When Maison Luxe opened in Seattle, it caused quite a stir. Maybe it's the gloomy weather and the tragic abundance of North-Face-as-fashion that Seattle is known for, but design-y folks didn't have a lot of great options in Seattle until a few stores, like Maison Luxe, hit the scene in recent years.
I met Maison Luxe owner Kelie Grosso on a visit to Maison Luxe two weeks ago. When I visited her store was (of course) amazing, yet you could tell she was a little picked over from the holidays - - a quality problem, for sure. People can't get enough of her mix of Oly Studio furniture, her gorgeous mirrors, and her miscellaneous vintage treasures.
Kelie has our dream job, so I asked her to let me profile her for Decorno. She was kind enough to share everything about opening her store & chasing her dream. In the profile below, she also dishes on the biggest decorating mistakes people make, while also sharing her top 5 essential design rules.
You have the dream job of probably every design blog reader out there. I imagine a lot of readers would love to have a store and wouldn't even know where to begin.
So when did you start Maison Luxe?
I signed the lease for the shop on Valentines Day 2006, and Maison Luxe opened in April 2006. Signing the lease was the most nerve wracking experience of my life! The idea for Maison Luxe began when I interned at a great interiors shop in Del Mar, CA (Country Downs Interiors) while studying Interior Design in San Diego. The owner, Sandra Gordon, really became my mentor and opened my eyes to the world of owning a business. She has such great style; it was easy to see why people loved her aesthetic and the shop. She was a huge inspiration for me as a single woman as well, she had a successful business, a family, and people really respected her in the business community. So, Sandy if you're reading this - I owe it all to you!
And when did you actually make the decision to start the shop? And what were the first steps you took to do it?
I decided I would open a shop a long time ago, it was just a matter of time. Really, the tipping point was seeing the "For Lease" sign in the window of what would become Maison Luxe. I drove past the space every day on my way to work, and couldn't stop thinking, “What if I did it?" And so, here we are 2 years later. I had never owned a business before, so everything was new to me. I spent many weeks building a perfect business plan, and I swear that is the most important thing to do. Have a plan. Have two plans, incase the first one doesn't work out! I had to interview for my space, as there were several people who wanted it - and I approached the interview like a design presentation, I had boards with finish samples and paint chips (the now famous Maison Luxe blue) and furniture images, vendor lists, price lists, etc..everything I could think of to bombard them with information and sell them on my idea. After the interview I had a martini, and crossed my fingers....and waited. A week. When they finally called and said I had the space, I nearly died - I was leaving a client meeting and burst into tears in my car. It's amazing how in a moment, everything can change.
What kind of planning did you put into it? D id you ask other store owners or anyone else for advice?
I began poring over every design magazine, showroom, and retail store I could find, looking for great things to bring into the shop. I went to Palm Springs, I went to L.A, I went to New York, I took a million photos of beautiful shops everywhere I went. If I saw a great textile or pillow or candle, I called the vendor and got a catalog. I looked at the details in design books and thought, "Where can I get that yellow vase?" I started noticing that even though a shop may look full, often it's full of things that aren't new or interesting or relevant - so I decided to keep it simple and edit. I only bring in the things I love, things that I would have in my own home.
Was opening the store easier or harder than you imagined, and why? What surprises did you encounter?
Harder!! I had never owned a shop before, so really didn't imagine all the physical work that went into the actual opening of the store. Who would have thought that every single item, from the biggest sofa to the smallest lip balm would have to be unpacked INDIVIDUALLY? And that each box contained another, smaller box, and after you dig through the packing peanuts to find your vase or lamp, you would then have to clean it, make a nice tag with a ribbon for it, and then survey the wreckage of all the packing materials that surround you. I had not thought of the hours, days, it would take to simply unpack everything once it finally arrived! Thankfully I had a plan (2, actually - just in case) of where everything would go in the shop once it arrived, so that was a saving grace. I lived on caffeine during this period and rarely saw the light of day except through the taped up windows on my shop. I made hundreds of trips to the recycling dumpsters, had bleeding and dry hands, had not seen any friends in weeks, and thought I had made a huge mistake. I was exhausted and thrilled at the same time. Mostly exhausted. But you know, looking back I wouldn't trade it for anything because it was much harder to sit at my desk in a cubicle wondering "what if?" than it was sitting on the floor at 2 a.m. in my very own shop unpacking boxes! I felt (and feel) lucky to be here every day, exhausted or not.
