Elegant Mayhem | A haven for lifestyle and home inspiration.
Elegant Mayhem blog, Lee Prince, Leland Prince, home lifestyle inspiration
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If you enjoy feeling all the highs and lows of every emotion, why not move from a big house in the suburbs with 25 years of marital accumulation and squeeze into a tiny rowhouse downtown? Oh, and don’t forget to bring the husband, the 2 kids and a couple of dogs – it will be fun!

 

The kitchen in my new house (before we landed there & covered the counters with appliances & condiments!:)

Our ingenious builder, Linda Battalia, designed the kitchen with a ladder that can be moved all around the room to reach the pretty mirrored upper cabinets for extra storage.

No time to prune and deaccession your belongings before the Big Move Day? No problem! You can figure that out when you get there….right??…maybe???

 

Yes, this is a true story of how I moved my family & all our worldly possessions into the rowhouse below, a mere 4 weeks ago. It has been an epic adventure and completely worth the effort….but  moving is truly NOT for the faint hearted!

 

Mid-progress move-in to new house….what once belonged in separate living room & dining room in our old house are now essentially one shared room, in about 1/3 the overall space. Lots of decisions to make about what stays vs. what goes…

This is how the dining room in our new house looked when we bought it, all pretty & staged:

I’m an eternal optimist and I ADORE our new house, so as customary, I downplayed how hard it would be to in fact, downsize. The actual move was pretty straightforward, but the MOVE IN was really hard because we couldn’t figure out what would work in the new space — and we might have had a few dozen too many chairs, tables, lamps & random boxes….

 

Below – our trash on the curb in front of our neighbor’s house (she must love us!:(

However, when you move to a smaller place, you end up using the space differently than you think you will, so in some ways I’m glad we took more than we needed because it gave us options to make adjustments. We’ve become a familiar face A Wider Circle, an incredible DC-based charity that helps families in need get established in new housing, as I’ve made literally dozens of drop-off of furniture/household items.

 

So there you have it – a snapshot of my past 6 weeks! I will be back to writing you 2x weekly blog reports from now on and have so much new material to share. A trip to London sandwiched in between the move-in date was a great visual feast of great design inspiration — stay tuned & hope you all are taking good care of yourself during the Holidays!

 

At the end of the day, we do what we can and that’s ENOUGH.

 

(Where I put my head down at the end of hard day of unpacking:)

Cheers,
Lee

I’m not a real estate professional, but thankfully I work with a great one, my longtime friend Hans Wydler of Wydler Brothers!  Hans sold our previous home in record time and did so again this time around, with contracts submitted just 1 week after first listing.  My husband & I were not “planning” to move from our house below this Fall after 12 happy years here, but the chance to try a different lifestyle (moving from Washington DC suburbs to closer downtown, in Georgetown) kind of fell into our lap & so our move is ON — officially set for 10 days from now (gulp!).

I’ve learned so much from Hans about how to properly stage & present your house for potential buyers — am slightly too exhausted from the frenzy of past 2 wks to do this justice, but here are a few shots from the photo shoot his team did at our house, and some suggestions I learned along the way…I hope they might be helpful to you if you are in the market too!??

1. The front hall: first impressions count. You don’t have to clean out every single closet, but make sure the ones near the entry are fairly tidy. And keep the palette as neutral as you can, as well as clearing all non essentials (the umbrella stand for instance was in the garage by time that potential buyers came through!).

2.  Living Room – I’m not a big tchotke person, but even I had to go through it with a fine tooth comb to remove extra knick-knacks that might not appeal to everyone. I collect decorative turtles for instance (my favorite childhood pet!), and have some very special ones – my brother in law brought back a carved one from South America, my mom gave me a sweet little brass one… But poof! They did not make the cut for the Open House.

3. Master bedroom – lose all the personal momentos and family photographs. Apparently no potential buyer wants to really visualize WHO lives in the house — they want to picture themselves in the space, kind of like a hotel – keeping it a blank, but hopefully inviting, slate.

