Flea marketing in Geneva

I go to get a glimpse of this culture’s relics, and of course, I go to make one man’s castoffs my treasures. I go to flea markets because I love them. In fact, my first Google search after moving to Switzerland included pinpointing the locales of these ritualized scavenger hunts that I so adore.

The Plainpalais market happens twice a week in Geneva, and it’s where the locals go to hawk their junk (read: my fabulous finds). This visual playground featured tables and tables of vintage dinnerware, art, books, curiosities, clocks, lamps and furnishings. Here, a few of my favorite things.

Leopard setee and vintage sign
A leopard settee and a metal shop sign for “haute-coiffure canine,” my absolute favorite find. Even Scott, my husband, agreed. I envision the vintage sign as a focal point in a dining room. I would paint the settee and furnish my office with it.

Vintage leather camp stool
I just did an e-design mockup for a client’s master bedroom, and I included camp stools in that design. This one would be fantastic in the reading nook of a child’s room.

Cowbells
Scott and I talked about the souvenirs we want from our time in Switzerland, and a cowbell tops that list. I mean who couldn’t use more cowbell? I would use one of these larger bells as a fun decorative object in the kitchen and get a smaller one for the center of an evergreen wreath come winter.

So what did we buy? Three things for less than 15CHF (close to $15), but you’ll have to wait and see them in other posts.

A tulip festival inspires a dining room, naturally

Morges Tulip Festival

I love that spring announces its arrival with colorful flowers. Bright colors always inspire me. And after my first week of gray days in Lausanne, Switzerland (the place we’re calling home for the next eight months), I could not wait to head to the Morges Tulip Festival, where more than 300 varieties of the bloom–in bold color combinations–decorated the Parc de l’Independance.

Morges Tulip Festival

So infatuated with these vivid bursts was I, that I imagined using them in a dining room design. But rather than bathe walls in saturated poppy petal red, juicy peach and biting fuchsia, I used the gray blue of the lake as the room’s backdrop and let the happy hues frolic in a few strategic places in the space. Here’s where it all began.

Morges Tulip Festival

I used Martha Stewart’s Gabardine in our kitchen at home. It’s a steely gray with blue undertones. Cool colors like Gabardine beg to cozy up to warmer tones, like pinks, reds and oranges.

Martha Stewart Gabardine

Tulip Festival-inspired room

The charcoal walls, gray rug, and black table (a $75 Craigslist find) bring a moody tone to the room, so to keep things from getting too dark, I’d paint these cane-back chairs (also a Craigslist find; $155 for four!) glossy white and reupholster the seats in this modern, feminine peach print. I’d tuck away my entertaining essentials in this white faux bamboo sideboard and dress the top with two of these Color + Plus lamps, a vase of blooms (I’m not usually a fan of fakes, but these are pretty fabulous) and an unexpected object like this gold sea urchin. Gauzy white curtains with a subtle silver print invite an airy feel in and bright art, such as this fun print and this personalized poster add just the right touch of whimsy.

One stylish bachelor pad

The term bachelor pad makes me think of a dark lair furnished with matching sets of sofas, tables and accessories, a lack of color (everything is always beige) and a well-outfitted bar.

Lucky for me, my client Mike isn’t interested in that everything-must-match look. He hired me to bring style to his living and dining areas, a blank canvas except for the 100-inch television. (I might be exaggerating slightly, but you get the picture—the thing is HUGE!) His needs include plenty of seating, some artwork on the walls, and a dining table and chairs. And Mike’s not afraid of second-hand furniture. Here’s what I came up with, all within his budget.

First up, the living room:

Mike’s thinking long term here, so I wanted a sofa that he wouldn’t get sick of. I love gray as a neutral. The color pairs well with nearly any other shade, including beige and won’t show every speck of dirt the way a lighter color might. I also like that this sofa has legs. Lifting a large piece off the ground makes the room feel bigger and airier. A combination of stripe pillows (these are from Etsy) and ones I’ll make–orange with charcoal piping (stay tuned for that post)–will grace the sofa.

Because we’re opting for a fabric sofa, the accent chair will be leather. I found this Barcelona chair knockoff on Craigslist! The camel color softens the hard lines and metal construction. A throw pillow makes it that much more inviting (this throw pillow is also from Etsy).

This teak coffee table nods at Asian influences. It was a good buy on Craigslist for $100. I’m keeping it natural for now because it’s in amazing condition, but Mike’s not so sure how he feels about mixing black (keep reading to find out what I’m painting) and wood in a space. I want Mike to live with it as is until after everything else is in the room. Nothing warms up a room like natural wood and color.

I’m enlisting Ikea’s Barometer floor lamp to shed some light in the dark corner where the camel chair is likely going to sit.

