28 February 2009

Ballard Designs Presents James Swan

 

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Something is happening at Ballard Designs.  Something really good.  Just when you thought that everyone’s favorite home decor catalogue couldn’t get any better, it has.  

 

 

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The evolution of Ballard Designs’ bird cage – from the flea markets of France to the catalogue.

 

It all started with a contest – in 1982, Metropolitan Home Magazine awarded Helen Ballard Weeks’ condominium First Place in a reader’s competition, and then promptly featured it in the magazine.   Weeks, who was inundated with phone calls praising her interior design, decided to take advantage of all the interest by launching a two page, black and white catalogue which featured a copy of her antique French dining table.  Obviously it was a instant hit and the start of a business that is today one of the largest and most successful of all the home decor catalogues.

  

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The former office of Helen Ballard Weeks, founder of Ballard Designs – the large bulletin board, framed in gold, is a classic Ballard item.  The  lamp with a gold shade made out of a mannequin was once a popular item – today it is no longer sold.   Weeks loved French antiques and used them as her inspiration for her merchandise. 

 

Another detail, besides the antique reproductions that set Ballard Designs apart were the eye popping colors on its pages:   Weeks favored black and white with chartreuse accents and lots of leopard thrown in.   One of her most popular fabrics-by-the-yard was a velvet in chartreuse, a highly unusual color choice at the time.   Over the years, the company grew and in 1997 Ballard Designs merged with Cornerstone, a conglomerate that also owned the catalogues Frontgate, Garnet Hill, Smith and Noble, The Territory Ahead and Travel Smith.   After the merger, fans of Weeks were distraught, I know – I was one of them!   Selling out would mean a change at Ballard and many felt it wouldn’t be a good one.  Yes, things did change, but Weeks’ initial vision, her love of antiques and her color schemes can still be found  in the catalogue today.  In truth, the company only got better with the infusion of big business.  Weeks remained at the helm of Cornerstone until she retired in 2002.  Today, Barry Diller, head  of IAC and the Home Shopping Network owns Ballard Design.    Now, with two stores open in Florida, Ballard Designs has gone the retail route.  It publishes a new catalogue monthly and distributes 40 million copies yearly.  Quite a feat for a catalogue that started as two pages in black and white.

 

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Ballard in a nutshell:  white slipcovers, seagrass, and zebra!

 

 

The catalogue in on-line and that’s where all the fun is.  The web site has gone blog!   There’s a lot more to see online than in print – customers send in photos of their homes showcasing what they bought, there are stories about how antiques are turned into products, and there are endless columns with decorating advice.   Recently Ballard Designs even teamed up in Domino Magazine!    There’s a special section online called Style Studio where this month, the talented Beverly Hills interior designer James Swan is featured.   Swan created four rooms using only Ballard products.   Swan shows how the price-friendly Ballard Designs merchandise confirms that good taste knows no cost.   His rooms are high end, yet VERY affordable to most of us.   Thank you!    Swan was chosen by Ballard Design for his clean and effortlessly elegant designs.    In the layouts, Swan chose to use both new products and the best sellers that Ballard’s customers have come to love over the years.     There is a “behind-the-scenes” story of how the rooms were created, so be sure to look at that too.    Swan has a book coming out, “101 Things I Hate About Your House” – a humorous  look at interior design – I can’t wait to read it!    So – enjoy Swan’s rooms for Ballard Designs below:

 

 

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The first room Swan designed is this living room – the framed print is the focal point here.  It is based on an original Regency piece by Napoleon’s court painter Jacques Louis David.   The print is a new item for Ballard, as is the wonderful large sunburst mirror.  Two French chairs, painted black, and a velvet sofa were used with dark wood furniture.   The coffee table is actually four leather cubes put together to form a more substantial size.  The ottomans separate for more seating when needed.  Checked curtains add French charm.    Everything pops off the light colored jute rug – a perfect choice by Swan.   the lamps on the wood console are mercury glass, made to resemble glass apothecary jars.  My favorites in the room are the large Regency print and the sunburst mirror – beautiful!

