challenge: interior design

On January 5, 2015 by theseventhsphinx

Modani, a furniture store specializing in contemporary designs, recently invited me to design a living room infused with my style. The idea is to begin with one of their modern sofas and build out from there, using their accessories or any others. This kind of thought experiment always interests me, underscoring the fluid, plastic nature of style and the sense of the word style that is universal, not limited to clothing or the presentation of the body but inclusive of the entire environment surrounding or belonging to the self.

When you begin to think about style in this expansive way, intimations of one’s style start popping up left and right, its influence revealing itself in every aspect of life. Even if you are not consciously thinking about it this is the case, even if you think you do not have a style, you do. Like an accent. If you do think about it, though, the number of variables up for consideration…endless. The potential for harmony and expression, endless. I have long thought about style in this broad way, a certain way of approaching the world that reflects a bank of principles I am acting on (not so easy to identify these) regardless of the application. That said, I seem often to be contradictory, both minimal and baroque, rustic and modern.

It’s almost more entertaining to design a theoretical living room than a real one as with interior design I always have difficulty making final decisions. They are more final and lasting (and expensive) than most fashion decisions, and not so many of us get to have multiple houses to design.

In the absence of an oxblood leather tufted sofa, I would perhaps go for something completely impractical, like this:

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Modani phantom sofa

Having determined a white base (white walls, definitely, large windows), cream and pale wood accents seem inevitable, and texture becomes critical, the presence of interesting textures to balance the absence of color. Hardwood floors in a pale oaky shade (or whitewashed, even!) and a cream shag rug, say.

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Modani Mateo rug

A few white leather footstools dotted about.

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Modani Tedo stool

I completely fail to get the mania for throw pillows. I can see them being useful for certain lounging positions but the kind that are only for show and actually cannot be used (i.e. are uncomfortable to use)…I don’t get it. Art I get, certain tchotchkes I get, purely decorative throw pillows I do not get. That said there could be some cream brocade pillows on the sofa as well. I guess. And one of these Brahms Mount alpaca cotton throws.

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Brahms Mount Alpaca/Cotton Herringbone throw

A low reclaimed wood coffee table with a simple silhouette, the contemporary sofa contrasting with the raw wood.

J. W. Atlas reclaimed wood coffee table

A grand spalted maple bowl wouldn’t go amiss here.
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Spencer Peterman oval spalted maple bowl

Bookcases, surely. Perhaps something like this, or perhaps one wall custom built with shelves in some useful geometric configuration like this.
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Modani Lugano Library case

So, one wall of books, one wall of windows, one wall mostly a generous passage into the kitchen, and perhaps above the sofa a large brush painting of plum blossoms. Something like this, but I am going to try to paint my own.

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OR, the painting alone on a blank wall, and a large mirror above the sofa instead. Perhaps with a simple wood frame or perhaps with no frame, just clean edges.

A vase with some rotation of my favorite blooms, preferences for white and rosy shades. Peonies, snapdragons, tulips, ranunculus, orchids…

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Simon Pearce Anemone vase

Hm, something to put the vase on…a vintage pedestal table along these lines. I like the idea of some elaborate touch that isn’t quite intuitive but that is still tied in with one of the thematic threads of the room.

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This is a good beginning, I think. Now I’m thinking about the kitchen…

Modani images provided, other vendor images link to vendor pages

challenge: Weddington Way

On December 24, 2014 by theseventhsphinx

Bridal site Weddington Way invited me to participate in their December style challenge; creating a New Year’s Eve bridesmaid look with one of their signature dresses and accents from anywhere I like. This is a particularly appropriate challenge for me, as I’ll be a bridesmaid in my sister’s wedding on January 2nd! My first time…

[I’ll show you my dress situation later.]

The dress I chose was this one-shoulder number in navy lace (though they have many other styles):

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One can’t often wear lace from head to toe without batting an eye but weddings take place on a strange fashion plane of their own, with their own rules and standards. This means certain limitations, those imposed by formality, but, turning to the vast and wondrous field of formal attire, it means a special freedom as well. Generally I want my formal looks to fit into a ‘understated chic’ category. Not too pushy about it, not too elaborate, because I want there to be that elusive effect of effortlessness.

I partly chose the navy because I so rarely style cool toned looks. I always go for gold and brown, so here is a chance to do blue and silver.

Where next? Shoes, let’s say. I like the shoes they’ve used here, actually, silver (silver?) open toe d’orsay pumps. I’d also like to see grey or taupe suede pumps here. Suede and lace, so good together. I like suede anytime, really.

Or a little glitz, as in full glitter pumps (or flats, glitter flats so adorable). This is something I like about weddings, and something they have in common with the holidays: going full on with the glitter is more than OK.

Something like…

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or

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I want to see a pearl nestled in the hollow of the throat here, not really hanging down, as there is too much danger of interrupting the clean line of the dress across the chest.  I want to keep the necklace (or there could be no necklace, and some generous shimmer splashed on the clavicle, let’s go ahead and add that clavicle highlight either way) snug around the neck. A blue toned Tahitian pearl floating on a silver chain would answer well. I love this simple design from PearlsOfJoy.

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Earrings I also want clean and simple, either diamond (or CZ, or sapphire, or whatever) studs or non-hinged dangles or Tahitian pearl studs.

