Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Under The Tree

As fellow visual vamps and design-centric folks, I am sure you all think about what you put under the Christmas tree. Of course by Christmas Eve the presents that are to be given are usually piled up there. Since trees are up for many weeks before that, the space under the tree is important decor real estate.

Under my tree - Tiffany boxes and reindeer

In the old days, a train set, or a Christmas village was the thing to do. I fondly remember both from my childhood. I especially loved the village complete with a mirror used as an ice skating pond, and all the little cast iron metal figures sledding down snowy hills my mother made. It was magical.

Train sets under the Christmas tree were really popular from the 1930's to the 1960's

As home fashions shifted, my mother had a "decorator tree" in the living room. It was white or silver, and had one size ornament in one pastel color. She wrapped fake presents in one type of matching paper and ribbons to be used as the under-the-tree decor. We all thought it was swank and elegant.

Fake presents under the  designer Christmas tree - use one type of wrapping paper and ribbon - Brown paper is great

Another designer tree with a playful group of little animals under it

In our playroom, there was the old family tree of the past. Green - cluttered with colored lights and every ornament we ever had, tinsel, and of course the train set and the Christmas village. We opened our gifts in the living room by the fancy tree, but once the gifts were opened, we took them all to the playroom and hung out by what became known as the kids tree.

I loved the Christmas village under the tree when I was a child

This year I have two main trees, and six mini trees scattered inside and out. I do the fake gift thing, and a couple of playful elements too.

What do you do under your tree? Perhaps, Mommy kissing Santa Claus?

My second main tree - I use a huge garden urn to hold it - Fake presents are wrapped in wallpaper I found at a yard sale for $1. - I usually use brown paper - I embellish the gifts with ribbons, ornaments, and seasonal foliage - The snowmen are dancing in a New Orleans Second Line, a playful element for sure -  I spy Kitty Kitty Bang Bang, who is really the most playful element under the tree - Even designer trees should be playful and magical

The Visual Vamp decorates under the Christmas tree


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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Leftovers Are Gone

People always ask us if we have a crowd at our house for Thanksgiving. Surprisingly we don't. When we first moved to New Orleans, I tried to bring some of my New York ways with me. One of the things New Yorkers do at holiday time is have "orphans" Thanksgiving and Christmas. So many transplanted people live in New York, and often do not go to the families where they come from for the holidays. It was very easy for me to host a dinner for 20 to 50 people without blinking an eye.

I set up a buffet on the island in the kitchen - I picked greens from the garden and filled a vase, and also put some down as a "tablecloth" - I have a huge collection of white platters from my old days of hosting huge "orphans" holiday dinners in New York - the large oval one is from my friends Puchong & David who now live in Seoul, Korea

I managed to get about 15 people for our first Thanksgiving in New Orleans. We lived in the French Quarter then, and I invited everyone in our apartment building to come. and our new friends Sabina and Joe brought along some friends too. Our apartment was very small, so we set up a table in the old brick courtyard, and we all dined beneath the banana trees to the sound of a trickling fountain. I was off to a great start!

The food is set out on the platters - Turducken, Stuffing, Green Beans Almondine, and Cranberries

We left the Quarter and moved Uptown to open a dance studio. We managed to pull together a couple of large tables of folks. I had a huge dining room, and could open my table up to seat 14 people. Neighbors, Sabina and Joe, and a few tango folks filled out the table. Our families don't have the means to travel to us.

First course of charbroiled oysters - I took the oyster plates down from the wall

Charbroiled oysters - Yummy!

After Katrina things changed. Friends were displaced and left New Orleans. Spirits were low for a couple of years. We found ourselves pretty much on our own. New Orleans is a family place, and holidays tend to be for family only. So we started to to have our holidays une table pour deux.

Pumpkin Trifle for dessert - Renae Moore posted the recipe - I changed it up a bit, using lemon poppy seed cake and no added sugar - I also used fresh whipped cream spiked with vanilla, and sprinkled crumbled Amaretti cookies on top

At first it was bittersweet. We wished family was here, or we were there. I longed for those New York days of a house filled with "orphans". The last two Thanksgivings have been more enjoyable than ever, with "just" the two of us. We have started to prefer it. We cook, we laugh, we eat, we talk, and we enjoy each others company more than ever.

Alberto cooking on Thanksgiving

As you can see, there is plenty of food, and room at the table. So if you ever find yourself orphaned in New Orleans for the holidays, you are very welcome to share our happy times.


The Visual Vamp and Cholo on Thanksgiving

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Monday, November 28, 2011

The Fashionista Christmas Tree

Tiffany, Hermes, Burberry, Oh My!

