Tuesday, August 19, 2014


One of the most beautiful parts of a room is something that people notice and care about tremendously, but often forget to mention it in their first design requests for a room—the floor.  ( The ceiling is another of these ! ).

Remember this: a room always has at least six sides, and they are all important.  One of them may be glass (and then what is beyond this glass is as important to the room as what is inside it ) ; it may be of some old building element such as the old brick found in the walls of urban buildings and used today as a highlight in the d├ęcor ;  it may be painted or coffered or paneled, but one of these—the floor—will probably be the largest single plane in the room.  It’s important.

You have already seen my blog post on the imported “wood” ceramic tile from Paris Ceramics.  I love these.  I love regular wooden floors; brick floors, stone floors—anything done well, lying there smooth and inviting.  Form follows function.  But…..you will oftentimes decide to cover some (or all, in the case of wall to wall carpeting) of this floor with a rug of some sort.  And that’s where a company like Nasiri comes in.

Beautiful soft and muted antique rug

Double-side cotton flat weave

Nasiri is a company which both imports old carpets and makes new ones—and they are beautiful.  Because of their interest in old rugs, their new rugs show the influence of soft colours and sometimes muted designs.

This brilliant blue room and rug are too bold for me !

Muted version of rug

Better for me is this muted version, since I don't like rooms to be fashionable. Rather, I want them to live forever and the softer and more muted they are, the longer I think one loves them.

I think rugs can be used to give an extra element to a room such as these skins and flokatis—of which Nasiri has a very large supply

Flotaki rug

One can have dhurries and flatweaves in bold or muted designs.

Bold blue dhurrie rug

Muted beige flatweave rug

Nasiri has incredibly lovely soft Moroccan carpets.


                           Nasiri Carpets New York's photo.


I am doing a house right now for one of my favourite clients, a lovely man who has bought a house right on the edge of a marsh all planted out with native plants and which will have great desert-y Canary Island date palms in the front.  As in the picture above, we are using Moroccan lighting fixtures and lanterns and a wonderful muted Moroccan rug.  I love this cool look in our hot climate.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014


I don't know about you, but my handbag has always been filled with a million (maybe its a billion) of little notes to myself. Remember to do such and such....... Don't forget to pick up tiddlywinks .......the notes are endless. Only problem is, they get lost in the jumble that is my purse. Recently, I got smart and started to use a product that we've sold in the Boutique for a dozen years, namely a jotter. For those of you unfamiliar with the jotter, it is a refillable, flat (usually leather) notepaper holder. They fit perfectly in even the smallest of purses and, when purchased in a nice, bright color can be found in the deepest, darkest chasms.

I chose a cheerful red, but you have a myriad of colors to choose from.

The jotters we sell like hotcakes are made by Graphic Image. They carry a host of other practical products such as journals, albums and frames....all in luxurious leathers. Their jotter comes with a pack of blank cards which we frequently personalize for our clients. We can print a name, monogram, and even contact information on them (and in an ink color to match the leather of the holder) so these jotter cards can be also used as calling cards.

The Boutique also carries "Thinking Cards" printed by New Orleans artistic stationer, Alexa Pulitzer. These cards fit perfectly in our leather jotters and look super spiffy when your friends spy you taking a note. They will be jealous, not only of your organizational skills, but of your tasteful choice in papers. 

These thinking cards can also be personalized....it only takes a day or two....so they make fabulous Birthday or Hostess presents !  The recipient won't know it only took 2 days and they will be pleased that you thought to order them a personalized gift.

We also carry Aspinal of London's slim, leather folding-cover jotters with a removal pad of paper and a slim pen tucked inside. If you are a note taker extraordinaire, this jotter is for you ! 

When you have inscribed all the pages of your pad, you can simple pop another in its place.

I hope you will give a jotter a whirl and see why I'm pleased as punch with mine !
E-mail Betty at the Boutique ( betty@lafinpb.com ) for particulars.

Until next time.......


Wednesday, July 30, 2014


We started work this week on the main reception rooms for The Hillsboro Club (www.hillsboroclub.org), which we hope will be just the loveliest reception area imaginable—at any rate, our idea is built around a plan based on a beautiful wallpaper from China Seas “Lyford Trellis” which is one of their oldest designs and one of my favourites.

