A personal touch makes for a happier holiday season

While your competitors scramble to get out their holiday cards, why not do something this season that most of them don’t do?

Get personal. Share your seasonal sentiments face to face if you can, or by phone if you can’t.

While sending out cards remains a popular way for business owners to extend season’s greetings, it’s not the most productive way. The problem with those cards is that they can easily get lost in the shuffle. So many of your prospects and clients get so much stuff from so many vendors that they don’t always pay much attention to whom sent what.

Kind of defeats your purpose, don’t you think?

Personal connections in these competitive times have far more impact than cards or social media messaging could ever have. That’s why your seasonal strategy should be to meet rather than message, talk rather than tweet, and call rather than card.

These personal interactions enable you to make a more positive impression. Wishing clients glad tidings and thanking them for past business is more meaningful when you do so in person.

A face-to-face meeting with a client during the holiday season is networking at its best. It provides you with a golden opportunity to solidify your personal relationship. That’s especially important, considering that the long-term value of each client is more than 100 times the value of a single transaction. Your current clients are your best ones.

Person-to-person meetings with clients also enable you to ask strategic questions and get their feedback on your service. In addition, you can learn about their challenges and decide how you might address those challenges in the future. Another advantage of meeting live and in person is that you can read your clients’ expressions and body language, and gauge their true feelings

Savvy business professionals don’t limit their holiday get-togethers to clients. They realize the value of reaching out to prospects, former clients, contractors, vendors, suppliers and even industry bloggers and media representatives. All can be valuable sources of leads, referrals and future business.

Getting together over the busy holiday season can be challenging, which is why you may have to resort to the phone to pass along your holiday greetings.

Will you reach everyone you call? No. Will you end up leaving a good many voicemail messages? Yes. That’s standard operating procedure in an era when Americans spend 3.2 billion hours a year talking to and listening to voicemail.

Nevertheless, sincere personal messages are always appreciated.

A funny thing happens when you call and offer your personal best wishes for the holidays. You don’t mention your services, but those you contact often do, when they return your call. Your holiday call may just result in more business or some good referrals.

So many business professionals have generated so much business simply by calling and saying “hi” to past, current and prospective clients. Calling yours to say “happy holidays” will make your holidays happier — in more ways than one.

Sending holiday cards made more sense back when those you needed to know were not so inundated with an information overload. But that was then, and this is now. And now is a time when a personal touch over the holidays is more important than ever.

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Trend going viral, but the trees aren’t cheap

For those who like to spend holiday traditions, this trend is for you: The upside down Christmas tree.

This season, social media is rife with photos of inverted pines and firs that are adorning hotel lobbies, shopping centres and downtown atriums with gravity-defying drama.

It’s a surefire showstopper for retailers eager to attract shoppers, but the over-the-top stunt is now making its way into some living rooms, with several retailers offering up kits for the home decorator willing to try something different.

But these trendy inverted trees aren’t cheap.

Most cost more than $200, although prices range from $60.99 for a modest three-foot model to $1,299.99 for a 7.5-foot pre-lit version.

Calgary salon owner Dave Richards says he’s thinking about a purchase for next year, noting he already put up his Christmas tree several weeks ago, before he saw the latest trend.

“I’m in the market for one at the end of this Christmas season if they go on sale — if any are left,” says Richards, who is known as DevaDave to his clients and friends.

“In terms of space … it allows for more movement at the lower base of it. It’s definitely a conversation piece more than anything else and I think most people when they’re purchasing something like that it’s because they are hoping to make the corner of their home a little bit more interesting for guests and all that.

“Is it weird? Hell yes. Very much so.”

Richards suspects such a tree would be a good fit for his downtown hair salon, where he is a stylist and wig retailer who caters to cancer patients and people in the transgender community.

But at home, he says he’s very much a traditionalist, with this year’s decor of balls, bells and angels driven by a white-and-silver theme. He also doubted his four-year-old son would approve of a non-traditional tree.

“There are things that kids like (and) he wants his tree just ’so.’ He’s fussy,” says Richards, admitting he’d otherwise consider a flashier display since he sometimes welcomes clients to his home and often entertains friends and family.

