Yao Cheng Design

Yao Cheng Blue Waves print from Wicked and Weird blog
Blue Waves

I was cruising around the internet the other night looking for inspiration for a silkscreening class I am doing and came across the beautiful work of Yao Cheng.  I just love the pretty pinks (never thought I would say that!) and soft watercolours paired with her beautiful hand lettering.  Her patterns and prints are just lovely as well.  There is so much talent out there it constantly amazes me, and just when I thought my days of blogging might be done, I find a slew of incredible artists I feel like I just have to share.  Also, I would like to take a watercolour course next!
Yao Cheng abstract circular shapes from Wicked and Weird blog
Abstract Circular Shapes
Yao Cheng floral wreath from Wicked and Weird blog
Floral Wreath

Yao Cheng Colorful Dots Falling print from Wicked and Weird blog
Colorful Dots Falling 

Yao Cheng Landscape Forest in Indigo and Greenprint from Wicked and Weird blog
Landscape Forest in Indigo and Green
Yao Cheng Triangle Shapes Light print from Wicked and Weird blog
Triangle Shapes Light
Yao Cheng custom postcard from Wicked and Weird blog
Yao Cheng custom postcard from Wicked and Weird blog

Inspired by Elle Decor's December edition

Original photography by William Abramovitch

Have you ever found a new shelter magazine in the mail, drooled all over the cover, made yourself wait to open it until you were comfortably nestled with a cozy throw and a glass of wine, and then flip, flip, flipped to the end without being stopped by anything inside?  That did NOT happen today when I got the December Elle Decor in the mail.  I was so excited I actually put down the wine and took photos of the photos in the magazine.  I know.  There were a few homes and designs that, while I appreciated the aesthetic, did not appeal to me.  But the St. Bart's beach house of Parisian interior and furniture designer Christian Liaigre pictured above had me already feeling the humid breezes and hearing the sounds of the surf.  Who knew a beach house could be sophisticated?  I love the kitchen and the bathroom especially, and the outdoor eating area (which I didn't show - you have to look at the magazine for that one - trust me it is beautiful).

It could be that the editor Michael Boodro's letter hit the nail on the head for me - I have often wondered how I could be attracted and happy with so many different styles of design.  Shouldn't I have one signature style?  Michael says no.  Boo-yah Michael.

For example, I would have no where to put this amazing light fixture - it does not jibe at all with the things I have in my home - but I covet it none-the-less.  How does this make sense?  Sooo shiny...

My photo does not do justice to the rich, yummy, deep velvety green on this sofa in the ad for Ochre.  It is actually much darker.  I tried to find it online but no dice.  It's that amazing mossy forest green that you feel like you could fall into and dream of fairies and sprites in magical German woods.  Or something...  But when I saw it I knew immediately that THIS is going to be my colour this Christmas - this rich deep velvet green, with cream and gold and white and lots of sparkly little lights.  Think Value Village has any deep green velvet...?  Perhaps velour will do in a pinch, provided I maintain low lighting at all times.

Original photography by Eric Piasecki

Much of this "cabin" (monstrous home) in Colorado designed by Caroline Sarkozy was a little contrived for my taste - too much birch bark, antlers, and pine cladding for my liking.  But for some reason I enjoyed this cozy home office pictured above - a photo tucked away on the contents pages ...maybe I would just add some books to those shelves.

Original photography by Jean-Fran├žois Jaussaud 

Another little snapshot from the contents pages was this beautiful curved nook found in a chateau in Provence owned by the designer Pierre Yovanovitch.  The rest of the chateau was very nice in an overt modern-minimalist-luxury-in-an-historic-French-chateau kind of way, but everything about this image appeals to me much more.  The curved wooden shelves on the curved wall, the rustic dishes, the wooden-framed painting, the two-toned wall, the delicate antique rocking chair - c'est parfait.

Original photography by William Waldron

However, the home I could move into in a heartbeat and change NOTHING is this fishing cabin-turned weekend house designed by Amy Mellen, creative director for Calvin Klein Home.  Just look at the mix in this kitchen.  Sleek cabinets, faucet, stainless appliances, and Calvin Klein windsor chairs - with their modern angles and lines - pair so perfectly with the antique table, original pine floors and dark-trimmed sash windows.  And such great styling by JC Garcia Lavin!

