Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Creative Slump

I'm in a creative downward spiral that, for the last week or so, I haven't been able to turn around. It's odd for me, as usually, I am full of ideas. In fact, that's sometimes where the downward spiral stems from. But this time, it's different - it's not too many ideas - it's none at all.

I was shocked that over the last couple of weeks, I've had 50+ emails asking me if I was going to be featured in a BHG publication, as it seems so many bloggers have these past few months, after I teased that I couldn't quite share what big news we had, and that it had something to do with the house. So, instead of teasing, I figure why not spill the beans, right? And in order to protect the innocent, I'll leave names eschew.

Two years ago, our house was published in a local newspaper, or I should say, THE local newspaper and called "Home of the Month". It was a rewarding article, with about 5 pictures of the house all set up for summer. You might recall some of the photos here on the blog.

The living room then. You've probably all heard me lament over buying these chairs a thousand times. I bought them in Texas before moving to this house - and they're simply too large to arrange (as a group) in the living room. The walls were still Behr Promenade Green, and the rest of the flat spaces a cluttered mess of who knows what. Looking back at this photo, there is so much that I would have changed.

The sunroom then. That giant green sofa (now at a new hopefully loving home) and the old luggage cart piled high with cheap blue and white pottery I bought at TjMaxx. Again - what I would have done differently if I had only knew then what I know now. The dash and albert rug made an impromptu throw for the glaring stain on the arm of the sofa, and the buddha head lamp in the corner (my favorite piece - now broken in a million pieces) contributed to the weighted collapse of the table in the corner the night after this picture was taken. (At least it held out that long!) Looking around the room, it's good to know that in a house with no central air-conditioning, in the middle of July, you could curl up with not 1, not 2, but 3 throw blankets! To be fair, it did look better when photographed from this angle:

Now, I know I'm being hard on myself. This room, and the others featured in the article, got great reviews. In fact, it spurred the interest of a local magazine all about interior design, and now, (after giving the newspaper article room to breathe) they want to feature our home in the Spring 2012 issue. Excitement ensues, right? Not so much.

You see, a couple of months ago, I went into an all out frenzy changing paint colors in the house. The green had bothered me long enough - so I chose a more neutral, and uber trendy gray from Restoration Hardware. It was supposed to look like this:
Restoration Hardware's graphite gray, a warm sorta brown/gray combo that I thought surely would look great with all the leather and wood - after all, isn't that what RH is all about? But when I got it home (a mere $192 later) and painted the walls with it, it looked like this:
And though I loved it when it went up - in fact, loved it in the daylight, usually - the room looked more blue than gray, and everything else started to look cheap. Not a good word in my book. So, I fell into a rut then, and decided to go over to the dark side and get rid of all color. New seagrass rugs, white slip covered furniture, even some fancy schmancy DIY trumeau mirror:
Wow, you've never seen this picture before? Well, it's because from any other angle you could see the piles of stuff that littered the house during my mad-max decorating explosion! Here, the walls are now a soft taupey-griege from Martha Stewart Living called Ashbark. It reads differently here, against the grain of the natural woodwork than for those of you who might have picked it for your home with white wood. It's softer, less saturated, but still with great hue so that sometimes it looks honey, sometimes it looks gray, sometimes it looks beige - it's like having the onset of color-blindness around here! 
And while I admit, that I still love that mirror, and didn't hate the idea of the white slipcovered furniture - it still didn't look right in this house. Now, some of you are saying paint the woodwork, and while that certainly would change the feeling of the room and give great ease to my decorating woes, it's not an option. No use in arguing over it - it'll just make things worse. (Trust me, I know from experience!) Of course, since money was apparently growing on tree's this summer (note the sarcasm) I also moved my way into the dining room:

I've painted everything on the ground floor, with the exception of the kitchen, this color - and I really do love it. It took forever to get it all done, in fact - I think there are still areas of the foyer that need my attention - but it's (almost) done. I spent a fortune on a pair of luxurious gray/blue silk 108" drapes for the lone window in my dining room, and then went about sewing 4 of these tabbed slipcovers in white, and ballet tie chair pads in natural linen over the newly reupholstered (burlap) dining room chairs. Yes - I was trying real hard! But although it made for a pretty picture, it wasn't right.

