February 16th, 2009

Amazing Lace, How Sweet

Still reliving Marrakech, our loveliest project was stenciling a large custom lace pattern on a little sweetheart’s floor. Maryam wrote a beautiful post about her daughter here, and we were lucky to get an assist from darling Skylar herself.

Lace Stencil

She was very patient, meticulous, and quite proud-as well she should be!

Lace Stencil

The lace was simply done with grey concrete paint over a white base….

Lace Stencil

…and the large pattern was completed using two different sections. The stencil is NOW available through our Royal Design Studio website here. I so enjoyed working out this lace pattern that I am anxious to do more. Imagine how inspired I feel to have come back across a website for artist Cal Lane that I archived months ago that features gorgeous lace patterns used quite unexpectedly. As in….

Cal Lane

Wheelbarrows and shovels….

Cal Lane


Cal Lane

…oil drums…

Cal Lane

…and car parts.

This work is reminiscent of that from the Designed in Dust post and Cal also plays off that idea in some of her installation work. These patterns here are all plasma-cut from steel objects with the idea of creating “desirable oppositions”. From the artist’s statement

I like to work as a visual devil’s advocate, using contradiction as a vehicle for finding my way to an empathetic image, an image of opposition that creates a balance – as well as a clash – by comparing and contrasting ideas and materials.This manifested in a series of “Industrial Doilies”, pulling together industrial and domestic life as well as relationships of strong and delicate, masculine and feminine, practical and frivolity, ornament and function. There is also a secondary relationship being explored here, of lace used in religious ceremonies as in weddings, christenings and funerals.

This work truly blows me away. Let there be lace!

Updated 2/27/09
Skylar’s Lace is an international sensation (thanks to Maryam’s gorgeous photos and insane popularity). How cool that is it featured on Design*Sponge, de (coeur) acao, ZSOFI berendez!, Wide Open Spaces and More Ways to Waste Time. I don’t even know what language some of these are in but I’m grateful!

February 14th, 2009

Three Minute Romance

It’s NOT what you think! In celebration of Valentines Day, Eric and I are going to revisit our romantic roots tonight-on the dance floor. You see, we were two lonely tango dancers whose paths (and legs) crossed almost exactly 7 years ago at a social milonga. Tango dancing is often described as a “three minute romance”, as most songs are about that long and you get to get up close and personal with someone you may or may not know (or want to) in a perfectly innocent setting with no strings attached. Most of the time, you share two or three dances, say thank you, and then politely “move on”. In our case, when the “tall, cute guy” asked me to dance, we stayed together on the dance floor for about 15 songs. After a polite break, we did it again! I knew right away that he was THE ONE. I still do. Happy Valentines Day!

Tango Dancing
Tango Dancing
Tango Dancing

and, yes, I want that skinny body back!

February 13th, 2009

Umbria on my mind

I’m keeping my traveling shoes ready by the door and my travel cosmetic bag stocked with miniscule amounts of shampoo and body lotion. Why? Another Italy trip is on the horizon with my bud Gary Lord. You may recall our last trip (October 2007) where we took a group to Florence to paint at the San Bartolo studio of Alison Wooley? Well, the Corsini family, who own the lovely Fattoria di Maiano where we stayed just outside Florence also have extensive properties throughout Italy. At one point in history, you could walk from Florence to Rome and never leave their property! These are the kinds of ancestors I WISH I had, but instead will have to experience their real estate holdings vicariously through staying and painting at some of them. Actually, the Contessa is an amazingly beautiful, down-to-earth, hard working woman who we were all quite taken with.


This trip, we will be traveling to the heart of Umbria for the first ten days of May 2009 to live, learn and work at the Castello di Casigliano. It is in a lovely, more rural setting amongst wheat and sunflower fields and surrounded by quaint, classic Italian hill towns.

Italy Castle Painting Trip

Our main project will be to transform the banquet room that has been newly built along side the ancient castle with some plastering, stenciling and handpainting.

Florence Art

The amazingly talented Alison will be joining us and providing the artwork for the pilasters. Shown above are two of her proposals that have been submitted to the owners. Aren’t they lovely?? We will also be teaching some fabulous new finishes there that are being developed exclusively for our group of 20. There are just a few openings left. Would you like to join us? Please find all the details on our upcoming Umbria trip here. Musings on our last trip here.

February 11th, 2009

Patterns of Lovely Light

I have SO many favorite things about Marrakech, but one of my favoratists is the amazing punched metal lanterns and the lacy patterns that they cast like metal stencils on the beautifully polished tadelakt walls.

Morocco lanterns

 Morocco lanterns

Morocco lanterns

Morocco lanterns

Morocco lanterns

Morocco lanterns

Morocco lanterns

Aren’t these just to die for?! I think that I must do some stencil patterns to achieve this look!

