Making Today Remarkable


Continuing on in our discussion of being Remarkable rather than having a hard Brand (begun here):

We thought we would never get the roof on this one but it is finally there so we can move inside.

The top porch has smaller square columns with simple iron straight railings and large square wire meshing between. There was talk of changing that to smaller columns to match the bottom. I begged them not to. This is a low country house. The architect got it right. We are not going to mess it up. Sometimes in the middle of construction, subs, builders, friends and even passersby will all have opinions about what you should do. If you have worked hard on a plan before you ever broke ground trust your team. Your architect, your designer and you are the only people who have the full picture. Different story if you didn’t use an architect.


This house has remarkable views already so the challenge is not to compete but still have some wow factors inside.

This front door should start things off right. It’s a beaut.



Originally from India it was acquired through Southern Accents in Gadsden, AL. Like the ones at my shop, the glass panes open individually for airflow while the iron is stationary



They have now been stained a medium brown-gray and are going to be show-stoppers.

Inside the challenge is handling the large rooms in such a way that they still feel intimate.

This is the foyer/stair hall looking back at the front door. To the right is the living/music room. To the left the very large dining room.


View standing in dining looking at what will be fireplace in living.



Standing in kitchen looking through dining into foyer and on to living.


This will probably be one of my all time favorite kitchens. The ceiling is flat at 12′ then vaults only over the range and island area. Wait till you see what we are going to do to set that area apart! The first thing I wanted to begged to add was some wood plank in that vaulted area. It took some cajoling and a lot of picture showing but I finally got my way. 🙂  The beams will run vertically with the planks running horizontally between them. All will be white washed in a soft semi transparent gray stain. We also are adding a stained range hood to match the ceiling and using some giant corbels to support it.



Just off the dining room is what will be a screened outdoor dining area. We are currently designing a beautiful trestle table with benches to go here. Fortunately for me  these clients are also close friends so I will get to enjoy this porch and view a lot! I better get it right!



We have just started sampling exterior paints. The brick is up, the windows in. We are set to boogie.

watkins exterior paints


I doubt that you will even be able to see the difference but I made the most subtle of changes to the white so that it is now a soft, gentle on the eyes white rather than glaring. In this sun it is important to get the intensity right.



The bottom two boards are the final color. They have just a bit of brown added.

The inside finishes are being kept very simple except for the focal point range wall. The draperies will be sleek, simple and plain in order to drive attention to the amazing views that are on all four sides: some water, some woods.  Oh but the sun sets…………..


So there you have a crazy 3-part look back through recent history of the design phase “pre-decorating”  that I love so much. Describe it to me. If you were me  trying to tell you what my niche is how would you say it? Blank papers will not be accepted.



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Continuing The Remarkable Journal

Join us. You have entered the middle of a cocktail party discussion begun yesterday. It’s a counseling session of sorts and I am in the seat. Help me out here.

Remarkable can happen with renovations, also. It’s a bit harder because you have more fixed puzzle pieces but it can still happen.

It just takes vision. To go from this:

jinks before2

To this:

jinks after

Take for instance this rather awkward “hot” feeling room. It is often hard to get people to paint things- like perfectly good brick. But if that perfectly good anything isn’t a wow factor taking the room to a boyoyoyng on the remarkable factor it is not worth keeping.

florida fireplace



Then there are the too small rooms or the rooms with ceilings that are too low. The instinct is to go small. Resist. Do the opposite.

This is the before. Notice the oh so small light for starters and the teeny bedside lamps.


You will surprised what will happen.

jacksonville after

With bathrooms often the simplest of things speak the loudest. Like adding a granite ledge.

alford bath

Just changing the size and direction of an inexpensive tile will make it look more custom.


Tomorrow we will do a walk through on a job in progress and continue the conversation.

Until then….

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Becoming Remarkable!

If you read my review for Steve Mouzon’s new book you know that I now understand myself better than ever before. I don’t want to be branded which to me reads predictable. I want to be REMARKABLE at what I do!! That has me so excited I can hardly stand it. Do you ever struggle to explain to others what you think sets your work apart? I have. In my heart I know exactly what my sweet spot in design is but just like on the tennis court I don’t always hit it and I now believe it is because I haven’t properly communicated to clients what will allow me to give them the best end product. Maybe you can help me figure out how to state it. I am a story teller so I think I will
spend the next few posts telling you stories of how I added my unique mark to projects and then ask YOU to tell ME what it is I am trying to say. Does that sound crazy??? Humor me. I neeeeeed your help.

