Money for Something

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The very large and vocal response to my critique of a house in a design magazine took me by surprise.  To me, it was just a little Saturday afternoon rant – to you, it struck a chord.  I didn’t name the magazine or the designer on purpose, because it wasn’t my intent to “out” anyone or to put them down either – just to have some snarky fun.   But rather, it was supposed to be a lesson in design 101 – something all of us can use reminders of.   Still, concentrating on the negative feeds more negativity.  So, instead of all that – let’s look at what I DO like coming from this design magazine in the last few months.   One of my personal favorites was the story of the NYC pied a terre of Alessandra Branca.  But of course I would love her apartment – I had named Branca to my Top Ten Designers list here.  I adore everything she touches.   Branca’s design style is the antithesis of edgy.  She uses classic fabrics – preferring stripes and linens and damasks and toiles.  She favors a symmetrical placement of furniture and lamps and paintings.  She likes to use black and red as accents – and it does seem that almost every room she designs has both colors in it.  The most “out there” thing I’ve ever seen her do is use an oversized lighting fixture!  Branca has a look – a room designed by her is instantly recognizable.   But, that’s what I like about her – her signature style.  I love stripes and damasks and symmetry.    I love black and red accents and I adore antique chinoiserie – so I would love her work.  Branca is not trendy – she doesn’t use ikats or suzanis because they are in – in fact I’m not sure I’ve ever seen her use either.  Rather, she sticks to what she loves and she has been consistent throughout the years – her designs don’t date because classic doesn’t date.  Branca’s work is certainly worth the price of a magazine – it’s money for something.  This story appeared in the May 2009 Elle  Decor.  

 

 

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Branca was born in Rome and still maintains a house there, but she lives in Chicago where she runs her design business and a decor shop.  This apartment is her get away place for work and shopping trips in NYC.  The apartment is just over 1,000 ft. and is located on the second floor of a townhouse.  With just two rooms, Branca chose to turn the bedroom into a library/dining area/office to greet clients and, in turn, a small dressing room became the bedroom.  The main room is rather large and features all the design elements that Branca loves:  black & red, lanterns, damask, stripes, paisley, chinoiserie, and antiques.  She divided the room into three different sitting areas.  The main sitting area features a sleeper sofa – for visiting children – and is covered in a beige linen-velvet.    Two adjacent painted Italian armchairs wear red and white Fortuny and red and white stripes.  The sofa is placed directly across from the fireplace - which is in the middle of the room.  An antique settee flanks one side of the fireplace.   On the other side is an upholstered banquette, used for dining.   Between the high windows – perfectly balanced is a large chinoiserie armoire in reds and blacks.   A little short, Branca lengthens the visual line by topping the armoire with gorgeous apothecary bottles, set off against a red tribal African hat.    Notice the lantern – she put whimsical red shades trimmed in black onto the candles.   Wall to wall seagrass covers the entire apartment, creating a sedate backdrop to all the color pops of reds and blacks.

 

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The middle section of the large room is anchored by a black and gold chinoiserie screen and the custom made sleeper sofa in linen velvet.  Red and white pillows play off the red and white Fortuny covering the painted Italian arm chairs.  A red Oriental coffee table finishes the vignette.  Notice the lamp shades here – covered in antique pieces of paisley – another favorite fabric of Branca’s.

 

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To the left of the fireplace is the custom made banquette upholstered in beige and white damask – perfectly matching the wall color.  The pillows repeat the red and white Fortuny covered chairs next to the sleeper sofa.  More black chinoiserie is found in this coffee table.  And even more black shows up in the antique English spoon back chair.  Above the banquette are a series of botanicals painted by Branca’s mother, a well know Italian artist.  Notice how perfectly the size of the botanicals are for the space.   The oversized black pedestal  holding the Oriental jar is a trademark of Branca’s as are the red silk lampshades.     I love this corner of the room – a more perfect visual arrangement would be hard to imagine!

 

 

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This picture shows Branca perched on the antique settee found on the right side of the fireplace.  Upholstered in a typical Branca stripe, the settee sits under a large collection of red seals, framed in black.

 

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The fireplace – with the banquette on the left and the settee on the right is the focal point of the living room.   Large oxblood vases balance out an ornate mantel clock, while two benches provide extra setting.  

 

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The bedroom became a library/office/dining room – more functional for Branca and her husband.  The shelves are lined in red and are filled with red and black accessories.  The desk – an 18th century antique doubles as a dining table when needed.   I love how Branca utilized the space the way she needed it, not how it was expected to be used.  

