A couple of weeks ago I was painting alone in our home studio while Paul was at the store. As I worked in silence I was thinking about a conversation I was having with my friend Carrie over text the night before.
So, how about a little background on these designers? I'll let Carrie explain a little about Sister Parish then I'll introduce you to Dorothy Draper.
Jersey Girl Dorothy May Kinnicutt, known in the design world as Sister Parish
You can see this lady has style. I love the pearls, the hat, the ram, and candelabra. Very formal pieces, yet not intimidating. And she was a Jersey Girl! Known in the design world as Sister Parish, Dorothy May Kinnicutt was born on July 15, 1910 and passed on September 8, 1994.
This Sister Parish design exhibits a coziness. One could be enjoying tea or
cocktails with friends, her style has a comfortable inviting elegance.
Another example of a Sister Parish design. I love this room, sans the huge bird cage because of the patterns, each very different and yet complimentary. It is a relaxed room, a feel good room with the light streaming in, I think even on a gloomy day it would still offer the same “feel good” vibe. It’s rather symmetrical, but not in a furniture ad/store way. For me it is a perfectly imperfect room.
These Sister Parish patterns are cheery and make my eyes dance.
Dorothy Draper, a True Artist
When I think about Dorothy Draper, all I can think about is drama. She was born in 1889 in exclusive Tuxedo Park and she passed away in 1969 and in the years in between she defined a new style of decorating: Hollywood Regency. Hollywood Regency is known for its glamour, drama and new twist on old classics.
Dorothy Draper used vibrant, “splashy” colors in never-before-seen combinations, such as aubergine and pink with a “splash” of chartreuse and a touch of turquoise blue, or, one of her favorite combinations – “dull” white and “shiny” black. To me, her designers exude confidence.
Dorothy Draper's confidence gave her the ability to take control of large scale projects such as hotels like the Greenbriar, in all aspects of design – right down to the designs for menus, matchbook covers and the staff uniforms. Her dictum was “if it looks right, it is right”
Our conversation continued a few days later.
I began thinking about my own design style and Carrie’s thoughts on design and how this is a topic we really enjoy talking about together.
Carrie and I aren’t lifelong friends. Our friendship began as grown women with interests in common and it’s fun to have someone to share conversation based on our interests rather than simply a shared history together. We each bring something different to the conversation. We’re very similar in some ways but we both bring a different perspective on any given topic. Something one of us hadn’t considered and something thought provoking.
I came out of my thoughts and back into reality for a moment and thought, what a couple of dorks,....who has conversations like this?
Well apparently, Carrie and I do. And I’m sure others do, too. Or at least other people would like to have conversations like this if they had someone to talk about it with.
Then I had an idea. 💡
What about putting our conversation in the form of a blog and inviting others to join in?
I picked up my phone and texted Carrie...
So I kept pitching...
Undaunted, I texted her one last time. This time with a possible name…
I held my breath, thinking Carrie might actually hate that.
But too late, it was already out there.
My phone finally dinged with Carrie’s reply.
Not only was she on board but she was excited!
Then the ideas started to flow...
Later that week Paul and I were with Carrie and her husband Joel. Joel mentioned our blog idea and then chuckled...”and the name, Design Dorks...it’s perfect!” He knows us too well.
Over the next week or so, Carrie and I continued our conversation about our two favorite designers. And she sent me this image that she found:
Design is in the eye of the beholder, and ‘good design’ is really just a matter of opinion.
Let’s keep the conversation going!
What are your thoughts about design and style of this Sister Parish designed bedroom? Love it? Hate it? Too haute? Comment below!
Our Comments on the Bedroom Above
Share your comments below, because that’s what this is all about...nothing highbrow, just a conversation among friends.
Carrie & Johanna
Paul and I often view our work with furniture as functional works of art. Something special and beautiful to look at, but also something that can be touched and used. This is why we choose special finishes, custom color mixes, an on occasion…bold graphics.
We both have our favorite artists, graphic designers and illustrators that inspire us and in a future post I’ll share some of those with you, but today I wanted to share some of our favorite pieces and talk about the inspiration and how we accomplished these.
The Mondrian Toy Box
I like straight lines and order, it’s just my personality. Paul and I both admire the more of Piet Mondrian so that's what we decided to use as inspiration for this piece. We loved the idea of juxtaposing something utilitarian with something sophisticated.
We selected Pure White Chalk Paint® by Annie Sloan for the background color and deeper colors than the artist likely would have chosen for the design: Primer Red, Napoleonic Blue, and English Yellow Chalk Paint®. The design was created by simply using painters tape, a ruler and some chalk!