Learn how to get a high fashion look when you trim your tree this year. Go to Houzz for all the ideas and shopping links.

Hermes Christmas tree as seen in the current issue of W Magazine - Go to Houzz for another idea


Burberry is the classic plaid inspiration, but Tommy Hilfiger would be fab too

The Visual Vamp Tiffany Christmas Tree 2011

Cassandra from Coco Kelley just got a black Christmas tree! Just like the LBD! What fashion tree ideas do you have?

The LBD of Christmas trees!

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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Nary A Lump

A thankful heart is a happy heart
Two happy hearts are twice as thankful


Hotel silver napkin rings

We're thankful for our blessings all
The happy memories we recall
For time, which every heartache mends
And oh, we're thankful for our friends
Real abundance is found when we embrace those we love




May your stuffing be tasty, may your turkey be plump
May your potatoes ‘n gravy have nary a lump
May your yams be delicious, may your pies take the prize
May your Thanksgiving dinner stay off of your thighs
May your heart lead your feet when the dancing resumes

It's just the two of us - Stop by! Plenty for everyone!

Happy Thanksgiving!
Alberto and Valorie

The Visual Vamp Thanksgiving table
Cholo waits for dinner

Cholo and Kitty Kitty Bang Bang wait for Thanksgiving dinner

 Go to Susan's Between Naps on the Porch for Tablescape Thursdays, a dedicated group who week after week set beautiful tables and share friendship...

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

New Orleans Homes And Lifestyles

There's a great shelter magazine here in New Orleans, New Orleans Homes and Lifestyles. Check out the Winter 2011 issue, and especially a story called "Artfully Done". Go HERE to read more and see more pictures.

"Artfully Done", story and styling by Valorie Hart, photos by Sara Essex Bradley

And save the dates December 10 and 11 for The Preservation Resource Center Holiday House Tour.
New Orleans Homes and Lifestyles has a nice round up of photos of the homes on this years tour.


One of the homes on the PRC Holiday House Tour





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Monday, November 21, 2011

Whatever Happened With Miles Redd Green?

It all started with the ceiling falling in. The bedroom had not been painted in seven years. So why not change the color, along with the ceiling repair? The Veranda cover featuring Miles Redd with its green wall beckoned. The green bedroom of Sara Silverman done by FORM Interior Design inspired. Nick Olsen's love of emerald green tickled my fancy.

After all was said and done, and all the paint samples collected and put on the wall, the all green bedroom was not the way to go. With only one window in the room, the color wasn't so much the issue, as what the lack of light did to the color. It would have been like living in a terrarium.

This is how it turned out!

Onto Plan Z. I painted the walls greige. My Vamp Greige that I have used over and over again for myself and for design projects for others. BORING?! Yes and no.


Greige walls with green accents -  A peek inside the door of The Visual Vamp's "new" bedroom - This is how it looked in transition to the fianal look

Determined to use the gorgeous greens I collected, I switched gears and decided to use them as an accent. First up was the Nanjing Toile, with props to Tobi Fairley. I saw photos from a show house she did, and while show houses are usually the stuff of make believe, I thought the vibrant green on a new padded headboard would be the major green moment in the room.

The other side of the room - You can see the greige walls with the hand painted green diamonds done by Mitchell Settoon

Equally important was the idea to hand paint pattern on the walls, using green of course. I had the idea of doing a huge diamond pattern. Ring-ring, I called fellow blogger and my friend Mitchell Settoon, a crackerjack designer and inspired decorative painter. Both of us are not that great in the exact science of straight lines and the uber precise painting of them. I suggested a free hand approach, so the lines would look hand painted, perfect in their imperfection. Doors and bump-outs got the pattern too. I think Mitchell did an awesome job. The hint of green of the greige walls gave me the best of both worlds.


The chevron rug provides more color cues to play with - Cholo loves it!

I purchased two chevron pattern rugs, a real bargain I could not pass up HERE. There are two put together to look like one large rug. The colors in the rug gave lots of opportunity to play, and pull them into the rest of the room. The turquoise silk drapes I already had, came back into the room. They work really well with rug.

The nightstands were painted a vibrant green

I painted the nightstands the same color as the green lines on the walls. A TV armoire got repurposed elsewhere as a linen press, The two dressers remained and got rearranged. The larger flat screen from the living room got moved in on top of one of the dresses. The chaise lounge was purchased three years ago, and moved around the house first in the living room, and then in the guest bedroom. It is a tricky piece of furniture to make fit, and I think it finally found it's proper home. I also moved some huge mirrors out, replacing one with a smaller one over one dresser, and creating a gallery wall where the other one was.