The vintage end table from Craigslist needs a fresh coat of paint. I’m thinking an earthy orange, like Valspar’s Fireside in a high-gloss finish.

Mike likes to entertain and wants plenty of seating options for guests. I want to tuck a padded bench under the windows. I found this one on Craigslist and plan to recover the seat With Kaufman Essex linen blend fabric in orange. It’s less than $7 a yard.

I love repurposing a buffet, sideboard, or other cabinet as a TV stand. In fact, my TV sits on a dresser. I found this vintage buffet on Craigslist.

I’m drawing inspiration from Dorothy Draper, my all-time favorite designer.

And modernizing the vintage buffet with lots of contrast. After painting the unit with Martha Stewart’s silhouette in a high-gloss finish, I’ll highlight the carved lines with a creamy white.

I went out on a limb with the artwork. Good news, Mike likes it. He majored in math and now works in banking, so I’m playing the numbers game with a photo of a letterpress and an image of dice (both from Etsy). The silver and orange faux antler art piece adds a bit of whimsy, something I think no space should be without. And the painted canvas is something I’m making myself. Nathan Thomas, winner of Bravo’s Top Design wowed me with his easy art.

Mike’s will be a combination of blues, oranges, grays and a pop of something bright, like yellow. Fret not, there will be a how-to blog post as soon as it’s done.

Stay tuned for the dining room design.

Oh, the Places I’ll Go!

Before I started decorating for a living, I was a magazine editor for nearly a decade in New York. I worked in the home design market, scouting trends, writing stories and doing makeovers in people’s homes. Now I freelance write for various titles, including CountryLiving.com. I don’t usually talk about stories I’ve done, but I’m really excited about a recent piece, 50 Things to do This Summer in 50 States. I found 50 amazing bloggers around the country and asked them to tell me about their favorite little-known place in their state. The answers I got inspired me to get in my car, rent a Uhaul and head out of town. I now have list of places to go, stores to visit and bargains to buy before the summer’s over. Here are my favorites:

1. Qcumberz in Phoenix. I’m actually from Arizona. How did I not know about this gem? DIY adventuress Adrianne Lentine of the Dream Book Design blog, describes the store as an insane, cluttered mess with the best inexpensive hardware, doors and table legs. I’m driving to Arizona in early August, and I’m definitely getting a taste of Qcumberz.

2. Honor & Folly in Detroit’s historic Corktown. Owner Meghan McEwen decorates the tiny two-bedroom inn with her personal, unique finds from antique shops and local artisans and designers. And many of the items are available for purchase. Yay! Simmer Down blogger Noëlle Lothamer, tells me that the décor shifts when Meghan replaces a purchase with a new treasure. My mom lives in Rochester, an hour outside of Detroit, but I may need to book a room for the night to indulge in some retail therapy.

3. The barn sales at Three Potato Four in Philadelphia. I already buy vintage art prints from the online shop, but I cannot wait to schedule a trip to the East Coast around a SALE that promises a warehouse chock-full of antique finds. Thanks for the tip, Shauna Alterio of Something’s Hiding in Here.

4. Emiliejayne’s consignment shop in Salt Lake City. I’m a consignment shop junkie. I can’t get enough of other’s gently-used castoffs. Shopping consignment shops is an all-day affair for me since I enjoy sifting carefully through heaps of wares to ensure I don’t miss a thing. But this shop is merchandised by color. How much easier that would be since I generally go in with a color scheme in mind. Sarah Jane Wright of Sarah Jane Studios notes that there is also a fantastic children’s section.

5. Watson Kennedy in Seattle. The amazing merchandising beckons me to get on a plane and wander through the shop at Pike Place Market. Blogger Emily Jones of Jones Design Company describes it as a perfectly curated collection of home goods, accessories, books, and stationery and ephemera. I was sold with this photo of the inside.

Confession…

I have a confession: Shopping for furniture, fabric and decorative objects might just be my favorite hobby. Shopping for furniture, fabric and decorative objects and getting them at the lowest possible price—even if it means enlisting my DIY skills—might just be an obsession.

I let high-end stores like Anthropologie and Wisteria serve as inspiration. I keep a notebook handy when shopping or surfing online and jot down pieces I love. Then I scour my favorite thrift and consignment stores, as well as Craigslist postings for items I can repaint, reupholster and redo—that hint at the piece I covet.

And when I’m budget shopping, I’m constantly looking at other items and thinking about how I can use them in the projects I’m working on for clients and projects I’d like to do for myself. I record everything in my Ideas and Inspirations notebook, a gift from a former boss, an editor I worked under in New York.

I decided that there are so many beautiful things that I stumble across every day that inspire me and so many projects I do that I want to share, so I started this virtual inspiration journal, where I can post it all.

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