Tuscan Colors

Posted 30 October 2010 at 10:56 PM | Comments (1)

When I started this blog, I figured it would be a great place to record my finished projects and share my ideas. What I’m starting to realize is that it’s also a great place to keep track of inspiring designs, products, and concepts that I may need to come back to someday.

For instance, take this October 2010 magazine article, “Color Tuscan.” House Beautiful asked twelve designers to pick a color that best expresses the Tuscan color palette. They chose:

From Benjamin Moore:
Brilliant Amber 161
Firenze AF-225
Red Oxide 2088-10
Vine Green 2034-20

Farrow & Ball:
Blue Gray 91
Calke Green 34
Cream 44
Lime White 1
Sand 45
Stone White 11

Fine Paints of Europe:
Granary Glow 7062T

Stark Paint:
Loyal Wheat

House Beautiful October 2010 Tuscan Color Palette

I may not be in the market for wall paint now, but this list will certainly come in handy when I buy a five-hundred-year old villa in San Donato in Collina.

Baby Shower Advice Book

Posted 24 October 2010 at 3:38 PM | Comments (3)

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks. Between the fussy newborn, cranky toddler, successfully convincing Gap to go back to their old logo, and needlessly earning Gymbucks, I’ve been busy. And since my laptop is acting up, keeping up with the steady stream of design projects is an added challenge.

Anyway, speaking of design projects, Lauren—writer, blogger, mother, divorcee, co-parent, and all-around fabulous woman—contacted me a couple of weeks ago with a fun one.

She was planning a baby shower and had asked all the guests to contribute to an advice book. Their assignment—listen closely, you may want to steal this idea!—was to ask their mothers for snippets of advice on raising girls. Then, the quotes would be compiled into a keepsake book, appropriately titled, “…On Raising Girls.”

My job was, obviously, to design the book and send the files to Lauren (so that she could print and bind it herself). The only real requirement was that it should complement Pottery Barn’s Coco Dot nursery bedding:

Pottery Barn Kids' Coco Dot Nursery Bedding Set

For the cover, I used the colorful dot pattern, an adaptation of the blanket-border design, and then added my own swishy text frames:

Cover for Baby Shower Advice Book, "...On Raising Girls"

For the inside, I dropped the dots and made the border design the feature element. The fun part here was modifying the design on every page, so that every page was unique but echoed the original. Here are two of my favorite pages:

Pages for Baby Shower Advice Book, "...On Raising Girls"

And here are the rest of the pages, in thumbnail size:

Thumbnail Pages for Baby Shower Advice Book, "...On Raising Girls"

This project was the most fun I’ve had in ages. Though the real fun is yet to come—Lauren is sending me design magazines in exchange! That’s one of the best gifts you can give a magazine-deprived expat.

Lifting the Curtain on Design

Posted 18 October 2010 at 12:37 PM | Comments (0)

There are so many inspiring books on interior design and decorating that it’s almost impossible to commit to one. But when a modern legend like Vicente Wolf writes one of them, I perk up. Lifting the Curtain on Design will be released tomorrow. I’ve already added it to my Amazon Wishlist.

Lifting the Curtain on Design by Vicente Wolf

Puppy Love

Posted 17 October 2010 at 10:06 PM | Comments (3)

If you’re easily baffled, this one’s a doozy.

So I’m afraid of dogs. Seriously afraid. People generally either: a) think I’m exaggerating, or b) wonder what traumatized me. Trauma is a harsh word, because I think it was just a series of minor incidents and scary stories I heard in childhood (which I won’t get into since this blog is supposedly about design and style). Anyway, whatever the reason, my fear is real.

This doesn’t explain at all why I am obsessed with cute dog illustrations. I love them. They make me laugh. It’s even one of the things I draw best. And it certainly doesn’t explain why I go out of my way to find cute dogs on clothes for both of my boys and why I know that Carter’s, Crazy8, Gymboree, and Janie and Jack have ridiculously adorable choices right now.

Puppy Clothes for Kid and Baby Boys

Every time I think about my dog fear/obsession, I think of Batman. Didn’t he take on the bat persona precisely because it was his biggest fear?


Posted 9 October 2010 at 12:07 PM | Comments (0)

My friend, Leila (pronounced “Lee-la”), is one of those super-moms who, just by breathing, makes me feel insecure about my parenting skills. She’s also one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met, so I can’t make a case that she’s trying to be amazing just so the rest of us frazzled moms feel like crap. Darn!

Did that make you laugh? Because I honestly just laughed out loud at myself.

Anyway, Leila is also an avid sewer, and makes clothing and other items for women and children from upcycled materials. She asked me to make a banner for her Etsy store and Facebook page, and with this first draft I was going for two mice (since she has two children) and an earthy, recycled look to reflect her philosophy.

Tinymouse Designs Web Banners

Looking back at this now, there’s so much more I’d like to do with it. I’d love to incorporate fabric, or stitching, and come up with a more graphic (rather than photographic) symbol that she can use on product tags. Now that she has moved her business to Indianapolis, we may just have to go back to the drawing board. Literally!

