Tuesday, March 29, 2022

At Home with Designers and Tastemakers

This blog post written and produced by Valorie Hart

It's been a long time since I have done a bona fide blog post. Like many, I "evolved" to Instagram and Facebook. Scrolling, not reading has become most popular. In recognition of all the old time bloggers that started a like minded community of decor and design enthusiasts, I'm doing a blog post. One of those bloggers is Stacey Bewkes of quintessenceblog.com 

Stacey started blogging in 2011 (I started in 2008) and added fabulous house tours (At Home With)  beautifully produced and edited videos, forerunners of what we now think of as vlogs. She started this endeavor with her partner, the author of many, many wonderful design books, Susanna Salk. Susanna says, "I had only met Stacey for a couple of minutes when I had the idea for our video series. Of course, I already followed the much revered blog Quninessence". Susanna is the on-camera person guiding the tours and interacting with the homeowners (who for the most part are designers, decorators, and what we now refer to as tastemakers). Stacey is behind the camera, video and still. You can find these delightful videos on Quintessence, and on it's own YouTube channel: Quintessence YouTube.

Partners Susanna Salk and Stacey Bewkes

I have seen everyone of these videos. Millions have viewed them too. Every time I am captivated, inspired, and transported. So now these two have done a fabulous book together based on the videos. I used to screen capture images from the videos for my photo collection file. The quality was lacking to say the least, but I often gladly referred to these poor things. Now we have Stacey's beautiful photos in a book to have and to hold, along with Susanna's always charming, chatty, and informative writing. Wow!

At Home with Designers and Tastemakers by Susanna Salk and Stacey Bewkes published by Rizolli


From the moment you open the book with the beautiful end papers of the Schumacher wallpaper print "Plates and Platters" first seen tacked to the kitchen walls in the video house tour of Johnson Hartig's Los Angeles home, you know this book is going to be exciting. Susanna has the wonderful viewpoint of us using things seen in these marvelous homes, reinventing a version of them in one's own space. She tacked a yard of this wallpaper to her own kitchen wall, and I in turn cobbled together a few samples of it, and stapled it above my stove after I saw the video. The whole idea of paying forward beauty is a continuation of the way the bloggers of yesteryear shared ideas and encouragement.

Sixteen homes are featured in the book. A couple of my favorites are not included, Ken Fulk's in Provincetown, and Christopher Spitzmiller's Clove Brook Farm. To be fair Spitzmiller has his own fantastic coffee table book of the farm, and Fulk's body of work has also been widely published. It must of been very hard to narrow it down to just sixteen. Maybe At Home2 will be forthcoming (fingers crossed). 

I "know" so many of the sweet sixteen from following their work over the years. The tagline for the title of the book is "Creating Beautiful and Personal Interiors". It's always rewarding to see how designers decorate for themselves. The common denominator is a love of beauty, of travel, of high class hoarding collecting, of entertaining, of art, of friends and family, of wit and humor, of years of experience, of a love of books, of a love of gardens.... Many of us can relate. Even though their are some deeper pockets than we mere mortals might have, the creativity if there for the taking. I love expensive wallpaper and I was only able to use it once in my bedroom in my New Orleans home, a mural from Anthropologie that coincidentally Susanna used in her son's bedroom. Otherwise I stapled inexpensive fabric to my walls, and lately did a a wall in my living room of stapled up wrapping paper with a whiff of DeGournay chinoiserie.

Jill Sharp Weeks has always been generous corresponding when I reached out to her since her days at Ballard - Even though we never met I feel the connection as I do with many of you. Her Charleston home featured in the book is a thoughtful study of the natural and organic.

Besides my admiration for this book, I admire Susanna and Stacey for sharing their vision. They financed the videos (travel, etc.) from their own pockets. They came together in their love of beautiful places. Their "overnight" success many years in the making is well deserved. My work with the photographer Sara Essex Bradley is like this. We have shared ten years of producing articles and books of things that inspire and excite us, and that we want to share.


As you scroll through these few images from the book I have added here, Susanna's home, Martin and Karen Cooper, Lulu Powers, Johnson Hartig, be excited to get the book to treasure for years to come. It will be a great reference source, an inspiring read, an impetus to recharge your home decor, and just generally fun and uplifting. 

I dedicate this return from the blog crypt to the wonderful community of bloggers past and present. So many of you have stayed in touch with The Visual Vamp for so many years, and I am grateful.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Orange Drapes

Orange is a color that remains popular for drapes. Here in New Orleans silk taffeta, or silk drapes still rule the day. Not everyone has the budget, and I have been using a faux silk drapes found at Overstock, Half-Price Drapes, and through Houzz. Right now Houzz is having a great sale on these drapes.

