<![CDATA[Claire Marsh Interiors, LLC - Blog]]>Fri, 27 Oct 2017 15:00:07 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[The House Dictates the Design]]>Sun, 06 Nov 2016 19:18:53 GMThttp://clairemarshinteriors.com/blog/the-house-dictates-the-design
After two years of design and building, my clients were eagerly anticipating moving in to their new house. They had worked diligently with architects at a well known local firm to create their perfect house. The couple was delighted with their every nuance and often remarked on how attentive tandem patient they had been.
In the spring of 2014 I found a pair of very unusual antique settees at the Highpoint furniture market.  We put a spring like Brunswig et Fils document toile on them and the style of the house was set.  The solarium where the pieces were to go, is immediately seen from the front door.  The house was designed to draw you all the way through to the courtyard in the back.  All of this dictated that the solarium be dressed symmetrically.  We were able to find a pair of antique corner tables used in the room where George and Martha Washington spent their honeymoon.  
The owners and I quickly realized that the front hall held a perfect view of the river.  In order not to obstruct the view to the solarium, and to honor the view of the river, we opted not to use the traditional round foyer table or console table flanked by a pair of chairs.  Instead, we added a long, clean lined sofa with two side tables which provided seating to view the river and at the same time anchored the beautiful staircase.
The hallway is flanked on either side by a dining room to the left and a library to the right. We kept the feeling somewhat informal by adding seagrass runners in all of the hallways. We wanted some drama in the dining room but simultaneously wanted to keep the house fairly neutral.  With such magnificent architecture, it seemed imperative not to interfere with the design, just enhance it a bit.  We decided on the Brunswig et Fils Erte silver tea leaf paper with a Farrow and Ball high gloss ceiling to provide the drama.  In a nod to humor, we lacquered and slipcovered the Chippendale chairs and added a fantastic glass chandelier.
​An antelope rug completed the room.

The library was designed around the owners favorite painting and included a niche for it on the back wall. When I met with the architects, we decided that there should be not hardware on the cabinets below the bookcases.  The effect is of wainscoting, not cabinetry.  This room is the perfect place to enjoy a glass of wine and a magnificent sunset over the river.  The solarium was created as the women's perching spot with the idea that the library would be more comfortable for the men.  We chose a velvet sofa and two swivel chairs covered in a great Zoffany print.  With the addition of the owners books, leather ottoman and accessories, we were able to find a terrific lamp to complete the room.  An Alexa Hampton alabaster globe hangs from the ceiling.  The mirror over the mantle reflects the floor length mirror and the glass chandelier in the dining room.  
​It has been such a pleasure to work with this couple.  They came into the process having done a lot of research and with some predetermined ideas, nonetheless, they remained open to suggestions. They have impeccable taste and made the whole experience energizing and gratifying.  
The house is still in progress.  I look forward to completing the project with them.
Best, Claire

<![CDATA[Personal Interior Design]]>Thu, 15 May 2014 14:55:37 GMThttp://clairemarshinteriors.com/blog/what-this-blog-is-really-about
Since this is supposed to be a decorating blog, I always sit down to write intending to impart decorating advice.   Apparently, I can't do that.  Some magazines advocate taking one item from column a and one from column b, then, voila, you have a wonderful new room.  You might indeed but it will be someone else's idea.

  My posts are very personal and your decorating should be too.
I want you to explore your own preferences.  If you still like jewel tones, then use them.  Admittedly there are ways to update them and a decorator can help you with that.

Decorating is just a means to reflect your view of life at the same time creating a space for you and your family and friends to enjoy yourselves.
One of my influences is Dee Hardie who wrote a column for House Beautiful.   Although she wrote for a shelter magazine, she wrote about life style, not decorating. 

When I was a teenager, I attended a party at the Hardie's house in the country outside of Baltimore.  My mother saved all of the invitations from that summer so I still have the invitation shown above.  Directions to the house were hand written on the back.  It speaks volumes in it's simplicity.  While many other invitations were engraved and written in formal language, this one practically said don't even wear shoes to the party.

