I’ve featured some of Nichole Blackburns lovely work on this blog before, and you can find many more examples on her company website, Celadon Studio, showing her high end residential work about the Los Angeles area. Some of her most meaningful and personal work, however, can be found all over the world.


In Thailand…




…the Philippines…




..and New Orleans.  Nichole had already graduated with a degree in fine art and had traveled all over the world when, in 2005, she made a commitment to put a purpose to both these passions and she began to paint “donation murals” in orphanages around the world. Her first 5 international donation murals, shown above, were paid for out of pocket, but Nichole has recently formed a 501 (C) 3 nonprofit corporation and launched a website www.bigskycountries.com to help raise money to sponsor her trips and help to spread the word about her cause.

Nichole’s next mural is scheduled for an orphanage in Morocco this fall, with other murals to follow in Indonesia and India. She is planning a Moroccan-themed fundraiser party August 8 in Manhattan Beach, CA (which I am looking forward to going to!). Tickets are still available, but going fast! Maybe you can make it?? If not, a small donation would be most appreciated for this art from the heart!

I’m so happy to announce that my good friend Barb Skivington of Faux Works Studio in High Point, NC will be coming out to San Diego to teach one of her famous and highly regarded cabinet and furniture finishing workshops at my studio this coming November. All of the training will be done on exquisite cabinet doors that will be finished in class using both HVLP spray and hand applied techniques. Barb has created a whole new series of finishes for the premier of this Artisan Cabinet and Furniture Finishing class using both Royal Design Studio stencils and Modello Designs Decorative Masking Patterns. While the incorporation of the patterns adds an additional custom touch, the underlying finishes are all classics that can stand alone with ease. Below are six of the amazing eight samples that will be taught and mastered.







Cabinet and furniture finishing and resurfacing are HOT and an important and potentially profitable niche market to excel in during this ecomomic “down time”. Register by July 31, 2009 to save $145 on this premier workshop!

I was recently contacted by the producers of the show Moving Up with Doug Wilson (on TLC) as they were looking for an artist on Long Island to do some work in a house that they were featuring. I was happy to pass that opportunity along to Joyce Frey of Elegant Touch, a longtime customer. Joyce and her partner did some work with some Celtic-inspired Modello Masking Patterns in the dining room, as well as a hand painted mural.

The premise of the show is that they follow the people moving in and out of homes as they move up the “property ladder” ( I think that they wrote that description some time ago….). At any rate, they are encourage to weigh in on what the new owners have done with “their” old home. Joyce has heard that the old owners dissed a bit about the house whe was working in, so she’s a little nervous though she has no ideas what their issues were.

Venetian Plaster 1



If you’d like to tune in to find out how this, and other, rooms turned out and if the previous owners approved, tune in tomorrow evening, Tuesday, July 28 at 8pm to find out. Hopefully they will show more than 2 seconds of it. You never know what will and won’t end up on the cutting room floor with these shows! I think it’s lovely Joyce!!

This is the first post in a series I’m calling “Artist’s Who Care”….because there really ARE more important things in the world than pretty patterns. Yes, it’s true.

My friend Cynthia Davis is a talented decorative artist…. but her most important focus these days is as a devoted board member of Hope For Ariang, a non profit organization which is helping to bring primary education to war torn areas of Sudan. Cynthia is working closely with Hope’s founder, Gabriel Bol Deng, one of the “Lost Boys of Sudan“.   


Gabriel was 10 years old when North Sudan government-sponsored militiamen led a violent attack on his village in South Sudan in 1987. He fled, not knowing the fate of his parents or siblings. After his escape, Gabriel embarked on a harrowing, four month journey across the Nile River and the untold miles of desert, surviving disease and paralyzing hunger to reach Ethiopia. While at the Dimma Refugee Camp in Ethiopia, Gabriel first learned English by writing on cardboard with pieces of charcoal. Four years later, he fled from violence again, leaving Ethiopia and traveling cross-country to Kenya, where with the help of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Gabriel received an education at the Kakuma Refugee Camp.

