Design Drama Causing Family Drama?

Oy! I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been put in the middle of couples drama over a home design or renovation. Very recently Gregg and I were asked to take a look a home in the Hollywood Hills built in the 1940′s and prime for renovation. The couple, who had been living in the house for over three years were STUCK on what to do with the property, simply because they could not agree.  We offered to meet with them at the home and then again the following weekend to see if we could help create a mutual vision for their property.  We rarely do this with no commitment from these potential clients, but we created a scheme based on what WE would do to the property for ourselves.   This scheme was also what we felt would be the best possible return on investment.  The follow up meeting was set, and we presented our terrific proposed design to them…except, only one of them showed up.  The problem with this couple is that, only one of them really wanted to do a project at all and therefore, the ‘no show’ spouse held all the cards. Obviously, we ran for the “hills”.  Shortly after this unfortunate experience, I was introduced to Michael Bova from Chicago (my home town), and he presented us with  this idea for a guest post which we are happy to share.

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Design Disagreements Causing Family Drama?

Compromise without Losing Your Vision:

There are few things in life more stressful than remodeling your home.  Sure, it’s a first world problem, but big renovations can cause very real tension between couples and family members.

Living amid dust and debris and having limited use of parts of your home is quite trying, but perhaps the most difficult part of the process comes long before demo.  It’s likely that you and your significant other have different tastes and preferences when it comes to design, and even more likely that you’ll butt heads during the planning stage. It’s important not to let your disagreements get in the way of a great end product or sour the experience, which should be fun and exciting.  Here are a few pointers that will help you avoid a civil war over countertops.

Plan Early, Plan Often.  Before the dust starts flying (literally and figuratively), you should sit down together and have an open discussion about what you envision, in a big picture sense.  Come up with a few adjectives that sum up your ideal aesthetic for the project and see how they jive with your partner’s words – if yours are, “vintage, quirky, and artistic,” and your partner’s are, “modern, clean and minimalist,” you know you’ve got some work to do before you delve into the details.

Don’t feel like as if you need to plan all the specifics upfront.  You’ll easily become overwhelmed if you try to decide everything at once.  And, if you have very different visions, making too many choices at once could bring the whole proceeding to a standstill.  If a planning session becomes too fraught with disagreement and tension, it’s best to hit pause and circle back to the issue later.  That’s especially true because your opinions can change after you step away and return with fresh eyes.

Embrace Contradiction.  Some of the most beautiful and striking designs present a unique juxtaposition of multiple design aesthetics.  Just because you and your significant other don’t have the exact same style in mind doesn’t mean you can’t end up with a gorgeous space that represents you both.  Instead of battling one another to see whose vision will reign supreme, figure out a way to work in elements of the two visions together.  Maybe those industrial, concrete countertops your husband wants would look amazing with the traditional crystal chandelier you’ve been eyeing. 

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Pick Your Battles.  In design, as in life, it’s important to decide what’s most important to you and prioritize those things.  If you and your partner are fighting one another on every single detail, you won’t get anywhere.  You should each make a short list of things that are super important to you and things that you’re willing to bend on.  This way you can get the mosaic backsplash that makes your heart sing, and your partner can get the dark wood floors he or she has been drooling over.

Stay Open.  You may start out with a very particular idea about how everything will be, but if you are unwilling to compromise, you might as well quit now.  Your first choice is your favorite, but that doesn’t mean that every other option is worthless.  You owe your partner a genuine and serious consideration of their choices if you expect them to do the same for your preferences.  And you never know – you very well could end up being happily surprised by the fact that a different choice turns out to be the right one.

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Don’t Design Angry.  Major renovation projects usually involve pretty big financial and time commitments, so the process should be enjoyable.  After all, this arduous process should end in your dream room.  If the planning conversations in your family all end up in tears or shouts, it can have several negative consequences.  First, your inability to make decisions may end up creating unnecessary delays – you wouldn’t want to halt work while you fight about the color of the cabinets.  Also, this kind of acrimony will create long-term resentment.  If decisions are made in anger, you could end up hating the sight of a light fixture for the next 20 years of your life.

There’s no doubt that trying to meld two people’s very different renovation visions can test the limits of a relationship.  When you know that you’re going to be living with the design choices you make for a long time, each decision feels monumental.  But, remember that no matter how passionately committed you are to a certain color or style, getting your way sometimes just isn’t worth the trouble.