And that bedroom is just so serene and right up my alley.  In fact, I think that might be the colour of my bedroom walls.  If only I didn't kill those weird ferns every time I buy one.  Again the mix and styling in this photo (or at least the actual photo in the magazine) are great. (Wait, wasn't that fern on the mantel before? Maybe they aren't meant to live - maybe they're just for styling!)

So thanks for letting me read the magazine for you, and thanks to Elle Decor for actually inspiring a blog post.  That's no small miracle these days!

Happy Birthday Joni Mitchell

Joni Michell 1970
Joni Mitchell has to be one of my top ten favourite musicians of all time - maybe even THE top.  Her songs are unusual and inventive; poetry set to music.  She turned 70 years old yesterday, so I thought I would post one of my favourites of her songs - I love pretty much everything about this one.  Her guitar playing is incredible, the lyrics are thoughtful and evocative, and her voice just ripples over the melody like sparkling clear water.

Rolling Stone called her "one of the greatest songwriters ever" and I completely agree.  She is also a painter, and in fact she has said that she considers herself a "painter derailed by circumstance."  I have always felt that Joni is a true artist - a kind of human conduit for creativity of the style Elizabeth Gilbert describes in her TED talk.

I have a this theory that there is magic and mystery and music all around, available to us if we sort of shift our "frequency" to let it resonate through us.  I am sure you have felt it every now and then, no? Since I am a visual person, I see it in my head in terms of density - I imagine that some people are more opaque than others - there is just no space in them for the magic to get in or through.  Each of us are varying degrees of opacity, at different times, and artists of any vocation simply have less mass in them... they're "thinner."  Joni is a rare being that is practically transparent, or like a crystal - the magic/art not only comes through clearly, but is amplified as it shines through her.

Did that make any sense?  Did I just write all that?  Jeez, put the joint down Lisa... (although I will leave it in because, heck, were talking about Joni).

Anyway, I also want to include the lyrics to another favourite song of hers, Chelsea morning.  I always play it when I'm feeling blue, and it never fails to make me smile.  For the longest time I always had yellow curtains in the bedroom so I could wake up to a Chelsea morning. :)

Woke up, it was a Chelsea morning, and the first thing that I heard
Was a song outside my window, and the traffic wrote the words
It came a-reeling up like Christmas bells, and rapping up like pipes and drums

Oh, won't you stay
We'll put on the day
And we'll wear it 'till the night comes

Woke up, it was a Chelsea morning, and the first thing that I saw
Was the sun through yellow curtains, and a rainbow on the wall
Blue, red, green and gold to welcome you, crimson crystal beads to beckon

Oh, won't you stay
We'll put on the day
There's a sun show every second

Now the curtain opens on a portrait of today
And the streets are paved with passersby
And pigeons fly
And papers lie
Waiting to blow away

Woke up, it was a Chelsea morning, and the first thing that I knew
There was milk and toast and honey and a bowl of oranges, too
And the sun poured in like butterscotch and stuck to all my senses
Oh, won't you stay
We'll put on the day
And we'll talk in present tenses

When the curtain closes and the rainbow runs away
I will bring you incense owls by night
By candlelight
By jewel-light
If only you will stay
Pretty baby, won't you
Wake up, it's a Chelsea morning

Finally, I heard part of her interview on CBC with Jian Gomeshi yesterday and it was so interesting - she's such a weirdi-cat. Man, I love her, can you tell?  http://www.cbc.ca/q/blog/2013/06/11/joni-mitchell-portrait-of-an-artist/.

Happy Birthday Joni!

Ai Weiwei Exhibit at the AGO

Ai Weiwei art retrospective at the AGO According to What? from Wicked and Weird

This weekend we had the pleasure of hosting my brother- and sister-in-law, who were in town from Kelowna.  There was much food and wine, but we also classed it up with a visit to the AGO to see the Ai Weiwei exhibit before it closed (yesterday).  I am SO happy that I got to see it, it really was amazing.

[Warning: this post got kinda looooong.]

