Sunday, June 21, 2009

Let Her Wave

My third article for the Kansas City Star, published 6/21/09

photo by Roy Inman, shot inside the store

Design Notebook
| Betsy Ross: The Ultimate Style Maven

When George Washington asked Betsy Ross to sew him a little something back in 1776, little did anyone know history was in the making. Today, 233 years later, the American Flag, along with its many meanings, has passed the test of great design. I love seeing the red, white and blue wave 24/7/365, but what about decorating with it indoors too? Do not overlook America’s most famous graphic design to bring some patriotic pride inside your home.

There are very specific rules for displaying the flag, and I am not one for disrespecting our United States logo, but I guess I bend the rules a bit because I love it too much to limit its showing to what the experts say. The golden rule for displaying the flag is to honor it: keep it clean, show it proudly and use it smartly.

I like to display a large flag attached to its wooden pole in a large heavy vase or old-fashioned tree stand. Try it in a corner of the living room, your home office or hung against your garage wall. It can also make a striking centerpiece used as a tablecloth, but I would never do this if food were being served.

My favorite look is a bouquet of smaller flags in an old ironstone pitcher. Or try a smaller flag sewn on your favorite ticking pillow. Painting your own primitive flag on a slab of old barn wood or corrugated metal can still get the message across as well.

The American flag has strong graphic appeal and can be used with many decorating styles, depending on your taste. Here are different strategies to ponder:

• Keep it easy: An all white country setting with ticking pillows, metal lawn chairs and bent willow tables is always a perfect setting for the American flag.

• Make it majestic: A dark study with leather chairs and piles of books is begging for a flag in the room.

• Let it pop: A collection of colorful modern art, bubble chairs and shag rug can easily accept the bold graphics of an American flag. (Didn't Warhol used it a time or two?)

The American flag has been a symbol for so many important moments in our lives, to display it only a few times a year is a shame. Unfold this precious cloth and give it a permanent place inside your home. It will remind us daily of how lucky we are and what it has meant to so many.

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.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

3/50 in June

Above, our custom fans were passed out during the Prairie Village Art Show.

Have any of you heard of the 3/50 Project? If not, I want to tell you about the wave sweeping across small businesses in the U.S. What's so cool about this is my friend Cinda Baxter invented it! I met Cinda when I was asked to be on the GHTA retail advisory board in 2007. She had a successful store for many years and is now a buyer, consultant, national speaker and cheerleader for all things retail. The 3/50 Project was created out of necessity to get the message out that if you want your favorite brick and mortar stores to survive, you must support them! We need more than cheers and concern, we need your dollars. What I love about 3/50 is it is not all about me, it is about me and two more of your favorite stores!

Basically the 3/50 Project says this:
1. Pick 3 independently owned businesses you would miss if they disappeared. Stop in. Say hello. Pick up something that makes you smile. Your purchases are what keeps those businesses around.
2. If half of the employed population spent $50 each month in these stores it would create over $42 billion in revenue.
3. For every $100 spent in locally owned independent stores, $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll and other expenditures. If you spend this money online, nothing comes home.

If you read this blog I assume you are a fan of Curious Sofa. Many of you shop in the store often and some of you we only see now and then. However often you frequent the store, it is almost impossible to have a conversation these days without a customer asking sincerely, "How are you guys doing?" Now if you make a living in retail you know how to answer these questions with the right amount of political correctness. I am not one for lying or even stretching the truth. I simply do not do it very well. I will always tell someone how we are really doing because it is just habit.

The truth is, we're fine. We're as fine as everyone else is. How's that? I know of no one who is flourishing right now. My staff and I are on board 200% to keep things alive at Curious Sofa for as long as you help. We're still having our events, buying new merchandise every week and the antiques are still coming (and going!) but we cannot survive without you no matter how creative we get- nor can any of your other favorite stores. Please take note of the 3/50 Project and do what you can to keep us all going. We want to continue to be here for you.

So for now, take a look at what we've been up to and believe it or not the Halloween and Christmas goods are already trickling in too!

More ruffled slipcovers just arrived.

One of two original antique Kewpie's I found last week.

The red, white and blue is flying proudly throughout the store.

A pair of vintage concrete eagles just in time for Independence Day.

This antique baby bathtub would be perfect for the household catch-all. I also love the distressed bench/coffee table.

Frosted antique glasses, summer cookbooks and vintage sailboat.

Our collection of salvage is growing too.

I love it when I find a pair of good vintage boots to sell.

This painted vintage buffet just in.

From a weekend road trip, this great collection of cigar boxes.

We've gone global.

Every summer we get the seashells out. I especially love them displayed in this grey cabinet.

Within a week I found this melange of modern items: 60's buffet, industrial light bulbs and vinyl rocker. A nice, clean change for us.

As always, hope to see you!

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Crude Style

I posted a blog post years ago about this great shop I discovered called Bailey's Home and Garden outside London in Bridstow, England. The Bailey's have published a few books and they have become my new favorites for simple, unfussy living. Buy them here.

How easy to collect little chairs and hang them on the wall as sculpture (or a shelf).

This chair above is a perfect example: Great lines, fabulous style but made functional with throw pillows. Forget the new upholstery!

After styling my home and shop for various magazines this year, I have a new desire to make things less perfect. I am calling this new look Crude Style. I love to see interiors when things don't match, objects are used as-found, tables and chairs less than perfect and an overall ease and simplicity to everything- but somehow a great style still appears. Some may look at it and think it is not finished enough, but that is what I love about it because I believe every object has been carefully picked to appear unstyled.

I love the mix of sizes and stripes for these pillows. They match, but they don't.

A few raw boards screwed together for a make-shift desk. Perfect!

As a shop owner I am forever concerned how things look: What is hung on the front door, the furniture placement in the store, the objects on the tables, how pictures are hung, how bottles are faced... it's never ending. With so much product there has to be an order to things to look good to the customer and be easier to shop. But when it comes to my home, I am forever trying to find that balance of style and simplicity while being undecorated but still fabulous! It is in the eyes of the beholder as many may think it's just a pile of junk!

Who doesn't want to plop down here for a couple hours? The apple crates as shelves and the shoes!!! on the bottom shelf- in the living room! Why not?

Perfect crude style: a slab of distressed wood for a quick headboard and no-fuss bedding. Who needs more?

As I antique for the shop, I buy what is appropriate for the majority of our customers but for myself I am looking for objects that have been left out in the rain for years, the chair with simple rust or a box that has been wired shut to make the perfect little table.

Why bother replastering that wall? It works so well with the ease of the kitchen.

This idea stopped me! Patches of old tapestry rugs used as a runner up the stairs. Tack away.

The September issue of Romantic Homes magazine will feature my home and the store. For the first time a national magazine is showing my store the way I have always wanted: a complete spread of both interiors with great images. Lucky for me I was able to style each and every picture. This has been six months in the making as I have been waiting and waiting on what issue it would appear and finally got the word two weeks ago. Since then, I have been answering the email interview so I hope all of it ends up a great read for you.

Again, the mix of found wood creates so much texture and interest and I love the old palette hung on the wall for display.

Throwing a variety of textiles over the sofa is easier than a new slipcover and I love how they hung the light on the spare outlet on the wall rather than ignore the strange placement.

As a store owner (especially in this economy) I am forever preparing for store press. Whether it is my home or the store being featured, I have to keep the buzz going so customers can see what we are doing and keep business flowing. Yes, it is a lot of work but it is all part of shop-owning. Now that Romantic Homes is in the can I need to move on to the next thing so Crude Style is my new direction for my home! Maybe not completed this year, but stay tuned for the next.