Sunday, August 7, 2011

My room gets the Betsy touch

Betsy says....
Well you may know I had lunch with Elizabeth Speert, the designer/author that I have followed and admired for ages. Since I had  her in my clutches   invited her over for lunch I just had to ask her what she would do to my living room. She looked at me like I was crazy when I said to her, "Well what would you do with my living room?" She cocked her head to the side and looked at me over her glasses, and said, "Really???" like she was about to pull out my toenails with pliers.  I said, "yeah, I'm a big girl, have at it!".
 Betsy Speert, Traditional Home April 2003.
 It was a real queer feeling for me, having a big time designer critique my room while I stood there like the client watching and waiting for her pearls of wisdom to come my way. She has created so many magically pretty rooms, I was dying to know what the heck she would do. Understand this, we both operate with a directness and while it is searing it is not offensive, just a task to be tended to. No need for politeness! 
She sprang into action and told me to lift up the table skirt in the corner~she gasped, "oh my god, take that thing off that table right now! Rip it off! Don't you see how much better that looks?" I did as I was told.
She quickly grabbed things to arrange a tablescape. I was afraid to ask if my new phone didn't cut it, but I asked and she said it would stay, and then plunked a vintage painted dish on the table after yanking it out of its stand. She told me loves to decorate with plates. I do too. 
Table styled by Betsy Speert for Maison Decor~the french phone could stay!
Then she went over to the mantle and said "Get all these things off of your mantle. Do you have any big chunky candlesticks?" as she is grabbing the wire basket off of my coffee table and trying to hang it on the mantle wall. She ended up leaning  it there. She told me that my things were too small in scale. I told her that I thought the carved element was so bossy and it would fight with big things. She looked over her glasses at me and said carefully, "what do you mean bossy?" I explained how I call things bossy when they are taking over a room, and I do think the carved thing is bossy and have contemplated removing it. "No, its fine" Betsy said. 
Then I asked her what about this ruffled slipcover? "Pull it off! How many ruffles do you need in one room?"
I told her I was a whore for ruffles~but she didn't even blink an eye and kept right on moving about the room with her designer's eye looking for things to adjust. She said she liked the pillow, but not the trim, and told me to cut off the poms. But I like those poms and told her so. She said she gets that this style is popular, it just feels too sweet to her. I get what she is saying and why she is doing what she is doing. I just want to see how it all comes together the Betsy way before I decide what is going to be permanent and what will revert back. It continued...
The ruffled slipcover and the doily sitting in a pile with my lace panel from the stair case.
 "You have too many crystals, ruffles, gilt and lace in here!!"  as she stared at my bookcases.  I pointed out that nothing on my shelves was gilt or crystal or lace or ruffled...I guess it just felt like it did. She seemed to realize that and didn't take one thing off the book shelves. Small victory for me.  Next I asked her if she thought the fabric on the bookcases was good. She liked it, but did not like the application where you could see a gap and recommended I staple it on the surface and cover with ribbon or flat trim. I agreed.
Well I wanted to know what she would do for draperies in this room, as these are ready made from Pottery Barn. I want to do custom but am having conflicting thoughts on what to do. She asked me if I had more of the chintz. No, I only had a little  leftover. Well she thought I might do the same blue for drapes...maybe I could add a leading edge border in the leftover chintz. But she wanted me to get rid of my gold rods and paint them white and use bigger rings. I started to visualize the blue curtains pulling together the bookcases and the white rods over the white slipcovers sans ruffles....yes that would be "Betsy Pretty".....and as I was thinking of this and letting it all digest at warp speed I hear her take aim at my mirror.
"You have too many mirrors." She started counting all the mirrors and chuckling. (Well aware!) I do love my mirrors. Why, she wanted to know. "You need artwork".  I tell her I don't have any that I like enough to look at all the time...so we are yattering back and forth as I climbed up on the couch and took down my new vintage mirror that I just bought. She wanted to see some artwork there, so I brought her around the house to look for something, and she thought my glicee from MarthasVineyard was quite good, and so, up it went.
Then she announced, "Now you don't need to have curtains made. The white curtains look fine now." She stepped back and took in the changes. Like a glutton for punishment I asked her about the rug and the coffee table. There is something about the coffee table I just don't like, and it is the boho paint job! Anyway, Betsy said, "The rug is fine, the coffee table is kind of busy." Well I could paint it I offered, and she told me to paint it a mushroom color like what was in the painting. 
New sample of Country Grey chalk paint by ASCP
Don't you know I had that table painted before the sun went down! She told me she liked the chandelier better now, so maybe that will be staying. Of course these are all things she did with what was on hand. She said the fat frenchy table had to go. She liked my new pink teapot lamp. That was given her blessing.
 She said something about it being a short and stubby and bad reproduction!
And the doily was gone, baby, gone~in an instant. "Get rid of that!" She also wanted me to replace the black and gold nesting tables beside the couch with something else. "A garden stool?" I ventured. "Yes". I agreed with that too. Lots of things we know we need to do, we just live with anyway.
 