Michael Bova is the general manager of Top to Bottom Construction, a full-service general contractor specializing in interior remodeling, insulation, commercial construction, and roofing in Chicago[AG1] . They’ve been serving the Midwest for over 10 years with an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau. For more information, visit

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” I Love Paris When It Sizzles” …Design Week 2014

Gregg and I were  invited to join two of our favorite showrooms in Los Angeles for special events during Paris Deco Off 2014. A big Merci Beaucoup to the folks at Kneedler Fauchere and Donghia for organizing a very special experience for designers to visit the most famous creators in international decoration at their Parisian showrooms.  We especially want to thank Lee Winterstein at Donghia and the Kneedler Fauchere Family Doug Kinzley, Rocky La Fleur, Gina  Dewitt &  Mark Hemphill for being such gracious hosts.

Eiffel Tower Paris

Charles Paris hosted a wonderful party on the Seine below the Eiffel Tower and debuted their product line based on the designs of Felix Agostini. Charles Paris is represented by Donghia in Los Angeles.

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Gregg Wilson, David Pascual from Wimberly Interiors, Lee Winterstein from Donghia and Me.

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Andrea and Sandrina Rubelli  hanging out at the DJ Booth at the Charles Paris party on the Seine.  Donghia is dear to my heart, as a young (really young) designer I worked for Mr. Donghia (as we all called him), Angelo Donghia, in his New York design firm. The Donghia legacy lives on with the Rubelli Family.

Patrick and Pierre Frey

Patrick and and his son Pierre presenting Pierre Frey. The Frey’s hosted a very entertaining showing of their new line at the home of Vincent Frey for designers invited by Kneedler Fauchere.

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Doug Kinzley and Robin Rivera engrossed in the presentation by the Director of the Frey Archives.  Truly one of the best archives in the world of 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th century textiles.

Archive at Pierre Frey

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Nobilis Design Director showed off their new line with great panache.

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I was fascinated by the diverse “atelier” presentation styles of each fabric company. Loved the organization of the Dedar line in their showroom.

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 Interesting to see how Hermes translates their fashion design into decoration.

Paris Deco Off

Maienza Wilson at Studio Art

Our dear friend Patricia de Gramont with Gregg and Michele Ascione from Studio Art discussing their leather product designed and cut to look like lace, I like it … leather and lace.

Hotel de Ville, Paris

Arriving at the Hotel de Ville for the American Party in Paris.

Americans in Paris Party 2014

At the American Party in Paris with Mark Hemphill from Kneedler Fauchere, Stephan Jones, and the gorgeous Peggy and Tessa Platner. I have no idea how they ended up in exactly the same spot when I shot the pics .. not planned!

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Honestly, the best part of this coordinated event was meeting such wonderful and talented people. Hilary Hayes and Trevor Howells. They are Hayes & Howells now at the Kneedler Fauchere welcome brunch.

Marche Aux Puces

We had a ball hanging out with Rodrigo Vargas and his partner Erik. Vargas is background center, the handsome guy with arms crossed. We are at a breakfast at the Marche aux Puces with the Kneedler Fauchere clan organized by Andrew Joseph PR.


Nothin better than a “Big Bowl O’ Brioche”!  Right Mark?

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Andrew Joseph and Doug Kinzley listening to the presentation by Toma Clark Haines.

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 The Antiques Diva… Toma Clark Haines briefing designers at the Marche aux Puces.

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 Culinary merchandising perfection..

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 Fresh Oyster’s while you shop?

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 Studied merchandising is the norm at the market…

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Dejuener for vendors at the flea market.

Maienza Wilson Paris

Gregg Wilson and Mark Hempill on Rue Jacob

Inga Guzyte & Female Artists in Santa Barbara at DNA Gallery

She melted our hearts when we met her. In person Inga Guzyte is as stunning as her art.  Inga’s art is at once surprising, humorous,  unexpected, and out of the box creative! She is a skater who happens to fancy making art out of old skateboards as her primary medium. Yes! She repurposes old skateboards! Just think of the history that one board has…it fills my mind with the mythology of it all. Then, add Inga’s characters and you just want to take one home and hug it, or in the case of our friend hang it above your DJ Booth!  There is a story (the mythology) behind each one of her pieces. You must hear it from if  you’re in Santa Barbara this  First Thursday, come to Dichotomy at the DNA Gallery featuring women artists in Santa Barbara.



Inga Guzyte Artist

Inga Guzyte

Inga Guzyte for Pay Junction

Inga Guzyte Art

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DNA Gallery SB Inga Guzyte

Arriving in Rome With No Hotel: Are you a Platinum, Diamond, Preferred Platinum Member?