Ai Weiwei is probably best known for being a thorn in the Chinese government's side; I first heard of him during the Olympics when he used the public platform given to him as the designer of the show-stopping "Bird's Nest" stadium to loudly denounce China's record of human rights.  He has been incarcerated, had his studio destroyed, kept under 'house arrest', followed, interrogated, and been beaten to the point of a brain hemorrhage by Chinese authorities.  As you can imagine, his art is completely intertwined with his political sentiments.  I expected to be moved by the messages in his art, but was not prepared to be so moved by the art itself.  It was beautiful, warm, meticulously crafted and aesthetically enchanting.

In most of his works, Weiwei uses traditional Chinese materials and techniques in new, and often subversive ways.  The top left image is of his piece Teahouses, 2011 which consists of three precisely packed and positioned houses made out of tea leaves.  Each house weighs one ton (and needed to be installed by a structural engineer).  The smell of the tea is beautiful, and the effect of standing before such an imposing and heavy piece that is made out of miniscule scented dried leaves is confounding.

Beside it is a close-up of what was an enormous, long piece.  It was created out of Chinese iron wood pillars from a dismantled Qing Dynasty temple.  The pillars (it looks like there were eight?) were fused together using traditional Chinese joinery techniques with no nails or screws holding them together.  This homage to Chinese history and craftsmanship is juxtaposed with a machine-cut detailed outline of China that runs the entire length of the pillars.  As my four-year-old would say "How the HECK...??"  It is oh so beautiful.

Below are enormous traditionally built cabinets made of huali wood (from the quince tree).  The glow and grain of the wood is incredible - if I had been allowed to touch the art I think I might have rubbed my face on it.  What can I say, I love wood.  Below you can see a close-up looking through the holes at the centre; somehow using positive and negative space, the cabinets lined up together show all of the phases of the moon, which is the basis for the Chinese zodiac calendar.

Lastly is a massive snake that was positioned just outside the entrance to the show made of 5,000 backpacks, representing the 5,000 children lost in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.  Most of these children were killed when their schools, built by a cheap government with absolutely no building codes or safety inspections, collapsed around them.  When the government refused to acknowledge the disaster, take responsibility for the shoddy building construction, or even bother recovering the names of those who died, Weiwei went to the site of the tragedy and launched a door-to-door campaign to discover and honour the name of every single child that died in Sichuan. One wall of the exhibition was a memorial to them and showed every name, date of birth and date of death, while voice read them out one by one.

Another highly effective memorial to the victims of the earthquake is shown below, consisting of the cheap iron rebar found in the rubble of the schools and other buildings.  Weiwei's team painstakingly straightened each mangled bar and placed them together in an undulating river under the quote: "The tragic reality of today is reflected in the true plight of our spiritual existence.  We are spineless and cannot stand up straight." It was very powerful.

Ai Weiwei art retrospective at the AGO According to What? from Wicked and Weird

So I didn't realize that this post was going to be a long art essay on every piece in the show!  I will speed through the Coles Notes of the rest (doing their beauty and impact no justice).  Top left is a nod to the commercialization of the world with the Coke logo painted over an antique Han Dynasty urn: cheap modern advertising desecrating a work of art that had previously lasted centuries. Or is it that the bones and shaped of the past lie under and give structure to everything we do?  Or that the foundations of Chinese culture are strong and can withstand cheap decoration, unlike the bones of the buildings in Sichaun? Discuss amongst yourselves.  Also a nod to pop art a la Andy Warhol.

Bottom right is called Divina Proportione, referencing a drawing by da Vinci with the same name.  Again, his team put this together using only traditional craftsman techniques, which took them over a year to learn.  The joinery was mind-blowing, not to mention the complicated geometry required.  The beautiful wood is reclaimed huali wood, and what I wouldn't do to have one of these in my house... I drooled over them for a good long while.

Ai Weiwei retrospective at the AGO including Dropping Han Dynasty Urn

Above is two works: Dropping A Han Dynasty Urn (in which the artist drops a Han Dynasty urn) and Colored Vases in which, like the Coke urn above, ancient urns are dipped in cheap colourful paint from the bottom and the top.  Aside from the desecration of centuries-old urns, I thought these were quite pretty!  Sometimes I'm shallow that way...

