A part of my design business is styling. At times, I may style a room for an important event and at others, I am styling for a photo shoot. When working with a photographer for a professional shoot I spend a lot of time with my eye looking through the lens of the camera to tweak things so they are just so. In our everyday lives, we don't always see the wilted stem of a flower or the electrical cord hanging below the console, but the camera always does. When I style a home for a shoot my eye has to be just as critical as that camera lens. It is not uncommon to spend a solid work day to come up with three or four magazine-worthy photos.
A couple of years ago the tables were turned and I was approached to help out in a branding campaign for an exquisite line of custom boats. I wasn't asked to look through the camera, the camera would look at me. This time rather than styling the shot, I was actually in each shot.
Steve Sanger of Sanger Brands produced and photographed the shoot as a part of his campaign to create a brand, core message, and website launching Patten Yachts. Steve was brilliant as he shot from his chase boat. We spent hours cruising while Steve took everything into consideration--the angle of the sun, the homes in the background, whether my glasses should be on or off--and that I should definitely stop talking and keep my mouth shut for a bit. It was such fun and I think the results are stunning.
Try to look at this series with the critical eye of a professional. See the reflections present in my glasses or the way the finish of this exquisite boat mirrors the water--and the blue, all of the beautifully layered tones of blue. Professionals take everything into consideration, this is what gives us such pleasure when we leaf through a magazine looking at beautifully styled and shot photos.
Here comes the sun...I can't wait to get back on the water...
The vernal equinox is upon us. Along with the desire to balance an egg (unsuccessfully) on end, the subtle shift in light ushers in a desire for renewal in both my home and my spirit. For many, our homes are deeply tied to our sense of well-being. That is certainly the case for me. I find that my clients can often identify when something feels off in their home, but they can’t always identify what causes that feeling of unease.
I’m a girl that that does not like to be penned in. I started my career as an exterior house painter. The work was gratifying and difficult. Gradually I brought my work inside and started to play with color through decorative glazes and custom paint colors. When one paints there is much dismantling to do. I often took photos of a room so I could put things back exactly. And that is where the trouble came. I simply couldn’t put a room back the way it was if my instincts were telling me there was a better way. I was timid at first, gently suggesting to my clients we could try another way—or perhaps remove an object completely. Over time I became bold, and voila, a designer was born. That was many years ago, but I still appreciate my roots. I deconstruct before I construct. Below are a few thoughts on how to make your space feel like home.
Clutter—Many people find it difficult to relax in a space that feels cluttered and unorganized. I am particularly susceptible to this. I feel nervous and tense in a room with too much stuff. I downsized several years ago and got rid of everything I owned that didn’t serve me. I now live with only things I dearly love. Each item in my home has a story and it’s a story I appreciate. I went through my belongings piece by piece. Some belongings were difficult to let go, but I find great pleasure knowing someone else has the opportunity to enjoy them. Life is easy now, and my family knows—no gift for me unless I can read it, eat it or hang it on a wall. And my most treasured gift is the gift of time.
Color—Nothing changes the mood of your home like color. A room can be made light-hearted or serious simply by rolling paint on the wall. We all have color preferences but identifying how to use color seems to intimidate. Color is a tool to cause the eye to see only what one wants it to see. Deep colors can accentuate lovely trim by creating high contrast. Deep tones also cause walls to recede—It’s counter-intuitive I know, but painting all walls including the ceiling the same color eliminates points of contrast—the room feels calm, one is wrapped in color and sharp angles are eliminated. Lighter colors give a sense of space. And when thinking color, don’t just think paint. I own a paint company and 90 percent of my walls are white. I bring in color through art, pillows and rugs.
Plants—To me, there is nothing worse than walking into a space with drooping houseplants or dying blooms. Spring is the perfect time to refresh our interior plantings as well. It has long been a tradition in our home to plant grass seed in small pots and trays. I live in New England and it is thrilling to see a spring green haze growing as a centerpiece on the dining table. I try to time it so we have a soft miniature field ready for Easter dinner. Forced forsythia and pussy willow brighten my mood like nothing else. And yellow daffodils—what could be better?
