November 15th, 2009

Inspired by: Elsa Mora

I’ve just spent many magical minutes traveling through the amazing art, mind and world of Elsa Mora.


“Elsita” is a Cuban-born artist, mother, and “hollywood wife” who is amazingly talented in a seemingly endless array of mediums. She has multiple blogs on her general art and her intricate papercutting projects, as well as a store.  Just a few delightful things by Elsita….

elsita 1

elsita 1b


elsita 6


elsita 5

…blossom buddies…

elsita 3

…doll houses…

elsita 4

…beautiful dresses…

elsita 7


elsita 2

…and illustrations. Absolutely NOT to be missed is her blog on personal style, which she seems to have in spades, as well as a generous heart and a nurturing spirit.

October 30th, 2009

Halloween Treat

It’s Halloweentime at Modello Designs and I always like to share our little group of Modello team members.


We had 4 people that couldn’t attend this year  due to illness, school, or vacation, but those who were there put forth a solid effort to win our annual costume contest…


….Melanie acted out her recent fondness for 80′s hair bands..


…Eric had a teachable moment…


…Lauren pretended to be “catty”..


….Jerome was a shy, giggling geisha…


….Michelle dripped cuteness as a melting snow cone…


…Tara honored her Boston Irish roots…


…Tony channeled our very own Maynard…


…and Natalie was a wayward rag doll. Happy Halloween everyone!
PS The winner was Jerome

October 28th, 2009

A Table or Two Please

Just in time for you to start thinking about all those handcrafted Christmas gifts you’ll be giving this year….I give you a fabulous little stenciled side table treatment from Dagmar Alexandersson! Dagmar created these  lovely custom tables recently as a wedding present. She used acrylic paints and tile stencils from Royal Design Studio to create the look of embroidered table cloths on some simple fold-up tray tables. I adore the added tassels! 




Dagmar was a welcome addition to our group on the Umbria Italy Painting Trip with Gary Lord and myself last May. Gary and I are finalizing the fabulous details for a return trip to Umbria and Tuscany in early October 2010. Please email me at melanie(at) if you’d like to be placed on the priority list for notification when we open up registrations in a couple of weeks.

October 26th, 2009

High Style in High Point

My good friend, Barb Skivington, has undeniably one of the loveliest decorative finishing teaching studios in the whole country-Faux Works Studio in High Point, NC. Besides a state-of-the-art studio area, it also includes an elegant showroom full of interesting decorative treatments. Many of the featured treatments incorporate Modello patterns. Am I biased? Maybe. Are they fabulous? Definitely. Take a look…



Multiple Modern Allover patterns are worked into an allover metallic wall treatment. The tile idea is a great way to work in different patterns and slight color variations while maintaining a cohesive look, don’t you think??


This is one of our exclusive Marquetry patterns, MarqAll106 done on cork tiles in the coffee bar area. One of the benefits of staining pattern on unfinished cork tiles (as we did also in our showroom spaces at Modello Designs) is that you can do the pattern work prior to installation-much easier than working down on the floor!


An allover Eastern Lattice pattern, EasAll106, painted on a table in the teaching studio.


Some custom Typography to define different workshops and the unique finishes that Barb teaches.

Barb will be teaching one of her famous cabinet finishes classes here at our San Diego studio this November. The class is sold out, but you can find Barb teaching both at her own studio and other great studios around the country throughout the year-including a “date-to-be determined” back here in San Diego. Just check the Workshop page on the Faux Works Studio website.

October 25th, 2009

Ready, Set, Photo-Part Two

Here are some more inspiring images from the forthcoming Modello by Design-Inspiring Images from Artist’s Portfolios, Part 2. These are all from a talented single artist-Rita Melnick.



A beautiful frieze using TransBor116


Modified panels.


Lovely Art Deco, lined leaves with ModAll111


A simple architectural frame pulled from our Chambord Carpet and Panel pattern.


An interesting wall “bump-out” that looks like a 3-panel screen using OrnTile162

Pssst! Don’t be shy-don’t forget-submit YOUR project photos by October 31…..get the details here….

October 23rd, 2009

Ready, Set, Photo-Part One

Back in June, 2008 we published the first edition of Modello by Design-Inspiring Images from Artist’s Portfolios. Featuring the work of 80 different decorative artisans using our Modello patterns, this book has become a definitive resource tool for ideas, inspiration, and enticement for incorporating Modellos into interior and exterior projects. Our next edition will be released in early 2010, and we’ve been receiving some fabulous photos that really highlight the range of options and applications for decorative pattern in surface finishes…


A custom fireplace surround by Joy Conway using a modified version of EasPan109


Beautiful handpainted ceramic bowl by Jeff Raum using Royal Design Studio’s Elegancia Border as a Modello around the edge.



TransBor132 used by Joannie Gaillardia in a decorator showhouse.


