Archive for the ‘Kids’ Category

Michael Smith Courtney Barnes WSJ border article

Friday’s Wall Street Journal brought a wonderful article by one of my favorite bloggers, Style Court‘s Courtney Barnes on the charm of self bordered textiles. I have long been obsessed with traditional Indian fabrics which routinely use borders as integral parts of their design as well as modern renderings by many of my favorite textile designers, including those of Zak+ Fox , Peter Dunham and Parlor Textiles, whose fabrics are illustrated in the article. Using the auction of a pair of armchairs, covered by designer Michael Smith in a bordered textile reprinted from an antique one in his own collection as the starting point of her musings, she pulls us into the intimate story of her own passion for the fabrics. As luck and serendipity would have it, this was the very topic on my mind exactly as I was reading it.

My own Michael Smith bordered fabric illumination occurred years ago with this Santa Barbara guest house in which he used a myriad of inexpensive Urban Outfitters Indian bedspreads to upholster the walls, the furniture and make the draperies. His masterful manipulation of the borders really demonstrated the punctuation they can provide, in this case both as a fillet and curtain edge and trim. His use of these simple artisanal fabrics turned me on to the idea of their flexibility. You know I love good repurposing!

Michael Smith Indian beadspreads

The serendipity part comes in because I have been working on and off all fall and in particular this past week for my most exacting client to date – my 14-year-old daughter. When moving a young teenager halfway round the world to a new school, it’s good to have a bribe, in this case a big new bedroom and entirely new decor as she had outgrown the furniture and color scheme of her old space. Add an en suite bathroom – about the size of her old Tokyo bedroom – and the potential for happiness goes way up. While her younger sister’s room is basically finished, progress on her’s had stalled. Her request for soft blues and a bit of Indian block print had resulted in this dreamy Instagram palette, but other than actually ordering the Parlor Textiles French Ikat in blue for her headboard and bedskirt, nothing had been done.

Instagram blue design scheme for G's room

For that “bit of Indian block print” I had turned to my favorite source, Aleta Bartel-Orton (also mentioned by Courtney in the article), whose online shop sells both her’s and Brigitte Singh‘s beautiful fabrics. The bedroom plan calls for Roman shades, ideally to be made in a blue and white print, highlighted by some sort of decorative edge. In addition to yardage, Aleta has tablecloths and other finished pieces available which I thought might be perfect as they tend to have borders. But while I was scrolling around the website I realized that what I really wanted was my favorite old standby, Hibiscus Branch. Of course, the print run is finished and there is basically none left – why is it I only manage to figure out that I need a particular fabric from her only after she is out of it? Luckily Aleta was willing to search for any remaining pieces of the Hibiscus Branch (and it seems like there may be just enough)…

Brigitte Singh Hibiscus branch blue Aleta

…and also came up with this cotton panel, mainly white and unprinted but with the loveliest borders which will be added to the Roman shades to create the effect of a single fabric. The flowered portion won’t go to waste either – I’ll use it to make throw pillows. It’s good to note here that complimentary fabrics can be combined to create the bordered look.

Blue Hibiscus Cotton

This brings me back to Michael Smith’s bargain trick with bedspreads that I find works even better with tablecloths. Different projects need different sizes and tablecloths are available small to large. Both can be counted on the have the quality Courtney refers to her in her article, the constrained “frames, along with symmetry, to bring order to a profusion of ornament.” So in addition to Aleta’s offerings, other resources I have been exploring include Priya Raj’s beautiful block prints at Peacocks and Paisleys. I almost grabbed this Exotic Mint Sprigs tablecloth in the sale this weekend with an eye towards using it to make a shade for the guest room.

exotic mint sprigs peacocks and paisleys

And instead of ho-hum shower curtains, it’s not that hard to put 12 button holes in a tablecloth or bed sheet, which is exactly what I am planning on doing in my daughter’s bedroom with the block printed bed sheet I bought this summer from Jaypore. And for purpose made shower curtains in block print patterns, take a look at Saffron Marigold. I recently recommended their Wedding Day pattern for an impossibly boring yellowy-beige bathroom.

saffron marigold wedding day yellow shower curtain

I have also given up on trying to get permission to change the ugly tiles in our kitchen here and am going for a new approach which involves distraction. In searching for fabrics for the French chairs, I had an epiphany and realized Mally Skok‘s Rohet Multi on Oyster might be just the thing to link the disparate elements in the kitchen together. More on that later in the week but be sure to notice that it too has a border.

Screenshot 2014-01-18 12.13.27

I’ll be putting it to good use.

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Image credits: First two photos Michael Smith via 1. The Wall Street Journal, 2. Cote de Texas. Other photos mine or as linked.