I decided that the overall feel was going too feminine. Having that vibe in the house was like putting a football player in a dress. It was fun to look at, but only for a few minutes, before you started to notice that it was completely ill-fitting.

So I started playing musical chairs - buying, this time a little more thoughtfully, and getting some great bargains from my awesome sponsors!

Here's a few snapshots of the living room today, completely a work in progress:

Alright, so, what do you think? Honestly? Remember - this is for a magazine shoot for Spring 2012. I decided to keep some of the white, introduce taupe linen, and firewood in the fireplace. Not quite done there - and  though they're not here now - there will be plenty of fresh flowers in this room when they come to take pictures on the 26th.
These pictures are large, I know, but I wanted to give you a good view of all the things I'm pointing to ... metaphorically. The sofa (Ikea Ektorp) once draped in their white slipcover, is now sitting even prettier thanks to my Comfort-Works linen slipcover custom made to fit it perfectly! More about them, and their amazing company later! The zebra (which has seen better days and needs to be backed) I bought on ebay for less than $300 a couple of years ago is still layered over the seagrass. Here you can tell how beautifully muted the color of the walls are - I love how they just stand back, out of the way - letting everything else shine.
This is an end table to a set that Scott bought long before I met him. The coffee table was left (accidentally) in Texas. We had been using it in the basement for storage, but I liked the lines of it, and how it brought the umber tones of the woodwork into the room and off the walls. In the background, my large brass framed museum prints of Picasso's Don Quixote take the place of that old door that had been there for years. I quite like this look, do you? I removed the Restoration Hardware sconce from the wall - something Scott now says he had wished I would eventually tire of. I have to admit that it was a bit awkward.
On top of the table an Asian bowl  - this time not the cheap stuff from TJMaxx, some design books, Silver Ethiopian prayer beads, and a really fun calligraphy brush I bought during our trip to Texas last week. I got it at a great store called Wildflower Organics on S. Lamar in Austin. They have a great store (lots of bedding options) and beautiful vignettes and displays. This was one of two, and I thought it was so unique I had to have it. I thought it had been the only one I'd ever seen - besides of course the other one at the store, but I found one exactly like it used in a Jeffrey Bilhuber room while flipping through 'Defining Luxury' yesterday.
Opposite side of the room, and yes, that pillow (made from a luxurious but cost friendly cotton velvet from Calico Corners called Velluto Espresso that I can't get enough of - and used in several other places in the house) has the karate chop. BUT, I did go gentle on it - in case it ever decides to go back to the land of nod, I don't want it saying nasty things about me! (If this doesn't make sense - read this funny blog post here!)
A closer look at the corner behind the couch. The lamp is from Target, ridiculously cheap for a pharmacy lamp, and I moved the secretary (initially in the foyer as seen on the Nate Berkus Show!) from the dining room to the living room - and have yet to style it as a working desk. Whether or not it'll stay there remains to be seen - but for the photoshoot - I think it's nice. I have dressed it with an antique brass wine bucket filled with hydrangeas (drying) from my garden and the cross bottles I make, which are consequently for sale! Email me.
This garden stool, again - not the cheap TJMaxx version - actually came from one of my new sponsors and one of my favorite stores Phil Michael Trading Company. They carry great garden stools at really reasonable prices - and are having a sale right now to welcome Fall. This garden stool is the perfect sidetable here on to the right of the sofa, and I think I like the way it's styled with a great brass bowl I paid a dollar for at an antique shop 10 years ago, and more hydrangea. I just love that soft green.
Here, a closer view of the secretary now being use as such in the living room. The chair slip will change. Still white to keep it "Spring 2012" but different, and the cushion on the top will change too. My sad attempt is not photo-ready.  That book is a collection of sheet-music by Sullivan&Gilbert, how appropriate right? It has the Pirates of Penzance, all sorts of things - and great art, too! I don't know how I'll style this - it's another thing that has me all "slumped" ... any ideas?
If you scroll back up to the picture with the pubsign behind the slipped chair, you'll see that there's actually quite a bit of orange in it. To pull that in, I brought up this old primitive step ladder and styled it as a library ladder and side table. What do you think? An old wooden hand-forged bowl is filled with beautiful mercury glass beads, and my antique Chinese parrot is wondering where his mate is ... and so am I!
And because I know you'll be asking ... the trumeau mirror I made after being so inspired by Sally Wheat's family room featured in Houston House & Home. I made every single part of this mirror, and I'm really proud of it. I'm not sure how much Sally paid for hers, and I'd never ask - but I think the $75 I spent to make this one was a good trade, don't you?
Painting this thing required a lot of patience, and a ton of paint. Thankfully, I had about 10 different shades of gray in the basement from when I was trying to find a color to work in the living room. Oh how sometimes it all works out for the best, right? You can tell (from the candle sconce) that there's some gilded surfaces in there, too, and some old crusty white gesso style finish in the creases - which I accomplished by using paintable caulk. The appliques were cheap, from Lowes, about $4.00, the rest of it (sans the sconces which were a little more difficult to make) is just layering onto plywood. All in all - it's a project that will take you a good weekend to complete - but if I can do it, so can you!

