Friday, June 17, 2011

Undecorate - My Sentiments Precisely

If I could write a book, if I had the resources, the design experience, the writing skills, the ability to express myself, the whole package of talent, as that of author Chistiane Lemieux , 

I would have written Undecorate.

I am the first to devour the latest design books by well known, talented and educated designers,  those full of knowledge about the finest of antiques, art, furniture, fabrics, etc. I love certain designers more than others, finding I am consistently attracted to and recognize their work.

But, what I really love, really feel deep in my soul, to the point of passionate obsession the design of a home that truly reflects the lives and personalities of the people who live there.

Christiane says it better than I.......

"Undecorating is following your instinct, even when it's telling you to do something a little crazy,  a little different, something against the rules." 

"The homes featured in these pages reflect their owners' fearless approach to style. An approach that has nothing to do with trends (though inside you'll find all the trends that are current now, or ever have been, done pretty terrifically) , and it has nothing to do with the rules."

"Undecorating isn't haphazard style, it's not thought-free. It's about being guided by something other than the traditional constraints - whether it's your commitment to the environment,  or your love of polka dots, or the fact that you want to feel like you live in Paris when you live in Peoria."

I couldn't agree more, nor could I say it any better!!

  Everywhere you look around my house you can find a stack of design books, art books, collecting books, you name it.....anything the least bit related to design, architecture,  art and antiques, I either have it or want it!

Some are really dated, really dated..... but I can't seem to part with them, and I do reference a lot of them often!


Some are just so pretty that I pull them off the shelf time and again for inspiration.

 Many are beautiful reference books I have acquired over time, depending on my interests.

So, recently I picked up a copy of Undecorate

being attracted to, quite honestly, the pictures first.

Then I began to read and wow..... Did this book resonate with me!


As I was flipping through Undecorate for the first time, I glanced down and saw a familiar room ....then a familiar face.

I don't know if I have ever referred to her as "my friend", but my initial thought was
 "Oh look! there's my friend, Valorie"!

Now, if you are not a blogger, you must know this about design blogging friends.
We have not always actually met each other.
Quite often, we have not.

Something happens though when you read a blog post that resonates with you.

You leave a comment and sometimes what you have said inspires that blogger to comment back.

Sometimes a conversation ensues, often by email.
 You have common thoughts or interests, or not, but you find the discussion interesting nevertheless.

Sometimes the relationship continues, sometimes not; sometimes design bloggers have developed true, real life, in person friendships.

Others remain the modern day version of pen pals.

In this case,Valorie and I have not corresponded often, nor commented on each other's blogs regularly......occasionally, but not regularly.

But, I do know she is there and have followed her blog for quite some time.

Valorie is outspoken, forthright, colorful and bold, in design and in personality.

I am a people pleaser to a fault, not bold, wishing I could be more so.....but passionate about color, creative design,and  individual style reflective of a home's owners.

So, I am intrigued by and amused by Valorie.
I like and respect her, for her style and for her comfort with who she is.

She has been through some major events in her life these last few years and one would have to be totally numb not to have been touched.

Her husband, love,  and partner in life and in Tango,  Alberto, suffered a heart attack while they were out of the country and they had a terrible time of it with the events that followed.

I followed Valorie's blog posts and her appeals for help.

I loved reading of the outpouring of love and care she and Alberto received.

Valorie and Alberto received so many well wishes, monetary donations, gifts, cards and love from fellow bloggers, there was no way she could write each individually.  In true blogger form, she wrote  a long and gracious post to thank all who had reached out to them, and there were many.

Valorie has a style and a sense of self that is uniquely her own, and for this I admire her the most.

For this style, expressed in her popular blog, Visual Vamp, she was contacted by the Christiane Lemieux, for her book, Undecorate.

In Valorie's words

"The author Christiane Lemieux and the team at Dwell Studio found me because of my blog! Christiane was looking for raw talent, and spaces that were unique and personal. She also understands the great source blogs provide, a deep pool of talent, where bloggers show an unparalleled dedication to a subject and interest shared by thousands of decor lovers.

The Dwell team liked my writing, my style, and my house, and they also wanted to do something in New Orleans. Christiane is of French Canadian descent, and she feels a deep affinity for the culture of New Orleans."

When I asked Valorie is she had posted about being in the book, she replied that she had not.
Strange as it seems for her confident personality, she had not tooted her own horn....... she felt humble in this case.

I asked her if I could write a post about her being in the book, you know, brag on her a bit!
She agreed and was delighted to share some of her thoughts on the entire experience.

Read on and you will experience Valorie's beautiful way of expressing her thoughts and feelings:

"I got an email one day asking me if I'd be interested in having my home in a book. Since I am working on a book of my own, I was thrilled to be included. I have been "in print" many times throughout my long career as a stylist, an event designer, and now as an interior decorator, but this book was especially near and dear to my heart because of the concept Christiane was putting forth.

Her idea of bloggers and real people having an innate populist talent for creating well designed and beautifully decorated spaces jibed with my own feelings. She also included personal back stories about each home she chose to photograph and write about, and this makes the book have depth. And that she traveled to each location, and each home, and got to know each space, each town or city, and each home owner, this certainly adds another layer of personality and richness."

Of course, Valorie's love of color speaks to my heart. She is unafraid to create color saturated, bold interiors full of texture and shape, chock full of interesting things. Check out the lamps in the above photo. Interesting and fun, especially mixed with the cowhide rug.