Air—on the rare early spring days when the air is soft with sun and hope, the first thing I do is throw the windows open. It is a delightful feeling. And of course once they are shut again a clean window free from winter salt and mud makes the sun that much more apparent. I use water and vinegar. Washing windows is a favorite spring tradition.
Our homes really are our castles. It doesn’t matter the size. Two summers ago I spent much of my time in a tent. My home moved with me each day, but every night I took the time to set it up in a way that pleased me. My sleeping bag was laid out like a well made bed with a soft pillow made from clothing, a flashlight tucked under, a book at the ready and socks deep in the bag to warm my feet when the air became frigid. My friends made fun of how lovingly I took my home apart each morning to pack it away, but they would tell you I slept better than anyone—always the first up and the first down. I loved the refuge that tent created.
As the weather warms and we turn our faces and hearts toward the sun I would encourage all of you to spend a bit of time in your favorite space in your own home. Examine the feelings that space brings and try to identify why it is your favorite. Once you have a sense of why, you can begin to create more favorite spots and soon your entire home will feel exactly that—home.
This time last year we still had two feet of snow here in Portsmouth. This year we already have crocuses peeking out and daffodils just breaking through the soil. I cheated a little and bought some daffs in full bloom for my dining room.
The cheery yellow always brings the promise of warmer weather and all of the pleasures of the upcoming spring and summer seasons.
I feel optimistic when the weather gets warmer and have an urge to paint something in our Quiet Nursery collection— either Buzz or Bee.
My sister is visiting this week and brought my birthday gift in progress— a pair of happy yellow socks which I look forward to wearing while it’s still cool enough.
For many years, I made my living as a decorative painter. I loved the simplicity of that life. I worked hard--hauling ladders and strapping scaffold to the top of my car. I would drag myself home at the end of each day, exhausted, but oh so satisfied. With painting, there is the immediate gratification of seeing big change. I loved it and I loved the reaction from my clients--each and every time.
Once I reached the stage in my career where I no longer had to do the prep work and base coating, my finishes seemed mysterious and magical to my clients. One client defined it as this--The crew comes in and spend hours filling holes, sanding walls and rolling paint. Lisa waltzes in wearing her ball gown, twirls a couple of times, sprinkles paint here and there and magic happens-- I worked harder than that, but I love the illusion.
My painting career took me to magical places too. I've worked in some of the greatest cities in the world and also some of the poorest countries--country estates in Provence and schools in east Africa and Asia. Each job had unique pleasures, rich coffee with hot milk throughout France, amazing street food in Mexico and loving hugs (along with bandaids and stitches) from children in Tanzania.
I love my career as a designer too, but so much of this field is about administrative duties. Endless orders, tracking deliveries and follow up after follow up. The gratification is immense--but there is nothing immediate about it.
So Sunday I paint--I have no idea how I will move a giant bed by myself, but I know I will and when the clients return from vacation they will be excited by the change in their bedroom and I will be exhausted but very, very happy.
Susan and I headed to NY last week to catch the gift show and to spend a little time with a client who lives in the city while building a home here on the seacoast. It was a great time, but both Susan and I were struck by all of the"stuff" at the gift show. It was hard not to imagine much of it being landfilled at some point.
I am in the business of supplying luxury goods. There are times this makes me uncomfortable as I feel we live in a world where many of us simply have too much stuff. My promise to myself is to shop as locally as possible and to support individuals and companies who have a sustainable mission. I work hard to understand the personal aesthetic of my clients. I love this piece of my work, to see and to understand and then to recommend high-quality, well-made goods that will last for a very, very long time. It is the only way I can be comfortable in what I do.
At any rate, we finished up at the gift show and hightailed it over to the Whitney where we were deeply inspired by the Frank Stella Exhibit.
There were several paintings that stopped me in my tracks. I had to sit and study the one below for quite awhile. I wanted to understand it beyond the structure and really think about the colors.
The colors are so much more vibrant in person, but I think this works becasue he used a clean and then earthy tone in several of the colors keeping the value the same in 50%. I don't ususally anylize paintings, but I really wanted to unederstand this one. Thoughts?