Monday, September 29, 2008

The answers

OK, it’s time for the results of our budget buy or designer splurge quiz. How do you think you did?

Let’s start with the accent pillows. Pillow #1: budget buy. Can you believe it? It was purchased for $8.99 at Ross. Pillow #2: Designer splurge, and oh, was it worth it! From Lyn Jean Designs, a custom-made pillow with Swarovski crystals for $95. Pillow #3: designer splurge. The fabric was special-ordered from Johnny Mango, and then sent to an upholsterer to be made into a pillow to perfectly accentuate a sofa: approximately $100. Pillow #4: budget buy. A great find from Walmart, under $14!

Next, on to our throws. So which of the three did you think was the budget buy? Your picks were all over the map. Guess what? You were all wrong! I had to throw in a trick question—all three were budget buys! The first, the chenille, was $12 from Ross. The second, the faux fur, was $9.99 from Ross, and the third, the soft bamboo, was $14 from Sam’s Club.

And then the plants. Even from the picture, I think this was pretty clear that the one on the left was the budget and the one on the right was the designer. The first was under $50 at any local craft store. The other was about $500. I found it in Las Vegas, but it can be purchased at upscale furniture stores.

So this was fun. Most of you got at least one right. For those who got more than one correct, keep up the good shopping! I know Walmart is going to get lots of people looking for that sequined tank top, but sorry, that was over six months ago.

If you didn’t get a chance to see that KITV segment, it’s now posted at Here’s your chance to see how Dan and Mahealani did!

As for testing your own décor smarts, we’ll do this again sometime!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Quiz: Budget buy or designer splurge?

It was that time again, planning for what to talk about on my next KITV home style segment. I always try to make it fun, interesting and informative—but what am I going to talk about next? As I was getting dressed to go out to dinner the other night, inspiration hit me—literally as I pulled it over my head.

I paired my designer black jacket, bought on sale at Escada (no, that’s not an oxymoron, and I can’t mention the price because my husband reads this blog!) with my bling-ed out sequin silver tank top that was $12.99 from Walmart. That was it—budget buys and designer splurges! There’s a time and place for both.

So I decided to do something fun and a little different. I wanted to put Mahealani and Dan to the test. After the last few months of my teaching segments with them on Wednesday mornings, I wanted to see if they and the viewing audience could pick out the home décor budget buys from the designer splurges. And come to find out, Dan did better than Mahealani did—but you know what? That’s no surprise, because he always seems to do better when it comes to my pop quizzes!
Now it’s your turn. Can you pick out the budget buys from the designer splurges?

This is going to be a lot harder for you, because Dan and Mahealani were able to touch and really get a sense of these objects.

I started off by saying that every room can stand to have a little touch of black. It accents the other colors and lends drama. Black accent pillows are a great way to do that. Looking at the four pillows, which two do you think are the budget buys, and which would you splurge on?

The first has a dusky gold fabric and a soft black velvet design. It can be contemporary, eclectic and all in all fabulous. The next one is retro-inspired, black and white with beautiful flowers and Swarovski crystals for luxurious embellishment. The next one is striped black and bronze, with gold bamboo as an opulent accent. Finally, a subtle yet elegant island pillow of black and ivory with beautiful monsteras adding a decorative accent.
Next are the throws. Throws are a great way to add texture and warmth to a sofa, a chair or even the foot of a bed. So which of the three do you think is the budget buy? The first is a luxurious taupe chenille throw with crocheted pattern and soft fringes. It has a beautiful shimmer and texture. Next is a light chocolate-colored faux fur throw that’s lined with a suede backing. Then we have a chestnut-colored soft bamboo throw, organic, great for the environment and for any room. It’s super soft and silky.

Finally, the silk orchid arrangements. The first one sits in a clay pot with artificial moss cascading down, and there are three sprays of blossoms. The second is in a resin striped canister with moss globes as accents and also three sprays of blossoms.

So what do you think? Can you tell which is the budget buy and which is the splurge? Post your answers here, then check my next blog for the answers and a peek at the receipts!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

What a day!

Things are still not fixed with the blog, so be patient with us. The Advertiser is working on it, and hopefully I’ll be able to hear from you soon. But argh! I wish that were the worst of it.

Our big RSVPstyle Invitation to Design workshop is coming up in a month. This is a huge production for a small company—we teach hundreds of people how to use color and texture and style to decorate, with activities for everybody and sophisticated PowerPoint presentations thrown up on jumbo screens around the room. And as anyone knows who’s ever done an event like this or built or remodeled a home, the devil is in the details! After doing it a number of times, it should get easier, right? But IT DOESN’T! There’s always a new set of challenges.

