30 January, 2018

"Why I Hate Shoes . . . "


Ok.  We have to start this almost 30 years ago - on a warm summer's day in 1988.  I was arriving for my first day of work with Polo/Ralph Lauren here in the Bay Area.  And lordy, there was a LOT to learn.  Besides all the endless new-hire paperwork involved with starting a new job, there was intensive sales training and product knowledge manuals.  We had the most AMAZING dictionary of fashion and textile terms that I've ever seen (and yes, I still have a copy in my library).  

The great part of working for Mr. Lauren was that there actually WAS a right way of doing things.  We could never hand a client their purchase from over the counter - we always walked out from the cash/wrap - and hand it to them personally.  I haven't worked for Polo since 2001 - and I still have to catch myself from saying "Good morning, Polo/Ralph Lauren."  Even when I answer the phone in my own shop!  

I also learned to hate the word 'shoes.'

Now please don't misunderstand me.  My closet is full.  But at Ralph Lauren we didn't sell shoes.  We sold 'footwear.'  You couldn't find a 'coat' - but, we had a vast selection of 'outerwear.'  No 'ties' - only 'neckwear.'  What I learned was that language mattered.  And the words we use can relay so much more than a simple 'descriptive noun' could ever imply.  So . . . never 'couch' - always 'sofa.'

I feel the same way about the dreaded 'man cave.'  For me it implies some sort of regressive male sitting in the dark with cold pizza and European football blaring from the television.  I certainly understand the need for a private space in one's home.  But, I much prefer to see a term 'library' or 'gentlemen's study' on the floor plans.  

Let's bring back the 'retreat' - and shuffle the 'man cave' off with the need to buy antiperspirant.  (the right word is 'men's furnishings.')

If we can help you create the perfect retreat - reach out to us at inquiries@SMWDesign.com


25 January, 2018

"Designer Math - Getting the Dining Room Chandelier Right . . "

SMW Design - Pacific Heights Living Room


Let's talk a wee bit about light fixtures.  And their size.  And their placement.  And how do you get it right.  As with all questions in design, the solution is going to be a goodly mixture of art and science. The best part is this particular issue is that we're leaning much more on the science part, which means that there actually is an answer.

SMW Design - SOMA Loft Dining Room
When we start new projects here at the studio - here's how I start determining the size of the fixture:
Measure the length and width of your room in feet. Then, add those two numbers together and take that sum and use it in inches. For example, in a dining room that measures 10' x 14', it would be 10 + 14 = 24. You'll want to look for a 24-inch diameter chandelier. Personally, I like to push the limits on scale sometimes. I've been known to add 6 or 8 additional inches if the room needs a big statement. The other parameter to keep in mind is the width of your dining table — for ease of movement around the room.  SO don't let your need for drama make your space challenging to use - lol.

SMW Design - Vail Breakfast Room

Now to determine the placement of the dining room fixture within the room.  First measure the height of the room.  For a ceiling that is 8 feet tall, the bottom of the fixture should begin around 60 inches from the floor. If your ceiling are a bit taller - add two inches clearance from the floor for every foot over 8 feet the height. So for a dining room with a 10 foot ceiling - you're looking at something around 64 inches from the floor.

SMW Design - Vail Dining Room

Now, of course - these are all 'starting' places for placement within the room.  I'm always interested in pushing the boundaries - but, at least you've now got a place to start on your chandelier hunt!


22 January, 2018

"Royal Family Ties - HRH Prince Charles . . . "


There seems to be no end of fiction surrounding Prince Charles and his upcoming reign as King.  In a world where tabloid gossip and official palace statements can get easily convoluted, I always find it good to do a quick fact vs. fiction breakdown of the current events.  So - let's see if we can put an end to some of the rumors and get a few facts to take their place.

HM Queen Elizabeth has declared that Prince Charles will not be King - and the throne will pass directly to Prince William.

No.  This was reported in the British *press* (and I use that word VERY loosely) back before Christmas.  Firstly, if there had been a change in the line of succession, it would be a tectonic event in the royal family - and would have been reported by every major media source in the world.  Consider the flurry of press revolving around Prince Harry's recent engagement.  It was everywhere for days. Secondly, the royal line of succession is controlled by Parliament - and Parliament would have to make any changes to it.  The Queen doesn't actually have any direct control over the heir apparent. Charles is heir as is his birthright - and will most likely be the next King.

HRH Prince Charles cannot be King because he was divorced from Diana.

