historic restorations

Betsy Ross: America’s First Lady of Interior Design

American Flag

This week we’re celebrating the 4th of July with red, white and blue parties, parades and fireworks. It’s only right that we acknowledge the legacy left by Betsy Ross. But not just for the American flag.

Betsy Ross is really America’s First Lady of interior design. How so? Well, upon closer scrutiny you’ll find that she  …

  • was a serious networker in her community. Her pew was next to George Washington’s pew at Christ Church in Philadelphia. Who else would they turn to whip up a fancy flag in a hurry?
  • owned her own upholstery company, which in the 18th century, was the equivalent of an interior designer today. She had drapery makers, furniture upholsterers, paper hangers and painters working for her.
  • brought many of her immediate family into the business with her as it grew.
  • all through her career she had it all (many times over) – three husbands and seven children

So when you go to salute the American flag on Thursday, remember that it was a woman interior designer who made it possible!

Hanging Wallpaper with Google Hangouts

Google HangoutsLast week Google released the Hangouts app. I’ve been waiting for it! My sons, the Shields Brothers, have been using Google Hangouts from a desktop for a long time now to host live music shows on YouTube. I saw the value of it then. Now I can use it for my work!

How and why would I want to use Hangouts to hang wallpaper? Well…

Hangouts allows you to do one-to-one or group video conversations. FaceTime is great but not all my clients have an iPhone. So Hangouts is a better solution for me. 

Hangouts is a tool I can use to stay in touch with the designer or homeowner. Oftentimes, I need a decision by the designer or homeowner and it saves both of us time and money. Here’s how I use it to make my job interactions better for my client and me:

  1. When starting the installation, sometimes I have questions about which pattern the client wants near the ceiling or what pattern she wants as the focal point in the room. I make a Hangout call, hit the flip the lens button, and my client can “see” what I’m talking about.
  2. Most wallpaper manufacturers have a policy that the paper can be returned if three or fewer strips have been used. Sometimes, if there is some question about the wallpaper, I install three (3) strips then confirm with the client via the Hangout that the wallpaper is what they expected.
  3. Often, you don’t see issues with the wallpaper until it is rolled out. Especially with hand made block printed wallpaper or Chinese murals, there can be shading or coloring inconsistencies. I use the Hangout to show the client what it looks like before proceeding.
  4. When the client is out of town or is unable to see the finished installation immediately, I will use a Hangout or send photos from my iPhone to get final approval.

If you’d like to start using Hangouts, here’s a good article to get you started.


Wallpaper – The Texture of Our Lives

Cotton, The Fabric of Our Lives – Cotton, the wonder material. It’s natural, environmentally friendly, durable, figure-flattering and fashionable. Because I work with a distant cousin, wallpaper, I can’t help but notice they share lots of similarities.

Farrow&Ball GrassclothWallpaper is natural, “green” and durable. Certainly fashionable. Like cotton, it’s versatility can be found in its variety of textures. Wallpaper gives texture to our living spaces. You can create the rough texture of Italian villa walls, the lightness of rice paper lined walls in a Japanese tea house, the strength of leather covered walls in a Spanish castle or the elegance of tapestry walls of a French chateau. Wallpaper is the perfect vehicle to create texture in a room without creating permanence.

My favorite texture-rich wallpapers…

  • grass and string cloth
  • faux Portuguese, Dutch or Turkish tiles
  • paper backed hand colored silks
  • mulberry papers with silk and leaves
  • papers covered with mica chips or mother of pearl
  • French wood grained paper; the raised grain fools the eye and the hand
  • amazing pressed vinyls that replicate silk, grass, almost any texture

Wouldn’t it be great if wallpaper manufacturers took a marketing page from the cotton industry? The slogan – Wallpaper, The Texture of Our Lives!