Ivoire

Almost like a death in the family, I am faced with the loss of my favorite vendor: Blanc d'Ivoire. Recently this French furniture company decided to close their NY office, thus making it nearly impossible for small independents like myself to order their merchandise. They now require you to buy a container and that's unrealistic for a designer with my sized business. So, I am now forced to buy their product wherever I can find it and just hope that I can find it. I know Indulge in Houston recently bought a container full so I'm anxious to see what pieces they ordered. But still, this is a loss that I am taking hard! My favorite client and I perused their web site so much we only referred to it as BDI in email exchanges. Their merchandise is everything I love: white, crusty and grey patinas, french and Swedish inspired designs, and cheap. Did I say cheap? OMG, you can't imagine! It kills me to think I'll be paying retail for it now, but even at retail prices, it's still a bargain. And so, here is my final ode to Blanc d'ivoire - thanks! It was a blast while it lasted.

Not only do they sell furniture, there are wonderful plates and vases all in the creamy and white tones BDI is famous for.

They also make wonderful French quilts and bedding.

I love their mirrors and light fixtures, along with wonderful consoles and buffets.

This is a dining table from their new line of furniture.

This traditional headboard comes in different fabrics and colors. They also have a large range of lamps and chandeliers.

I might have ordered this bench from BDI more than any other independent designer in the U.S. A meal for two at a restaurant probably costs more.

No, wait - maybe this lamp is my most oft purchased item from BDI.
This chair is so wonderful (and cheap) that I ordered almost the entire inventory left in NYC, "just in case."

So, now I'm thinking, with the demise of my almost free ride with Blanc d'Ivoire, what will take its place? What do I buy from other companies that are great bargains? What other good deals are out there for cheap? What catalogues do I go to time and time again to "fill in" when the big boys fall short?

Global Views: A wonderful to-the-trade catalogue. Mostly I buy tables from them. They are inexpensive in price but don't look it. This table has a black marble top and brushed brass legs. It's stunning in person, especially for the price.

This is another wonderful table from Global Views. It's perfect for drinks next to a club chair. Their tables come with antiqued mirror tops, glass tops, and white and black marble tops. They also come in silver or brass. There are square tables, round ones, and oval ones. I spot Global Views tables in all the shelter magazines, in surprisingly pricey homes. I noticed that Ivanka Trump has some in her stunning apartment. I never fail to smile when I spot one in a million dollar home.

Here on the cover of Elle Decor is one of my favorite Global Views tables.

I love these wooden pagoda shelves from Global Views. Their array of products is immense. Most stores that sell accessories will invariably stock some items from this powerhouse company.

Another favorite catalogue is Wisteria. Started by the young daughter of famed Houston interior designer Jane Moore along with her husband, this catalogue has taken the design world by a storm. In the beginning, it was stocked with an array of goods gathered from around the world. Lately the catalogue seems to be going in a new direction. Painted reproduction furniture has taken over from the exotic. Apparently, it's been a very profitable move. Most, if not all of the painted furniture is backordered for months. Above, is one of their more popular pieces from their painted furniture line.

This garden seat from Wisteria is a personal favorite. I can't count the number of times I've ordered it. It's beautifiul with its slightly muted, antiqued tones. I own three of them myself.

Primarily know for their richly embroidered fabrics, Chelsea Editions has a line of furniture inspired mostly from Swedish antiques. This company will probalby be my replacement for Blanc d'Ivoire. Their furniture is actually of a much finer qualilty than BDI and the prices, though somewhat higher, are still very reasonable. This table above is a versatle piece, perfect as a nightstand, a small desk, or a tea table. Unfortunately, Chelsea Editions is a to-the-trade only company.

When I have a client who isn't interested in paying Conrad or Hunter Douglas prices, I send them to Target to buy these tortoise shell blinds. I've used these dirt cheap blinds in the most expensive of houses. Highly effective, Target blinds are one item you can substitute with for times when the budget gets tight.

west elm is Pottery Barn's contemporary answer for the hip, young, urban crowd. When designing for a teenager, I love to use their platform beds with their wooden headboards - which come in several different styles. Besides teenagers, west elm appeals to singles and the newly married. Very good quality for the money.

If west elm is too severe for your tastes, a new contender, Brocade Home may be the answer. Frilly, damasky, and ultra feminine, young women are going crazy over this new catalogue. My favorite pieces are their chairs: french inspired, with light painted finishes, these chairs could go from a vanity to the dining table for the right client.

Pottery Barn, the old standby, recently updated it's line. These pieces are a standout: the kilim covered bench is fabulous and would add texture and atmosphere to almost any family room or library. Great look, great price.

I love this new Pottery Barn console. I think it's great looking and I am planning to use it in a room I am currently working on.

This rush seat bench is from the same group as the console, above. Again, great price, great look for the money.

Online from Urban Outfitters: this is a quilt wiht a suzani pattern. It makes a great bedspread or a tablecloth for those who want a suzani but don't want to pay the high price for a "real" one. This is suprisingly good looking and effective in person.For young clients, I love this velvet bench from Urban Outfitters online. I've used it in a teen's bedroom. Target carries this same piece on their web site.

