Saturday, May 02, 2009

Botanically Challenged

My second article for the Kansas City Star, published 5/3/09

Botanically Challenged
Maybe your imagination should do all the growing.

Awe, it’s Spring! Lawns are turning green, tiny buds are blooming and the nurseries are buzzing with weekend gardeners ready to get their hands in the dirt. Not me, I am scrambling for the sunscreen.

Allergies aside, if you do not like the look of lovely flowers and fresh plants something might be wrong with you. If however, you cannot decorate with them for fear of the inevitable, then come join my club for the Botanically Challenged. Each time I think I’ll buy a little planted something for the interior of my home, it lasts about seven days. Where did I go wrong? Too much water or not enough? Should it have been morning light or afternoon? I give up. I’ll nail a seed packet to the wall and dream.

As a retailer it is nearly impossible to keep things alive in my semi-lit store. And as much as faux flowers are so, well, not cool- I admit there are a lot of great brands out there than can argue the point. Lately I have discovered ways to negotiate decorating with nature and I have to say, my way has much less maintenance.

Pressed botanicals
The Europeans had this figured out a long time ago. Explorers would travel the world, collect plant clippings and flatten these specimens under glass and store for research in Herbarium houses. Little did they know they would become great works of art. Today many affordable reproductions are available as well as antique originals.

Tree and shrub branches
Roam your own back yard or the local park for fallen branches or clip a few sprigs from your favorite flowering shrub. When used in a giant glass bottle they make the perfect centerpiece.

Natural accessories
Adding a touch of nature can be accomplished in almost any room by adding a tiny nest or feathery bird. A large bowl of hedge apples make a colorful display as well.

Although there is nothing botanical about it, adding an object indoors that is normally found outdoors helps give the illusion to garden living. A concrete pot, fence piece or birdhouse can be used throughout your home tucked in the most unlikely of places for stronger impact.

Bringing the outdoors in is not a new concept and can also be achieved with illustrated fabric, beautiful floral prints and preserved boxwood. I believe keeping it maintenance free is just what Mother Nature had in mind all along. Let her do all the work, after all, she’s better equipped!

is the owner and creative director of Curious Sofa in Prairie Village. When not in her shop she travels, antiques, and blogs- all with her beloved pet Bichon, Pearl by her side.


Friday, May 01, 2009

Curious Goes Modern

As promised, the after pictures of the Florida condo I just staged for selling, 98% completed. A few items arrived the day after we left but the idea is still there.

555 on 5TH AVE SOUTH
(Big seashells to come to sit here)


(Candles are sitting in a pool of sand)

(A series of b/w vintage photographs of scenic Naples are coming to hang behind this wall)



(The piece de la resistance- a Curious Sofa linen slipcovered sectional sleeper)

(An amazing seven foot distressed mirror is coming to hang over the sectional)


(I chose the brushed metal fan at the last minute from Home Depot)

(Lush bedding not shown, still waiting on the bed frame)


(Duvet covers and more pillows to come)



What you are seeing above is my first real design job where I met with a client (Angie), listened to what she needed and gathered what I thought was appropriate for her project. This is an eight unit condo in downtown Naples that my client has owned for many years. After a hurricane, she bulldozed the lower level retail shops and decided to build two additional floors of luxury condos above. Cache and White & Black Market are her tenants. These are pictures of the model unit the realtor will show potential buyers. This unit had no decorative touches to start with except the tile, appliances, cabinets and floors. All else was bare.

My assignment was to keep it clean and cool, simple and modern so it would appeal to a hip, second-home buyer. She didn't want it cluttered with paraphernalia but shown in a way others could see that it was big enough for a large screen TV, sectional sofa and a Queen bed. This is not the usual model condo decor you'd find in Florida.

I spent approximately six weeks and over 75 hours shopping for this job online, talking with the property manager and architect for specific details and arranging deliveries and pick-ups 1,400 miles away. I tried to time all shipments to get there a week before we arrived so all would be ready. We flew down last Saturday and began. Angie and I unpacked boxes and arranged and kept shopping for what we still needed, then schlepping and hauling each and every item to the third floor. She would unpack and clean as I was was building, hanging, drilling and steaming for four days and five nights. Many items were ordered and shipped through my store while other items were ordered through Target, West Elm, Sears, World Market, HSN or found in Naples (Pottery Barn, Home Goods, Pier One). Keep in mind this was a little more than a staging job as Angie and her family will come here to work and vacation until this unit is sold. So everything from mattresses to dishes, flatware, trash cans, a vacuum, alarm clock, TV, dish soap, towels, etc. had to be ordered to make it livable for them. Some things came broken, some were returned and some never arrived at all. We delayed our flight one extra day to fine tune, add more details and clean, clean, clean.

There were also many problems to fix that come with a new development and long distance living: the hot water heater didn't work, the cable wasn't connected to the building, the electricity wasn't working in one room, locks weren't locking and the first realtor was fired as I watched the business of real estate unfold. There was also some comedy relief when Angie put dish soap in the new dishwasher (screaming, "It's leaking!"), cooked the plastic manual pack in the new oven, tried to wash the clothes with detergent and bleach in the dryer saying, "The washer is not working either!" and left the rental car idling for 5 hours in the garage because of a new off button they have now.

We were so tired most nights we didn't have the energy to go to many of the good restaurants in Naples but opted for ice cream or grocery store take out instead -and- I only saw about 1" of beach peaking over a park bench at 30 miles an hour!

In the end, I learned I was not half bad at this interior design stuff even though it was not hard core Curious Sofa style. But good design is good design. It was nice to buy things and put them out without cleaning, fixing, rewiring like you usually do with antique goods. We left proud of our efforts and talking of the next unit we would love to do in tan and blue with sisal rugs and painted furniture. The real test will come when buyers walk through and give their two cents (because everyone has their two cents!). If it sells within the next 3 months, despite the off season in Naples and the soft real estate market, I know I will have done my job!