Friday, July 25, 2008

Idle Time

...July into August is an interesting part of summer as all things seem to be downhill after the 4th. Unbearably hot weather seems to go on for weeks, watering the garden becomes a chore and attitudes are in turmoil waiting for something to look forward to.

They say summer is idle time, but do any of us know how to do that anymore? I for one admit to being the laziest person on earth. Give me a chair and a beverage and I'm good for at least 8 hours.

So as a retailer, what do I do to show people there is still as much interest and motivation to buy, decorate and experiment as if Thanksgiving were right around the corner?... You keep things simple. Because whether our lives are simple or not, our surroundings can be and they are much easier to control than our circumstances!

Since my clearance sale, everyone is asking what I am doing with my home now. I am proud to say, I am in no hurry. I am enjoying my 'less is more' surroundings. Just this week my stylist friends at Hallmark called to come over and scout for a photo shoot. I laughed and warned them, "You know, I really did sell everything. All I have is a bed and a sofa." I explained my clothes were in laundry baskets, the spare bedroom has become a giant junk closet until things find a new container and any 'ol rickety table I pick up has turned into my vanity, desk and dining table. So what happened? They loved it! Go figure.

Now before you think I really do have it decorated and just not sharing, Hallmark rarely wants my stuff, they just need the bones of the house for background, a neutral palette and a few good windows- so that I can deliver. In fact, they fill my yard and porch with tons of their own furniture and props that they bring from headquarters.

Throughout this blog I am sharing some of the newest goods that have arrived this week. These new Katie Brown French Picnic dishes are my current favorite. Simple and imperfect, rustic ceramic dishware. The pedestals are perfect size, the rimmed side dishes are an unexpected design and the plates look like someone (really good) just turned them on a wheel and plopped them in a kiln. Use these along with her burlap tablecloths- after a trip to the Saturday framers market, how could things be more simple?

We also changed our Love Shack to house a vintage iron bed with white linens and a small lamp. Curl up with a good book, open the windows and dream on.

The giant birdcage also arrived this week along with the funky patio set. I would love to see the table and chairs inside rather than out and the birdcage taking center stage on a mantle or buffet. The vignettes one can assemble inside are endless!

And finally, some unexpected jewelry here at the Sofa: chunky, ethnic pendants on leather straps. Grab a white tank top and you're done!

FYI: Our SOFA SALE starts August 18th. This new loveseat just arrived (along with two other pieces) so we are getting ready for you.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Designing Kansas City

Recently my retail friend, Karen from Rochester, came to visit me on her way to the Atlanta market. We only had two days to hang out but I managed to cram it full by showing her the best of the best in eating and shopping here in Kansas City. I also had the August copy of Kansas City Home Design (KCHD) magazine which has a current story about me and the store.

(click on photos below to enlarge text)
Karen was blown away by this magazine and when I told her K.C. has about four other home design publications she was floored. She continued to be impressed by the size of Kansas City- from Blue Springs (home of American Idol David Cook), to Briarcliff (home of the new Nell Hills), downtown in the bohemian Crossroads (where Curious Sofa began), south to 119th (with our new West Elm and the incredible Apple store), Olathe (home of the soon to be crowned HGTV Next Design Star Jennifer Bertrand) and on to Prairie Village (that's me), Fairway, Brookside with lots of great Stuff; Crestwood Shops, 45th & State Line Antique Row, 39th Street, Westport and then ending our evening at the Classic Cup on our legendary Country Club Plaza. All of us in K.C. take these small neighborhood districts for granted as Karen wasn't the first to tell me she had nothing like this to choose from in her town. What this also shows is that for the small independent retailer, there are many tempting shopping districts to choose from if you want to open a store- and we have many great ones.

I have come to learn that outsiders think if the word 'Kansas' is in the title they think there are miles of flat prairie, cows and cornfields everywhere. Well sure, that's here but not inside the city! We are a widespread booming metropolis and although a little behind the style radar, we managed to finally get a Crate and Barrel, Dean & Deluca, Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters and so much more.

We are also a town for outstanding antique junkin'. We have great antique malls in every corner of the city and beyond. I haven't even listed here the great small towns less than 40 minutes out of the city limits for great weekend antiquing. (Parkville, Weston, Lexington, Greenwood, Topeka, St. Joe).

The staff told me recently that we had some retail visitors from St. Louis who were not finding anything to resell. Sorry! But you need a good guide to show you the best haunts. It is just like any city- you have to be shown around by someone who shops a lot and knows where everything is. The 'average' person does not know, nor does the hotel concierge or local cab driver!