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Dome of the Rock Wailing Western Wall

This year we took the dream trip of a lifetime – visiting Israel and Jordan at the holidays. We gazed out at the sites sacred to three of the world’s great religions, from the golden Dome of the Rock, Islam’s third most holy site which happens to directly abut the Western Wall, all that remains of the destroyed Jewish Second Temple. On Christmas Eve we walked the Via Dolorosa to arrive at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre just as the priests began their procession to the spot upon which it is believed (by the Catholics at least) that Jesus was crucified.

Church of the holy sepulcher

The Old City of Jerusalem was truly magical, both weighted by its incredible history and bustling and real with residents at the same time. The tightly knit Armenian Quarter yielded up a few treasures, like this massive crystal chandelier spied up a hidden staircase.

Armenian chandelier

Chandeliers were a highlight of this trip – maybe they always are for me and I just hadn’t realized pre-Instagram? Spied this massive Dale Chihuly, a sister to the one I saw at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London this summer, at the Aish HaTorah Center in the Jewish Quarter. From their rooftop I took the “money shot” photo that starts the post. The view was incredible.

Dale chihuly chandelier

In the Arab Quarter we saw this amazing graffiti on the walls around a residential door. It’s a celebration and advertisement that someone in the home had done the Hajj, meaning they had made their pilgrimage to Mecca. Before moving to Doha, I would not have known was it was, but now I do, as here people put out flags and decorations for the same reason.

Hajj return grafitti

We went to Bethlehem for the graffiti as well. Our friends that we travelled with have been following the career of graffiti artist Banksy who has numerous pieces up along the walls in Bethlehem, including this one called Armored Vest Peace Dove.

Banksy armored vest peace dove

But the real reason for going to Bethlehem was obviously the Church of the Nativity, although honestly it was so crowded I found it nowhere near as interesting as the Holy Sepulchre, except of course for the chandeliers…

Church of the holy nativity

… and not to get ahead of myself, but I must mention the amazing lavender Murano glass chandelier I found in the flea markets of Old Jaffa in Tel Aviv. But more about that in my next post.

lavender murano chandelier

We caught the Herod’s Tomb exhibition at the Israel Museum along with the Dead Sea Scrolls and a few other “old” things. Personally I was obsessed with his bathroom!

Herod's bathtub

Tiles and mosaics always grab me and this trip was no different. There were Roman and Byzantine bits to be found all over, some out in the open, protected only by sand. My girls loved playing archaeologist and sweeping to make discoveries. We also worked on a real dig one day and found pottery shards, bones and other detritus of the ancient Edomites.


The old crusader fortress and UNESCO World Heritage City of Akko (Acre) was fascinating. It is one of the oldest continually occupied cities in the region and felt as impregnable as it looked. Napoleon lay siege to it for two unsuccessful months as did many other potential conquerors. It truly felt like we stepped back in history.


My favorite takeaway from Akko was these hexagon tiles in the old Turkish Hammam. I’d like to order some for a kitchen backsplash, wouldn’t you?

Tiles in Turkish bath hammam

We hiked up Masada on New Years Day after an extremely tame Eve.


Our outdoor activities continued into Jordan where we slept (froze!) in a bedouin camp one night in Wadi Rum. My camera wasn’t good enough to photograph the incredible stars and confetti of the Milky Way, but let me tell you I have never seen the likes of it. We awoke in the morning to a red desert and scenery that seemed as if it had been painted by Hollywood. We hiked, we climbed, our guide cooked us lunch from scratch over an open flame and basically we had the entire place to ourselves.

Wadi Rum

From Wadi Rum we went on to the pièce de résistance of the trip – Petra! We had lowered our expectations, thinking to find it crowded and full of hawkers and simply unable to live up to the spectacular emptiness of the previous day. Instead, it was full of surprises and majesty.

Treasury peek at Petra

Coming out from the narrow canyons to the sight of the Treasury was every bit as exciting as we had hoped.

Treasury at Petra

Even more amazing was the huge Monastery, reached after a long hike. The scale and the location left us speechless – be sure to notice how tiny the two people are in comparison to the structure. These two buildings are the highlights of Petra but everywhere you turned there was something to see.

The Monastery at Petra

We had passed all opportunities to take donkeys or horse carriages preferring to walk the whole way. But the youngest amongst us was determined to at least get a camel ride in. It was a pleasure to grant that wish.

Miss P on a camel

Of course the most pressing thing on my mind was where to buy one of those gorgeous camel blankets, but unfortunately, I couldn’t get that answer. Oh well, an excuse to go back!

For more photos from our trip and to keep up with my day to day finds, check out my Instagram feed. And from my family to yours, we wish you all health and happiness in 2014!