I remember arriving at the house where we were greeted with picnic tables covered in gingham cloths set up under shade trees.  I am certain we had fried chicken for lunch.  After lunch, we rode a hay wagon down to the paddock at the Grand National Race.  It was a relaxed and fun party.

Interestingly, the mother of the person in whose honor the party was given was another big influence.  When I was a child, I spent the night at Margot's house (nearby the Hardie's in the country).  Mrs. Kidder was elegantly dressed in baggy linen pants, a big brimmed sun hat, and wellies and carried a garden trug.  She went to the garden out back and picked fresh lettuces, cucumbers, and tomatoes.  I'm sure it was the first time I ate a salad with home made vinegrette and soft shelled crabs.  (Please realize that this was in the early sixties and we were not foodies then,) To this day, that remains one of my favorite meals. 

Decorating is really about the way you live:  creating  the ambience that you choose to portray and conveying to your guests what you would like remembered about you.  Whether it's picking and eating a meal of fried chicken and fresh lettuce served informally or a formal tea in the parlor, make sure your style reflects you.  If you don't know what your preferences are, that's what a decorator or architect will spend time eliciting from you .  If I sound like a skipping CD (broken record tells you how old I am), please forgive me, I'll try not to harp on this in the future.

Best, Claire

<![CDATA[En Plein Air: Celebrate the Beautiful Outdoors]]>Tue, 13 May 2014 16:51:53 GMThttp://clairemarshinteriors.com/blog/en-plein-airPicture
I am delighted that the May-June issues of both Architectural Digest and Veranda feature outdoor dining as the month's topic.  Architectural Digest  has a magnificent photo of the outdoor sculpture museum, Storm King, in the Hudson Valley. I have had the pleasure of picnicking there several times.  If you have never been, please put it on your bucket list.  Sitting on your luncheon cloth, feasting on apple and brie sandwiches on date nut bread with some homemade lemonade is one of life's great pleasures.  You sit atop rolling hills dotted with mammoth sculptures by, among others, Noguchi, Goldsworthy, Nevelson, and Calder.  A constant breeze and roiling clouds above remind you of your tiny spot in a beautiful universe.

Much to my amazement, I have had several clients in the past who say they never open their windows.  Even when they go to the beach, apparently, they spend most of their time shopping or indoors.  I don't think fear of the sun is the reason for the hibernation since we have large brimmed hats, improved sunscreen, umbrellas, and even UV protective clothing.  Our climate controlled houses have done a lot more to change the social landscape than provide heat in the winter and cooling in the summer.  The constant temperature of these houses has seduced and reduced people to a life indoors.  It has also served to remove them from the joys of playing and working outside.   When I say take time to smell the roses, I really mean, get out there, find a rose, and smell it- after all- hot house flowers are usually not perfumed. 

Remember, as a child, begging your teachers to hold class outside on the first warm days of spring?  There were a kind few who capitulated.  These visionaries realized that your mind wasn't in the classroom anyway so they might as well enjoy the day with you.  Somehow, small fragments of knowledge found their way through the scent of freshly mown grass. These few teachers also recognized the benefits of daydreaming.   Charlemagne is long dead and another day without learning those dates won't hurt.

My twenty month old granddaughter, Flora, when she visits, insists that we spend most of our time outside.  Unless she is hungry, or wants a nap, she cries when we go inside.  We and our German Shepherd, Oliver, (who she calls Aaee)  spend a lot of time across the street at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.  We roll in the grass, put our hands in the fountain, go up and down the steps, and enjoy the Chihuly reeds.  I must say it's the best back yard in Richmond.

Many of us have become very disconnected with our world.  Spending time outside is a wonderful way to reengage.  Do you remember how to make a clover chain?  Pick some clover blossoms, make a vertical slit in the stem of one and pass the stem of another through it.  Continue until you have a necklace.  Did you ever make fairy dining tables and dishes?  Take four small twigs of equal size, put a piece of bark on top, and use acorn bottoms for dishes.  How about making a boat out of a piece of bark, a twig for a mast, and a leaf for a sail.  Dining al fresco isn't only for the fairies.