The Paisley Piece
For us, a simple boxy piece of furniture is truly a blank canvas. Paul loves the idea of asymmetry, where a design doesn’t have any visible order. He appreciates the randomness when elements of a design are placed where they are pleasing to his eye, not because of any predetermined order.
This paisley piece is a perfect example of this, and Paul chose a large-scale stencil, one that had movement and that he could wrap around the piece. His color choices were very deliberate, too, and it started with the background color. He wanted it to be neutral but instead of selecting a white or grey he chose Duck Egg Blue Chalk Paint® which was a brilliant choice behind his palette of Napoleonic Blue, Barcelona Orange, Burgundy, and Arles. You can read more about how we created this piece in our blog post: The Paisley Piece.
The Record Cabinets
If you’ve spent time in our shop you know that Paul is a music guy. Our playlists are always unique and we always have customers comment on the music in the store. So, when we have a record cabinet to work on, Paul’s imagination runs wild.
For the one on the left, he was inspired by the Beatle’s Sargent Pepper album. Take a look at the top right of the album cover and you’ll see his inspiration. The stripe of the sleeve inspired the red and yellow strips and the hand is there, too. He used Emperor's Silk, English Yellow, Paris Grey, Pure White, and Graphite Chalk Paint® as well as a mix of Napoleonic Blue and Greek Blue Chalk Paint® for the hand.
On the right, he was inspired by the 1970’s in general rather than by anything in particular, so he selected a palette of colors that was influenced by that era: Antibes Green, Barcelona Orange, Pure White and English Yellow Chalk Paint®. Click here for additional photos of this cabinet.
The Cityscape Cabinet
This cabinet is all about moody drama and it shows how you can use something that seems like nothing special and use it to create something wow.
The inspiration here was an inexpensive print on canvas that we found in a thrift store. We both loved the grittiness and the abstract design. It was Paul who suggested using it on this small cabinet with its simple boxy shape and details that create a frame around the door, Perfect for applying an image.
Paul used Graphite Chalk Paint® on the cabinet then we removed the canvas from the stretcher, trimmed it, then applied it using Annie Sloan’s Decoupage Medium to the door. Once that it was dry, we gave it a cracked look using Annie Sloan’s Craqueleur Step 1 & 2 which created an all-over cracked look which we accentuated using dark wax. Read more about this cabinet in our blog post: The Cityscape Cabinet.
The Beatrice Armoire
This child-size armoire had been in our possession for a couple of years. One day I was inspired to work on it using Henrietta Chalk Paint® by Annie Sloan as the main color. I also wanted to do an illustration that was French but didn’t want a stencil or simply an Eiffel Tower image and I was inspired by my niece Beatrice.
My sister had been living in Paris for almost 25 years and her daughter was born there and grew up in Paris. I was thinking about little Bea and decided on an uncluttered, wrap around design which I painted in Pure White Chalk Paint®.
You can see that bold, graphic patterns can be created in many different ways: stencils, decoupage, tape, crackler, and hand painting, just to name a few. Look around and see what inspires you!
The fun part comes in the challenge of trying to figure out how to execute your design. This isn’t always easy, so don’t get discouraged. Think big, jot down your ideas and think outside the box and you can create a real statement piece!
I studied fashion in school and like most people, very little of what I studied ever comes back to help me in my day-to-day life. The only exception is the semester that I spent in a class called History of Textiles & Costumes. I don't think a week goes by that I don't call upon something that I learned in that class. Although it was a fashion history class, it was taught from the perspective of how fashion is influenced by other design of the day, like art and architecture.
Life is all about meeting new people and having great experiences. When you own your own business, this can mean meeting people with shared goals and interests and developing new partnerships.
A few weeks ago we met with Phil and Teresa from Home & Garden NJ magazine. We found that we had a shared interest in Chalk Paint® by Annie Sloan. In fact, Teresa was currently working on painting her bathroom vanity cabinets. We had a fun conversation about their magazine and our store and our shared philosophies about design and decorating.
By the end of the meeting we were shaking hands and hugging and a new partnership was born.
Paul and I will be featured in the print and online magazine and will be writing articles about design, decorating, and more.
If you haven't discovered Home & Garden NJ yet, you're missing out on a great local magazine (print & digital) that features home decorating and design articles, tips, trends, how-to's and inspiration. They have an ever-increasing library of photos, videos, and articles to help you plan your next project, and a local vendor directory filled with high-quality local resources. You can browse projects or even share your own!
