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  • November 25, 2014

Design by Nancy Robinson - Ladue News: Design

Design by Nancy Robinson

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Posted: Thursday, June 12, 2014 12:00 pm

Crystal-Gazing

When it comes to decorating with accessories, clear crystal is a no-brainer. Because it’s colorless, there’s no need to match a restrictive palette. And in terms of style, these accents fit in beautifully almost anywhere. Here, we present a selection of crystal accents ranging from high to low, contemporary to traditional. Whether your tastes lean toward luxury brands, like the Baccarat Amphora table sculpture priced at a cool $5,100, or to the youthful Lite Source table lamp at a fraction of the price, there’s, clearly something for every taste and budget.


Designer Transforms Non-Descript Room into Chic Space

One would never guess that this sleek, elegant family room/entertainment area was once filled with typical rattan furniture, a huge sectional sofa and beige walls. But that was pretty much what Savvy Surrounding Style lead designer CJ Knapp encountered on her first visit to this Frontenac home for a design consultation.

At approximately 2,000 square feet, the space in question also was exceptionally large—far larger than the typical family room; and because of that, presented a host of special design challenges. Topping the list was the need for a design scheme that allowed for repetition and consistency to enhance the flow of the space without becoming boring.

On the plus side, there was more than enough space to accomplish what the family really wanted: distinct areas for different activities, and plenty of seating to accommodate family and friends. “We wanted to create separate conversation areas, while maintaining a consistency and cohesiveness in the space,” explains Savvy Surrounding Style owner Diane Fogerty. “The client wanted separate areas for watching the big game, chatting, eating and just spending time together. They did not want to use a lot of sofas for seating, and also preferred contemporary furnishings in their traditional home.”

Before furnishing the room, however, Knapp incorporated can lights, decorative sconces and chandeliers to brighten the space. In addition, she replaced the existing tile floor and created a custom mantel to display a glass sculpture over the fireplace. She then selected a variety of interesting furniture pieces for dining, relaxing and playing. In place of a traditional entertainment unit, she chose a unique cabinet with raised silver tree-like branches to house the audio-visual equipment. In the dining area, a contemporary glass-topped dining table reveals a beautiful, conversation-starting silver base and is surrounded by elegantly curved black leather chairs with silver nail-head trim. Nearby, a modern pool table with an interesting contemporary silver light fixture above it adds a new angle to the living area, while a tall bistro table with two bar stools upholstered in a hair-on-hide offers welcome texture. In front of the front of the fireplace, Knapp created a cozy conversation area for eight with an arrangement of four chairs and a half. Tying it all together is a contemporary color palette of navy, gray and slate, plus mixed metal accents of gold and silver that conspire to create a fresh modern feel to the space.

As for the homeowners, they couldn’t be happier. “The client was thrilled,” Fogerty says.


Luxury Linen Entrepreneur Visits Sallie Home for Book Signing Event

St. Louisans are, shall we say, intimately familiar with Mary Ella Gabler. Her beautiful luxury linens have graced our beds for decades, thanks to retailer Sallie Kramer, owner of Sallie Home and a close personal friend of Gabler, who started carrying her Peacock Alley brand long before it became well known. Gabler visited Sallie Home recently to sign copies of her new book. Uncommon Thread details the journey of her brand, starting with a homemade boudoir pillow that caught the eye of a Neiman Marcus buyer in 1971, and which subsequently grew to become a multi-million dollar luxury business. But as Gabler reveals so eloquently in her book, the journey was not without a good deal of heartache and sacrifice. Her deeply personal narrative details the ups and downs of her company and by extension, her personal life.

“I am deeply, uncompromisingly passionate about luxury linens,” Gabler says by way of explanation. “Having adored beautifully made textiles from childhood, I’ve devoted 40 years to having Peacock Alley help others see just how soothing, elegant and complete our lives can be because of something so simply, yet so exquisite. But I would be lying to myself and you if this book painted a picture of my life as having been spent solely in the lap of luxury. That’s not the case. I’ve been in the hot seat almost as many times as I’ve been in the catbird seat.”

