Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Weddings on the Brain

Okay, a change of pace for my postings. Today, I had weddings on the brain. It may have to do that my friend, Christine Smith, is about to get married in about 5 weeks and she is going to NY for her second dress fitting this weekend. As I help her decorate the house she is building in NH with her fiancee, Lee, I catch all her pre-wedding excitement that goes with having a wedding only 5 weeks away. Can you remember it? I still can. All that preparation, all that anticipation, all that planning.... I remember after exchanging vows with my husband, AJ, 8 years ago on this day (yes, March 30, 2002) exclaiming, "That's it??" "That's all there is to it?" And in just 10 minutes, I was Mrs. Andrew James McAlear a/k/a Karina Gentinetta since I just could not bring myself to go from being Argentine to Irish in 5 minutes.

But, I digress......

So, anyway, having Christine talk about her dress fitting tomorrow and having my own anniversary today which we celebrated by having our nightly homemade family dinner (me cooking Pasta Bolognese and AJ baking my favorite Blondies) with our beloved children, I got to thinking of all the beautiful things about weddings -- the dresses, the shoes, the lace and trim and satin and flowers...... Sigh.......

Here is a little eye candy to get you in the mood.

OMG!!! Where were these shoes when I got married??????????

And the back... Did you check out the back of these shoes??? I think I'll have to design a chair to mimic these shoes.

Aahhh, yes, my wedding dress was pink too, but oh, the tulle!!!!

I could even marry in black if I had had this Christian Dior dress. Is this to die for or what?

I have a thing about corsets. They look so gorgeous and so ballerina-like (photo courtesy of Olivier Lalin Weddings).

Well, you can just bury me in this one!

And this, believe it or not, is an Etsy design by Bonzie. I love the tulle and the tailored jacket.

And one of my all time favorite princesses -- Grace Kelly on her wedding day. I could just stare at this photo all day.

My beloved father and me, 8 years ago today. The only wedding photo that survived Hurricane Katrina. It was immersed in water (hence the water marks all over) and the hairline down the photo is the cracked frame glass. The photo is permanently stuck to the glass and it was probably that that saved it from disintegrating in the flood waters. So broken frame and all, it's the only photo I have to remember that wonderful, warm spring evening 8 years ago tonight.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Children and Antiques

I get this all the time -- "How I wish I could have antiques at my house, but I can't have beautiful furniture in my house because I have children."

I'm here to tell you that children and beautiful things can co-exist. Actually, I find that a mix of antiques and new things are actually more forgiving with children than say, Pottery Barn furniture. Take those mass produced furniture pieces, put a little crayon or marker writing on them and, well, you have a piece of furniture that has crayon and marker drawings on them. Chances are you'll stash that in the play room and close the door when guests are over.

But there is no need. Take a farm table that has survived over 100 years of children, and wonderful family dinners and goodness knows what else, and a bit of crayon markings only adds more beautiful patina on it. No kidding. My kitchen farm table has markings on them that wipes right off. If it doesn't, well, it just looks like it was always meant to be there.

So with three dogs and 2 young children, trust me, I'm living proof that you can have beautiful things and children at the same time. In fact, my linen covered sofas and chairs have withstood the test of time -- muddy tennis shoes, chocolate stains, etc., just come right off in the washer machine. Linen is a natural fabric that has existed for ages. Dirt just doesn't settle in its fibers the way it does in white denim or white cotton duck slipcovers. Even red wine comes right off of natural linens.

So go ahead and use belgian linen for your beautiful upholstery!!!! There is no need to wait until the kids are in college to have the house you always dreamed of.

And, yes, kid stuff and gorgeous antiques do mix!

How beautiful is that mirror in a little girl's room???? I love the way Jeanne's little aqua chair contrasts the gorgeous gilding on that mirror. Now, there is nothing wrong with having a little pizzazz even in a play room. You won't want to close that door when guests are over!

And matching antique convent beds make a wonderful alternative to mass produced children furniture. Look how whimsical antiques make this room. And the plaid on the empire chair looks like it was made for this room.

These twin beds (there were matching pairs) were painted by me and upholstered in a natural muslin. They were purchased to go in a 2 year old's bedroom.

And for the older girls, well this is quite the refined look. I just love the color combination of the reds and pinks and whites.

