Montecito

DSC_0537 Santa Barbara was our last leg of the journey before heading down to LA and then back to Michigan. It was wildly inspirational. These pictures pretty much speak for themselves.

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Our lovely accommodations at my Aunt Betsy's house were a wonderful example of how West Coast living can so seamlessly blend outdoor and indoor living. The courtyard, centered around the fountain, is almost treated like an exterior foyer.

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Color inspiration can be found in the most unexpected places!

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We visited Casa del Herrero (otherwise know as "House of the Blacksmith") which is an amazingly authentic example of Spanish Colonial Architecture. The details in the house remain virtually intact and the attention paid to them is outstanding. From the grounds, to the tile work, custom furniture and architectural elements, I was energized at every turn.

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When traveling it is obvious field research can be most inspirational through retail design establishments. We were not disapointed at William Laman where we found many treasures to bring home with us!

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We had lunch at the Santa Barbara Biltmore. Sometimes it feel like the epitome of vacation is the ability to have a leisurely lunch, outside with ocean views. We noshed on a seafood salad, had freshly grown mint in our iced teas and then.. as if we had ordered it up ourselves... a family of dolphins started swimming by, sometimes arching their whole bodies out of the water!

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The interior of the hotel was gorgeous. The style reminded me of the Everglades Club down in Palm Beach. The dark interior doesn't feel heavy when it's combined with plastered walls, wicker, linens, Spanish inspired tiles, palms, orchids and ambient lighting.

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Lotusland is a pretty ridiculous private garden, situation on a once private estate. For 40 years, Madame Walska cultivated exotic plants and a variety of themed gardens. Notoriously a character (they said she used to walk around with parrots on her shoulder) the gardens is horticulture at it's most whimsical, and unexpectedly dramatic.

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For our last meal before heading down to LA, we ate at San Ysidro Ranch, situation in the Montecito foothills. As I have noted in most California design, the hotel, gardens and dining facility are another example of classic, easy luxury. It is effortlessly natural, romantic and comfortable... which can be a difficult harmony to achieve. From the dining and lobby facilities that had a personal, homey touch to the cook's garden and flower gardens it was a perfect place to wind down a fabulous trip.

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Needless to say, we headed back to Michigan refreshed and inspired. Vacation success!

Back in Action!

DSC_0718 As of today we have been back from our Euro-Extravaganza for two weeks. As I typically find when I travel, it takes the amount of time I was gone to get back in the saddle. After two weeks, I finally feel like I can sit down and spend a little time reflecting on the trip. As this was two weeks jammed packed with activities, I will take you on a visually inspiring journey. Our adventure started in Stuttgart, Germany, where our friend, Will, is currently stationed with the Navy. After a few days hanging out on his hime turf, we set off on our road trip that took us to Munich, Salzburg, Innsbruck, Lucerne, Murren, Bern and a ton of little towns in between. I have not gone on a formal road trip through Europe before... typically I have taken trains where you are on a schedule and pass through many quaint towns. I think one of the highlights about driving yourself (ahem, or having someone drive you) is that you can be on your own schedule. And all those cute towns? You can pop in and see them. While we had all our hotels booked ahead of time, we were really free to make up our schedule as we went along. While I did have a serious 7-page itinerary of "suggestions", we also had fun scoping out places and areas as we went along. With the longest leg of our journey being 4 hours it always felt like we were on-the-go, but never in an overwhelming way. And, while I did start out white-knuckled anxious in the back of a rather zippy 2-door sports car, I would say I came a long way in overcoming my tensions with heights, accelerated speeds & twisty roads. I now think I can confidently say I am a road trip convert, mountains and all. Bring it.

First Stop: Munich

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Love that pop of lapis blue.

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Our first night, we ate dinner at a traditional beer hall, Augustiner Braustuben on the main drag. With all the Black Forest carvings and shell grotto-esque center hall it was definitely an overall authentic Bavarian feel.

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We grabbed after dinner drinks at the Bayerischer Hof Hotel. The atmosphere in the bar was a cool juxtaposition of rococo style plaster work accented in a dramatic uplight and a clean contemporary blue lit bar.

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Coming back to our hotel wasn't so bad either. Our hotel, Hotel Opera, felt like we were staying as a guest in a townhouse, a little off the beaten track. It was only about a 15 minute walk to all the action, so far enough away to escape the thick of it all, but close enough that we walked everywhere. There is also a great neighborhood feel around the hotel with great restaurants, cafes and shops.

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Breakfast was also pretty delicious. And, it should be noted, salami and cheese croissant sandwiches are perfectly acceptable breakfast sandwiches.

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I kinda had a thing for all the door handles

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I have to admit, Munich totally exceeded my expectations. It was an easy city to walk and bike around and inbetween the old world European feel (much of which was rebuilt after the war) there was a very modern and creative vibe. Next stop, Salzburg...