Ai Weiwei AGO retrospective  He Wei 3000 crabs seen on Wicked and Weird

Above is the piece He Xie, 3,000 individually-painted porcelain crabs.  Apparently He Xei means river crab, but the sound of the words is very similar to that of the Mandarin pronunciation for "harmonization"- a Chinese government slogan and euphemism for censorship.  Weiwei had these crabs made in an economically-depressed village, with the hope of "giving them something to do and keeping the old way of making things alive." As a thank you gift for creating this amazing work of art, Weiwei had his studio destroyed and was thrown in jail.  Doesn't sound like a fair trade to me.

Thanks for reading all the way down here; I think you have probably gathered at this point that I really liked the show and admire the strength of Weiwei's convictions.  I wish I had gone earlier and could tell you all to run out and see it, but alas, it has moved on.  I am not sure if his installations are still on display at Nathan Philips Square?  I didn't get to see those but heard that they are also quite impressive!  Did anyone else catch this show?  What did you think?

Competitive Home Decor

Beautiful Inspiration from Wicked and Weird for clean fresh bright bathroom
Click to see source on Pinterest

It finally is starting to feel like fall around here, which is great.  Not great because I love fall, (November is the most miserable month of the year, in my opinion), but because with the lovely warm September and October, I found myself outside watching the kids in the playground, going for bike rides and walks, and generally soaking up every last morsel of sun and warmth like someone scarfs down caramel cheesecake knowing she is starting a diet the next day.

beautiful living room inspiration from Wicked and Weird for rich saturated colour
Click to see source on Pinterest
The cool rainy weekend spent inside revved up my nesting instincts again, but more importantly forced me to acknowledge the house reno/flip next door that has been going on all summer is coming to a close, and that said house is starting to put our house to shame. As they paint the trim and stucco the foundation, I suddenly notice all our cracked paint and crumbling mortar.  As they spray the ceiling of the front porch a nice clean grey, I see that ours is yellowed and peeling.  As they landscape the back yard, I realize that I haven't weeded in months and my outdoor rug looks like the bottom of a shoe.  By the time they list the house it will no doubt be clear to me that have no choice but to undertake a COMPLETE OVERHAUL OF OUR HOUSE.

... funny, the hubster is on the other side of town, but I could swear I just heard him groaning...?

Anyway, hopefully this new-found competition/inspiration will result is some fun blogging.  In the meantime I leave you with some of my more recent Pinterest pins, because a blog post with no images is a sad blog post indeed, and I ain't showing you my house beside their house.

beautiful dark kitchen window with brass hardware from Wicked and Weird
Click to see source on Pinterest
Click to see source on Pinterest
Emily Henderson living room inspiration from Wicked and Weird
Click to see source on Pinterest
Emily Henderson bedroom inspiration found on Wicked and Weird
Click to see source on Pinterest

Bathroom mural ideas

The other day Jen at Rambling Renovators posted a link to a mural she liked that led me to the Canadian website anewall.com.  What an awesome site!  They specialize in historic, and I assume royalty-free prints for your home in large sizes, including wall mural decals.  I could lose myself for hours on their site, and their blog, but when I came across this painting above in the wall mural section, my imagination went a bit crazy.

A Dreamy Bathroom

These are my colours - muted blues, greys, a hint of green, and cream.  While I would be thrilled to have this on just about any wall of my house, for some reason it got me thinking bathrooms - perhaps because I could imagine lounging in a soaker tub gazing out enormous (but well-insulated) windows looking over a stormy sea like the one pictured.  What?  You don't have daydreams like that?  Weird.

Anyway, I spent much too much time flitting about the web, collecting items for my dream bath.  Of course the room is enormous, because to me the epitome of luxury is a huge bathroom (that and a walk-in closet).  I ended up with so many ideas I had to do a couple of boards.