So here goes. I don’t like jig-saw puzzles. Why? I am having to put together someone else’s picture and they keep changing the image. They send me a picture of something that to their eye is just what I said we needed but it is actually totally wrong. Whether it is scale, texture or most often, quality, I know that that puzzle piece would stick out like a sore thumb. It is better if  I create the puzzle then let them help me fit the pieces together. That is why I do so much better when I am invited in at the beginning to work with the architect to get the picture right to begin with. It’s not about control it’s about having the ability to see in 3-D and walk around in the building before we ever break ground. It is a money saver. It’s also about open communication and trust. Design is no different than everyday life. You have the best relationships with people who know that you have their best interest at heart.

At frame-up is when I do all of my happy dances because things just start popping into my head that are cosmetic changes that make all the difference. They are the small changes that make the place remarkable and it is by far my most favorite thing to do in the world.

Don’t ask me at this stage what color the walls are going to be.

Case study number 1.

The plans in this house called for sheetrock coffered ceilings. Nothing wrong with that except that every single house on the block had the exact same ceiling. That gives me the shakes. I suggested that we take out half of the coffers thus making the openings between each much larger and wrap the beams with thin veneers of old wood giving the appearance of support beams. We went from this


to this. This change alone got us so much closer to the warm, homey feel that the client wanted.

alford stainbalance


alford ceiling

Then there was the header shown in the picture below. It made sense on the plan because it mirrored the transom that you can see in the background that leads to the master bedroom. However, standing there looking at it you felt like you needed to duck – even though we had 12′ ceilings. My gut said that by taking it out and just casing the opening we would give the stairwell the importance that it deserved.

alford header

What do you think?


Then there was the floor to consider. Even though that is just a breezeway connecting the public areas to the private it is a very important breezeway because it is on the front of the house and it is all glass.  There was no room for art and the only way to make it special was with the lighting …unless I made a flooring change. This was tricky because the foundation was finished before I was hired so we couldn’t depress the slab but we were still able to use some Peacock Pavers (that’s hard to say) in order to set set this area apart. If you are not familiar they look like antique limestone. We now had hardwood in the bedroom, pavers in the hallway and hardwood in the greatroom.  It still needed some little something.

Since the bottom stair was rounded off we decided to add border of the hardwood, repeating that detail and adding the finishing touch.

alford floorbands

casestudy #2

Unless you have a formal house I just think that wood adds a warmth that nothing else can- especially old wood.

Try to imagine how different the “temperature” of this foyer would be with a white drywall ceiling.

woodall foyer

But you can’t add and forget. The weight, the texture, the color all has to be balanced in other areas of the immediately seen rooms.

Here, we chose to do that with the range hood which will sit between the two banks of wall cabinets.

woodall kitchen


You can almost see the foyer ceiling through the doorway on the right. This is especially important for balance. You can easily see in this picture alone how the added weight of the dark stain on the hood and floor balances and anchors the coolness of the rest of the room.

Directly opposite the range is the fireplace. Plans called for it to be a traditional painted mantle.

Instead we found this one that, again, adds weight and visual interest to the room.


I will continue this discussion next post. In the meantime, think about and see if you understand what I am trying to convey and how you would put it into words.

See more pictures on Pinterest and Instagram.


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Let The Fun Begin.. Opening The Doors For The Chapel Market


It’s 7:30 am Saturday and the early birds have arrived. I think this happy group was from Jackson, Mississippi (correct me girls) and they were fired up about meeting

Miss Mustard Seed.

the chapel market 2013-10-19 004


By 8:00 every golf cart we could get our hands on was called into service as a taxi to shuttle people from the town square parking. Chapel parking was full.


the chapel market 2013-10-19 056

The line was now wrapped around the building and extended to the soccer field.

the chapel market 2013-10-19 013

 They came from near and far.

the chapel market 2013-10-19 033

Every age bracket was represented.

the chapel market 2013-10-19 036

Thistlewood Farms has us all smiling. Can I tell you how much I love that girl. Thanks for spreading the joy Kariann. (on left)  and Heather (right) from The Picket Fence.

