Home & Garden Tours - 'Tis the Season!

Wouldn’t it be fun to put your home on tour for total strangers to walk through for a few days? Getting it in perfect order - making sure the landscaping’s well-groomed, placing fresh flowers as well as offering some neat treats? Not everyone is brave enough to do this so I appreciate it when willing homeowners allow their homes to be put on parade to support their community or organizations. Though Instagram and other social outlets share home tours, there’s nothing like being able to experience one in real time.

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This weekend, after settling down from some back-to-back days scouring the High Point Market, I was able to relax and enjoy the Elizabeth Home & Garden Tour, near the uptown area of Charlotte, NC. (Not to be confused with Charleston, which it often is.)

The Elizabeth neighborhood is a combination of picturesque bungalows and brick two-stories, nestled on tree-lined streets with sidewalks conducive for foot travel to its many neighborhood venues and restaurants. In some ways, it reminds me of where I grew up in Durham. The Watts-Hillandale area still has the park, in which we used to play, as well as the golf course where we slid down snow-covered banks. I was actually born in Watts Hospital before it became the NC School of Math and Science. Perhaps this is why I felt an air of familiar comfort as my husband and I visited these Charlotte homes and their gardens.

  Though this home wasn’t on the tour, the pops of red trim caught my eye during the cloudy beginning to the day. The shake siding and simple architecture was punctuated by the happy accent.

Though this home wasn’t on the tour, the pops of red trim caught my eye during the cloudy beginning to the day. The shake siding and simple architecture was punctuated by the happy accent.

The gardens spanned from simple arrangements to the shared community space, below. Five homes have utilized this spot for many years and it tends to be the hot ticket for parties. One of the homeowners, Tom Thoune, is an artist and created a fabulous outdoor kitchen space with a pizza oven, incorporating his talents of mosaic design. (He mentioned others had helped with his guidance.) If you’re not familiar with Tom’s work, in the event you’ve traveled on the Charlotte Transit System train, it’s displayed in the gorgeous walls at the Camden Station.

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Many of the homes interiors have been adapted to today’s living needs, while retaining some of the charm and character from yesteryear. I’ll share one of my favorites as I think it incorporates all of the right elements.

Original floors of pine and oak, with their small plank size, have been preserved. I liked the paneling that appears to have been added, along with an updated fireplace. Modern art juxtaposed with antiques and traditional elements kept the view interesting and personal. I loved the blue ceiling, too!

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Across the hall, the dining room also showcased modern art against the dramatic, black wall backdrop. The white trim, cream leather chairs, and the pale rug reflected the light and prevented it from becoming too heavy. I enjoyed the use of the vintage, brass light fixture.

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Having previously visited several homes in this area, I recall many having either a butlery or a built-in nook for enjoying breakfast by a window. Though a large family might not fit, I am so glad they kept this area intact. A cozy spot for reading or taking in the day.

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Around the corner we found a den with a coal-burning fireplace. Again, a nice meshing of modern with traditional. The deep chocolate/bordeaux walls were an invitation to nesting in for a good read, conversation, or catching a lazy Saturday nap. I must still be recovering from a busy week as I keep mentioning words related to napping or nesting! Seriously, this is my favorite time of year to slow down a bit and to enjoy the season and shorter days. I’ll be over it by January, though.

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I noticed, even in homes where the furnishings might have benefitted from an extra “boost”, original art seemed to be very important to the homeowners. (Yes, I do like a finely tailored piece of upholstered furniture.) The kitchens were updated with professional appliances, either meeting a need for the chef in the house or for anticipated resale. These homes have appreciated greatly, over the years, so the accoutrements are a big consideration.

An antique sleigh bed and flanking tables had artfully placed layers of bedding and wall decor to keep them from being stuffy. Modern, marble lamps brought in the extra light in a sculptural way. I enjoyed the side table styling, too.

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As an aside, I’m always looking at floors. I thought I had captured a few more photos; however, I must have been in a hurry not to block traffic. I still love a good marble combo of black and white. It’s a classic!

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Typical for the lots, they tend to be more narrow but go deeper than might be imagined. The houses follow that pattern, as well. You can see this from my photos, below. I particularly enjoyed that the tour included garden and outdoor spaces. Fall is a great season, in the south, for getting in some landscaping work. It’s been one long, hot summer and the cooler breezes make the work very pleasant.

  Fences make for good neighbors, especially when a nice design and include lovely landscaping.

Fences make for good neighbors, especially when a nice design and include lovely landscaping.

  Shake siding and cottage-style windows make this simple home exterior outstanding. You can see, from the side view, how far back the space extends.

Shake siding and cottage-style windows make this simple home exterior outstanding. You can see, from the side view, how far back the space extends.

  This garden spot meandered into different areas - some for evergreens, some for vegetables and others for enjoying the flowers. Guess who will be in their garden, after this post goes live?

This garden spot meandered into different areas - some for evergreens, some for vegetables and others for enjoying the flowers. Guess who will be in their garden, after this post goes live?

  I love the use of the black, smooth pebbles for creating beds. This inspired me to reconsider some areas we’ve mulched. Sometimes the smallest thing can nudge us towards making a change in our homes for the better. Less maintenance is where we’re heading in our lives.