How would you describe your clientele?
I would describe our customers as sophisticated and savvy, often they come in with photos from design books or magazine pages torn out saying "I want that sofa!" and you know what? Often it's the greatest sofa that I totally missed when looking through the same magazine! They inspire me to keep it fresh and keep the surprises coming in the shop. And so many of my customers have become friends, I think the shop feels like a huge living room and people love to hang out here. We get all the news of who's having babies, who's engaged, who's moving or going on vacation. I've come into the shop and found customers sitting and chatting with each other, making new friends. Often you'll find customers sitting on sofas during a rainy Sunday afternoon having a nice chat or petting our shop dog, Zoe. It's great, I love that people feel so comfortable in the store!
I get a great mix of retail and design customers - often designers shop here for vintage and one of a kind things, and for last minute accessories or floor samples. The biggest surprise is that the Maison Luxe blog and website have created a whole new client base. We've been shipping furniture to as far away as Connecticut and New Mexico!
What do you love the most and dislike the most about having your own business?
I love that I get to come to work every day and be in this amazing building, have this beautiful store, have my dog here, and see how excited people are when they come in for the first time. I love that people come in with pages torn out of magazines or paint chips in their handbags - I can totally relate to that. The best part of having the shop, really, is knowing that I'm making my own dream come true - not someone else's. It's all mine....and that is also the hardest part.
Have you ever encountered a real crisis of confidence either in a designing job or with your store? What was it and how did you get back into your groove?
Yes, right after the shop opened I had a terrible and unexpected experience with a client - it took me by surprise, financially and emotionally it was a shock. I had many sleepless nights, thinking that I had been taken advantage of and that what was supposed to be a great project turned out to be the worst experience ever, etc. Finally, I realized that it really wasn't me - I was being honest, I was doing what I said I would do (and more) and ultimately that's all you can do. Looking back, I would say that you have to trust yourself and know that you really are doing the best you can, and then move on if it's not enough. And then you just keep going…. What is that phrase? If you're going through hell, keep going!
Where do you see yourself and your store in 5 years? Do you have another dream store or business you want to open?
The store is evolving all the time, it definitely has a life of its own. I would like to say that in 5 years I'll have a second location - possibly in Portland? The temptation is to keep growing, but there is something to be said for keeping it small and having a great time and growing what you have. I enjoy the shop, I enjoy being here every day, I enjoy the customers and the products and want to continue to be involved in all aspects of running the shop. For me, there is nothing better than the discovery of a new designer or product, or finding the perfect vintage piece for the shop. And my dog, Zoe, gets to come to work with me everyday...what's better than that?
Who are your design idols?
Kelly Wearstler (I know, she's everywhere...but she is brilliant)
Who are your retail idols (stores you think just do an amazing job both here in Seattle and wherever else your travels take you)?
Dovecote (Westport, CT)
Chapman Radcliff (L.A.)
Great Stuff (Seattle)
Marie Mason Apothecary(L.A.)
What do you think is the "next big thing" in design/decor?
I think the next big thing is that less really is more...less fuss, more detail. Less planning, more living. Less pattern, more texture. A shift to the simple and elegant, a more thoughtful approach. I love to see a simple linen sofa with great lines, paired with a clean mirrored top table. An antique table paired with a simple chair, maybe upholstered in raw silk. I really think that a little drama goes a long way, in life and in design! Keep it simple, and let the details shine.
What is the #1 decorating mistake you think the average person makes? What five "laws" of decorating would you tell a young person just starting out in their first apartment (what to save on, what to splurge on, what to buy first, etc etc)
We are all guilty of this one - buying furniture that is cheap because we need something...right now! I've done it, and always regretted it. The most important thing you can do in decorating is to take a thoughtful approach, chose quality over quantity, chose pieces that will last and that you love. It's easy to make a fast decision because you want your home to be "done", but I always find it so much more interesting and fun to find pieces over time, letting your home evolve as you do.
Five rules of decorating:
1. Buy the best pieces that you can afford. Take the time to do research on how something is made so you feel great about your investment.
