Tuesday, January 31, 2012

comfort + luxe

Comfort + Luxury. they seem to be one in the same. when you're comfortable, there's no doubt, no worry, no irritation, no rush. when you're comfortable, you're enveloped by a sense of security, a sense of pleasure, and a responsible disregard for obligation. when you're comfortable, you're at peace, at rest. all is right.

we can all create our own comfortable luxury. Comfort and Luxury are both very personable, very different meanings for each individual. no one can tell you exactly the recipe for your own version. here are a few suggestions:

-- lighting. artificial lighting is often harsh, discoloured, and ruins the mood for sure. rather than switching on the overhead florescents, opt to open your curtains. without a shadow of a doubt, natural light is best. in the evening, strategically position lit candles. the soft light not only adds a dash of romance and charm, but the warmth sprinkles a depth to the atmosphere. and the shadows provide brilliant texture, transforming a flat wall to a three-dimensional art installation.

-- temperature. this sounds silly, but "comfort" for you may be different than "comfort" for your guests. the ultimate comfortable luxury is the perfect climate. neither too hot, too cold, too humid, too dry. Link

-- fragrance. subtle, soft aromas are best. if you're comfortable luxury environment is for a meal, you'll want to refrain from using strongly scented flowers, candles, or home fragrances. instead, let the food be your fragrance. if you're comfortable luxury environment is not food-centric, natural fragrances are best. i particularly love the aromas of fresh flowers like orange blossoms, balsam, and verbena. if trying to induce rest and/or sleep, lavender is always a winner.

some brands and concepts to check out for creating your own comfortable luxury:

-- Shabby Chic - Comfort, the beauty of imperfections, the allure of time-worn objects, and the appeal of simple practical living: these are the cornerstones of the Shabby Chic® brand. Like the cozy familiarity of a well-worn pair of faded jeans, the dilapidated elegance of an Italian villa, the worn grandeur of faded velvets and mismatched floral china handed down from your grandmother’s attic, the brand is a revived appreciation for what is used, well-loved, and worn, it is a respect for natural evolution and a regard for what is easy and sensible.

Creating a brand synonymous with her aesthetic and lifestyle, designer Rachel Ashwell founded Shabby Chic in 1989 on the philosophy of beauty, comfort, and function. Her first store, located in Santa Monica, CA, sold Rachel’s washable furniture slipcovers and fabulous flea market finds.

Today, Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic Couture™ flagship stores are located in Santa Monica, California, SoHo, New York and London’s Notting Hill neighborhood, with ever-expanding lines of bedding, furniture, accessories and vintage items. The Simply Shabby Chic® line of bedding and home accessories, created in 2004 through an exclusive partnership with Target stores, continues to bring the brand’s blend of English elegance and California casual to Target customers nationwide.

Shabby Chic Brands will launch a new collection of furniture, home d├ęcor, and portable lighting this year in furniture stores across the U.S. and internationally, making Shabby Chic home furnishings more accessible than ever to fans throughout the world.

-- BBrooks - I've written about my love for BBrooks multiple times, but I could sing their praises forever. BBrooks' nationwide network of florists specializes in fresh, seasonal flowers arranged with exquisite artistry. When you order from BBrooks, one of their exclusive floral designers creates a unique flower arrangement just for you and delivers it anywhere in the US. And because BBrooks' member florists join by invitation only, you can trust that yours will be the very finest local florist.

-- Agraria Home is the leader of home fragrance. From the most delicate florals to the most pungent fruits, Agraria's collection of candles, diffusers, incense, sprays, tassels, and more are sure to add that extra touch of comfort + luxe to your comfortable luxury. The beautiful packaging and presentation is only the tip of the iceberg to the sensational scents you'll experience.

-- Get the perfect inspiration from a quarterly magazine called Kinkfolk. Kinfolk is a growing community of artists with a shared interest in small gatherings, and was created as a collaborative way of advocating the natural approach to entertaining that we all love.

Friday, January 27, 2012

lots to love

-- I might possibly be obsessed with Armani Casa. I love it all. I want it all. Streamline, classic, functional, comfortable, luxury. What could be better?

-- I really love the American sensibility, superior craftsmanship, and ease of incorporating Barclay Butera's home furnishings as well. I went to his shop in Los Angeles a few weeks ago, and fell in love with several pieces.

-- what do you get when you mash the durability and use-friendliness of apple products + the design power, quality, and incredible style of bang & olufsen? Presenting: B+O Play. The perfect gear-on-the-go. Take your music where you want, and play it how you want to hear it. Loud and Clear.