 

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The long, narrow dressing room became the bedroom.  Branca designed all the bedding and curtains, using linen in creams and red and white stripes.  The striped fabric walls give the space a tent like effect reminiscent of another era.    A canopy helps make the room appear wider and turns the custom designed daybed into a focal point.   I love the clock!!!   Behind the bed, is a comfortable chair piped in red – of course! and a desk. 

 

 

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The outdoor space was fixed up by Branca to enlarge her living area.  The space was enclosed with black trellis and red wood furniture was added along with bright blue Madelyn Weinrib rugs.   The table is covered in a Bennison linen. 

 

To see more of Branca’s beautiful designs, be sure to visit her web site here.   I sincerely hope this expertly designed apartment has helped to restore your faith in magazines’ ability to sometimes get it right!!!!    The truth is, we bloggers depend on magazines to provide us with the beautiful photographs we show you day after day.  Yes, we do also show original work here by designers in Houston and others who send in their work to share – but the vast majority of images come from the expensive photoshoots that magazines have to pay for.    One comment sent in by a local scout asks that we be more sympathetic to magazines’ plight.  The bad economy has hit their industry hard and advertising revenues are drying up.  The scout said we should think about subscribing to a year’s worth to help fill their coffers in order to help the situation.   Not a bad idea I think.   So while magazines have to gain our trust and our loyalty, we also owe them a thanks for many years of pleasure!   If we didn’t care, we wouldn’t be lamenting all the losses of this past year.  

Good Money for Nothing!

200 comments

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A story in a recent magazine really left me puzzled.   The last few months, I have become acutely aware of the lack of design magazines available.  We’ve all watched as one by one, titles have fallen victim to our economy – I don’t need to list them all here again, but a trip to the book stores really opens your eyes to what is left.   Not much.  We’ve lamented their loss together and expressed shock as one after another has folded.  The reality is now here.    Thank God for House Beautiful and Southern Accents, Metropolitan Home and Veranda,  Traditional Home and Elle Decor.   And……?     See what  I mean?     It’s slim pickings.    Which puts the spotlight on those remaining.    Magazines aren’t cheap, take a $10 bill to the counter and you might walk out with two – maybe.    The current mags should be fabulous now – they have their pick of houses to publish.   Scouts are telling me that they keep getting turned away with stories that normally would have been snapped up.  There’s a glut of houses deserving of publication – yet they’ve been rejected.    Which should mean that the ones that are published, are wonderful houses with interiors that could make a grown man weep from the beauty.   But still, it’s not quite happening.   Each issue arrives stuffed with mediocrity and junk.   Some make you laugh, others draw a wince.  

I don’t usually go “negative” here – but I am going to today.   So forgive me this rant.  I’ll be back to normal tomorrow – all chipper and happy.  For now, I’m confused.  Is it me?   Am I the only one who feels this way?   Do others see what I see?

 

The story that caused my head to shake shows a house in Los Angeles – the owner is the wife of a famous  rock star.  She also was the interior decorator,  one of her many talents the magazine informed us of.   Other prolific talents are photography and lyric writing for her husband’s songs.   Her ambitions for their house were certainly lofty.  The new construction abode was designed to look like an authentic Wallace Neff.  The pool house was inspired by a photograph from David Hicks’ book – My Kind of Garden.  The staircase was modeled after one found in Nancy Lancaster’s  Mirador,  Neff, Hicks, Lancaster – let’s drop some names.   This is going to be stunning, no?    Their master bedroom is quite lovely – that I will admit.   And their kitchen is very nice too.  When these pictures were first seen – bloggers went ga-ga over the house and I’ll admit at my first cursory glance I did too, even leaving comments saying “beautiful!”  I finally had some extra time to leisurely pour over this house and all I can wonder is “Am I crazy, here?  What am I missing?”

I try to never do this – never focus on the negative, and maybe I am wrong here.  Maybe this is wonderful and I should get my  hands slapped and  go re-enroll  in design school and hey, maybe even join ASID!   With so little competition out there, shouldn’t we be seeing the best that interior design has to offer?   Is this house all that?   Was there nothing else to show us last March?  