Local designer, Melissa Ruftin, designed this guest room for a local client. Now, I could see this in a kids' room. And, believe me, although it looks expensive, you'd be surprised as to how this compares to other mass produced furniture.
So go ahead and dare to mix children and antiques! I can promise you it will be the most fun you'll have searching for those gorgeous gilded pieces and mixing them with pinks and blues and teddy bears and cars. And when your children are playing cowboys and indians, like my own Liam and Roma did just this weekend, well, the worse that can happen is that your little dainty antique chair may end up looking like this. And that, my dears, is priceless.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Beauty in the Simple Things

Many times, people walk into my home or shop and ask me how it is that I can make a place look so inviting. It is such a joy to hear that my surroundings are "inviting!" Frankly, I think that "inviting" feel has to do more with my husband's cooking and the wonderful smells that fill the house all the time, than from my own decorating skills. And thanks to my friend and client, Christine Smith, who works at Cook's Magazine, we've had plenty of amazing recipes that keep my husband busy in the kitchen with me obsessing about the house.

From the time I was young, I was always into decorating my surroundings, whether it was my apartment during law school, or my "space" in the one bedroom that I shared with my two sisters. With 3 of us sharing a room, every inch of private space counted and the lines were established early on. I remember when we first moved to the U.S., my mother couldn't afford new furniture for the house and she would venture to garage sales and thrift stores in search of furnishings. One time, she found an old sewing machine table that had a door and storage underneath, a headboard for my twin bed, and a small chest of drawers. I was 13 at the time and determined to make those, well, ugly things, look good. So I found a can of bright red paint (I'm talking lipstick red paint), that had been left over from one of my father's projects (maybe to paint a fire hydrant, it was that red). I painted all three pieces in bright red and then I took some gold paint (which my mother had for I don't know what) and with a rag, applied a thing coat over the furniture. I felt I had royally messed up because now the gold over powered the red. So I took that same rag, wet it, and rubbed it all over the furniture to take away the gold. What was left was a beautiful color which I cannot describe. It was a subdued red with hits of gold in all the right places. Well, I can only tell you that those pieces of furniture went with me every where -- through highschool, to my dorm in college, my apartment in law school, and then to my stepdaughter's bedroom (who was then a little girl about the age I was when I first got them). Unfortunately, Katrina did away with those pieces of relics and I wish I had taken photos of them to show you. But I tell you, sometimes it is what we do with a piece of furniture that gives it its value and one of a kind look.

As for the part that makes a house "inviting" as they say, it's really not in the furniture itself, but in the little things that you do with what you have that give it that feel of warmth and comfort. Open up those china cabinets and let the air in! Use those gorgeous silver trays and china platters you have stacked up and hidden away from view. And don't forget to bring nature inside. There are plenty of decorating ideas just outside your door. You may walk right past it and not even notice.

I'm fond of leaving books open on desks or side tables, especially in guest rooms that seem so stale and unlived at times. Tokens of open books or cups and saucers give the impression that someone was just there and you just missed them! There is a shop here in New Orleans that leaves open bottles of wine on side tables with a little wine in a glass next to it. Every time I go there, I get the feeling that I just missed the party! Where did everyone go????????

To me, the beauty of a half empty bottle left on a coffee table or shells tossed on a table top conjures up memories of things we have experienced in the past and like to rekindle. You see a handful of seashells on a book and you recall that time on the beach when you and your kids walked up and down the shore looking for hermit crabs and ended up with a bag full of shells instead. You see a pen on top of an open book and you think back to the time when you were little and you watched your mother, sitting at her writing desk writing out her Christmas cards. Sprigs of your rosemary bush or even a plain boxwood in a glass bottle makes you feel fresh and alive and that spring is right around the corner.

So look around your house and take out all of those little things that you have stashed away in drawers. Make use of your beautiful china or of a glass milk jar that you were about to throw away. All of these things make a home a "home." And you don't have to go farther than your own kitchen or backyard.

Enjoy some of those "little touches" in my shop:

Use old books to stack an urn or flower vase on. It's much more "inviting" that placing it directly on the table. Seashells around the bottom, give off that casual, beach time look.

Objets d'art -- Love them, can't get enough of them. Fragments of old frames??? Don't throw those away. Use pieces of old gilded frames and dried roses to add a touch of nostalgia to a desk top.

An open magazine on a writing desk makes you wonder who was just reading it.

Dried flowers are a great way to add color and texture to any setting. Vintage plaster covered book with gold number from "Fanciful Designs."

A book and piece of coral on a chair add a sense of "life" to an otherwise empty chair.

Plaster, pale green eggs in a bowl and hearth candles warm my farm table.

And sprigs of the boxwood I planted outside of my shop fill these antique Parisian perfume bottles. Place them on top of silver trays for that special look.

Now, go on and make your home "inviting."

