Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Best of 2007

Originally posted 2/1/07
Big, Squashy, Fabulous

I have to tell you a story.

When Curious Sofa had its first ever Sofa Sale I was still in my funky, downtown location. I found this lovely 100 year old image on eBay (above) and had to have it as I was starting to collect vintage parlour photographs of women lying down on sofas- which I have titled my 'Sofa Girls'. I thought of this heading, took a deep breath, contemplated the irony and humor and backlash I might receive and decided to make a postcard and mail it out with the above title to some 4,000 customers about our Annual Sofa Sale. I thought it was an amusing play on words and a way to attract attention.

Now, keep in mind around 1600 names were actual customers on our store list, I borrowed another retail list and a few other names were from specific zip codes- so all were not friends and some had no idea who we were. It also just happened to be Super Bowl weekend when they were mailed out and unfortunately the time of the whole Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction incident.

You would have thought I had set off a nuclear bomb. From the moment the card hit the mailboxes I received multiple calls daily. Angry, upset women and men who wanted to rant and rave about this "disgusting card". Here is what some of the comments were:
"Did you think this was funny?"
"How do I explain this to my 13 year old son?"
"I want an explanation for this pornography."
Many who said, "Take me off your mailing list",
And the unforgettable: "Did I not learn anything from Janet Jackson?"

The discomfort it created for me and my former assistant Nicole was a cross between unbelievable and hurtful. I have to tell you, they don't get more conservative than me and I approved of it! I told one woman it was a 100 year old photo and that it was not any more explicit than the statues around our infamous Country Club Plaza. Not good enough. One customer actually reported me to the United States Postal Service and put a freeze on any mailings from my address. All of this confirmation I do indeed live in the Bible Belt. But I am one of them!!!!!

All in all 26 complaints were made and although it was a mere percentage point of the quantity that was sent out- I remember the angry customers like it was yesterday. So luckily, now there is blogging and if you don't want to look- DON'T. If you do not get the irony of it all, lighten up. Better yet, I am not sure I need those fans.


Originally posted 2/5/07
No Autographs Please

For some of you who do not subscribe to Country Living, we here at the Sofa must brag a little. As I was scanning these pages to post I did get a little choked up. I, like some of you perhaps, have devoured homestyle magazines all my life. Flattening out the gutters to see the credits, getting out my magnifying glass to study the details and making notes on spare mail envelopes about this shop or website that I could research later. And now, here I am.

It is a bit surreal to see me on these glossy pages. But I am so glad my staff is there to share in the fame. God really does know the desires of your heart, regardless of how frivolous they may be.



Originally posted 3/3/07
Spring Flinging

Our Spring Open House last weekend was a big success and we are all so grateful. Nothing is better than customers shedding their cabin fever with us. We also had endless people calling for directions and coming to the store for the first time. This, of course is fantastic for us and it is mostly due to the Country Living article and other newcomers spreading the word. Local newspapers have picked up on the story and I finally had to tell one of them in an interview, "Why is it that it takes national attention to get us local confirmation? We've been around for 6 1/2 years!"

I am always at my best in the 11th hour of an event and this Spring Garden Party was no exception. Thursday night, Michelle, Abby and I stayed later than usual to fine tune the store for Fridays opening. Two large garden shipments came in at the last minute and we were unpacking and tagging as fast as we could while they also waited on customers. The white butterflies finally arrived so I ran out gathering twigs from neighborhood lawns.

Later that evening I was shopping for pink lemonade and almond cookies and Friday morning I was at Wal-Mart at 6:30 a.m. buying green spray paint as the one display I wanted to do, I was determined to complete before the doors opened. When the staff arrived at 9:30, there I was, knee deep in green moss and florist wire. It ended up being a smaller version of what I wanted, but it got out all the same and created a little drama.

So here are some better pictures of our displays although I shot these four days after the event so product level is already low- but more is coming!! In fact, I am making a game out of this now and searching for all new items every month and not replenishing much of what we have had already- despite your begging! I also managed to gather some new antiques on Sunday.

The Easter products are a mix of the sweet kind and my dirty bunny theme. Although I was going to combine the dirty bunnies with the garden, I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I had to separate the rodents from the rest.

The following is our front window display of which I have never been happier. Since we are in a shopping center I do not put nearly the effort into the windows as I used to do downtown because so many people can walk by and look in. But this new printers cabinet worked just right with all the apothecary style I love so much. Add the insects and you have a great garden-esque display.

Our new Les Indiennes bedding mixes so well with the soft sage greens of the Bella Notte, too.

And again, another idea with the book paper. After spending an hour wrapping these heavy wires with florist tape, why I didn't just use thin twigs with a little hot glue is beyond me. Again, time is money.

Blog posts will be minimal this week as I am redecorating a powder room for the Kansas City Symphony Designers Showhouse. Another 'I never thought I would do this' moment but I am really excited about it and will have great pictures to show. Think Edwardian barbershop! (Just a tease).


Originally posted 3/15/07
Showing Off the Showhouse

Two weeks ago I volunteered to do a room for the Kansas City Symphony Designer Showhouse. This is a benefit that happens every year to raise money for the local symphony. Area designers, vendors and artists donate there time, talent and resources to redecorate a large home that is for sale and in need of a makeover. There was only one room left to redo when they contacted me and it was this adorable little powder room off the kitchen. Why it was left behind was beyond me because it was the only room in the house that had any antique elements to it. Here is what I found on my first look.