The TV armoire is replaced by one of the dressers -   Now that the chaise is in here we use the room more - Note how the pattern continues on the doors

The flat screen is where the old armoire used to be

The chaise moved in

I found this green box in the closet and used it to elevate a basket of throws

The gallery wall over the chaise

The smaller mirror over the dresser

The Lucite tray Nicole Cohen made for Alberto

The guest room lamps with their bright shades came into the room, and the art work over the new headboard changed too. I hung three fabulous Philip Mayberry/Scott Walker platters over the bed. I have had these for twenty years, and never had a place to hang all three together.

Philip Maberry/Scott Walker platters over the Nanjing toile headboard - lamps with red shades moved in from guest room - Dwell Studio Hedgerow bedding - I over dyed the little Dwell Studio pillows and the Ikea duvet covers green

The guest room Dwell Studio bedding came into the room, and I over dyed two little Dwell Studio pillows and an Ikea Duvet in green. Later on I'll post the changes in the guest room. It is so great when you shop your house, and flip things around. It totally makes things new and fresh again.

Detail of over dyed throw and chevron rug - I spy some little kitty feet!

The bedroom now, is so much an expression of us - lots of unexpected color and patterns, and it's totally comfortable, even more than before. We really like the chaise and the bigger flat screen in the room. The room is much more useful as a bedroom and a sitting room.

Kitty Kitty Bang Bang loves the new room

Many of you think I change things all the time. It seems that way, but really the changes happen over the years. I use my home as my style lab, trying things out before I  do them for a paying customer. Also as repairs come up in this old house, opportunities present themselves for a change or two.

The Miles Redd Veranda cover that started me down the green slippery slope

I'm writing a decor book for Gliterrati; doing freelance writing assignments; doing local TV home decor spots; styling and doing some design projects; and still teaching tango. My time is flexible, and my own. It still takes effort and planning and energy to do the home projects, and  it is something Alberto and I enjoy doing.

Master Bedroom of Valorie Hart The Visual Vamp - November 2011
But it ended up like this!
This is the final finished  version of the room - I added a fabric wall and dust skirt in emerald green, a slipcover for the bench in  the Nanjing Jade, white lamp shades trimmed in black gross grain ribbon, four prints of Hermes Kelly bags done by Anne Harwell of Annechovie, and new white bedding with black trim and monograms
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To see what other bloggers are up to check out:  Mod Mix Mondays at Mod Vintage Life, and Metamorphosis Monday at Between Naps on the Porch.


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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Nanjing Toile Headboard

The master bedroom has been refreshed. The walls are painted, some furniture moved, and a couple of new accessories added.

The former headboard was comprised of two ends of an antique daybed mounted on the wall. The update is a padded headboard, purchased HERE. It is a basic white duck headboard, that got recovered in Schumacher Nanjing in a color called jade, but actually looks more emerald green.

This inexpensive headboard comes in three sections

We traced the shape of the headboard on some paper. A rubbing was made using a pencil to get the impression of the mounting hardware. Then we taped the paper headboard on the wall and used a nail to mark where the holes had to be made for the screws to hold the headboard to the wall.

Paper template of the headboard was used to mark where the mounting screws would go


In no time at all, and with a little fiddling around, the new headboard was up on the wall.

The new headboard mounted on the wall - The fabric is Schumacher Nanjing Toile - Leonels did the upholstery job

I think it turned out great!  It's all a part of my green thing that I wrote about HERE

The new headboard with the bed made up with Dwell Studio Hedgerow

Te Nanjing toile is beautiful, but it is a challenge coordinating bed linens. I cannot afford to do the whole matchy-matchy thing using more Nanjing for a coverlet. So I looked at what I had, and rotated the guest bedroom bedding, the beautiful Dwell Studio Hedgerow print shams and duvet. The persimmon color plays off the emerald green really well. And the print looks like like a larger more expanded modern toile. I'll move the other Dwell Studio bedding I used in the master bedroom (Peacock in citrine) into the guest room.

Designer Sara Richardson boasts that she usually uses no less than a dozen different prints in a room, so I thought the trick is to mix in several prints with the toile. I would love  to add the Dwell Studio Draper Stripe sheets in the new color they have called Poppy.

Dwell Studio Draper sheets in Poppy - Don't you think they'd look great with the Nanjing toile?!


Would you like to see the rest of the bedroom???? Stay tuned.

This is how the bedroom looked before - note the headboard and the Dwell Studio Peacock bedding that has been changed for Dwell Studio Hedgerow -  this photo by Sara Essex Bradley - all others (except Dwell Draper Stripe) by Valorie Hart


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