Friday, October 30, 2009

Shop Keepers Homes 5

In this edition of Shop Keepers Homes, I give you Andrew and Shannon Newsom, proprietors of the online emporium Wistera. They also have a blog HERE.

These two have impeccable design pedigrees that come down family lines. Andrew's is Lisa Newsom, editor of Veranda; and Shannon's is Jane Moore, a Houston interior designer and antiques dealer. The couple also share a dedication to social change, evident in the catalog's devotion to a different nonprofit group in each issue.
They are experts at romancing the home.

Once upon a time this newly married couple looked for, but couldn’t find, beautiful antiques and decorative objects to furnish their first home—at least, not at a price they could afford.

So they got the idea of starting a catalog to offer such merchandise, which became a web site, and, in classic Internet start-up style from its earliest origins at a kitchen table, was born. got started on this kitchen table marries high-touch sensibilities that distinguish its catalog to the high-tech sales medium of the web.

Andrew is president of the company, and co-founder Shannon, writes most of the catalog copy that also goes on the site. She brings a distinctive first-person voice to the company that offers a tip of the hat to the early Banana Republic and J. Peterman catalogs in its ability to not just sell, but romance a product.

Inventory is sourced from around the world. By finding small, local suppliers in Third World countries, the Newsoms have found a way to keep prices lower than for comparable goods produced elsewhere, while offering the unusual and unique in a spare, clean-looking and easy to navigate site.

“Pottery Barn sells great products, but given the measure of their business, they have to be standardized in what they sell,” Andrew says. “We are small enough that we can find and sell 200 to 400 units. A huge company couldn’t do that.”

The artful photography that characterizes the catalog loses nothing in its translation to the web site, and the web medium makes contributes of its own: incremental sales and a younger customer.

Market research had determined that Wisteria’s core customer contains a large group of those in their 50s. “That catalog buyer has both disposable income and time,” says Andrew. “My sense is our Internet audience has disposable income, is decorating their first home, but doesn’t have a lot of time. They get online at night after they put their kids to bed and they shop then, because it’s more convenient.”

Internet sales are increasing in dollar volume and as a percentage of overall sales.
“There’s an opportunity here to go deeper than our catalog in telling more about the products and the story of the brand,” says Andrew.

All images (except for the top three which are from the Wisteria catalog) are of the home of Shannon and Andrew Newsom, and are from the hot new design book Swedish Country Interiors by Rhonda Eleish and Edie Van Breems. The book is not only filled with beautiful images, but with very insightful writing on the subject. You'll really learn something when you read this book by two of the foremost experts on 18th and 19th century Swedish antiques. Buy it HERE or at your local book store.

Some of this post is excerpted from various web sources.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Guest Blogger - Dina Kucera

Well the fat lady is singing , and it's over. This Yankee lost the South by 31 votes.
Frankly I'm a little relieved. It was alot of work campaigning and asking for votes.
I thank all of you for the thousands of votes I got over the past few weeks. And I really thank you for putting up with the horrible login and voting system at Apartment Therapy.
A special shout out to Gina from Willow Decor for putting up a post about me yesterday.
And thanks to my Alberto for working so hard for me on this project.

I'm sure you need a little break from me, so today I am presenting guest blogger Dina Kucera. She's a wife, a mom, a stand up comedienne, a writer and occasional blogger HERE.

Losing Is A Feeling, Not An Event
By Dina Kucera

I see a little boy, six or seven, wearing a baseball uniform. I ask if he played a game. He said yes. I asked if he won. He said, "We don't have winners or losers." I thought, oh yes you do sweetie. Your parents are lying to you, sugar.
I look up at his father and he says, "They just have fun playing the game without all the completion." What?