For this job, we had it specially coloured with a beautiful south-seas-ocean blue background with the bamboo designs in white with highlights in beiges, because the colours of The Hillsboro Club are a brilliant turquoise and white.  These colours are used in their awnings in bright happy stripes, and they show in the windows of the club.  They, themselves, however, would be too shocking as the colours of a room—remember the pictures I showed in the post on Aqua?—although they look lovely when seen near the blue that we chose for the background of our paper.

The first thing we had to do was come up with an artist’s rendering of the wallpaper in the colours which we wanted.

And then this was sent to China Seas for them to use as the guide.  This required a strike-off because the colours in the paper had to match the colours in the rendering exactly, since the ceilings in the main living room were coffered with quite large beams separating the squares.   These would be painted by an artist to match the wallpaper with a design taken from the wallpaper, so that, in the end, the effect would be almost of a giant trellised garden room with the ceilings held up by trellised beams. 

"Before" picture of Hillsboro Club's Living Room

Step one was to remove all those hanging fixtures and replace the giant 1970’s can lamps with small, almost unseen, down-lighters that could be controlled by dimmers.  Rooms are most beautiful when they are lighted by area lamps, so having the ceiling lights dimmable was imperative.  That necessitated removing the wooden squares between the coffers and putting up the lights and replacing the wooden squares with new ones, which would all be painted in a beautiful white paint, a white we call “Hillsboro White” because we use it everywhere.  We used an architect for this, Joseph E. Dixon, III, from New York, who in addition to a lighting and paneling plan for the ceiling,

also redesigned the railings at the stairway entrance and the shutters which would go over the front windows. 

Hint #1—using the same colour on woodwork and ceilings everywhere keeps maintenance easier, and in a hotel/club such as this, corners and edges get banged up all the time by luggage rolling racks, tennis racquets and golf clubs and just ….people.  Hence…Hillsboro White which is used in a matte finish on walls and ceilings and in a semi-gloss finish on woodwork and anyplace that is to be perceived as woodwork—such as the wall below a chair rail when the idea is to make  all of the dado look like wood.  In this case, we wanted the very strong columns that are a main design motif of the room to be perceived as wood as would be the extruded pediments above them.  These were part of the original scheme of the room and would fit in very nicely with our plan.

Hint #2—always, and I mean always, use the best painter you can afford—never, never, never skimp on your labour.  As I have said many times in this blog, your labour is your most important part of your design—I mean the fabrication of your design, of course.  You have to come up with the design first, but if you are any good in this field, you will be able to find good fabrics and such at a cheaper level, but not your labour.  On this set of rooms, we are using Gary Lambert, Jr., (561-312-4325) whose father was a fabulous painter before him.  Not only is he painting the ceilings and woodwork, etc., but he is also preparing the walls for the wallpaper hanger—absolutely of first importance.  Here you can see him conferring with the decorative painter, in this case, Ivan Rizov, over some walls which have become problematic.  It is imperative that these people be able to work together.  Lee Cushnie, the wallpaper hanger (516-236-2959), doesn’t really like to work on walls that are not prepared by Gary, since both of them, and myself too, are fanatics about preparation.  Here are the steps used, but just knowing the steps is not enough—get the best people who will not scrimp here.

Step #1:  Go over all walls, finding any irregularities (ie. former paint drips, tiny cracks, etc.), sanding all these and general walls smooth, spackling as necessary, and sanding again.  Paint walls in one coat of flat wall enamel, and then, just before hanging paper, size the walls.  Certain wallpapers, especially Chinese hand-painted ones or antique reproductions from companies such as Mauny or Zuber, require lining, and this should be done horizontally, so that there is a firm bond between the two layers.  (If you are thinking of ever taking these murals down, you should canvas line the walls before putting up the paper liner—this extra layer is usually hung vertically.)  The paper we used on this job, the Lyford Trellis, is vinyl coated, so it does not—actually should not—have lining.

Step #2: Lay out the paper for the final time—you will have already done this when you planned your room, but this final layout is important, since it exactly lays out where the stopping and starting points are.

Lee Cushnie laying out the paper

and then cutting the paper

Above you see pictures of our paper hanger, Lee Cushnie, laying out the paper on the floor.  He has taken some of the boards from his table and laid them down to put the paper on for cutting.  Ordinarily, we like to double cut when the design match is so important, but these are sheet rock walls, and the double cutting could go through both of the paper layers and open up little cuts in the rock which could later expand and contract, ruining the paper.  Notice how he is lining up as he goes.