The trick is to have custom rods and rings made. I use Shading Places, (985) 373-4134, ask for Jennifer. My rod of choice is  return to the wall.

Here's the link to Houzz sale. 
And the link to Overstock.
Also the link to Half Price Drapes.

Usually when a sale like this is so widespread the merchandise is about to be discontinued. So get them now!

The high end drapes in the second picture were made by Perch. Shading Places also does beautiful high end drapes, and is part of my team. The "low" end drapes in first photo are from Overstock and are also sold via Houzz.

Faux silk drapes in Harvest Orange I used for a client on a budget - Interior Design by Valorie Hart

High end drapes in apricot silk I had custom made for a client - Interior Design by Valorie Hart

Friday, February 3, 2017

7 Southern Designers With the Best Pinterest Account

Lost in the endless inspiration scroll? Follow our favorites.
ZoĆ« Gowen 
Reprinted from Southern Living

Pinterest is a pretty gigantic place to navigate. It only takes following a few overly zealous or off-target pinners to ruin your personal inspiration board. Hats off to these seven that never fail to deliver thoughtfully edited Southern decorating ideas.
Holly Phillips @TheEnglishRoom – This Charlotte, North Carolina-based designer and blogger has an eclectic eye for vintage, but she always pins rooms that are still squarely Southern. The colors combos alone in her staggering 73k pins are reason enough to follow her.
Alice Waters – Truth be told, I was looking for the famed chef Alice Waters in search of soulful and healthy recipe ideas. Turns out, I had the wrong Alice Waters, but this Alice who is based in Fort Worth, Texas is way more up my alley. I’m also unsure if she’s actually a designer, but I’m making an exception because her boards are always right on point to satisfy (or ignite) any home dream of mine. Her Architecture and Exterior boards are my favorites to ponder.
Valorie Hart – If you’re looking for New Orleans style to come alive via Pinterest, this is your account. From the kooky, to the colorful, to to-die-for antiques, Valorie’s pinterest is one exciting show not to be missed.
Gadabout – This Pinterest account is the inspiration playground for South Carolina-born, Louisville, Kentucky-based graphic designer Hanna Seabrook a well-known graphic designer behind the company, Gadabout. On her pinterest, you’ll find homes and interiors with a fresh, yet aged-look – quite possibly the ultimate compliment to give any Southerner about their home.
Parker Kennedy – Palm Beach preppy ideas galore are sourced throughout these boards from this Atlanta-based design duo. It’s nearly impossible not to follow an entire board with 1103 pins devoted to bamboo. More practical sounding boards like “Chic Appliances and Fixtures” and “Fences” are also seriously helpful.
Elly Poston Our list wouldn’t be complete without mention of our own former Associate Decorating Editor. Her boards are fun for anyone to peruse, but in-the-trench decorators will appreciate her board “Decorating Details.” Non-decorators can think of this board as a free design service.
Helen Ballard – You may recognize the name. Yes, she’s the lady who founded Ballard Designs. As you’d expect, her Pinterest pages are filled with ethereal and European-rooted design ideas. If you love the natural look, follow her now.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Report From The 2017 NOLA Home Show

Home shows are so much fun for people who love to decorate, design, renovate, and build. The 2017 NOLA Home Show has some great vendors for you to check out. The show runs from January 27-29 at the New Orleans Morial Convention Center in Hall I. Hours are 10AM - 8PM on Saturday and 10AM - 6 PM on Sunday. There is free admission for Baton Rouge residents in light of the flooding they experienced this past August. I'll be a guest speaker at 1 PM on Sunday on The Williams Sonoma Stage and signing my book House Proud at booth 139 after my presentation. Hope to see you there!

Here are some of my favorites at the show...

The women from Spruce have a spiffy booth showing off beautiful wallpaper and fabrics

Canal Furniture Liquidators is one of my favorite places to shop in New Orleans

Valerie from Canal Furniture Liquidators-Go stop by and say hello-Tell her I sent you

I may have to pick up a pair of these sconces at Canal Furniture Liquidators

Cute patio furniture from At Home The Furniture Superstore

Some fab gem blingy handles from Legend Interiors

Williams Sonoma has a spiffy booth at the 2017 NOLA Home SHow

There are cooking demos all day with local New Orleans chefs at the 2017 NOLA Home Show

