Saturday, January 28, 2012

Trade show booth design ...

I just returned from my first market show with my new ACEQUIA Bath and Body Collection and am so pleased with the reception we received from buyers and retailers at the Bath and Body FINDS Temp Show in Dallas.

For years, I designed large island exhibit booths for clients with major budgets ($100,000 - $250,000 per show) and managed their on-site marketing and public relations. That was no problem.

I'm pretty experienced at getting the biggest bang for your buck. But, now with my own start-up company, I wanted to be equally as creative with my little space (10' x 10') and a tiny (really teeny, tiny) exhibit budget. It took a lot of thought to design and build a trade show booth on a shoestring budget.

I started by evaluating the elements that came standard with the booth (three sides of white fabric paneling and a light bar with three spotlights). That's it ... basically it's a blank canvas. So, I began by designing on my computer an elegant look that reflects the luxury branding of our soaps and lotions. That was the easy part!

Translating a design into reality with minuscule funds was a bit of work! First, I sourced a spectacular, low-cost chandelier, Flokati rug, resin planters and plants and desk from various retailers. Everything else had to be handcrafted, so the challenge was building and sewing all the other elements. Hubby and I were one very busy design/build team. 

I found two, inexpensive (and rather dingy) ottomans that just needed some new upholstery. That was my first sewing project. I added more time on my sewing machine with making the draperies and valance from beautiful silk fabrics I found with a price discount. Love those bargains!

Hubby crafted a spectacular light box to set atop the desk, and I finished it with matching white paint and trimmed the lower rim with a silver metallic to give it a more interesting profile. Next, I had an adhesive decal made with our logo and branding -- so easy to apply on any surface.

I really wanted beautiful panels with moulding or elegantly framed mirrors, but simply did not have the budget. Instead, I bought a roll of reflective Mylar film and a couple of bottles of Window Writer paint in white and began drawing my own moulding on the mirrored surface. I finished off with a little ornamental design on the top panel.

Viola! It really was a fun project and a great show for our product debut. Now, I'm just hopeful we'll have a bit bigger budget next time. This 'design on a dime' theme was a challenge!

Thinking cap ...

I'm so impressed by ingenious designs created with used bottle caps. It makes me want to take up a bit of serious drinking so I can upcycle colorful, humble caps into something magical.

Image via Zsa Zsa Bellagio.

Image via Pinterest.

Image via Sweet Something Design.

Image via Trading Places Interiors.

Image via Travel and Other Obsessions.

Time to belly up to the bar and start saving those bottle caps!

A taste for sweet cream ...

The color of sweet cream is my white! It's not stark or bland to me. Rather, I find it conveys a sense of warmth and ageless beauty.

Image via Decor de Provence.

I'm particularly fond of a neutral palette, and sweet cream colored walls and furnishings are a perfect canvas for layering textures and accent shades.


Images above via Pinterest (left) and French Country Style at Home (right).

Maybe it's due to my life in Texas with limestone formations underfoot, my passion for ancient honed marble or the need for lighter hues to temper our warm climate, but I love the tranquility of cream.

Image via Elle Decor.

Plaster with its variations in cream is the schiznet! Of course, I find stone obsession-worthy, too. So, homes in southwest France are particularly appealing to me with their stone walls and floors.

Image via Habitually Chic.

Cream accents beautifully accessorize furnishings and complement my go-to shades of gray and silver. 

Images via Sunday Suppers.

It seems Mother Nature likes to accessorize with cream as well. Yummy Cream Tea Roses in silver loving cups are perfect for any occasion!

Image via Farrow and Ball.

Apparently, barnyard animals are drawn to creamy environs, too. I'm like the little sheep who admire the 'Pointing' paint shade from Farrow and Ball (above). It's named after the color of lime pointing used in traditional brickwork.


I guess the cow gracing the kitchen (left) is equally as happy amid the cream, Scandinavian porcelain tiles. Image via Emma's Blog.

The beauty of a rich, creamy vanilla shade is its ability to blend decorative and design elements without losing its appeal as trends come and go. Image above right via House and Home Magazine.

Suddenly, I have an urge for creamy, vanilla ice cream ... yum.

Gallery walls ...

Framing and hanging cherished photos or favorite artwork can be habit forming, not to mention the highly addictive nature of creating gallery walls at home. But, to achieve harmony and balance, it takes a bit more than simply hammering randomly placed nails into a wall.

Image via A Perfect Gray.

I've shared some of my own art walls along with others that captured my attention in a previous postBut, I keep adding to my little library of inspirational walls that reflect a gallerist's eye.

Image via Decor Pad.

When curating a collection to be displayed together, I take my cue from interior designers whose collections often contain both photos and art, which really is more intriguing to me than just one or the other.
Image via Decor Pad.

There are some great tutorials on the internet that address frame placement.  Several blogs offer professional advice, including: Corea Sotropa Interior Design and Brooklyn Limestone. Personally, I like all pieces in one grouping to either have the same frames or frames of similar color, or have art that is of similar color or subject matter.

Images above via Crush Cul de Sac (left) and Layla Grayce (right).

I've learned several things from studying the work of gallerists and designers: 1) layout the frames as a composition on the floor first before transferring the scheme to the wall, 2) create one central axis across a horizontal or vertical plane so the eye will find a symmetry that is soothing even when the overall composition appears random, and finally, 3) start hanging from the center of your grouping outward (much more forgiving of little errors and it allows you to add to the collection later.)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Long winter's nap ...

I am perfectly happy to snuggle under the covers for a long winter's nap. And, where better to practice a little hibernation that in a bedroom warmed by a cozy fire?

Image via House Beautiful.

What simple luxury ... what romance! I could be fabulously content with a bedroom like this.