A nine-foot Christmas tree hangs upside down in the hotel lobby of the Fairmont Vancouver Airport and it certainly seems to be a hit with guests and passersby, says marketing specialist Kate Francois.

It’s the second year in a row they’ve flipped their centrepiece, which is festooned with mini passports, planes, suitcases and hand-painted blue and gold globes.

“We’ve had a ton of interest, actually. We’ve had a few people come in just specifically for that, they weren’t even staying at the hotel but they wanted to come and photograph it,” says Francois.

It’s certainly not for everyone, says interior designer Jane Lockhart, who set up an upside down tree for a commercial retail display a couple of years ago. But she adds that the trees do seem to be part of a broader trend of more radical home design, possibly fuelled by social media.

After a year of disturbing headlines that at times felt like the world was warping into an alternate universe, an upside down tree might be just what some people need, adds Richards.

“It’s a finger up at the establishment of making (Christmas) so commercial,” he says.

But then again, many people find comfort in familiar rituals when times are tough, he muses.

“There are probably hipsters who think it’s a great idea and it’s fun and funky,” he says. “But the tradition of going to the lot and buying a traditional tree …. people still want that.” 

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HOW TO TURN OLD SIGNS INTO COOL INTERIOR DESIGN FEATURES

The hottest trend since hipster beards and man buns is vintage furnishings, particularly old signage. The appeal in decorating with vintage signs allows for a cool interior design that is decidedly anti-cookie-cutter and one that adds unique character and style to your home. Continue reading HOW TO TURN OLD SIGNS INTO COOL INTERIOR DESIGN FEATURES

Finnish Interior Designers Show How Bold, Colorful Prints Might Be the Best Way to Greet Cold Weather

A funny thing happened on the way to the Marimekko headquarters in Helsinki, Finland. I saw a woman walking down the street in an outfit of brown, olive, taupe, and three shades of blue—from navy to sky. It was the exact same combination of colors I had seen a day earlier at the Helsinki Design Museum in an exhibition of fabrics by Rut Bryk, inspired by the colors of Lapland. It was a coincidental echo, but an interesting one, because Helsinki’s apparent love of color combinations and patterns was the reason I was heading to Marimekko in the first place.

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Fabric at the Helsinki Design MuseumPhoto: Courtesy of Karen Burshtein

It’s not that Finland don’t value understatement as much as other Scandinavian countries. Known for their mindful design taste, the Finns have designed some of Northern Europe’s most iconic “functional furniture,” such as the three-legged Alvar Aalto birch stool, the very essence of simplicity. But these quintessentially Scandinavian pieces always coexist with an abundance of bold patterns, prints, and colors. You see it everywhere. At a third-wave coffee house, a modernist teapot with a striking graphic pattern and matching cups sits on a simple wood table. Iconic Kaj Franck goblets in every color are center stage in seemingly every kitchen cupboard.

In Helsinki I stayed in an apartment furnished with the aforementioned Alavar Aalto stools as well as Aalto’s covetable serving cart, but the focal point was a bed covered in Marimekko’s Fall 2017 Pieni Letto print in dark green, brown, light oranges and a riot of patterned throw pillows. The space felt far from the clutter overload minimalists fear. Nor did it feel “craftsy” (my own pet peeve)—just sleek and modern. “Finnish people don’t go bold, colorful, and fun on everything—the opposite actually,” says Helsinki-based interior designer Linda Bergroth. “They tend to like peaceful, timeless, and simple design like the Japanese, and on the other hand choose very wild, bold, and crazy prints. What’s nice is that these two opposites—neutral and crazy colorful—can coexist in an interior or person at the same time.”

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A close relationship with nature drives a lot of Finnish style: bold graphic prints and rich colors are often inspired by forests, the sea, islands, rocks, and berries. The joy taken from nature—even the darkening days of autumn and the lightless days of winter—and its presence in the home is, you might say, the Finnish equivalent of hygge.

“We have four different seasons. A very long, dark winter and very short, nightless summer feeds our need to use colors. But our Finnish stolid character keeps our design simple,” says Päivi Meuronen, an interior designer and architect who was just awarded Finnish architecture’s top Finlandia prize.

