Artful Storytelling in Your Home

“Art is in the eye of the beholder and everyone will have their own interpretation.”

― E.A. Bucchianeri, Brushstrokes of a Gadfly

I love how the archway to this dining room creates another frame, of sort. Artist:    Vesela Baker    - Commissioned multi-media pieces for a lake home dining room. Interior Design: Wanda S. Horton Photography: Dustin Peck (Image Copyrighted)

I love how the archway to this dining room creates another frame, of sort. Artist: Vesela Baker - Commissioned multi-media pieces for a lake home dining room. Interior Design: Wanda S. Horton Photography: Dustin Peck (Image Copyrighted)

In the beginning . . .

For many years, the consideration of original art being obtainable fell along the lines of appreciating a well-designed interior . . . often out-of-touch and out-of-reach. Galleries, in major metropolitan areas, catered to seasoned collectors and with the assumption these originals would be an investment purchase, potentially increasing in value like stock. If you lived in a different world, such as a smaller city or a rural location, the concept of art probably came from a very different point of reference. Framed prints of mass production filled the void of empty walls. Sometimes, if fortunate enough, you might have been gifted or inherited a piece of art generated by a talented family member or friend. (And thank goodness, my parents didn’t give away a piece of primitive folk art from a great uncle. What a treasure it’s become!)

As a designer I noticed a trend, especially during the late 90’s and into the early 2000’s, when decoration took a turn towards larger and more elaborate European influences. There was increasing interest in owning big oil paintings as statement pieces because the expanded homes’ scale dictated it. Even in houses without the increased square footage, there was a desire to imply a certain status, via this style. “Old World” was at the top of the list. Lots of faux was to be found in everything, including the art sources. Paintings of subjects, already in existence, came via places like the shops in Dafen Village, an overseas mecca for replicating paintings by Old World masters. Almost every style from the Impressionists to abstract to contemporary can be still be found there.

Though created by hand, they were mass-produced and in not so wonderful conditions for the artists who painted them. (I do say artists because they trained in the techniques needed to produce the canvases.) If you’re so inclined, here is a more recent article written about the state of their factories and a pivot away from so much reproduction work.

An art site’s reproduction of Claude Monet’s Red Water Lilies. Monet’s works have realized prices of over 20 million dollars at auction. This is listed at under $200 in a small size. Is it really a “bargain”, though? Perhaps a placeholder? With the investment of framing; however, I would consider a local art source.

An art site’s reproduction of Claude Monet’s Red Water Lilies. Monet’s works have realized prices of over 20 million dollars at auction. This is listed at under $200 in a small size. Is it really a “bargain”, though? Perhaps a placeholder? With the investment of framing; however, I would consider a local art source.

Artists:    Michelle Rivera    - Large Floral Basket on board.    Kathy Cousart    - Little Blessings abstracts on linen. Interior Design: Wanda S. Horton Photography: Dustin Peck (Image Copyrighted)

Artists: Michelle Rivera - Large Floral Basket on board. Kathy Cousart - Little Blessings abstracts on linen. Interior Design: Wanda S. Horton Photography: Dustin Peck (Image Copyrighted)

The present . . . .

My current projects have included more original art than ever. I think it’s a pivot from the past in that I’ve developed relationships with artists and a wonderful framer who make the process so pleasant. Most importantly, my clients are open to and are seeking interiors, personalized above and beyond the norm. They’re willing to level-up from their old comfort zones, mostly born from not knowing other options.

I’ve also grown more confident in servicing this category. It’s one that I actually used to dread because art can be such a subjective selection. Art is about a feeling, an interpretation, and it speaks to something fundamental within us; from the days our early ancestors used to tell stories through their illustrations to our modern day abstracts. Finding artists, who offer the opportunity to collaborate with varied styles, also allow us to layer in pieces as our clients and their projects are ready.

Tawna Allred   , an amazing artist and interior designer, located in Wyoming, has worked with me to create custom pieces for several spaces in our lake home project. Being that she understands the interiors process makes for great communication, especially when I send fabrics and photos of the space, along with dimensions. I’ll share more about her talents in an upcoming artist series post. We’re excited about installing these in the owner’s suite.