                                                                                                                                                               

 

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The dining room designed by Swan uses two of my favorite new items from Ballard:  the focal point – a trio of oversized botanicals that are SOOO fabulous!   I think this series is stunning!   The next item – the slipcovered chairs which are also a new design.  The chair, the Gramercy, can be ordered upholstered or slipped – either way it has wonderful lines and is a very sophisticated addition to their furniture line.    Swan paired the chairs with the classic Berkley trestle table, topped with three topiaries and a set of Ballard dishes.  The two light fixtures, The Marianna Chandelier, is a charming new item for Ballard.   The brown and celadon rug perfectly picks up the colors in the chair fabric.  And lastly – the painted wood mirror, the Winslow, is another new item in the latest catalogue.   I would love to order the botanicals and the set of chairs!!!!

 

 

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In the home office, Swan chose the new Celia Indoor/Outdoor rug as the focal point.  He used a combination of hutches and cabinets in black to create the work space.   The desk return becomes a perfect surface for two people to use at the same time.  Swan again chose to use the new Gramercy chairs, again with slips  - this time in a black and white damask pattern, Marlo, new to Ballard Designs.    Ballard’s popular bulletin boards come framed in small to extra large sizes.   The baskets add a welcome texture as does the lampshade.  Swan used an assortment of decorative items from the catalogue, including the new and charming iron Ferris wheel.   The curtains, another new item,  with the black trim add a soft touch to the graphic and high contrast office. 

 

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The bedroom features the new rattan Grovesnor headboard along with an assortment of fabrics and bedding.  The curtains and pillows are made of a venetian style fabric and the bench is in the classic “Helen Ballard Weeks” chartreuse green.   The end tables are a new design – the Dunstan – with an “X” detail.   The new series of wood coral prints serve as a focal point.  Their background of deep chocolate picks up the browns in the striped fabric, another  new item in the fabric-by-the-yard collection. The series of mirrored butterflies are new to the spring catalogue too.  I couldn’t find the lamps online, but I assume they will be there shortly. 

 

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 The designer, James Swan sits in the living room he created for Ballard Designs.  Job very well done!!

 

For more information on Mr. Swan, be sure to visit his web site here.  And, to keep up with all his adventures in design – visit his blog, here.

44 comments:

  1. Wow, I'm the first one to post! I have always loved Ballard Designs. I am even signed up on the designer program which gives discounts to designers. I love their COM program, too. This was a good idea to have a designer do rooms using their products. I liked the back story on her start. I learned something new, as usual. Thanks

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  2. I've loved this story from the beginning. Thanks for sharing it so I could hear it again.

    Charmed!!

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  3. I didn't know the history of Ballard Designs until now... amazing to think of a 2 page catalog!

    Ms. Ballards office is so cozy- I love the sheet music covering the bulletin board!

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  4. I've always loved Ballard!
    Linda Merrill has a nice piece about the very stylish James Swan too.
    Thanks again Joni for a fab post!
    xo xo

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  5. I'm so glad you did a post on Swan and Ballard. I often don't give Ballard Designs enough credit. You've proven me short-sighted. I'm going to head over to the web site and give them another chance! You are always so good to open our eyes a bit wider! Thank you!
    -GSG
    (I'm loving the white garden stool too! I may just be placing an order!)

    http://grannysmithgreen.blogspot.com

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  6. I love Ballard's {as you know! tee hee} Thanks for show casing James Swan's work. I LOVE that sunburst mirror! Wonderful!

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  7. I knew you were the right person to do this post - and it is so well done! What a cool idea to have a well known designer do a room entirely in Ballard Designs - whoever thought of it was a cross marketing genius.

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  8. Terrific post Joni! Very interesting reading.

    So nice to see the return of 'gold glam'. -Brenda-

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  9. Love Ballard! I order a monogrammed jute tote from them at the beginning of each summer.

    xoxo

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  10. If the epitome of taste touts Ballard's, it's ok by me! Loved the post, Joni. Good readin'!

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  11. I have enjoyed Ballard Designs from Day 1. It is my #1 favorite catalog and have spoiled our home with their decor pieces over the years.

    Your entry has reiterated why I love BD so much. I look forward to seeing their new pieces, particularly the lamp!

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  12. I agree with Virginia. We can now all shop Ballard and be comfortable. Your endorsement is all we needed. Great post Joni. Love these rooms!!