Don’t Mind the Gap

Posted 8 October 2010 at 11:59 PM | Comments (8)

It’s hard to believe that the same people who are behind the super-strong brand identities of Banana Republic and Old Navy are making such bad decisions for Gap. One, they scrapped a logo that was fine to begin with—it was clean, well-proportioned, and, perhaps most importantly, recognizable. Two, they replaced that logo with one that is not only badly designed but generic—a thousand other companies probably have a similar logo, and most of those companies probably repair computers, pack boxes or, who knows, push thumbtacks. Three, they immediately put that badly designed logo in effect and then asked consumers for their design ideas. Four, they… well, I’m not sure what four is, but considering the decisions they’ve made thus far, chances are, it’s coming.

I’ve always been loyal to Gap. But their flaky decision-making on something as critical as brand identity makes me question their entire business model. Yesterday, following the intense consumer backlash, the company stated that they’re “thrilled to see passionate debates unfolding,” but if they knew how incompetent this makes them look, I don’t think they’d be so thrilled.

Brand identity is not just about design. It starts with a design, and that design says something about who you are and distinguishes you from others, but as you build relationships the design becomes you. It’s how people recognize you. Over time, it’s why they trust you.

Dear Gap,

I bought a pair of your jeans and then cut, hemmed, and restyled them. My friends say they’re hideous now and were much more attractive before. Can I return them for a full refund?


Winter-Berry Wonderland

Posted 7 October 2010 at 10:23 PM | Comments (0)

Because designing stationery is at the top of my list for dream jobs, I’m enamored by young designers-turned-entrepreneurs like Snow & Graham.

I remember coming across their name for the first time. Circa 2001, I was shopping in a local paper goods store when one of their cards caught my eye. I flipped it over to see who designed it—as usual—and my heart skipped a beat when I saw that they were based in Chicago, my home at the time. I found them online and have been following their work since.

Now Garnet Hill, one of my absolute favorite catalog stores, is turning Snow & Graham’s pretty prints into bedding. The Winter Berry flannels are especially beguiling. And so is the catalog’s bedroom styling:

Snow & Graham's Winter Berry Stationery and Bedding

This makes me want to decorate an entire home in that color palette (thank you, Pottery Barn):

Pottery Barn Red and White Room Decor

Golden Pumpkins

Posted 6 October 2010 at 1:09 PM | Comments (3)

I was just thumbing through an old issue of Country Living and remembered how much I loved this article on gilded pumpkins. It may not even be necessary to go through all the steps for gilding (though it does look sumptuously beautiful), because a simple paint job could do.

I’d buy medium-sized pumpkins and paint them autumn-appropriate bronze, copper, and gold.

Gilded Pumpkins from Country Living Magazine

On a side note, this is the kind of thing that makes me miss the U.S. terribly. Fall doesn’t really exist here—there are no changing leaves; no foggy vapor from breathing in cold air; no football games, pumpkin picking, nor hot apple cider. If I wear a Fair Isle sweater, no one gets it, and if I want a pumpkin spice latte, I’d have to get on a plane.

Oh, I couldn’t be more homesick than I am right this minute.

Wedding Invitations with a Halloween Mood

Posted 5 October 2010 at 10:53 PM | Comments (5)

Creative couple Monica and Nick* knew exactly what their wedding invitation should look like. Their e-mail to me was precise, including images to use as well as how to lay it out.

They specifically requested these black silhouetted birds, patterned damask, and grungy typewriter font:

Bird Silhouettes, Damask, and Grungy Typewriter Fonts

They also requested a color scheme—red, black, and white—and a vertical, fold-over flap in front.

Initially, this made me nervous. How was I going to take these almost-Halloweeny elements and make them elegant? Furthermore, how was I going to make them relevant?

I started out with these six drafts. Some excluded damask from the front cover, while others excluded the birds. In some drafts I changed the flock of birds to a couple of birds, hoping to convince them that the “lovebird” theme made a lot more sense. That’s when it hit me: Monica and Nick could be the couple who found each other among the flock of birds. The flock of birds could, in fact, be relevant! And not just relevant, but unexpected too! The bottom left draft came out of that epiphany:

Birds and Damask Wedding Invitations, Draft 1

They really liked the direction I was going and asked me to continue on. The only new request they had was to scrap the red, black, and white color scheme and try Tiffany blue instead. I came up with this draft, using a tone-on-tone blue which softened the pointy edges of the damask and, really, softened the whole design. This shows the front cover with the flap closed, and then opened:

Birds and Damask Wedding Invitations, Draft 2

After getting a thumbs-up, I continued work on the inside:

Birds and Damask Wedding Invitations, Draft 3

They loved it but wanted to see a couple more color ideas. And since I was still feeling apprehensive about the grungy typewriter font, I replaced that, too:

Birds and Damask Wedding Invitations, Draft 4

We were almost done, since at this point we were able to take elements from old drafts and put them together to complete the design. They loved the Tiffany blue and still wanted the grungy typewriter font, but now they were interested in having two red birds on the inside.

I was also able to convince them to change the inside quote to say something about birds, which made the whole concept even more relevant.

Here’s the final design (drumroll, please!):

Birds and Damask Wedding Invitations, Final Draft

*Names will always be changed.