“Finns need colors and love colors . . . today we talk about chromatic colors that have a healing effect. Maybe colors are as healing, give as much energy,” says Mirkku Kullberg, former CEO of Artek and current marketing director of the Kämp Group, which is behind the upcoming Hotel St. George. Kullberg is a fan of the work of graphic designer Klaus Haapaniemi, who has designed mugs with fairy-tale and animal motifs for Iittala. “Prints and graphics have always been part of the design language, like storytelling,” adds Kullberg, who is working with Haapaniemi on a wallpaper for St. George’s Winter Garden Room.

The brand that is most obviously associated with the Finnish tendency toward color and pattern is, of course, Marimekko, the home furnishings and fashion company known for its large, joyful prints. Founded in 1951 by Armi Ratia at a time when the country was in a kind of cultural vacuum and a “young generation needed statements for the identity,” as Kullberg says, Ratia hired young female artists to print fabrics with distinctive patterns and bold colors at her husband’s oil cloth production company. Her vision was a liberating utopian view of decorating and dressing, one that encouraged optimism, egalitarianism, freedom, and a certain kind of courage in self-expression. It was, as she said, “a cultural phenomenon guiding the quality of living.”

“Fun came when Finns started to use tablecloth prints as garment fabrics,” Kullberg says. Petri Juslin, Marimekko’s artwork studio manager, can testify to this: He grew up with printed fabric in his home and saw it in his friends’ homes. “You could buy a piece of cloth and frame it as art, or use it as a curtain,” he explains.

Juslin, who has worked at the company for 30 years, oversees a team of designers that adds fresh prints and inspirations to the more than 3,000 patterns already in the archives. He shows me books of swatches, a riot of bright patterns and some of the 5,000 colorways in the company. “We don’t use Pantone or anything like that. They have nothing compared to us.”

 

Marimekko’s team of designers still uses pencils, brushes, and scissors to make the prototypes, creating the imperfect brushstokes and cut-outs that give much of the charm to their prints. All the fabrics tell a story. Kivet (Stones), designed by Maija Isola in 1956, is a pattern that builds on circles cut with scissors, inspired by stones she saw on the ground of her atelier. “You can see the cut-outs. They are a little bit imperfect and childlike, and I think that’s something that touches people’s hearts,” Juslin says. That particular Finnish way of appreciating nature and expressing it through a direct relationship with design seems so appealing as we move into a transitional season and toward colder weather. Even better? It’s a design philosophy that states you can never have too much.

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Trend-proof painting: The colours that never go out of style

When a house looks tired and in need of an update, a lick of paint can be just what the interior designer ordered. Painting is a relatively inexpensive way to enhance a home’s appearance, as well as a straightforward job that many people can do themselves. 

But before getting busy with rollers and brushes, it’s important to give some serious thought to colour, lest you wind up with walls that date as soon as they dry (think: ’70s mustard or ’80s salmon tones).  

Continue reading Trend-proof painting: The colours that never go out of style

PINEAPPLES ARE THE NEW CHRISTMAS TREES

First, there were the pineapple jack-o’-lanterns that took over your Instagram feed in October. Now, there’s a new pineapple decoration perfect for the upcoming holiday season: pineapple Christmas trees. Yes, really.

Think of it as a way to add a little tropical flare to your holiday decor. And luckily, there are already a variety of pineapple Christmas trees out there to serve as inspo.

You can hang ornaments on your pineapple:

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INTERIOR DESIGN SLANG FROM AROUND THE WORLD

When you walk into a room with exceptional design, you’re probably at a loss for words. Good aesthetics seem to transcend language — after all, the appropriate response to statement wallpaper or the perfect velvet sofa is *gasp*.

But when you do get down to talking good interiors, you need to know the lingo, otherwise it can be hard to keep up. We’ve already broken down the basics for you — from elevated to contrived patina — and now we’ve rounded up a few examples of design slang from around the world to keep on your radar.

Broaden your vocab and decorating horizons below.

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South Africa: ‘Partial Story’

If you know what a mezzanine is, then you’ve seen a partial story. “It’s an additional level in an area that does not cover more than a quarter of the space (give or take), creating a double-height effect,” says Janine Saal, an interior designer at Collaboration in Cape Town. “It’s a great addition to any home that wants to add more functionality to a large, cavernous space but maintain the natural light and openness, while cutting the costs of adding a second floor.