4. Get the exterior shots done on a sunny day, or at least a clear one. Hans’ team purposely timed the brochure shoot for a bright day and the results below (no filter as far as I know!) were great.

5.  Take out the screens for increased clarity of window scapes during the shoot and the Open House.  It takes some effort but really does yield a clearer view, as you can see in our Family Room/Breakfast area below….(PS, the flowers throughout the house were via Lilac & Page (follow their amazing floral images on Instagram @lilacandpage!).

6.  Edit, edit, edit!!  My dressing closet below got a good thorough purge (yes, most of my clothes are now in the basement so you will no doubt see me wearing the SAME thing every day for a while. We can’t have it all, can we??:)

MORE RESOURCES — I am indebted to my very talented friend Carol Seitz, who is a partner in Cull and Tend, a concierge home and move management firm in the DC area. Carol is incredibly supportive and gets how stressful moving can be – but gently prods you to make really effective choices and decisive action in the process.  Thank you, Carol!!

I also benefited from a consult with staging expert and designer Tyler Whitmore (sample image of her work below). Tyler walked through all my piles in all four floors of our house as I was figuring out how in the world I could get it ready for an Open House in 5 days!  She encouraged me to just keep winnowing things down so that potential buyers can really see the space and envision themselves there. I loved her artistic eye combined with good practical sense. Very helpful!

SO there you have it. As my brain cells return later in the process, I’ll try to pass along more tips. I would never have thought we could have made such a big undertaking happen this Fall, but with great advice & support from these kinds of professionals (& good friends!), it really was a pretty straightforward process. I won’t say “easy” because it is definitely a ton of work. But knowing that there’s a clear path – a method to the madness – made it quite doable.

 

Stay tuned for Part II – the actual moving process! Ayayaya…

 

Cheers,

Lee

1. Get inspired: listen and read everything Morra Aarons-Mele! Morra’s podcast via Forbes, called Hiding in The Bathroom, is fantastically good.

Morra has an intense but gentle style that makes for an easy, informed listen. I particularly loved Episode 40, her conversation with Stacy London about “what to wear” – which hints at dressing for work but is really for all occasions – I found it very helpful! Also loved the episodes #32 & #36 on Self-Care, which we all need more help with, right??

Morra’s new book of the same name just came out & I’m delighted to be able to go to party in her honor tonight.

She & I spoke a couple of weeks ago about some career questions I was wrestling with and she gave me terrific insights – and encouragement. She’s got very substantive but practical advice in all her platforms….

2. Serena & Lily’s new home collection for Fall. I’m a huge fan of this brand but have felt, and heard others comment, that their catalogs were getting really stale – so little new inventory, high price point, repetitious design style…. BUT this Fall’s lineup offers 500+ new pieces, expanded color palette –more gold and grays — has lots to enjoy…

I still think the price points are too high overall (I’m not in the market for a $600 casual throw blanket and won’t pay $2,500+ for a dhurrie rug), but I found many great new pieces that had right value & look for me. Some favorites:

Trestle Coffee Table – $898. I’m obsessed with this and wish I didn’t already have a blue one I loved!:)

I also love the Reese Coffee Table – a little more expensive but also probably much more versatile too so you can use it in different rooms/houses over time…

Knolls Wood Trimmed Pendant – $198. ADORE this!! I think I have the perfect spot for it in New Hampshire…if I go for it, I’ll send along updated post with them installed. Please let me know if anyone has this or would use it in a kitchen??

3. Behold the power of ThumbtackMaybe you prefer Task Rabbit or another online helper service?

I find Thumbtack has greater network in my area (Washington DC metropolitan area) than other services, but that’s personal preference. The point is to explore some kind of of online helper service so you can outsource things you are NEVER gonna finish yourself!!  

Since I’m in the midst of moving, my needs have expanded & I’ve found GREAT helpers — a carpet cleaner who was more than 50% less expensive and just as good as my usual service….local movers who helped me take heavy boxes from inside the house to the garage…a handyman to do bunch of last minute fix-its….