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Tired But Happy

Blogging is sometimes a luxury for me. There are days when I cannot tell you what I did but I know that I was so busy that the day just flew by. The shop is doing well now that the weather has warmed up and I spend my days welcoming visitors and chatting with them about, well, just about anything that seems relevant at the time.

Just this past weekend I had the pleasure and honor of meeting Bobby Cooper. Many of you may know his amazingly talented wife, Dorothy Blum Cooper, who has not only been an inspiration to me and my work, but also a much needed pillar of strength when days are slow and I question my ability to be and call myself a "designer."

Bobby was much younger and much more handsome than I had expected and from the moment he walked in through my door, we began a conversation that would last well past my closing hour. The stories he can tell!!! His life and work (and that of Dorothy's) are truly humbling to those of us who have recently jumped off the cliff to follow our bliss. If you don't know them, please visit their website where you can see their beautiful photography and work.

And like Bobby, Kit Golson of Chic Provence also dropped by my shop a few weeks ago on her way to the airport after spending a few days in New Orleans. Kit and her husband are wonderful people and in just the few minutes that they were here, I felt like I've always known them.

And so people have taken to stopping by to say hello. Those are the times I enjoy most about what I'm doing -- having the opportunity to meet each one of you amazing, creative people. My door is always open and you are welcome to stop by and stay awhile.

My shop is dressed for springtime. It is bright and full of vibrant smells and colors that resonate from the mostly all-white-room decor. Some people ask me if my house is like this and my answer is, "Of course. It's what I love and what draws me." I may try to change from time to time but I always gravitate to the same pale greys and whites and pale blues. I find a certain serenity in being surrounded by time worn fabrics and faded colors. There is no real magic in this -- just an inert feeling that pulls me into a certain direction which always leads me "home." A room must feel comfortable and beautiful to the person living in it. If it doesn't, change it, move things around, add a touch of sparkle or a vase of fresh flowers. I tend to do that a lot at my neighbors' houses. I walk in just to say hello and by the time I leave, I've rearranged their house. I can't help myself! It's a disease. Just ask Bonjour Madame whose house was completely transformed.

So please, feel free to walk in, but do so at your own risk. You may end up catching this disease of mine that is highly contagious once you set foot in this little shop on the corner of the world.

My shop in Springtime:

A corner view of my so called "bedroom" at the shop. The vintage dress on the chair was an ugly shade of white, irreparably yellowed by time. I died it this lovely aqua color and now it adds a bit of whimsy to the room.

My front parlor fireplace. I always have fresh roses on hand. And my corals always add a taste of summer to the room. I place them everywhere I have room. They add texture and "whiteness."

My littlest jewel -- a petite french crystal, empire style chandelier that will be beautiful in a powder room or above a baby's crib. Measures 12" high x 8" wide.

One of my favorite corners in the world. A swedish ticking covered french chair is made simple with a vintage grainsack bolster. A small gilded florentine table adds glamour to an otherwise plain pastel of colors. The mirror above has the original, chippy pale green patina.

Below, a pair of Antique French Bergere Chairs covered in their original scalamandre silk fabric and pale blue gimp. The upholstery is vintage and has its signs of wear but I adore it this way. The vintage grey silk is contrasted by the simple muslin that covers the arm rests.

These will soon be listed on Etsy and 1st dibs.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

1st Dibs

Just wanted to let everyone in on some exciting news (well, at least I think it's exciting). disegno Karina Gentinetta is now on 1st dibs. If you don't see one of the items you loved in my Etsy shop, it's probably because it is now on 1st dibs. Getting on 1st dibs was one of my goals (next to going back up to Serro Lopez and this time SEEING the snow) and I think I stalked the 1st dibs people so much that they finally let me in. I feel like I've joined some elite group! No worries, I'm still the same old self.

And I should mention -- I've been thinking about this and I tell you, I've been so upset about everyone who has expressed how much they love my pieces and hope to one day be able to afford them. Listen, there is nothing that pleases me more to hear how much you love the same things I do. Each and every one of my pieces is hand selected and upcycled by me. I try really hard to stay within the really affordable range but, by the time I buy a piece, restore it, paint it (to where it mimics it's original paint or style), choose the right fabric for it and upholster it, it takes a lot of investment not to mention love and commitment. Still, it has always been my aim and dream to make these beautiful things available to anyone and everyone who appreciates their beauty. So please know, that if there is any piece that you truly adore, I will be happy to work with a payment plan or layaway. I rather my pieces go to people who will appreciate them for their beauty and keep them and pass them along to the next generation.

Well, I've got to run out to pick up my children from school. Talk to all of you soon.

My newest treasures (completely restored and reupholstered in a simple organic muslin) available on 1st dibs.