Awaiting me was a long narrow 4 foot by 9 foot room. Yellow walls, fluorescent lighting, green wallpaper and a hand painted vessel sink with dragonflies. What it did have going for it were: old armoire doors with beveled mirrors, pocket doors, vanity table with overhead cubby, wood trim and an old pull chain toilet. "I'll take it", I screamed!



With only two weeks to change it, I had to tackle the room in order of importance. What I knew I had to work around set the tone for a manly bathroom. In Curious Sofa style I used these elements to transform this to my Edwardian Barbershop/Powder Room.



I plastered all the walls with drywall compound because I knew that I wanted to paint and distress all of it to look like it had been aged over time. I plastered, then painted a light beige then distressed all the areas with Ralph Lauren's glaze in Tobacco. I also wanted to add wallpaper to make it much more interesting.



Wood: All the wood in the room were different shades and I attempted to bring them all together by applying a black latex wash to them. I did not know this would work but it did and I got the espresso brown color I wanted. I applied a very light coat so some of the original wood color would come through and then applied high gloss varnish.

Floor: The marble was already there and looked perfect. I would still like to apply new grout before the opening.



Sink and faucet: I did not have the time to hunt down an antique water bowl like I wanted, have it drilled and installed along with an antique faucet, so these items had to be new. The sink ($100 from Lowes) and the faucet I got online at Vessel sinks and wall mount faucets are hard to find.

Light: The hideous overhead light came down and what a surprise- six holes had been hidden by this lovely light and now the ceiling had to be replastered. I added one of our great lights for sale in the store.




Vanity: Once the sink went in I replaced the handles on the desk cubby with these drawer pulls I have had for years from Pottery Barn and made new labels for them on the computer.

I had to overnight the faucet and when it arrived my handy man Joe was cussing up a storm as the wall was hollow and the old faucet had been for a bathtub. I felt so bad for him as he struggled with this. When the faucet finally went in, it was malfunctioning! So we had to send away for another part.

I also rush shipped the wallpaper delivery as we had to install it over the weekend. This is a lovely embossed pattern I found on and used it on my ceilings for the Country Living shoot at my house.



I knew immediately that I wanted to do this sign for the window. I called my sign guy, Dennis, and told him what I wanted. He donated this WC for the water closet. It is just a peel and stick frosted panel!!!

The exhaust fan in the water closet is also from Lowes but I stained the glass (with Minwax wood stain) to age it also. I sprayed and distressed the paper holder too. I also had to prop out the interior of the linen closet because (if you're like me) you open doors and cupboards to see if the designer has paid attention to details. Wood hangers are for sale in the store and the striped are from Tuesday Morning.

The above pictures were a labor of love. I thought I would just frame and gang vintage photographs but then it occurred to me- this is a symphony showhouse and nobody had done anything musical in any of the rooms. So I searched for photos online and found these images of Bach, Beethoven and Mozart, printed them on fabric paper and framed them in these cheap frames from Hobby Lobby. I also glued the mats with vintage song sheets. Hooks were nailed overhead and heavy beaded chain was nailed to the back of the frames- just to add some detail.

I didn't have plans to prop my little space to death. but I walked around the showhouse the day photos were being taken and everybody had tons of accessories in their rooms and suddenly my little space, despite the good bones I had to work with, looked dull. So I gathered more props and loaded them in. Some from the store, some from home, some currently found. The large mirror was donated from Mission Road Antique Mall.

I am now looking for a tiny bench to add against the long wall and a different rug. But for now, this is it and I am back in the shop where I belong! Enjoy. You can tour the showhouse April 28 thru May 20. Tickets are on sale in the store.

Coming in April- Curious Sofa designs a table for DIFFA.


Originally posted 4/26/07

Last weekend the Kansas City division of DIFFA (Design Industry Foundation Fighting AIDS) Dining By Design event happened at the Hyatt. I have ignored this function every time I was solicited, but this year I decided to come out of my shell. Designers, artists, retailers, florists, creative types in general are asked to design a table for attendees. $175 a plate is paid for this charity and although a high price for dinner, Kansas City alone has raised more than $1,000,000 in ten years. Not bad for this cowtown. This event happens every year in different cities and Elle Decor (one of the national sponsors) has published many issues featuring table designs from Calvin Klein, Coach, Gucci, Donna Karan, etc.- and now Curious Sofa (ha, had to throw that in).

I thought I would just have to bring some silverware and a few chargers and call it a day- hardly. When I went online and saw some of the installations from prior years, I was flabbergasted. Once again, the gay boys have it going on. To the ceiling, shiny, glossy, twirled and spun out of control. The staff walked in as my mouth was hanging open at the computer, "Oh my gosh, what have I gotten myself into? This has to be colossal!" Then I find out Elle Decor will be there to shoot this for a possible mention in their magazine. Well, no pressure there.

I had plenty of time to prepare but I did not want to spend much money on this as it was only a three day affair and well, thousands of people do not attend even though it is a worthy cause. So how do a I make an impact, stick to the Curious Sofa style, make it easy to set up, comfortable for guests, a bit elegant as it is a black tie affair and cheap? When in doubt, always turn to..... PAPER!

When in doubt, reach for an old book. Four old books later, 340 pages torn with 12 images of birds and butterflies running through my printer, four holes punched in each, clear reinforcers on the back of each hole, 1440 holes and 700 pieces of 5" crochet string tying them together, I had a plan! Thankyouverymuch.