Here you can see the paper hanger hanging up the sheets, carefully lining up the matches.  Because this was a straight repeat paper, it was easy to line up the tops, but because we did not design the paper for the room, there were places where we had to cut away some of the paper and put in a part of the design so that the design would work best.  This was done on the chimney extrusion, although I don't think you would know we did it unless i showed you.

The paper is lovely hung.  I will show you more pictures when the room is complete.  For now, I will also show you the artist, Ivan Rizov, (www.nimbusstudio.com) 561-655-0955, studing the patterns he has made from the designs of the paper which will be fit onto the broad beams.  Can you see the little pin pricks which will make his pattern up there?

Ivan Rizov transferring design onto wall

Until next time......


Tuesday, June 24, 2014


I recently got a new brochure from Stark Carpet, saying they were bringing back dhurri rugs.  Well, that is certainly good news—especially since it means they are broadening the collection of cotton dhurries, but actually, they never went away.  Classic things rarely do, and certainly dhurries are classics.  But they are usually right here with us, just maybe not having the same name.

Dhurri Rug from Guinevere Antiques

Probably most people wouldn’t have called this rug a dhurri, but that’s what it is.  Great design—those dear stars—would go in any room.  The one above is from Guinevere Antiques in London, one of my favourite sources, but a wool one like this would be available from Stark or Patterson, Flynn and Martin or several dealers.  Below, I show a room we did in a modern apartment here in Palm Beach where the dhurri rug was used to set the living section apart from the rest of the large loft-like room.

Room by Leta Austin Foster

That rug was from Stark who, with their partner, Darius, has lots of dhurris—both old (this one) and new.  And you should try them.  Greater talents than I will ever have, have been using them over and over, such as in this wonderful, cozy liveable room by Sister Parish.

Room by Sister Parish

Or this cool and airy bedroom by Bunny Williams.

Room by Bunny Williams

Please note the sheets—just the kind of sheets we sell every day here in the boutique.  Beautiful linens and cool casual rugs—great combination.

Tom Scheerer used a dhurri, pictured here below, to dress up a library that was basically very plain fabrics—a wonderful way to spread design when print is not desired.

Room by Tom Sheerer

Dhurris are fun.  They can be cheap—as this cotton dhurri from Wisteria.

Wisteria Dhurri

Or very, very expensive...

Room by Albert Hadley

As is this beautiful antique dhurri used in a dining room by the late, great Albert Hadley.

Here are some facts about dhurris that might be useful for you:
-Dhurris are in the group of rugs called flat-weaves.  That means they can be reversed and used on both sides.
-They always need a pad, but the pad should be more like a non-skid flat pad.
-Because dhurris are flat-weaves, they do not “mark” badly from furniture legs, and they are easy to use with spindley-  
  legged pieces.
-Wool dhurris are more expensive to buy, but easier to keep clean.  Cotton dhurris are much cheaper, but they do get       
  foot-traffic dirt very easily.
-Although Indians and tribal people wash their dhurris, do not do this.  They know what they are doing. You do not.
  The colours are vegetable dyes and will run.
-Don’t try to “match” things to the dhurri.  Use it more as a neutral, although, of course, you don't want it to clash or,       
  even worse, look as though you bought it off the back of a truck.

You can even buy dhurris in indoor/outdoor rugs such as these new ones from Perennials.

Perennials Dhurri

Or our old stand-by, Dash and Albert who has loads of dhurri designs, all ready for you to wash if you are anxious to do so.

Dash and Albert Dhurris

Or go back to Guinevere Antiques and get yourself a wonderful trunk covered in a remnant of dhurri and use it as a bright splash of charm in your summer house

Dhurri-covered trunks from Guinevere Antiques


Monday, June 9, 2014


This morning, on the front page of the New York Times, was a rather dire headline and a new map of the United States and how it has been affected by Climate Change.