Here’s what I’m dealing with. We’ll be at a new venue, Dole Cannery ballrooms. The people are absolutely great. However, we didn’t realize when we booked the ballroom that the built-in stage and large columns would pose such a problem. We thought we could work around them.

Recently we took our team on an onsite visit to plan the logistics and surprise, surprise! While this ballroom can ordinarily accommodate well over 400 people, with our need for three jumbo screens that can be clearly and comfortably seen from every seat and a stage capable of rear projection—which we initially understood was going to be possible—it now looks like we’re not going to be able to get as many tables in there as we’d hoped.

Bottom line: we’ve got to rent our own stage, reconfigure the three jumbo screens and redo the table layout. We always try to put on a great show and make sure everyone has a great seat. We do not want to sacrifice the quality level that people are accustomed to.

Just as any good contractor or professional would, you’ve got to roll with the punches. No expletive here, life happens. Or as Tim Gunn would say on Project Runway, make it work. So that’s what we’re going to do. But before we do that, let me vent this one time: AAARGGHHH!!!!!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Window Dressing - Top Design Style

The good news is there’s been some great TV lately. My favorite show, Bravo’s Top Design, was on the other night, with some fan favorites from Project Runway as special guests, including Sweet Pea and Jeffrey with the tattoo on his neck.

The challenge was to create a window display. It’s a much smaller space compared to a room, but concepts remain the same. You start with your inspiration—in this case dresses designed by the Project Runway stars—and you have to layer your colors, accessories and textures, trying to determine scale and proportion, and whether to go understated or over the top.

The winning window belonged to Ondine and Natalie. Their inspiration dress by Sweet Pea had bold stripes in bright colors. Natalie had the idea to lift one edge and pin it to the back wall so the dress looked like it was doing a little twirl. It was a very cheerful, whimsical window, with mirrors reflecting the light and lots of butterflies. Sweet Pea was thrilled.

In second place was Andrea and Preston. I actually liked their window better: they bought trees and spray-painted them very dark against a subdued charcoal-gray background. The dress was a beautiful color between yellow and lime, and they suspended the mannequin so it looked like it was floating. The window was sophisticated and serene and made the dress pop out.

Ultimately it was Big Daddy and Wisit who were at the bottom. Their designer, Jeffrey, created a tailored, contemporary, sexy pantsuit, and he wanted a window that was edgy. Big Daddy came up with the idea of looking at the display as if through a kaleidoscope. I felt sorry for Wisit.
All Big Daddy wanted to do was buy a whole bunch of mirrors, and Wisit said, how is buying all these mirrors going to showcase our design? So he proceeded to add his own flair and they ended up with mirrors and gilded wallpaper and part of the window painted black. It was a hodgepodge, there was no clear vision, and Jeffrey was not happy with it.

Big Daddy, a big ole charming Southerner, is a very sweet guy. I found it endearing that in the end, he refused to throw Wisit under the bus and instead stood up to his name. He took the blame himself and ended up being ousted.

So what did you think? Would any of the window displays have inspired you to buy that dress?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Shopping and eating in one blog—goodness, I’m in heaven!

Somehow, shopping for furniture and accessories always makes me work up an appetite. That’s why, over the years, I’ve managed to find great things to eat when I’m out looking for just the right piece to finish off a home. I’m going to share some of my new finds and old favorites with you.

First off, always a great standby for accessories is Ross. They’re known for their affordable finds, from picture frames and vases to tchotchke. Ross is also one of my first stops for accent pillows. If I need a few quick choices to step up a particular color in a space or play up a holiday look, I’ll head here. You do have to do some searching, and some days you might not find anything fabulous, while other days you’ll have two shopping carts full. The pillows I found today range from $5.99 to $9.99—what a steal!

Just steps from Ross on Ward Avenue, I always make it a point to stop by Bale in front of Sports Authority. I know there are many Bales around town, but this is my favorite, and here’s why: you have to try their tofu with mixed veggies. $7.95—hmm, the price went up. I remember it being cheaper, but that’s just the sign of the times. It’s tofu, broccoli, cabbage, onion, celery and carrots, stir-fried in a light gravy and served steaming hot with rice. It tastes like home cooking. I always have to have mine with a little kick of Sriracha on the side. Whenever I order this, invariably somebody in line asks, ‘What is she having? I’ll have one of those.’ This the only Bale that I know of that makes this particular dish.