Photographed by Vicki Shultz at magical Le Tanjia. At night, of course…..

February 7th, 2009

Henna Party

I never shared the stair riser project that our first group did at Peacock Pavilions last May. My bad! This first set of “themed” risers is what inspired the most recent round. Those, in turn, were inspired by this blog post, where Maryam saw something that I designed here at our studio with all different stained border patterns.


The stairs we did in May were actually seen in this photo from Maryam’s blog, but they were covered with all our tired bodies, so here is the big reveal…..




and here….


and here. The theme was henna patterns, and I had TOO MUCH fun reworking classic henna designs into the borders for these stairs. We worked them in a simple color palette of three colors chosen to coordinate with the marble stair treads. These designs were stenciled directly on the painted plaster risers….


under very adverse working conditions…..


so to prime ourselves for the project we had a fun little henna party. The henna has long since faded, but the memories are still lovely. Good times!

February 3rd, 2009

Go Forth and Multiply

It’s amazing how a little design idea can snowball into something bigger, especially in one’s own head. Maryam had suggested a stair riser project similar to the one that we did last May in the 3 bedroom quest house (which I will share next…..). “If you could just do three different patterns and we could alternate them it would be great”, she said. I think she knows me too well by now! Of course three patterns simply wouldn’t do, as I told you here.

Moroccan Stencils Royal Design

How about 22 patterns, one unique for each stair riser? Well….OK! So, the paint-covered, used stencils piled up….

Moroccan Stencils Royal Design

…..as the ladies (here Heather and Margaret) took their time stenciling by a roaring fire to make sure that each was perfect….

Moroccan Stencils Royal Design

….and they are….

Moroccan Stencils Royal Design

….filling up a large dining table and waiting for Chris to CAREFULLY install them on the wooden staircase he has built.

Cottage Living Stair Risers

I imagine that they will look something like this photo from Cottage Living, which shows black and white patterns done on riser with tile. Most of these stencil patterns will be available shortly through Royal Design Studio (some in larger scales), and they will be equally lovely done in the classic bright tile colors of Morocco. 

February 2nd, 2009

Help! I’ve been sucked in!



So, I’ve been sucked into the facebook vortex and I can’t get out. All this social networking is beginning to feel like a social disease or just another addiction…..Would you like to join and be my friend so we can stay in touch 24/7 and then some??? LOL, kidding aside, it IS kind of fun. Here, precious……. 

January 30th, 2009

Art Deco Mural After Rateau

I’m back and ready to share some more Marrakech experiences from our recent painting project at Peacock Pavilions.

I want to share my absolute favorite project from the trip-and I loved creating them all! This was my favorite not only because the “inspiration” was so divine, but it allowed me to stretch my artistic muscles a bit. You see, I spend WAY to much time focusing on my computer keyboard and business matters these days in favor of actually doing the artistic design work that got me brought me to this point in my life. I hope to find more balance between the two this year!!

Rateau Art Deco Screen

Armand Albert Rateau is the artist who created this amazing paneled screen for Jean Lanvin. Rateau is the decorating force behind Lanvin’s famous Paris apartment in rue Barbey-de-Jouy, which has been now partially conserved in the Paris Museum of Decorative Arts. I will be making a beeline for that place the next time I am lucky enough to visit Paris for sure!

Modello Mural in Morocco

The space is a headboard wall of one of the guest rooms, approximately 12.5′ wide by 11.5′ high. The artwork above shows the computer mockup of the design that was created by using a combination of Modello Decorative Masking Patterns and reusable mylar stencils (for the scattered flowers and stars). While I did borrow a couple of the leaf motif shapes from the original, the majority of the mural was created afresh to personalize it to Peacock Pavilions while attempting to maintain the Art Deco feel of the original.

Marrakech Modello Mural

A deep decorative dado was added to unify the wall and to also provide a painted decorative headboard to the beds, which will need to be positioned both as single twin beds and a double bed, depending on guest’s needs. Here, Margaret and Pam are laying out the initial panels that anchor the mural.


The Modello masking portion of the mural was divided into sections that easily fit together, following a key. We found that we had to complete each section at a time quickly, as a cold, damp, outward facing wall was repelling the adhesive. It rained quite a bit on the days we were working. We actually came back after lunch one day to find a piece lying crumpled on the floor. EEEEK!!

Marrakech Modello Mural

Above, Rebecca and Vicki are wrestling to remove the Transfer Tape while keeping pattern on the wall while the deer (and me) watched expectantly. These ladies were soooo patient and calm-skills needed by every decorative painter as “challenges” are inherent to most projects it seems! The olive tree was included, of course, because Peacock Pavilions sits in the middle of a beautiful olive grove!