Another soaring ceiling, handsome fireplace, luxurious bed linens and dramatic chairs. Images above via Traditional Home. Yum.

Image via Bella Notte linens.

Talk about drama! A stark, dark, brooding design envelopes this room. My thoughts are whispering deep restful slumber.

Image via Crush Cul de Sac.

I think I'll just stretch out and read a bit before bed. What a novel idea, and what a scrumptious bed! Surprisingly, I'm fond of the wallpaper, too.

Image by San Francisco interior designer Charles de Lisle.

Is it just me or does everyone think of mountain cabins, hot chocolate and thermal underwear? All sound like excellent accompaniments for a snooze-worthy afternoon.

Image via IKEA.

I'm always shopping for Paris apartments online, and find myself designing and redesigning every floorplan. All this just in case I can convince my hubby that we really NEED to buy one. What I have discovered is that when the day arrives that we pick up the keys to our own place in Paris, I'll be heading to IKEA for much of the fittings, including my bedroom furnishings. Then, I'll take a little nap before the work/fun begins!

A passion for red ...

The St. Valentine's Day celebration of Amor is drawing near, and I'm beginning to feel the hypnotic pull of love's embrace. Well, actually it's a growing fondness for designing with red accent color that has me smitten.

Image of Charly Erwin design via Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles Magazine.

Drop. Dead. Gorgeous. That lipstick red settee against the charcoal wall is dynamite!

Image via Elle Decor.

The tomato red hue is so tastefully done that it's almost a neutral in this living space. Love the large 'smooch' photo, too!

This may be the only time I would say that I'm a fan of an enlarged heart! Here, photographer Jason Donnelly captures the vitality created by a contemporary heart (left) in an otherwise quiet entry. Southern Accents highlights the power of red (above, right).

Image via Sunset.

In one of my other imaginary lives ... this is one where I live in a loft and have a flair for bold and unique design ... I would definitely duplicate the above look. It has a kooky, thrift store vibe, but reflects a keen eye for high style.

At right, the red accent wall truly 'makes' the stairwell a focus wall so that everything in front of it stands out. The red chair is a great complement to the wall beyond and ties everything together. Image via House Beautiful.

I'm surprised how much I like the Asian red with the Robin's Egg blue (left). It's really stunning and yet very warm and restful. (Image via Country Living). 

Image via Country Living.

Even a bit of red in the bedroom can add some depth and charm. Lovely. You see, I'm warming up to red. Maybe it's the anticipation of valentines to come ...

Winter dining ...

I love eating in winter. Hearty, warm meals and generous carafes of smoky, full-bodied wines. Sure, it all adds an extra pound or two around the middle, but who's counting.

Image via 5 Minutes Just For Me.

Since we reserve our entertaining for warmer months outdoors, winter is more about cozy, at home dinners for just hubby and me, or small gatherings in our intimate dining room.

Image of the Winter Dining Room at Casa Rocca Piccola.
I love looking at dining spaces that enhance the warm, casual comfort of a winter's evening with friends. 

Image via Design Muse.

The glow of candlelight adds drama to the tabletop, and fresh, floral centerpieces can set a casual or formal tone with rich, seasonal blooms.

Image via Comfortable Home Design.

After putting away the Christmas decor and formal linens, it's refreshing to add casual classics to the tabletop. 

Image via Dwell Studio.

The fabric choices offered by Dwell Studio are must-haves, and gray is my go-to look right now, so I'm really drawn to the bold graphics from their tabletop collection (above).

Image via Providence Ltd Interior Design.

I love it when objects can do double duty and look spectacular in the process. Here, guest favors and place cards are one-in-the-same. Lovely, mix and match china cups can host young plants for sharing, while tea-stained tags create a vintage mood for calligraphy.

Makes me what to host a little dinner party ...

On the menu: Tomato basil soup ...

If a hearty, warm bowl of soup sounds appealing, and you're looking for an easy, healthy 'from scratch' recipe that can really satisfy your taste buds, Tomato Basil Soup is hard to beat.

Image via Loving the Bike.


4 cups (8 to 10) tomatoes, peeled, cored and chopped, or 4 cups canned whole tomatoes, crushed
4 cups tomato juice or part tomato juice and part vegetable or chicken stock to equal 4 cups
12-14 washed fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish (optional)
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 lb sweet unsalted butter
Salt, to taste
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Combine tomatoes, juice and/or stock in saucepan. Simmer 30 minutes. Puree, along with 12 to 14 basil leaves, in small batches, in blender or food processor.

Return to saucepan and add cream and butter, while stirring, over low heat. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Garnish with more basil leaves (optional) cut into chiffonades (thin strips) or left whole.

Makes 8 servings.

Serve with your hubby's delicious, homemade Italian rosemary bread! Hint, hint.

Sneak peek ...

Here's a sneak peek of one of the items we've been constructing for our Capistrano Soap Company market booth. Next week, we'll be trekking to the Dallas Market Center to showcase our new luxury line of natural soaps and lotions, and a display counter for our ACEQUIA Bath and Body Collection is a necessity.

Hubby builds the light box framework.

So, hubby and I once again serve as our own design/build team.  I designed our little counter with light box, hubby built it to perfection, and I completed the finish paint and logo graphics.

Our finished light box display counter ready for the ACEQUIA product launch at market.

The top section is a light box topped with a white acrylic sheet that is lit from below.

I had our logo and product description printed on white vinyl, adhesive decals
and applied them to the counter sections. It's an inexpensive, seamless look.

We've been hustling to get everything ready for our debut to regional and national retailers and buyers. It's been one construction project or another for several weeks now. We're sticking to our budget, and that means getting really creative with the booth design elements.

I'll take photos when we get our booth set and share them as soon as we get back. Ta ta for now ...

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