Next stop: Indige Design on Waialae Avenue. They sell everything from furniture and home accessories to clothing and jewelry to hand-woven fabrics and handbags—kind of an all-in-one shopping stop. One particularly incredible lamp I saw today can be used as a table lamp or a small floor lamp. It’s from northern Thailand, $545, handmade paper over cotton gauze, and wood that was collected along the banks of the Mekong, very cool. If you’re looking for interesting accessories that have an Island flair with a unique twist, Indige is a great find.

Fortunately for me, right next door is JJ’s French Pastry. It feels like a Parisian café with touches of Southeast Asia because the owner is Laotian. His specialty is his chocolate pyramid dusted with cocoa powder, an amazing melt-in-your-mouth conception. The tiny pyramid is 99 cents—it’s a little bite of heaven. Chocoholics won’t want to miss that!

My daughter Nicki’s favorite is the chocolate fruit basket, a handmade latticed chocolate basket filled with a layer of sponge cake under a white cream that’s not too sweet or foamy, with fruit layered on top of that and finally, a sweet glaze. It’s $3.95 and it tastes just as good as it looks.
The last thing I had was a rum walnut tart, $4.50 (OK, I can never have just one thing here). The crust tastes like homemade pie crust, just the right blend of flaky and dense. It’s packed full of chopped walnuts with a glaze on top. Absolutely fantastic. That’s my favorite just because I’m a nuts fanatic. All my recommendations should go with JJ’s cappuccino.

These are just a few of my favorite combos. I’ll share more with you another time. Let me know if you get to check these out. And what about you? Where do you shop when you’re hungry?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Fab time at First Fashion Friday

After a long and stressful workweek, my business partner Lissa and I were really looking forward to Aloha Tower Marketplace’s First Fashion Friday. There were four main reasons we were going:

1. To check out amazing fashions, of course,

2. To support our gal pal and fellow Honolulu Advertiser blogger Melissa Chang, who spearheaded the event as Aloha Tower’s marketing manager,

3. To scope out the joint, as I’m going to be one of the speakers at next month’s First Fashion Friday,

4. And I hadn’t had Gordon Biersch’s garlic fries in a long time.

After we’d had our fill of garlicky fries and mojitos (it was happy hour!) we took our seats in the center atrium. Right behind us was Jason Soeda of, a dedicated shutterbug who was great enough to provide these photos (the good ones, anyway—the ones that are a little dark are from Lissa’s camera). (Note: SORRY! I will post these tomorrow, I promise!)

The show was a real treat and I got a lot out of it. The theme was Transitions, easy tips to go from a day look to an evening look, and the panelists were Wendy Robin of Studio W of Honolulu, Hugette Montesinos of DISfunksion magazine, and Nadine Kam from the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.

Each panelist did her own segment, with models showing transitions ranging from makeup to clothing and accessories. What I thought was really cool was how they explained the concept of layering colors, accessories and makeup to take you from office and work wear to a glam evening out on the town.

As I was watching, I thought of how this pertains to home decorating. Really, the same rules apply. If you have a space that needs a makeover, it’s very easy to layer colors and textures for drama and effect. So instead of black eyeliner and high heels, how about some black picture frames, statement cushions, an accent wall, metallic mirrors? Touches like these can help take your room from drab to fab, just like in fashion.

Hugette really showed some thinking outside the box: she brought out models showing how a peasant skirt could be turned into a tube dress or a belted top with jeans and jacket. What about in the home? You could turn a really cool plate into a fun piece of artwork on the wall. Fashion items like scarves can become table runners. I’ve seen people create amazing looks by draping muslin around plastic planters and tying them with raffia.

It’s about being creative, thinking outside the box, and layering. Being fearless doesn’t hurt, either!

After the show was over, I couldn’t resist the urge. I got up onstage with models Aureana and Rachel and had to strike a pose—after all, I can be a diva too, you know!

Phew, that was work! After my trip down the catwalk, it was time to go home. It was a fun night, Melissa and her crew did an awesome job, and I’m looking forward to Aloha Tower’s next First Fashion Friday on October 3rd!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

So, did you watch last night?

No, I’m not talking about Governor Sarah Palin’s speech, I’m talking about something even more exciting—the premiere of Bravo’s Top Design Season 2. Oh my God, it was fabulous!