Methodically I tied each one together in groups of 6, 7 & 8 page strips the week before. Then I screwed 102 tiny eye hooks into each board 5" apart so the pages would hang in a jaggered pattern and hopefully add some depth and maybe move in the breeze of the air conditioning. All of this to create three walls in my 12' x 12' booth.

Abby, Heather and I got to the Hyatt Exhibition Hall at 12:00 and began a perfectly orchestrated assembly of how to manage all of this paper. I wanted to hang it all from the ceiling but there were rules (hate the rules) so we had to rent this metal pole system to accommodate us. I had premarked all the boards, so at waist level we patiently began to tie each strip on. Later we raised the poles and voila! My Out of Africa theme was on it's way.

Yes, I came up with an Out of Africa theme because it had that touch of antique, a bit of elegance, my color palette and well, I had half the props at my house!

The insect paper thing almost went apothecary/industrial/science lab but I didn't think those ladies in their Qiana halter dresses would get it. To be honest, I don't think they got this either. But I loved it! This fabulous Egyptian chandelier from the shop was hung. Sisal rugs were laid and then zebra/cowhide rugs over them.

I found some cheap bamboo blinds ($6) at Big Lots, cut them up and tied them over the metal poles.

Big plants were bought from Lowes and covered with my favorite burlap treatment.

We sold this kalamakari fabric last Christmas so I tore it up and covered some rented seat cushions with them. I made these ahead of time and just basted them closed the day of set up.

We sell some bamboo folding chairs in the shop but I got these at for $25 each.

We were provided a folding 30" x 72" table but I added a larger wood top to it. Covered it with padding and layered and layered old tattered (some perfect) lace tablecloths over it and wanted them dragging the floor. I also brought a set of 10 lovely lace napkins.

The fiesta resistance were these walnut tree chargers I had made by the greatest guy out in the country! THIS is what people were talking about and rightfully so, they were fabulous. We got calls the next Monday and sold 7 of them ($30 each). I wanted to bring my own tarnished silverware and- stop the presses- I actually polished them for this event. I didn't have the energy to explain my tarnished silver attraction. The old gold rimmed glasses were purchased for my table too but I knew I could resell them. When I got the table set, other designers told me that the wait staff would clear my stuff off without thinking so I learned this event is not about place settings, glasses or plates! Who knew?!

For weeks prior I had been shopping eBay for old, usable lanterns. They had to be the right color and condition. I bought about four of them but then I found little black ones at K Mart and dusted them with a little flat brown spray paint to tarnish them up. Big Lots also had a candle version. I wish I had a shot when the overhead lights went out and these were lit because it really started to look like a romantic camp fire. If only Robert Redford were there to wash my hair!!!

All the other tables were loaded with flowers and I wasn't going to add any but caved in to this little design at the last minute. I have a thing for these little dusty bottles and have been saving them up for months to make something out of them that I did years ago. I also had to find a way to get my vintage photos in there.

Plants, trunks and props were added to the corners.

And finally a little souvenir- I made up these silly passports telling them of the DIFFA event, the design process, fun travel facts and a 'Duty Free' price list of the items on the table!



Originally posted 6/1/07
Anchors Away

Sorry everyone for the delay, I have been so busy and just could not find the time to write a meaningful blog. After returning from St. Louis my good 'ol 1994 Trooper was laid to rest so I have been shopping for a replacement.

I was also asked to speak at a Creative Conference last Friday for the Demdaco Company. A creator of gift and home goods based here in KC. The speech is on my shopowner blog. This was something I took very seriously and wanted to deliver something to inspire the group. When the artists started to ask questions I could tell I was in my element. These were my peeps! Now that it is over I wish I could do it all over again as I would have added so many more visuals and pertinent information.

So the dust has settled from the last two weeks and now the staff and I are back redoing the store, once again. Sales have been good and the art show was insane as always. We we're picked over fast and I have been replenishing with old and new goods as fast as I can between test drives.

Ever since I discovered a supplier in Florida, I have filled the store with seashells every summer. Many customers come back from tropical vacations and want these shells as fun reminders, more often than not they love them because they evoke a childhood memory when first discovered. Now seashells, in all their elegant form, have become the best organic decorating we can do. I love them piled in urns as sculpture or one simple shell on a feather pillow to remind us summer is here.

And let's not forget 'tis the season for the red, white and blue. I always love it when the flags come out as it is pure Americana and nothing shows country living like the good 'ol flag. Our supply sold out fast during the art show, but other bits and pieces of patriotism still remain. This year we have added luminaries and tinsel garland with my assortment of odd ball objects to create the unexpected displays we are known for.

Our annual Sidewalk Sale starts June 20 and we are clearing out many garden and Spring products, even some small antique items I am ready to mark down and lots of decor. I am on a mission to fill the store with more antiques and really fabulous new goods. So help me get it going! Here are some of the many items on sale; 20-50% off.

I hope you are all attending some of the antique fairs and shows in your area. It is that time of year and this is what makes decorating fun. The trill of the hunt! Again, try to stop in as I feel we have a great variety right now and with all the summer antiquing in the air, the goodies should keep on coming.


Originally posted 6/22/07
White Is A Color Too

The summer months can be boring (and hot) for many retailers and shoppers so to keep things comfortable we are getting back to basics. Many new furniture pieces have arrived and nothing says summer like washable cotton or linen slipcovers. Our Carol Bolton furniture has all sold and lighter, more versatile pieces have taken their place. Yes, I am partial, but I believe we make the best, most comfortable sofas around.

