The Timeless Beauty of Chinoiserie

The gorgeous work of Benjamin Dhong as seen in a San Francisco Residence
The gorgeous work of Benjamin Dhong as seen in a San Francisco Residence

Of the many things I am drawn to, in love with, can’t get enough of, chinoiserie has to be one of the most potent. Chinoiserie, pronounced SHēnˌwäz(ə)ˈrē,ˌSHēnˈwäzərē, is the imitation and interpretation of Chinese motifs and techniques in Western art, furniture, and architecture, especially in the 18th-19th century. The sheer volume of information about the style defies belief, and I’ve found that you either love it like crazy or you don’t.

You’ve probably seen chinoiserie in your lifetime and may not have even known it. One of the most iconic of all chinoiserie design elements is the Pagoda chandelier. Endless iterations of its design keep the style both fresh and timeless and it literally works in any setting you can think of. seen in bold, glossy colors such as red, turquoise, orange and yellow, a pagoda chandelier adds whimsy and  fantasy to any the space. It works in a small entry foyer, a powder room or even above a small dining table, (among a million other places).

It’s a little confusing these days in that any design style that includes vintage or antique Asian art, fabrics or wall coverings seems to be called “chinoiserie” when really, the style is actually Asian or Asian-influenced. A good rule of thumb is to keep in mind that true chinoiserie is a European thing. It’s Asian as seen through a Europen lens, if that makes sense.

Thomas Chippendale Japanned wardrobe at the Nostell Priory.
Thomas Chippendale Japanned wardrobe at the Nostell Priory.

The very English Thomas Chippendale (who designed the cabinet above) took his interpretation of Asian art and furniture shapes and created works that were in a class all by themselves. These pieces, mixed with hand-painted French chinoiserie wall coverings, created countless elegant foundations for opulence and exoticism

As seen on Scout Mob

Everything about this picture makes me happy. The gilded quail, the faux bamboo table and brass tray and of course, the vintage Asian images.  Chinoiserie went through a huge resurgence in the 1950’s and then again in the 1960’s and 70’s in the form of faux bamboo. The photo is really 1950’s-style chinoiserie, and it’s my second most favorite style. It literally goes with everything in any home. A faux bamboo brass tray is perfect – to corral french cut crystal perfume bottles, used to display an air plant in a cement dish, to hold a bunch of giant seashells – and you honestly cannot go wrong with faux bamboo. Ever. Or a gilded quail. I really think everyone needs a gilded quail.

This is my house
I have a vintage faux bamboo coffee table in my tiny living room (see above!) but my mom has a complete bedroom set in mint green and white faux bamboo.  She got in the 1970’s, and she refuses to give it to me! I mean, she’s still using it and it has looked amazing with every change in home, carpet color and bedding, but still, I believe I love it more and she should give it to me.

Anyway, since I’m not going to be allowed to have the bedroom set any time soon, I’ve rounded up a few of my current modern chinoiserie crushes and mark my words, I’m going to have a vintage or antique pagoda somewhere in my house before year’s end!

Chinoiserie

Have a beautiful and creative week!

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There Are Great Things In The Works!

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Gilded Protea Leaves

So I’ve been doing some soul-searching and I’ve decided I’m finally ready to tackle a TOTAL renovation of my blog. It’s been sitting here sadly waiting for quite some time and I feel like I know where I want to go with this. Writing two weekly columns for Houzz has been amazing and I’ve met so many fantastic people through my involvement with the site but I have to admit, I’ve let my own little blog kind of languish. I’m sorry for that. I regularly post missives on our shop Facebook page so you can always keep up to date with our day-to-day there, and I’m probably far too active on Instagram where I post the things that inspire me. All of this is happening, and yet, I go to sleep each night filled with stuff I want to write about and share with you. So I’m getting re-focused and will be reworking the blog over the next couple of months.

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#Designcat isn’t really helping.