2. Don't buy knock-offs. There is nothing worse than a fake Eames chair, because the people you're trying to impress will know the difference immediately.
3. Start with a neutral color palatte and add color and pattern with accessories. It's so much easier to update your pillows and drapery when you own a gorgeous, neutral sofa.
4. If something stays in your mind, an antique mirror, a vintage lamp, whatever it is - buy it! Don't wait for that special piece to come around again, because it probably won't.
5. Skip overhead lighting and use lamps whenever possible. Always with 40 watt lightbulbs. Nothing more, nothing less.
You can meet Kelie yourself and shop her amazing store, Maison Luxe, here.
1123 1st Avenue
Seattle, WA 98101
And you can stay up-to-date with her latest finds on her blog:
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Sunday, January 27, 2008
The landscaper took one look at those hedges, sighed, and told me "Do yourself a favor and rip them out this weekend."
Today I put on shitty jeans and a weird orangey-pink t-shirt and I set out with a soapy bucket of water and a super, super long extendable squeegee and I washed the windows of my house. You know when it's still winter, but you start to pretend it's spring because the sun actually bothered to come out and you actually had to squint at that rare orb for the first time in four months? It was that kind of day.
So there I am, facing the tall side of my 2 storey brick house and I am washing the windows, and this is the conversation I am having in my head, unedited:
"I wonder how much window washers cost? I could hire someone. Although, I am not sure why because I don't really mind doing this. But it's not the *minding* part that's bad, it's that I could be doing something else...more useful... I could be digging up beds... oh crap, I need to review the proposal from the landscaper designer.... I can't believe she only designs... Does that mean she works up the plan and then *I* dig the beds and plant? That seems backward. Maybe I should plan it and then hire those guys from Casa Latina to help dig beds and plant.... Don't forget to pay the Chase bill... Is it bad to hire guys from Casa Latina?... how soon can I plant hydrangeas. FUCK. If I am only going to plant hydrangeas, why do I need a landscape designer? Should I open my business? I have been planning for 3 years, I can't stop now... But all that money... I could just hire someone to DO ALL THIS SHIT FOR ME and I wouldn't be washing the outside of windows on a Sunday..."
It goes on and on. Here's the good news. At one point, washing the windows, I was sincerely having a nice little conversation with myself, thinking, I love that I am out here laboring, washing these windows. My first house, despite all the things that need to be done to it, is better than any house I ever thought I would own. I am lucky I get to wash these windows. People actually take nice little strolls in my neighborhood. They always do, every weekend, even when it's cold. Where I grew up, no one did that. People lived sad lives, kind of secluded. Strolls need prettiness to make it worthwhile, and there wasn't much prettiness in my 'hood.
So here I am, in this house that has a want for every room. And I've written about it before. We bought our house via fax while traveling in New Orleans. It was a sellers' market at the peak of the housing frenzy. We bought the shittiest house in a good neighborhood, but oh, lord, this house needed love. It still does. So, so much, I cannot even tell you.
And that's where I am at with my house, in this love/hate relationship.
How many of the projects in your home are you willing to do yourself vs. hire out? The point of having a fixer is reaping some of the financial gain by doing it yourself. But I have a job, and so does he. And next month I will be traveling for work 15 days of the month. When exactly am I going to tackle these DIY projects? And how can I possibly justify starting my own business when I could take the money I've saved and just write a check to a contractor and have the kitchen and 2 baths done by late spring? Aaaaaarrrggghh. I don't know. I don't know the answers.
Our kitchen had subfloor when we bought it. SUBFLOOR. When we toured the house, it was filthy and foul. There was a days-old fish left sitting in a dirty castiron pan on a circa-1949 stove. (I later learned that in bringing the electrical somewhat up to code so that the mortgage company could even write a loan on the place, it had been incorrectly rewired. I learned this because once we moved in I decided to bake something and upon opening the oven, the ovenlight exploded and shot glass everywhere. Home sweet home, right?).
The kitchen has formica counters and horrible bright yellow walls. The faucet will shoot water in your face if you move it too far to the right. The former owner patched a part of the deteriorated counter with - yes - weather stripping.
I am not kidding.