I love the use of ivory as a base color for any room (and my store, of course) along with choosing a soothing accent. Although I always stress we have a no-color environment, we really have complimentary color going on everywhere. It's all in how you use it. Upon entering the store you'll see lots of white with a dash of red, white and blue for the season.

The main living room is designed with ivory and beige accents mixed with dark chocolate brown. I especially love this mix for the home because it appeals to male and female taste. We recently added these wonderful zebra side chairs to spice things up.

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the mix of french grey (blue) with brown. Again, using various shades to make it interesting from light blue to tan to ivory.

Getting back to basics again with the kitchen area adding straw, enamel and linen textures.

And always our unpolished silver collections.

Center stage we have displayed our shell jewelry with whites mixed with straw, wicker and raffia. Again, Angie designed these tropical serapes for our mannequin girls made from our vintage tablecloths.

Our giant columns are filled with a mini Paint By Number gallery. I still love these no matter how kitsch they are. The cheapest hand painted art you can find.

The garden area always has neutral shades of blues and greens to keep things looking in their natural state. (you won't find any neon Crocs for sale here!)

We have also tuned up our stationery area as everyone loves paper and my sources say the scrapbooking phenomenon is not going away anytime soon. From journals, to ribbon, to greeting cards and maps- we are adding new and unexpected artists to this assortment weekly.

Our Boudoir area filled with scented lotions and potions seems to be the perfect area to add a touch of pink with all of our white.

For all of you die hard fans, the new Sally Jean charms have arrived. I have to say it: she really is the one who started it all. I know WellsWare is out there but Sally really added the art of collage to picture charms. And no one solders better than her!

And finally, nothing is more universal and well loved like turquoise jewelry. Mixed with summer whites- Georgia O'Keefe will have nothing on you! Some are real, some are not. Just like everything else we sell around here. Come in and enjoy.

Also, just a note:
(This is what it is really like to be a shop owner- being able to take your baby to work).


Originally posted 7/19/07
Eye Spy
Some meaningless observations:
Once again, from the Vatican of Ralph Lauren, I discovered this chair on his website. Five stars for taking the ordinary to extraordinary. Looks like blue denim but they say it is distressed leather! Even better.
In my magazines this month I stopped at this armoire because it got me thinking of one of my favorite (overlooked) products: Contact Paper! Below is a fancy, $3600 authentic design, but- imagine painting a simple straight piece of furniture white (or black, or blue, or whatever) and cutting out these shapes from wood grain contact paper and applying on top! Brilliant.
This shot stopped me as I could not get over the hip fireplace. I was convinced it was pieces of old, dried up timber- NO! This is concrete poured ever so perfectly in long, brick like patterns ala faux bois. (But how cool and easier with horizontal wood planks).

We've all seen the sailors Valentines but again, make it your own with any old photo, painting, magazine tear. Mount it, glue seashells around it, frame it and voila! Antique art.

Is it just me or did someone hire a new stylist at Pottery Barn? I got the latest catalog and really looked at it this time. Bravo to the team that made these room sets really livable and not the usually generic settings we are used to. Notice their unexpected use of dried twigs and plants, food, mail, etc. -and daylight!

1. Notice in this first shot a plain paper bag stuck on the bulletin board with a branch coming out of it!2. Love the hint of the antlers peeking out from behind the drape.

3. Look for the bottle collection in the transcend window above the doorway.

4. Of course I love the color palette below: the plant looks used and overgrown, the scale of all the items (column, drapes, bench) is perfect; the crop with the ceiling beam to identify the location and the curtains puddle just the right amount, too.

5. Wood, paper, metal, glass, fabric, flowers, food- perfect mix and not the typical cutting board anywhere in sight!

6. Any time barnwood is involved, count me in! LOVE these walls and even a trompe l'oiel version might be acceptable. Notice the way they have let the placemats hang over the side of the table, and the plates stacked upright in the center (not the expected flat stack) buffet style. ENJOY!

Originally posted 9/6/07
Ed Would Be Proud
Curious Sofa was named after a book by famous offbeat author/illustrator Edward Gorey. Some of you literary types know all about him but if you were like me, I didn’t have a clue. A fellow antique dealer and bibliophile, Joanna Votilla, introduced me to him as she showed me a rare first edition copy of his creepy but funny book Gashlycrumb Tinies. As I flipped open the book, the inside front cover read: ‘More works by Edward Gorey: The Curious Sofa’... I can remember the exact place and time it happened as the words seemed to glow off the page. I was knee deep in an SBA loan at the time and all the bank documents had ‘shop name to be determined’ written on them. There, on the flap of this book jacket, was my future store name staring at me. I screamed, “That’s it! That’s the name for my store!” His writings are a strange offbeat style of adult humor with a lot of 'you get it or you don't' mixed in. I say this because Mr. Gorey might find our current Halloween surroundings at the Sofa to his liking.

Nonstop since last Saturday, we have inventoried, moved every piece of furniture, crawled on the floor, stood dangerously on ladders- hammered, glued, nailed and twirled the shop into our Gorish Extravaganza. Not only did we take FULL inventory of the store over Labor Day weekend (Heather, Michelle and I wrote down every single product as Abby entered each item into out new POS system). They stood and wrote and sat and typed- and typed and typed. We crawled over boxes in the back room, walked over my paint spills, tools and lamp parts. Carry out food and lattes and Izzes all over the place- AND then we redecorated. (is it January yet?)