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9567fbf866abc7ce235157e1505d66feOne accessory I like to see in a formal outfit is a watch, sleek or bulky depending on the look, though probably sleek and slim. Really I like to see a watch in any look, I just love watches, but I especially like to see them where one would expect them to be overlooked for a bracelet or something more traditionally decorative. Here I would want something elegant and narrow that would read from a distance [almost] like a bracelet. Really into the Danish brand Skagen, known for their wonderfully thin movements.

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I like the asymmetry of wearing the watch on one arm and leaving the other bare. Or wearing the watch and some assortment of bracelets on one arm and leaving the other bare. UNLESS you have an old school corsage. I could be talked into that.

Poking around on Weddington Way I liked some of their clutches as well. Maybe this one for the look we’re building here. White or ivory to contrast with the navy and some pearlicious studding. If you’re wondering about mixing freshwater and Tahitian pearls, light and dark pearls, big and small pearls – not to worry. All pearls love all other pearls.

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Add favorite rings (oh, or this pearl solitaire, which I love). Hair up, hair down…you do you. Mine would be up and not too neat, though that’s easy for me as natural curls are inherently informal in our culture no matter how they are styled. A bit of that J Crew-esque undoneness can go a long way toward looking like you didn’t try too hard. You tried, but not TV news anchor tried. Not prom queen tried. Not BRIDE tried. Or pick one other thing to give a casual air, doesn’t have to be the hair, but hair is a good one as it’s so powerful and can control so much of the tone of the look. Going with that idea that if your hair is looking fabulous you can wear anything, by the same token your hair can provide the balancing stone to harmonize the look by being more or less formal.

A blingy nail polish could be in order, something like Essie’s On a Silver Platter, maybe. This would be an awesome New Year’s Eve polish no matter what look you’re doing.

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I’d like to see a soft taupe eye with this, strong brows, big lashes, a sheer or soft neutral pink lip. Maybe the ultra-gorgeous Dior Cuir Cannage eyeshadow palette and Bite Beauty Luminous Creme lipstick in Fig. I haven’t had a chance to properly praise these lipsticks yet but I love this line.

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I think there is a danger when playing with glitter (not unlike playing with fire) of trying to apply the glitter principle to too many aspects of the look. Sequin dress? Then maybe, maybe a touch of glittery shadow to the center of the lid, not a full on glitter eye (unless you are doing a different kind of look, in which case power to you). A neutral brown eye works with anything, and smoking it out with a violet-taupe shade adds drama without being overtly matchy. All about finding that harmony, however you manage it.

Hm. I wouldn’t mind seeing a really narrow glittery belt here, either. Or a belt that is basically a chain of tiny CZ gems? Or a belt of tiny pearls? Or a belt of both? Or not. I think I’d have to see it and decide. A white faux fur or maribou stole (or capelet!) would be bitchin’ and keep you warm on that winter’s eve.

I think that does it. What do you think? Are you seeing it? I’m liking it. I actually want to do this makeup look, now, and pull out my Tahitian solitaire again. And get another Skagen watch. I really do want one…I have my eye on a few.

Don’t need to go to a wedding? Weddington Way’s selection of little black dresses is worth a peek.

vendor images, images link to sources

layering, a ModCloth challenge

On November 18, 2014 by theseventhsphinx

ModCloth invited some bloggers to talk about fall/winter layering, prompting us to choose three items (tops, from them) and explain the selection. I like this kind of style challenge, where some aspect or another is limited, controlled. The challenge for me was that so many of their tops are prints of some kind and working with multiple prints can be difficult. They are thin on basics, too, as it’s not what they do (they do cute, often retro-inspired statement pieces). So!

idea 1: sandwiched plaid

I like to keep things clean, usually, meaning solid, meaning no prints, but now and then I’ll go for one. An easy way to deal with a print, even a dramatic one, is to break it up, sandwich it between two solids. Ideally, for me, between muted and harmonious solids.

Something like this basic plaid buttoned shirt

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between this sweetheart mock turtleneck sleeveless number (I like a button down with a turtleneck, and this one, sort of sheer/formal, would be appealingly strange, unexpected next to informal plaid), the color pulled from a minor note of the plaid pattern,

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and this slouchy grey (read: neutral) cardigan, with really any kind of belt thrown over the whole affair, and none of the buttons done up on the shirt. A lot of colors could work here, and they have tons of sweaters.

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OK, so this is a tame approach (or some might say chic! Some might say sophisticated!), but pretty foolproof. There is also

idea 2: inverse pattern juxtaposition

By which I mean some simple camisole base like this

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layered with a (more or less) two tone pattern with one color dominant, like this geometric cardigan,

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layered with another two tone pattern, this one with the color that is non-dominant in the other pattern now dominant, like this other geometric cardigan (not ideal b/c white vs cream, but you see what I mean, and I often like white and cream together anyway).

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If you live somewhere sufficiently cold, you know two cardigans are not unheard of. Maybe no belt on this one. Or maybe a really pale tan leather braided belt.

Just a solid color in the middle would be good there, too. Like this.

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Layering gets easier and easier with experimentation as you discover what you like and begin to establish strategies to achieve it. Often your wardrobe works for you as you are often drawn to the same colors (not hard to find harmonious combinations) and, even if you prefer patterns, often prefer the same kinds of patterns. Then, too, it’s good to be open to unexpected combinations.

Imagine three layers, all plaids with some common stripe…I would like to see that. Or imagine three very different patterns, all with the same dominant color. Or three identical patterns in three different colors. Or two, with a solid between them, or three beautifully complementary solids…

This is to say nothing of accessories.

images via modcloth.com