 

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What drives me crazy about this room:  two coffee tables.  Why? Why?  And if you DID want two coffee tables – shouldn’t they relate either in size or style?   I understand eclectic – I get it.  I just do not get THIS.  If for some really good reason you needed two coffee tables side by side, shouldn’t at least ONE be attractive?  Finding attractive coffee tables is hard, I know that, I live that.   But to pick two of the ugliest coffee tables in the world, now that takes some work.  Actually, let me correct that, the shorter table was designed by the home owner – who has launched her own furniture line.  Yes, I did just say that.   But, two coffee table - am I wrong?   Am I missing something? 

 

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There’s more.   The mantle is so high, I’m guessing it’s over 5 ft tall.  The mantel is a vertical element.  It’s tall, it’s narrow.    The designer then adds a long, skinny, goopy, fancy mirror, further extending the vertical line.   The mantel is crying out for something more horizontal – something wide to balance out the tall vertical element of the fireplace.   What is especially amusing is that the designer proclaims:   “I wanted everything to have a human scale.”   Human scale?  For whom – the Jolly Green Giant?   A simple, round convex mirror would have been nice.  A wide painting propped on the top would have been nice.   A line of short porcelains would have been nice.   My neck aches just looking up at that mirror.

 

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And if the fancy Chippendale styled mirror and the two coffee tables weren’t enough – add to this a pair of oversized three armed French sconces.   What a mixture.  Again, the sconces are elongated – with a vertical appearance, where something horizontal is desperately needed here.    The entire marble fireplace vignette truly baffles me almost as much as the two coffee tables do.   When my house was photographed for a magazine – the stylists really edited it , they changed things around, they brought in props – did that not happen here?  Does this stylist really leave houses exactly the way he found them?  

 

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Should I even address the upholstery?   The exuberant Brunschwig & Fils print on the sofa is nice – I like it, actually.  But look across at the other sofa, covered in a striped brown velvet, along with a floral accent pillow – I don’t see a connection here.   And yes, I understand that kind of decorating, where nothing really matches – but things should at least blend, no?   Again – am I missing something? 

 

 

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The other picture of the living room shows the two coffee tables again, the sofa, the unmatched lamps (to each other and anything else in the room.)    Where to start?   What I suppose is the focal point of the room – though two side by side coffee tables would be a focal point in any other room -  a large picture gallery wall, filled with lots of expensive art, takes the room off in another direction.  What direction – don’t ask me.   I just paid for the magazine, I didn’t pick the house.  There’s no area rug and I’m not sure what the purpose of the pillows is, certainly not to enhance.   Oh – and be sure to notice the solo, two armed sconce in the middle of all the art work that somehow balances out the green lamp next to the sofa.  I doubt that was intentional.

 

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In the dining room, the table is surrounded by leather chairs from the designer’s own furniture line, that seem oddly short to me.  No?  The walls are wallpapered with a gorgeous Zuber pattern, yet the mirrored chimney piece creates an odd effect on the wallpaper’s scene.   It stops the eye where it should freely move across the wall.   The mirror almost has a magnifying effect on the wallpaper.  Why put the built in mirror there?   I don’t understand that – do you?

 

 

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The designer’s own studio is nice enough – I adore the cabinetry with the Dutch door.   And I love her drafting desk.   Here, finally, is an area rug, yet could it be any smaller or any trendier?  This room could be a knock-out, instead it looks like it was decorated with Salvation Army specials.  Am I wrong here?  

 

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The den with its sofa, and odd one armed chaise, is fine, a typical mixture of things chosen to look edgy – while using classic fabrics.  Again,  I never quite understood,  why in order to be “chic” or “hip” – one has to pick things that don’t seem to relate to each other.   It’s like the curtains were found there, and the furniture moved in around them.  It’s me, I know that.  But I like pillows that mean something.  Pillows with definite shape – full, robust, oversized.   Jeffrey Bilhuber makes the most perfect pillows I think I have ever seen.  Go here to see how pillows should look.

 

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The kitchen is one of the prettier rooms in the house, though I don’t understand why the range is in the breakfast area, but hey, I don’t cook – maybe the range SHOULD be in the breakfast area.  

 

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The bedroom is a beautiful room – if only for its wonderful curtains, made of Bennison linen.  How could anyone go wrong with Bennison?   I’ll tell you – they put dark chocolate trim around it’s edges, that’s how.  I give up.