Since I somehow got myself on the WordPress.org platform instead of normal-people WordPress, I’ve found that I am unable to apply any new template or format. The theory is that I should be intelligent enough to code my own template on WordPress.org which is never gonna happen so…Wish me luck with this while I work on the new blog in parallel to trying to keep y’all updated on this blog. You know there will be a lot of coffee and swearing happening up in here as currently it’s is all me and I am many things but graphic designer/tech brillianaire is not one of them.

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Our last meal at Kohler happened here.

Many of you know I was recently invited by Kohler to visit their phenomenal resort, The American Club spend time in their design centre, drool over their gorgeous offices (The Beacon), and tour the factory. I promise I’ll expand on that visit in my next post because really, it was incredible and I want to go back. The most important thing I took away with me from that visit was getting to meet and connect with several really fantastic, intelligent and creative women in design and photography.

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Nicole Cohen of Sketch42blog and Paloma Contreras of La Dolce Vita blog.

If you haven’t checked out Sketch42 or La Dolce Vita, hurry UP! There is so much to see and experience on both sites and the women behind them are awesome human beings. You know me, it takes me a while to warm up to folks and being the always-wary girl I am, I wear my trust issues on my sleeve. These girls are the real deal and I’m blessed to have crossed paths with them.

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Gilded bean pods

As usual I’ve been in the shop creating because that’s how my mind works. When I’m stressed, excited, happy, sad, or breathing (which is always thankfully), I’m creating. Sometimes I get stuck in my own head and it’s hard to come back to reality. I’ve been making loads of curious things with what nature has provided me and I can’t wait for you to stop in the shop and see what’s been going on.

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Semi-precious stones hung on a piece of dried kelp.

Be patient with me while I revamp this little sugar-shack of a blog I have and hopefully I’ll do you all proud. In the meantime, go forth and get creative, it’s good for your soul. 🙂

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Much love,

Melisa

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DIY Ideas from a Sleepless Mind – Drink Tables

 

IH-155040I am in love with this little table – the price, not so much. It’s called the “Argo” and it costs anywhere from $350-$550 depending on where you look. It’s a drink table and as the name implies, it gives you space to set a drink or two. I am obsessed with drink tables, and I think they have a place in every home, however I don’t think they need to be $500.

Anyway, for the past two weeks I have had  the “creative crazies”. I have a ton spastic energy and far too many ideas. I have also been on a mad purge, going through all of my design files and magazines in an attempt to distill it down to what inspires me most. Take last night for instance, I was sitting on the couch enthralled by a renovations episode on HGTV when I was suddenly compelled to create my own mirror-topped drink table.


I used a brushed nickel floor candle holder and a mirrored tray. The candle holder had been on my fireplace hearth for over a year and the tray was happily living at our shop, Apartment 46.

I literally got in my car and drove to my store in the middle of the night because I was obsessed with my own idea. Both items were then combined with a healthy dose of epoxy and are now celebrating their new incarnation as a drink table in someone else’s living room, (because I was talked into selling it). I loved my own idea so much I repeated it with a vintage brass table base and a papier mache Italian tray.

The old design adage is that for every chair there should be a place to easily put your drink – and I love that. A coffee table is great if you can reach it from every seat in the room but that’s not often the case. You don’t need to have a large side table to place a glass on, you need a candle base or an old table base and a sturdy tray!

Large Old World Floor Candle Holder_400-01If you want to use a candle holder as your table base, be sure it’s a floor candle holder. You want it to be tall enough to be useful. Also, ensure that it has a weighty, sturdy bottom to balance out any top-heaviness of a tray plus drinks. This stone floor candle holder is definitely weighty enough, and the spike can be removed. Many tall candle holders have a metal spike in the center to hold a candle steady. These can be broken off with a solid pair of pliers or nail/bolt cutters. Sometimes they come off easily, sometimes it’s a bit of a struggle so be careful! If you end up taking a chunk out of the candle holder that’s okay. Your tray will cover it.

