Four Good Things I did in 2017

The place I wish I was sitting while writing this blog. Photo courtesy  Kathleen Walsh Interiors. 

The place I wish I was sitting while writing this blog. Photo courtesy  Kathleen Walsh Interiors. 

One of my New Years Resolutions is to not have typical resolutions that make me feel like I suck. Instead of spelling out my shortcomings, I’m identifying what I did right in 2017, personally and professionally, so that I can focus on that in the new year. I'm sharing these insights incase they are helpful to any other entrepreneurs, creatives, or others who may be wondering "what will Katharine do more of in 2018!?" Here's the list:

1. Make a Database.

I had over 2000 pictures of art in my life in disparate locations (digital and hard copy) and after hiring my first employee last year (Maddie!), we now have a constantly growing database of all the art that I like, is collectible, and that that would fit into my target client's life. Every time I put together art recommendations for clients (so every day), I use that database for ideas rather than searching through my phone and files like an idiot. 

2. Get Creative.

I am inherently a creative person, but constantly becoming MORE creative is work... it involves constant looking at spaces, art and objects in person and in photos, reading, and networking. I'm giving myself a pat on the back for growing creatively last year.  Ultimately this translated to helping clients get better styled walls for less money, and by thinking out of the box beyond art, including crafty finds, functional and styled shelving, wallpaper, paint, murals, and creative framing and installs... to quote myself from our homepageanything that makes a space  "balanced, complete, and totally personalized". 

3.  Take time to chill.

Last winter, I took a class at the School of Practical Philosophy. It’s the one that’s free and advertised all over the NYC Subway. Feel free to make fun of me but it was EXCELLENT. The key takeaway was that taking time to relax keeps you fresh and productive. I accordingly relaxed in various ways this year, and whether it was meditating, a mentally consuming workout, or checking out over the holidays, I confirm: it was worth it. I came into work, parenting, and the real world with more ideas, motivation and energy than I have when I attempt to "power through". 

4. Re-style.

Several times this year, I’ve re-styled various parts of my home either by choice or necessity (for  holidays, parties, toddler safety, etc.) and each time I’m glad I did. Moving things around a bit completely amps up the daily enjoyment I get from my home; it’s a visual refresh that has notable emotional benefits. One part of that is enjoying a variety of objects in my home— art, photos, vases, candles, etc.- that are beautiful and/or sentimental— and that for practical reasons are not all out at once. 


And that's a wrap. Cheers to 2018!

A Post for Designers Who Like to Finish Projects, Get Them Photographed, and Make Money

Katharine- Studio VIsit.jpg

On Friday, we sent out an email all about our trade program, with a bonus related reminder that our class for designers  is next week. If you didn’t get it, sign up here and either way, the play-by-play below shows you, the designer, how we actually help you finish a project and increase your revenue. If you’re not an interior designer, fear not: we work just as frequently with clients directly and this blog post in particular may be more amusing for you. 

Mason Lane Partners: Art Sourcing for Interior Designers. 

Scenario: your client’s space is almost done. The walls are blank and your client doesn’t like the 400 art options you’ve sent over. Shes mentioned just using her existing art in the newly perfect space, causing you to throw up subtly, just a little, in your mouth. 

Mason Lane, to the rescue. 

You call us and send some pictures. We chat about your client’s space, taste and budget, your vision, and what art she’s vetoed to date. 

Within 3 days, we give you 3 new options per space and have a little phone chat to get your feedback. If you like the direction, we finalize the options, adding full details on the piece and a simple blurb with the story about the art and info on pricing and quality—details that help the client feel connected to the piece and good about the spend. 

We can happily arrange viewings of any pieces of interest and always negotiate favorable pricing for art your client wants to buy. You get the invoice directly and add commission if you want. 

And voila: space is done, client is happy, photographer is booked.  You’ve expanded your scope and revenue on the project. #winning. 