When I was a kid, we had winners and we had losers. Period. Sometimes you won. Sometimes you lost. The key is finding the thing that you win at the most. Wondering if you would win or loose WAS the fun of the game.
Mentally handling 'winning' was easy. You smile and coast through your sweet life until the next challenge. If you were deemed a 'loser', your brain went into automatic 'wait until we meet again, I will annihilate you if it kills me'. It's called competition and it is something we face every single day of our lives. You may be six or you may be sixty, we all crave that feeling of winning.
When I was in the ninth grade I was a gymnast. There was another girl on the team named Andrea. We were in constant competition to beat one another. I could not miss one day of school because Andrea might learn a great stunt while I was out. One day Andrea said to me, "Your socks are inside out." This provoked me into channeling Nadia Cominich and becoming the greatest gymnast that cafeteria has ever seen. Shortly after that, still in ninth grade, I was pregnant with my first child and quit school which a another story. But who really won? Andrea? I think she went on to college and got a law degree. Big deal Andrea. Your dress is inside out.
My point is that it's wrong to try and shield the kids from any sad emotion.
They don't have winners or losers?
You can not function in the world without knowing how to respond to losing. It's the same as hearing the word 'no'. It's everyday of our life, it's a part of our life, it is life.
A sports guy said, and I quote, "Show me a good loser and I'll show you a loser."

You know who had this attitude? Nadia Cominich. All the greats! Michael Phelps! Robert Downey Jr.! Bea Arthur! They all wanted to win! And they did! Michael Phelps didn't say, "I just have fun flipping around in the water in my speedo." Are you kidding? He said, "I will win."

So let's get out there! Get that parking spot! (In a courteous way).
Take your place in the grocery store line! (If it is truly your turn).
Whiten your teeth and smile at everyone!
Never allow your husband to win an argument!
Wake him up and remind him you won the argument!
Let's get out there and kick some ass!

Because guess what! There are winners! And there are losers!
And unless I have to paint a picture or make something out of clay or balance a checkbook, I am a winner! I won! How do you like that Andrea!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Apples and Oranges Debate

It's ANOTHER day of voting. You have to do it AGAIN TODAY. So Stop reading, come back later and PLEASE vote HERE now!

It's do or die! There are two entries left in the South, and this transplanted damn Yankee is one of them!
Let's hear a whoop whoop for New Orleans queen of the South!
But now I must get tough and compare my room against the other.

Mine(above) is truly better! Really! Step into my office. Just look at that KELLY BAG on the pouf! See the WHITE COW HIDE RUG! Aren't you swooning for those lamps with silk shades from PARIS!!! And the original Jack Mayberry painting called "Map". Of course a custom slip cover in CHARTREUSE on the comfy VINTAGE wing chair.

Theirs (above): How could a chrome lamp beat out silk lampshades from Paris. And a wire chair! Hello waffle butt! No more wire chairs ever!

Mine (below) has great book shelves styled perfectly! Check out the BRAYTON blackamoor, the antique Italian BOTANICALS, the fabulous CHANDELIER, and if you go to a larger image theres a framed photo of AUDREY HEPBURN that is a personal, family photo. And hey I got HORNS too! And TOILE!!!

Theirs (below) have book shelves too. What a yawn. And look at that hot mess of of prints hanging on the wall. It looks like my living room five years ago! You know the one that Rate My Space hated so much! And what's a kitchen stool doing there. What is that a desk? And tsk tsk all those ugly wires and cords showing. And hey, a kitty cat in the shot is playing the cute pet card. I know because I've done it myself!

Mine (below): Now this is the money shot! Look at those MAJOLICA OYSTER PLATES! That desk, a French table from FRANCE!!! A peek of silk TURQUOISE drapes! You can't see it, but the desk chair is a GHOST CHAIR! And THE COLOR!!!!!! Creole Tomato Red! Now that's hot!

Theirs (below). And what's this? A messy couch with some toss pillows?!

Mine (below): Here's my secret weapon! NEW ORLEANS GRIS GRIS! Look at that altar tucked back into the corner! Don't wreck your MOJO! Vote for New Orleans, or else I can't say what will happen! Also please note cute begonia MAJOLICA, ginormous glass HURRICANES, and a better view of the fabulous horn!

Theirs (below): I accuse my opponent of dirty tricks!!!! How dare they put a perfect living accessory is the form of a cute dog in the shot! But it can't make that fuzzy throw look good!