the chapel market 2013-10-19 057

I was the favorite person around for a short moment when I surprised the early birds with a hug from Marian (Miss Mustardseed).

the chapel market 2013-10-19 011

Evan Cooper has the place smelling awesome with his  beautiful flowers. He and Layla give the high sign: Let’s open those doors!

the chapel market 2013-10-19 022

Chapel Market!! Let the games begin.

the chapel market 2013-10-19 060

the chapel market 2013-10-19 025

the chapel market 2013-10-19 027

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the chapel market 2013-10-18 006

the chapel market 2013-10-18 008

These Urban Farmgirls came all the way from Illinois.

the chapel market 2013-10-19 019

the chapel market 2013-10-19 045

How cute is THAT? You rock Evan Cooper.

the chapel market 2013-10-19 046

And you made these little cuties happy with their sunflowers, too.

the chapel market 2013-10-19 062

Meanwhile, Heather and Lucy kept up a steady pace in the Southern Accents booth. I heard a rumor that Heather even sold their cash register. LOL.

the chapel market 2013-10-19 039

Mary Kay Andrews was here signing her latest book, Christmas Bliss, and she broke a record according to Books A Million.

the chapel market 2013-10-19 018

I totally agree with this.

the chapel market 2013-10-19 054

At the end of a long day we began the happy/sad goodbyes as new friendships had been forged and new dreams shared.

the chapel market 2013-10-19 063

Many of you are close enough to visit Shauna’s lovely shop in Troy, Alabama:

Perfectly Imperfect. She is your go-to source for Annie Sloan Chalk Paints and Miss Mustardseed’s Milk Paint.

the chapel market 2013-10-19 064

This “letter” in Karianne’s typewriter sums up my emotions from the weekend.

the chapel market 2013-10-18 030

Love you guys to the moon and back.


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The Chapel Market… A Resounding Success



I realize there are better words to describe an event but  ringing in my ear from the last three days is


You knocked it out of the ballpark with


I warn you, this is going to be long… like maybe two days long but humor me.If you were there you want to bask in the after-glow for a while also.

The trucks and trailers began to arrive Friday morning, set up day, and that was the beginning of  my cheek burn because the smile never came off my face.

First to arrive were locals, Dexter and Tricia Watts with Acres Of Hope and their gorgeous farm tables and accessories. Contact me for more information on them or visit their Facebook page.

the chapel market 2013-10-19 002

The decorating began in earnest to create a happy welcome for our guests.

the chapel market 2013-10-19 003

Of course, The Waters Neighbors immediately jumped in to help. Don’t they always?

the chapel market 2013-10-18 001

the chapel market 2013-10-19 001

This was one of my favorite Instagram posts and it sort of sums up the emotions.

layla jumping

Oh, yes, they did.

the chapel market 2013-10-18 035

the chapel market 2013-10-18 036

My job was  crowd control Cheerleader and as I worked the line Saturday I met folks who had flown or driven in from New York, Massachusetts, Idaho, Indiana, Ohio, Lakeland, Florida, three groups from Kentucky, many from Georgia and Mississippi, Pennsylvania and I think, Chicago. It was unbelievable and SO very exciting. And the best part… not one complainer in the whole group. People were happy to be there and giddy with excitement over meeting their favorite bloggers.

But I get ahead of myself.

Kevin had the tent/tables and food vendor ready to roll. Rhoda (Southern Hospitality) was checkin’ it all out.

the chapel market 2013-10-19 051

Happy reunions were taking place. Layla turned around to find a smiling Myra from My Blessed Life there to support her.

the chapel market 2013-10-19 009

Friday afternoon was capped off with a lovely surprise dinner party for all of the blogger/vendors given by Kathy Welch, Jenny Walker and Gayle Horner at Kathy’s lovely lakefront home. I think they liked our southern hospitality.

the chapel market 2013-10-18 046

the chapel market 2013-10-18 047

Even the Mayor stopped by to offer his congratulations and support.

the chapel market 2013-10-18 045

So after a couple of hours sleep 🙂

The team is assembled for final instructions and a “CHAPEL MARKET!” cheer and it’s time to open the doors.

Up tomorrow:  happy faces and busy shoppers.

the chapel market 2013-10-19 008

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It’s Chapel Market Time… Be There Or Be Square!

The Lettered Cottage has been busy for months planning this exciting event at The Waters in Pike Road, Alabama and it is finally here.