Tawna Allred, an amazing artist and interior designer, located in Wyoming, has worked with me to create custom pieces for several spaces in our lake home project. Being that she understands the interiors process makes for great communication, especially when I send fabrics and photos of the space, along with dimensions. I’ll share more about her talents in an upcoming artist series post. We’re excited about installing these in the owner’s suite.

Sometimes art replicates life, as in a tablescape we created after installing our clients’ dining room interiors. They had an upcoming dinner party and after considering the theme with the blue and white vases and the citrus fruit, an aha moment ensued! Being observant is part of having the artist’s eye.

Artist    Kathy Cousart    took our tablescape concept and created a pair of lovely florals for framing. One is seen in the background. Interior Design: Wanda S. Horton Photography: Wanda S. Horton (Image Copyrighted)

Artist Kathy Cousart took our tablescape concept and created a pair of lovely florals for framing. One is seen in the background. Interior Design: Wanda S. Horton Photography: Wanda S. Horton (Image Copyrighted)

 

Aside from inspired subject matter, when we’re having art pieces commissioned, to frame or not to frame is an important question. Though it may seem to be a given when a medium requires protection under glass, if using oils and acrylics on canvas or boards, we want to know if the subject is to be wrapped around the edges. It’s a more casual look so it depends on the space where this treatment will be used. Depth or thickness of the canvas can also dictate the type of framing, if choosing to move in that direction. It’s a good practice to see what the artist typically uses and also check in with your framer to see what’s available before placing an order.

There are areas, other than walls, where art can be displayed. When a TV takes over the mantel space, look for opportunities to create some visual excitement nearby. Shelves are a wonderful location for making a statement.

In this bookshelf, we used a combination of framed pieces and some smaller, canvas-wrapped oils. Notice how we expanded the matting to create a larger, focal piece to the left? The small pieces have been grouped as a collection.

In this bookshelf, we used a combination of framed pieces and some smaller, canvas-wrapped oils. Notice how we expanded the matting to create a larger, focal piece to the left? The small pieces have been grouped as a collection.

Though personally meeting an artist can be meaningful, at least learn a bit more about their inspirations and their passion for what they create. Many of us do love to share stories about our homes and how we came to select certain pieces. These stories are about our experiences. Where we were, what we saw, who we were with, and how something touched us. It’s like providing a mini biographical account and connects us all as humans.

Vesela Baker and part of her family. She has a special process, born from frustration with a painting, and that has now become part of her signature look. (Hint - A spritz of water revealed a lovely texture.)

Vesela Baker and part of her family. She has a special process, born from frustration with a painting, and that has now become part of her signature look. (Hint - A spritz of water revealed a lovely texture.)

Of course, art extends beyond painting or wall elements. There are many types. I like to think of interior design as a form of it and that I create with an artful eye, in every project. Design also includes quite a bit of project management and digital detailing - which is great for clients as we handle that aspect for them. I’ll confess, I miss some of the old, hands-on aspect where I used to render my visions. There’s an expectation for the process to move a bit faster, these days. I do find myself longing for a different pace where creating can be savored and honored.

The future . . .

To fill this longing, I’m excited to share I’m taking a week to participate in one of my favorite artist’s workshops! The eternal student in me is both giddy and nervous about this challenge. Somehow I think I’ll have some great stories to share - and if my efforts aren’t too embarrassing, I’ll share some progress shots along the way. If nothing else, I’ll come away with an even greater appreciation for the process. Angela Nesbit, the artist and our instructor, has assured me all will be fine!

I’ll be participating in Angela Nesbit’s workshop, February 26th - March 1st. I’ve got my paint supplies ready! Artist:    Angela Nesbit - Marsh Interpretation

I’ll be participating in Angela Nesbit’s workshop, February 26th - March 1st. I’ve got my paint supplies ready! Artist: Angela Nesbit - Marsh Interpretation

If you’re feeling a bit perplexed about how to begin the process of curating a collection, arrangements, or have some pieces you’d like to update with new framing, this is one of my favorite consulting services to offer! I promise you it can take a beige/greige room to a wow! (Well, that and a few other artful accents.)

Contact us here for more information.

All my best! ~ Wanda

 

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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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

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