Living La Belle Vie: Project Simplify


Lately, I’ve been completely consumed with the idea of simplifying my life.  If you’re a regular reader, this may sound entirely antithetical to my love of all the pretty things. Initially it did to me too and I was embarrassed to even talk about it with anyone. But when I obsess over something in a thinking-about-it-almost-every-waking-moment kind of way, I know there is something there to explore and I have most certainly been pondering this nonstop.

So the first thing I want to examine is: Can maximalist tendencies coexist with minimalist concepts?

They sound like diametrically opposed ideas but I have to think there is a way for those of us who just aren’t cut out to be minimalists but who still want to live more simply and I’m determined to figure it out once and for all. I think I was on the right track in this post (from more than 3 years ago!) and it’s time to revisit that approach!


The other thing I want to examine is: Aside from physical possessions, what else can be simplified to decrease stress, increase peace of mind and leave us with more time and energy?

I’ve broken Project Simplify into five main areas: 1) home (the obvious one); 2) wardrobe (also pretty obvious); 3) financial/legal/business; 4) creative projects; and 5) health and spirituality.

I want to take a look at these five areas in the coming months and share what I’m learning and tips I find useful. I’d also love to get any insights and advice you may have. I feel like there’s a big shift happening right now and more than ever, many of us are yearning to edit, pare down, organize…..  Maybe we can help each other along?

So I’ll be contemplating this – and not doing much else – on vacation next week in Thailand. I’ve been counting down the days! The past month has been really stressful on many fronts so this vacation is coming at the perfect time. The inevitable coconut and palm tree images will be on Instagram (@fromtherightbank) and Snapchat (@fromtherightbnk)!

Hope you’re all enjoying these last days of summer. See you in September!


Travel Tips FROM THE RIGHT BANK: Berlin

Berlin Wall

Berlin was so much more than I expected and two weeks later, I’m still feeling buoyed by all the great design and creativity I saw. I hadn’t been there in 26 years(!) so I did a lot of research and planning beforehand and we ended up having one of the most fun trips in recent memory.

Going forward, I’m going to try and share more of my travel finds and experiences here on the blog. For a long time, I felt that if I can’t cover every aspect of a destination, it’s not worthwhile. (Perfectionist tendencies rearing its ugly head again.) But I’ve also been feeling like it’s a shame not to share all this good information. So I’m going to try and devote more time to putting together these Travel Tips FROM THE RIGHT BANK with the understanding that they’re not meant to be complete guides. (There are certainly more than enough places on the web for basic information on any destination anyway.)

Berlin Tiergarten

So, Berlin. First and foremost, let’s discuss our hotel. Das Stue. Like the city itself, it far exceeded my expectations and don’t you just love when that happens? I’ve been a fan of Patricia Urquiola’s designs for a very long time but after experiencing Das Stue, it’s on a whole other level. The design was so flawless I really could have spent the entire week holed up in the hotel and I would have been happy. Have a look around…..


Around every corner, it was perfection.

But I did leave the hotel long enough to take in some of the sights, to shop and of course, to eat…..


There was a heat wave in most of Europe the week we were there but it was worth suffering the heat to see the Reichstag (she’s a beauty) and we did a quick walk by the Brandenburg Gate and the Wall Memorial.

We spent another very hot (100 degrees!) afternoon walking the length of the East Side Gallery, which is made up of the remnants of the former Berlin wall now covered in some great art.

Our hotel was on the edge of Tiergarten, a huge garden that’s really lush and full of shady trails and lakes. Picture Central Park with a lot more mature trees and a lot less people and that’s the Tiergarten. Peaceful and lovely.

Kreuzberg (Little Istanbul) is full of small cafes, restaurants and shops. I found my favorite shop of the trip there – VooStore – as well as the very quirky Museum of Things.


Checkpoint Charlie is probably the most touristy spot in Berlin but It think it’s a fascinating part of German history and worth a quick visit.

The Helmut Newton Foundation houses the iconic fashion photographer’s personal effects and exhibitions of his work as well as other photographers. On my visit, there were two great exhibits of Willy Maywald and Frank Horvat. If you’re an architecture buff like me, you’ll also want to visit the Bauhaus Archiv which is nearby.

I wanted to check out the design of the Michelberger Hotel so we ducked in for a drink one afternoon. It has a nice laid back, hipster vibe like much of the Friedrichshain neighborhood.

Mitte is the buzziest area by all accounts and one of the areas you’ll want to visit to see contemporary art. There are numerous galleries on and off of the main drag, Augustrasse, where you’ll also find the Kunst-Werke Institute for Contemporary Art (KW). I also recommend two wonderful shops there: Gestalten Space, a concept store and Hut up which makes the most beautiful clothes from just felt, soap and water (no thread!). The Hackische Market also has cute little shops, most with a local focus.

Not pictured, I also did some damage at KaDeWe, which you could call the Harrod’s of Berlin. (It was my birthday after all…..) Its claim to fame is that it is the largest department store on the continent and while it didn’t feel that big to me, it certainly had plenty of everything, including a wonderful gourmet food section.