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I love the idea of tarnished silver trays as drink tables. There is something soulful and bittersweet about old silver and it’s fantastic when utilized in an unexpected way. Metal trays are also a great counterpoint to a wood or stone base.

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Don’t feel you have to stick to round when it comes to the tabletop shape. You can use a rectangular or oval tray and create something unique and fabulous. The Italian tray I used was an exaggerated rectangle. The antique sterling tray above would be beautiful as a drink table and it would likely get much more use and admiration than if it were sitting on a shelf somewhere. I am always trying to find a way to re-purpose vintage items in fresh new ways. For me, it’s all about giving something new life in today’s world and drink tables are versatile and super convenient for space-constrained homes.

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Lately I’ve been super into two-part epoxy because it holds incredibly well and is relatively easy to apply. You take off the tip and squeeze it onto a piece of cardboard or heavy duty paper and kind of mix it up and apply it. I use a paint mixing stick to smear it onto the flush part of the candle holder because it’s thick and messy. I also apply it to the bottom center of the tray I’ve chosen.

Use a generous amount and wipe off whatever seeps out once the tray and base have been connected. I like to turn my pieces upside down to cure because the weight of the bottom piece gives it a tighter seal. You could also put something heavy in the center of the tray but it may fall off or fall over. I learned the hard way that upside down works best for me.

Epoxy creates strong fumes so I recommend applying it outdoors and letting it cure before bringing your piece inside. I checked my tables after a couple hours just to be sure the tray top hadn’t shifted and brought them in fully cured the next morning.

If you end up making a drink table of your own please send me pics! I’d love to see your creations.

Happy Making!
Melisa

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Creating A Sacred Space

 

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Image courtesy of The Trinkit Hunter

Your home is where the shared space of the world ends and your private sanctuary begins. What could be more sacred than the space in which you begin and end each day? Creating a peaceful environment that honors what you love and who you are, isn’t really about four walls and some furniture. 

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Tara Bliss – image courtesy of Hibiscus Moon

Whether it’s family photos, glittering crystals, or a bowl full of shells you’ve collected, you add to spirit and love to a place by adorning it with beautiful and meaningful things. The word “sacred” means different things to different people but I use the word to mean highly valued and important : deserving great respect.

You don’t need a large area to create a sacred space. If you have is a shelf on a wall, you can turn it into a Blessings altar by adding to it tiny things you are thankful for, remind you of happy times or people you love. Sacred does not have to mean religious, although you may include religious icons if that is important to you.

DSC00010In a 6 x 5 foot reading nook, I created this wall altar for a client as a private way to honor her Indian heritage. When she settles into the chair to read, she often lights the candle and uses those few seconds to think about her family. Those thoughts keep her close to important people in her life and give the nook a feeling of serenity.

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Kitchen Windowsill

In my own home I have several vignettes that are ever-changing. None take up much space and all provide touch points that remind me of moments, places, people and the general beauty of the natural world. My kitchen windowsill is an unexpected place to put special objects, but I stand there multiple times a day to use the sink and am always looking at what’s there. Right now I have a small collection of things brought back from my favorite beach – a place that holds everything my heart has ever felt.

curiosity-cabinet-with-faux-coral.pngCreating a cabinet of beautiful things is also a great way to add a sense of sanctity to a room. All together it looks like a piece of art but when you stand in front of it and really see the individual objects, it becomes almost meditative. Noticing each and every thing takes time, and if all of the items have meaning, you can’t help but feel their importance.

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Image courtesy of decordemon

 

Setting aside a small corner of a room where you sit quietly reading, taking in the sunshine and letting the day slip away doesn’t require fancy decor or objects of spiritual significance. The sense of calm, warmth and safety you feel when snuggled under a warm blanket flipping through a magazine can be sacred in the sense that it refreshes you, centers you and removes you from daily stress. That is a space worth creating!

