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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Elizabeth Home Tour - Den in Chocolate Brown WSHID.jpg

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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Elizabeth Home Tour 2018 - Bedside Table Display.jpg

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!

Elizabeth Home Tour 2018 - Bath Tile WSHID.jpg

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

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

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.