Sweden: ‘Trasmatta’

“Look around a Swedish home (particularly a rural dwelling) and you’re more than likely to come across a trasmatta, or rag rug,” writes Niki Brantmark, the author of Lagom (Not Too Little, Not Too Much): The Swedish Art of Living a Balanced, Happy Life. “This traditional rug is usually handmade on a loom from scraps of worn-out clothes and old rags. You can easily find a trasmatta in the shops, but why not give your old textiles a new lease of life and create your own?”

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France: ‘Chiner’

“The rule I follow when decorating is chiner, which means looking in many second hand shops to find the perfect pieces,” says French illustrator Alice Wietzel. “What’s important to me is to decorate in a sustainable and ecological way, and chiner — reusing and reinventing a purpose for elements of decoration — is part of that process.”

Philippines: ‘Ventanilla’

Considering the Philippines gets incredibly hot and humid, houses tend to have large windows to let air in. “You don’t want to keep big windows open all night, so traditionally houses have other ways of letting in air, like these small screened slots below windows,” says Filipino interior designer and blogger Jennifer Cederstam. “Basically, if it’s not a window but it lets in air, it’s a vetanilla.”

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United States: ‘Decorina

“We love the word decorina, which could be used like: ‘I see the decorina has been busy today.’ A decorator pet word, if you will,” says Miles Redd.

So, go on global decorinas and prosper!

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Scared of Dark Paint? Don’t Be!

Judging from the pages of shelter magazines and interior designers’ Instagram feeds, dark colors are in. And paint companies are offering plenty of options.

Earlier this month, Sherwin-Williams picked a rich, moody blue called Oceanside as its 2018 color of the year. Benjamin Moore named Caliente, an intense shade of red, its upcoming color of the year, and its newest line of paint, Century, is composed of 75 saturated colors like Amethyst, Black Currant and Obsidian. Glidden Paint chose a black called Deep Onyx as its next color of the year, and Olympic Paints & Stains named Black Magic its choice for 2018.

The deep, rich colors promoted for years by companies like the decorator favorite Farrow & Ball, it seems, are finally going mainstream. “From the beautiful, vivacious tones of Radicchio to the super-dark rich of Studio Green, Farrow & Ball is seeing more confidence within decorating choices as we head into 2018,” Charlotte Cosby, who heads up the company’s creative team, wrote in an email.

Joa Studholme, Farrow & Ball’s international color consultant, attributed the trend to a desire to cocoon. “We’re sort of surrounding ourselves with comfort, and one of the ways we’re doing it is through color – to make our homes feel sort of nurturing and tender,” she said. “Instead of coming into clean, white houses, we’re going into homes that sort of give us a hug.”

For those of us more comfortable with whitewashed walls, however, it’s not so easy to make the leap to eggplant or onyx. But here are some tips from design and color experts on how to use dark colors without becoming overwhelmed — or claustrophobic.

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START SMALL If you’re nervous about playing with a deep, dark hue, “limit the color to the inside of cabinets, backs of bookshelves or a painted floor,” said Donald Kaufman, who owns the paint company Donald Kaufman Color with his wife, Taffy Dahl. “Dark, bold windows often bring the outside in.”

Ms. Studholme, of Farrow & Ball, suggested starting with a contained space like a powder room, the underside of a claw-foot tub or a hallway. “When you arrive, it creates a sense of drama,” she said. “You come through and go, ‘Wow.’” An added bonus, she noted: “A dark color in the hall makes the rooms off the hall feel really big and light.”

Ellen O’Neill, director of strategic design intelligence for Benjamin Moore, recommends starting with a focal point, like a fireplace mantel or the inside of shelves or drawers. “I recently photographed a home where the owner painted the inside of the drawers of an antique Chippendale chest a rich aubergine,” she said. “What a color surprise every time you open a drawer.” And as you become more confident, she said, “you can graduate to painting doors to a room or hallway, window trim or wainscoting.”