This spring or summer, make it a point to eat lunch or dinner outside.  When my children were small, we often had parties in the back yard.  I laid out quilts (even tattered ones),  threw large floor pillows covered in Indian prints around the yard and punctuated the scene with large Chinese paper umbrellas. Very Bloomsbury Bohemian.  Of course, you might want to have a stash of organic bug spray and suncreen in a basket near the guests.  There is something playful and child's teaparty-like in preparing an outdoor meal.  It needn't be elaborate, you could always go with prepared foods, but the pleasures of a picnic are worth the effort.

This year, turn off the computer, shut down the reality TV, and spend some delightful time outside. You needn't even have an activity planned.  Yesterday, Flora sat in my lap at her house in the country and we just listened to birds for twenty minutes- a life time for a toddler- but she was very content the whole time.

Let me know how you enjoyed your time outside.

Best, Claire

<![CDATA[HISTORY OF WHITE PAINT]]>Sun, 16 Mar 2014 22:29:39 GMThttp://clairemarshinteriors.com/blog/history-of-whitePicture
Why and when did we forget about the virtues of white interiors?

When I was a child, people often painted their interiors in shades of white or off white.  I can only remember seeing a deep green and a navy once each.  For the most part, the wood work was the same off white color as the walls.

Sometime in the mid-sixties, a Colonial Williamsburg decorating craze swept the East Coast.  Walls were painted whitewash white and the trim a darker contrasting "Williamsburg" color. (Upon further research by the Colonial Williamsburg foundation, these colors proved to be not vivid enough.)  I remember this style lasting into the late seventies.

Sometime in the eighties, in some neighborhoods, the dark painted wood work was replaced by wood trim, which still looked vaguely colonial and, frankly, a bit Little House on the Prairie.  I'm glad this didn't last long but it had long lasting residual effects.  Even though the wood trim darkened rooms and looked rustic, many husbands balked at the thought of covering all of that wonderful wood.  I'm sure there were many decorating spats over this- just like painting an ugly brick fireplace.  Oh, I forgot to mention that most of the houses built with the wood trim contained a room with dark wood wainscoting.  Try getting him to paint that!  (Sorry to you fabulous men who agree with me or your partners:  these comments are based on years of empirical learning.)

Now we're into the early part of this century.  Several things happened here culminating in many decorating victims.  There was the Crayola box house where every room is painted a different "fun" color and which often caused waves of nausea on unwitting guests. The wood work now is some version of white creating a graphic nightmare.  Unfortunately, this is still being perpetrated by the unthoughtful and misled. This fad, unfortunately led to the faux finish fiasco.  Please don't get me wrong, I have several friends who made quite a good living from their artistic abilities.  However, the DIY'ers often "ragged" their walls  and the result was often a bad version of kindergarten finger painting.  Faux finishing still has it's spectacular uses as in gold leaf ceilings, marbled fireplaces, and tortoise  shelled curtain rods but please let a qualified professional do it.  It really shouldn't look like it was lovingly made by hands at home.

All of this coincided with the proliferation of the McMansion and the concomitant two story rooms and open floor plans (just where do you start that purple color and where do you begin the gold?)  This excess was often accompanied by overly ornate wood work in houses that didn't deserve it and often it wasn't even wood.

So, now you have heavy wood work, red walls and the requisite contrasting white trim. Lord, where does it stop?  Some brilliantly wise decorator realized that if you had all that wood work, maybe the shape was enough and it could be painted the same color as the walls.  Halleluja, we're getting there.

So, Blessed relief.  Now we have a return of white and off white walls.  Lovely, lovely white:  so many choices and so many subtle differences.  We have moved into the age of nuance and sophistication.  With that comes a relaxed elegance and confidence.  The scores of variation on white are luscious.

I'm often asked if you can use more than one shade of white in a room.  Please do.  If you match all the whites, your room will be uncomfortably flat, cold, and sterile.  White combinations are nearly endless.  Keep in mind that white distributes light evenly and reflects whatever color influences which surround it.  White in a room on the water (in this case I've used Ralph Lauren's tuxedo white successfully) will differ tremendously from white in a house in the woods.  (I often go more grey or more taupe based white in these rooms.)