Virgina Weathersby’s simple yet highly elegant custom curtains using OrnBor132


Hand painted detailing by Deanne Cunningham over OrnCen 130 on a custom tabletop.

Krista Vind

ModAll124 on a contemporary art canvase by Krista Vind.

The deadline for submitting professional-quality project photos for the next Modello by Design book is fast approaching-October 31, 2009. You can find all the details and directions here!

October 6th, 2009

The Reviews are In

The reviews are in for the very first Virtual Workshop, Foilin’ Around. It was a “challenge” working through some of the technical difficulties and limitations of the webinar format, but I think I “have it down” now! I need to thank my great inaugural group for their patience, support, contribution, AND nice comments!

Just finished Melanie’s Virtual Workshop. It was great!! It was just like we were there. As usual, Mel gives mor than I expected for something like this. The foils are awesome in their own beauty!! Didn’t realize they could add so much to a finish. -Janet Gonzales

Loved it!!! Awesome job Melanie! Looking forward to many more; very inspiring! THANK YOU!!! -Denise Lindstrom

I have already learned alot from the videos and can’t wait to play around with some of these finishes. I really also appreciate the chance to purchase these items at this great rate. Thanks again for putting this together and I’m sure I’ll be taking your future virtual workshops. -Mignon Hunter

I loved, loved, loved this innovative virtual class!  No matter how much you think you know about this business, there is always something new to learn — and I learned so much from this session.  We’ve already reproduced several of the finishes with great success.  The videos were clear and concise and beautifully filmed and the supporting documentation was detailed and completed the experience.  This was definitely worth my time and I’m looking forward to the next — Stencil Impressions.  Thank you Melanie for always being such a great source for knowledge and inspiration. -Barb Skivington/Faux Works

Thanks so much for all the work you put into the Foilin’ Around virtual workshop.  And it’s obvious that you put a LOT of work into that class. I’ve always been an admirer of your innovative finishes and your ability to describe the techniques so well in person and in writing.  The virtual workshops take your talents to a whole new level, and I’m pleased to have been a participant in your first virtual workshop. I’m glad you decided to have students in future workshops view the videos in advance of the online discussion. When I viewed the videos I did have some questions, but I found the answers in your Power Point presentation.  But still, I found the real-time online discussion to be interesting and informative. Thanks for all you do in the world of decorative finishing. -Kate Kiernan


The trick to doing anything well in the end, I think, is to make it “look” like it was easy all along. Whether it’s a decorative finish, an edited video, or a 3 minute samba on Dancing With the Stars, that final shining ”ta da” moment only comes after a lot of mistakes, lessons learned, dedication to keep moving forward, and hours of grinding out a lot of practice and hard work. Once the memories of all the stress, hair pulling, and performance jitters fade, you find that you actually CAN do something, anything really,  by always venturing to take one more step forward, no matter what. Sometimes that requires a bit of back-stepping as well, but that’s all part of the dance, isn’t it? Next up, Stencil Impressions……

September 29th, 2009

Foilin Around Virtual Workshop

I’m going to tell you a secret. I’m in the middle of a major love affair. With Metallic Foils. I began innocently enough…I thought I’d do it just once…maybe twice, and get it out of my system. Then I fell into the shiny, shimmery trap. It’s so easy to do and so hard to resist….I keep going back. There is so much to explore, so many senses to touch, so many creative desires to fulfill!

As time wore on, I discovered new ways to do it with stencils, Modello patterns, different techniques, unusual tricks. My passion isn’t fading. I need to share it. I want everyone to feel the way I feel…and so, I now offer you the chance to indulge YOURself with-the Foilin Around Virtual Workshop

I’ve shared the results of my passion here before, and even as recently as the canvases I just created for our HD Boutique booth, all done with Metallic Foils. I’ve stocked our shelves with the most amazing colors, and even given them more enticing pricing. If you don’t want to make a HUGE commitment (just have lunch!), we have metallic foils both by the roll AND by the yard…..tempting, aren’t they??

Our first Foilin Around Virtual Workshop is this Thursday at 6:30pm EST. You can enroll in the class up until noon on the day of the workshop. Remember, no travel required. I’ll come to you….

….and if you missed it, all the details on Virtual Workshops are just below.

September 28th, 2009

A New Lesson Plan

I distinctly remember driving to teach my first-ever stencil class to a group of 4 at at a downtown art gallery some 16 years ago. Always battling shyness and a mortal fear of public speaking growing up, my nerves made me so nauseous I didn’t think I would make it through the first five minutes. Fortunately, I never barfed all over my stencil brushes, and I think even managed to teach and inspire my little group about the joys of artistic stenciling. Growing little by little from that class to teaching 100′s of decorative artists from all over the country in my own studio, and even traveling all over the country myself to teach 100′s  more students in other’s studios-I started feeling like I finally “had it down”.

