As much as I admire simple, curated space – there’s a case to be made for abundance. Let me ask a question first- which organ of the body uses the most energy, the Heart or the Brain? The brain uses a full 20% of the human body’s energy. Sight, sound, scent and taste – these senses originate in the brain, That’s why visual images are so important in design.

The same brain that loves order also enjoys abundance. Half full or mostly empty are generally unattractive. In any type of brand or campaign for products- balance is key. A product page needs to be simple and curated. A special display benefits from negative space. Your physical store, the cover of a catalog, a travelogue or business blog even newsletter are the perfect places for abundance. And don’t get me started on our homes and gardens.

Abundance -without looking cluttered, stuffy or just plain messy- which is universally unappealing. Where to use it? Abundance is a design principle and when selectively, the human eye finds it appealing. Abundance is that satisfying sensation we feel when we see a good harvest, a basketful in fact!

Set an abundant bowl of fruit on a simple table and it immediately becomes more attractive. Common food displayed in rustic basket or a bundle of garlic on burlap speaks abundance to the eye. A well stocked store is far more appealing than empty shelves.

In the landscape, abundance is what we enjoy seeing. An ornate bench is a type of abundance. Used in just the right setting or proportion is beautiful. Generous bouquets are always a welcome sight and tends to warm a simple space up. Green plants generously added to even the most curated space, have a calm, cooling effect in an overly sunny space. Fresh flowers and plants always add to the experience of a home or an event.

I’m convinced one reason grazing boards are so popular is we like a generous spread and selection of food.

Coco Chanel loved her many ropes ..and ropes of pearls- her simple designs were often set off with generous strands of pearls.

And isn’t that what we really want? Generosity? Without saying a word- abundance is generous, satisfying and ‘no worries there’s enough to go around’.

Yes, abundance as a design principle is amazing. You can do this! I know you can- finding the right balance is key -with a bit of practice you’ll find other folks will appreciate it too!

Love y’all, Brenda

Decorating the Southern Home…

imageNo matter what the budget is, Southerners love to decorate their homes at Christmas! A beautiful Christmas tree, a wreath on the door, family heirlooms or sentimental ornaments gathered throughout the years and fresh poinsettias are particularly well suited to the Southern home. The very best holiday decorating includes the home’s year round décor worked in with special holiday touches. Pine is a particularly Southern fragrance, they grow prolifically in the South, and we all love to gather pinecones. I personally love Loblolly Pinecones- perfectly formed or Longleaf pinecones- huge and beautiful. Gathering pinecones to pile in a basket feels just right at Christmas.

The beautiful photographs represent two homes where budget is not a consideration, however we all love to be inspired by Southern beauty wherever we find it.

I hope it puts you in the I’ll be Home for Christmas Mood– if only in your dreams. I am so proud to tell you that my sister supervised the decorating of the gorgeous tree in the top photograph I enhanced her photograph- and the rest are from her very own home! Also edited and enhanced by me…now, really y’all- it sure is pretty! She is an amazing decorator with impeccable taste in her home and beyond and the epitome of a sweet, spunky, smart Southern Lady!

Love y’all, Camellia

*The photograph of the Longleaf Pine may be subject to copyright, the sized pinecones photograph is from http://www.mr.lsu.edu -*please note a Longleaf Pinecone is very large often up to 9 inches in length, the Loblolly pinecone photograph is my own photograph. The personal photographs should not be used without permission!

Black Doors…




‘High Gloss Black Doors add a note of luxury to your home…’ Heather Bates, Allied ASID

 When the renovations began on Camellia’s Cottage in 2012,  a neutral color scheme of French gray, shades of white and linen was chosen, punctuated by Black Doors inside and out.  The house is an older home, built in the 1980’s- it didn’t have high ceilings or fine molding. The floors were pine but not fine flooring, they had already been painted black with Behr™ Porch and Floor paint and covered with sisal rugs. When the black floors began to get scuffed and look old, I loved them more. The plan was to open up the entire downstairs to make the small cottage feel spacious and let in lots of natural light.  The Chinese have long associated color with certain physical attributes- neutral colors seem to create stability, inner balance, health and nourishment- these are the colors of the Earth. Black is also neutral, but Asian design has always associated Black with abundance, mystery, sophistication and even wealth. Black doors are timeless, so far- black doors have been in vogue a long time, many historic buildings and humble homes have used black doors. The odd thing about black doors is they are both reserved and fashionable at the same time, often paired with black shutters and white exteriors._DSC0264_NEF