-- I really love the look of rustic, Tuscan farmhouse style tables. Charm. Character. Warmth. Style. (Tables like this also provide the perfect contrast to incredible dinnerware. Shown below is the new Medici collection from Arte Italica.)

Whatever you're doing, I hope you're doing it with style and class.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

respect + reason

I've worked in retail for many years. One thing that will never cease to amaze me is when customers have unrealistic expectations, and a reckless disregard of respect and reason.

Case en point - nothing lasts forever. It is unrealistic to expect that, say, a knife you purchase, will survive irresponsible, incorrect sharpening techniques. It is illogical to believe you can wear handmade lambskin loafers everyday for 3 years without proper conditioning, polishing, and (possible) reconstruction. If you buy a jar of garlic aoli, with a shelf life of three months, that you failed to open until seven months after purchase, the fault lies only with one entity.

There are many issues to consider:

-- money = power. As consumers, we choose where we do business. If we like a brand, a concept, or a product, we make that known by supporting the things we're keen on with recommendations to friends and family, and we support them financially as well. If we're dissatisfied, the inverse action occurs. However, policies are policies. If a store's return policy clearly states that you may exchange or return products within a certain time frame, arguing with the salesperson, who has no part in creating said policies, will get you nowhere. Often times, manufacturers have their own extended warranty, their own technical support channels. Manufacturers directly have much more product knowledge, can brand specific tips and tricks, and may offer replacement parts, or repair, or reissue of merchandise entirely.

-- policies are for a reason. If you're at a private label retailer (a store that sells only one brand of products - like Ikea) return policies are generally set in stone and not negotiable. However, when you're at department stores, or stores who stock more than one brand, the return policies may include a blanket policy on all products and services for a limited time, and then extended warranties and insurances may be picked up directly through the manufacturer. In fact, some brands prefer that you deal directly with their corporate return departments, rather than the retailers. Again, customers are often brought to solutions quicker, receive additional information and education regarding the use of the product and prevention of misuse. Nespresso, my favourite coffee machine, is one of these. With the purchase of every machine, Nespresso has a little "love note" on the inside of every package, encouraging customers to register their product online, and encourages customers to deal directly with the brand, rather than third-party vendors. They know their product best. They know their product's functions, limitations, and design. Their customer service is flawless, every time.

-- policies eliminate confusion and streamline the process. From a management/owner standpoint, having one return policy, and being firm on that policy, eliminates confusion when training associates. When a customer has a return or exchange, the customer can receive fabulous customer service and conduct the transaction with any available associate, rather than waiting for a manager or the designated customer service analyst to become available. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, which generally can be made only by management. But policies are policies. Enforcing them keeps prices low for customers, profits high for investors.

-- a double edged sword. Recently I was in a store, where a customer was trying to exchange a product they had damaged. First, I must say - I was shocked that a customer damaged a product and thought it was the responsibility of the store to replace the product that was originally free of defect. But to top it off, the customer knowingly admitted that the receipt was outside of the normal return policy, and threatened the employee that if the product wasn't exchanged, a nasty customer service complaint would be filed. The employee placated the customer, exchanged the product, and visibly upset, went on to help other customers. This would have been fine - except placating the customer had unintended consequences. Another customer, who appeared to be a regular client, watched this transaction from afar, and expressed their disappointment with the company policies. "If you let anyone return products - especially damaged items, it cheapens the brand and ultimately makes prices go up."

Pacifying one customer, who probably doesn't frequent the establishment very often, negatively impacts those clients who repeatedly shop.

And for small businesses, there is often greater cost to returning damaged goods. Some stores charge restocking or repackaging fees. For specially ordered items, only a portion of the original purchase price may be refunded. When I worked for Christian Dior, if a client was special ordering an item, 50% of the total merchandise was required before the products would be delivered to the store. And this was NONREFUNDABLE! If the client choose not to take the items, they were more than welcome to decide so, less the deposit. The deposit covered all expenses associated with the expedited shipping, packaging, and delivery of said goods. Many items were considered final sales: they were unable to be exchanged or returned.

Products are shipped from the manufacturing site, to a central warehouse, to a distribution center, to a shop, where it's sold to customers. When these products are exchanged or returned, they're collected at each shop, repackaged, reprocessed, returned to a distribution center, where they are then sorted and either destroyed, sold at a discount, or returned to the original vendor. All of this shipping, returning, repackaging, reprocessing costs money. Whether a store charges fees for restocking, or builds these services in to the original pricing, customers end up picking up the final tab.