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I’ll admit it, I’m getting older.   I’m past middle age now, and maybe that’s the reason I can’t join the chorus of bloggers who loved this house.   How do you feel about it?   Does the kitchen and bedroom make you forgive the living room?    Do you yourself like two desperate coffee tables side by side?    Are you one to put any materials together, without regard to color or pattern, and declare the room “designed?”  Am I not hip enough, not eclectic enough, not chic or trendy enough?   Am I crazy?  This house in person is probably beautiful.   And it’s a beloved family home, so who am I to criticize it?   I certainly am no better designer, and not at all in this league.  And I’m certainly not as beautiful.   But, when I buy a magazine, I expect something wonderful, maybe even perfect.   Something that makes me dream and go all green with envy too.   I want to learn something  - I want to see how the greats do it and maybe emulate them one day.   Come on editors – give us your best shot.  You’ve got a captive audience here.   Hit us with something that will stun us, motivate us, inspire us. 

I do know one thing, I feel ripped off.  I don’t want to pay good money for nothing anymore.

TABLESCAPE THURSDAY: Alone with Books

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If it’s Thursday, it must be Tablescape Thursday, hosted by Between Naps on the Porch.  Be sure to visit (here) to enjoy all the other Tablescape Thursday tablescapes!

 

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If there was one room I could add onto my house – and I’ve said it before – it would be a dedicated library.   It would have bookcases, wrapping around the wall, high to the ceiling.   In the middle would be a huge old library table that would double as a desk or a dining table.  There would be two chairs with soft down filled cushions and ottomans for both and a fireplace that would blaze all winter and be filled with scented candles in the summer.   In the middle would hang a huge lantern, low from the ceiling,  to light the room just enough to glimpse the collections of antique globes and lacquered boxes.  If possible, the ceiling would be double height and there would a balcony around the second level to access the higher books with ease.  There would be, of course, a wonderful ladder – no library should be without one.   Alas, I don’t have  a library, just an area of bookshelves on the stair landing.   No room for an ottoman there, much less a chair or two.  The books are overflowing – they are stacked everywhere.  New ones, still unread, are in the garage – waiting their turn.  Ones recently read have found their way inside to the entry’s hall table.   The extras are now encroaching on the dining room, piled on chairs and the floor.   So, you see, I DO need a library.

If I could, I would turn my living room into the reading room and let it double as a part-time dining room – something I might still do one day.  The rarely used living room could be the perfect library – it just takes time and money – both of which are scarce these days.   So, for now, the dining room is my reading nook – a place where I can sit and thumb through design books in search of a picture to scan in for the blog, or a story to show a client.  I have some research to do today – so I think I’ll just eat a very late, leisurely lunch in the dining room while I’m working – a truly novel idea!

 

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Care to join me?  The table is all set and ready for one, but I could quickly add a plate if you stay!   It won’t match though, I only have one of those that I am using today!

 

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My dining room is small and open to the entry hall.  Instead of a proper table, I have an oval shaped one that is draped in a heavy silk plaid from J. Robert Scott – which I copied from a client!   Last year I starting turning my chairs outward for some reason and I like them that way.  They look like ladies primly sitting, patiently waiting to be asked to dance!

 

 

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The chandelier is an antique that I bought from a friend when she remodeled her house.  I told you all about it here, in case you missed it.    When we moved in our house 15 years ago – there was a short window here.   After a few months – we replaced it with French doors, much better, no?  The doors lead out to a small side garden – just 5’ wide and 40’ long – typical for the small town lots in West University, where we live. 

 

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Since I have a skirted table, whenever I have a dinner party – I first put down a waterproofed, special table cloth - cut to fit.  Then I layer a white cotton or linen cloth over it.  That way, if anyone spills red wine or coffee – the skirted tablecloth isn’t damaged.   After the meal, I toss the white tablecloth in the washing machine.    Today, since I am alone, I am just going to put down a cloth with fringe instead of lugging out the liner and the topper.  This is much easier and I’m not drinking any red wine anyway. 

 

 

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In setting the Tablescape Thursday, I tried to keep everything neutral and creamy.      The silver dome is something I have just started collecting – I’ve bought two and that is probably all I will buy:  they take up a lot of room, something I am short on!

 

 

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Do you recognize what book I am reading?  The author is a popular blogger – and that is a picture of her maison, in the south of France, in the middle of an olive grove:  My French Life, by Vicki Archer – available here.   

 

 

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The rose came from my yard, the white urn came from the famous Betty Rae.

 

 

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The drinking glass is from my favorite restaurant – Galatoires in New Orleans and the decanter was bought there too, on Magazine Street.