We're fans of the magazine and love seeing how much momentum it continues to gain, and best of all - it's geared to us, here in NJ!
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We will be sure to share with you what we're up to with Home & Garden NJ, we're and excited to be partnering with them!
I’ve written about inspiration before, and for good reason. Paul and I know that inspiration can come from anywhere so it’s important to keep your eyes open.
A few weeks ago, during one of our Chalk Paint® 101: The Basics workshops, a participant named Barb added a little too much water to her 2nd paint color on the two-color wet distress. She was looking at it and feeling a little disappointed that it didn’t look like the finish created by another participant who used the same color combination. Paul however, was really taken with the finish.
Iconic graphic designer Milton Glaser said “There are three responses to a piece of design: yes, no, and wow. Wow is the one to aim for.”
For the past year or more, Paul and I have been leaning more towards bolder, more modern designs for our furniture. One reason for this is because our style has changed.
For me, Coastal Cottage has been replaced by clean Mid-Century design. Paul has moved from Art Deco to a fondness for bright color and a mix of old and new.
Every year starting in the spring our custom painting schedule starts to fill up with furniture that have one thing in common - they’re going to a beach house.
Painting beach house furniture is fun because for a lot of people, the beach house is less formal, more fun, and the decorating is a little more colorful.
However, you don’t need a house at the beach to love the coastal look. The casual feel is so comfortable that this style is at home just about anywhere...
Paul has a thing for color.
We both do, really. But Paul rarely thinks in terms of whites and neutrals. When he sees a great piece of furniture, his gut almost always says, “put color on it.”
I’ve often written and spoken to people about how we purchase furniture that we like but we won’t do anything to it until one of us has a clear vision of what it should look like – or at least a clear vision of how it should start. As a result, some furniture gets painted right away and others sit for a while.
Sometimes a couple of years.
This week we finished a new piece and it’s generating a lot of questions…What paint color is that? How did you do the copper? What was it finished with?
So, in today’s post we’ll break it down for you and explain just how we created this look.
Just like the Paisley Piece, this buffet was something Paul and I have had for a very long time. In fact, when we purchased it, we didn’t have any immediate finishing plan (and it was too large to fit easily down the stairs into our studio space), so we decided to use it in our own dining room until we felt inspired.
We’ve owned this vintage vanity for quite some time.
We've had it in the store for a few months and while everything around it came and went, this vanity was still there.
Don’t get me wrong, it received a lot of love. Customers in the shop would look at it and love on it…but there it sat.
We sell on an upscale online shopping site and this vanity had an unprecedented number of followers…but there it sat.
I used to paint furniture as a hobby.
Now that I do it for a living, my new hobby is cocktails!
I don’t mean it in a passed-out-party-girl way. I mean that I genuinely have an interest in mixing cocktails – especially classic cocktails.
I like the research, and I like the history.
I’ve always enjoyed learning how the average person lived during various times in history and I think knowing what people were drinking, what was popular at the time, provides a little glimpse.
It was over three years ago.
I know it was in the early days of our business.
In those days we were buying furniture with wild abandon. Looking back, I realize that was a smart move because as the business has grown, we’ve had less and less time to shop.
Anyway, one of the first pieces we ever purchased was a small vintage server that we both thought had a slightly Asian vibe. We added it to our warehouse inventory, assigned it an item number, and next to the number, we wrote “Small Asian Server.”
I love new beginnings.
I love opportunities.
I love a clean slate, a chance to do something differently.
January 1st is my favorite day of the year...the start of any new season…my birthday…heck, even trash day. Out with the old and in with the new. A chance to start over, to begin something new.
At the start of this year, Paul and I launched a new venture. It came about because of our store customers.
Share It Saturday is your chance to share the furniture painting projects you’ve been working on and have some fun seeing what other people are doing!
This link-up is open to everyone – whether your posting your 1st piece or your 101st piece, everyone is welcome to join in! So, if you’re painting to sell, or painting for fun this is your community.
Before I tell you about our trip to North Carolina, I want to say thank you. Soldier58 is in the FedEx Small Business Grant Competition so, Paul and asked for your votes through email, Facebook and Instagram and so many of you not only voted but also wrote comments encouraging us and wishing us good luck. The voting ends tomorrow and we will know on April 13th if we made it into the top 100 but we didn’t want to wait too long to let all of you know how grateful we are.
We're Paul and Johanna and we write about our life in the furniture business. The things we love, the places we go, and the treasures we find along the way.