Mine (below) Well I have something cute and adorable too! It's my SKELETONS!!! And one of them is so adorable in his Mardi Gras mask! And Apartment Therapy featured them in a post yesterday about GOOD DESIGN Here! And look at that color on the walls, and the fireplace with a TOLE CANDELABRA over it, and more Majolica, and that arch way, and those antique chairs from Spain recovered in chic WHITE LEATHER, and oh oh oh the SUZANI tablecloth!
Seriously, all the rooms entered are as cute as can be. But please vote for mine anyway!

And listen, there is a different vote EVERYDAY. So don't think if you already voted you are done. Oh no! Apartment Therapy wants you there EVERYDAY!
So what are you going to do TODAY Wednesday October 28????

Please, pretty please...

Vote for me HERE!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Why Do We Compete?

Ginormous thanks to everyone playing along with me in the Apartment Therapy Room For Color Contest. I won the last round! You have voted me through twice. If you still have the inclination you can vote for me again today HERE.

Apartment Therapy certainly knows how to milk an idea! There will be a couple of days more of voting, to get to the final two. It is exhausting for all of you, and a tad stressful and exhausting for me. Maybe they're weeding us out, both voters and contestants. Only the strong and determined (like a dog with a bone!) will survive this.

I watch Dancing With The Stars. I've been a regular viewer and fan since they started.
Even though I'm a dancer, and have been a performer going to many an audition, I have never really officially competed for anything. So watching this show fascinates me.

Alberto and I entered a tango dance contest this past summer, never expecting to win first place
(USA Salon Tango Champions!). It was a remarkable experience. We didn't really go out there to wow them, of knock out the other contestants. We didn't have a strategy. We did our best, and enjoyed the experience together. We had a great time back stage with the other dancers. We talked and joked and encouraged one another. We were all in it together.

When we went to to Buenos Aires for the world championships, it was a much larger situation, and people came from all over the world with serious intentions and game faces were on. Still, the back stage camaraderie was there, with a genuine regard and respect for one another. Sure everyone wants to do well, and win, but largely the point of just being there resonates the most.

Every week when I watch Dancing With The Stars I have tremendous admiration for what the celebs and their teacher/partners accomplish. Everyone works hard, respects the other contestants, and wants to win, but they mainly value the process it takes to step up and put yourself out there.

Why did I enter a decorating contest? I surely can buy a plane ticket to New York (the first prize is a trip to New York). Do I think I'm better at what I do than others? Do I need to show off? Do I need re-enforcement from my peers? Is it exciting to try to win something? Am I proud of my accomplishments?

Well yes and no.

I do like sharing my projects with all of you. It's wonderful to have feedback, and eyes that see and appreciate. You all have your own projects and decorating dreams and schemes. We all share what it's like to save up for just that special chair, or fabric, or finally have the means to tackle a renovation, or buy a new place.

I also love to put a little shine on the city of New Orleans. I'm proud to live and work here. I love this city with emotions I don't even understand. So when I can show something pretty about New Orleans, and get people liking New Orleans, well it's some kind of pride of this place.

And when I saw the Apartment Therapy contest, I thought it would be great to share one of my rooms, to make some new blog friends. I love looking at what he other contestants entered.

The photo above is of the room by Traci from Richmond, Virgina. She and I went head to head twice in the category labeled 'The South", and she gave me a run for my money. So Traci if you are out there, I salute you and your pretty room.
There is so much talent out there! I did not enter with the idea, of oh boy I'm gonna win this thing!

So here I am, a real P.I.A. (pain in the ass), asking you all to vote for me not once, but multiple times. From just a bit of innocent photo sharing, I have morphed into a competitor! I am proud of what I do and I want to win! I am proud to have all of you voting for me, and I want to bring home the prize to merit your faith in me.

So please vote for me again...and hopefully AGAIN...until Apartment Therapy is done toying with us all - I think the final voting is around November 2.

And, again, heartfelt thanks!

Please vote again today: HERE

You have 24 hours, until midnight (2 AM on the west coast).

It gets easier once you have registered. So many of you have suffered the process on my behalf. AT needs to do something about the way they have us navigate their contests.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Vote Today! Another Round In The Contest: Apartment Therapy Room For Color

This is the link HERE

My competitor is a strong! A slim margin separated us in our last run-off.
So please vote today. If you voted before you are already registered, so it will only take a moment.
If you haven't voted before, please go through the process, even though it seems a bit confusing at first.