Go with the Design Flow

Here's the funny thing: these boards looked WAY less alike in my head as I was doing them than they ended up. I started out with two completely different people in mind, but when I look at them together I sort of did the same room twice.  Not sure if that means I have a distinct style, or that I have no imagination. :)

Also, neither room looks quite like the ideal image I had in my head when I saw the painting.  It could be that this is where mood boards don't quite capture the essence of a room.  However, I also think that this is true to life in any design - you start with a concept and in fleshing it out you adapt it to the things you find and the pieces available, and it sort of modulates along the way.  I quite love how both the rooms represented above turned out! 

What do you think?  Is it better to stick more closely to an original idea - staying absolutely true to it - or to let the design take on a life of its own during the process - at the risk of losing the original thread?  I guess it would depend on the client, and the level of attachment they or you have to the original plan, or aspect of the plan.  Oh the things I waste my time thinking about...

PS. I have sources for all the stuff if you are interested.  Recognize the Turkish towels and hooks in the second board?  They are from Emma's bathroom on The Marion House Book!

BlogPodium 2013: Why Canada's Design Blogger Conference Blew Me Away!

This weekend was the big BlogPodium conference that I have been looking forward to all spring and summer - heck all year!  I was lucky enough to work with the amazing Jen Flores of Rambling Renovators on the marketing of the event, and not only did I have a blast and learn a bunch, I also found so much inspiration in watching Jen take on this huge project and knock it out of the park.  That girl is a quiet dynamo.

Jen and her team, photo by SmugMug

All the things I love about conferences happened at BlogPodium

  • I spent the day hanging out with people who immediately understood why I spend way too many hours writing, editing, styling, photographing, photoshopping, tweeting, instagramming, and web-surfing.  No explanations required, no rolling of eyes in my direction.  These were my people, and there were almost 300 of them.
  • Everyone was as happy and excited to be there as I was.  The mood was celebratory, the smiles contagious.  It was an amazing day before it even started.
  • The speakers and panelists were inspiring.  I filled my iPad with quotes and ideas, and had many 'AHA!' moments, nodding my head with all the other bloggers in synchronicity.  These guys knew their stuff, and our stuff to boot.  I have a resulting to-do list that is for sure going to light my blog on fire.
  • It was like a big ol' family reunion.  The nature of blogging means that many, many of my friendships and relationships are built online, through comments, tweets and instagrams. I talk more often with these ladies (and Tim) than I do my friends down the street, and as a result, I feel like I know them just as well, if not better!  So it is a joy to put faces to Twitter handles and be able to back up blog comments with great big hugs. (I'm a hugger.)
As an added bonus, I got to feel a real sense of accomplishment as I looked around at the sea of grinning faces.  I am under no illusion that my efforts brought them all there (the name 'Sarah Richardson' might have had a little something to do with it) but it felt kind of awesome to know that I was able to use my non-blogging skills to bring in a table or two of tickets.

My biggest BlogPodium take-away

The best part of the experience, however, was seeing a beaming Jen Flores floating around the rooms.  Unlike most conferences I have attended, I had watched the organizer work her tail end off with passion, poise, and purpose for months on end building up this experience.  She arranged the speakers, booked the venue, scheduled the sessions, oversaw the menu, brought in the big name sponsors, coordinated the blog contributions, and oversaw the marketing, social media, website development, event coordination, and all logistics.  Jen threw herself into this day with everything she had; refused to get knocked down by any of the setbacks or disappointments that arose; diligently worked through meetings, emails, conference calls, presentations, and every other task required with inspiring determination.

Through her vision and effort, Jen created an epic day that will fuel and inspire not only the 300 people in attendance, but their readers, clients, and colleagues.

To have been able to watch all this happen was the biggest gift of all, and was to me more inspiring even than Sarah Richardson's amazing keynote speech (which was awesome!).  Through this process, I learned from watching Jen that having a vision is just the first step.

If you truly believe in something, and are willing to invest yourself completely into making it a reality, not only will it happen, it will be a massive success.

Jennifer Flores Photography by Annawithlove

Not surprisingly, this philosophy seemed to be thread running through the day for me.  I heard it in Sarah Richardson's beautifully honest, sincere, and motivating keynote address.

I heard it in Margot Austin and Rhonda Riche's articulate contributions to the lunchtime keynote panel.