 

Rising Star

photo Let me start out by saying that I was a kid who always felt hyper inspired by watching other people's achievements. I remember sitting in my family room, in red, white and blue, watching Nancy Kerrigan in the 1992 winter Olympics.  I even created signs with poster board and Crayolas to make the at home cheering experience more personal. To me, she was a graceful image of beauty and I remember my eight year old self thinking that someday I wanted to be in the Olympics. I think I lasted five figure skating lessons before I realized that ice skating is pretty demanding. With this new found awareness, I was perfectly content to hang up my Olympic hopes. I learned how to "hockey stop" to save myself the embarrassment of snowplowing into the boards and that was all the confidence I needed to partake in the Saturday open skates at the local rink.

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I loved old movies and dreamed of being a movie star (the totally casual slash extremely badass Katherine Hepburn type), only to go to drama camp and receive the only non-talking part in "Snoopy: The Musical" with my 2 best friends. Our parents paid for that camp, so they had to find a place to camouflage our apparent lack of talent amongst a bevy of extremely melodramatic, adolescent thespians. Nothing says "don't bother coming back" like making you stand in the corner of the stage donning primary colored overalls and a sparkly top hat. For three hours.

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In high school I tried to give it my all on the golf team (In previous summers, when I wasn't bombing at drama camp, my Dad had me in golf lessons). I was the sixth girl on a five girl squad.  Please keep in mind, this was a five girl squad that had a reputation for winning championships.  When my best friend (of mutual Snoopy fame) finally convinced the coach to move me up to a varsity match, I showed up to the course just in the nick of time. Without my clubs. Then there were the couple times when Coach would drive the team to the indoor driving range (March golf in Michigan isn't necessarily sunshine and rainbows). I think the fact it was implied as the 6th man my seat was in the trunk with all the clubs (probably not in the school safety policy), only solidified my status on the team. Don't get my wrong, these girls were all my friends and I think that's pretty much why they kept me around.

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At Michigan State, I had a retail project be selected in the Top 10 of what was ultimately a national competition. I believe the judge flew in from St. Louis, or somewhere of some sort of importance, to announce the Top 3. Always having deep Detroit Pride and being a fairly social 21 year old, I was beelining it back to East Lansing from a rather chilly Tiger's Opening Day (a tradition with my other Snoopy cohort). I got the times wrong. I completely missed the announcement of the Top 3, which I could no longer be eligible for as I wasn't in attendance. I know that project would have been in the Top 3.  I will never forget the artificial condolences from my classmates, the look of disappointment from my professors or the confusion by the judge as to why someone would work for an entire semester and then show up 30 minutes late.

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All throughout high school my Dad used to ask me, "Anne, what is your passion?".  I would get all flustered and usually frustrated because I thought he wanted my passion to be golf, which it just wasn't (Now in my late 20's I am very thankful I know how to play, especially as this is my husband's passion). I just didn't think we were seeing eye to eye. I kinda get it now. He didn't care if it was golf or figure skating or musical theater, he just wanted to see me have the fire about doing something.

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As a child I don't know that my calling was ever apparent. I had a lot of enthusiasm about a lot of different activities. When I look back now, I think my penny and stamp collection (and the lesser exciting- marbles, shells and rocks) were precursors for my love of curating personal collections and collections for my clients. I think the flea market trips and hours spent in the basements of vintage book stores instilled in me "thrill of the hunt" fever. I think things started to come together for me when I learned to explore my own voice in art classes in high school and then in college when I realized "study hours" didn't necessarily mean long division and biology, but instead meant color theory and space planning. I think my passion- that deep, inner gut excitement followed by the inevitable stress that your tiny human brain won't be able to soak up every last ounce of inspiration- took a while to develop.

When I used to pull into golf tournaments as a kid crying because I was scared, my parents would tell me that these are the situations that build character. When I called my mom sobbing outside the design building because I accidentally eliminated myself from a competition where I had worked so hard to succeed, she said this is a learning experience. Life is filled with small victories and crushing defeats. It's filled with self doubt and uncertainty. It's filled with realities that can either define you or evolve you. Life takes effort. Design, by way of multiple failures and achievements, has become that swell of lightness in my heart- that antsy desire of continuous exploration- that can only be defined as passion.

On Thursday night it was announced at the Detroit Home Awards that I was the recipient of the 2013 "Rising Star" award, I was stunned. I know that's what one is supposed to say when they receive such an honor, but I was so stunned that I didn't tell my friends I was nominated, I told Scott not to come and I think I basically talked through the entire announcement until someone turned to me and said, "You went to Cranbrook and Michigan State, right?". I mean you're talking to the girl whose only job was to hold the glitzy sign through a 3 hour musical, the girl who took a lot of swings to complete an 18 hole golf match, the girl whose intentions were always good, but planner was always messy. In this instance I am so grateful. I am grateful because in the business of interior design the designer truly is the sum of many hardworking parts. I am most grateful, because know I have found my something.

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I have been overwhelmed these last couple days by the outpouring of congratulatory support from the design community, my friends and family. I truly am so lucky to have such amazingly supportive people in my life.  Maybe the sincerest endorsement came last night during family dinner. My five year old niece, Molly, was so excited to see the Rising Star article in Detroit Home Magazine, that she deemed it important enough hang on her ever evolving, yet artfully arranged gallery wall. In this case, it takes one to know one, and I think my biggest compliment is in the form of one savvy kindergartner.