I’m going sing the slacker song again – I just think that TOO much is expected of all of us and that we need turn-key, affordable support to get certain tasks done! So let go of the guilt and know that you can easily get qualified help asap. No haggling over fees or scheduling – it’s all online & super straightforward (including customer reviews & transparent feedback).

 

Now, with my tasks done, I will be turning my attention to HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, Season 9 Premiere — which could be a 4th thing I do really love!!

Hope you all are feeling a little more inspired…?? Shoot me an email (lee@elegantmayhem.com) with other tips that work for you & I’ll incorporate into upcoming posts! (MBT, you know who you are — thank you for the update re: Coatigans….I’ll be sharing that with everyone soon!)

cheers,

Lee

Last week was my husband & my 21st anniversary, bittersweet because it was same day as a memorial fundraiser for our late friend & Best Man, Bob Miller. So there was no celebration exactly but there was some talk about our time together. “You’ve done some CRAZY stuff in the decades we’ve been together,” Ted said, “but THIS… is by FAR…. the craziest yet,” shaking his head. “This” is our decision to put our house on the market and move to this place….a 19th century row house in a historic part of DC, Georgetown.

Limited parking. Urban hassles. FAR less room. Practically no storage. But with one daughter in college and another one on the way, we just don’t need as much room anymore and it felt right to make a move.

 

I’ll send along more photos and projects as we get further along, but for starters, here’s the Master Bedroom…..

And there are charming touches throughout – how do you like my reflection in the vintage doorknobs? I’m SO professional, I know! 🙂

Second floor bedroom – great light (arguably too much, my daughter Avery will say – note to self: visit The Shade Store asap)

I completely adore my current house & I’ll be nostalgic to leave. For example, this is the last house that my mom visited us at (but ironically, the Georgetown house has a very similar feel to HER last house, in Guilford, Connecticut in a renovated 19th century foundry building).  It is where our kids rode their bicycles in the cul de sac and the site of not just our 50th bday party but our 40th as well…

The blogerati will tell me this photo below is not crisp enough, but who cares, I’m just showing you a “real” slice of how we live – so many meals eaten, newspapers read, homework completed at this table (which my mom bought at a private sale at The Pierre Hotel in NYC when they updated their conference suites a few years ago).  A lot of history. So yes, the table will come with us. And a lot of great memories…

Has anyone else made a move when their kids finished high school? any tips much appreciated!

Hope everyone is enjoying Fall –

Stay tuned….!

Leave it to the British to come up with the perfect word for that in-between layer everyone wants when it starts to turn chilly: the coatigan.  Part coat, part cartigan, 100% comfortable & ideally not a mushy sweater fabric that loses its structure over time. I got a great one last year from MM LaFleur but couldn’t find any from them this season so I rounded up a few alternatives, below.

Do you have any sources you like for this in-between season layer? Please comment or email me (lee@elegantmayhem.com) so I can spread the word – thanks!

Love these two options from London-based (now Stateside too), The White Company…..contrast lined one in taupe/marl:

And another one with black leather piping and sleeves (also from the White Company) – great accent…

While not “technically” a coatigan – I doubt anyone enforces the term:) — this wrap from J. McLaughin is super useful because it’s reversible and serves as that in-between kind of layer…

I’m having deja vu that I’ve posted this alpaca cape from Cuyana before, but I still haven’t ordered! I find Cuyana to have really high quality at good price point.

Also from Cuyana, this oversized turtleneck looks like really versatile piece:

Last but not least, this sleeveless wrap vest would be great instead of a bulky jacket (& arguably more attractive than the shrunken, faded down vest from J. Crew that I inherited from my teenage daughters’ middle school closet….which I CONTINUE to wear! Someone please force me to make an effort in this category – it’s time.

Happy Fall to everyone!

Best,
Lee

I recently had a really cool experience in NYC as a guest panelist on Sirius XM’s “Tastemakers” show, hosted by the multi-talented Pauline Garris Brown, a friend and fellow Dartmouth classmate.  Her show is packed with tips and inspiration for living a beautiful life, so I was honored to be included in the conversation!

