Friday, September 30, 2011

Sara Essex Bradley Takes Us Behind Closed Doors In The French Quarter

This weekend is the kick-off for the art season in New Orleans, starting with Art For Arts Sake, a city wide happening on the first Saturday in October.

One of my stops will be to see the work of photographer Sara Essex Bradley.

Sara and I are working on a book together. She is a local New Orleanian, and photographs many homes for the home and lifestyle magazines here, and for magazines in Europe, and for The New York Times.

I chose a few photos that appeared yesterday in the Home section of the New York Times, a very interesting article about two artists, and their homes. Do read the article. It's pretty interesting.

The living room of an artist on the edge  French Quarter - the building is very old

The bedroom in the same house - I love the plaster walls - and the cat is perfect

Still life  in the French Quarter. - I love how Sara catches the light

People in New Orleans use religious art and artifacts in their decor -Combined with antiques it adds mystery with grandeur

Unfinished plaster, brick, and an old wood floor make this kitchen unique - Note the fan light window

Living room - Bohemian at its best  - the owners painted the room over and over to get this perfect smoky blue

This is in the second house in the story, with a more refined collection of antiques - LOVE the poodle - what a great candidate for some body's feature on dogs on furniture, or dogs in decor, or for  PVE or Fifi - Sara has a way to get animals to pose

A classic parlor in the French Quarter - nothing trendy here, and it is so inviting

In this age of over worked, over styled bookshelves, this one is so refreshing and natural

The dining room is also formal - the table was handmade for the artist by another artist friend - I love having creative friends!

What a beautiful and unusual bed in the master bedroom -  Love the simple, luxe, graphic coverlet

These homes reflect true bohemian lifestyle. I can't help but think of two of my favorite blogs, Bohemian Hellhole and La Masion Boheme when I look at these beautiful photos by Sara Essex Bradley. It is rare that we get to see reality in decor, and it is very refreshing.

Ersy Schwartz, left, and Josephine Sacabo, right, use their houses in New Orleans as incubators for their artwork - Read the article by Penelope Green, photos by Sara Essex Bradley for The New York Times

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Fabric Covered Walls

A stylist knows how to manipulate things to get a pretty picture. It's all about smoke and mirrors.  Many things can be accomplished when you are armed with a staple gun and/or a glue gun.

I love wallpaper. But I don't know how to put it up, and I hate the usual prep of having to paint a wall with primer before you put up the paper. It seems like redundant work. I also am a serial decorator, and wallpaper is too permanent, and hard to remove.

So over the years I cover walls with fabric. It's a down and dirty thing, with no crazy prep. I measure the wall, figure out yardage (and always buy 10% extra for the fudge factor). Sometimes I buy queen or king size quilting batting to use under the fabric to pad the walls a bit. But even this is not always necessary. Then I load up my lady staple gun, the EasyShot, with JT21 staples 3/8", and let her rip.

Black Chinosereie

After years of doing event design work, where massive yardage of fabric can be used to create and cover walls and festoon ceilings, I am very comfortable in this medium. Right now there are three rooms in our home using fabric on the walls.

#1 Master Bedroom - Burlap fabric wall in the bedroom disguises a door  and creates a textured accent wall- Interior design by Valorie Hart - photo by Sara Essex Bradley

The wall was first padded with quilt batting, then covered with burlap, and finished with rope trim hot glued over staples

Rope detail on burlap covered wall - We have had this up for six years and love it - I just vacuum it once in awhile

The latest fabric wall  project is in the room we call our dance parlor. It is mostly empty of furniture, so we can give a private tango lesson here. It is also the second of two small living rooms that adjoin one another. The dance parlor opens onto the front door, so in one sense it is a large entry hall/room.

#2 - Valorie Hart guest bedroom as shown in Undecorate - fabric covered wall hides a pass through door - Instead of draping the four poster bed, the fabric was used on the wall - photo by Melanie Avecedo

The other side of the  guest room which  has two fabric covered walls -In this case I used canvas drop cloths, with quilt batting stapled underneath, and then stapled at the top in loose swags -  photo by Sara Essex Bradley

Detail of the canvas drop cloths stapled at the top in soft swags

This is a pantry Alberto made to roll in and out, tucked under the stairs in the kitchen - I stapled the black and white zig-zag chevron fabric on the front as the pantry door - I can change it whenever I like

Recently we had some major work done to one side of our house due to some very hungry termites. The mirrors in the dance parlor had to be taken down, when the house was jacked up. Once I saw the bare wall again, dreams of wallpaper danced in my head. So I went to and perused the very cute and reasonable designer print fabrics they have.  I was inspired by a Clarence House wallpaper saw in the book Undecorate. So I ordered the fabric, and on the same day it arrived, I put it up.