In 2001, Gabriel came to the United States, and along with other Sudanese refugees he received help resettling in New York State. After settling in Syracuse in 2001, Gabriel earned an Associate’s of Arts degree in Mathematics and Science at Onondaga Community College in 2004.  He then continued with his education at Le Moyne College where he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics Education and Philosophy, in 2007.  He was named “Student Teacher of the Year” by the Education Department.


In May 2007 Gabriel returned to South Sudan after 20 years to search for his family, a journey documented in the upcoming film ‘Rebuilding Hope’. Upon his return, he founded Helping Offer Primary Education (HOPE) for Sudan with a mission to provide educational opportunities and health services to Sudanese people adversely affected by political turmoil in Sudan. Gabriel has thrived in the United States and is now working to help his village enhance their education by building, maintaining and supporting the Ariang School. He strongly believes that education is key to achieving lasting peace and development in his native Sudan.


Cynthia became involved with Gabriel’s organization through her daughter Stephanie’s high school work with Students Taking Action Now in Darfur. To date, she  has helped the organization raise over $20,000 by working to introduce Gabriel and his powerful story around the state of Connecticut.  An even more personal touch-she now sells her home-baked granola, “Cereal of Hope” at local farm market’s and to devoted customers, helping to raise an additional $1400. With the help of these fundraising efforts, the organization has now drilled 4 wells in Southern Sudan and plans on breaking ground on a first school there this December.

If you’re like me, you may not find the time to work on fundraising, help dig wells, build a school, or even bake granola….but it only takes few minutes and a few dollars to make a difference. Yes, it’s true.


July 13th, 2009

LM Pagano LA House Tour

While cruising around the internet this past weekend I came across a “home tour” of the colorful LA home of LM Pagano on the Los Angeles Times website. Pagano herself has quite a colorful life and past: she made shirts for Bob Dylan out of antique fabrics, embroidered jeans for David Lee Roth, cooked for Speilberg and has decorated numerous homes for Nicolas Cage and even Johnny Depp’s yacht (most impressive!). Oh yeah, she’s also an accomplished jazz singer. SOME people!!






I love, love LOVE this blue color and all these adorable Chinese dolls. Don’t you just want some?

July 7th, 2009

Trend Alert-Florals

House Beautiful is one of my favorite home magazines (esp. now that it’s one of the few left!), and I always tune in to their “Trend Alerts”.


Hmmm. Florals, you say? Well, it just so happens that we are releasing our latest stencil patterns this week and there are LOTS of florals in the bunch. I just love staying ahead of the trends…..


Blossoming Allover Stencil


Flower Patch Stencil


Kimono Allover Stencil


Berry Romantic Stencil


Butterfly and Peony Stencil

I’m having so much fun creating new finishes with these to debut at the IDAL convention in 2 weeks! You may have noticed I haven’t been posting much-SORRY! All these and more now available through Royal Design Studio here.

I’ve also been playing with our new Facebook Fan Page, posting lots of photos and “insider” info. Become a “fan” of Royal Design Studio and Modello Designs here http://bit.ly/MQoWI

BTW, if you’re “in the trade”, meaning a professional decorative painter or interior designer, we are now offering a Trade Discount on stencils of 20%. Email sales(at)royaldesignstudio.com for details!

June 26th, 2009

Persian Garden

Just browsing the blogs for something inspiring this morning….came across an Etsy link on Creature Comforts to the Persian Garden shop of Afsaneh Tajvidi, offering prints of her original graphic illustrations based on Persian art and design themes.



Afsaneh and her sister Azedeh also design pretty websites, jewelry and create many other lovely things…..



Thought you might enjoy seeing some BEAUTY coming out of Iran this week.

June 23rd, 2009

New Stencil Sneak Peek

Well, it’s that time of year again! Time when all my thoughts turn to the completely ridiculous and unrealistic amount of things I want to accomplish for the annual IDAL Convention. (formerly The Stencil Artisans League-now the International Decorative Artisans League). Funny how last minute stress gets all the creative juices flowing! We will have a booth there for the 15th year in a row (surely a record worthy of some sort of prize….) and of course all my best intentions to be “ahead of the game” at this point for creating new designs and inspiring educational materials vanished in the weeks that seem to just fly by. WhatEVER! What gets done, gets done. I know for sure that we will have about 30 new stencils to show. I haven’t worked these stencil designs up into decorative finishes just yet (after all I have a good two weeks to go) but can share some digital images of some that will be coming on line VERY shortly….