Now let’s talk about the food.

We ate so well! We had some good spatzle, pretzels, currywurst…. all the usual suspects. But the highlights were all the really innovative and novel restaurants that are making the fine dining scene in Berlin really exciting. Oh and the wines! We discovered so many new and interesting wines predominantly from Germany and Austria but also Hungary. The sommeliers at these restaurants are some of the best I’ve met anywhere. They really know what they are doing.

These were the highlights from the week…..


Cinco by Paco Perez. Playful, Cataln-inspired avant-garde cuisine and presentation. Chef Perez happened to be there the night we dined and he was lovely, which is always a plus.

Tim Raue. This was the husband’s favorite restaurant of the trip. Asian-inspired but like nothing you’ve ever had elsewhere and perfect service. I’m still dreaming of the langoustine dish I had.

Paul Saal. Fresh take on traditional German cuisine, pretty terrace/courtyard and the most interesting location inside a former Jewish girls’ school that also houses the oddball Kennedy Museum and a gallery.

Nobelhart & Schmutzig. This one wins for most creative. I can’t even begin to describe it. It’s great food, sourced locally prepared using traditional methods all served from what they call a shared menu. All I can say is if you’re in Berlin, this is one you’ll want to experience.

Horvath. This was not only my favorite of the trip but it goes on my top 10 list for the entire world. (It was that good!) Inventive Austrian cuisine, very friendly service and the best wine pairings we’ve had anywhere in a very long time. I want to get back on a plane just to eat there again.

So there you have it. Again, this isn’t intended to be a comprehensive guide but just the highlights of my own trip so if you have any tips you’d like to share, please leave them in the comments!


P.S. This was the first time I Snapchatted during a trip and it was so much fun. It’s such an easy way to share short video tours and to give you a better feel for places. I’ll definitely be doing more of it on future trips. So join me there if you’d like to see more from my travels – or behind the scenes at home. I’m @fromtherightbnk.


House Projects Update + Snapchat

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I gave myself a June 30 deadline to complete the major house projects and here we are – almost at the end of June! (How did that happen so fast?) Anyway, I’ll be traveling next week so I’m checking in with you a week early and I’m happy to say I got almost everything done. As I already reported, all of the lighting is installed, the laundry room got a little fancy and the cabinets in the butler’s pantry got painted.

In addition….. the wallpaper also went up in the butler’s pantry…..

cole and son vivienne's lace

The living room finally got that new sofa…..

The guest room got a fun wallpaper (called C’est Magnifique)…..

And the dining room got a new look…..

dining room

I donated the old dining furniture and brought in the table, chairs and lighting from the eat-in space in the kitchen. I also swapped out the art wall for this painting by Atlanta artist Nancy Westfall which I bought as a Christmas present to myself!

Obviously this means the eat-in space looks different too and I love, love, love it. Here’s a very tiny peek of that…..

eat-in space

I hope I can reveal all the full spaces here and everywhere else sometime soon!

The three things I didn’t get to are wallpapering the water closet in the master bath (can’t decide on paper), re-wallpapering my dressing room (glitch with the paper) and painting guest room #1 (can’t decide on color). I plan on getting these knocked out during the summer. I swear!

Then for the rest of 2015, I’m giving myself just one giant task: to clear out and organize the storage room and my office/studio. Both are overflowing and in need of some serious attention. I feel like I’ve got some good momentum going so I’m pretty confident I can do it!

Das Stue Hotel
Das Stue Hotel

So in other news, my first trip for the summer will be to Berlin next week. I haven’t been there since before the wall came down(!) and I’ve been wanting to check out its design scene for a while. There’s also been a lot of buzz around its food lately (really!) and I’ve booked some interesting sounding places to check out. Also, we’ll be staying at Das Stue Hotel which I blogged about back when I didn’t even have plans to go to Berlin but just really loved the design. So you can count on plenty of hotel pics on Instagram (@fromtherightbank)!

If you’d like to follow along on this trip, I’ll also be on Snapchat. Now let’s talk about Snapchat and Instagram for a minute.

On Instagram, I try to post only really pretty or interesting photos because that’s what I personally enjoy seeing. And yes, I edit the heck out of most of my photos to get them to look how I want. So hopefully, what you’re getting with my Instagram feed is a beautiful gallery of photos as opposed to just a bunch of snapshots. There’s nothing wrong with that of course but it’s just not how I like to use it.

Now enter Snapchat! I only got on it recently and I’m having so much fun posting snaps and videos of what’s going on behind the scenes at FTRB and random things I’m up to, all on the fly. So if you want to see it all – the unplugged, raw, unfiltered, etc. – join me there! I’m @fromtherightbnk – no ‘a’ in ‘bnk’.

Well, I think that’s enough from me for today. See you back here in a couple of weeks!


All The Lighting! (Done!)

Ladies and gentlemen, the longest quest in decorating history has finally come to an end. The last of the lighting on the first floor of the house is now sorted! Yes!!!