 Virginia based designer Heather Bates agrees- ‘…black doors add a note of luxury to your home. The wealthy have known this for a long time.’ Coco Chanel used her favorite colors shades of beige, white and black, in her clothing and in her apartment. Iconic Chanel™ shops still use black doors and white exteriors.

chanel-687460_640Camellia’s Cottage cannot aspire to the high level of Chanel™ in this humble dwelling, however we could use some of her sensibility even in our own scheme. The look is crisp and clean, the neutrals add warmth and calm. Let me show you some of what we did:


A crisp white bathroom, with marble tile floors is elevated with a black door, the handrails and stair treads were painted black, to make the ceilings appear higher – white trim was run up to the ceilings to mimic transoms, French doors were painted black- they allow light to stream in but aren’t oppressive, and a guest bath had a small window installed between studs inside to let in light. Black door adds sophistication to an otherwise small and plain opening. We had to replace the front door- it had been black for years but this time we added a new door knocker from Pottery Barn®, a nickel plated kickplate and hardware to set off the front porch which is painted gray- flanked by two matte black urns.

*Please have your door installed by a professional! Your local building supply company usually offers installation services. Home Depot® sold us the door, charged a minimal amount for installer, who discovered a few issues we needed to address so the installation would be done right. Because the oil paint our painter suggested was not extremely high gloss we added a clear top coat of polyurethane. Now after all of this serious decorating advice- let me just say, I love our black doors, they are wonderful to dress up this not very fine house and a bonus- black doors disguise fingerprints! However, black doors might not work in every home- or even have the desired effect you want for your home. Now, I have to add a little bit of Alabama before I let you get back to what you were doing…I was honored to work for several years for Leaf and Petal at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens- the head gardener told me he was going to discard the cotton grown in the George Washington Carver Garden- I asked and he delivered the load of cotton to my car. I hauled it home and made a big wreath from my husband’s muscadine vines which is adorned with this very special Alabama Cotton! I hung it today…image

Now, ain’t that purdy? Thanks for stopping by Camellia’s Cottage. Please  visit my talented friend, Heather Bates at her beautiful design website-www.heatherbates.com (I know she could have made our space even better!). If you’re down this way- visit the beautiful Birmingham Botanical Gardens and Leaf and Petal (also at their website- www.leafnpetal.com) I hope we’ve inspired you, I know you’re getting your Front Door ready for the holidays and even for tiny trick or treaters like I am- tell me some your inspiration, too! From our nest to yours-image

Love y’all, Camellia

All images are mine- except the old home, which was photographed by Jeremy Miniard, who is always so generous with his photographs for us, see his work at http://www.jeremy.miniard.fineartofamerica !The AOL image of  the Chanel Building may be subject to copyright.

Alabama Marble…

What do these three handsome men have in common? The man in the middle is Giuseppe Moretti , the sculptor of Birmingham’s Vulcan and the ‘Head of Christ’ which is on display at Vulcan Park after residing at the Alabama Archives and History Building in Montgomery for many years. While Moretti, an Italian immigrant, was working on Vulcan he discovered a treasure trove of marble in Sylacauga, Alabama and sculpted the Head of Christ.Alabama Marble is said to be the whitest marble in the world. Moretti loved working with it more than his native Italian Carrera Marble. The first recorded industry in Alabama was in 1834, which was to quarry marble from Sylacauga, which continues to produce the highly prized marble to this day. m-5120-marble-in-the-1930sMany historic places in Alabama and the United States use this beautiful marble.

  • Courthouses all across the state, the Alabama Capitol Building
  • The Brown Marx Building, Birmingham Trust National Bank
  • The interior of the John Hand Building and countless city halls, privately owned homes and even cemeteries used Alabama Marble.
  • The beautiful Louisiana Supreme Court, the Somerset County Courthouse in New Jersey, the United States Supreme Court interior
  • The Old Chicago Main Post Office, the Alexander Hamilton Custom House in Manhattan, the Dime Savings Bank in Brooklyn, an the Historic City Hall in Philadelphia-

All have Alabama Marble -and that’s not all! Look at the beautiful translucent ceiling in the Lincoln Memorial. What you are looking at is Alabama Marble, glowingly beautiful at night.