The third room -  Valorie Hart adds a fabric covered wall

This is how the wall looked before I put the fabric up

The same view into the room now - I think it looks more finished visually

I love the color. The black background is fabulous, and the branches and birds have a Chinoiserie feeling. The silk lime green drapes look great with the black, and the gray/brown walls look fresh again too. As much as I am a constant decorator, the wall color has been the same in this room for nearly seven years, and it migrated to the living room about three years ago. I have been toying with repainting in a new color, but honestly, no other color is beckoning. Doing the one wall with the fabric, has refreshed the whole space.

The Wisteria knock-off chest got moved into the dance parlor, and one of the white mirrors was added

I moved some furniture around. The Wisteria knock-off from the dining room/office moved against the fabric wall. The Union Jack moved to where the tray/cart table was, and that table moved into the dining room as a perfect drinks cart. Only two of the white mirrors made it back into the dance parlor.
Since I look onto the dance parlor from the living room, and it is an extension of the living room, I never was truly satisfied at how empty in an unfinished way the dance room looked. It seemed an after thought waiting for some more furniture.

The room is like a large entry hall

I love how the lime green silk drapes look with the black fabric covered wall

The cart got moved from the front door and is now in the dining room/office used as bar

Now with the fabric covered wall and the newly moved furniture in place, this rooms feels visually "full", the room looks furnished without sacrificing space to dance.

So big bank for the buck - fabric cost $70., box of staples $2. The print is very forgiving, so staples don't really show enough to cover them with trim. I had to fudge matching the repeat as the fabric didn't repeat tin the same way wallpaper does. I also had to fiddle a little turning a small edge of the fabric under on the perimeter. But really, this whole project, complete with moving furniture took about an hour and-a-half.

I love this chest in front of the fabric covered wall - It makes a pretty picture - I did not put padding behind the fabric, but just stapled it directly to the wall, turning the edges under, and matching the repeat - I used three full widths, and a smaller piece under the window, and covered the base boards to get maximum visual punch out of the fabric

If you try this at home, you must suspend belief in utter perfection. It is a perfect enough use of smoke and mirrors to make a pretty picture.

With our friend Yvonne one night before we went out dancing tango

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011


A piece of furniture, vintage or antique or even new, looks so fresh with a bright coat of paint. Once we were content painting furniture white shabby chic, or confining the bright colors to the kids rooms or nursery. But much like throwing on a pair of hot pink heels with a little black dress, a painted piece of furniture adds the right amount of pizazz.

I know from reading your blogs that quite a few of you have been painting furniture lately.  Painting furniture is not as easy as it seems! Here's a round-up of images, and at the end there's a source for furniture already painted (and at very good prices).

Orange will be the color of the year 2012

From the book Undecorate

Even a pale room benefits from a little pizazz

Just one little table has impact

Brian Patrick Flynn - need I say more?! Genius!

The home of Deb Shriver -  so elegant

 Eddie Ross - as sunny as his personality

The Chinese Chippendale chair takes color so well



Citrus love


I love this! And I would do it, would you? James Merrill

A classic - Jonathan Adler

Miles Redd works it like a pair of pumps

More orange

Cool factor

Pastels rule too!

Everyone can paint their night stands

More lavender love

Chinoiserie classic

Lipstick red

Lip gloss red

Orange again! Ruthie Sommers

Bright white

Black and white - I want do this too!

There is a chain of stores called Nadeau that sells solid wood furniture imported from India and Indonesia. They have designers that guide the artisans to styles that are popular in the USA, and lately they have been getting shipments of vintage style painted furniture, in the cutest on trend colors. The price point is great, starting under a $100.

A cute painted piece in the window of Nadeau

When you consider the cost of a piece of furniture (even from Craigslist), and paint, and all the effort it takes to paint it, the pieces at Nadeau look very attractive. But buy it when you love it, because it's months before new shipments arrive.

Nadeau New Orleans

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