And a quick peak at the foyer table and chair. I finally fixed this table (the one that had broken from the weight of the crap on top of it from the newspaper shoot) and styled it with this super heavy antique brass charger, vintage Asian porcelain, and a small bed lamp with a silicone tipped bulb! My favorite! The chair, an old captain chair to our dining room set, now looks a little french bergere don't you think? With arm pads made from a great paisley fabric from Calico Corners and a small chocolate and cream check. The axis hide pillow was an obvious perfect fit! This is a little less "Spring 2012" but, I do love it!

So, there you have it. It's not finished - it's nowhere near perfect, and I doubt that it'll ever make it into a national publication - but it's gonna be good enough for Buffalo - one way or the other! Please, let me know what you think - your feedback is so very valuable! 


  1. I think, since you asked...you are being WAY to hard on yourself! You have that creative bone and it's evident... LOL...I think that you just get yourself so worked up and expect so much...that you fail to give yourself the credit you deserve. Sit back...look at your home from an outsider's view and reflect upon the fact that you can and do change it when you feel it needs it. And...when you do...it's with an artists eye and attention to detail...relax Artie.:-) and enjoy... **Tami

  2. It all looks good to me Artie. I love how the house looked in the first photos and I love what you have re-worked.

    Keep it coming....kelley xoxo

  3. Artie, I feel like I have been waiting forever for you to show photos of the changes you have made, and I have to say it looks fantastic. You haven't lost it- you've still got it!! I think most of us would be very happy to have a fraction of your talent and intuitive eye.

  4. Hi Artie. First, did you see the featured home in BH&G this month with the natural woodwork? I had to laugh given our conversation!! Now, to your house, it looks great and I agree with above, you are too hard on yourself. I think the color is beautiful, but I do believe that the bones of a house have to dictate, to some extent, the decor. I LOVE the shot of the foyer with the fantastic detail of the arm cushion (did you do that yourself? Brilliant). I'm feeling like there's a strong presence of French influence, and I must confess, I like the rich earthiness you've done in the past (like the foyer). I do love the deep velvet pillows on the linen, great combination. I would love to see you layer on some more earthy tones with the linens and continue to create a look that is all your own, perhaps keep going with the wonderful combination of french and the bones of the house. Okay, all that said, if you showed up at my front door today and asked for a tour, you would die at my perpetual in-transition and half-done projects on the way to my personal vision! lOL. I think one of the most wonderful things about decorating and design, for those of us who boarderline OCD about it, is that it is constant experimentation and discovery of how we we express ourselves through our homes. I can't wait to see where you continue to go!!