New, Old, and Online Media panel, photography by Annawithlove

"I learned everything on the job, by being willing 
to pick up new challenges and work hard." Margot Austin

"When shelter magazines were shutting down 
we saw an opportunity to make our own fun, in the way we had always wanted but couldn't do before. " Rhonda Riche, Covet Garden

I heard it in Keka DasGupta's charming and energizing session on working with agencies, and I heard it in Karen Bertlesen's frank and hysterical session on monetizing your blog.

Keka DasGupta, photo by Annawithlove

"State of mind matters.  Be confident, be sure. 
Recognize what you are bringing to the table!" Keka DasGupta

Karen Bertelsen, photography by Annawithlove

"Creativity is the key to success - 
when you can do whatever you want and have fun doing it, 
you will be your most authentic." Karen Bertelsen

All in all, it was a thrilling Saturday, and I am exhausted!  I met so many amazing people, doing so many amazing things - I wish everyone could have that kind of soul-enriching experience.  I can't wait to see what other great things Jen can dream up for next year!

Is champagne gold the new brass?


I love my iPhone - probably too much (especially according to some people who shall remain nameless).  I have the ancient iPhone 4, and considering I use it almost constantly every single day, it has held up pretty well.  But the home button is going, the memory is full, and my contract with Bell is up.  Lucky for me, it is just in time for the launch of the new iPhone 5c and 5s!  I haven't decided which one I am going to get (any advice?), but I can't help but admire the new champagne gold colour Apple has introduced.

Brass has been everywhere the last couple of years, and although I admit it took me a bit to get over my 80's brass associations, I have embraced it wholeheartedly. I love a warm, patinaed brass - it gives a sense of history, a connection to things past.  Lately, the trend seems to be turning to more of a shiny gold, and I keep seeing rose gold accessories everywhere.

I think the champagne gold chosen by Apple is going to be popular, because it is almost the perfect halfway point between gold and silver.  It has the sleek sheen of stainless, the warmth of gold and brass, and the novelty of copper.  In googling 'champagne gold', it seems that the wedding industry still has an almost complete monopoly of the colour (shudder), but I managed to find a few items that would be perfect pieces to add that subtle shine of this very neutral metal to any room.

1. Silver leafed boxes from Studio A  
2. Faceted paperweight from Living by Christiane Lemieux  
3. Gorgeous metallic foil cushions from Caitlin Wilson  
4. Morrocan-inspired side table from Zinc Door 
 5. Hollywood Regency drum table from Kathy Kuo Home  
6.  Mercury glass table lamp from Kathy Kuo Home  
7.  Serving bowl from Pier 1  
8.  Champagne chevron rug from Ralph Lauren Home

Of course I had to do a style board as well, cause... why not?

1. Champagne long puffa coat from Dorothy Perkins 
2. Bookclub glasses in Champagne from Madewell  
3. Parker Blue eternity scarf from Barneys New York
4. Champagne gold metallic leather wallet from Gift Shop Brooklyn 
5. Vegan sequined smoking slipper from Arisa 
6. Classic Metro watch from Kate Spade

I still love me my brass, but there is something very fresh and clean about this shade of gold.  I think it could be great as a statement colour, like in the kitchen, or just as an added bit of sparkle in the accessories.  Here are a few inspiration rooms that incorporate this colour:

Elle_Decor_jean-louis-deniot-paris-apartment-design _Champagne_silver_gold
Jean-Louis Deiot's kitchen as featured in Elle Decor.  Photo by Simon Upton.
Suzanne Kastler's Atlanta Home featured in Architectural Digest April 2012
Vancouver kitchen designed by Natalie Culter featured on Marion House Blog.  Photography by Janis Nicolay.
Staircase by Based Upon.

Bestlight wall sconce as featured by Studio Number 19 Blog

Bathroom design by Greg Stewart as featured in Interiors Magazine.

I think I like it as long as it steers clear of the pinker version... so basically, I like light brass or gold.  As soon as it heads silver or pink, it gets a little 'ruffles, bedskirts, and tiaras' - which is fine, but just isn't for me.  What do you think?  Will we be seeing more of Champagne Gold?

And what iPhone should I get??