I love the use of the black, smooth pebbles for creating beds. This inspired me to reconsider some areas we’ve mulched. Sometimes the smallest thing can nudge us towards making a change in our homes for the better. Less maintenance is where we’re heading in our lives.

After the tour, the flood of memories had me searching Google for an image of the house I grew up in during my grade school years. The brick Cape Cod looks very much the same, though I imagine it’s been expanded as I see the side porch has been enclosed and a cheerful red door is new. The photo must have been taken in winter so I took an artist’s brush application to it. The flowering shrubs were always so beautiful. My mother began her gardening years, here, as well as her desire to decorate. I remember the mahogany bed and dresser she so proudly purchased for my room. It was dressed in a blue and white printed floral bedspread with crisp, white curtains. The alcove window area contained the attic door access. I’d pretend it was a secret passage via shades of C.S. Lewis and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - aka - Narnia.

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As it was once and best said, “Where we love is home, home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr

All my best ~ Wanda

This Old House - This New Kitchen

If you’ve not had a chance to visit our portfolio updates, you may have missed the latest about our kitchen project, located in a renovated 1920’s cottage in Monroe, North Carolina. We love working in our lovely historic district and we were very excited to be asked to participate in overhauling the entire kitchen, breakfast, mud entry, and powder bath spaces.

As per our caption in this portfolio: “In order to preserve a family home and its history, my clients made a cross-country relocation back to North Carolina.  Their quest began with engaging us to remodel the heart of their home - the kitchen.  Though a few of the original elements were intact, most had disappeared by the way of a late 1970s renovation.  Thankfully, the pre-existing wood valances and upper side cabinets were still in good condition, as well as some built-ins near the breakfast area.  I was delighted this couple wanted to retain them as our jumping-off point, since character and charm stood high on the list.” 

 An insider’s glimpse of our project, featured in This Old House Magazine.

An insider’s glimpse of our project, featured in This Old House Magazine.

You can imagine our delight was amplified when the folks from “This Old House Magazine” came calling! We didn’t get to share a visit with Steve and Norm; however, a talented field editor, Andrea Caughey, and photographer, Brie Williams captured beautiful project images to showcase, along with our photogenic clients, Steve and Gay Clyburn. A bit later, the article came to fruition and hit the newstands in September. I’m a little late in blogging about it but you can read the full article online by clicking on the image below.

Warm and enchanting describes our successful remodel and it's also true of our clients.

 I have ten extra copies of this issue and if you  sign-up for our newsletter , while also leaving a comment, below, I’ll be happy to mail one to you. Click on this image to enjoy reading the online version.

I have ten extra copies of this issue and if you sign-up for our newsletter, while also leaving a comment, below, I’ll be happy to mail one to you. Click on this image to enjoy reading the online version.

All my best! ~ Wanda

Fall Entertaining - Let the Parties Begin!

Living in the southeastern part of the United States means we are still transitioning from summer to fall, no matter what the calendar indicates. We’re going to have some warm days, ahead, but with the hopeful promise of cooler evenings. I’m a fall baby so this feels like it’s my season! Outdoor parties can certainly be fun and casual; however, given the opportunity to “play dress-up” with a tabletop, I’m all in! As we move closer to the holidays and special events, it’s time to polish up the silver and bring the sparkle back to the china and crystal.

 Photo: Wanda S. Horton

Photo: Wanda S. Horton

A few months ago, our design team began a project to refresh a lovely, historic home in Union County, North Carolina. This was our second home in a historic district and we were excited to be included in the update. To give the condensed version, the home needed some interior work of a different kind, as most older homes do. After getting behind the walls and ceilings, we put it back together so we could move on to the interior design portion.

Back to the party planning . . . We began in the more public areas of the dining and living spaces. Our clients had purchased a large table and multiple chairs, along with a new buffet, since they often entertain both family and friends and needed the expanded capacity. They had a favorite sofa they wanted to incorporate, along with some antiques and a favorite crystal chandelier. We identified some negotiables for new furniture or recovering existing pieces, along with new art, accessories, and lighting.

 Photo: Wanda S. Horton

Photo: Wanda S. Horton

My client brought out her grandmother’s china for me to see and it helped us to determine the overall room color and elements. We added some silvered glass chargers, by Monique Lhuillier, to accentuate the platinum rimming and to provide a transitional look. Aren’t they simply timeless and beautiful?

 Photo: Wanda S. Horton

Photo: Wanda S. Horton

 Photo: Wanda S. Horton

Photo: Wanda S. Horton

It’s difficult to choose a favorite angle as each one has something beautiful to behold. The commissioned art from Kathy Cousart may have had a little something to do with our table setting inspiration. You can get lost in her pieces!

I had in mind I wanted to find some blue and white vases or jars, but the new ones tend to go a bit more purple in the blue. I was so pleased to happen upon six of them at a recently-opened shop in Charlotte, H and S Antiques. They’re just the right size and my friend, Kim Rushing, from August Lily Florist, also had some beautiful votive/vases in smokey blue, gold, and clear glass. We discussed flowers and fruit and voilà, she brought in beautiful Fuji mums, orchids and white roses, graced with textural greens. Since it was the first official day of fall, we added a different twist to pumpkins by using oranges and tangerines as a nod to a russet accent.

