Monday, April 28, 2014

Blush Crush

Runway to home. Blah blah blah. But let's face it fashion influences home decor and vice-versa.

Nicole Gibbons gets the trend right - photo from Focal Point

Blush, pale pink especially, is a huge fashion trend and yes it has trickled down to decorating, and not just bedrooms, tweens, and nurseries. Main living spaces are blushing too.

Nicole Gibbons

Nicole Gibbons

My recent post, From the Runway to Your Home: Spring Trends for 2014 at Houzz has a ton of affordable stuff you can get for your houzzzzz now. Go check it out.

From the Runway to Your Home: Spring Trends for 2014 at Houzz

Another huge fashion trend for Spring 2014 is head-to-toe denim.

This may be a little tricky to do in a room, but if you are not too literal you can do it in shades of blue, including denim. Go to From the Runway to Your Home: Spring Trends for 2014 at Houzz
to see some great denim stuff you can get for your house. 

Of course I love the denim texture wall, and probably would do a fabric covered wall because that's the way I roll

What about you guys - do fashion trends trickle down into your decorating?

Friday, April 25, 2014

New Orleans Newbies Emily and Andrew

I remember so very well when Alberto and I moved to New Orleans 14 years ago. We were so in love with each other and the city. It was quite a menage a trois, a glorious honeymoon that never ended until Alberto was taken from me and New Orleans. I am trying to find the joy and love again with my beloved New Orleans.

Alberto and I (June 2000)  in front of our first apartment in New Orleans in the French Quarter - This was taken on  the day we looked at the apartment

One thing that helps is deeply feeling the circle of life. One couple that are clients have newborn twin girls, and there is such a sweet renewal in holding them. I have a few younger couples as clients, setting up households or doing renovations, and their excitement and enthusiasm remind me of the good life I had with Alberto. We had the same love and enthusiasm they now have. Working with them gives me energy and hope that revives me.

One of the couples, Emily and Andrew have a house tour on Apartment Therapy. Go take a look. 

Emily and Andrew House Tour at Apartment Therapy - photo and story by Jacqueline Marque -
Jacqueline is an editorial and lifestyle photographer based in Newport, R.I.  - She loves all things related to her hometown of New Orleans - Interior design consultation by Valorie Hart

Emily and Andrew House Tour at Apartment Therapy - photo and story by Jacqueline Marque -
Jacqueline is an editorial and lifestyle photographer based in Newport, R.I.  - She loves all things related to her hometown of New Orleans - Interior design consultation by Valorie Hart

What helps you get through a hard time? 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


What do you do to relieve stress? Often I clean the house, or putter around and do a project. I am sure many of you do the same thing.

Black stairs, white risers and balustrades

The house I live in is alive with Alberto. Every nook and cranny was touched by his handiwork. He always went along with my decorating schemes and ideas, wiring chandeliers, making cabinet doors, doing repairs, anything and everything I asked him to do. I run my hand along a piece of trim on a cabinet door he made, and know how he taught himself to do this. It is alive with memories that make me smile and cry.

All black stairs

Black has been accepted in decorating. It started with chalkboard paint and black kitchens, and segued into black bathrooms. Then black doors became hot. And media rooms and stairs painted black. I love it.

Black stairs by Kelly Wearstler
We have (notice I still say we) a stairway in our kitchen going up to the camel back second floor. It is very builder looking and not elegant, wood, with open treads. A carpet runner was not possible. The stairs have sandpaper like safety strips. I could never peel or scrape them off. The stairs also had ingrained dirt that never came out no matter how much I scrubbed them.

Carpet stair runner - charcoal with black edge

So I decided to paint the stairs black. At first I was going to do the whole thing, steps and hand rail, and balustrades. But I thought it would be too heavy. There are also some other wood elements in the kitchen, a tall cabinet with chicken wire doors that holds cookbooks and dishtowels, place mats and napkins; an armoire; there is an elaborate wood casing around an archway. The wood stairs always made sense with these other wood elements since they all had a similar mid tone stain.