This year I did things a bit differently. I am not one to decorate my home for Halloween (as I am never there anyway) but seeing my local customers want more of it, I felt it was time to add a twist on what I was seeing in most retail venues. Gone are the cute figurines of cats and pumpkin people with skinny arms and striped legs as well as anything bright orange or whimsical. Spiritually, I actually have a problem with the spooky, demonic side of this holiday so I do not acknowledge it much, but as retailer I had to find its place in my business. I prefer to do an antique style Halloween with reminders of great old books, ancestor heirlooms and remnants of mysterious travels. This mixed with a little modern day Gothic and rock 'n roll and well, this is how I see it.... Forgive me for the late night, flash photography. Better photos of more details coming soon.

Enter the store and you’ll see our library display center stage with a wonderful old writing desk I found, crooked Victorian chair, fun props and piles of torn pages from old books, 3-D haunted portraits and drippy faux candles.

Left is our Tippie Hedron room complete with canopy bed, velvet bedding, torn lace panels and our dozens and dozens of crows.

This old sewing cabinet seemed appropriate for the setting although they are usually found everywhere. When closed it makes a great table bedside with all the drawers. I also have hangers full of old cotton prairie skirts, black or white silk slips and tattered camisoles.
This hutch filled with birds used to be turquoise 2 weeks ago. I painted and aged and glued the insides with old 1910 newspapers. My tobacco colored glaze had been in the can so long it had turned a charcoal color and what a glorious mistake as it made this cabinet appear smoke damaged!

The Curious Quartette is outfitted with rock 'n roll pirate gear and topped of with these plaster skull heads made by a local artist. This is as close as we’ll get to having Keith Richards make an appearance. I stopped at the local thrift store months ago and came upon one black lace item and my mind went from there... I do not know what I'll do when these gals sell as customers always wait to see what I do with them each season. I am afraid I cannot top this but I am already excited about their Christmas attire!

I know many of you are against it, but I wanted to borrow these taxidermy heads from my friends husband. It just seemed right as many years ago it was not nearly as controversial and added to the manly room. I still consider it a work of art and love looking and studying these preserved forms. We would never be so close otherwise.

This wonderful Edwardian style buffet topper was also found just in time.

Our Bountiful kitchen lightens things up a bit with the harvest decor. Rich rust, reds and greens along with acorns, pumpkins and wreaths.

More plaster figurines to illuminate your home. As much as I would love live plants, food and the like- it is nearly impossible in retail with little natural light. But who wouldn’t want this pumpkin to last forever!

On to the stationery area where the more fun, frolicking decor hangs about. Skeleton and bat garland, glittery spider webs, flocked silhouette candelabras, layers of stained cheesecloth and yards of papery barbwire (or use as a crows nest!)

... And not to ever be without my white room, we moved it all to the back of the store. Mixed with the plaster pumpkins are some abandoned coyote skulls, deer vertebra, broken glove molds and older seashells.

I can already tell by looking at the store I have learned another lesson and did not buy enough. I do have a second round arriving with more Harvest items, Gothic jewelry and Gorey books. This is why putting items out early is good!

Stay tuned this week for details of some Halloween paper projects and other transformations.

Originally posted 9/1307

Gorey Details

The Halloween products are still moving about the store as many have left, others are being added and still more to come. I have had all of these items pictured waiting to come out but we have been so busy the dust had to settle for me to fine tune a few of them.

I don’t know how this idea came to me but I have gathered these old, tattered umbrellas for a few years now. The first year I hung them all, crooked and torn in a random mess from the ceiling because they reminded me of a flock of bats flying about- and sure enough, the customers thought so too. This year I took the best of the lot and used them as witches skirts, hung these long striped stockings underneath and glued the shoes from each striped leg. It never occurred to me until I was preparing them I could put the handle of the umbrella down the middle of one leg! Each one was hot glued and pinned strategically underneath. I love their silhouette against our awning.

These shutters were leftovers from Spring. A bit too weathered to sell but now they work perfectly with the crows busting through. Also, a leaf illustration run through the printer again on old book pages, cut out and glued to monofilament.

One of our plaster skulls lit from within.

More of the remaining umbrellas atop our armoire.

I screamed when I found this Quija board. So many memories of Junior High slumber parties!

These gaudy and bright brass lamps were only $12 but I knew I could tone them done with some black spray pain. I added one of our many torn and threadbare lampshade frames then adorned each with a strand of bat garland! A perfect Haunted House embellishment.

And finally, during a staff meeting this evening, I was surprised with an anniversary cake from my fabulous employees! Curious Sofa will be seven years old September 16. I am more surprised than anyone. It really does seem like only yesterday I was opening my first store. Although the years have given me so many lessons. Thanks to you all for your continued support.

Originally posted 10/21/07
Curtain Call

The staff and I have recovered a bit with four days of sleep while getting back to our routine. We are still cleaning up, organizing and unpacking but knowing this show is behind us is a huge weight lifted. I was back in the shop Monday and felt fine as the mental load it was occupying was gone.

Preparing a show like this began months ago with contracts, buying product and such. The week prior was about organization and protocol: set, inventory, labor, logistics- it all needed orchestrated.

Once unloaded and inside the venue the set was secured first. Eight 4’ x 8’ walls were connected and supported. Then furniture was put in place. (and moved, and moved to find the right set up). We tried it one way for traffic and another for drama and another for checkout. Funny but we ended up with the exact layout I had envisioned months ago!

As Michelle and Abby unpacked I asked Beth to begin from the top down. Garlands were hung and electrical was routed. Beth is our newest member and a gem in ballet shoes. (Literally, a ballerina). She grew up in Fredericksburg with the Carol Bolton influences- need I say more?