The vases are able to stand on their own, after the fresh flowers go away. They’re also flexible enough to work with all of the seasons to come.

 Photo: Wanda S. Horton

Photo: Wanda S. Horton

We’ll be capturing this space through a professional’s lens, as I know my limitations behind a phone camera. Still, I wanted to share some behind-the-scenes images. My client is a wonderful cook and host. It was so much fun to collaborate on this project. She had the most creative invitations and found lovely napkins and silver chopsticks to finish off her tableau.

Happy Fall, Y’all! I hope this has inspired you to think of some ways to enjoy entertaining for the season, be it for an intimate group or a feast for many.

All my best ~ Wanda

Five Ways to Create A Comforting Home

For the last several days, we’ve been deluged with the wind and rain of what was Hurricane Florence. Though downgraded to a Tropical Storm, many of us were cautioned to stay at home and we did just that. It’s been difficult to watch some of the news with this having such a serious impact on my state of North Carolina. During challenging times, we often want to turn to the comfort of home and the people who live there for a feeling of security. (This includes our pets, too.)

 Does your home bring a comforting experience? Our lake home project does just that.

Does your home bring a comforting experience? Our lake home project does just that.

I’ve been reading posts where people commented about getting cabin fever, even a couple of days in. Give me a comfy chair and ottoman, a stack of books or design magazines, my doxie, a cozy blanket, and I’m completely content. Still, with the severity of the weather, I hoped for a real calm from this storm for our family and for others, too. Thankfully, we’re safe and have been able to stay in place.

Today I thought about one of my intentions in designing interiors. It’s for clients to feel wrapped in a type of comfort, reaching beyond the physical. It taps into a deeper place - where the tangible meets the intangible. Even if you may not have been through an event like a hurricane, life does have its share of “storms” and your home can be designed as a place of repose and support.

As I was reflecting on what makes for a comforting home, it brought to mind a particular project and five key elements to share with you:

One - Comfortable upholstery pieces, covered in soft but durable fabric, along with plump pillows, beckon you to curl up for listening to soft music or for connecting. We wrapped this grouping around a set of four ottomans on casters to allow everyone to prop up their feet to relax. The room layout also provided for an intimate feeling, even though it’s quite large and with soaring ceilings.

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Two - The warmth of wood. It’s making its way back into interiors. Yes, we’ve seen it in flooring, ceilings, and architectural accents; however, we’ve recently witnessed how almost every furniture piece has gone by the way of painted or scrubbed finishes. (You’ll notice I did add a touch of blue in some of the other end tables.) The grained inlay of this pedestal table, along with the brass edging, made for a rich accent piece. Warm and inviting, with an elegant ease, is the narrative for this.

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Three - A tray, layered with some of your favorite things, can accent a focal point. A book to peruse, flowers to enjoy, a bit of sparkle, or a place to rest a beverage make the room more personal than if it was just a place to sit. We contrasted a custom tray with two different textures for even more interest.

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Four - The glow of a beautiful lamp is always a must for bringing the ambience. Have you ever driven by a home, in the evening, and noticed lamps casting their golden path of welcome, drawing you in? Layers of light prevent those recessed fixtures from giving you the hospital waiting room experience. Soft light, not harsh, comforts every time.

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Five - Something tactile, underfoot, like the hand-knotted rug we selected for our featured living area, feels good to walk across or when sitting in Sukhasana pose. (My yoga aficionados appreciate a good floorcovering, especially when it’s pretty.) The gold and blue hues, set against a warm, gray background, feel like the sun and the sky have been grounded by one, beautiful canvas. The pattern is almost mesmerizing, don’t you think?

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It seems the worst of the weather is over for my area, though it’s still impacting other parts of the Carolinas. For some, it’s been an inconvenience, and for others, it’s been a time of great loss. To offer assistance or to find help, our Charlotte paper has provided a great list of agencies and resources. You can find that article online here .

We may not know, for several days or even weeks, what the impact of Florence will be. For now, I hope each and everyone affected will find hope, help, and a respite of calm from this storm.

All my best ~ Wanda

Bring on the fireworks! Our new website is live!

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According to the late Lucille Ball, "If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it. The more things you do, the more you can do."  Lucy is one of my all-time favorite comedic actors and from what I understand, she was also a brilliant business woman.  Still, I have to think there were times she must have delegated some of her brilliant ideas to a team to facilitate.

What on earth does this have to do with the excitement in sharing our website "remodel" and launch . . .  especially on the Fourth of July?  First, there's a sense of celebration that we made it to the finish line with everything else on our plates.  It's a handful when you're in the midst of collaborating on the design, while desiring language to convey both your process and passion for your work - and - while also switching gears back and forth between projects and everyday obligations.  Just cue the scene at the chocolate factory where Lucy and Ethel hilariously attempt to keep ahead of the finish line.  Yes, chocolate was indeed consumed!

Though we have some gorgeous, new shots for our portfolio, (soon to be uploaded), this is one of the projects I've been most proud to have accomplished.  It's been an enlightening experience as we move through another revolution of working in the interior design industry and with the clients I have loved the most.   