Two years ago I cringed when I ran into the editorial staff from Country Living magazine at the High Point market. They said they were on their way to scout my home town and I was worried that 'just anyone' was going to show them around K.C.- so I jumped at the chance and when they arrived, I wore them ragged. As I was driving them to their hotel, at 11:30 on the last night of our scout, I said, "Wait! I forgot to show you 39th Street!" I drove past frantically through this neighborhood, talking a mile a minute, explaining this shop and that restaurant and Monica the travel editor looked dazed and confused at Frances Bailey (the features editor) and said dead pan to her, "You got that?" I knew my time was up!

Anyway, many of you write and say you have visited our town before or want to. My goal in the next year is to have a page on our website to show you where to stay, shop, junk, eat and so on. If ever there is a time to visit Curious Sofa it is during Halloween (premiers September 6) or Christmas (Open House November 8)- so plan ahead! Everything may not be 100% up to date in Kansas City, but- I will make it worth your while for a long weekend.

Note: A week ago, in the local newspaper this article ran:
Please email and tell them of your local favorites and why. (You can start with us if you like!)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Design Obsessed

I returned last Monday from the Atlanta gift market to find that my beloved Bichon Pearl, had tried to chew her leg off while I was gone. Actually, the babysitter took her to the vet and found the dreaded summer 'hot spot' on her leg from heat, allergy or whatever. I had never heard of such a thing as she had remained unscathed up until this point, but I trust in Leslie her caretaker to do what is necessary to fix her up.

(Canine Reenactment)

I open Leslie's door to find my 12 pound ball of fluff with one of those hideous e-collars on her neck and I gasped at the bad design of it all- not to mention the fact that Pearl was paralyzed with shame or fear at what the heck she was wearing. (If mother like daughter she wanted this bad style removed immediately!) This hard white plastic shell was so big she couldn't walk and just stood and stared at me with that, "Are you kidding me with this?" look.

I immediately took it off of her knowing that my good parenting would keep her from itching or chewing more fur from her leg. When we got home I kept a watch on her but knew this medical collar might have to be used while she was sleeping. I decided to trim it down so she could walk better, and well- one thing lead to another and I found myself getting out the hole punch to make eyelets, scalloping the edges for flair and a few silk ribbons for a well needed feminine touch. The results...

You already know I am not a fan of cute or pink or ruffles but hey, she's a white powder puff so who better to pull off this look? Little did I know I could have taken a fabulous old lampshade and achieved the same results! We we're rolling at the store as I couldn't help but compare her resemblance to Gone With the Winds' Aunt Pittypat!

Good for a laugh even at Pearls expense.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Grey Gardens

I was interviewed recently for a local Home Design magazine and was thrilled with the layout and photos they used from the store. It's weird for me to read things I say in a magazine as I always hope the reader understands what I mean in the right context. In this interview I was asked about my use of color (or lack of) and what my current favorite texture is: my answer? Driftwood. I decided to share my current passion for all things grey.

Maybe it comes from my photography background but things are just more dramatic or emotional to me when you can concentrate on tones, shades, hues and texture and not intense pigment.

The grey and neutral tones of this room scene turn opulent with the touches of gold.

Nothing is better than the patina of concrete, stone or plaster statuary.

This is a swatch from a linen tablecloth but could easily be wallpaper.

Some may think wearing grey would make you look washed out but I say it's all in the construction (note all the great stitching, pockets and details). A grey wardrobe can also be accessorized with tons of silver, brass or gold jewelry for interest and will always look great with a small pop of color like pink or turquoise.

Whether it is zinc, pot metal or galvanized- dusty old pots only get better with age.

From Elie Saab and this wedding dress from the current Paris couture collections. Imagine with a bouquet of deep red roses....

Grey bedding is also the perfect mix with white sheets and men will love it!

And the classic of course- grey flannel suit.

Is there anything classier than grey hair with grey clothes? Instant chic.

I often wonder why car colors are so boring- although there are plenty of greys to choose from.

Another lovely creation without color. Imagine how garish this would have been in red. I also adore how the grey neutral shoe can make the leg look longer and so elegant.

Even reproduction art can seem authentic and expensive in neutral tones.

Like the color white, there are a thousand shades of grey.

Environmental artist John Dahlsen uses driftwood to create art.

I also love when greys turn to shades of blue.

I love the dirty color beige lace over grey used here.

Is this an ombre cat?

Mother Nature always does it best... a rare grey Labrador!