Indeed, Gabler lost almost everything she owned—not once, but twice—in her bid to keep her luxury linen business alive. Today, Peacock Alley is on solid footing, but her story remains both instructive and inspirational, and makes for a great read. In addition to continuing her work in product design, Gabler is a lifelong member of the CEO Club of New York, the C200 Organization and the International Women's Forum of Dallas. In 2001, Gabler was chosen as Entrepreneur of the Year from the Southwest by Ernst and Young.

“We had been the official bedding for Pope John Paul II during a visit, thanks largely to St. Louis’ Sallie Home, one of our longtime retailers,” says Peacock Alley founder Mary Ella Gabler.


Who’s Who in Design: Meet Melissa Hummel

Melissa Hummel (formerly Buckley) is the newest member of the team at The Great Cover-Up, the Ladue design shop that specializes in fine wall coverings and textiles. Actually, this is Hummel’s second tour of duty at The Great Cover-Up; she was also on staff in the early 2000s. During the intervening years, Buckley embarked on a variety of design experiences, both near and far. Her design work has taken her from Town & Country (where she was on staff at the now-shuttered Frank Patton Interiors) to China (where she handled the interior design work on a 38,000-square-foot home owned by a Chinese entrepreneur). We caught up with Hummel recently to find out what she’s bringing to the St. Louis design scene, circa 2014. Here, we share a few of her favorite things that tend to find their way into her design projects.

Upholstery: My preferred sofas and chairs have a definite shape and are like sculpture in a room. I especially love the Hepburn, Eleanor and Wakely models from Hickory Chair. I like trim details on the pillows, banded skirt hems, and fabrics that feel good, like velvets and tightly woven chenilles.

Wall Coverings: Used with discretion, wall coverings add that special detail, pattern or texture that makes a house more interesting. I love the texture and depth of grass cloths, especially those in either neutral buffs or gray, and also Chinese red or terracotta. Recently, I've rediscovered metallic tea papers to brighten a ceiling. You can also use them to back a bookshelf; they draw the eye in and highlight the pieces on the shelves.

Dining Rooms: I like the idea of combining dining with another function, perhaps a library. It’s also fun to use two round pedestal dining tables for intimate dinner parties. I always like to bring in some sex appeal with glimmering mirrors and window treatments in quietly elegant fabrics with linings and interlinings for drape and weight.

Mirrors: Venetian, Florentine or American antique, these must-haves are like pools of reflection in a home. Place mirrors strategically to supply glimmer and light reflection. Pay attention to what the mirror reflects...it should be pretty.

Floor Coverings: I’m enamored with hand-knotted Afghani and Pakistani Oushaks and Peshawars in soft colors with a velvety patina. They look and feel a thousand years old, yet are immensely practical as they won’t easily succumb to damage by dogs, kids or red wine. Their long-lasting increasing value makes them a worthy investment.

The Fragrance of a Home: The scent of your home does a lot for your spirit, helping you reach your ‘happy place’ when you arrive home. I like Tommy Bahama Signature Island Retreat, especially for spring and summer. It takes me to that place of peace and pleasure through its scent. The mix of bergamot, gardenia and lilies is well-balanced and fresh.

Home Accessories: Nothing drives me nuts more than clutter, tchotchkes and kitsch. Choose a few well-selected pieces with character. Having travelled repeatedly to China for design projects, I came to collect the ceramic horses that are favored in Chinese culture. Books are also collectible. In a paperless world, it’s tempting not to have any printed tomes around, but I suggest finding a subject or genre that you love and collecting books around that, then using them in bookshelves and on table tops to detail your design. I collect art, architecture and design books.

Best Advice: Before you buy anything new for your home, make sure it passes the litmus test: Is it classic? Is it timeless? Will you love it always and forever? Acquire beautiful things, and then take care of them. Choose well rather than often. My other piece of advice: Invest in a good designer! Allow your designer to get to understand your vision, help you achieve it and also help you grow in your knowledge of art and architecture. Enjoy both the process and the results; it will surely be more than you dreamed. My goal is be my client's tutor, helping them find their true style. I try to make the process as enjoyable as the final result.

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