It's a much longer story but suffice it to say, it's taken a team to get here.  I'm immensely grateful to them and have appreciated their responsiveness to the final tweaks.      

Over time, we'll be adding more features.  There will be storytelling, as it's part of my DNA.  I think of it as extending an invitation for you to visit with us more often and I hope you will.      

My passion for interior design still burns.

"Walking into a home should make you feel uplifted. Living in one should bring a familiar comfort; confidently guiding you towards experiencing something different – something imaginative." ~ Wanda S. Horton

Have a safe and happy July 4th weekend!

All my best ~ Wanda

My Favorites - Please have a seat

Hardly more welcoming words can be heard, after walking miles and miles of the High Point Furniture Market, than “Please, have a seat.”  This market I made sure to visit more of the side buildings to source some special vendor wares and I could certainly feel those extra steps!   Of course, the showrooms were more than happy to seat us during our visits.  There’s nothing better than taking the sit test to assist us in sharing their comfort stories.

 Though petite in size, I love the Claude Chair from Ambella Home.  It feels modern and fresh, while the design is based on an English parlor chair, from back in the day.  Great for floating as an extra seat or paired at the foot of a bed.  It supports the lumbar area in a lovely way. 

Though petite in size, I love the Claude Chair from Ambella Home.  It feels modern and fresh, while the design is based on an English parlor chair, from back in the day.  Great for floating as an extra seat or paired at the foot of a bed.  It supports the lumbar area in a lovely way. 

I must admit, I have a thing for chairs.  I think it’s hereditary because I tease my mother about being able to play musical chairs in her home.  She’s a petite one, less than five feet, so I think it’s partly a comfort item as well as she loves the option of mixing styles.  A great chair, (or two), can be akin to bringing a piece of art or architecture into your space.  It can make it frillier, more tailored, more modern, more traditional . . .  and so on.

 One of my favorite showrooms, Thibaut and Anna French, offers a stunning array of side chairs and dining room seating.  I like to think we find selections which extend an invitation to linger around the table.  I'm in the process of letting go of some French antique chairs and I think their Stirling Chair is in the finals.  Very comfortable and I love the Dorothy Draper-esque leaning.  Dressy-casual is so me!

One of my favorite showrooms, Thibaut and Anna French, offers a stunning array of side chairs and dining room seating.  I like to think we find selections which extend an invitation to linger around the table.  I'm in the process of letting go of some French antique chairs and I think their Stirling Chair is in the finals.  Very comfortable and I love the Dorothy Draper-esque leaning.  Dressy-casual is so me!

 One of my favorite showrooms, Thibaut and Anna French, offers a stunning array of side chairs and dining room seating.  I like to think we find selections which extend an invitation to linger around the table.  I'm in the process of letting go of some French antique chairs and I think their Stirling Chair is in the finals.  Very comfortable and I love the Dorothy Draper-esque leaning.  Dressy-casual is so me!

One of my favorite showrooms, Thibaut and Anna French, offers a stunning array of side chairs and dining room seating.  I like to think we find selections which extend an invitation to linger around the table.  I'm in the process of letting go of some French antique chairs and I think their Stirling Chair is in the finals.  Very comfortable and I love the Dorothy Draper-esque leaning.  Dressy-casual is so me!

Chairs can also be like shoes.  They’ll have us oohing over their gorgeous style and then sighing with regret when misery sets in, especially when ill-fitted, in a short time.  If you’re making selections for the long term, comfort comes first.  It’s fine to have that one museum piece.  We all have one, on occasion, but know the reason it will stay almost immaculate is that no one will want to sit in it, including you!  (Like that pair of Valentino spike heels in the top of your closet.) 

 Gilding may not be for everyone but if you love it, this pairing of Theodore Alexander Gothic Library Settees would have had you at "hello".  The marbled pattern covering and the restrained elegance, in blush, paired with the coffee-colored walls and the ebony and gilt bookcase . . . No, these are not meant for slouching.  They are meant to be adored!  

Gilding may not be for everyone but if you love it, this pairing of Theodore Alexander Gothic Library Settees would have had you at "hello".  The marbled pattern covering and the restrained elegance, in blush, paired with the coffee-colored walls and the ebony and gilt bookcase . . . No, these are not meant for slouching.  They are meant to be adored!  

Conversely, there’s more to being cozily outfitted than having that old, baseball mitt-styled/security blanket chair commanding the wrong kind of attention just because someone in the house can’t let go of it.  We know who they are and it's why there should be handsome options. 

 Sometimes you'll be totally surprised by appearances.  This Lee chair might look to be a bit more rigid, because of the frame, but I can tell you it was super comfortable.  Over 700 people on Instagram thought so, too.  

Sometimes you'll be totally surprised by appearances.  This Lee chair might look to be a bit more rigid, because of the frame, but I can tell you it was super comfortable.  Over 700 people on Instagram thought so, too.  

 This is the perfect example of upholstery morphing into sculpture.  The new Atelier Chair, from Ambella, was a huge hit at the market.  Art Deco is slipping back into design and I'll be sharing more in a future post.  Notice how the back has become the support, without feet?  It takes a skilled manufacturer to carry off this construction. 