Apparently though, being comfortable is not REALLY a comfortable place for ME (just a personal, objective observation based on years of experience living with myself). Instead of continuing on with a tried and true formula, I decided that I HAD to do something different. This wasn’t a completely rash decision….it was based on some real facts: the economy sucks and it’s hard for people to bear the high cost of travel, new technology makes it easier to deliver information and knowledge in cost effective, cutting edge ways, and our time has become a precious commodity with many demands on it. There HAS to be another way to learn new decorative finishing techniques than taking a whole week away from work and home to incur the travel and lodging costs that are necessary to get quality studio training from an experienced, creative professional. The web has become a fast and powerful tool for communication and information sharing though video, downloads, and chat….

…and so I decided to create Virtual Workshops for professional decorative finishers-and those that aspire to be!

The idea is to pack the new information and skills you normally gain from a whole 3-day studio class into a few hour evening session, with me, at your computer screen. By using a combination of pre-recorded videos (1 for each technique) interspersed with powerpoint presentations, additional documentation, commentary, and question/answer sessions, I feel that I can impart my knowledge and experience in a most effective way. Unlike a regular class though, students will have access to the WHOLE recorded session that they can go back and review at any time-you know, in case someone wasn’t paying attention….

Once you’ve got the critical information and watched ME do it, how about the hands on!? Well, that’s on YOUR own time and schedule….you can spend the Saturday after the Thursday evening class banging out a slew of beautiful new sample boards to add to your portfolio (suggested!)-or sleep in and just do one here and one there. Each Virtual Workshop includes a complete list of the patterns, material, and tools needed to complete each new finish. You are welcome to purchase any and all of these from us at Modello Designs, at discounted prices with free shipping. Or not! Most professional decorative finishers will already have the majority of the tools, supplies and mediums needed to recreate the finishes already in their studio closets, or garage, or car, or wherever you guys keep all that stuff!

But where’s the class camaraderie?? A lot of the fun of a hands-on workshop is the sharing that goes on with other students, and it adds a lot to the learning process as people share their own experiences, tips, war stories, and successes. To bring this important aspect into Virtual Workshops we have created a special, private message board where attendees can continue to chat, post photos, and ask more questions. There are always more questions….

…and so what is the cost for these killer 3-day class-in-a-bottle sessions that include ongoing review and support at any time, that you don’t have to leave home or take a week off work to attend, that don’t include airfare, gas or hotel expenses, you ask? Well, I say, a mere $150. But wait-actually less, because your enrollment includes a $50 credit towards product purchases post-session!

So, if you’re open to learning something (actually a LOT of things) new in a new way, meet  me in one of our Thursday evening Virtual Workshop sessions around 6:30 EST. My public speaking skills are greatly improved, I’m just a little bit shy, and yes, my stomach is a bit nervous…..

September 22nd, 2009

Modello, Me, and Miami

Well, everything arrived in one piece for the Modello Designs booth at the  HD Boutique Show (other than all the things that still needed to be assembled on site. that is), and after two days of sweating in an un-air conditioned convention center (they never have the air on when they have the loading dock doors open) we had-A TENT!


We (me and Barb) stuck vinyl stars on the outside, mirrored stars on the inside, finished off the large mirror’s decoration, hung still sticky canvases, hot-glued 40′ of beaded trim, laid tiles, hung doodads, made multiple shopping runs for last minute details like additional lights and flickering battery-operated candles, and phew! we had it done.


True to form, in the shower on the morning of the first day of the show I was already plotting how completely differently I was going to design NEXT year’s booth, but in the meantime there was THIS year to attend to.


“So, you do textiles?” “floor tiles?” “cabanas?” “custom mirrors?” “table bases?” Yes, yes, we do ALL of that, OR “we provide custom patterns for decorative surface finishes”. We witnessed both light bulbs going on and blank looks. It’s never easy to explain how you do “everything”, is it?? But, we did, hundreds of times…..


Like, “no, we don’t do punched tin lighting fixtures, but we CAN lasercut acrylic mirror into any shape….


…or do really cool custom canvases for wall hangings, cabana/tent “walls”, or faux granite/marble inlaid tabletops…


….as well as patterned patinated custom mirrors that are self-framed with a gilded decorative border….


….or tell a story about love.”


After all that ‘splain it felt really good to drink Caribbean-inspired cocktails and relax poolside at the elegant Mondrian hotel on the intercoastal in Miami Beach.


We didn’t provide the patterns that they used for the amazing sandblasted pattern in the decorative concrete decking…..but we could! Remember, we do EVERYTHING….

Bottom line: Miami is a pretty cool place to visit, with a frenetic energy that could come from the exotic, sensous, highly latin-influenced culture-or the drug trade. The scenery is beautiful, the food is tasty, and the water is warm. The HD Boutique Show was officially a success for us, with lots of great contacts, feedback, and potential future projects…pitching a tent there was well worth the effort…..and I’ll be back!