Whimsical painted stair runner in black

So I just painted the steps. It was my therapy, another small step, on one of the countless nights I couldn't sleep. I painted right over the sandpaper strips. I like the two tones that occur since I only painted the steps. It's not fancy, but I like it, and I know Alberto would have liked it too.

I painted the stairs black and left the rest of the wood alone

I painted over the sand paper safety strips that I could not remove

What have you painted black lately?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Raise A Glass Today

Today is Alberto's birthday.

Alberto on his birthday in Buenos AIres
Part of me wants to sit and stare. I have been invited to drink champagne with dear friends who love us, and toast Alberto. I could ignore his birthday and just pretend it's another sad day without him. The son of Miss Anne, a dear friend to Alberto and me, invited me to a ballroom dance championship of elementary school kids, much in the vein of "Mad Hot Ballroom". 

I have been checking Alberto's email, unsubscribing form the dozens of political sites he followed, and letting friends know about Alberto. He had a circle of friends who mainly sent him jokes. One was a childhood friend from Buenos Aires. Another was Miss Anne's son. I hate to ruin a punch line, but I answered these emails recounting the sad state of affairs.

Alberto with his childhood friend Tavi and his wife Clara in the airport in Buneos Aires

So the invitation was offered a few weeks ago. Miss Anne's son told me he understood the depths of my pain, and how he appreciated Alberto and me loving his mother and being there for him when she passed away. It's been a few years, and I could still feel his sorrow, and I know he could feel mine. He is another kindred spirit, as I have found in so many of you telling me your experiences in your generous letters, cards, and comments.

When I first met Alberto 18 years ago

I remarked that the night of the event happened to be Alberto's birthday and perhaps this might be a good way for me to pass the time. I told him that we once taught a children's class to fifth and eight grade students, and how much we loved seeing the future realized in the formation of these children as dancers. Alberto and I always wanted to pass our knowledge onto the next generation, someone to keep the Argentine tango alive after we had left this earth.

Alberto Paz in Buenos Aires in front of Club Fulgor

As the birthday loomed, I had mixed feelings, as I do about everything now. I have been keeping busy. I am working. Being alone wears me out. Couples share chores, and now that Alberto is gone I find I my time is constantly filled with doing my job and his too. I am still not sleeping well, but I do exhaust myself so that the segments of sleep are deeper. So today I have a lot to do.

 I thought about begging off the invitation. But Alberto and I always wanted a friendship with Miss Anne's son. She had asked me to become his friend, to look out for him. We did reach out, and he did get together with us a few times, but a friendship was not fully realized. I understand now, that this is how grief works.

In the spirit of love, I decided to keep the date tonight. I got a tender email the other day, saying he would pick me up at 5:15 and that he would be wearing a suit, but no tie. I imagine he is coming from work. We haven't seen each other for a couple of years. I wanted to tell him I will be wearing radiant orchid hair and a face ravaged by grief, but with a smile for him.

Wherever you are today, tonight, raise a glass to my Alberto, and wish him a happy birthday.

I have been hosting our weekly tango dances again. They are called milongas. I myself have not danced yet. Of course the men in our community have asked me to dance, but I have not been ready. I have been going to another milonga hosted by someone else. Still just sitting with friends by my side. Last Friday the tango ("my" tango) "La Mariposa" was played, and I just broke down and cried. Not ladylike tears, but deep sobbing with a deep longing for the embrace of Alberto. Many arms embraced me. Many words of comfort soothed me. I was the life of the party. Life is the key word here.

So tomorrow night at our weekly milonga, I am having a birthday party for Alberto. We have birthday customs at our milongas. There is cake, sometimes champagne, and the custom of the birthday boy or girl taking to the dance floor. For the man, every women cuts in and dances with him, and vice-versa for the woman. When I announce the birthday dance at our milongas, I always say, "Ladies (or Gentlemen), wear him (her) out."

I will alter the custom a bit. I will take to the dance floor "sola," alone, even though it is not my birthday. I will invite the gentlemen to dance with me, to wear me out, for Alberto's birthday dance. Every week people at the milongas look to see if I am wearing my dance shoes. They (like me) are wondering who will be the first to break the ice. I am going to be the first. It's my birthday gift to Alberto.