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birthday cake

There is nothing like a big birthday and a move to spark a bedroom re-do. Both of my girls were due for a change, moving from their tiny closet sized bedrooms in Tokyo to their much more expansive bedrooms in Doha. The elder had a plan and a Pinterest board from the beginning. But the younger wasn’t sure of what she wanted when we first moved in. Personally I had a plan in my mind for a full size bed using this wedding noren as part of the bed hangings. Once settled, she had other ideas, mainly a desire to keep as much floor space as possible for play area, so a single bed against the wall made more sense. She quickly commandeered the French iron campaign bed and the painted French armoire from her sister’s room. She wanted to keep her Claire Murray Alphabet Garden hooked rugs (which have since become collectors items I am given to understand) because they are soft and provide interesting backdrops for imaginary play – and even nixed the idea of a Madeline Weinrib dhurrie. Can’t argue with the recycling or the continuing interest in play!

The bare room had a lot of promise, including this very sunny east facing window. All varieties of small birds come and perch along the windowsill to my daughter’s great joy. The campaign bed fit perfectly underneath it, leaving lots of play space as requested. But my daughter felt something special was needed, some pretty girly centerpiece to make the room special. I suggested bed hangings and some kind of fitted valance/canopy as the solution and she was hooked.


We went straight to images of Katie Ridder‘s whimsical bed hanging designs (and frankly, you know you are in trouble when your nine, soon to be ten-year old tells you she has a favorite designer). Here in Katie’s own daughter’s room she has installed the basic combination I am planning on – valance type canopy, roman shade for light control and ornamental bed curtains.  It looks like there may be real curtains as well in the pink fabric although I am not planning to make those.

0109_ed_katieridder_waldron_daughter's room

We knew for sure we wanted to pair two different fabrics, a solid and a pattern, just like all these examples.

canopy bedroom ridder from rooms

This bedroom designed by Katie has to be one of the most pinned girls rooms ever and continues to be a favorite of mine. It demonstrates how successful this kind of arrangement can be with a daybed. I also love the idea of a small light fixture tucked into the canopy and you can just see the pierced brass lamp peeking out here. Many of these brass globes with scrolling arabesque pattern or karakusa were made in Japan and I am lucky enough to have a few.

Katie Ridder pink girls room Muriel Brandolini

I can’t resist showing how pretty this one looks in the stair hall. And I have another one if I wanted to use it over the bed.

pierced karakusa light chandelier brass

Back to the topic at hand, Barrie Benson has a similar set of bed hangings made from an Indian block print in this lovely bedroom. I really like a soft fabric valance for my project, rather than a stiff pelmet.

barrie benson canopy bed indian block print

All of the above designs have the canopies mounted to the ceiling. With the crown molding in the room, ours would need to be placed below it and I was a bit worried about whether or not that would look good. Inspiration examples were not hard to find, including Rebecca de Ravenel’s lovely blue and white New York apartment recently featured in Vogue. The dreamy soft canopy in her bedroom has just the feel I am going for.

apt-with-lsd-rebecca-de-ravenel-bedroom canopy

Palmer Weiss used the same wallpaper as Rebecca in this oft blogged about show house bedroom which is another example with a daybed against the wall. Note that the box is also below the ceiling…

palmer weiss girls room 2

…as are these in another showhouse room by Elizabeth Dinkel.

Elizabeth Dinkel canopy beds veranda-show-house-bedroom

Since I have arrived here in Doha I have been farming out projects to different upholsterers and fabricators to find the ones that I like and I think I have found the right person for these. Ironically Qataris love incredibly ornate over the top window treatments which means the skill set here is high. It’s just a matter of simplifying the fabrics and details. After a bit of searching through all the velvets and brocades I found a very nice cotton just the color of the walls (Benjamin Moore Silver Crest 1583). And as the client requested girly, I went into my stash (yes I even have a stash with me abroad) and pulled out a huge amount of yardage of an old and discontinued Rachel Ashwell Bemberg silk fabric called Trellis Rose or something like that. One of the main things we are planning on doing differently from all the examples above is reversing the fabrics – in other words, having the solid on the outside and the pattern as the lining. To jazz up the plainer exterior curtain and valance, I have found an elaborate and detailed trim.

pips room fabrics

For those of you who have been following me on Instagram, you’ve seen the incredible trims I have been finding here. Both vintage and new, made anywhere from Oman to India, designed for trimming abayas and saris, they are extraordinary and I have been incorporating them into decorating projects wherever I can.


Screenshot 2013-11-18 03.31.44

Nathalies living room curtain trim

I have one sweet ten year old who is very excited about hers!

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