 

 

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The antique altar candlesticks came from Tara Shaw, of course, and the marble grapes are from Mona Dees at Antiques and Interiors on Dunlavy, the same person who has sold me both my silver domes.  Thanks Mona!

 

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The reticulated creamware plates were won on Ebay from England.  They aren’t antique but they look it.   This is probably the only time they will be eaten off  - they are going to be hanging on the walls soon.   The antique fork is a style that I collect whenever I can find them.  Some of mine are monogrammed, but not with my initials. 

 

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And finally, look at this gorgeous napkin!   Imagine my utter shock and sheer joy to open up such a dear package containing 10 of these oversized French linen napkins.   They are a gift from Ruth Gay – of Chateau Domingue – whom I wrote about here and here.   I really can’t remember receiving anything so lovely before.   Can you read the monogram? 

 

Thanks for joining me at my late, leisurely lunch this afternoon.  I won’t tell you what I ate – it’s soooo disgusting.  OK, I will:   Whataburger Chicken Strips with Onion Rings instead of French Fries with a Diet Coke.  hehe.  It’s such a guilty pleasure. 

 

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And be sure to join Linda, Megan, and me on the Skirted Roundtable today with two brand new shows:  Blogging – what keeps up motivated from jumping the shark, AND Design – all about kitchens!!   

To listen, go here.

Photography 101

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image I bought a new camera.  For the blog.  That’s  nothing new in my life these days.  Ever since I started Cote de Texas I’ve become obsessed with two things I never even knew existed before: writing and photography.  Suddenly, these two activities are the most important things in my life and I seriously never did either before.    But, writing and photography go hand in hand with blogging, so I, to be even the least bit successful at this, knew I needed to hone up on both these skills -  and fast.  As for the writing, it is what it is.  In the past two years, I have discovered that I actually enjoy the writing part of blogging, all the more surprising because I positively loathed English in school.   But here I am – just typing away at all hours of the day and night.   A few weeks ago I got an anonymous negative comment, never a pleasant thing, telling me my grammar was awful.  My offense?    I had written:   “without any regards to” instead of the grammatically correct  “without any regard to.”   Negative comments are often so mean, so rude, and yes, sometimes, so valid – that they truly bother me to the core.   Yet,  the valid negative comment does serve a purpose – it gives you a chance to reassess, to reevaluate, to honestly address the issue at hand.   When I received the grammar complaint – I went straight to the Internet, of course, to check out my knowledge (or lack of it) of proper English grammar.   I had been proved wrong about the usage of “regards vs. regard” – how many other errors was I making?        On the Internet, I found a web site that offers multiple tests online to check one’s writing abilities - the exact kind of tests my high school daughter is taking in high school right now.   I am happy to announce that I actually did quite good  (or is it “well?”)   on my tests.  While nowhere near perfect, my scores would probably have earned me low As and Bs in a classroom.   So, with my writing skills properly tested, that leaves my photography skills to assess– except there is no test on the Internet for that ability.   The only measure one has is against other bloggers.

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For example, Pat who writes Back Porch Musings is one such  blogger whose photography skills are a giant cut above the norm.   Day after day,  she consistently shows off fabulous images she takes at her Lake Ozark vacation house along with those taken on the road traveling to and from her own version of Paradise.   Whether her photographs are of flowers with the “bokah” effect, her ever-changing interiors,  or the beautiful view from her illustrious porch – Pat never disappoints.  For an amateur photographer, she is quite remarkable.

 

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“Peonies” by Back Porch Musings.  To see more images like this, be sure to visit the blog Backporch Musings here.

 

Besides being inspired by other bloggers, the professional photographers really make my heart skip a beat.  Pictures of interiors are truly mandatory for a design blog and the desire to create one’s own professional looking photographs is especially strong.

 

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A photograph of a Los Angeles bedroom really sets the bar high.  How does an amateur go about duplicating this quality?

 

 

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Or this professional photograph from the same house in L.A.?

 

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When I started this blog over two years ago, I thought I was a better photographer that I now know I am.  I was naive which is a nice way of saying stupid.   Very.   I took “arty" pictures of my house for my newly launched blog and was quite proud of this particular image of a statue - even commissioning the artist Annechovie to immortalize it in a painting – how pretentious!!!  This grainy, out of focus, poorly lit photograph  barely deserves to even be shown on the blog, much less hung on the wall - framed.    It was taken with a simple Sony DSC P150 camera – one that I used to take pictures of my interior design work.  Without the blog, I would probably still be happily using this camera.