        U.S. Climate Has Already Changed, Study Finds, Citing Heat and Floods


Climate Change.  Hmmmmm.  It’s really a new name for those words no one wants to acknowledge—Global Warming, but global warming—like it or not—is what it is.  In the last century, the earth has warmed by two degrees, and the article in the Times was telling us just what that means.  Right next to it was an article saying that of the Western World, the United States was the leader in denying that this is just what is happening.  This was no surprise to me since I live in Palm Beach which is absolutely filled with what would have been called, in a different time, Flat Earthers.  But rather than bemoan our fate—or ignore it and Eat, Drink, and Be Merry, I decided it might be better to start collecting little things you can do to help.  By yourself, you aren’t so powerful, but together, you can make an impact.  This impact could be brought about by the Small Steps.  Those are those little steps that if we all take, we really can make a difference.


First of all—it probably takes less than 5 minutes a day extra, but recycle—because we are an office, we generate a lot of paper and we get a lot of junk mail—thus for us, recycling really is imperative.  When paper is recycled, then companies like Soundview Paper Company—formerly Marcal Manufacturing—uses it to make recycled paper products which are really good.

Marcal Green Tips
Learn how easy it is to take "small steps" to a
greener earth with some of our favorite recycling tips

Then buy the recycled products.  Usually recycled products are more expensive, but not Small Steps.  I first started using them in Maine—of course, Maine, being in the vanguard of movements like recycling, would have products like this in the grocery stores, but you can even buy it in Florida which is in the rearguard of any such movements.  If your store doesn’t have them, ask for them.  Most grocery stores are happy to order for you—especially if you buy by the carton.

Then, just to make sure you cover the bases, plant trees.  Plant shrubs.  Plant anything you can.  If you remember your old tenth grade biology, plants gobble carbon dioxide.  According to North Carolina State University, a medium size tree  consumes about 48 pounds of carbon dioxide a year.  That’s just a medium size tree.  Just think how much my favourite tree, the Live Oak (Quercus virginiana) consumes.  The same goes for shrubs—all kinds, hedges, border plants, etc.  Go to Cotap.org and use the calculator to find out what you are saving.

Live Oak

Turn off lights when you leave a room or when they are not needed.  It drives me wild when I see lights left on when a switch by the door would turn them both on and off.  (Such as in the individual lockers down by the warm pool at the Bath & Tennis Club which are left on ALL DAY even when no one is there.)  There used to be neat little signs by the doors of the bedrooms at my club in New York that said, “Did you remember to turn off your lights?”  I think they were there then to help economize, but they have disappeared.  THEY NEED TO COME BACK.  And you need to turn off your lights.  It becomes habit.  I am not even aware of doing it, and it saves tremendously—plus it saves you money.  You can figure out how much by Googling, but you will have to wade through so many ads that you will need a lot more patience than I have.

Turn off the water when you brush your teeth.  My daughter, Elizabeth, who lives in Los Angeles, which is always in a drought, said she wouldn’t even dream of leaving the faucet on while she brushes her teeth.  Water is just too precious for that!  And leaving the water on consumes mightily.  So start doing this.  It is another little thing that just becomes habit and you don’t even think about it.

Use your dishwasher—well, you probably already do, but for most people, the dishwasher cycle, even if it is not an energy efficient one—wins here.  And it will be even better if you just scrape and then put the dishes into the washer.  And turn off the drying cycle after about five minutes—leave the door cracked so the steam can escape.  A bonus here—if you do this, you can use your dishwasher for a lot more things, even higher grade pottery and faience, since it’s the dryer that is so damaging.

Wash your clothes in cold water—big, big savings here, since 90% of the energy usage in a washing machine cycle goes towards heating the water. (see Treehugger.com)  Another bonus—your clothes last longer.  And if you have a clothes line, you’re way ahead of the game.  Another bonus for this section—your clothes will smell better, need less ironing, and last longer.

Don’t leave the refrigerator open when not needed.  This is hard to do in houses with small children—and snack-seeking husbands, but The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences at The University of Florida estimates that being careless about the refrigerator door wastes between 50 kWh and 120 kWh a year.  50 kWh can run your dishwasher 20 times and 100 kWh gives you 100 washing machine loads.  Think about it!  And don’t leave it open while unloading your groceries either!

Recycle your plastic bags—they are washable and can be reused time and again.  I am talking about things like zip lock baggies here.  But should they be used at all?  You can answer hard questions like these by going to “Ask Umbra” on Grist.org.  Remember VOCs can be in lots of things besides paints—and all plastic bags and containers have them.  They are carcinogenic, so try to wean yourself from plastic as much as you can.

Maybe a No-No

These are just some Small Steps—if you have any, I’d love for you to share.