Thursday, December 31, 2009

Goodbye 2009

Dear Readers -

May I get sappy for a moment? I am going to remember 2009 as the year of the blog. Truly.

Even though launching AO didn't come about until late September, I feel like it has defined my year. I had no idea how wonderful this blog adventure would has changed me for the better.

I am most grateful for all of you who read the blog, encourage me, give me feedback and share your own ideas and thoughts. Like most bloggers, I started AO for me. I wanted somewhere to express my all-consuming thoughts about design...but it has given me so much more. I have met wonderful people, had some great adventures, and LEARNED so much.

Thanks to all of you who write beautiful blogs that inspire me every day. Reading your blogs motivated me to start my own and I am so glad that I did.

I am incredibly content with how AO has developed over the past three months. I'd like to think 2009 was my trial run. Now that my feet are wet, I'm planning to dive in head first in 2010. I have lots of ideas and perhaps some new ventures (an Etsy shop?).

2009 was incredible - we have been healthy and happy, we bought our first house (!) and we welcomed two nephews into our family. Hard to top, but I am thrilled to open the door to 2010 and see what this new year brings for me, for Carter, and of course, for AO.

See you Monday (in 2010)!


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I Learned From the Best

Boy, do I have a treat for you today. Pictures of my mother-in-law's Christmas decorating...

Janet (a.k.a. my m-i-l) is a decorating maven...she and my f-i-l Doug have the most beautiful home in Columbia, SC. I can pinpoint the first time I fell in love with was the moment I walked into the kitchen of this house ten years ago. And I still drool over the pattern every time I'm in that room.

The house is beautiful year-round (I'll need to do a house tour for you on the blog) but it is positively enchanting at Christmas. I have come to really love seeing her decorations every year when we are home...and her love for Christmas decorating passed on to me...much of what I do in our own house for Christmas echoes what I've seen Janet do.

Let's get to it...

The dining room table set for dinner...don't you love the tall amaryllis? I adore all of the arrangments in this room...and the chandy is just gorgeous.

The beautiful buffet...the wallpaper in this room is so elegant and perfect at Christmas.

A close-up of the chandy...sorry that it is not better. My favorite part is the large ornament that Janet hangs from the bottom tied with a big ribbon...hard to see it in this picture, but it is very festive.

A view of the living room...I love the paneling in this room and Janet has a great collection of nutcrackers that she displays on the mantel...I love looking at them!

This is my absolute FAVORITE nook of the house at Christmas (and maybe year round). That mirror gives me heart palpitations...and coupled with the buffet lamps and the purple glass bowl on that gorgeous table...well, there are no words. But THEN she wraps a gorgeous garland around the dish with these beautiful shimmering, ethereal ornaments, and well, it's just too much to take. I love this pic with the Christmas tree reflected in the mirror.

The kitchen has a jolly little collection of elves and fairies holding court in the window. NOTE THE WALLPAPER...why didn't I get more close-ups of it? I am seriously in love with it.

Another view...

This is a gorgeous built-in piece in the kitchen...and I love the apple centerpiece that Janet displays here.

Isn't the house so pretty?? It is the epitome of elegant, traditional design in my book. I only took pictures of three rooms, but Janet does a great job of sprinkling Christmas throughout the house...I definitely learned from the best.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas Loot

I received lots of great loot for Christmas from my family.

I am blessed...that fact is never lost on me.

I thought I would share the home decor items that Santy brought...

Set of 12 linen napkins from Horchow monogrammed with a lilac "S"

 Fabulous orange Greek key trim to be used on our living room drapes

A great design book to add to my collection

A pair of celadon lamps for our bedroom

A painted bowl from Southern Living At Home

Some very cool wrought iron planters also from Southern Living At how they are used here!

Two HomeGoods gift cards!!

A set of these bamboo wall shelves

My very own yard of Chiang Mai Dragon fabric...WOOHOO!!!

And let's not forget the beautiful pagoda chair Carter gave me.

Ok, not so much a home decor item, but my parents gave me the Droid, so now I can stay connected to the blog and all of my AO web endeavors all of the time. I am so excited!

I made out like a bandit, did I not? I am so grateful. THANK YOU DEAR FAMILY!

I can't wait to deck out the house with my new loot!