Only 24 hours to vote for me in this round!

And here's Cholo's baby picture taken when we first got him three years ago (and before the settee got recovered). I'm really trying to soften you up! I can't go out and kiss babies, but I can send you a cute puppy photo. Cholo says: "Please vote for my mommy!"


Friday, October 23, 2009

Does Anyone Still Dine In The Dining Room?

The most popular floor plan in today's homes is the open floor plan, where a kitchen, dining space, and sitting room known as a family room are in plain view of each other. Separate formal living and dining rooms are seldom used if they are included with a home's open floor plan. Older homes are renovated to create the open floor plan by knocking out walls between smaller rooms.
The first casualty of non-use is usually the dining room. Hermetically sealed and seldom used, except for holidays and maybe a special occassion, one can feel the waste of floor space. Lately this room gets made into a "library".

Martha Stewart

The notion of having a library in one's home as opposed to a home office, is a unique concept for the modern home. Most of us read books, and some of us may collect books. The Victorian idea of having huge rooms with huge bookcases to house leather bound books is a romantic one that evokes a comfortable home.

But totally giving up on the idea of a dining room is just too much to handle. We can't let go of having a dining room, even if it's seldom used. We just like to have it around just in case.
But by adding some bookcases or book shelves, and staging the table with books and such, there it is, your library!

You can add all the bells and whistles, like a library ladder, book stands, comfy chairs, etc.

But you must always keep the option there to clear the decks, and set the table for the occasional
dinner party. Somehow dining amongst books is very cozy, and slightly romantic.

If you have the luxury of another dining space, your could devote a room unto itself as your library.

The apartment of Jacques Grange in Paris

I got inspired to post about this after seeing Artie's (from Color Outside The Lines) dining room cum library. I love the way he faces the chairs out, and layers everything in the room. I wonder where he would put everything to transform the room for a dinner party.

Artie - Color Outside The Lines

Even in an open floor plan house, you could stage your dining room table as a library space.

Martha Stewart - I love the little stools, so reminiscent of Renaissance era library

The idea of having a table dedicated to reading, or doing homework is just so appealing.
If you live in a small space, clearing off the dining table, whether in the kitchen or a dining room is what happens when the kids need to hit the books.

By now many of you are familiar with my dining room turned office. I can't bring myself to call it a library, a term that seems a bit grand for a Creole shotgun cottage. I can't even take credit for the seemingly necessary element of installing bookcases in the dining room to morph it into a library. The pre-existing built in shelves (done in the 1960's) were actually cupboards. I took off the doors and styled them as book shelves for my over size design books. The minute the books were displayed the identity of the room reads: Library/Dining Room.

When we first moved in I used a round caterer's table, the type with folding legs, as my desk. I added a floor length tablecloth, thus creating the dreaded skirted round table.

The dreaded skirted round table used as my desk

I actually had many dinner parties in this small room, placing ten guests elbow to elbow around the round table. I stashed office things in a bedroom closest for the night, and set the table accordingly.

The dreaded skirted round table used as a dining table

I thought my actual dining table was too large for the room, and staged it in the kitchen with a buffet set on top of it. It seemed a terrible waste of a great table. The kitchen really wasn't suitable for it to be used as a dining table.

French dining table staged with a buffet on it - the wing chair eventually moved to my office

Now I use the large French style table as my desk, and the room is strictly dedicated to being my office.

The round table is folded up in the garage, and seldom used.

The dining room seldom sees actual dining anymore - at most it's dining on a tray at my desk
Go HERE to see this entire story

We are doing less dinner parties these days, and when we do invite people over, we stage the kitchen for dining. Large dinner parties (for 12 or more) are set up to resemble the chef's table in a restaurant kitchen.

The chef's table in our kitchen - go HERE to see the whole story of this party

Smaller groups for up to six cozy up to our small round table in the kitchen. And, Alberto often opens his laptop on the kitchen table, evoking visions of doing childhood homework.

So, what's in your dining room?