Table gets a coat of Country Grey chalk paint per Betsy's suggestion before nightfall.. 
24 hours later I applied dark wax. The damask stencil work is faded under the paint.
Betsy pulled my rug towards the fireplace, shoved the table and couch to center it between the windows.
"Why didn't you center this couch?" she wanted to know. "Because I had the big skirted table in the corner".
Problem solved. Easy enough, right. Then she darted around pulling out little things, like my small fake flowers and saying stuff like, "These are wonderful! What are they doing hiding over here?"  Um...I put those over there because I wasn't using them I guess....It all happened in about 15 minutes. A big Betsy blur of a designer tornado fixing up the overload of shabby chic in the living room. 
Other things I asked about was the lace panel hanging by the staircase. "Do you think this is weird?" "No...but maybe a tapestry would be better". I pulled out a cotton and lace fabric coverlet or tablecloth I bought at Rustique and asked her if she liked this better..."yes, its very nice" she said. I was happy to see that she liked everything (except the doily) I have bought from Bridget's store in New Hampshire, Rustique. 
This cotton pieced  cloth came from Bridget's shop (on left), Rustique
I am sure Bridget will be happy to hear it too. Betsy loved my dining room chairs and remarked three times on them, telling me she really liked them, the color, and the paint job. Score one for my relationship with Bridget! 
She thought the best thing I had was my purple transferware collection. She also like the wire garden seat in my dining room and of course, loved the dining room chairs.  She told me to ignore the purple in the dining room and just work with the blues. She questioned my  linen pillows on the chippy recycle box~"Why are these pillows in this fabric? They don't go!"
"Yes they do!" I grabbed it and plonked it next to my dining room toile chair covers, "see???" "Oh, Ok, they do..."she said quietly surprised. 
Betsy Speert approved of the chairs and finally the pillow fabric.
That was the pace of the day, and it was super fun and nothing needed to be sugar coated. Just my kind of communication style. Quick and productive.
Things were rearranged and suggestions made. I was digesting my fabulous and surreal experience with a top rate designer whose work is, well, top rate! After Betsy left I went up to my office and pulled out a big stack of old Traditional Home mags I keep in a trunk. I found an April 2003 issue featuring Betsy. 
I read the article and when it delicately said that Betsy had to work around the homeowners rugs and chairs and sofas that were a little too sweet in nature, I had a nice laugh with myself. I could just picture Betsy looking at the yellow rug with the flowers and bows and know what she was really thinking. When I asked her over the phone about that client and her possessions that Betsy had to use, we shared an insiders laugh over it all, because that is exactly what she had to do with me, Miss shabby chic lover!
 Betsy was stuck with the rug, but slipcovered the sofa and chairs as they were super saccharine in style. She balanced off the florals with the striped draperies and added a solid blue sofa. Remember that this room was done almost ten years ago. There are the big white poles and rings she wants me to use. And artwork! And plates on the walls, and not a crystal in sight. Her rooms have an English country look to them, with dark antiques and florals all mixed together. She thinks I let my room get too pale~ and maybe she is right.
Traditional Home by Betsy Speert~she does allow crystals and gilt! 
We were both ready to go looking for treasures. She was going to find me a table to replace the nesting ones.
So we were off to the antique co-op, a kind of creepy underground place. "How did you have the balls to go in here?" she wondered aloud.  I thought she would be impresses with the co-op, as there was so much to see and want. She swooped right in and after 20 minutes we were back out in the parking lot where she pronounced flatly that "all that stuff was junk". She was referring to what she could buy and sell in The Boston Design Center, where she sells antiques. There were plenty of things she would use in her own home she told me. She also told me that I got a great deal on my Louis Chair which I  found last week. She said a lot of these chairs have been painted with gold paint, but mine did look like real gold leaf upon her close  inspection. I didn't get a chance to pick her brain about reupholstering.....darn it.
I loved every minute we spent together, learned a lot, and best of all, I got to see her in action~THE Betsy Speertdecorating my room and that, my friends, was priceless!



 
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...