Monday, December 28, 2009

My Dream Chinoiserie Cabinet

Did you have a nice Christmas? Ours was wonderful. We spent good time with family, although it was of course too short. And I was lucky to receive lots of great presents that I'll share with you tomorrow...

While we were in South Carolina, my mother-in-law indulged me by swinging me by some of my favorite shops. I absolutely love hitting the home decor shops in Columbia, SC...I find the most beautiful things.

Unfortunately, my absolute favorite shop was closed (and I was so excited to show it to you on the blog!) but we did happen upon a new shop that was quite lovely - Devine Street Interiors on, you guessed it, Devine Street. The shop had the MOST gorgeous Chinoiserie china cabinet...the stuff of dreams. I was drooling thinking about how amazing this would look in my dining room (assuming it would even fit!)

No way it was coming home with me, so the next best thing was to take some pictures and post it on the blog! Isn't it lovely??



Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas from AO

Carter and I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday.

See you Monday!

*image from our Christmas card, designed by le papier studio on Etsy

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

AO Christmas 2009: The Dining Room

This year, I think the dining room has been my favorite room to decorate for Christmas. I have been collecting jewel-toned ornaments for the past year or two and they all found their perfect spot on display in our colorful dining room.

I took these pictures Saturday morning before the girls came over for brunch...


That is our musical nutcracker standing guard in the center of the table. He is perched on a gold tray holding goodie bags for the girls and some of my ornaments. I found a set of four boxwood wreaths on Ballard Designs that I ordered for the dining chairs. I hung them with some lavender satin ribbon...and I love the result!



I truly never tire of using my china...and it works quite well for Christmas with its golden green hues.

The view above is before I set the can catch a glimpse of my glittered candy canes hanging from the chandelier and my tabletop tree proudly displaying my collection of ornaments. I purchased these ornaments at an amazing shop in Columbia, South Carolina called Madison Hall. My mother-in-law swings me by there after Christmas every year when they have their totally fabulous Christmas decor on sale...I get giddy just thinking about it! I definitely look forward to that when we're home in South Carolina for the holiday.

I wrapped a faux garland around the arms of the chandelier and hung the candy canes as well as some glittered stars from the arms...I really like how fun and whimsical it looks.


I was so excited to use this set of ornaments in this room! The jewel tones work beautifully with the purples and greens of the room...would it be bad if I left them up year round?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

AO Christmas 2009: The Living Room and Kitchen

Today I'll give you a little tour of the other items I put up in the living room to go with the tree, as well as the small accents that are adorning the kitchen.

The tree usually takes full attention in the living room, so this year I kept the other pieces pretty simple. I think I'll decorate a bit more next year, but with a busy holiday season and plenty to do on the new house, I made it easy on myself :)

We picked up a live wreath at Home Depot when we got the tree and we finally hung our large silver mirror over the fireplace - it makes SUCH a difference in the room to have something large hanging on that wall - especially a mirror that opens up the room with its reflection.

I had a nice full faux garland that I used last year that was perfect draped over the fireplace to go with our stockings. Carter is not a fan of his stocking - and I do see his point. It's damask and it has a ruffle...but he puts up with it because he knows it makes me happy to have a decorative statement with our stockings. Both stockings are Ballard Designs purchases from a year or two ago.

I positively ADORE nutcrackers. I started collecting them two Christmases ago. These two make a really cute pair with some darling mini nutcrackers - a perfect centerpiece for the coffee table. I can't wait to have a real mantel over our fireplace as I certainly plan to display a nutcracker collection there next year.

This is a view of my family's nativity. Since Carter and I started hosting Christmas and other holidays, my dad let us "borrow" the nativity to display. My sister and I both love this set - it is beautifully made and has sentimental value as we always put it out growing up, usually at the base of the Christmas tree. You'll note that the baby Jesus is about five times the size of Mary...we broke the original baby Jesus many years ago and this was his replacement...adds to the character of the set. And doesn't every nativity need a blue pagoda birdhouse??

And finally for the living room, some views of the mirrored armoire. I didn't do much else to it except tuck some of those glittered magnolias between the items I usually display. These are the same magnolias I use on the tree - hard to tell here, but they are glittered and lovely.

And some views of the Christmas accents we picked up in El Salvador that are making the kitchen festive...