Photo by Albert Cheung, courtesy of Shoptiques

The episode I was on featured the legendary interior designer Jamie Drake of Drake/Anderson (you know, Madonna’s decorator, no big deal:) — here are images of his  redesign of NYC’s Gracie Mansion for former Mayor Bloomberg….

— and architect Tom Fox of Fox Diehl who has done projects all over the world, including a beautiful house for Pauline & her family in Long Island. Below is a recent residential project by Fox Diehl:

We all got to weigh in on the very fun subject of creative expression in home design — how to make your space personal and unique to YOU.  You can listen to the full discussion HERE, which was packed with so many interesting tidbits including:
Without ______, Jamie Drake believes your room will never truly be alive or successful
 
What’s the quickest, least expensive way to freshen a room? (hint, it’s much easier & less $ than paint)
 
* How to ensure that your home renovation grows WITH you and your family’s needs over time
 
* The role of color, millwork and unique details (i.e; window style, outdoor lighting) in giving your space a distinctive identity

Bellport residence by Drake Anderson

Pauline brings together diverse guests (top photographers, landscape architects, fashion designers, and design enthusiasts) who share one big thing in common: a passion for beauty. She’s also a senior Lecturer at Harvard Business School and teaches a course called “The Business of Aesthetics” — a subject she knows well, since she was previously Chairman of Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy (LVMH)/North America. Below is an out-take from our session — we had a great time together!

Tune in on Sirius XM “Stars” channel 109, Saturdays at 5 pm, or Sundays at 9 am ET for more great conversations about incorporating style into your day to day life.
 
Thanks to Pauline & everyone at Sirius XM!

I was planning to post about something totally different when I came across an amazing new shop/service featured in the Sept. issue of House Beautiful & had to spread the word! If you live in Northern California, you may already know about The Well Made Home but it is completely new to me & fills a great hole in the market — offering individuals a custom look with designer fabrics in a way that suits them (ie; shopping affordably from home).

Founded by Kelly Bedford Willrich & Melanie Mount, who were previously VP’s at Pottery Barn, The Well Made Home offers huge range of beautiful pillows on their website  — or in their Larkspur shop, which doubles as an active workshop. I love how they describe the business on their website: “Together, Kelly and Melanie are on a mission to bridge the gap between mass retailers and the exclusive world of interior design, allowing you to create products for your home that are personal, meaningful and timeless.

I had just ordered bunch of great pillows via Etsy, but these from Well Made Home really caught my eye….

AND, did I mention “they do windows”??!! Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.  Window treatments, upholstery and even design planning services are available.

I’m overdue for a visit to see friends in SF, so this just may be an added incentive:) Til then, enjoy & let me know what you find/love in their shop — too many good choices, right??

 

Cheers,

Lee

If you told me I’d get to be at our new lake house for 1 full month, I would have told you the entire place would be fully painted, furnished & accessorized by the month’s end. Because I’m a crazy optimist & I have a very rich fantasy life. BUT I will say that now 3 weeks in, there are so many great resources that are making the process not only easy but in fact, fun. Happy to share what I’ve learned — and please let me know if you have any further ideas to add!

 

Here’s the Library room — although bookshelves won’t be built for several more weeks — covered in pastiche of blue paint samples… (My husband’s patience is being tested:).

The winner is:  Benjamin Moore #1646 “Lookout Point”, which BM describes as: “...weightless pale blue with the slightest touch of soft, smooth gray captures the appearance of the sky on an overcast morning.” Yup, that was the goal – done.

I ordered this Safavieh kilim from Overstock & it works out perfectly for the space! It’s a heavy wool dhurrie style, very forgiving & kind of blends traditional/modern the way I hoped. The image below is much more “teal” than the actual rug I received but that was a plus. Coffee table ordered from Crate and Barrel….and I still need to paint the side table….

ETSY – Of course you know & love Etsy.com but did you know you can use it as your personal resource for custom pillows with amazing array of to-the-trade-only fabric choices??  I ordered these Lisa Fine beauties, from Kemble Richards’ etsy shop….arrived beautifully packaged & in record time.