No.  There is no restriction placed on the heir apparent based on marital status.  If Prince Charles’ divorce was going to change his place in the line of succession, it would have been HUGE news at the time.  Charles and Diana's divorce as well as Charles and Camilla's marriage has been approval of the Crown, the Cabinet, the Church, and The Parliament. 

Charles will be HM King Charles III.

Maybe yes . . . but, more likely no.  Monarchs quite often chose a 'regnal' name that differs from their common name.  King George VII (named - Albert Frederick Arthur George) was known as Prince Albert - and "Bertie" to his good friends.  Queen Victoria (named - Alexandrina Victoria) went by Alexandrina throughout her childhood - and decided to use Victoria because it sounded less foreign.  There was some talk of Charles (named - Charles Philip Arthur George ) using George as his regnal name in honour of his grandfather.  Also . . . keep in mind that the first King Charles was beheaded.  And the second one wasn't very popular either . . . lol . . . so my money is on George.

Brace yourselves.  The post on Camilla is coming soon. 


18 January, 2018

"Royal Family Ties - The Corgis! . . . "

"Come on.  Let's see what's going on . . . "


There might be no more famous member of the royal household than HM Queen Elizabeth's beloved corgis.  We've been covering an enormous amount of information on these posts - so let's make this one fun and just post lots a dog pictures.  Well . . . dogs and The Queen. 

"I"m king of the world . . . . . . "

"I'm just going to put my head right here.  Just for a moment."


16 January, 2018

"Before and After - The Presidio Entry . . . "


I know y'all like a good 'before and after' every now and again - and this charming bungalow here in San Francisco was certainly improved by a wee bit of love and some amazing furnishings. 

Take a look . . . 

This is one of those amazing projects where SO much of what we needed was already here.  The darling settee came from an old bedroom.  The art was recently replaced with something new and needed a new home.  We custom-made a few pillows and put an amazing sisal on the stair treads . . . and we were practically finished.  

And antique bell lantern never hurt any room.

See more of this project here.


11 January, 2018

"SMW Home's Victoria Botanical - Inspiration . . . "


People often ask where I find my inspirations.  Frankly, one is always influenced by any number of images, locations, and moments - and personally, I frequently find film costumes fire my imagination.  So let's play a little inspiration game . . . we're going to start at the end - and work backwards.  

So first, the final design.   

SMW Home's
Victoria Botanical - in Marigold.

We debuted SMW Home's Victoria Botanical (in Marigold) at the Dallas Showcase House this last summer - using almost 50 yards to tent a small hallway outside the main floor powder room.  Most everyone commented on the saturated colours in the palette and the dramatic pattern.  

The inspiration for the pattern was an antique Edwardian textile that I purchased at a show over a year ago - and one of my favourite aspects of the design was the more open pattern on the ground - lots of vines and tons of flowers and buds.  But, we wanted to really punch up the colours . . . 

So I went back to one of my favourite films . . . "The Young Victoria" staring Emily Blunt. 

This is a close-up of Emily's costume for the Coronation Ball sequence when she dances with Prince Albert.  It is amazingly romantic and the colours simply leap off the screen. But, getting the colour for the textile perfect was a bit of a task.  We must have gone back and forth with colour samples for almost a month.  Getting the perfect marigold background.  Getting the perfect shade of red.  Finding the perfect purple and blue to make the pattern vibrant and exciting.

And . . . vibrant and exciting it IS!  "Victoria" was a huge hit in Dallas - and was the perfect partner for our SMW Home Tartan Wallpapers from England. And now we have a huge statement of Victoria here in the shop in San Francisco.  
SMW Home in San Francisco

Stay tuned - we have new colourways launching very soon!


09 January, 2018

"The Ritual of Tea . . . "


Let's talk about another very English topic - and take a wee break from my ramblings about the House of Windsor.  
Proper tea is equal parts ceremony, tradition, and much-needed hydration.  And sometimes a snack.  And sometimes a meal.  Let's examine a few facts . . . a few legends . . . and a few of my personal preferences and rituals. 

Let's talk tea . . .

High Tea or Afternoon Tea?