Marrakech Modello Mural

The finishing touches were applied with stencils. Here, Cynthia is following the graphic to apply some of the random flowers and stars with stencils. You may be wondering how this beautiful gold effect was achieved. I toyed with the idea of using either metallic paint or real composition gold leaf, but opted instead to use one of my favorite quick and easy methods for creating a gilded effect: We combined Mica Powders at a ratio of 1:1 with Aquacreme (a scumble-type glaze medium) to create a thick, opaque, glimmering stencil “gel”. It dries fairly quickly when applied with a dry brush method, so you can layer quickly for dense coverage-even over black. We used 3 different colors, randomly applied, to achieve a somewhat “tarnished”, aged look.

Marrakech Modello Mural

It makes quite a lovely backdrop for a group photo, I think! Our hard working, hard shopping Peacock Painters this time were: (back row) Pam Grace, Margaret von Kaenel, Cynthia Davis, Barbara Rasmussen, Robin Johnston, Heather Bruno Sears, Melanie Royals, and (front row) Rebecca Hotop, Vicki Schultz, and Gwen Ware.

Marrakech Modello Mural

Maryam and me….

Marrakech Modello Mural

……the full view…..

Marrakech Modello Mural

…and a detail. Can you imagine how fun it will be to sleep under the watchful eye of these friendly creatures? I can’t wait to see how Maryam beautifully decorates this room, but I know it will be stunning. Individual patterns and motifs avalable soon through Modello Designs!

I’m obsessed with repetitive pattern. I am particularly fond of tile patterns. I have a MAJOR THING for order and symmetry. I am particularly captivated by the Zellij tile patterns that are literally everywhere in Morocco, with their underlying meaning of infinity and the omnipresent center. They just draw me in….

Zellij Tile Stencils

So when Maryam proposed painting another set of stair risers for our upcoming painting project at Peacock Pavilions and sent me this inspiration….

Madeline Weinrib

I began pour through my pattern books and photos for appropriate Zellij tile patterns that I thought would be PERFECT for this series.

Zellij Tile Stencils

I found some….

Zellij Tile Stencils

and some more….

Zellij Tile Stencils

and yet more….maybe I’m taking this “infinity” thing a little too much to heart?

Zellij Tile Stencils

But are these not AMAZING?! Many thanks to Michelle here, who worked with me turn these classic and universally appealing patterns into stencils (available next month on the Royal Design Studio website) in record time.

This website has some fabulous information on the history, use, and significance of Zellij patterns in Moroccan decoration. It’s a must read!

Want more photos?? There is a fantastic Zellij Tile set here on Flickr.

BTW Maryam’s My Marrakech blog is a finalist in the 2008 Weblog Awards in the Best Middle East or Africa Blog category and she needs YOUR vote! You can vote here through Tuesday, January 13th.

January 4th, 2009

Gardz: Gotta love it

One of the issues that crops up occasionally with people using our Modello Decorative Masking Patterns is that the adhesive vinyl can pull the underlaying paint or finish off with it if the surface underneath wasn’t properly prepared and primed. What often happens in new construction is that the whole place is a dust bin, drywall mud is inherently chalky, and the painters will not properly clean and prime the surface prior to painting. Obviously, a layer of paint is not going to stick very well to a layer of dust! Apply tape or another adhesive backed material to it and pull it off and, well,  it’s NOT a pretty picture.


SO-when we were doing the build out on our new space here I needed some “insurance” for all those surfaces I knew I was going to be adding pattern with Modellos. Fortunately, I discovered Gardz-an amazing clear emulsion that virtually locks down the drywall and joint compound surfaces prior to painting. Using this makes your surface almost bulletproof. Case in point? My poor, neglected office that I sit in everyday and wish for a wish that would let me snap my fingers and make it done-like “poof”!


I put these Modello patterns up 9 month ago. Yes, it’s a very pathetic situation that I’ve been staring at this half-done ceiling for 9 mos., but also a great science experiment. You can see from these photos that the Modello pattern is pulling off NOTHING as it’s removed. Seriously, this is nothing short of amazing. The green tape has turned super sticky and the white vinyl is so old it’s almost cracking, but the paint surface underneath?? It’s perfect!


This is the room that has the above patterned floor I showed you here. I know what your thinking: All that pattern and all those bright colors must look Gawd awful. I swear it doesn’t-and I’ll prove it to you if and when I EVER finish this room.

Red Kitchen Island.jpg
Openwork chair.jpg

I have some added inspiration now that I’ve just ordered some additional furniture for it from my favorite catalog source-Gumps. This red kitchen island (for a storage piece) and two of these chairs (for important “executive” meetings)-both in the same red as the little accent table above, are all I need to kick by butt in gear to get this room done. I hope.