I used to think I was in the minority of people who re-arrange their furniture and collections regularly, just for fun. I have learned through blogging that it is a characteristic of many design freaks lovers.

Regarding this red room, and a few other things that have changed, Valorie has this to say:

"As you know, we visual vamps are restless decorators, always changing and tweaking our homes, Decorating for us is an enjoyable and ongoing work in progress, our own homes are think tanks and labs for trying out things. I think reading blogs and getting to see all the choices out there fuels the flow of serial decorating. So when I see those pictures in Undecorate. pressed in time forever, I have a sweet nostalgia for what was then, and an appreciation for what the same rooms look like now.

As many Vamp readers know, the red office/dining room shown in the book is gone, and the Gris Gris (Voodoo) altar packed up and stored in a safe place. That altar was a direct out pouring after Hurricane Katrina, and when I decided to change the red room and put the altar away, it was symbolic of finally healing and moving on from the whole emotional journey that Katrina dealt. The altar is still there, packed in boxes, stored in a cupboard, and the power and protection it bestowed on our home and our psyches still emanates its good energy.

My hair color you see in Undecorate also changed from the firebrand red I wore during and after Katrina. That vibrant hair color was my way of saying I'm here and so is New Orleans! Now my hair color is a more relaxed soft gray/blond, much like the new color of the dining room and kitchen. I
guess you could say my hair is greige like my new choice of greige wall color!

My husband Alberto and I have gone through a lot since that photo shoot. It is sweet for us to see ourselves in the pages of Undecorate, again a frozen moment of time, happy and healthy standing on our front porch surrounded by the lush greenery, vastly enjoying the company of the entire Dwell team that also surrounded us. They are a very lovely and loving group of people. All of those ferns in the photo, froze and died in one bad winter after the shoot, and in a way Alberto froze and died one winter in Calgary. But the lush garden has come back, and so has Alberto. We still feel the love from the Dwell team, and from all the bloggers who pulled us through that winter."

I LOVE Valorie's perspective on the effects of Katrina, how they responded to it, and how it changed their lives and how they live.

The patio and garden area after Katrina.
I think one could say these two photos say a lot about Valorie , her design aesthetic for sure, but more so her style, her resilience and her attitude. 

The patio today.

And what is Valorie up to as we speak?

After two wonderful years working at the top home furnishing store Perch on Magazine Street in New Orleans, Valorie announces that she has left the shop, to do her own decor, styling, and event design projects, as well as working on her writing assignments and her book "New New Orleans Style (New NOLA Style)", and of course writing her ever popular blog, Visual Vamp.

Thank you, Valorie, for allowing me to snag all of the above photos from here and there on your blog, and for letting me brag on you and your well deserved spot in the fabulous book


Now I would encourage each and every one of you reading this post to go out and buy this book today. It will inspire you to decorate in the best way -

authentically, and creatively, through your own eyes, and from your heart.


  1. This is such a great post....many words of wisdom here......
    I can tell I am going to enjoy checking out her blog.......

    And can I just say.....
    that table in your house.....
    I want to carefully wrap the tablecloth over the top of EVERYTHING on it and transport it to my house!!

    I so love your style!!

  2. Hi Ann!
    What a nice tribute to Valorie!!!!!I know she will love this post!!!!!!You are a dear and so are they!I am happy that after such a rough time she is happy.Maryanne xo

  3. What a beautiful tribute to your friend. And even I have occasioned on her blog before. I agree wholeheartedly that the main mandate of this life should be to be YOURSELF. Sad that few of us feel we truly can be. Life outside the home demands a lot of fakery sometimes, but I do think that being yourself at home is the best - it is the one place we are free to define ourselves as we please. And that includes undecorating, accepting things as they are, making do with what you have, making a big decor project if you feel like it. Or not!

    I love nothing more than a "lived in" house, lived in by an interesting person I should say. That is the most interesting house to me - I love people who are slightly off the norm!

    xo Terri

  4. My goodness! I am off to buy that book! Thanks for sharing!

  5. omg Ann.
    I am humbled.
    I had no idea you would do such a wonderful in depth post!
    Thank you my dear blog friend.
    Thank you for your authentic and generous heart.
    xo xo

  6. Thank you.
    You're very kind and we're grateful for your lovely words.

  7. Hi Ann,

    Wonderful and thoughtful post!

    I will visit Valorie and her very hip, unique and interesting blog today!

    xo kelley

  8. What a great post, Ann!
    Like you, I'm a design book junkie. And magazines . . . oh my do I have stacks. You are both stylish and generous. Nice. Thanks for sharing.

  9. You are so right -- the best (residential) design is when one's family & interests are reflected so clearly. That's what I like about the pictures you share about your home. There's no mistake made, family and folk art are two of your favorites!

    I love Visual Vamp's design asthetic - so lively and colorful. I bet she's funny, too.

    Oh, nah, I'm not pouring concrete... professionally. LOL. Richard Laughlin is building my "transition cabin" -- just over the creek from you :) -- I'm optimistically thinking that it's for when I sell my house, which is still a little while off. They started framing - this last week. Fun times!

  10. This is a great post. So glad I had the time to visit today. Thanks

  11. hi Ann! I have heard of the book, but have never actually seen it- it sounds like one to add to the reading room;)

    What a lovely tribute to your friend Valorie! I'm off to visit her blog now.

    see you soon;)

  12. Ann, Truly a great post.
    You know how to excite...I am now off to read Valorie's blog and find her book.

    Post with heart are always the best.



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