Look at Gutzan Borghum’s bust of Lincoln found in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol- Borgham said the texture of Alabama Marble allowed him to portray the kindness of Lincoln’s face- something he had never been able to achieve with other types of marble. In the early part of the 21st century, Alabama Marble made a comeback in home interiors-especially kitchens. kitchen-with-alabama-marble

When we began renovation of the kitchen here at Camellia’s Cottage- a large portion of the budget went toward the kitchen. The old kitchen had very little counter space- the new plan was a U shaped countertop- in place of the L shape- with the refrigerators on the opposite wall along with a marble topped sink and coffee station– I had increased the square footage of the countertops by over 25 square feet! Now, the budget could stand only so much stretching- I wanted Alabama Marble, however the cost had gone up.  Alabama Marble was over $120 per sq.ft. as opposed to Italian Carerra Marble which was $90 per sq.ft.- and that was before adding in the cost of countertop removal, installation and taxes!  I made the hard choice to go with Italian Carerra Marble- as representative of the Marble Industry in Alabama. Nothing beats marble for elegance and tradition– it’s also heat resistant and stays cool – a big bonus in a Southern Kitchen!

As you can see, Italian Carerra is not as white as Alabama Marble- however the pale gray went with my overall neutral color scheme. Now, I have to tell you-  the contractors, kitchen designer and others tried to talk me out of getting marble countertops; it is softer than granite- it can stain and the biggest problem is etching. I have to admit that I wanted to keep it showroom perfect at first! It’s sort of like aging folks- when you find that first wrinkle, you sort of panic. I know I did. Marble countertops are not for everyone.

As mine slowly etched, I tried to avoid it, then- I read articles by interior designers who had installed marble countertops in their own kitchens- one said he couldn’t wait until his got some age on it- others said to embrace the etching as part of the patina of age. Another had purposely bought old marble and another said she wanted hers to age so it would look like her grandmother’s kitchen in Italy. So, here I am four years since it has been installed and I have to say- it is like aging, you can either fight it every single day or you can embrace the natural beauty of stages of real life. My kitchen can’t compare with those you see in magazines, but everyday I think of this house which holds so many good memories and the food I prepare for the people I love– none of us are perfect, some of us have aged- Marble is a daily reminder to embrace life’s best moments, to stay true to my roots and love it- to embrace the patina of age.

Love y’all, Camellia

Check out- http://www.encylopediaofalabama.org for more information about Alabama Marble. Images for photographs of Vulcan, Head of Christ, and Giusseppe Moretti and other vintage photographs are from Sylacauga Marble in Wikipedia. The Kitchen photograph is one I saved for my own renovation and is from Birmingham Home and Garden Magazine, I believe. Some may be subject to copyright and if so I will gladly credit these photographs or remove them.

Budget Bathroom Update…

A couple of years ago we began renovating Camellia’s Cottage- we had a kitchen, two and one half baths plus numerous other whole house updates – we made our wish lists, prioritized and came to the conclusion that our main goal was that each project would have to be beautiful and budget friendly. For this bathroom, the wish list was:

  • Replace the vinyl flooring with tile.
  • Replace the old, almost child sized toilet
  • Replace the low double sink and cabinet
  • Remove, get rid of, expel the fiberglass tub!

Well… best laid plans sometimes go awry- the despised fiberglass tub- could not be removed. It is an upstairs bathroom, even if it was removed, how would we ever get it out of the house?? To my horror, as chainsaws were being discussed- the plumber was poking around and said, ‘Why would you want to spend the money to replace this tub? The older fiberglass tubs are heavier and better made than the new ones. And getting a porcelain tub upstairs would be almost impossible.’ My heart sank. That tub was the worst thing in the bathroom, at least to me! I thought about it…long and hard- put the men on another project and went back to my drawing board. Here is what we came up with…


The carpenters built a frame right outside the original tub wall, with 2×4’s- we had no space to waste! They covered the frame with sheetrock and on the top right next to the top of the existing tub- our tile man cut and placed the same marble that we were using for the floor. It gave the old tub a ‘spa’ feel to it, with a wider ledge than the old tub. We replaced the old bathtub fittings with brushed nickel and the old fiberglass tub isn’t an eyesore anymore!

We came in well under budget for a bathroom remodel. This update worked so well for us, we updated the equally despised fiberglass shower in another bathroom the same way! For another look at what we did to the fiberglass tub- see the photographs below:

As for the rest of the bathroom, almost everything we had on our wish list was installed. The sink was reused, it was porcelain- we updated the fixture. A deep shelf was installed instead of a cabinet; and to keep the bathroom from looking too slick or sterile, we opted for wicker storage baskets below.

The old, out-of-date, cramped bathroom seems larger but is actually about 6 inches smaller! A beautiful, budget friendly transformation. If you have an old fiberglass tub, maybe this will give you an idea of how to update it. And most of all, remember this whether in renovating or in life-

‘If your plan isn’t working, put down the plan!’

Love y’all, Camellia