And these from Dekowe shop on Etsy which also has gorgeous selections (the ones below are Peter Dunham)…

If you want to see more, click here for my “Modern Farmhouse” board on Pinterest, with tons of other products and resources you can pick up.

 

The Family Room is like a (too) blank canvas right now – it has great light and is super peaceful, but verrrryyy much needs a couple paintings by my dad – coming next wk!! (And some accessories — I’m layering these in slowly so it doesn’t get too junky.)

Gayle Asher paintings (from GayleAsher.com):

Last but not least, thank you for the feedback on where I can order to-the-trade-only wallpapers as a non-professional!  Katie G. offered great resource – LA Design Concepts. It has a million of amazing choices from favorite designers and brands.

 

And this Seattle-based shop, Adorn, offers some nice options too. I’m kind of hooked on this Celerie Kemble “Feather Bloom” in Blue/green for the powder room…

And the Galbraith “fern” paper below for the upstairs bathroom…..

But first, I have a few boxes of merch to open….and yes, because we’re in the country, a couple of dump runs to do with the excess packaging!

What online or other upscale DIY resources do you rely on for your decorating projects?? I’d love to know & will share with everyone in upcoming post!

 

Cheers & happy summer,

 

Lee

I recently had several friends ask me for a short list of must-see, interesting places in Paris — I thought I’d put it down on paper for all of us to daydream a bit together…or maybe you are one of the lucky ones with a trip planned there too?!  The dollar is so strong & tourism is down in Paris now, so it is a great time to take advantage of lower rates and enjoy it all.

1.  First, where to stay:  St. Germain des Pres neighborhood. I’ve stayed in various neighborhoods (arrondissements) in Paris, for work trips and for pleasure, & the one I finally ended up adopting as my home away from home is St. Germain des Pres. Its cobblestone streets are nestled around the Abbey of St. Germain (below), with the famous cafes of Les Deux Magots (6 place Saint-Germain-des-Pres), one of Picasso’s favorite spots, and Brasserie Lipp (151 Boulevard Saint-Germain), where Ernest Hemingway wrote A Moveable Feast, within a stone’s throw.

You will find huge array of small hotels in the neighborhood — I’ve stayed at the very low-end ones as an art student and much more comfortable ones as I got older! Here are two I recommend — & the current prices are lower than I’ve seen in past 10 years!

* HOTEL DES SAINTS PERES (65 Rue des Saints-Peres):  I saw a rate as low as $140 night (cheaper than many of the sketchy places my daughter & I are staying on our epic college road trip!).

Why I like this hotel — location is quaint and very accessible to great area boutiques and museums…..the concierges speak perfect English – when I brought my 80-year old dad over (no French), he was able to get detailed touring info from them with no problem at all….it’s historic (late 1600’s!) but has modern amenities.

The courtyard cafe actually looks just like this photo from their website – very tranquil.

Rooms are tiny (or mine were) but comfy and stylish. This is the hotel for you if you like places with character.

2. HOTEL BEL AMI (7-11 Rue Saint-Benoit):  A bigger, more modern hotel (great Wifi, which my daughter loved) with….wait for it….air conditioning! (surprisingly rare in older parts of Paris), Hotel Bel Ami is a great choice if you want more open common spaces and up to date details.  I saw rate for $240, which is much less than I paid 5 years ago.

2. WHERE TO SHOP:  Of course this could be a VERY long post if I wrote down every single place, but my favorite thing to do is to walk all around St. Germain des Pres and cover the small boutiques (vs. bigger, more famous department stores). Unlike in the U.S., you don’t have to go to some non-descript, trade-only “Design Center” to see fabrics and furniture from top brands. If you go to Place de Furstenberg, lovely cul de sac below — you’ll find places like Manuel Canovas, Pierre Frey, etc. dotted throughout the area. Anyone can walk in & order!

Don’t miss Flamant! This large furniture/accessories – all things home – is absolutely beautiful. And since most Parisians are going to be away for all of August, you’ll probably find some great sales going on too.