This is the perfect example of upholstery morphing into sculpture.  The new Atelier Chair, from Ambella, was a huge hit at the market.  Art Deco is slipping back into design and I'll be sharing more in a future post.  Notice how the back has become the support, without feet?  It takes a skilled manufacturer to carry off this construction. 

 Of course we can't forget bar and counter seating.  This new introduction, from Woodbridge Furniture, was also another surprise in the looks and comfy category.  We can order this in a wide array of paint colors, too.  Super sleek and fun!

Of course we can't forget bar and counter seating.  This new introduction, from Woodbridge Furniture, was also another surprise in the looks and comfy category.  We can order this in a wide array of paint colors, too.  Super sleek and fun!

There were so many options to be discovered and I think the lights may have been turned off on me, had I gotten to sit in everything or photograph it all.  I have my tried-and-true, preselected lines to take away the guess work for my clients.  In fact, I'm excited to share I'll be bringing in some pieces for their own sit tests.  It will make the design studio pretty, too!  

Who said style and comfort have to be mutually exclusive?  Not I!

All my best! ~ Wanda

House Love Series - Tips for the bathroom

February is a great month for taking a good look around and to begin making lists for any interior updates. (Don't forget, spring remodeling season is just around the corner!) This can be anything from considering a fresh color scheme to changing out some dated light fixtures to making plans for a kitchen or bath remodel. It can include reupholstering a favorite chair or redecorating your bedroom suite.

No matter what you decide, showing your home love is like wrapping yourself in a big hug. Each month when Roger and I've accomplished something on our to-do list, it's been so uplifting. In these winter months, we've found a renewed love of the great indoors!

You'll find some beautiful and practical tips for romantic bathroom updates, below. We'll be adding more areas in our blog posts during this month of House Love.  Actually, I think we may need to keep this as an ongoing topic.  When it comes to home TLC, one month is never enough!

Of course, we love bringing creative and organized interior solutions to you. We're just a phone call or email away!

Ahhh The Spa Bath!!!

There's nothing like an invigorating shower, to begin your day, or a soak in the tub to relax tired muscles at the end of it. How can you update your bath to create a spa experience? We'll share a few helpful tips from one of our projects, below.

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If you have extra room, a freestanding tub is an elegant addition and can become a beautiful focal point for your bath. Because they don't have the typical tile or stone top surround, I always suggest considering one with a larger edge, or deck, to provide support for getting in and out of the tub. If you like the durability and heat retaining qualities of a cast iron tub, keep in mind extra floor support will be required to hold the weight. Acrylic tubs are lighter; therefore, not requiring this support. This makes them great for upper level bathrooms, are less costly, and if scratched, are easily repaired. Something to keep in mind during your selection process.

  Rohl Country Bath

Rohl Country Bath

Plumbing fixtures are also like the jewelry for the bath as they can impart a certain style. In this case, the Rohl Country Bath tub filler and hand-shower added a vintage feel to this traditional home setting. The hand-shower is always something I recommend, if it's in the budget, as it allows for easy cleaning of the tub and it rinses off any soapy residue when you're finished with your bath.

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In this project, our clients had a specially designed shower to allow for an entry and an exit on both sides. They also had various methods of delivering water. Body sprays, a rain shower head, a handheld spray on a slidebar, and a standard shower head required some additional plumbing. It was easy to do because it was a new-build project. When considering a remodel, it's always a good idea to have the contractor and plumber check for the size of pipes and the valve system as they may need to be replaced in an older home. Small pipes = low pressure and you may not be able to install multiple heads to function at once.

  Luscious roses to pamper the senses.

Luscious roses to pamper the senses.

Of course, every spa bathroom should be filled with special treats. Who wouldn't enjoy a weekly, large bouquet of roses? The next best thing would be specially scented soaps, aromatherapy oils, plush towels and robes, lovely slippers, and some soft music. Taking care of our physical being puts us out into the world in a pleasant mood!

 New construction project completed in Waxhaw, NC - the Charlotte, NC metro area.  Interior Design:  Wanda S. Horton - Builder:  Arcadia Custom Homes

New construction project completed in Waxhaw, NC - the Charlotte, NC metro area.  Interior Design:  Wanda S. Horton - Builder:  Arcadia Custom Homes

Is your bathroom sharing the love or does it need some refreshing of its own?  

All my best! - Wanda

My Kitchen Favorites - Including the sink!

Being a residential interior designer, who happens to work with clients on kitchen remodels as well as new home construction, I'm often asked to share some of my favorite kitchen features.  It would make for a long read as I've got so many; however, I thought I might share some items I consider in creating beautiful kitchen transformations.  These go beyond some of the larger items - like cabinets, appliances, and knocking out walls.  

One of my favorite remodels still looks current with classic lines and beautiful elements.  It's chock-full of examples on my list!  