Michelle and Beth start to unpack. (The only shot I got before it was set up).

I had one cubby display in the store for candles but ordered another as this was invaluable for selling small items last Christmas. It also helps the place not look so junked up. When doing a show like this it is heartbreaking for me to pile the product in- but it has to be done. It is not just for show and with thousands of people walking by every minute and touching and moving, minimal looking shelves will not do.Lots of goodies fill the stocking stuffer cubbies: crosses, ornaments, french CD’s. crosses, holiday postcards, tinsel, seed lights and tissue holders.
I stopped behind our neighborhood McDonalds and grabbed a bunch of dried branches I had been eyeing for a week knowing I would take them for this event. I asked Beth to layer our garlands, green and bronze and poke the twigs in here and there. We had a Bergamot and Pine candle burning and one lady thought we had decorated with fresh greens! This garland is the best I have found and we sell loads of it as it is soft and pliable. Tiny rice lights were woven through as well.

I wasn’t crazy about my back wall with the horns, frames and clocks- something was not working here. Ideally I should have brought the large CURIOUS SOFA mirror from the store (with our name on it). It would have been clean and simple. This was a hodge podge that lacked in directions but the wall was not sturdy enough for the mirror. -oh well.

We had strict instruction to stay off the perimeter carpet but each morning we snuck our urns out front. I added the arbor at the last minute for height and we were not sure where it was going to go as we had the gray shelves side by side. After the usual song and dance I put it here as this was the direction of the cafe area. We had to look good from all sides. I also wanted to paint the arbor before the event but time did not allow so we decided to weave these snowy branches in and out of the grid. We had dozens of these and this was the best way to show them off. This is Michelle's mastery.
One shelving unit was composed of mercury glass. We had to grab extra stock at the store we were holding for Christmas as Michelle didn’t have any large pieces to work around. I also loaded brought all the old tarnished silver.
The other shelving unit was for entertaining merchandise. Chargers (gold, copper and pewter) as well as these linen Bon Appetite napkins I had embroidered for this event. Wine glasses with etched poinsettias, bronze color mercury candlesticks, our cross candles and more.

The scrap art on these calendar journals were designed by my good friend Greg Johnson. They were a big hit and we sold out of one style.

We sold the original brown and cream zebra chairs we had in the shop and replace them in time for the show so I found these two matching vintage chairs and had them recovered. These sold the first hour! Now we have a list of women who want something in this fabric.

We sold this fabulous counter as well to a lovely gal who was selling her frames at the show. She is taking it home to her husband in Mississippi.

The old raw wood mantle was propped up in the corner and our velvet love seat arrived just in time to show our softer side. We got a lot of inquiries about this and if I do the show next year a room full of furniture needs to be taken. Nobody else is doing it and it really stands out at a show like this. The custom loveseat:The altar:
A friend said she expected our religious theme to be over the top but when she saw our booth was surprised it was not. I agreed and said when all the merchandise was unpacked I knew my blog customers would think, ‘this isn’t that religious!’ Now that it is over I know I took just enough. It was not nearly the holy crowd I had expected! The shop will have many more antique items for our Open House.

This lovely 48” Santo's lady comes bare but I embellished her with a crown, jewels and coffee filters!The gazette I designed to tell new customers who we are:
I needed to hand out something to all these ladies as I knew the masses would have no idea who we were. So I spent days laying out and designing this flier. I wanted it to look like an old newspaper and to print it on newsprint but Kinkos was scared it wouldn’t feed through their machines. So I went with a heavier stock.

These lovely embroidered towels were especially for the show.

Eiffel tower place card holders- sold out. (anything Paris was selling).

My surprise project: old bottles with antique lace and jewelry parts. I made these years ago at my old store and customers were still asking for them. I have been collecting all year and still have many more to complete.

Final set:
Overall, LOTS of lessons learned about packing, hauling, hiring and merchandise. It was well worth it for the enormous exposure we received from the locals. New customers even made their way into the store the next day and spent much more! Next year? Well, it is too soon to ask if I will do it again. The showman in me wants to of course, because I have already got an entirely new theme and style to share. Now that I have seen what they like, who shops it and what they will spend- I want to do it all over again and see if I get it right. But as is anything in retail- what the customer wants can change overnight.

After we were finished with the booth, these jolly ol' men walk around the corner and we couldn't believe it. Seems a Santa Convention was happening in the center! Pictured with the four Nicks are Michelle, me, Heather and Abby.

Too pooped to party.
Originally posted on 11/4/07
Christmas 2007
It is Sunday evening, the store is closed and to say the staff and I are filled with mixed emotions is putting it lightly. Never have I seen such a great team of ladies work so hard in two short days. Curious Sofa was transformed from top to bottom for our Season Opener. Chandeliers moved, pictures rehung, furniture rearranged, new display pieces painted, beds constructed, old inventory condensed and new, new, new Xmas merch added everywhere. We are exhausted and thank God for daylight savings time today. That extra hour was like gold to us.

