fort@3512 at home by Catherine Nguyen

I recently had the pleasure of photographing the home of fort@3512's owner, Pam Clark. As luck would have it, one of my images from the shoot made the cover of Walter Magazine! I am particularly honored since it is the House and Garden issue.

As the owner of a vintage store, Pam is a collector. There is so much to see and experience as you walk through her home. It is beautifully curated with art and objects in every room. Below are some of the highlights from our home tour.

blue danube and a little augury by Catherine Nguyen

On a sunny 91-degree day, I head out northwest from Raleigh past Durham to a little town called Roxboro. As I head down an offshoot of the main street, I locate the house I know must be Gaye's: It is a little brick charmer, inviting and unique, much like the owners.

P. Gaye Tapp is the writer behind Little Augury, a blog about what moves her: art, literature, history, life, and decorating (not in that order). An augur was a priest and official in the classical worlds of Rome and Etruria, often considered a kind of sooth-sayer. Augurs would interpret the will of the gods by studying flight patterns, known as "taking the auspices." Little Augury is just as wise, if only more humble. The blog started as a way to "continue the conversation" that Gaye used to have with one of her beloved mentors, Sandy (Sandford Peele), who passed in recent years. The blog is a tribute to him, their friendship, and the inspiration he brought into her life.

Gaye's home is full of inspiration. Her office and library are a testament to her unending search for inspiration in life and in the past. The subject of her upcoming book, "How They Decorated" is steeped in the past. It will focus on women and how they lived and decorated. None of the women were designers or decorators. Their inspiration came from how they lived their lives. Gaye's research is old school: stacks of books and magazines with post-it notes for each woman's life. It makes for beautiful scenery. 

"As to the selection process of the book, it was difficult. But as with any list: this one was made to include the women I wanted to profile, though I excluded some women who have been written about again and again. It is hard to make a list like this pleasing to all, so I made one that pleases me!  I am keeping the full list mum for the moment, but some of the women I've included are: Elsa Schiaparelli, Virginia Woolf and her sister artist Vanessa Bell, Lady Diana Cooper, and Gloria Guinness.

As the book developed, I realized similarities in these women's approaches — whether it be-leaning to the eccentric or bohemian, the classic, etc. So I assembled five definitive groups to help classify them. Of course every woman is different, but they were driven to create their worlds according to standards, whether or not they realized it. It might have been a way of asserting their wealth and place in society, or it might have been a desire to create a very personal space that only they would inhabit."

There is love in her office: love for treasured objects and love for the ideas and art that inspire. And there is love in her home. Gaye lives with her 85-year-old mother, Betty Anne. They share a home (with Zetta, their pup), a life and personality that is like a warm summer breeze. Gaye welcomes me in with a hug and ushers me into a library that has me itching to curl up on one of the settees and stay a while, poring through her books and inspecting all of her found objects. The room is lush with layers of color, pattern, and texture. Blues and dark pinks play together in unexpected ways.

the author at work

Gaye has set the kitchen table for lunch with the classic Blue Danube china pattern that my mother also has. I felt right at home. I fully intend to take notes, but the conversation proves so enchanting that I settle in for a long chat instead.

What I discover is that inspiration came early for Gaye. Her maternal grandmother Bessie Mae Pettigrew Cushwa had a "treasure trove" of jewelry and fabric that left the author enthralled for many an afternoon. The treasure chest sits proudly in the kitchen, a fond memory of Bessie Mae, who lived 107 fully creative years. 

The signs of her inspiration are evident throughout her home: kimonos, books, vintage magazines, more books, vintage jewelry (she wears a Russian metal uniform collar as a necklace today), art of all kinds, vintage photography of animals, more books. It is no mystery how this designer came to be a writer.

Like the women before her, Gaye is creative and continues to evolve. Though a designer in Raleigh for 30 years, Gaye always had a love of history and creative writing. She knew her life was headed for change and found blogging to be the door to marry her loves in one place. Through her blog, she met designer and author Charlotte Moss, who also became a mentor. Ms. Moss encouraged Gaye to pen the book, which is slated to publish by Rizzoli in Fall 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

light it up: a guest retreat by Catherine Nguyen

We recently moved into a brand new house. We got to pick out pretty much everything for the house besides the exterior. Do you have any idea how many kitchen cabinet knobs are out there? To some, this may seem a daunting task. For me, this was like being set loose in a candy store. A really pretty, sparkly one.

That said, we wanted to spend our money on the parts of the house we thought would add the most value: our kitchen and master bath. Overall, we have been truly happy with our selections, though I'm rethinking our master bath cabinet pulls. But that's a story for another time.

Sadly, our two guest rooms got left in the dust of the build. They're perfectly fine and one is even ready for and has housed guests without complaint. That said, it's a little bare at the moment. The first thing we need for the room is something that does not resemble what my realtor friend refers to as, "the boob light." We've all seen it. It is plain, round, and well, looks like a boob.

We would like our guest room to be cozy, retreat-like, maybe a bit contemporary, and most of all, we would like guest(s) not to have to stare at the standard "boob light" on the ceiling when they lay down.

Dot&Bo has some really interesting lighting options in a variety of sizes, shapes, styles, and colors. They seem cheery and just like what we need. Following, some of my favorites:

I will admit that I'm really drawn to the Shell Pendant Lamp (second row, second image). It's so elegant in its simplicity. It nods to the ocean without being too literal. Unfortunately, I don't think I am going with a coastal design in the little guest retreat.