Furnish has some lovely handcrafted furniture

This lush garden was created by Four Seasons Groundworks

We love our gaslights in Louisiana and Flambeaux has a great exhibit

One exhibitor near the entrance is selling these beautiful wooden spoons

Custom Outdoor Concepts has an imrpressive exhibit

Even a home show needs some glam and Glitz Galore has some cute things

May Photography has some great art

The guys from The Factory were busy on their construction art

Only in New Orleans! A bar to provide you with an adult beverage while you check out the exhibits

The Williams Sonoma Home Stage - I'll be speaking here on Sunday January 29 at 1 PM

Come over to booth 139 where I will be signing my book House Proud on Sunday at 1:30

Thursday, January 26, 2017

NOLA Home Show 2017

The NOLA Home Show is so much fun for anyone who loves design, decorating, and renovating. Tons of exhibitors show their stuff and offer a wealth of ideas. What a great way to spend a day to get inspired for your projects or just for fun. We visual vamps love to look at anything to do with design!

I will be a guest speaker on Friday, January 27th at 1 PM, and then again on Sunday, January 29 at 3 PM. I'll be signing my book House Proud too! So come on out and ask me anything!

Get $3. off online ticket price by entering promo code VHART

It's Been Awhile

I dropped off the blogging scene nearly three years ago. My husband Alberto Paz passed away then. It's been quite a ride on the wave of grief. Alberto was very much responsible for me creating this blog, and he was a constant supporter and cheerleader. With him gone, I felt there was no purpose for much of anything. Many of you have written to me, from that first awful day to the present, always checking in on me, and even asking me to start blogging on The Visual Vamp again. I appreciate your kindness more than you can imagine, and I thank you for it.

What have been doing for the last three years? Healing. Moving on. I've been working on decor and design and projects and styling jobs. I've kept writing for New Orleans Homes & Lifestyles magazine. I've kept teaching tango. I've traveled a bit, renewing old acquaintances. I had a wonderful job as one of the lead designers for Susan Holland Events (SHE) doing the decor for one of the last state dinners the Obamas hosted at The White House. It was wonderful to work with Susan again, and a thrill and an honor to be in the presence of the Obamas.

Friends and family have bolstered me up. Cholo and Kitty Bang Bang are still at my side. I've been on Facebook all along if you care to look in.

Anyway I'm back. And I hope to reconnect with many of you again. xo xo

Friday, April 3, 2015

India Hicks Island Style

With so much of the country having a long hard winter lasting into spring, I almost feel guilty about the warm weather in New Orleans. This is the perfect time of year when soft breezes from the gulf blow across the city fragrant with spring blossoms. It feels expansive and beach like, especially in the balmy early mornings.

Sipping coffee on my patio, I pour over the book "India Hicks Island Style". India Hicks with all her royal connections and accomplishments comes off as one of us. And by us I mean those who love to decorate and entertain and take pictures and love their life (and friends and family) and share the fruits of their labor.

There are so many lovely vignettes in the book. India and husband David have a myriad of interesting collections that are lovingly displayed throughout their Caribbean home. The party decor she creates for at home gatherings is fun and creative, and I think very inspirational (steal the look!) and something we could attempt.

This book reads like a visual family album. I keep going back to it, finding so many pieces of happiness. The press release says, "India Hicks Island Style offers a wondrous blend of her design philosophy and practical advice. Witty, inspirational, and beautifully photographed, this book will enchant and transport readers...". I agree! Add it to your summer reading list, or bring it as the perfect hostess gift.

India Hicks: Island Style by India Hicks, Rizzoli New York, 2015
Photography by one of my favorites, Miguel Flores Vianna (photos courtesy of Rizzoli)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Preservation Resource Center 2015 Shotgun House Tour

PRC 2015 Shotgun House Tour - 2 days - Saturday March 28 and Sunday March 29
You know Spring has arrived in New Orleans when the annual PRC Shotgun House Tour takes place. This year it's back in my neighborhood, The Irish Channel. The weather is going to be perfect and all the homes are unique and will give you plenty of great ideas about renovating and decorating. The tour benefits the Education Department at the PRC. Buy your tickets HERE or the day of the tour at Nadeau Funiture for the Soul on the corner of Magazine and Washington, the tour headquarters.

You can see a Sneak Peek of the PRC 2015 Shotgun House Tour in a nice video clip at WGNO.

Here is my sneak peek in photos (photos by Sara Essex Bradley). Please come and support the PRC, and come and see me too. My home is on the tour for the second time. The first time was several years ago, and some things remain the same, but so much has changed too.

You can read more about all the houses and homeowners in Preservation in Print magazine

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