First, let’s talk about the biggest and most exciting piece…..

zanadoo chandelier

The Arteriors Zanadoo (large) chandelier has been installed in the family room! I have loved this style of light for almost 10 years now. So what took so long?  What held me up was that I was trying to figure out the lighting in the adjacent spaces (the kitchen and the eat-in space) at the same time and needed everything to work together. There were also the library sconces over the mantel to consider. Every time I found something for one area, it didn’t work with one of the other ones, etc. It was like a puzzle – like one of those puzzles for toddlers with only 4 giant pieces(!)

The first big step in solving my dilemma was to let go of the library sconces. I envisioned a certain look for this space and I had to accept the fact that they just weren’t going to work with any of the fixtures I wanted. I still really love them and as I told you earlier, they are going in the guest bath so they are not going to waste. In their place, the Currey Calhoun sconces got installed…..

Currey Calhoun sconces

They work really well with everything and gave me the freedom I needed while looking for the other pieces.

So to refresh your memory, I made a decision on the kitchen lights last year…..

circa goodman sconces

Goodman Pendants from Circa. I could not love these more.

So then I had to figure out what to do in the eat-in space and I didn’t want to limit my options by going ahead with the family room light first. Know what I mean?

Then, one fine day, I spotted this at a local vintage store…..


A vintage Dorothy Thorpe lucite and brass chandelier! That’s when it all fell into place.

I’ve only recently started to calm down over my find. Here it is now over the kitchen table…..

Dorothy Thorpe chandelier

After staring at it (and staring at it), I realized how much it reminded me of this chandelier in the House Hotel in Istanbul that I blogged about 4 years ago…..


The Dorothy Thorpe is like its shorter, chunky sister. 😉 I remember specifically commenting on the lighting in that post and wondering who made it. I did some digging and found out that it was custom made for the hotel by a design firm in Istanbul called Autoban. It’s still one of my favorite fixtures.

[In sort of related news, we’re thinking of going to Istanbul this year and I think we may stay at the House Hotel so I’ll get to see the lights in person!]

So with the pendants over the kitchen island and this fixture in the eat-in space, I knew the Zanadoo would work in the family room so I was able to finally pull the trigger…..

Zanadoo chandelier

So that, my friends, was the convoluted thought process I went through to get to this point and I could not be happier with the outcome! I’m also just ecstatic that this lighting saga is finally over. I’m at the point now where I really want to just sit back and enjoy my house for a while without changing anything. You know, like a normal person….. at least for a little while!

(All photos by FROM THE RIGHT BANK except 3.1st Dibs 4.Autoban)

Wallpapering the Butler’s Pantry

I want to let you in on a little secret. Earlier this year, I gave myself a deadline of June 30 (first half of 2015) to finish up the major decorating projects in this house. By major, I mean things like painting, wallpapering, key pieces of furniture, lighting, etc. I kept this to myself because I wasn’t entirely confident I could pull it off and then I’d have a lot of splainin’ to do! But I actually think it might happen(!) so let me start filling you in on what’s been going on, starting with the butler’s pantry.

The color of the butler's pantry was inspired in part by the Veuve Clicquot orange.
The color of the butler’s pantry was inspired in part by the Veuve Clicquot orange.

I have had the hardest time deciding on what to do with the walls in there! As you know the cabinets are now painted orange. For a minute I thought I’d paint the walls as well but I think I knew all along that wallpaper would be better. So I looked at hundreds of patterns and just about every color combination imaginable with orange. But nothing felt right when I took into account how it ties in with the kitchen and dining room which it connects. (The dining room also got a makeover recently which I will tell you about soon.) What I finally concluded was that I need to go either gold and white or orange and white.

I’m still mulling over the gold and white options but here are the three orange and white ones I like best. My criteria were that it had to be orange on white (not white on orange), a true orange (not coral) and with no other colors. This may sound simple enough but other than some trellis patterns there aren’t many that fit the bill.

First up is People from Harlequin…..


I find this one interesting because it looks abstract from afar but up close you see that they’re silhouettes of people. It’s kind of fun.


Then there’s good old Tanzania from Thibaut…..


I’ve always loved this pattern (you know I love leopard anything) but I feel like I’ve seen it too much over the past couple of years so that has kept me from jumping all over it. But on the other hand, I haven’t seen it used in the orange colorway which is why I haven’t nixed the idea altogether either.

Finally, the one I’m leaning toward the most is Vivienne’s Lace from Cole and Son…..


It’s whimsical and fun and feels really fresh to me even though it came out quite a few years ago. It also happens to be designed by Vivienne Westwood who is one of my fashion icons so that kind of feels like a sign. The only example I could find in orange was this…..


But here’s a better look at it (though it’s in gray)…..


So if I go with orange and white, I’m pretty sure this will be the one but let me know if you have any other suggestions!

Once the butler’s pantry is done, the first floor of the house will be finished!!! Now that will be an occasion to pop some Veuve Clicquot if ever there was one! (If you’re wondering about the lighting situation on the first floor, I’ve finalized it all and could not be happier about it! I’ll share that with you in my next post.)

(Photos: 1.Veuve Clicquot 2-5.As linked 6.Houzz 7.Pinterest)