Watch this little video clip of Alberto dancing his birthday dance last year. We had a "I Heart the 70s" party at our milonga, and dressed the part. Today he would have been 71.

Alberto's birthday last year

Another commemoration of Alberto's birthday is happening today in Buenos Aires. His beloved sister and his niece are doing something I asked them to do. We have not been to Buenos Aires since 2009.
Alberto's health curtailed our traveling by airplane. I can feel the sorrow his sister and his niece and nephew feel for not being able to see their beloved "Lito" again, to embrace him, to let him know how loved is was. Closure is even more cruel when a letter, or email, or phone call tells you a loved one is gone forever. The cost and distance was too great for family from Buenos Aires to come to New Orleans for the funeral. I would l love to be there with them, but again cost and distance makes it impossible.

The last time we saw family in Buenos Aires

Hermosa familia en Buenos Aires

I sent some of his ashes to his sister and her daughter, his niece. Today, on his birthday, they are going to Chacarita, a rather famous cemetery in Buenos Aires, to scatter his ashes in the section dedicated to the greats of tango. I wish I could be there with his children and our friends Jessica and Jon.

Valorie and Alberto visiting Chacarita cemetery in Buenos Aires

Alberto and I always visited Chacarita when we went to Buenos Aires. There is a custom of placing a lighted cigarette in the hand of the giant statue of Carols Gardel, who always held a lit cigarette when he performed. Alberto loved to do this. Then we would go over to the section with all the tango greats, and look at the monuments of the people we admire, whose music we listen and dance to. 

Here's a little video when we were there for Alberto's birthday in 2008: A Visit to La Chacarita Cemetery

Today my beloved is going home, again. Nos vemos mi amor.

And if you have time, please go to our blog The Tango Life, and read this remembranza by Jon Racherbaumer.

And one of our students Mario Girard wrote a beautiful poem that you can see on my Facebook Page.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Brian Boitano Decorator

It's two months today since Alberto is gone. I have been keeping busy. Each little milestone like today is hard. Let's face it, every day without Alberto is hard. So many of you are going through the same thing of missing someone you love. My heart goes out to you.

In the spirit of keeping busy, I am trying to do more decor posts. Back to the new normal.

Brian Boitano goes back to his roots in Italy to renovate a ruin of a family home

A few weeks ago I chanced on an HGTV show called The Brian Boitano Project. From HGTV: "On a recent vacation to the old country, Olympic figure skater Brian Boitano discovered his Italian family, and the town his relatives migrated from. He also discovered, and ultimately purchased an old family home in desperate need of repair."

The house was a more like a ruin with some old family furniture. The Italy Boitanos really didn't know their famous American relative, and it is sweet and funny to watch the bonds of family connect. One funny episode involved two aunts selling Brian the furniture in the house. He was very excited about this, not only for the sentimental value, but also for the help it would be with his limited budget. He went back to the USA after making the initial plans to renovate, and when he returned to Italy to work on the project found that the aunties had taken all the furniture. Something was definitely lost in the transaction.

The show aired in January. It was hard to find. Then there was a marathon of episodes on the sister channel DIY Network one Saturday. I wish HGTV would stop all the House Hunter spin offs and the constant rerunning of them and get back to more shows like The Brian Boitano Project.

Enjoy this round-up of images I culled from the Internet.

The kitchen before

The kitchen and dining area after - Brian spray painted the chairs lacquer green at his uncle's auto body shop

The chandelier was made from a huge wind jug that was found on the property - a fixture from Ikea was put inside the glass

Installing the wine jug chandelier

So cute

All the walls were washed with color to maintain an antique patina

The master bedroom

Detail of nightstand

Little niches were carved into the walls all through the house

The master bath

A vintage table was used for the sink base and old stone was left revealed

Another bedroom - Brian shopped at the local Ikea

Ikea pillow

Another great bathroom using ordinary fixtures to maximum effect and anotherr great exposed stone wall

Another niche cut into the stone

Another cute bedroom

I love these niches all over the house

And another great little bathroom

Old shutter hardware

Brian Boitano did a great job renovating his new villa in Italy

And please indulge me....

Beautiful Alberto