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  13. Thanks for posting this Joni, I really love Ballard Design for certain things, I have a gorgeous round mirror over my bed, and have ordered rugs from them. I love to see the new additions to the catalogue. My only complaint is that often so many items stay in it for such a long time, new items welcome!

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  14. I am going to read this post AGAIN and study the photos and then check out Ballard's website. Haven't been on it in a very long time! The sunburst mirror would be perfection in my great room...I am a little scared to see how much it will cost! I love when design is this beautiful AND affordable at the same time. Great story behind the company..thank you for sharing that!! :)

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  15. Do you mind of I use one of these fabulous images in a blog post? I promise I will link to you and give you credit! Thanks Jen

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  16. One of my favourite resources! I often purchase their case goods in white and have an artist work his magic all over them! They always seem to improve each season, which is just delightful.

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  17. Lucky me--I check in at the Ballard's Backroom on DeFoors Ferry here in Atlanta once a week or so. Almost all the fabrics at our Tybee beach house came from their clearance bins--some of it at $2.49 a yard! Also just scored a desk there on clearance for a little over a hundred bucks. Thanks for a great post, Joni.

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  18. Joni, I didn't know how Ballards got started, but have loved looking thru the catalogs for years now. I think I've been on the mailing list for at least 15 years. Got to shop the outlet & retail stores in Atlanta & it was always fun to go in there. I've bought a few things from them over the years & my favorite thing is probably my 2 large cafe shelves that hang on the wall in my office nook. They are perfect for lots of spots.

    I know that chartreuse velvet well, as I bought a couple of yards of it years ago in the Atl. store & used it for pillows & it's also part of the window valance in my laundry room.

    I just might have to to a Ballards post myself! Loved this Joni!

    Love Ballards, a wonderfully inspiring catalog. Stylish without being too expensive.

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  19. I love the back story - I had no idea Ballard Designs started this way! Thanks!

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  20. Joni - excellent back story post as always!

    And Visual Vamp - thanks for the shout out!

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  21. I so much enjoyed this post. Thank you for the education. And thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. ~Mindy

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  22. Loved this post! Ballard designs is one of those staples to go to for when you need... "SOMETHING" to finish a room and designer sources are too expensive or not simple enough. Great history behind Ballard, now let's hope they dont have a major price increase now that they are getting so mainstream!

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  23. Well, you did it again,Joan-ster... this time with an old (well, not soooo) standard that arrives at my door every month, and I squeal with delight every time.Its fun to see what everyone has cooked up in the way of vignettes for sale there.
    love it, and you!
    as always-
    Lisa

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  24. I have always loved Ballard and now I love it even more. How wonderful to see a room done by such a great designer with Ballard products! Thank you!

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  25. Hi Joni,

    I am remiss for not thanking you for your excellent advice on having one's photo taken. It took me quite awhile to find your comment, but when I did I was so pleased that I featured it on a later post. Lots of my readers will now benefit from your tips. Thanks again!

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  26. So gorgeous, those Ballard designs! Excellent post, (as always) Joni!

    Just wanted to let you all know we've just posted a fun little contest over at the mogg blogg (www.moggit.blogspot.com) for our Domino book giveaway-- two copies up for grabs! Do come over & join in the fun!

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  27. i have always thought ballards design was the greatest, and constantly steps ahead of the pack.

    another wise move from ballard !

    big hug & x

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  28. Wow, another uber-informative post. I have to check them out - I heard of the company but did not know its reputation. Thanks for the tip!

    P.S. I checked out Lizzy's adorable blog. She is such a lovely girl and so fashionable! Her obsession reminds me of myself in those days - except she has far better taste and her parents have more money! I was going to leave her a comment but didn't want to be an old scary stalker lady. ;) She's a great girl and witty and adorable!

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  29. These are exquisite designs! Thanks for sharing this!

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  30. I've long admired Ballard Designs, but I didn't know the history! Thanks for sharing.

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  35. Mr Swan may have done an acceptable job on this project for Ballard Designs, but his choice to not fulfill agreements to refund the $795.00 tuition he collected of a design class he advertised heavily and then canceled back in February indicates that he may want to spend more time concentrating on business and less on personal promotion. Read the entire saga on the Facebook page indicated below.

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