The cost of the service is $550/3 options, and getting 3 recs/space works well for most projects. Designers fold this into their design fees so it’s appropriately charged back to the client, as any subcontracted work is. You keep ownership of the client, and if you want any support beyond what’s outlined above (like handling framing and installation), we do that too (for an additional cost). Plus, if you want to refer the client to work directly with us, we obviously can do that too (DUH!) and keep you in the loop as much or little as you want. 

And there you have it. Mason Lane Partners (ie “MLP”) in the flesh. There’s no application required, just let us know what you need. 

A Few of Our Favorite Things

When sourcing gifts for other people, I obviously come across things I want too. I imagine this is a common condition (right). It's actually super annoying because I go from being generous-minded to greedy in zero seconds, AND I'm then distracted from the task at hand.  To make me feel a smidge better, I've made a wish list....not because I think these items will appear at my doorstep, but if I can't have any then at least I'll be spreading the wealth about pretty things that would give any home a shot of personality. And a big fat bonus is that I'm sure a ton will be on sale starting December 26th. 


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1.  Multi-tone Bone Tray from Kathy Kuo Home, a vingette staple. 

2. Stool/Side Table/Drink Holder/Plant Stand Multi-functional bliss. 

3. Ceramic Champagne bucket with leather handles made by a husband and wife duo that I discovered at Field + Supply. 

4. Curved wooden trays because you can't always be square. 

5. Placemats have never excited me before this. 

6 and 12. Are two-material things a thing? Love this concrete and glass vase. AND this teak and glass one. (which comes in various shapes and sizes if you want to get a little nuts). 

7. Gold sculpture that serves no purpose except to look SO pretty on top of some coffee table books, on the floor by your fireplace, or in a styled bookcase situation, which is obviously reason enough to ADD TO CART. 

8. Turn your fruit bowl up ten notches with this vintage copper bowl

9. A cute little pot (plant sold separately).  

10. A cute bigger pot. 

11. Throws make a space OH so cozy, and who doesn't strive to live their coziest life right now?

12. See 6 (above).

13. Another fun functionless scultpure... this one cheaper than the gold, but arguably both have their own decorative perks. 

14. Crate and Barrel occasionally surprises me and this mirror is Example A. We're installing this in a client's home on Thursday so stay tuned for those pics. 

We've been a tad home-obsessed lately BUT 'tis the season. And art + objects go together like pretty things in a home, right? 


Step 1 for Giving Your Place a #Spacelift

Photo cred: Donna Dotan Photography for 338 Berry St. Williamsburg. Design by the New Design Project.

Photo cred: Donna Dotan Photography for 338 Berry St. Williamsburg. Design by the New Design Project.

First, I just invented the word Spacelift. It's like a facelift for your space and may be our new hashtag so send feedback STAT. Second, who doesn't want to primp their space, especially in advance of peak holiday materialism?

Step one for giving your place that needed spacelift is GET RID OF CRAP.  Many are familiar with my anti-hoarding/heartless tendencies to get rid of stuff I don't need or use. I've always had such tendencies but Mari Kondo made my heart sing and now I stay up late to purge stuff without judgement from those I live with. (Note this is a test to see if my husband actually reads my blog). 

It's nearly impossible to style your space without first removing what's not needed. This is why newly designed places photograph so well: there's no superfluous clutter and seeing that kind of space is instantly satisfying and aspirational. Imagine living in that every day.... BLISS. 

To be clear, I'm defining "extra stuff" as items that you don't love, need, and/or use.  These include extra office supplies, ugly coffee books that you'll never read, 5 wine openers (you only need 1), and home accessories that annoy you when you see them. All of these can easily be put into a little box titled "GARBAGE".  OR, donate them. DO NOT put them into your storage closet.  [As a small aside, jam-packed storage closets are my pet peeve and nothing in them is accessible or really on anyone's A List so they may as well be cleared out. Christmas ornaments and other seasonal décor are the exception.]

On a related note, kids are varsity hoarders but  here's an article that may just be the justification you need to steer them in a different direction that promotes cognitive growth and keeps their (and your) space well designed. For kid artwork and school projects, I'm a supporter of the Hall of Fame approach that The Home Edit describes well: I pick a few favorites from each school year and are representative of what was done, then put them into a labeled Stockholm Box. Keeping everything isn't sustainable and will likely result in a massive angry purge one day by you, your children, or confused decedents, so you may as well tailor it in a structured way. Relatedly, maybe a post on displaying kids artwork is in my future, so stay tuned for that. 