 (Kitchen Design and Interior Design:  Wanda S. Horton)

(Kitchen Design and Interior Design:  Wanda S. Horton)

  • A "wow" glass tile backsplash transforms the all-white cabinetry into a space with major personality.  The client was such a delight and this fits her to a 'T' for her tile! 
  • Having a window over the sink fills the room with sunlight and being able to gaze out to experience a bit of nature does wonderful things for the soul when clean-up is the task at hand.
  • The hidden beauty, in this picture, is the LED tape lighting.  It showcases that stunning backsplash while also providing super illumination for the work surfaces.  When needed, it dims for a soft ending to the day.  It fits into the tightest of spaces, too.  Getting rid of the undercabinet box lights is so liberating from dark corners.

Meaningful kitchen design is all in the details.  I know you probably hear this a lot but it bears repeating, especially when we're speaking about a space where some of the decisions become part of what we often refer to as the "permanent selections".  Of course, you can always make changes, after the fact, but swapping out a paint color isn't nearly as costly as taking out a counter selection gone awry or reworking a layout for better function.  

Even the smaller items, such as cabinet hardware or light fixtures, can make a big impact on how you may appreciate the finished project.  Basic cabinets can really sing with the right accents.  Making access easier with some pull-outs or smart storage adds an ease to your day.  Instant hot water dispensers are necessities for those who not only love to have a quick cup of tea but want to have piping hot water at the ready for different recipes. 

The kitchen sink is another place I love to add color for the client who knows their palette preferences will remain true.  'Safe' isn't a word they embrace for design decisions and they want their kitchens to reflect their adventurous side.  Potted herbs and plants are an absolute must for me!  Not only do they add the most beautiful green to a space, (one of my favorites), but they add a freshness and fragrance to fulfill the senses.  Herbs enhance so many dishes, too.

2-Favorite+Kitchen+Elements.jpg

So there you have it, almost everything including the kitchen sink!  If the world could be your oyster, what do you think some of your favorite kitchen elements might be?  I'd love to hear from you!

All my best! ~ Wanda

Caring for Our Clients - The sacred agreement →

In the spirit of penning a Valentine’s Day blog post, I had planned to share how I really care about the projects and the clients, with whom I work. I’m passionate about giving clients a gorgeous home, customized for their families, in which to welcome guests and to help them reflect who they are.  I consider being invited into their homes, and to be included in their personal lives, as a sacred thing.  With some recent industry events, I decided to edit this post.

One of the definitions of sacred is:  "secured against violation, infringement, etc., as by reverence or sense of right:  sacred oaths; sacred rights."  This means I come to clients with the understanding I will respect their privacy and the data we create from their projects and will do my very best to protect it.  It means we want to carefully vet people and processes that will be part of their projects, too.   

We want our clients to know one of the key values we bring, other than our creative collateral, is how we take on the role of advocacy, on their behalf, whether it’s tracking a shipment of furniture, making sure the workroom understands their specs and drawings or measuring twice for a picture to be properly placed in proportion to its location.  We are their last point of project resolution. 

Some changes occurred for the interior design community, this week.  There were a few big announcements which created a conundrum as to where designers can place their trust.  It’s a long story but one of the news flashes was regarding an interior design project management and financial platform and that it was sold to a large industry entity, leaving many feeling vulnerable.  (To read about it, click <here>. “Houzz acquires IvyMark to expand into services for designers.”)  More than 2,400 designers had invested in IvyMark and there are over 200,000 designers on Houzz, globally.  (Figures are taken from one of the Houzz co-founders.)

   Ballantyne Living Room - Wanda S. Horton - Photo: Dustin Peck

Ballantyne Living Room - Wanda S. Horton - Photo: Dustin Peck

It has created quite a stir, to say the least.  If you’re an interior designer reading this, you’ve probably been part of this big discussion.  If you're a consumer, the shift in our industry is also important to you, as you consider addressing your home's design.  

After many exchanges and reading Terms of Use and Privacy Policies, I pondered why consumers might actually care about this, too?  After all, haven’t these kind of companies been around for a while and made it clear there’s an expected exchange for anything being “free”?  It also depends on what is regarded as privacy or ownership of information.  It’s important to note, these Terms and Conditions can be changed at any time, meaning when you first subscribed to a service or platform, it may not still be applicable to the original proposition.  (By the way, interior designers had to pay to use the IvyMark program, which Houzz purchased.)  Essentially, though still being debated, it's becoming more clear there's a different price being paid in this information age.  And we have a choice in it.  Or I at least think we should.

The fine print can be a long and boring read and because it seems everyone else has given a thumb’s up, why not join in, right?  That’s until it becomes like a Facebook post, going viral, that has been proven to be false, and your friends begin pointing you to the Snopes or news articles refuting it.  One of those egg-on-the-face moments.  I don’t want to make light of this.  Trust is tough to gain back, once it’s been broken.  Think of some of the corporations who’ve had to take responsibility for breaching their customers’ good faith.

In the beginning, some of these platforms were to provide inspirational and aspirational design and as a means to connect the public with professionals.  They were to provide a method for the consumer to be able to collect images, communicate preferences when technical terms might not be part of their everyday vocabulary.  (In the “old days”, designers asked clients to bookmark magazines or hardback publications to help express their style or to point to a specific element.)  Today, all you have to do is search for something on your computer or phone, and suddenly that object appears in an advertisement on a social media site or when a website allows Google ads to run.  It begins to filter what you see as it makes choices for you.  Feels a little invasive, doesn’t it?