Give your eyes a rest, your blood pressure a break and consider white for your walls.  You don't have to limit yourself to one boring shade either- there are lots of them!

<![CDATA[MERRY CHRISTMAS: KEEPING FRIENDS AND FAMILY CLOSE]]>Wed, 25 Dec 2013 04:52:59 GMThttp://clairemarshinteriors.com/blog/merry-christmasPicture
Merry Christmas!  I have been so busy working Special Events at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts ('tis the season) I have neglected to past on Seasons' Greetings.

For the first time in almost eighteen years, I have been able to reconnect with Christmas.  Perhaps working in the retail industry numbed me to the Christmas spirit; maybe a grandchild has renewed my life.  It could be that a prolonged period of mourning my parents has finally passed.  May be it's all of the healing that has taken place in my very dear family or that I find myself newly in love with my husband.  It could be all of the above.  I am grateful to have reconnected with old friends and made new ones.

Russell and I hosted a Christmas party for old friends and fellow workers from the VMFA  last Saturday night.  Everyone brought food and good spirits; Rita baked her famous juicy Cuban empanadas; Ed played carols on the piano and there was lots of singing to usher in the holiday. 

Our Saturday night friends  failed to drink much of the Legend Pilsner keg.  Yesterday Russell called a few of his young friends from local bands.  Several brought their horns, Russell accompanied them on the piano and a good time was had by all.  They also helped "float the keg".

Today, one of my co-workers at the museum who couldn't come on Saturday, brought her eight week old puppy, Slim, to visit.  Nothing like puppy kisses at Christmas.

I have enjoyed decorating:  making the Della Robbia wreath ; hanging the stockings; and three days of decorating the tree.  Most of all, I have once again realized that, ultimately, we have nothing if we don't keep our families and friends close:  their visits have given us the best Christmas we have had  years.

Here's Oliver enjoying the Christmas tree.  I wish all of you a relaxed and happy holiday.  We'll get back to decorating after the new year.

Best, Claire
<![CDATA[DESIGN TRENDS]]>Thu, 07 Nov 2013 02:33:42 GMThttp://clairemarshinteriors.com/blog/design-trendsPicture
                                 DESIGN TRENDS

When I worked in retail I was often asked, “What’s the new hot color?” or “ What’s hot in decorating now?”.  A difficult question for me: not because I don't know the answer, I read decorating magazines and look at style blogs, but difficult because as a design professional, it is my job to educate the customer.  Better houses, I would tell them, have rarely followed trends.  They result from a combination of inherited or found pieces, and additions to those pieces bought with thoughtfulness and affection. Houses , I told the customers, should look evolved. The color predictions for 2014 are, among other colors, a deep aqua blue and purple.  These colors often provoke strong reactions: if you absolutely cannot abide purple, why should you use purple? 

Unfortunately, your color choice or style might not be available.   There are folks in the background of the design industry deciding what the new color and style trends should be.  These trends are based on changing technology, references from popular movies or television, popular hobbies, and, of course, arbitrary choices to insure that the market will be able to sell you something new.  

Obviously, this insistence on new things assures that there are elements that will date your rooms.  How about the old formula of a plaid, a floral, and a stripe.  If you walked into that room in 2013 you would think, OMG, how nineties.  If you walked into a room of mirrored Parsons style furniture with velour upholstery, you’d more than likely think of  Miami Vice.  But, you could use elements from either of these rooms (on second thought, please don’t take anything from the Miami Vice room) and incorporate them into an attractive space.

Let’s look at some trends that are totally out of style now:   oversized sofas and chairs with huge arms, brass Williamsburg style chandeliers, ragged walls, shabby chic and the list goes on.  Oh, by the way, real shabby chic involved taking things from your grandmother’s attic and garage to the beach house because the stuff was going to get wrecked anyway, not buying expensively new but falsely worn furniture. People will try to sell you anything.  If you don’t listen to your own tastes, you will be wearing the emperor’s new clothes.