All my best,
Melisa

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Dark and Stormy Decor

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Image courtesy of Indulgy

I would describe my personal design style as being a bit dark and stormy. While I can appreciate things like country cottage and shabby chic, the sweetness of it isn’t something I naturally gravitate toward. Whether a room is traditional, contemporary or completely eclectic, I’m always looking for a bit of strangeness, something that can counter-balance the perfection. To me, dark and stormy style is all about finding that thing that makes a room edgy, interesting, and mysterious. It’s a room with a sexiness that makes you feel sexy by being in it. It doesn’t have to be a Goth-themed space. I’m not talking about darkness in the context of death and scary monsters, I’m talking about darkness that evokes a naughtiness, curiosity or steaminess.

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Sparkle and Shine! Easy Bling For Your Holiday Home

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Courtesy of prsarahevans

It’s hard for me to believe that in ten short days Christmas will be upon us. By now, you’re probably done decorating, but if you’re like me, you just keep decorating until the holidays are over – and they’re not over for me until New Year’s Day. So if you’re really done (is that even possible?), then I hope this post inspires next year’s decor. However, if you’re hosting a holiday shindig, or feel like you’re lacking a little sparkle and intrigue, read on for tips on how to bring a little extra bling to your Christmas or New Year’s surroundings.

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Catching Up With The Muses

P1030247The past several months have been filled with blessings and challenges both personally and professionally and updating the blog has fallen woefully behind. Whereas I used to send out monthly newsletters keeping folks up-to-date on our wanderings, I’ve switched over to daily musings and updates via our Facebook page. If you haven’t already visited us there, we’d love to see you! I’m also really excited about my weekly columns on Houzz. Reader response has been fantastic and I’m getting to know so many amazing people through the sharing of design expertise and experiences. To read each week’s piece, make sure to check out Apartment 46’s idea books.

In May I finished a large garden project in the San Mateo hills, as well as worked on a complete renovation in Sunnyvale (ongoing), began the master bedroom of a Hayward Park home, put more touches on a San Francisco apartment, and did a few garden and home refreshes here and there throughout the Bay Area.

I’m still working on the Sunnyvale home, have started a second Hayward Park home, a Hillsdale home, and will be starting a San Jose garden project as well as a Hayward Park backyard. The San Mateo Hills garden project has been expanded to include more of the property so that’s happening this weekend and we have a Millbrae home on deck. It’s an understatement to say I’m blessed by the work because the clients I’ve been lucky enough to design for have been some of the kindest, funniest, and most interesting people I could have hoped to meet. I know there’s a definite design rule about crossing the client-to-friend border but it can’t be helped. The folks I know are just too damn awesome!

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The shop is still doing custom floral and we’ve had the opportunity to do several super huge bouquets over the past couple of months. I really don’t believe that a house is a home without fresh flowers and greenery.  Floral arrangements are something we’ll always offer because we feel it’s such an intrinsic part of making a space more lovely.

Our relationship with One Kings Lane is going strong and we’ve continued to sell unique vintage items in their weekly flash sales. If you haven’t already made an account, please click on the OKL banner on the right of our blog and make one. Registering through our page helps our small business and lets OKL where you heard of them. They never spam and they always have beautiful things on offer.

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I’ve been really focused on vintage art and have so many great pieces in the shop at any given time it’s impossible to post them all. This 1970’s era black, white and gold abstract is currently for sale. Although it’s over 30 years old, it feels fresh and modern and would be gorgeous above a console, leaned against a larger piece on a mantel or even put in a guest bath as a point of interest. Every home needs “real” art and it doesn’t have to be something big and expensive to be meaningful. Art is a room-changer. Whether you’re into abstract, illustrative or oils, there are as many ways to add art to your space as there are artists. I personally think gallery walls are an exciting way to mix various smaller pieces to create an interesting tableau.