Time will tell how all of this flushes out.  In examining between the legalese lines, it reads as if the door has been left wide open for the collection of information, designers' work being shared for sourcing, as well as the policy for images being the property of that big entity to do with them as they wish.  Photographers may have a say in this for use in advertising and I hope they will. 

   Ballantyne Dining Room - Wanda S. Horton - Photo:&nbsp; Whitney Gray

Ballantyne Dining Room - Wanda S. Horton - Photo:  Whitney Gray

   Sedgefield Owner's Bath - Wanda S. Horton - Photo:&nbsp; Whitney Gray

Sedgefield Owner's Bath - Wanda S. Horton - Photo:  Whitney Gray

I work hard for my clients.  I am a high touch designer.  My focus is to make the design process more calming, more organized, and to protect clients' interests while also getting the job done.  The less I jump into subscribe to the “next big thing”, which ultimately may become disruptive and/or falls short on application, the more consistent I’ll be at focusing on doing my best job. 

I hope designers will consider this to be a positive catalyst, though it’s not my place to advise on how to handle their own business practices.  Some will continue to embrace these platforms and others will steer clear.  I would suggest taking time to read, read, read and investigate before investing in another program or system.  Find out from others if they've seen a return on their investment, both time-wise and financially.  In times of upheaval, take care with those who might take advantage.  

What I do know is my firm will continue to use systems we’ve customized for our own client management, (in-house), and for billings and financial documentation.  Having owned my firm for 20+ years, I’ve tried many different things and the bottom line is it’s all about having a process in place - to keep it simple for the client even if we have to go the extra mile to develop it.  That's our sacred agreement.  

All my best! ~ Wanda

*Note:  All of the beautiful floral arrangements, above, were created by my friend, Kim Rushing, the owner and fabulous floral designer of August Lily Florist.  

From Wanda's Desk: It's Business, It's Not Personal. It's ALSO Personal.

In the fall of 2017, I decided to do something unprecedented for my interior design firm.  I scheduled a month off.  Though it took a little juggling to make it happen, I sat down with the calendar and began blocking off the days.  I was at a carry-over point of a large project and had just stepped into a long-distance remodel, where both clients agreed to wait for my return, among a few other project inquiries.  It was both liberating and anxiety-ridden.  You see, it’s been a very long span since I’ve taken off any real length of time, much less a whole four weeks!  Though we’ve had the typical holiday closings, there was always a place to be or I used it as time to play catch-up on projects when they had begun to overlap.  I came back not at all rested or enthusiastic about diving back into creative mode.  It began to feel more like production mode.  Not my happy place!

  This is one of my happy place images.&nbsp; An event where we were charged to create a uniquely individual setting.&nbsp; One of my favorite collaborators and decorative artists, Whitney Preslar, brought my vision to light by hand-painting the mirrored chargers and the table cloth.&nbsp; My vintage china was a starting point.&nbsp; The love of flowers and gardening was infused in the setting with arrangements by David Wynn of Elizabeth House Flowers.&nbsp; Photography by Chanda Pope.

This is one of my happy place images.  An event where we were charged to create a uniquely individual setting.  One of my favorite collaborators and decorative artists, Whitney Preslar, brought my vision to light by hand-painting the mirrored chargers and the table cloth.  My vintage china was a starting point.  The love of flowers and gardening was infused in the setting with arrangements by David Wynn of Elizabeth House Flowers.  Photography by Chanda Pope.

I had read about how burn-out impacts many creatives and/or small business owners.   Some colleagues shared their personal stories of hitting the wall.  Being determined not to become a statistic, I knew this break would bring a vital advantage for my company, moving into 2018. (Okay, mainly for the head chef and bottle washer, who has been at this for over twenty years.)   Still, I wondered if clients or potential clients would understand and be supportive.

  Another happy image!&nbsp; A long-time client helped her daughter update her first home, a quaint townhouse in Charlotte.&nbsp; We totally gutted and remodeled the kitchen, among other areas.&nbsp; The inspiration began with her collection of Fiestaware in all of her favorite colors.&nbsp; We had to be smart about storage.&nbsp; On photoshoot day, my client's granddaughter happened to be present and as you can see, she became a darling part of the feature.&nbsp; I ended 2017 helping my client move into a new home, closer to this now much taller young lady and her sister, as well as her daughter who has since gotten married and had her own wee one.&nbsp; Yes, we did eat the cupcakes, afterwards!&nbsp; Deb's Sweet Cakes makes the best and many of my clients now go to her.&nbsp; (Photography by Whitney Gray)&nbsp;

Another happy image!  A long-time client helped her daughter update her first home, a quaint townhouse in Charlotte.  We totally gutted and remodeled the kitchen, among other areas.  The inspiration began with her collection of Fiestaware in all of her favorite colors.  We had to be smart about storage.  On photoshoot day, my client's granddaughter happened to be present and as you can see, she became a darling part of the feature.  I ended 2017 helping my client move into a new home, closer to this now much taller young lady and her sister, as well as her daughter who has since gotten married and had her own wee one.  Yes, we did eat the cupcakes, afterwards!  Deb's Sweet Cakes makes the best and many of my clients now go to her.  (Photography by Whitney Gray) 