We are all so excite and can’t wait to meet all of the folks driving and flying in from an far away as Sunny Cali-for-nigh-a! It’s gonna be a fun day.

Need a little snack? Gotcha covered. You will feel like you at at Seaside.


Wondering who the vendors are? Here ya go:


AND as if that weren’t enough Mary Kay will be introducing and signing her newest book:


All of this for the ridiculous price of Admission-Fee

Gates open at 9. Park at the soccer field behind the chapel if you are an early bird,  if not follow the main avenue until it dead ends at Bridge Street and check out the finds at

Charleston House, ML Bailey and Cindy Barganier Interiors

at town square then catch a golf cart taxi up to the chapel.

See you there!!!



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Turn Your Eyes Toward Heaven

Sometimes it pays to stop and look up. Before my sweet friend, Stan, graduated to his home in heaven we used to laugh and say that we were the only two people we knew other than his daughter, Sarah Grace, who actually lay down on the floor of the Louvre and Versailles in order to get shots of those incredible ceilings.  Well, obviously, some other folks had the same idea.

Take a little journey with me this morning as I share with you one of my favorite things:

Celestial Ceilings.

(They aren’t really celestial but it makes for great alliteration doesn’t it?)

New York Public Library Fineartamerica

New York Public Library Fineartamerica

Escalier du Musée du Vatican, Rome, Italie (HDR) by A.G photographer



pinterest ceiling


Pavilion Hall - Hermitage - Winter Palace. St. Petersburg, RUSSIA flickr

Pavilion Hall – Hermitage – Winter Palace. St. Petersburg, RUSSIA flickr

Sacre Coeur, Paris flickr

Sacre Coeur, Paris flickr



Pavilion Hall - Hermitage - Winter Palace. St. Petersburg, RUSSIA

Pavilion Hall – Hermitage – Winter Palace. St. Petersburg, RUSSIA

Architectural details inside Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse in Colorado, USA (by wallyg).tumblr

Architectural details inside Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse in Colorado, USA (by wallyg).tumblr

Basilica of St. Francis, Krakow, Poland . flickr

Basilica of St. Francis, Krakow, Poland . flickr


Perhaps that is why I am always trying to get rid of the white ceilings filled with recessed cans?

I hope you have a wonderful day and remember…. keep looking up!

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The Lettered Cottage On The Design Network

Well this is brag on the accomplishments of others week! Thank you so much for all of your kind and encouraging comments to Megan yesterday on the launch of her first children’s clothing line.

Yesterday was a huge day for someone else. Neighbor, Layla Palmer, and her best friend/hubby, Kevin, have been running around like crazy for the last few weeks painting a gazillion cabinet doors, tearing down walls, painting sheetrock and generally beautifying a family’s life. What’s so unusual about that you ask? They do that all the time.  Well not for an audience of over 300,000 people!

Layla is under contract with The Design Network to film 5 episodes for their new network.

the tdn


How cute/exciting is THAT??? I think this needs to be a bill board personally.

But yesterday got even more exciting when Episode # 1 actually aired. As of this morning 369,720 have seen it.


Check it out for yourself by clicking on this link and see if you, like I, think she knocked it out of the ballpark.

Stay through the credits. You don’t want to miss the bloopers- always my favorite part. 🙂

But no time to celebrate, it’s on to episode # 2.

So proud of you guys. Can’t wait to see what’s next.



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Indulge this Mama today. I am so proud I am about to pop a button. I have no idea how she accomplished it but my uber talented daughter (with two small children at home and a third that could arrive at any moment) has managed to design and manufacture a line of children’s clothing.

I have watched as she diligently worked her way through the tedious process: drawing, making patterns, tweaking, selecting fabrics, many trips to NYC, finding a pattern maker, finding a sample maker and finally finding a factory. SHE DID IT!!!  ( Many thanks to her sweet Hubbie who is so supportive of her dreams.)

The line debuts today at  The Kiddie Shoppe in Columbus, GA. (Girls holiday collection, sizes 2T-6).



meg clothes


Oh, and my favorite part….. the name.


Say it slowly.

El em en o py  ( LMNOP) get it? How cute is that.

megs brochure

Thanks to another uber talented gal, Aubrie Moates for these adorable shots.

So say a prayer for her today. It’s a big day.

So proud of you, Baby. Enjoy your day.

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