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Vintage Japanese glass vase

Sometimes the smallest accents make the biggest impact. Many times I’m hired to provide the finishing touches to homes that have all the basics — sofa, tables, television — but are missing the warmth. It’s so important that a home reflect the people who live there and I am thankful every day that I get to continue doing what I love most, which is adding beauty to Bay Area homes and gardens.

I’m hoping to post photos of my recently completed projects very soon and if you haven’t been by the shop in a while, you know we’d love to see you.

Much love,

Melisa

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Baywood Residence

A San Mateo couple with a young daughter requested that I do a makeover on their space utilizing existing furnishings where possible. Art and accessories warmed up the space and gave the rooms a more finished look. Husband and wife have somewhat divergent styles, so finding a happy medium and incorporating family heirlooms was key to the project’s success. The rooms needed to welcoming, reflect who the couple is at this stage in their lives, and be able to withstand their energetic little girl.

I painted an antique cabinet to use as a bar.

The leather sofa and chair, as well as the coffee table, were purchases the couple previously owned. The tables were topped in tempered glass with polished edges to stand up to the daughter’s toys and activities.

The fireplace will be re-surfaced eventually. The 70’s brass and iron mesh curtain was removed and an updated flush fireplace screen was put in its place.

The side table was something the family already owned.A bronze mirror was cut for the top and it was stained darker.

The leather-covered bench was placed against the wall to be used as optional seating for guests.

The family has a number of heirloom carpets. A smaller one was used to create a reading area within the larger living space.

The addition of art will be an evolving process for the homeowners. A 1968 screen print titled Leili and Majnon was finished in a nondescript frame so it was gold-leafed and distressed to add more depth.

The grouping of vintage fruit prints is on the dining room wall. The room is still a work in progress – Above and below is a sneak peek.

A handmade baby outfit from Puerto Rico was shadowboxed and hangs at the entrance to the daughter’s bedroom.

The vintage painted shelf in the daughter’s room allows her to display her ever-rotating treasures.

Vintage unframed art adorns one wall.

A pouf matches the custom draperies, and sits underneath two long shelves holding the daughter’s books. A bookcase would have taken up too much room on the floor, and the walls were a great use of space.

The layout of the room includes an extra door that is never used. It cannot be removed because of code so it was papered and hung with framed chicken wire that displays the daughter’s artwork with clothespins.

The stuffed animals occupy a painted vintage suitcase.

The bedroom furnishings were a present from the in-laws, the mirror is vintage.

The antique pharmacy jars hold the daughter’s wide selection of hair clips, ties and accessories.

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Creating Curious Displays

Vintage martini glass planting – Apartment 46

There’s a romantic crispness to the air right now. Night comes earlier and it’s the perfect time to cocoon under warm blankets in candlelit rooms. It’s my favorite season of the year. As the last days of summer disappear, creative souls start bursting at the seams with ideas for their Halloween and Fall displays. I’m not known to be a thematic sort of girl and I don’t “do” holiday specific windows at Apartment 46. However, I’m all for unpredictable and imaginative displays, and I am nearly always designing some take on a cabinet of curiosities. In fact, our whole shop is modeled on what I believe a curious collector’s apartment would feel like.

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We’re An Official One Kings Lane Affiliate!

We are so excited to announce that we’ve been approved as a One Kings Lane affiliate! We have been in love with OKL since the day it began and being able to offer their collection of products through our site is just another way of helping you create an amazing space.

If you’re already a fan, all you have to do is click the banner on the home page of our site and book mark the link and there you go! Each time you log on through the bookmarked link, you’ll be supporting small business as zero extra cost to you. How awesome is that?

If you’ve never been to OKL, then get ready for a double-helping of “yes please!” You’ll wonder why it’s taken you so long. You can join the site directly from my home page. Click the banner, create an account and voila! You’re a super star!

We have some other fantastic things cooking with OKL so we’ll keep you posted. Until then, thank you for loving us as much as we love you.

Melisa

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