I was riveted. The 13 design contestants had an incredibly difficult challenge. They were broken up into teams, and each team had to design and fully furnish an empty loft that had nothing but white walls, concrete floors and a huge staircase in the middle. The idea was to see if they could create a space that would satisfy a demanding client.

Surprise, surprise, their clients were the judges! Aaah! My heart was pounding—I actually felt really sorry for those designers. To add to that, they had to do this in two days, and the worst part of all, on a budget of $2,000. I mean seriously, that’s absolutely impossible.

So where did they shop? Obviously (great for television, watch the drama), they went to flea markets and a place called The Junkyard. However, one team did reign supreme. Kelly Wearstler’s team did a phenomenal job.

Honestly, in my opinion, the reason was that team knew how to shop with focus. That’s something I teach! What they did with their $2,000 budget was incredible. They knew how to stretch those dollars, they listened to their client and made a lot of smart decorating choices. They knew she liked eclectic things and she was a collector, so there was an interesting array of sculptural shapes and tchotchkes, all flea market finds.

The losing team was in my opinion a tossup between India Hicks’ loft and Margaret Russell’s loft. In the end the designer who was voted out was pretty forgettable Serge. He spent too much time on one task and wasn’t much of a team player.

So bravo to Bravo! It was a great first show. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season. What did you think?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

I’m going to watch—are you?

Bravo network’s Top Design Season 2 is premiering tomorrow, that’s Wednesday night, September 3rd. I’m so excited, I love this show! In fact, if I had to be honest, I thought Top Design Season 1 was better than HGTV’s Design Star. Why? The winner didn’t have to be a good performer. They only had to be good at design.

The challenges were better and overall, the designers were more—dare I say it?—talented. Top Design wasn’t looking for somebody who was captivating enough to have their own design show. It was truly all about the design, and last season’s winner, Matt, had the most consistent, sophisticated design sensibility.

This season the show promises a new host, which is great because I can’t even remember who the original host was. But the same judges are returning, including Jonathan Adler, who has the most quirky sense of style; Margaret Russell, the editor of Elle Décor magazine; my favorite, Kelly Wearstler, who is so beautiful and talented and such a style and design icon, and designer and mentor Todd Oldham.

You can bet I’m going to be following this season, Tivoing it and giving my opinions in this blog. I want to hear what you think, too!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Closet therapy

I had lunch with a good friend the other day. Sommer Meyer and I have been trying to coordinate schedules for the last five months. If it wasn’t me getting sick or her traveling, something always happened. Finally we got a chance to catch up.

One thing about Sommer: she always looks great from head to toe! She is by her own admission a total shoe diva, with literally hundreds of pairs. For a graduate school project she was looking for a way to organize and protect her investment, so she created Closet Fetish (for the divas of the world!), a line of beautiful boxes with cutouts for photos of the shoes inside. A great idea, but how was she going to get the word out?

Well, she just sent her boxes out to all these magazine publishers, and guessed who picked her up first? Oprah magazine! She was chosen as one of Oprah’s favorites, then InStyle magazine featured her, and then the Grammys and a lot more. Sommer has been selling her products not only on her website,, but on the Home Shopping Network as well.

I look to Sommer as a mentor. She’s a successful career woman and entrepreneur. She’s found a way to turn her passion into an amazing business. She’s enjoying herself, traveling, manufacturing, selling and doing great things. She’s still holding on to her day job and doing all she can to make this dream move forward. I so give her credit for her tenacity and work ethic, and there’s no doubt in my mind about where she’s going—straight to the top, with Jimmy Choos on!

As any businessperson knows, there are challenges. It’s always good to talk to somebody who can relate to the ups and downs of running your own business. If they can offer some advice and make you laugh, all the better! Sommer always says Cathy, if it were easy, just think, we wouldn’t have a good story to tell when we get on Oprah!

So lunch was a double treat! Generally I eat at my desk, usually a microwaveable Lean Pocket and leftover chips or instant ramen, which I buy by the case. On this day Sommer and I went to Mariposa and had salads—good but boring. I had to finish off with one of my favorite desserts, Mariposa’s butterscotch pie. It’s creamy, silky, slightly crunchy, just the right balance of flavors and textures, sweet but not too sweet. There are nuts in the crust, which is very important—dessert isn’t quite right if there’s no crunch to it (my opinion!).

After lunch Sommer dragged me downstairs for some quick shoe shopping before we had to run back to work. She calls it market research—I call it being there for my friend!