TEST IT OUT When you’re ready to tackle a whole room, “start with a color family that is already dominant in the home and select two to three shades that you feel makes a statement,” Ms. O’Neill said. “I’d get quarts of each color and paint large swatches of each, one set next to a window and one set in a corner. Observe how the room’s lighting affects the colors three times a day.”

EMBRACE THE DARKNESS “A deep, rich color goes an especially long way in a room without a lot of natural light, as dim rooms look particularly dull in lighter colors,” said Frances Merrill, the founder of Reath Design in Los Angeles, who painted her children’s room Farrow & Ball’s Pigeon gray. “It makes the small space feel finished and gives definition to the ever-rotating collection of artwork.”

In the playroom, she used Templeton Gray from Benjamin Moore. “Every surface in this room is usually covered in a layer of Legos and half-finished science experiments,” she said. “I find that the deeper colors mask the chaos.”

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“Conventional wisdom states that small spaces — especially those facing north — should be lightened to increase the sense of space,” said Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Instituteconsultancy. “However, painting trim a lighter color in an area painted with darker hues can actually increase the illusion of space,” she said, because it creates a “greater impression of height or width in the space.”

Whatever your situation, “it’s best to work with what you’ve got, rather than try to fight the light,” said Ms. Studholme of Farrow & Ball, which offers a guide to how light affects color on its website.

PREPARATION IS KEY “Before painting, ensure surfaces are sound, clean, dry and free from dirt, grease and any other contamination,” said Ms. Cosby of Farrow & Ball. “Always sand down surfaces to achieve a smooth base.”

And if you change your mind later, dark colors are just as easy to paint over as light ones, assuming you prep properly. “Start by priming over the bold hue, then apply two coats of the desired color,” said Ms. O’Neill of Benjamin Moore. But “be sure to allow the primer coat to dry completely before applying the first coat of color.”

GO HALFSIES To add “sophistication and spirit” to a client’s “stark, boxy, white rental,” Alex Kalita, a founder of Common Bond Design in Manhattan, painted the bottom half of the bedroom wall in Hague Bluefrom Farrow & Ball. She calls it “the chair-rail effect” and notes that it serves a few purposes: “It simulates architectural variation in otherwise uniform space; it ties in the building’s teal window frames; and it leverages the cozy, rich, complex and grown-up quality of Hague Blue, while maintaining the practical qualities of white paint, like the illusion of ceiling height.”

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Another tip: “If you’re tempted to go dark and bold on the walls, but you prefer a restrained aesthetic, try keeping the furniture neutral,” Ms. Kalita said. “You can even make bulkier pieces recede by camouflaging them in the wall color. We had our client’s Wonk NYC dresser color-matched to Hague Blue, so that the piece could augment the client’s storage without competing for attention with the room’s more deliberate and sculptural design elements. Dark walls do a good job of visually absorbing things.”

FINALLY, BE BRAVE “I encourage people to be brave with color and unleash their inner artist,” said Ms. Eiseman of the Pantone Color Institute. “Experiment with color, have fun with it, allow yourself to live with it for a while. It is, after all, just one or two cans of paint. And when, and if, you tire of it, move on to another color and treat yourself to another creative exercise.”

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METALLIC ACCENTS ARE DOMINATING PINTEREST RIGHT NOW

Here’s how to get the look without going overboard.

Pinterest is the go-to site for interiors inspiration, with millions of excellent ideas and possibilities to be viewed, saved and shared. Currently trending on Pinterest is metal interiors, with the site revealing that it has seen a 135% increase in the past six months. So let’s take a look at some of the best pins showcasing various forms of metal in the home to help fuel your dream abode…

Continue reading METALLIC ACCENTS ARE DOMINATING PINTEREST RIGHT NOW

24 BEST GREY PAINTS ACCORDING TO TOP INTERIOR DESIGNERS

Grey is the cooler, chicer cousin of white that we can’t stop lusting after. The neutral color can create a calming, elegant or even electrifying effect, making it the perfect option for any decor and personal style. Grey paints come in an array of hues, from subtle pale shades to deep rich pigments.

Continue reading 24 BEST GREY PAINTS ACCORDING TO TOP INTERIOR DESIGNERS