Interior designers, unbeknownst to what may be portrayed in perfect worlds of Instagram, TV shows, or from general perception, do way more than produce “pretty”.  I’m as guilty as the next of wanting to showcase everything beautiful, because it is my intention to make a positive impact in how people can live in their homes.  Let me tell you, though, just as in life, it rarely begins in picture-perfect mode.  That’s why I’m called in - The interior fixer, counselor, organizer, solution-finder, make-it-happen, renovator of homes and of life/spaces.  Depending on what is needed, I wear a lot of hats.  It was time to put some of them away and to decide the ones to keep - the ones I’ve enjoyed wearing more often.  Of course, there's always a new style or two to try.  As we evolve into different life stages, so does our work and the meaning it holds as we seek the best fit.

  More happy photos?&nbsp; But of course!&nbsp; When clients are open to pushing beyond a comfort zone with statement pieces, like this chandelier from Currey &amp; Company, knowing it will elevate their design to a new level, my heart dances!&nbsp; This one almost didn't make the cut, not because of the style, but exposed bulbs would have given one of them migraines.&nbsp; We rose to the challenge with silk-wrapped, candle bulbs and by adding a dimmer switch.&nbsp; One of my favorite dining rooms, ever!&nbsp; We were also honored to have this room published in Charlotte Home +&nbsp;Garden Magazine, March 2017.&nbsp; (Photography by Dustin Peck)

More happy photos?  But of course!  When clients are open to pushing beyond a comfort zone with statement pieces, like this chandelier from Currey & Company, knowing it will elevate their design to a new level, my heart dances!  This one almost didn't make the cut, not because of the style, but exposed bulbs would have given one of them migraines.  We rose to the challenge with silk-wrapped, candle bulbs and by adding a dimmer switch.  One of my favorite dining rooms, ever!  We were also honored to have this room published in Charlotte Home + Garden Magazine, March 2017.  (Photography by Dustin Peck)

Today, as I’m getting ready for reentry into my new year, albeit a few weeks later than others,  I don’t know that I have all of the answers, but I’ve come to some epiphanies , both small and large.  I’ll be writing about a few, in between some design posts, because I realize writing for this blog can be both about business and personal.  

Which brings me to:

Interior design is a business.  Money is a big topic, sometimes even over and above a design.  Project management and organization are key elements.  Design tools are necessary.  Results are expected to be delivered.  Overhead and business expenses are not an afterthought.  Profitability keeps us sustainable.   We have a plan.

Interior design is also personal.  It may sound lofty but lives are impacted daily by it.  How one lives and works in their spaces.  How they function.  If it’s healthy.  If it invigorates.  If it soothes.  If it’s productive.  And that’s totally subjective to each and every individual.  Design is about relationships.  We work in your homes, amongst you and your families, and sometimes friends.  We work with a team.  We form loyalties.   We believe in human connection. 

  I love pieces with a history.&nbsp; And I love having a history with whom I work.&nbsp; Before these clients relocated, we finished a guest bedroom by marrying some vintage and new pieces.&nbsp; This chair is one of a pair I found in one of my special "no-tell" spots.&nbsp; (Yes, it's sacred time for designers to curate and develop trades sources.)&nbsp; These happened to come from a well-known family estate and were covered in a faded and torn apricot silk.&nbsp; They had a modern edge and the carved wood insert - OMG so perfect!&nbsp; Our upholsterers, brothers,&nbsp;were used to handling antiques so I scooped them up.&nbsp; We had a long history together.&nbsp; Sadly, in late 2017, one of them lost their battle with cancer and the shop is now closed.&nbsp; We've had to move on to address our client's needs, but I'm thinking of his family with a heavy heart as we began working with his father, at the start-up of our firm, and know how much they're missing him.&nbsp; Business IS personal.

I love pieces with a history.  And I love having a history with whom I work.  Before these clients relocated, we finished a guest bedroom by marrying some vintage and new pieces.  This chair is one of a pair I found in one of my special "no-tell" spots.  (Yes, it's sacred time for designers to curate and develop trades sources.)  These happened to come from a well-known family estate and were covered in a faded and torn apricot silk.  They had a modern edge and the carved wood insert - OMG so perfect!  Our upholsterers, brothers, were used to handling antiques so I scooped them up.  We had a long history together.  Sadly, in late 2017, one of them lost their battle with cancer and the shop is now closed.  We've had to move on to address our client's needs, but I'm thinking of his family with a heavy heart as we began working with his father, at the start-up of our firm, and know how much they're missing him.  Business IS personal.

There are stories created because of all of the above.  More of those stories will be shared in the coming weeks and months.

In the end, this is what I know for sure:  (Sorry Oprah, I just had to say it.)  For me, design is both business and personal.  Balancing it requires emotional intelligence, respect - for self and for others, realistic expectations, agility, handkerchiefs, humor, and daily planning. 

I also know this:  I’m ever appreciative of my best clients/vendors/partners.  Thank you for being you and I’ll see everyone, soon!  

All my best! - Wanda