When preparing the holiday season, it begins for me back in January when I go to market. I always hope to see something to inspire and set the theme, style or tone for the store. I am not sure I had anything in mind this year but I was very excited about a few vendors and what they had to offer. The style of our Junior League show was more of what I had intended for this year and you can see how much better it solidifies when displayed in a smaller venue (so think about that when you want to move your business to a larger location!) Also, many things were against us this year. 1. Sheer exhaustion from only 10 days of rest from the Holiday Mart Show. 2. Many items had old inventory numbers as we switched POS systems in September and boxes were stored or lost here and there waiting for final tagging. 3. The owner never wants to put things out too early as it loses the surprise factor. Therefore, she slave drives her staff until midnight and herself with 4 hours of sleep a night. So then tensions run high as product keeps appearing and the countdown is on to open; corners get cut, details are not 100% completed (not even 75%) and this makes me sad as I want so badly to do these little things that make customers take notice. They may not have made the Open House but I will try and add them later this week. I am also a die hard perfectionist and want all things to have my direction but this is physically impossible when trying to transform 3,700 square feet in 48 hours. So some areas aren't as strong or a product didn't come in or I refused to get the ladder out again and just said "throw it in there somewhere". Anyway, enough apologies. Take a look.

The exterior and our window displays are like the bastard stepchild. I pay little attention to them as it is the inside I am always focused on.
Snowy trees line the entrance.Customers lined up Friday night for our V.I.P. party and Saturday morning the public were here in droves. This is when it is worth it. When regular (and new) customers walk around with mouths open, heads up and arms full. There were so many compliments to all of us for creating another visual feast. The following is a sampling but many other smaller details will be added later. The pictures are not great but it is documented none the less.

Upon entering the store, the religious area.
Turn to the right and our salute to the forgotten holiday- Thanksgiving.
Beth worked on this tablescape.Food and champagne were served to the right of the snowy arbor.Never a Xmas at the Sofa without our silver. Michelle got it all in there and if she turned her back for 10 minutes it suddenly multiplied! Product just kept coming out.On the west wall our white wonderland which Michelle and Angie worked on.I was really happy with all the antiques that appeared while unloading the storage room after collecting all year. It was like Christmas! In the past I scrambled for old stuff around October but this year we stored large plastic tubs in the backroom and I dropped things in them as I found them. When all the different Marys finally came out, I loved how they looked. My favorite display of all and I am still not finished with it. I am sure they will make there way to the entrance soon.Angie built a twiggy nest in one of our chandeliers to display these white owls.Cuddly polar bears for the kids. Angel wing tree topper.
Designs by Charlotte Lyons. The Flea Circus! I wanted to construct a striped circus tent here but time was not on my side. The mugs were to go on a tree but the ladder was easier.
And the designs of Jennifer Murphy which inspired the entire theme of this room.Great paper products were found this year.Beth tackled the gold room.And I know you were waiting for the girls. I had been collecting fur coats and cable sweaters to make these snow bunnies.
Inspired by new typewriter garland, our black and brown room...And finally, saving the best for last. My team , my staff, my friends. The biggest blessing in my life. L to R: Abby (2 years 11 months), Michelle (2 years 4 months) Heather my manager (3 years 2 months) Angie (1 year 3 months) and Beth (2 months).

I am not worthy.
Originally posted on 12/11/07
Country Living

I just found out I made the cover!! Somebody pinch me!!!

Welcome readers!
Do you know how long I have waited for this current issue to come out? 15 months! Back in September of 2006 I was privileged to have the Country Living team come to Kansas City and shoot my house for an upcoming issue. I finally received a proof in the mail last October and of course the first thing I did
was critique the picture of me- but more on that later. To read of the actual shooting process check the blog from August '06.
Also read the interview with CL about shop owning from March '07.

Here I will show you other pictures of my house that were not used for the magazine article and give you some behind the scenes commentary on what actually happened before and during the shoot. The good, clear pictures are mine that I shot after they all left. The smaller, blurry images I shot from the rough proof they sent me of the article months before.

From the magazine,
A new exterior paint job just for the photo shoot and all new landscaping. I had everyone running around in a panic to meet the deadline and furniture and props were all over the yard. My neighbors thought I was having a garage sale!
My house is located in an old suburban area with homes up to 80 years. My home was built in 1927. I purchased it in 1998.
FRONT PORCHMy favorite French chairs. They shot a lot of pictures of me on the porch but used the one on the sofa instead.
Little did I know when I crammed these four 10' benches in my car eight years ago I would be setting the stage for an iconic photo. This scene has been shot many times for local publications and now it finally goes national. My magazine and decorating book collection was getting out of control and this seemed to be the only way to make it look intentional. I was going to collect an assortment of smaller, mismatched benches and stack them on top of one another, ala Mary Emmerling, but then I stumbled upon these. They were too perfect! It has served me well although for this shoot I had to completely dismantle it so I could paint the back wall. Now I am ready to do it again as 15 months have gone by and my taste has already changed.

I found the camel lamp from a Swap and Shop, the shade from somewhere else. The Mexican cross from a flea market and the elephant (behind the giant flower arrangement) from an estate sale. The chairs were originally covered in some horrible rust fabric as I waited hours at an auction and was shocked they actually were down and feather filled! I complained about the magazine using flowers in every shot because I hardly ever have fresh flowers in my house but the photographer said, "No they're not."
(you be the judge).