Ballard Designs has long been known for their trendy items, many of which have a french provenance. Before it was sold and was still ultra unique, practically everything in the catalogue came in chartreuse. Today, they have a much larger color range. The items I buy over and over from Ballard are these chairs. Fold ups, they make great extras for dinner parties, offices, breakfast tables, and even a dining table until "real" chairs are affordable.

Originally, they only came in tortoiseshell bamboo, now the chairs come in many different patterns and colors: here they are in white cane.
And again, with a great new cut-out design.

Zebra rugs and anything zebra striped is this years coral: Major Trend Alert. I found this company, Pacific Artifacts at Round Top. Call them to buy one of their great rugs. I did! And I'm sure I'll be buying many more in the future.

Restoration Hardware makes this clear baluster lamp. It's heavy, well made, beautiful and currently on sale. I use this lamp over and over again. It's my favorite right now and it goes well with almost every kind of decor.
Oly Studio is another favorite to-the-trade only online source. This bench is hot right now and has been featured in a lot of magazines. Oly makes furniture for hip people who like trendy things.

Here are my favorite accessories from Oly Studio: faux bois bird candlesticks. Did I say Oly specializes in Major Trend Alert products? Here we kill two trends at once: birds AND faux bois. I love when that happens.

The designer Tom Scheerer loves to use this Saarinen designed table. On his web site, almost every house in his portfolio has one of these tables somewhere. Here he uses it both for dining and as a coffee table. Ikea makes a great knockoff, pictured below. To me, this is the single best item available at Ikea:

Above is the Ikea knockoff. For under $200, you can get a great designer look. Megan of Beach Bungalow 8 has one herself in her breakfast room:

Another item at Ikea that I love is their line of slipcovered sofas. Pieces in the line include a sofa, sectional, chaise, ottoman, and chair. The slipcovers come in many different fabrics, but the white is my favorite, of course! It's very comfortable seating, especially for it's dirt cheap price. I've sat in sofas that cost 10 times more that weren't nearly as comfortable. Great for a beachhouse or a playroom.

Legend of Asia has tons of blue and white pottery and just about anything else you could want from, well, Asia I guess. They have garden seats in every color, porcelains, pottery, accessories, and furniture that's new and antique (supposedly). Besides the blue and white, in case anyone cares about any other color, there's green, celadon, white, red, and orange. Best of all: trade prices! Great customer services make them an easy company to do business with.

These bird prints are popping up everywhere. Again, a room by Tom Scheerer. Here the bird prints, by a Swedish artist, are original. Everytime I turn around, I see another designer using these prints. Recently, I spied them in Bunny Williams' beach home, shown in her new book. If you can't afford the originals, Anthropology has the complete set, one is pictured below: I've not used them yet, but I'd love to find a client who is game.

Again from Anthropology, this iron bed is well priced and well made. It's beautiful when dressed up with linens like below:

Here, acclaimed designer Miles Redd uses a more upscale (expensive) model of the same bed. Redd apparently loves this bed, he's used it quite a few times.

Here, Redd, again uses the "Anthropology" bed with a more masculine feel.

And lastly, the English catalogue OKA Direct has great, inexpensive finds. The designer Michael Smith has been quoted as saying he buys all his dinner plates from OKA. He especially loves the above blue and white dinner set. I do too. One day, I plan to buy the set for my everyday dishes.

Besides dinnerware, OKA sells furniture, some of the painted variety, drapes, cushions (pillows to us Americans), accessories and rugs. I love this blue and white striped dhurri. A great item to use if you want a "Somethings Gotta Give" feel to a house.

I bought two of these vases from OKA. They are huge!!!! So huge that they overscaled everything in my house and I finally just put them on the floor on either side of a french door. Dealing with an English company may seem daunting to Americans, but OKA made it simple. A few weeks after I placed the order online, they arrived, well packed, and in one piece.

Have you ever bought any of my favorite catalogue picks? What are your favorites? Have you ever had a bad experience dealing with a catalogue or an online company? I'd love to hear about your favorite (or not so favorite) purchases. And, to those who made it all the way to the end of this post, as a reward for your endurance, if you want to buy something from the to-the-trade companies, email me and I will be happy to help you with the order.

My Design: Original Content Week

A shot of the living room looking towards the family room. Across from this arrangement is another seating group comprised of a tufted sofa and two more chairs.

In honor of Decorno's proposal that design bloggers celebrate "Original Content Week," I've dug into my archives and pulled out these shots of a highrise apartment that I worked on last year. My client is a single woman in her 80s with reddish brown hair and olive skin tones. Working around her coloring, I came up with the scheme of sage greens, terracottas, and caramels for her new space. My client looks wonderful in her condo because the colors blend with her complexion rather than fight it. This was the first time I had considered complexion in thinking up a color scheme and it is something I have continued to do. It was a real eureka moment in my design life and I highly recommend trying out the premise.