 

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After a few months blogging with my Sony, I realized I needed a new camera to take better pictures and decided to try the Canon camera my daughter used.   This image my breakfast room was shot with my new Canon SD1000.  I don’t see too much improvement over the Sony digital, to be honest.  The Canon SD1000 lasts only a short while.   It just wasn’t up to the job, I’m afraid.

 

 

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PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPH:  Around the time I bought my first Canon point and shoot digital, my house was photographed by a professional for the magazine Houston House and Home.  This image really hit home for me – it outlines all my flaws as a photographer.  I had never been able to take a picture of my living room with both the left and right wall showing.   How did he do it?  The lens, the elusive wide angle lens,  I learned that day, was the key -  along with a much better camera.  I was told that a wide angle lens like this could cost more than $20,000. and to take beautiful photographs like this, the quality of the lens was much more important than the quality of the camera.  Well, a lens in that price range was definitely out of the question – but surely somehow I could take better, clearer pictures with a wider view. 

 

 

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MY PHOTOGRAPH:   My camera from the same spot as the professional  picture above – you can see how the left side of the room is missing in my photo – the lens just isn’t wide enough.    Notice too how much fine detail is missing from my photograph – compared to the professional one.  Mine looks dull and out of focus,  amongst other sins.

 

 

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MY PHOTOGRAPH:    In early 2008, I discovered that Canon made one point and shoot digital camera with a 28 mm wide angle lens:  the SD870IS.     Of course, I was game to try it out – so I sent the Canon SD1000 out to pasture.   And sure enough – you can plainly see here – I did get a much wider view from this new camera.  Notice that both the left and right wall are now showing.  But again, the quality of the picture can’t compare to the professional one taken of the same view.   This camera, the Canon SD870IS lasted a long time with Cote de Texas.  The 28 mm wide angle lens was much better than my first two point and shoot cameras – and I learned how to take better pictures as time passed on.

 

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As the year 2008 rolled by, the images do look better – even with an automatic, this photo is a vast improvement.     Here, my family room as it looked with the old coffee table in 2008.

 

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And in early 2009 – there is still more improvement.   This picture is much clearer and sharper than those taken in 2008.  Actually this has less to do with my growing photographic abilities than with the fact that I discovered I could “fix” the images through my computer.   With Photoshop, I could make the photos appear brighter and have more contrast, along with other “fixes.”   

 

 

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Another day, another angle.  It’s amusing to look at photos taken just a few months ago at how different things are even then.  The tablescape on the left is totally different today than in this picture.  But the real point is – that little automatic Canon sure takes a great picture!     In actuality, this was a calm before the storm.   The battle of Cote de Texas vs. The Cameras was about to erupt.

 

 

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MY PHOTOGRAPH:    Things are just fine with the Canon – until I take the pictures of the Octagon House, the Provence House and the Conservatory House during the West University Home Tour of 2009.  This picture of the breakfast room in the Conservatory House launches the first battle.   For all of 2008 – I had thought my little Canon was taking wide angle views.  It wasn’t until I saw a picture of this exact shot in the real estate section – taken by a professional – that I realized how much of the “view” I was losing with my “wide angle” lens.  

 

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PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPH:   Though the professional and I had both stood in almost the exact same place – you can see from this image  how much of the view is cut out of my picture.      Each picture of the house that the professional took showed a much wider view than mine – don’t worry, I checked.  This sent me into a what I call frantic “impulse” camera buying.   You see – by this time, I had been blogging for almost two years and the photographs I took became more and more important to me.  The fact that there were people out there that could take wider shots and better photographs of the same room drove me crazy.   I didn’t do enough due diligence, I know that now, but within a few days I became convinced that the only hope for me was the new Canon G10.   Yep – THIS Canon G10 was going to be the one – the one camera that would get me that great, wide shot with all the detailing.   Amazon was even kind enough to send it overnight to my house before I had any chance to change my mind.

 

 

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The New Canon G1o:      Liberty Post, a favorite blog whose own photographs I greatly admire, wrote that the G10 was her dream camera.  I teasingly bragged that I had just bought one!  (Hey Patti – want to buy it now, real cheap?)  The famous  G10 was delivered – and it took some adjusting to get used to it.  Even though it was another point and shoot automatic, there was still a learning curve.   Here is my first attempt with the famous G10 – not great!    That night I entertained Mr. Slipper Socks Man (barefooted!) and my dog Georgie with my camera skills.   What legs!!!   Georgie has been terrified of cameras ever since the Houston House and Home photoshoot.  Every time I pull out the camera she runs for protection from Ben. 