We had late bite last night with friends at our favorite local italian restaurant in Santa Barbara. Our waiter, Claudia, who we met at this restaurant 18 years ago, told us she was going to Italy for the first time on Tuesday…with no reservations!!!Marriott Rome

Courtesy: Rome Marriott Grand Hotel Flora

Claudia is traveling with her very handsome friend who was sitting at the bar waiting for her  to get off her shift.  Neither of them have been to Italy before and Claudia told us they were arriving without reservations at any hotel. Well, that animated the conversation quickly and Claudia’s  friend joined in. Suddenly there were four ‘seasoned’ Platinum, Diamond, Preferred Platinum….status travels slinging advice at these Italy ‘virgins’ from across the table.  Whether it was wanted advice or not, the couple was voraciously taking notes on a napkin!  It turns out Mr. Handsome Travel Companion was a Hilton Diamond member and Marriott Platinum member.  Rich, we learned, was an environmental hygienist and traveled constantly around the country working hard in a complex industry and not really tuning into his awards programs whatsoever.  It had not even occurred to him to contact the awards programs of either big brand hotels to help select a hotel in Rome or Florence.   We suggested he do so immediately because from personal experience we knew it would solve  their problem instantly.  This suggestion opened a debate about which awards program offered the best benefits, Marriott, Hilton or Starwood.  Gregg and I suggest the couple book at Marriott using his Platinum award status. We had stayed at the Rome Marriott Grand Hotel Flora and enjoyed the hotel, its location the design and amenities. The most important advice we gave them was don’t plan too much and be sure to  ”passeggiata”..stroll after dinner every night.


Hop Skip & Jump Towards Your Staycation: How about Ojai?

With how fast paced life can be these days, it’s easy to daydream about taking a lavish vacation, and consequently overlook the beauty that’s in our own backyards. A “staycation” is only a hop, skip and a jump away and can curb our appetite to get away.  Ojai Califonia is my personal “staycation” of choice. Granted, I do live in the paradise of the Santa Barbara bubble.  But for those of you who reside in a more urban setting, Ojai is definitely an amazing secret garden escape that everyone should explore. The last time we skipped out of town through the Santa Barbara Mountains we stayed at a lovely hotel called Chantico Inn and loved it! Free waffle breakfast, umm yes please!

Ojai Valley

Courtesy of Ojai Valley Inn & Spa

There is something truly special about this town. Apparently there’s a tradition that has been passed down for over 100 years, that my boyfriend and I were unknowingly made a part of on this visit. One of our friends recommended we have dinner at Sea Fresh Seafood, which turned out to be divine. When we finished and asked for our bill, the waitress informed us that our entire meal had been paid for by an anonymous guest. Evidently,  we had just joined the lucky community of couples who have been identified as  “young love”  and had the bill taken care of anonymously.   So cool!  So on our 20th staycation to Ojai, we will pay it forward!

Sea Fresh Seafood

So next time you start planning an extensive vacation, start by seeing what’s in your backyard and enjoy a staycation!

By the way, love this!  Check out Travel and Leisure 3 Days in Ojai.


Author: Jessica Girard



Careyes Mexico, A Colorful & Private Getaway

Wow was it hot!  So humid that there was no evaporation to cool your body down.  The only answer was to get into the water, late July in Mexico. We were invited to hang out with a friend who owns a  a casita on the luxurious, beautiful and oh so colorful Costa Careyes.


Photo: Courtesy  Tripadvisor

Casa Mango Careyes infinity pool

Beautiful infinity pool at Casa Mango  overlooking the secluded bay and the Playa Rosa.


Casa Mango Careyes

We took a saturday, once a week (in the off season)  flight from LAX to Manzillo onAir Alaska. We drove a little over an hour north to Careyes. Careyes is an enclave of mostly European folks who have built wonderful villas along the Costa Careyes with huge beautiful Palapas. The good news is many of these wonderful villas can be rented the bad news is, you might have to be a movie star. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely options, like our friends casita Casa Mango.   However, if your a movie star, check out these places, we did with our freind who’s family built one first villas in Careyes. By the way, totally cool article by Departures Magazine: A Global Guide to Vacation Villas.

Maienza Wilson at  Costa Careyes

Check this out even if your not a movie star!  Cuixmala

Careyes Villa Pool

Maienza Wilson and Infinity pool Costa Careyes

Casa Triton

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Maienza Wilson in Careyes


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