Others I love:

  • Simrane – 23 rue bonaparte. Incredible original Provence-style linens. The owner actually went to college in the U.S. (Cornell) and has been sourcing textiles and homegoods from France and India for decades.
  • Sabbia Rosa – 73, rue des Saints-Peres:  lingerie store!
  • Aurelie Bidermann – 55, Rue des Saints Peres — adore.
  •  Inez de la Fressange Paris – 24 Rue de Grenelle – former Chanel model, very chic, home & some clothes/accessories.
  • It sounds crazy i know, but the Ralph Lauren store there (173 Blvd St Germaine) is to die for, in a Beaux Art bldg — and the courtyard garden is lovely spot.  Sonia Rykiel store is right next to it & also great.

3. Where to eat: I am not a foodie so I”ll leave that reportage for others, but there are 3 food-related destinations I’d recommend.

  • E. Dehillerin 20 Rue Coquillière, 75001 — Hop in cab & head to E. Dehillerin for a real adventure. This is the historic French chef’s store where Julia Child used to shop for cookware and where Ina Garten does today. I took my youngest daughter there when she was 13 & we had great time looking at the HUGE industrial-size ladles (as tall as she was) or the teeny tiny pastry piping tools. Its main audience is professional Parisian restaurant chefs but you’ll find something there for your home to be sure.
  • Poilane — what is Paris without a perfect baguette to savor?! There are many Poilane shops throughout Paris & of course they’re all superb. I’m not the biggest fan of their website (currently says they are “looking forward to Spring”:( )  but if you can bear with the clunkiness of the site, you CAN order Poilane bread fresh from Paris for when you get home! I’ve done this for myself and as gifts and it’s been fun — they Fedex the fresh bread out in the AM straight to you. Look under the “Shop” tab.
    • Last but not least, check out Cookn’ with Class (6 Rue Baudelique, 75018) towards Montmartre. We took a macaroon-making class that was incredible! All classes taught in English (our teacher was actually from Australia) but use specific French cooking methods. Our classmates were from all over the world — and the resulting macarons were at least as good as Laduree! (Our Parisian friends whom we shared the macaroons with that evening said “perhaps even better” than Laduree). High praise from a Frenchman!

We booked our class online via the link on TripAdvisor. Worked out great.

Anyone who goes HAS to report back to all of us with sales or tips we can all use, ok?!!  Paris is so great any time but on sale, even sweeter.

 

A bientot,

 

Lee

As a transplanted New Yorker living in Washington DC, I love it when I find other people with similar background. Anna Matthews is a design crush of mine & although we haven’t worked together (yet!), I adore how she creates lovely LIVABLE spaces, especially for families and dogs!  A Parsons grad, Anna has a beautiful sense of color and scale — making each of her projects somehow both cheerful and yet sophisticated. DC is lucky to have her:)

 

Meet the designer & her dog…

Here’s a beautiful re-do of a cottage in Gibson Island (Maryland).  Reminds me of early Victoria Hagan projects — I love the old fan as basically a piece of sculpture!

How smart (& inexpensive) is this “runner”??  Makes so much sense in busy summer house with kids & dogs. Plus it feels so light & fresh…

Photos by Laura Metzler

I could move right into this Chevy Chase MD family home below — feels modern & classic at the same time. Great sconce! Must find source….stay tuned.

I’m obsessed with the blue color of the shelves (& in fact I saved a wine bottle cap from party the other night which is exact same shade — & I’m taking it to hardware store today to match for color of our front door in NH!). Of course I’d have 1,000 more books on my shelves; yes, it’s a problem I know:)

Last but not least, I leave you with this little slice of lavender in a cozy corner. Ahhhhhhh…..And before I forget — Anna’s Instagram feed (@annamatthewsinteriors) is GORGEOUS.

If you know of other up and coming designers with great style, please let me know – I’d love to discover them & will be happy to share with everyone! In meantime, I’m still unpacking & unpacking & unpacking up here in New Hampshire. Writing this was great diversion from the ample “mayhem” around me. Onwards!!

 

Enjoy,

Lee