And on a final note, I'm not advocating for displaying EVERYTHING you love all at once. It's OK and encouraged to keep a few items you love in a cupboard and rotate them around your home whenever you're in the mood for a change. But when you keep passing up the opportunity to actually use or display something, it's probably time to give it a new home. And of course, there are always SOME items you may feel badly getting rid of, but is keeping them hidden actually making the situation better? Probably not. Having stuff in your home that you truly enjoy and use is the first major step in making your space better and making your day, energy and life more positive. 

#SPACELIFT for the win. 

Our Clients Who Need Help

Photo cred: Kathy Kuo Home

Photo cred: Kathy Kuo Home

We're working with a few clients who are super stylish in life and kind of sort of in their home; they live in GREAT apartments/houses but there's something unsatisfying about each of their spaces. Yes, their walls need some love and a home without art has no soul blah blah, but realistically, putting something on the walls is not the total answer here -- the answer is curating the space as a WHOLE to make it pretty, organized, and to showcase individual taste. Most of the time these clients have everything they need for that finished look, it's just not put together in the best possible way.  SO, we tweak. And here, we're listing the staple pieces we use. (If you're into it, we MAY even start linking to new pieces we see, sales of great items, and progress reports on our personal home accessory obsessions....because it's all part of giving your home some style, right?)

1. Trays

Trays are great pieces to make a vignette.  They truly make a tabletop look visually interesting and coherent, and there are SO many varieties; metal, wooden, round, rectangle, colorful, organic, Modern, and rustic.  My tip is put a collection of 3 items inside the tray, which should be different heights and shapes --- a pile of coffee table books, a decorative object, and a vase or tall candle, for example -- and voila: pretty, organized and personalized look is achieved.  Pro tip: Gilt Home has tray sales every month or so and so I've been known to go nuts getting a bunch in different materials and sizes that I switch up around the house, which annoys the crap out of my husband but brings me odd amounts of joy.

2. Coffee table books

Good coffee table books does more than create a pretty visual; they actually serve as nice inspiration for you and others in your home. Truth be told, I peruse my coffee table books MAX once a year but I enjoy knowing they're there and having the theoretical opportunity to look at pictures of chic modern interiors, or travel destinations, or natural foods as I please.  And there is a difference in quality -- go for good, pretty coffee table books on subjects that interest you. They serve as yet another way to showcase your taste and make your space yours. 

3. Plants

My resolution for 2017 was to not kill every plant I got, and now that it's December I am HIGH FIVING myself because I own approximately 6 living pieces of flora right now (NOT including a Christmas tree that will hopefully make it to Dec. 25).  And I have to say, they definitely improve the air quality of my home as well as look oh-so-pretty. Specifically, the diverse shades of green, heights, and organic shapes differ from any furnishing or decorative object you can bring in, and they add depth to any space. There were definitely a few of mine that did not make it through the year, but still, I'm a fan. And you know what I'm not a fan of? FAKE PLANTS. Even the good ones. 

4. Throws

By "Throws" I'm referring to pillows and blankets. I love them both. They add a soft, cozy touch to any room. I am, however, the first to admit that throw pillows can be logistically annoying -- sometimes they're actually uncomfortable to sit in front of, but the joy of seeing them everyday in a space unquestionably outweighs the mild irritation of moving them to the side when you actually want to sit. They make a place look welcoming and are a relatively low-cost way to add color and texture. Plus, you can switch them up every so often, and even seasonally if that tickles your fancy.  Buying bright red ones with reindeer for the holidays has been on my WANT list for a while....

 5. Decent Picture Frames

You don’t need to go to Michael Aram but drug and discount store picture frames are terrible value; they are cheap and look cheaper so much so that they can actually detract from the enjoyment of looking at the photos inside. Siena frames are a great option and come in a range of styles and colors. Remember: details matter and this is not your place to save a buck. OH, and let's not forget that by changing your frames you can totally refresh and revamp your space.