Many fine folks use these terms as though they were interchangeable - though, in fact, each has a very specific meaning.  The term 'afternoon tea' refers to a mid-afternoon snack comprised of tea and light nibbles.  It is usually served at 4pm and serves as a snack between proper lunch and usually mid-evening dinner.  Scones are the perfect fit for afternoon tea - as well as simple sandwiches and cakes.    Now 'high Tea' was traditionally used a substitute for the evening meal - and thus usually had a selection of much heartier dishes for the meal.  So though 'high tea' sounds like a fancier version - usually 'afternoon tea' was used as a snack by the upper class - and 'high tea' by the working class as their evening meal.

Milk First or Tea First?
Now this one gets serious.  In our household, it is ALWAYS tea first - whether I'm brewing a cup or a pot.  The tale I was told was that as tea became a tradition in English society during the Victorian era, tea service began to be produced for working-class households . . . and those service pieces were mass-produced and usually of a lower quality.  For that reason, the milk was added first - to temper the tea and keep the cups from breaking.  I also (personally) find that adding the milk to tea helps manage both the colour and temperature of my tea.

English Breakfast or Earl Grey?

English Breakfast.  Stop, the end.  Only and forever.  Seriously. 

Pot or Cup?

This really depends on my day.  My usual tradition is to make a huge pot of tea if I'm going to be at the house all day - and I'll work my way through it in a hour or so.  But, a quick turnaround almost always mean a cup (or frankly, more likely a mug) of tea with breakfast. 


07 January, 2018

"Sunday Runway - Tweeds and Tartans . . . "


Happy Sunday y'all.  I know my own closet needed a wee bit of an overhaul post-holiday . . . but, all those amazing tartans and tweeds certainly have a life in the new year.

Here's a bit of inspiration from 'the man' himself - Ralph Lauren.

Enjoy . . .  


05 January, 2018

"Royal Family Ties - How to Succeed at Succession . . . "


There seems to be a wee bit of confusion about how the Royal Succession works.  Frankly, I think one of the biggest issues we're dealing with in understanding the royal family - is the fact that HM Queen Elizabeth has been reigning for such a long time.  George VI only reigned for 16 years.  Before him, George V reigned for 26 years.  But, Elizabeth has reigned for almost 70 years. And because so many generations have passed since there has been any changes in The House of Windsor . . . I think we've all forgotten how everything works.

So . . . here's what the future holds for the fine folks at Buckingham Palace in the coming years . . . 

HRH Prince Charles  

After drawing her last breath as Queen . . . HRH Prince Charles will draw his first breath as King.  It actually happens in an instant.  Since November 14th 1948, the day he was born, Prince Charles has been the heir to the throne.  Because of the long, amazing life of his mother - his rise to the throne will be a bit later in life.  There was tabloid rumour last summer about the crown passing directly to William - but,  was just that - internet and tabloid rumour.  The line of succession to the throne is set by legal document . . . and really cannot be altered.  Charles has been taking over more and more duties from his mother, The Queen, in the last decade is looks to be one of the best prepared monarchs to sit on the throne. 

There are also questions about Charles' ability to become King - but, let's deal with that in another post!  

HRH The Duchess of Cornwall

Ok.  This one gets a bit sticky . . . because there's a few untended ends that need attention.  First of all, by British law, once her husband becomes King, Camilla becomes Queen.  But, don't confuse "Queen" with Queen Elizabeth II.  Elizabeth is a 'regnant' Queen - as in the reigning monarch.  Camilla will be a 'consort' Queen - just like the wife of every reigning King throughout history.  Now, the sticky part comes in from the day of their marriage over a decade ago.  On the morning of the service in St. George's Chapel, it was announced from Clarence House that 'it was intended' that Camilla be styled as 'Princess Consort' upon Charles' ascension to the throne.  Ok.  But, within the royal household positions, 'Princess Consort' doesn't exist.  It could certainly be created for her - but, it would need to be approved by Parliament - as well as approved by the member states of The Commonwealth.  Personally, I expect her to be Queen . . . but, I'm also taking a 'wait and see' attitude on this particular point. 

There are also questions about Camilla's ability to become Queen . . . but, let's cover THAT in another post!  

 TRH The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge

Having Charles as the new King will also impact the lives of William and Catherine and the kids.  A few things will happen automatically - they will become Duke and Duchess of Cornwall (Charles and Camilla's previous titles) as well as Duke and Duchess of Rothesay (also titles held by Charles and Camilla at the moment).  William will also likely (though not automatically) be invested as the new Prince of Wales - making Catherine the next Princess of Wales.  

Also . . . having a new King will mean all the pomp and circumstance of a coronation.  And you KNOW that's gonna be glorious.


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