  5. Oh! And congratulations on being published AGAIN!!

  6. Artie, PLEASE don't be so hard on yourself! You are so good and the room looks beautiful! I LOVE the natural woodwork, it, IMO, is necessary in this house! I just adore that Asain BOWL!!!!!!!!! I would give anything for one exactly like that! The mirror looks terrific. Good luck with the shoot!!!!!!!!!!!! XO, Pinky

  7. Wonderful to see everything you have been doing ... this photo shoot ... and the feature article are going to be awesome! I am in complete lust for your living room secretary. The mirror is a work of art and labor of love.

  8. Its a great space Art and one that you can call your own. You have inspired so many over the years. I love the changes and the photos are awesome.

    Its all GOOD stuff.

    Rashon aka Mr. Goodwill Hunting

  9. Artie- Quit beating yourself up- It looks great. You have a love for the house and it is evident in the pictures...and I have to tell you- I liked the first look too! xo Diana

  10. Artie, I've been reading your blog for almost 3 years I think, and I think that your taste has changed a lot. It's beautiful - different, but beautiful. I feel silly giving you advice - you're far more talented than I am. I'll look forward to your posts about the shoot. Congrats!

  11. Hi Artie,
    First of all, congratulations on your photo shoot! I just finished one for our second home and looking forward to it in the BHG, Tuscan Style. One thing I learned is that what ever I did before getting ready for the shoot, didn't matter at all. Bonnie Broten took it all apart and styled it the way she wanted it! That being said, I really like the changes you have made in your living room. The zebra rug looks very nice layered over the seagrass.
    I love how you are painting, moving things around and slipcovering too. My favorite piece is the painting behind the sofa. Oh my, what is it? It looks fabulous. Can't wait to see what else you end up doing Artie! ~Delores

  12. You are being way too critical on yourself. It looks great! I especially love the foyer..that paisley, I die! I also love the brown velvet on the linen sofa, that color adds so much richness. You re very talented. just be careful of trends. You want your house to look like you and not every other blogger.

  13. What's not to love, Artie? I do agree with Dianne, though. Don't lose yourself here. Always remember that those first rooms you showed are what made all of us oldies fall in love with you!

    Big kiss,

  14. Hi Artie,
    Now that we all agree that you're being too hard on yourself, I think we've all been here before. Maybe just not so vocal about it as you've been. When its our home, I think we all a bit hyper-critical. So be it. My only suggestion would be to remove the white ottoman. It makes the space look crowded and covers up your beautiful stacked wood. Secondly, is the desk really in enough room? It looks like a tight squeeze from my perspective. For me, too much furniture can make a room look smaller...less room to breathe. So, there you have my long-winded critique on my very first visit to your lovely blog! I was asking myself where all the men are in the designe-blog land. And here you are! Ask and you shall receive...enough, already.
    Best to you,

  15. I'd do a few things (since you asked) ... take those candles off the coffee table. Well, leave candles, but use small votive holders for them, and not candle sticks. You just need the flicker of the light, the tall candles take away from the bowl and books vignette, and the brass is too much of a contrast to the finish of the metal on the coffee table. When you get flowers, get something with some color, and put them in a clear glass (modern) vase on the table next to the chair in front of your picasso's. Do you have any oil paintings you can lean against the mirror? It's beautiful - but for an added layer, it'd be very nice.
    Other than that, you've got a lovely home, a great room, and superb taste. I will be looking forward to your rooms in print.

  16. when i am frustrated with a space...
    i walk away from it for a good amount of time.
    then suddenly while lunching with a friend-
    and we are deep in conversation....
    my answers for my design issue
    POP right into my head.

    your existing elements are all so special.


  17. I love your transformation! So ironic, your room looks almost like mine (1900's craftsman style bungelo). Yours looks very dressy now!
    Thanks for sharing.