I remember the now out of print, Parish Hadley  by those doyens of American decorating, Sister Parish and Albert Hadley, was remarkable in that the rooms were timeless.  There was one exception.  It was a 1960's redo of a beautiful timeless room also pictured in the book. It looked sort of silly and “What were they thinking”.  If you decorate with trends, you will insure planned obsolescence and will be challenged to redecorate as often as you change your wardrobe.  Most of us can’t afford to do that, nor would we want to.  

Take a look at what you love and answer your decorator’s questions honestly so that you can determine the best look for you.  No need to run with the pack.  Be brave and let your inner you shine.  You will be more comfortable in the long run.  Good style is timeless.

<![CDATA[Everyday Art: Design Blog]]>Fri, 06 Sep 2013 18:42:11 GMThttp://clairemarshinteriors.com/blog/everyday-artMany years ago, my friend, De, responded to my regret at not being an artist with, "Your life is your art."  Whether she was just filling up space in the conversation or imparting a pithy comment, I’m not sure. I took it to heart, though, and have often remembered it.

If it’s true that our life is our art, then it’s very liberating, isn’t it? Being an artist means creating your inner self on some sort of canvas. You can paint your canvas with whatever floats your boat: you don’t have to live by anyone else’s expectations.
Unless you are a commercial artist working for a client, you can create your own version of what is pleasing. Consider even small tasks artful: arranging food on a plate for dinner; planting your vegetable garden to please the eye and the palette; hand writing a thank you note; or putting some fresh flowers in a vase. Actually, just taking the time to enjoy what you are doing and being glad that you are able to do it.
This past May, we had to replace - in this order - the stove; the kitchen counter; the washing machine; the hot water heater; the de-humidifier; and last but not least, the refrigerator. Whew! When the drier started leaving scorch marks on the clothes in July, we realized that we couldn’t replace it until September.

My solution for replacing the clothes drier is primitive but I couldn’t be happier. I bought one of those circular clothes lines and put it in a granite patio umbrella holder.
We live in the city and have no yard to speak of, but we do have an upstairs back porch where we grow some vegetables. There are also two apple trees we can reach from the porch so we affectionately call it "the farm". Here’s a picture of our urban farm. The clothes line is cheaper than running a drier; the clothes smell great; it’s better for the environment; and, yes, there certainly is an art to hanging the clothes on the line. Many people who do it regularly, will tell you they have a pattern for hanging and that they enjoy doing it.
I guess my point is that instead of looking at everything as a chore, view it as part of your art.  I feel like I’ve created a masterpiece every time I see those sheets blowing in the breeze.
<![CDATA[House Undone: Decorating your Home]]>Sat, 24 Aug 2013 17:34:59 GMThttp://clairemarshinteriors.com/blog/house-undone
When I was about twelve, my mother told me that you never want your hair or your house to look done. Those of you who have seen my unruly hair will realize that I took her advice.

Your house doesn’t have to be perfect either. If your objective is to have fabric that will never show any wear or wrinkles, I’m sure I can find some plastic slipcovers for you - maybe we could even monogram them. Honestly, do you really want to visit that house?
Growing up, we were never allowed to have anything on the dining room table (we ate in the dining room every night) that wasn’t placed in a lovely container. Hot sauce bottle on the table - are you kidding? Years later, as an adult with grown children, I visited some of my daughter’s friends in upstate New York. We always had a great time and lots of laughs with the family. Help yourself - the Entemann’s pastry box and cardboard ice cream container were always on the table. I was really proud of myself this past Christmas when I put a plastic container of whipped cream on the table during dessert. Progress.
This might be the first and last time you read this blog. I realize it contradicts the contemporary design industry. But we can’t all live between the pages of House Beautiful or Traditional Home. I love these magazines and, like the rest of you, use them for inspiration. But these fabulous rooms are the result of plentiful resources and carefully constructed photo shoots.
A friend told me not too long ago, that I could probably put a giant carrot in my living room and it wouldn’t look out of place. I hope these posts will be a gathering place to relax, keep our sense of humor, and find ways to make our houses comfortable places where we can all have fun.

Best Wishes,