These items are classic examples of the folk art you will find in El Salvador made by different artisans and villages that specialize in these colorful crafts throughout the country. The designs are based on the work of one particular artist named Fernando Llort. I'll tell you all about the art of Sr. Llort in a future blog - it's so beautiful, and especially so at Christmas.

 Tomorrow I'll show you the best room of all (I think)...the dining room!

Monday, December 21, 2009

AO Christmas 2009: The Tree

Side note before I jump into the tree...we awoke Saturday morning to record snowfall in the DC area. We have about 18" of snow on the ground (a ton for us)...and I say have because we still have it!

It made for a beautiful weekend...major props to Carter who volunteered to go round up my girlfriends so the girls didn't have to drive in the snow and our brunch could go on! (I know...MAJOR husband points) The rest of the weekend, we hunkered down with neighbors and had several neighborhood dinners and snowed-in was a wonderful way to enjoy the snow!

I spent Friday evening finishing the decorations 'round the AO house. Today's edition is dedicated to our tree. We have started a tradition of buying our tree the Sunday after Thanksgiving at Home Depot. The HD prices for trees are fantastic!And their selection right after Thanksgiving is super. We walked away with the first tree we saw (which I think also happened last year and is quite a feat for indecisive me)...

Duh, duh, duh, DUUUHH.....The AO Tree!!

As you may recall, the plan was to switch from our previous burgundy/gold color scheme over to something that would match the beautiful greens of the new house. Since this summer, I have surreptitiously been collecting ornaments to go with this new green scheme...a pack here, a set Carter wouldn't notice...and before I knew it, I had a whole tree's-worth of green-themed ornaments!

And to accent all the green finery, I kissed the tree with some turquoise.

The AO Christmas Tree 2009 in all of her glory...




Sans lights...


Ain't she a beaut? I've grown particularly fond of her...I really love all of the ornaments that I've collected. Here are some close-ups...

It's a bit hard to see the ornaments in these pictures, but I got some adorable pear-shaped lime-colored glass ornaments with white polka-dots this can kind of see one next to that spherical vertical striped ornament, which is definitely my absolute favorite. The striped ornament is part of a set I found in South Carolina.

I also have these fabulous glittered magnolias that I found at Michael's last Christmas...I fell in love with them and bought a whole bunch that I stick into the tree and use elsewhere in the room. If I can give one "tip" about Christmas trees, it is to tuck flowers in them. I know it sounds a bit odd, and if you are anti anything fake and floral that tip is probably not for you, but craft stores have some really beautiful fake florals for holiday arranging and I absolutely LOVE how the big sparkly blossoms look tucked in the branches of a tree. And, they make a big impact in those bare spots on your tree that you can't quite fill with an ornament. I'm hoping to pick up some fluffy green hydrangeas next year and tuck those into the tree (if I can find room!).

The tree also has a big, sparkly green butterfly and a set of white little birds...among many other ornaments. And I found some killer wrapping paper where else but is a lime green and gold croco-print...HELLO. Perfect. (Yes, my wrapping paper must match my tree...obvi)

Wish you were all here to enjoy it in person. Tomorrow we'll take a look at the living room...

Friday, December 18, 2009

Friday Crush

image via, photo by Peter Vitale

Holy cannoli. YES. Yes, I would like to live here. I have a thing for rooms with two beds and this one designed by Elizabeth Dinkel is completely fabulous. I mean look at those canopy headboard box thingys...ah-mazing. I spotted this gem on House of Turquoise (doesn't Erin have the best finds?).

My week has been total bananas. Something about the holidays sends everything into a fast forward frenzy (right when I want it to slow down so I can enjoy). But, I'm not complaining as we have a weekend chock full o' holiday fun - dinner with neighbors, brunch with the gals and another dinner with dear friends. Sunday will be last minute wrapping!

The house will be in tip-top shape since we'll be hosting some of said events so I'll take pictures of the final AO Christmas decor and share next week.

See you Monday!!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

OKL Alert: Jardins en Fleur

One Kings Lane is at it again - another Jardin en Fleurs sale. JeF has such to-die-for Chinoiserie loot - and although it is quite pricey, getting it via OKL makes it a bit more affordable.

Look at some of the goodies in this sale - available until 12/19.

Go, go, go:





I would totally dig putting together a room around these pieces and colors...gorgeous stuff. Perhaps Santa will log on and get me a little something...
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