 

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I took this picture with the Canon G10 for a magazine I’ve written a few articles for.   (More information coming on that soon.)  I do think I am beginning to get the hang of the new camera with this picture -  it looks good to me.    But, I am still waiting for a chance to really put the G10 to work – a nice, big house would do the trick.

 

 

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I finally get a chance to really take the G10 out for a test ride.   Interior designer/architect Maria Tracy emails me to come visit her recently completed showhouse, The Tile House.   I leap at the chance to photograph it for Cote de Texas.   The images are good, I’m happy.  Could be better for sure, but I’m not a pro I tell myself.

 

 

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MY KITCHEN SHOT:  I take this photograph of The Tile House’s kitchen – it looks great I think -  clear, sharp with nice wide angle lens action.  I’m pleased with the pictures of The Tile House, until Maria emails me the professionally photographed pictures of the same angle.  Below:

 

 

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THE PROFESSIONAL KITCHEN SHOT

 

This photograph sends me into an immediate tailspin.    Taken from almost the same exact spot as mine – notice how you can actually see all of the breakfast room here, notice how you can even see the top of the cabinets and the stove’s hood in this picture, notice how much clearer and sharper this picture is than mine.     I am crestfallen.   The quality of my kitchen shot can’t compare to this.  Yes, my photo is wonderful, I know.  But I want more than wonderful - I want THIS.   Is it asking too much to want perfection?     Here I was thinking that the Canon G10 had this fabulous wide angle lens and YES, it IS wider than most, if not all, point and shoot cameras.   But – it’s not wide enough for me.  I want THIS!    In order to take fabulous interiors for you, the reader, – I need to show you the entire room, not just a part of the room.  I am doing this for YOU!!!!     What to do, what to do??????   Maybe I need a bigger wide angle lens????  

The problem with point and shoots is you can’t change their lens, but you CAN add a lens on top of the built in one.  So,  that’s the ticket I think.   A wide angle lens ADAPTOR!   This is a lens that you just screw onto your present camera, and viola.   This adaptor I am convinced is going to salvage the dreck that G10 is (it really isn’t I know – it’s just not THIS!)   I pretend I don’t read in the reviews of the wide angle lens adaptor that there is something called “barrel distortion” and “vignetting” with these converter lenses.  Nope, I didn’t just read that, I convince myself.  Besides - there is one person who writes a review swearing how wonderful this adaptor lens is.   So, as you might guess, Amazon delivers this heralded wide angle lens adaptor for the Canon G10 - overnight.

 

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It doesn’t take me long to discover exactly what is meant by “ barrel distortion” and “vignetting” – notice how out of focus this picture is around the edges.  The only focused part is in the middle of the picture.  Yes – the adaptor lens make the image much wider, but all the wider parts are totally distorted!  Anyone out there want to buy an adaptor wide angle lens?   By now, I am about to throw in the towel.  I’ve lost the war, I concede.   Three cameras and an extra lens later, I still can’t take a decent picture to save my life.   Back to the drawing board.

 

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Outside, the barrel distortion with the wide angle lens adaptor is even more obvious and horrible.  

 

A brief talk with my daughter who took a year of photography convinces me I need to step up to yet another camera.  Not a point and shoot, I’m done with those she tells me.   I need a  SLR, whatever that means.   I try to take my time and not rush into anything like before.   A few weeks of intensive study on the Internet leads me to believe a Nikon D90 digital SLR is my ticket to becoming the next Ansel Adams.  Sure.   I know.  That’s pretty hysterical.   But I think, if only I had THE right camera, things would be different.   And to be sure, there is some truth to that.   You can see clearly the difference a wide angle lens makes.  With a proper wide angle lens, bigger than the 28 mm that the point and shoot Canon G10 offers, I will be able to finally take better interiors and show you the entire room.  And hopefully, at the same time, the photos will be clear, in focus, sharp and show great detail.   The Nikon D90 promises to be the one – it takes fully automatic pictures – perfect for me, or I can focus it if I want.  I can also play around with apertures and shutter speeds, if I choose too – God help me!  