One night, no long after we bought the place, we had friends over and Christine (one of the friends) and I just stood there, drinking too much wine, reveling over how foul the kitchen was and we pealed off large skins of that yellow paint. We just laughed because it was assumed this nearly-condemned kitchen would surely be redone that year. Well, that was 2 1/2 years ago. Remember... every room is a major project - the kitchen being the worst of all. That wild patch of peeled paint causes my fiance much consternation. It is, in fact, the only thing in the house that we have done to make the place worse - - something we thought hardly possible at all.
My house has been a lesson in patience, and compromises. And also denial. Things I thought, in my own bitchy way, that I wouldn't TOLERATE for more than the first six month persist, and I have learned to live with.
My bathroom, for example? The tile is plastic. I know. It makes you want to cry, huh? It used to make me want to. I actually did cry in the shower once. I was wishing I had my apartment back. It's so easy to make a one-bedroom apartment perfect. But 4 bedrooms, a living room, a proper dining room, wiring from 1929, old molding that needs to be stripped and re-stained, and a kitchen that hasn't been re-thought since it was built, and lovely plaster ceilings that someone stupidly covered with popcorn asbestos 30 years ago? I never knew how much it would take. Anyway, those plastic "tiles" in my shower? They started falling off about a year after we moved in. My fiance (he's so great, I can't begin to tell you), he taped one back up. I can see him doing it, too... like "Oh, I'll just tape it. Lainy will be bummed if this shit starts falling in on her in the shower." And you know what? I love him for it.
He's not the house freak that I am. It really troubles me to my core to not have the place be perfect in my eyes, but I am trying to live with it. The plastic tiles... I am actually totally zen about it now.
We sat on the sofa today and we peered into the kitchen and I said, "If we just tile the floor, repaint, get a new counter, sink & faucet, and get new cabinet pulls... can we just forget about it until we decide to really redo it, just spend like $100k all at once to fix a bunch of stuff?"
And he said, "Yeah. I'd rather do that." Right then, the house won.
The house won because some homes are just not ready for a DIY fix. Some homes are grumpy old dowagers and they want you to quit putting popcorn on the ceiling and they don't want you putting up plastic crap-ass tile. They want you to go to work, make your money, come home one day and say, "See this fist full of money? Fine, you stupid motherfucker, you can have it all."
So there you go. I guess the answer is that you make a home as long as you can - - until you can't anymore. And then you just have to cough up the money and hand your place over to contractor who will make sure the kitchen doesn't explode in your face and the shower tiles don't fall on your feet when you're doing nothing more than getting ready to face another day.
Labels: my house
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Friday, January 25, 2008
Um, Suzanne Somers, is this your house or a petting zoo? How many "touches" of zebra do you need in there?
She's kind of ruined it for me now. At least for a while.
Thanks for putting the final nail in that trend's coffin.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
In fact, I *do* have something new to post, other than updates about me having The Plague...
So, my lovely fiance Jon is a creative director for an ad agency (or something. I mean, who knows what he really does all day, right?)
Anyhoo... he has - no joke - the most obscenely comprehensive music collection known to man and an ability to know just the right song for every moment. He's missed his calling as a music supervisor for films, creating and getting rights for soundtracks.
So we're going to try this:
Post your playlist wishlist... like, "I just broke up with boyfriend and even though I called it off all I do is drive by his house to see if he's fucking that account manager in his office..." or "Taking a road trip through LA with my friends for the last time because come on admit it we are all turning 30 and men and babies will soon run our lives and we will never feel free or sexy again..."
You know... that shiz.
I know this is random, but I think it could be fun.
Wackiest playlist request will get a custom CD mailed to them from my beloved. Winner will be announced and playlist will be published to everyone's amusement.
This whole banana is inspired by Turquoise, who has this cool playlist widget on her blog. She has the BEST music. I tend to read her blog and just leave it up in the background for music in the morning.
Yes, still sick.
I like how I feel obligated to let my "people" know. All 29 of you. (And I love you all, I do). So no snarky or magical post from me. However, I do think you need to read this one while I am in a wine/Nyquil vegetative state.
I just love her blog. She's not a blog-traffic whore. She's not overly eager to respond to her responders. She just uses it like a happy little diary and I love it.
You have to read all the way until she (surprisingly) references her UNC/Chapel Hill alum status and gives excellent visual commentary on the team (and I don't even like sports...).