Buyer be ware. If you're buying something of significant value, do your homework. Check stores' return policies and manufacturer warranties. Many credit cards include separate extended coverage, like American Express. And if you do buy something that must be returned or exchanged, remember that it's not the policies of the employee. "Don't shoot the messenger!" Showing respect, exercising reason, and employing polite manners will get you much further than unrealistic demands, disrespect, and undue attitude.

Is this Karma?

one of my favourite italian singers is Tiziano Ferro. factor in the smooth, soulful sounds of John Legend, and you can't help but ask "is this karma?"

Thursday, January 19, 2012

furniture and fragrance

a few things I'm really loving right now:

-- furniture with electrical outlets built in - like the couches, benches, and tables at Starbucks. you can never have enough electrical outlets it seems, and it definitely eliminates potential trip hazards, unsightly power cords, and is such a convenience.

-- I'm loving the Hermes and Tom Ford fragrances for men. Scent-sational.

-- for those who love comfortable luxury + travel, here's the perfect chair: DWR's Flight Recliner. in 2005, we posed a challenge to award-winning designer Jeffrey Bernett to create a recliner that didn't look like a recliner. Armed with experience designing ergonomic in-flight seating for Northwest Airlines, Bernett took us on willingly. He designed the Flight Recliner, in collaboration with Nicholas Dodziuk, to have none of the bulkiness or macho pretense of a traditional recliner. Upright, the Flight Recliner functions as a comfortable, streamlined club chair. Opened, using a patented conversion mechanism that takes only a slight, seated push to activate, it unfolds to hold the body aloft, with support from head to toe. This Recliner is upholstered in Ultrasuede, an innovative micro-fabric that’s pet and kid friendly. In addition to being easy to care for, this modern material has a soft luster, sensuous nap and available in a choice of shades. A stainless steel sleigh base provides stable footing. The frame is protected by a lifetime warranty. Made in U.S.A.

-- I love the llano 18" pillow from CB2. green and gray are two of my favourite colours, and i always try to find unique pillows - i love the mix and match look. i have a sand coloured leather sectional sofa, very modern and stream lined, but have it loaded with pillows of all shapes, sizes, and shades of green.

dimensions: llano pillow. 18" sq.
field day. Curvy fronds cluster abstract on a fluid plain of green, yellow, white, dark brown on light brown. 100% cotton square flips to solid green.

  • 100% cotton
  • Reverses to solid green
  • Feather-down insert
  • Hidden zipper closure
  • Dry clean only
  • Made in India
  • US$ 39,95

-- I'm loving the casual elegance of linen in the home - especially for table cloths, runners, placemats, napkins, etc. Don't worry about the wrinkles - it adds charm and character. I'm especially loving the linens from Kim Seybert, Libeco Ligae, Garnier-Thiebaut.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

upgrade, downsize, forward thinking, backward reflecting

I love motion. Our lives our in motion. And I just realized, one of my (former) favourite brands called Martin + Osa had a mantra of "lives in motion". And it's true. We're constantly moving - both physically and mentally. We go places. We grow. We travel. We get stronger. We go longer.

Speaking of motion, this year is about improvement. Life is about improvement. My challenge to you: upgrade the things you have, the places you go, and your choices. It's simple. When you make positive changes to your every day; when you go out of your way, even if just a tiny bit, you make a difference. One less potato chip. One more minute of exercise. One more week without Starbucks to buy the better shoes that may be just a tad-bit-more expensive. One less meal out. One more moment spent reflecting on the day. You'll surprise yourself.

Whilst upgrading, simultaneously downsize. Comedian George Carlin once had an entire sketch devoted to people and their stuff. The main point: people get bigger houses to hold the stuff they don't need. Do you really need 10,000 tshirts? Will you ever use that empty tin that your Great Aunt Helena mailed to you 2 Christmases ago? Minimize the amount of stuff; maximize the quality.

I'm not saying you should neglect the moment you're in, but it's important to be forward thinking. Is there action you can do now that will make your life more efficient, more enjoyable, more profitable, or more meaningful? A little preplanning can save you time, and that's more valuable than money for sure.

Spend a quiet moment each day. My roommates in college used to laugh, but I used to ask the same questions when I saw them. "What was the best part of your day? What could have been better? And what could have been worse?" Who and what are important should be on the forefront of your mind. If not, make an effort to include the important ones tomorrow.