I had been working non-stop on the house all week so I had very little sleep the night before and was in a panic over the picture they insisted on taking of me. Of course I tried to direct the shot. "How about on the sofa, on the porch, behind this thing..." They wanted the portrait of me to be in my studio working on something which I did not want to do as it didn't really feel like me. So this is what we ended up with. Not very special, but that is what I get for trying to tell them what to do. I decided not to try too hard getting ready so I slapped on some makeup, grabbed a denim shirt and ran my fingers through my hair. I was hoping for an unfussy, country girl kind of look. BOY- did I get it! More like a country trucker! I screamed! I look like I just rolled out of bed! Never again will I try for an easy, laid back appearance. I should have fussed with myself for a couple hours to get the casual look I wanted. Live and learn.
I was in the other room getting the next shot ready and I walked into the kitchen to see them shooting this shot of my desk and I literally screamed out loud! Frances the editor had asked me what props I would want and I told her any flowers she brings had to be all white, no bouquets but clusters of the same flower, no food but maybe a bunch of giant artichokes for the kitchen. That morning she came in with a bag of
flowers, chips and salsa, a pie in a metal tin, beer and a giant bag of little frosted white donuts which I thought were snacks for the crew. When I walked into the kitchen to check on this shot she had put a mug of coffee on a saucer and added two frosted mini donuts to the plate. I screamed without even thinking. "Oh my gosh! Frances, no... I will be laughed at if my customers thought I used powdered donuts in this shot" She said, "But they're white." I told her I did not care, they had to go. I shuffled off, embarrassed I had thrown such a fit and wished I had been looking over her shoulder during every shot but I simply couldn't as I was still getting my bedroom together. So she took the donuts and saucer away and just left the mug. Now I look back and love telling this story. I am sure it thrilled them all to be working with a former photo stylist. Picky I know, but this was my first big spread and I wanted everything just right. (She also tried to shoot the flat cherry pie in it's aluminum tin from the grocery store but I x-nayed that too!)

So this is my own shot below. This is where I sit most days doing the blog from home. The fancy curtain has since been removed and sold in the store but Pearl is always there. This is one of my favorite lamps I held on the plane all the way from New York's 23rd street Flea Market. And the painting... the 'if the house was on fire, what would I grab' item.

The Bombay Florentine chest has been with me for awhile and a very rare piece although I am ready to sell it. ($295). The large floral print, clock and phone have sold but this is still another one of my favorite lamps.
LIVING ROOM (What you didn't see)
You should know that after I invested in Carol Hicks Bolton furniture for my store (18 months ago) I decided to redo my house for the photo shoot so it would represent her aesthetic a bit more. Always the retailer, I was just trying do a little advertising but I also LOVE what she does. Now, her furniture has all sold and I am back to redoing my house more like me and not Carol. (Imagine that) I have learned to stay true to myself and stop trying to imitate what you are not. Now the house has a lighter look. Painted white furniture and lighter accessories. My blue transfer plates are now hung over the mantle and the ivory slipcovered sofa is back. A painted picnic table is in the dining room with white mismatched chairs and the studio is now set up for sewing without the bed. My house is always a work in progress because I see something that influences me and times change. Now I want to transform it for another photo shoot. It would look entirely different and it's exciting to change it. The walls will be painted a soft gray, driftwood colors, less pattern and a wall full of great prints. But I do love my kitchen and it was the one room I thought I would never be able to make photo worthy.

With Carol Bolton in mind, the walls in the living room were aged and stained to prepare for some hand stenciling in the area at the top- but it never looked right, so I painted over it.

I had a wonderful Indian photograph over the mantle but the editor thought it was too ethnic so we added the mirror. Now it hangs in my office at the store.

The leather sofa was purchased from an estate sale just weeks before the shoot. I have always wanted a leather Chesterfield sofa so I exchanged it for my slipcovered loveseat. This only lasted a month as it was so uncomfortable! The table, lamps, map and candelabra sold in the store later that year.

You cannot see it very well but I had the ceiling wallpapered with a textured ceiling tin design to hide some bad 12" tiles from the 50's that had always been there. One of the best changes I did even though it didn't make it into the magazine.

The rocker was purchased at the Walnut, Iowa antique show. All the pillows were made just for the shoot from my scrappy collection of vintage fabrics. I do love how the curtains turned out hung 1/4 of the way down. I will never change that. It looks great from the street too.
I plastered over the white brick fireplace and distressed it with tinted glaze.

None of the images in the dining room made it into the magazine. I had the walls wallpapered and hung the new/old fixture.

I still love my heavy scale above and use it for candles, as a centerpiece or serving platter.

This hutch stopped me in my tracks because the natural painted crackle on it was just perfect. I knew I had to have it and it has been used in every room in my house. Now it has a home in my dining room.

BEDROOMMy favorite shot above. Simple country style.

An old vanity I transformed by peeling all the warped veneer off.
My second favorite shot above.

STUDIOThis room is always a mess with my projects so I just tried to make it a more controlled mess. I was disappointed they did not show more but instead focused on some pink objects I have. Anyone who knows me knows I am not a fan of anything pink or frilly or girlie so I was sad they picked out a few of those things. But I love the "Be prepared to meet thy God" quote they featured. And yes, I intentionally did all the walls like this.

I completely transformed it for the shoot. New floor, new wood counter top, distressed paint on the walls and cabinets, new shelves, new brackets, new vintage sink and fridge (and stove but you can't see it), faucet, crystal chandelier I made, old mirror, etc... I also added the metal flashing to the island and vintage flocked wallpaper in the cove area.

SIDE PORCHI brought the crystal chandelier from the shop to hang over the newly purchased hammock. The zebra rug has since been cut up and used to recover a chair but the driftwood table is still there and one of my favorite items.

I hope you have enjoyed this. It was a labor of love getting it ready with help from my staff, my gardener/friend Leslie Jackson and a special thanks to Nancy and Frances @ Country Living. What a wonderful dream and opportunity you allowed to happen. Thank you so much. I am honored.