  18. Funny how we are always hardest on ourselves. But with the photo shoot coming up, all with good reason. I do love your transformations. So many good ideas I am going to pilfer/borrow from you, like the garden stool side table. I need a pop of color and that might just be the thing.. I know what you mean about the paint color.. I have always been drawn to "neutral" walls since they let the art, the occupants and the people shine.. You've done an amazing turn around in your lovely home. It will photograph beautifully.. xo marlis

  19. I love your perspective. Here's what I think--love, love, love the animal print and the espresso pillow just pops off that the white--so crisp--just love it. Love the painting on the back wall and LOVE the bottles and the mirror. I question ALL the brass--seems to muddy the room for me. Would love to see chunkier--more of a statement made with glass--kind of like jewelry for the room--with candles and flowers--in contemporary shapes. Edit the table--make one beautiful statement. Sometimes less is more...love the direction you are going...as i am learning--you can always edit.
    P.S. I love your blog!

  20. Artie, the first thing I thought as I read was you are way too hard on yourself and that seems to be the majority's opinion. You are very talented (I'd sooo buy a mirror...hint hint) and I think you have captured a relaxed elegance that is comfortable and beautiful but not too feminine. LOVE the Picasso prints and the large (pub?)painting. I like the brass accents and recently found some candlesticks and trays buried in my basement (thought I saw your big green sofa in residence down there:))and you've given me ideas of how to incorporate them. XXOO SJR

  21. Hi Artie, it's me again! What about a large banana plant in a corner? Something tall and green would give the room kind of a British Colonial vibe.

  22. Hi, Artie. I totally understand the creative slump you're talking about. Sometimes a fresh pair of eyes is all you need. I really love the paint color (always the hardest part, for me.) and the coffee table is great. The lamp is also amazing-- I can't believe it's from Target!

    My favorite spaces in this room are the mantle and the secretary. They are both styled very simply, and the individual pieces, like the stunning mirror, and the gorgeous bottles are allowed to breathe. I think the rest of your flat surface space is a bit too over styled. You have tons of gorgeous things, but it seems like you are displaying it all.

    I adore the side table styled as a library ladder, but you've taken it to a little bit of a death trap level, by piling things up all around the floor. The antique parrot is awesome, and I'd much rather see add a pop of color somewhere other than the floor. Maybe even the mantle.

    The calligraphy brush is definitely cool, but it just doesn't look special sitting on the coffee table like that. If you want to display it casually, I think a more appropriate place might be the secretary.

    Anyway, that's my two cents. Obviously ignore me if you disagree, I just thought a contrasting opinion might help. Sometimes all you need is just one new thought to pull you out of that slump. Good luck!

  23. You did great Artie... What's not to like... warm and inviting. Love the axis hide pillow. I also agree with Barbara (large banana plant in a corner or a fig variety)... along with the flowers for the shoot... less feminine. Your pictures look great.

    You are too hard on yourself...for sure. You're also really funny...

    Your home is beautiful. Love the entry shot too. Gorgeous curtains! Manly caligraphy brush. Soothing paint color too. Of course you already know my sentiments on an old buddha head... my thought, good ridence! Your bottles are much nicer:)

    Thanks for sharing your hard work.

  24. okay... now that everyone agrees with me will you finally believe me?!!!
    You are a talent. period. Trust your gut and listen to your heart and all good things will come to you.


  25. Your photos of your living room look so much like the living rooms of the houses my grandfather built in the the 20's,in DeVeaux.There's a house on James Ave. that looks exactly like your's.Love what you have done with your house!

  26. What a lovely change! Have a beautiful day, Kellie xx

  27. You are extremely hard on yourself Artie...your eye for detail is amazing. I loved all of the pictures of the rooms evolution...which is proof of your talent. Usually you get a before/after shot and you say "oh yea that needed to be done" but in this case I would live comfortably and drool in any of those arrangements. Im loving the scattered brass pieces...gives an aged feel to your home interior.

    Job amazingly well done...can't wait to see the feature. Congrats!

    Lucky 7 Design