….at Royal Design Studio. Shown left to right, top to bottom: Tailfeathers Allover, Ribbon Damask, Morse Code, Curly Q, Hip to be Square, Akita Allover, Kimono Damask, Circling, and Berry Romantic Damask. Will keep you posted….

June 19th, 2009

Bella Vella

Earlier this week, I had a great day with “the girls”. You know the drill; lunch and shopping plastering! I had organized a little day trip for myself and Karen, Kari and Julie up the I-5 to the Vella Venetian Plaster Systems studio in Orange, CA.


The guys from Vella (that’s Ken (VP) and Brett), had been down to my studio in San Diego a couple months ago to demo the product to our local IDAL chapter. I was impressed by a lot of the aspects of the Vella product (inexpensive, ease of use, gorgeous color range, etc) and wanted to see more!


They generously (and wisely) offer free hands on training at their facility, where you can see the products applied on numerous walls and ceilings, get the run down on application, and try your hand at a few quick samples. Apparently, they do this a LOT because if you notice how the plaster is built out on the wall where Ken is demoing-that’s the build up of layers plaster where they keep going over with new coats to demonstrate the various steps in the process.


And a simple process it is! The Vella plaster requires no special primer and can go over anything from unprimed level 3 drywall to enamel paint. It starts with a quick allover basecoat  followed by an “interest” layer to create subtle highs and lows and color variations. There are just two main products, the Vella Premium Plaster (some lime) and the Liscio Plaster (all resin) and they can be used separately, layered, or even combined to make the plaster crack.


Of course, I wanted to see how it worked with our Modello Decorative Masking stencils and Royal Design Studio mylar stencils. The answer is: fabulous! The viscosity of the product makes it ideal for raised, embossed stencil effects and the strength and elasticity of it makes it great for Modellos.


The Vella plaster does need to be sealed with carnauba wax and that is where the real fun begins. They have clear and pretinted wax colors and easy mixing formulas for also adding mica powders in. You can layer the waxes, buff, not buff, blend while still wet with buffing to create a color wash effect…green-sample

Another easy way to alter the look is to throw some crushed marble or clean sandbox sand (30 mesh) into the Vella for the first layer. Adding the aggregate allow for a look that resembles travertino and give you a nice textured look.


Here are Kari’s samples, showing a coordinating smooth and textured finish.


Apparently, they don’t generally add the sand to the Liscio (all resin) product, just the Vella. Julie unknowingly added the sand to the Liscio and it’s awesome! This is just two plaster layers, plus wax. Love the texture, love the crackle! We were literally in and out of there in two hours and nailed down a bunch of great finish ideas and some beautiful samples. Kari even sold a job the next day…

Want more bennies? The first layer of Vella will bridge orange peel and knockdown textures so you can do a two layer finish over those hideous walls and be done, OR just use the Vella as a filler for something else. The carnauba wax can be rolled over with Kilz primer down the road when it’s time for a change, and this product runs 30-50 cents a square foot from start to finish. It is available in or through Sherwin Williams stores around the country as well as other local suppliers. Vella Venetian Plaster System.

June 17th, 2009

Indian Summer

I’ve been loving Les Indiennes for a long time, but think that the look of their fresh block printed fabrics is especially appropriate for summertime. Owner Mary Mulcahy has simplified the beautiful and organic motifs that are traditionally used in Indian decoration and printed them in limited color palettes on fabric and paper.



I love the fact that the company now provided fair trade employment for over 50 families in India…



I also love (and covet) their amazing flip book. It is beautifully arranged and designed and puts all the patterns and products into a very cozy context.


PS I just discovered a very “readable” new blog. You may want to check it out. Thank You For Asking: A woman starring in her own movie that no one is watching. Be sure to start with the beginning post. I think I’m hooked on this “novel” novel!