Um, note to everyone... if people start getting sick at your office, it's not just a cold. It's like the flu laced with hints of The Plague. Just stay home. Do as Rachel Zoe does (I know... I can't believe I just fucking said that...) and dab a little bit of Neosporin around your nostrils to ward off germs.
This one's a doozy.
Oh, and put DOWN the Purell. You crazy Purell people are the reason we have this superbug. Thanks a lot, dudes. I miss the regular Cold and Flu. I even miss regular Ear Ache and his cousin Strep Throat. But this new thing? Holy shit.
Labels: blogs of note
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Since I am not feeling so hot and don't have the creative energy for my own post, I thought I would point you to At Home At Home, where Laure has a great post about her dinner party guest list growing from 3 to 7 and tips for making it work.
When I had a smaller apartment, I always wished I had thrown parties, but I always thought my space was too cramped. But lately, I keep reading about New Yorkers who seem to make those ridiculously small apartments work.
Remember this Domino? Cover girl Lauren Yaggy talked about throwing small drinks parties with just cocktails and nuts and then heading out for dinner with friends, which seems like a good strategy.
A lot of designers rave about round tables because even if small, you can always seems to squeeze more people in.
Laure has great emergency party tips:
• Do not freak out, it just wastes energy
• Just double the recipe and it should all turn out fine
• In a small space like mine where we eat around the giant coffee table, I just pulled all of my furniture apart by an extra foot to create more space for people, that seemed to help.
• Serve Ice Cream for Dessert (no prep time!) and ask your aunt to bring home made cookies!
• Don't worry about the house being clean, just shove the litter box into the shower and clean the faucet on the sink so that the chrome is shiny, then light the bathroom by candlelight.
• This one is important: Set the table ahead of time. Do not leave this until the last minute.
• Put the wine out so that people aren't all up in your kitchen looking for glasses, the wine and the bottle opener. Have it in the other room and ask someone else to open and pour it for your guests!
• Relax because, as my bf's mom says, anything tastes good if you didn't have to cook it yourself.
Anyone else have tips & tricks to add? Is anyone else really guest and party ready? I tend to think if I had to have people over in the next hour I would have a heart attack....
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Labels: great finds
I have always loved big cuffs and they are certainly having their moment in fashion again. You can buy the cuffs shown here at Max & Chloe.
(Incidentally, as much as I think Tory Burch is just biding her time before becoming the next mid-market brand like Dooney & Bourke or Liz Claiborne for the SUV & soccer-game set, she is supposed to be introducing really amazing cuffs with a chinese motif instead of her ubiquitous T logo... they are something else...if anyone spots them, let me know..)
Monday, January 21, 2008
Despite pinging you 9 times you haven't updated my blog in 9 days.
Just because your service is free doesn't mean it should suck.
Dear Blogger image uploader,
You're unreliable. And your interface and the ability to sort of drag and drop images is woefully inadequate. You should, I dunno, innovate. Again, just because you're free doesn't mean you should suck.
Labels: open letters
Saturday, January 19, 2008
You must read this now, and all the way to the end.
One reason I have become so obsessed with other people's blogs is because I am stunned to learn how much people have to give (freely) and how amazing these gifts can be from people you would otherwise think are as ordinary as yourself.
You people out there are so extraordinary. Truly.
Labels: blogs of note
Despite a nasty hangover, I forced myself to wash the drunk off and fancy myself up for a day of shopping. I hit Maison Luxe, Watson Kennedy, and Pacific Galleries Antique Mall.
Pac Gallery has probaby 100 vendors offering their antiques and vintage. There are 3 separate stalls I try to hit first because the merchandise is always so great. And lucky me, today I met the owner of these little beauties, Susan Wheeler of Pink Lemonade (that's her trade name). Apparently she not only keeps herself busy finding these treasures at all kinds of antique fairs and flea markets, she also does windows for boutiques & offers her awesome selection at various gift shows. If you get a chance, you should check out her goods at Pacific Galleries in Seattle's SoDo neighborhood.