A few things I'm loving, in no particular order of course:

-- Lytro Camera. Lytro lets you take pictures like never before. Unlike a conventional camera that captures a single plane of light, the Lytro camera captures the entire light field, which is all the light traveling in every direction in every point in space. Say goodbye to pictures as you know it - you pick what you want to focus on, and can refocus on whatever you want, whenever you want. It's like capturing still-live in motion. The possibilities are endless.

-- I love technology. And I'm super nostalgic. So when you combine vintage-inspired, sustainably harvested beechwood, the convenience to charge my iPhone, and the function of an oldschool alarm clock, it's a win win win for all, and a definite must-have! From Areaware, the Alarm Clock. And it's only $40.

-- comfort + convenience + conservation = the learning thermostat from nest. so. cool. or hot, if you prefer.

-- I know it's not knew, so forgive me if you're already over it. But if you've never heard of the flipboard, and own an iDevice, you must download flipboard. It's your go-to news + information + social network portal all in one. And it's flippin' amazing.

-- love for travel + love for food = love for cooking food from other places. But how many ounces is a gram? And how hot should the oven be? With this most brilliant dish cloth from Crate & Barrel, all of your conversions are at hand. Or at least at the sink.
-- I love Gucci. I love quality accessories. I love this colour blue. So what could be better? Imagine with great denim, a comfy tshirt, and these shoes. Or khaki chinos, a khaki knit sweater, and this perfect pop of colour.

until next time my friends, I propose a toast: here's to our lives in motion.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Happy New Year

part of me hope you're all resolving to live more fashionable, more meaningful, and more glamourous lives. but part of me hope you're already living the most fashionable, most meaningful, and most glamourous life as you can.

it's nice to have something to hope for, a time in our lives that reminds us to get back to basics, fine tuning your focus onto what and who is important. but at the same time, shouldn't we all inherently want to de-clutter our lives and concentrate our existence, maximizing meaning and minimizing expenditure of resources?

i've got a myriad of thoughts streaming through my mind. there's so much i want to say. and nothing at all.

it's cold outside, so i'm happy to wear some of my favourite warm weather gear. right now, i'm loving my double-faced wool peacoat from Ralph Lauren's Rugby it's got military style buttons, is very streamlined, a little extra tailoring than normal, and comes right to the bottom of my hips. perfect length for "not so cold" cold weather. easy to get in and out of the car with. and has the warmest, softest pockets. the little details are fabulous too - visible darting, tone-on-tone top stitching, backer buttons, and silk lining. loads of interior, hidden pockets. and a reinforced loop to hang on coat hooks and such.

i love cooking. for myself, for my friends and family, for other people. my family has always loved cooking and entertaining, but it took on an entirely new meaning when my Mom died. cooking = memories. cooking = a gift. cooking = sustenance for the body, nourishment for the soul.

i love traveling. new food, new fashion, new friends, new finds, new cultures and experiences.

as much as i love being around people, i also like eating by myself. at the bar of fabulous restaurants. you get better service. and the people watching is much better than in the restaurant. and if you're lucky, order what the bar tender orders or recommends, and the kitchen staff will go out of their way to prepare in the most perfect way your food. because when you eat the bar tender's recommendation at the tender's bar, it's not just the reputation of the restaurant, but the reputation of the bar tender as well, that's on the line. and everyone benefits.

i love when people pay attention to the simple details done well. the perfect crema on espresso. taking the time to arrange a proper bouquet of flowers. holding the door for others. wrapping a present with the most beautiful papers, ribbons, and decor. remembering people's preferences. in essence, surrounding yourself with beauty, thought, class, and comfort.Link

i can't wait for my new iPhone to arrive. i've had the same iPhone for nearly 5 years, and it's time to upgrade. part of me is a little disappointed - i've kept the device in mint condition - but all of the software updates and such are a little too complex for the now out-of-date hardware. but the other part of me is overjoyed. you see, my trusty iPhone has lasted much longer than most mobilephones on the market today, so i'm thankful. and hope i get as much use, enjoyment, and entertainment from the new one as i have from my current device.

i'm kind of obsessed with food halls. you know, grocers and grocery departments of upscale stores. like Harvey Nichols. Harrods. Williams-Sonoma. Fortnum & Mason. Dean & DeLuca. David Jones.

i love beautiful things with function. like fabulous cookware. or incredible shoes/outerware. or a beautiful tote bag. everyday elegance and comfortable luxury.

that's my goal for this year. to maximize my everyday elegance and comfortable luxury, and help you learn how to incorporate this into your every day.