The winner: The Sphere Pendant Lamp in Gold. Why: It's elegant, contemporary and has a touch of glam, which I love. I think it will elevate the level of the rest of the guest room.

Now to find some coordinating lamps!! And end tables. And maybe an area rug. Right. Night stands too.....

Stay tuned to see how this project develops.

step on it: choosing a rug by Catherine Nguyen

A rug: Any designer will tell you that they ground and help to separate living spaces. What they won't tell you is how hard it is to pick one out. There are so many choices. There are so many things to consider: the fabric, texture, colors and patterns in the room. How these pieces that pull a room together when done right, can really set the mood. When done wrong, they can be distracting or just downright annoying.

My dilemma, we have designed a living room that is in desperate need of a rug. See below for images of the pieces in our living room.

I want something that will be a bit lighter to contrast with our dark wood floors. It also has to be something that won't be too strong in terms of pattern since one of our accent chairs is quite strong. After searching through countless online sites and several catalogs, I narrowed it down to the following:

The top two:

At left, The Farrell rug in Slate by Feizy. It reminds me of a cross-section of a beautiful stone turned into a watercolor. Its abstract blend of colors would be a perfect complement to the colors we have in our living room now. 

At right, the Rug Squared Kona Indoor/Outdoor Red Rug is one I found on Overstock: at $199 for an 8'x11', it's quite a steal. I also like the way its color and texture bring the fabric from our family room into play:

Although the Kona rug would help as a tie-in to our other room, I'm not sure it will contrast enough with the Berkeley table by Modloft we have coming in.

After a little sleep and deliberation; maybe I even consulted my husband. The winner:

I think this rug will pull our room together with its colors and be a really beautiful focal point for the room. Your pick? I would love to hear!

I think this rug will pull our room together with its colors and be a really beautiful focal point for the room.

Your pick? I would love to hear!

making dreams come true by Catherine Nguyen

a custom chandelier by local designer  Louise Gaskill adds a touch of the industrial to this elegant living room

a custom chandelier by local designer  Louise Gaskill adds a touch of the industrial to this elegant living room

Recently, Walter Magazine published a feature in the "Story of a House" section on the Kowalczyk house in Raleigh. It was an absolute pleasure to photograph their house and their family. Two more gracious people cannot be found: Philip Kowalczyk immediately made me feel at home and even rustled up a latte just for me, not to mention offering me a ride home after the shoot. A humble and warm spirit, his wife Gretchen made us feel welcome though the shoot ran late. The article in Walter describes the recent generous donation the Kowalcyzks made to the Green Chair Project, which strives to help those in need of furnishings in the Wake County Area.

The house was recently built in a design collaboration between the Kowalcyzks and their custom builder Dixon Kirby. It was very important for the family to have a space that has a spacious, yet cozy layout for them, their 12-year-old son, and Max, the family pup. The light in the house is beautiful, especially in the sun room off the kitchen. Another must-have of the house, only fabrics by Robert Allen Fabrics, where Mr. Kowalczyk is currently the CEO, thougt Gretchen mentioned that her husband merely, "works in fabric."

Although completely re-built, the clients wanted to make sure that the new house had a traditional Georgian feel. The layout of the house called for a symmetric design, that the Kowalczyks felt was important. The living room and master bedroom, are in the center of each floor, creating the heart of the home. The bright and airy sunroom off of the kitchen is directly on the other side of an outdoor patio, that helps to create the symmetry they so desired.

For a house tour and photos not seen in the publication, please see below:

All fabrics by Robert Allen Fabrics

dream house: modern sausalito retreat on dot&bo today! by Catherine Nguyen

Sale featuring the design work of our client Julie Momchilov Johnson of JMJ Studios

Sale featuring the design work of our client Julie Momchilov Johnson of JMJ Studios

I won't lie. I am very excited that my work is appearing on modern home goods site, Dot&Bo today! Our project, designed by client Julie Momchilov Johnson of JMJ Studios, is part of the Dream House collection (filed under their Design District Blog Tab). More excitingly, it is the first featured banner on their site's home page today. 

For the interview with Julie and her inspiration for this project, click here. To shop the collection, click here. If you're shopping, use our referral link :) For the full house tour, see below or on our website.

Inside VanCollier by Catherine Nguyen

Beth and Chris Collier in their living room; Bestselling chairs from their collection

On an early grey day in March, I joined Art Director Jesma Reynolds and Editorial Director Liza Roberts on a jaunt to the small town of Washington, NC, for Walter Magazine's May "Story of a House" feature. Our destination: a former hospital, now the home and design studios of the VanCollier design team, Beth and Chris Collier.

When Jesma told me about the house, I knew it would be amazing; it had been a hospital. It had been a convalescent home. It had been abandoned for 10 years! Nothing is better than imagination brought to life, especially when the imagination is that of the Colliers. Take a ghost-free photo tour of the house for yourself, including images not featured in this month's publication:

Although the building has been completely renovated, the Colliers managed to keep the industrial charm and age of the building intact. The staircases are all original. The third floor design and work studios are almost completely open. But what makes their space truly amazing is their vast and expertly curated collection of art and objects.

Anyone who's ever been on an interior design shoot can appreciate the most amazing thing about our session with the Colliers: we literally didn't move a thing for the shoot. Beth and Chris live and work in a beautiful, comfortable, inspiring, and artfully displayed home. Between their living quarters and an insider's view into their design process (I loved the different objects they had pinned or grouped together), I felt really honored to be invited into their space to photograph them, their home, and their work.