My client plays cards and lots of it and one of the most important aspects to get right were all the gaming tables. So, poker with the men, (and the ladies) takes place on the round, wooden dining table. We purchased a heavy, fold-up topper, backed with felt to cover the table when the chips are flying. Next, I purchased a smaller game table to seat four for a game of bridge. This worked beautifully until it was discovered that the mirror was reflecting the cards, so I designed a temporary cover out of the pillow fabric that is placed over the mirror when the bridge ladies come. I kid you not. Lastly, a larger game table that seats six was placed in the den to handle card games for between 4 and 8 players or to serve lunch on at all the games. Obviously, this is a woman who loves to entertain. Working on this assignment was challenging and took up the better part of a year. My client and I didn't know each other when we started, but by the end of the project we had become close friends, despite our 30 something years age difference.

A closeup shot of the living room, with it's sage and terracotta tones. I designed all upholstery here and in the family room and had it fabricated at Custom Creations in Houston.

A close up of the dining room. The light fixture is a beauty: a highly patinaed antique brass fixture from Belgium. The fixture was purchased at Brown, a unique lighting shop whose proprietor lived in Belgium for several years. Now back in Houston, she returns there several times a year for inventory. The light fixture is a stand out in the room - it's patina actually picks up the wall's color.

This is the family room with caramel tones featured in the wall color, the Rose Tarlow fabrics, the drapery, and in the geometric patterned sisal rug. The brass and crystal light fixture is from Circa Lighting. The two brass lighting fixtures on opposite sides of the large space play off each other: though one is contemporary and the other antique, they complement each other. The set of prints are black and white drawings of Galveston, Texas that I had framed to cover the alcove space above the sofa. Janus et cie chairs surround the mid sized game table.

Another view of the family room. I designed the bookcases to form an alcove around the sofa to create some architectural interest and to house the smalls collected over a lifetime. The red table to the right is actually an oriental drum, purchased from Area, a local store.

Beadboard UpCountry - Brenham, Texas

It's no secret that Texas is a huge state, just to drive from one end to the other is a journey that can't be done in a day. It is so large that we have 254 counties. Several books have been written about the architecture of all of our courthouses. There is even a web site, where a man named Ted has taken a picture of each of the courthouses. Many of them are old buildings that are registered with the Historical Society while others are newer structures that replaced the older, smaller courthouse as the county grew more populated.

Drive through any small town in Texas where the county has it's seat and you will find the proud courthouse erected right in the middle of a small, antiquated downtown. One of the prettier counties in Texas is Washington County whose name to Texans will evoke visions of rolling hills and fields of bluebonnet flowers. Brenham, Texas, the county seat of Washington County, has a population of just 13,500 and is also the home of the famous Blue Bell Ice Cream. Unfortunately, Brenham's courthouse, pictured above, is not one of the old ones as it was built in 1939. The downtown of Brenham is being revitalized and it's filled with charming shops, restaurants, coffee houses, and a few romantic B&Bs. In order to satisfy the design needs of all the ranch owners and chic people who either live here or have a second home here, a new store, Beadboard UpCountry opened up last year, right on the town square across the street from the courthouse. Location in Brenham doesn't get any better than this.

Maryanne Flaherty, the brainchild behind Beadboard UpCountry, runs the store with the help of her husband. Their store has helped put Brenham's downtown revitalization on the fast track. Last week it was announced that the 2007 recipient of the Best Commercial Interior Design Award, given by the Texas Downtown Association (TDA), is none other than Beadboard UpCountry! Maryanne is a friend of mine and she emailed me to share the exciting news. The TDA, the organization behind the revitalization of downtowns around the state, hands out several different awards each year, and Beadboard UpCountry is most deserving of their top award. Located in a former bank building, Maryanne worked hard to restore the space into the charming, sunny shop it is today. To Maryanne, a chic redhead, her shop is the culmination of years of dreaming and planning. Prior to opening her store, she commuted the hour to Houston to work at local furniture stores. Now, her clients travel to see her. Beadboard UpCountry is bright, with high ceilings, and white stucco walls. For sale is bedding, tableware, accessories, candles, and furniture in white and linen slipcovers. The shop is so atmospheric, you might just think you are actually in France instead of a small Texas town.

The charming storefront: outside a chalkboard advertises the specials inside. I adore the awning almost as much as the store's name. Who could resist coming inside?

The walls are stuccoed white, with the old brickwork peeking through.

Against one wall are shelves of creamy plates and assorted tableware.

A view towards the back, you can see how high and airy the ceilings are. Notice too, the black and white mosaic tiled floor.

Besides accessories, Maryanne sells furniture and offers interior design services.

My favorite: a big round slipcovered ottoman that doubles as a coffeetable. Behind it is a white, slipcovered sofa. Seagrass, linen and white slipcovers: I am in heaven!

A view of a tablescape with shelves of goods in the background. The tableware is mostly either white or cream.

Friendly and chic Maryanne, the proprietress of Beadboard UpCountry. In this picture, you can just see the restored wooden ceiling.

If you would like to visit Beadboard UpCountry, it is located at 1o1 South Baylor Street, Brenham, Texas 77833. You can call Maryanne at 1-979-830-8788 or you can email her at If you are planning a trip to the Round Top Antiques Fair this April, be sure to visit Maryanne as Brenham is just a short drive from Round Top.