Here is what I am currently lusting from Susan Wheeler's collection - - these great urns:
Look at that insane seahorse table:
And while not from Susan, I did spot this charmer. I want to buy an old dresser to use as a bar in my dining room, figuring I can store serving dishes, napkins, etc in the drawers, too. I think this might be the one:
I also scored a door knocker very similar to this one:
I remember Domino hunting for this and discovering one at E. R. Butler. Mine, however, did not cost $1100 like theirs. Sweet victory.
I also snapped up two of these silver cups (featured in this post on the Maison Luxe blog) while at Maison Luxe today. They will soon be sporting flowers, I am sure. Maybe on my new dresser-turned-bar...
...And was a girl... this is what it would be like: Style Bytes
How much do you love that the photos of her are so styled? And that she owns a pig.
I love it. She's cooler than I will ever be. Plus, you have to love a blog entry like this - - just the photo and the declaration:
"I collected the last of my money and got an issue of Vogue Italia accompanied with a Big Mac to ease the pains of yesterday."
That's fucking fabulous.
Maybe Rule #1 is "go easy on vintage."
I recently hired a recent college grad to work for me. I love her precisely because she's like Tracy Flick. She will do anything to get the job done.
Now, she brings her perfectionism to her personal life, too, and there is a lot of talk about furnishing her new apartment. She really wants to get it right without making expensive mistakes.
I think we should all brainstorm 10 Commandments of Decorating Your First Place. Reader comments will be reincorporated into this post until our mission is accomplished.
Here's an example of where I have been totally stupid about making a real home for myself. This is going to totally scandalize my friends at House of Beauty of Culture and Maison 21:
I have shitty Ikea silverware.
There. I said it. I can't seem to decide on a placesetting I like and want, and I keep putting it off... maybe I think I will register for it (have to register for something since we already have the Noah's Ark of Home Appliances... two toasters, 2 sets of pans, 2 irons, and many other artifacts of combining two lives).
Anyhow, I don't have real silverware and I now think that it's really the first thing I should have purchased. It's not so dignified to eat with spoons you can bend in a stubbornly cold container of ice cream.
I also think about lamps and how when you're young, it's tempting to cheap out and get a $10 Ikea charmer that just doesn't seem so charming even two years later.
And then I think about the first few "real" things I started buying and how they start to change your life for the better. It's the most adult feeling, I think, because you realize you have the resources now to not have to compromise on getting the thing you really want.
So... you're just starting out... you generally know your taste at this point, but taste does change. So what things would you advise my young colleague to splurge on? Scrimp on? What decorating tips can you offer her? Anything she should insist on? (for me, it was splurging on fresh flowers every week...) Anything she MUST avoid? Should she say, "fuck getting engaged and married, I am going to buy the nice silverware today"?
Comments please. I think you rowdy and brilliant Decornophiles are going to come up with one hell of a list.
Friday, January 18, 2008
We talked about hatin' on houseplants yesterday. I am more of a cut flowers & branch girl myself.
And I also like big gestures, like this.
My life will be complete when I have a home with an entrance so big I get to buy a big table like this and place stacks of books and big-ass flowers like these on said table.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Reader (Sarah) wrote Decorno today asking:
"I bought the zebra rug from west elm and also the turquoise lamp with the tall white shade. I want to put both in my bedroom but can't figure out what kind of duvet or sheets I should get. I really want white but I'm worried about it clashing with the cream and brown large zebra rug. Can you help?"
I thought I would open it up to everyone to offer helpful suggestions.
I think white sheets would be great. Crisp and clean and not at all in conflict with the rug.
Thoughts everyone? Liberate the inner stylist in you and help a sister out.
UPDATE: Reader comments have overwhelmingly questioned my taste and sanity on this one, suggesting that this chandelier reminds them, in turns, of dirty socks, used condoms, and albino sizzlean.
I will remark now, for the record, I have the best fucking readers of any decor blog out there. (Even when they are making fun of me.) Thank you, Decornettes, for reminding me that if I dish it out, I also have to take it.
I know that everyone and his pet poodle has blogged recently about online shop Rian Rae. Great finds, for sure.
But can someone tell me who manufactures this chandelier? I am dying to know. Even Googling the SKU doesn't yield any leads. Your help is appreciated.
Labels: great finds
Stay tuned.... in the next week I will have for you, my little Decornettes, an awesome post about Kelie Grosso, owner of one of Seattle's best home stores, Maison Luxe.
Labels: great stores