The staples above help with those finishing touches, or "moments" as some people who can pull that off may say, that give a space warmth and personality.  They're functionally versatile and easy to get at a range of price points. The best part is that you can get whichever type of these objects YOU like best, so even if everyone in the world read this blog post and went shopping, the results would all be unique. SO get to it. Give your place a little soul or let us bring it out. 



A Few Places to Get Art

Photo cred: Findlay Galleries

Photo cred: Findlay Galleries

The top question I get from friends, potential clients, interior designers and miscellaneous others is: "Where should I go to get art?" I've hesitated doing a post on this because I previously felt that the answer represents a ton of professional capital -- years learning about, vetting, and establishing relationships with galleries, auction houses, artist studios, home stores and online shops around the world. BUT, screw it. The holidays are coming and I'm feeling generous.  That, and I'm now 100% confident that giving you some names that you could Google anyways in no way jeopardizes my business of walking clients through what art works best for them, how to understanding pricing and quality, where to save and where to splurge, how to establish good taste, how to get art safely into your space and install it once it's there so your space looks polished, meanwhile making the whole experience efficient and worthwhile. I mean, I'm biased, but anyways....

The much-anticipated answer to where you should go to get art is....... IT DEPENDS [cue the collective sigh of disappointment].  I know, that's annoying, but asking me that is like asking a designer where to buy a couch, a stylist where to get clothes, and a chef where to buy food.... and when I seek out art for my clients, I'm sourcing options to fit THEIR space, taste, and budget [not mine or yours, Anonymous Reader]. However, since I can't give a straight up answer, I'm still going to throw you a bone and provide a mini-guide with a few oh-so-juicy sources listed: 

The first important step in actually finding art right for you is to pick a budget. This is the top filter to help guide your search. And this is also a step you regularly take in every other part of your life -- when you want a casual lunch, you filter out the $$$$ restaurants and focus on the quick bite joins near you. If you have a fancy event, bargain stores are not your go-to.  With art, it's no different -- picking a budget simply helps you narrow down the feasible options.  If you want art that's relatively low-cost and possibly decorative, online stores are a good source.  The online buying risks still apply, but some places I look are Art Star, Uprise Art, Saatchi Art, Etsy, and Viyet. If you're interested in spending up to $10k, going to emerging art galleries is a good choice. These include Denny Gallery, Sasha Wolf, Anastasia Photo, Pele Prints, Jerald Melberg, Jackson Fine Art, Kathryn Markel, Fierman, and Canada. Spending a few tens of thousands can get you some excellent pieces by mid to mature career artists at galleries like Yossi Milo, Berry Campbell, Findlay Galleries, Davidson Contemporary, Sundaram Tagore, Jayne H Baum and Margaret Thatcher Projects. And finally, investing big bucks in art means that you can go to the top tier (AKA "blue chip") galleries showing artists at the top of their game. These include Paul Kasmin, Mary Boone, Metro Pictures and Lisson Gallery

Importantly, the places listed above are in NO particular order and do not at all represent all of those with which we work. To keep this as a mini-guide, I haven't included artist studios, auction houses and home stores, which can also be excellent sources.  Those listed are NY-heavy because I live in NY, but we do work with galleries around the world.  Really they are just a quick run down of places I like and that come to mind during my Sunday night blog post crunch time. There are obviously many more.

And finally, before you excitedly Google all the places listed above thinking #WIN, note that galleries (which represent only a fraction of the art world) are a lot to navigate: they only show a portion of their inventory at any given time, and I'm lucky to get 1st dibs on a lot of pieces that aren't yet marketed (also at favorable prices).  You may find that gallery hopping leaves you feeling a little lost and a little stupid. If not, power to you and YOU'RE WELCOME. But if it does, call us and we'll help. OH and Interior Designers, note that finding art for clients is only the first step --- now you have to sell it to them. Check out our video here with a few pro tips. Happy Holidays!