Though the change from a point and shoot to the DSLR scares me to death, I am going to try it, I decide.  I’m up to the challenge and what do I have to lose at this point?    To justify all the expenditure, I decide to finance the new camera by selling the other ones and I might even come out ahead, if I can find a sucker – I mean, a buyer.   Hello, Craig’s List!   The big day arrives, the DSLR comes, I take a few practice shots – hey, this is easy!!!!!!    I run over to my favorite antique store, M. Naeve, to show it off.  What better place to take gorgeous pictures of their gorgeous antiques?   I’m shooting away and Margaret remarks on the size of the camera – it’s huge, and heavy, really really clunky.   I proudly shrug off the comments and act like I’ve had the camera for ages and ages.   Just taking a few shots for clients, that’s all, I tell her.   Sounds good to me.   I’m positive people don’t bother Annie Liebovitz about the size of HER camera, especially while she’s at work!

 

 

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No, that’s not a sex toy – get your mind out of the gutter – that’s my new Nikon D90 with one hell of a long lens on it!  I’m in love.  I look so professional taking pictures with this baby.     I need to go show off.   So, after I run to M. Naeve to show off, I stop by The Garden Gate to show off just a little bit more – snap snap snapping away.   Oh – the joy of it all!!!!

 

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I mean, really – could there BE a more gorgeous picture than this????  An entire day’s worth of photographs at M. Naeve and the Garden Gate, and this one is probably the best of the bunch.    Oy vey.     Well, it IS a gorgeous clock to be sure.  Can you tell?    All my photos looked just like this, dark, totally out of focus – and on an automatic setting to boot.   Help.  Me.  Someone.

 

 

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There is hope though, of course.   The Tanglewood House living room and bedroom pictures were taken with the new Nikon D90 and I was by and large pleased with the results.  Although, I did notice something I hadn’t before – all the newly extra sharp pictures lose a lot of that sharpness when transferred from my computer to the blog to your computer.   In other words, no matter how crisp or in focus an image looks on my computer, when it gets posted to the Internet and lands on your monitor, it loses a lot of detail and clarity.   But still, the results are much better now.  It’s just that they are so much better, so much clearer and so much sharper on my computer that I wish you could see it!   Stop by to look if you are in the neighborhood, I’ll be glad to show you in person!!!

 

 

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Hehehe – another day, the same thing, over and over again.  Pee-Wee Herman sleeping on the couch – protecting Georgie from the big bad camera.    I think I’m getting the hang of the SLR camera.  Once I really feel comfortable with it, I can get an extra wide angle lens to add to it, or a special lens for extreme close up shots of roses and hydrangeas or roaches and mosquitoes – take your pick.  There are lenses for long shots – say I want to stalk someone’s house from the car, no problem now, just whip out the proper lens and I’m in business and hopefully not in jail. 

 

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And finally, the new lantern captured by the Nikon D90.    Remember to open the browser window fully to see the entire shot.      

 

This image is so clear and sharp – I’m thrilled with the detail.  Learning to use the SLR camera with all its various lenses and options has taken a while, but I think the results will be worth it in the end.   Is this THE camera?   I think so.  I hope it lasts much longer than the Canon SD870IS did.  I know it will last longer than the D10 – that one was a disaster.   In all, it’s been a labor of love, like the blog itself, learning to take better pictures to make  Cote de Texas better and more beautiful – for you and for me.  Of this I’m sure, without Cote de Texas,  I would still be using my original Sony digital and I would be very happy with it.  I didn’t know any better back then and I was perfectly fine with it.   Back then I also stupidly said “in regards to”  and took out of focus pictures – which was all good enough for me, but now I have the responsibility of the blog, and the grammar and the images have to be a cut above.   Looking at other blogs – like Back Porch Musings and The Liberty Post with their beautiful photographs, encourages me to try to be better at it.   Hopefully, I will continue to grow as a “photographer,” and who knows, I might even take a course on it!    Online, of course.  You don’t REALLY think I could go back and sit in a classroom again, do you?

 

 

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P.S.  I should have taken a new picture of the family room today.  Toby Worthington, commenter extraordinaire,  made me change my mantel around.  The order of my urns drove him crazy – so I changed it to humor him (photo above shows the urns arranged the way Toby wants them – I aim to please.)   AND, the zebra rug finally moved downstairs from the guest room to the family room.   I would snap a new picture right now, but well, frankly I have enough pictures of Ben ruining my “art” – there’s no way I could get him to move off that sofa right now and take all his “work materials” with him.    Let me know if you want me to rearrange anything in my house for you – like  Toby did – I’ll be happy to oblige.