Soft Spoken: Soft Surroundings Blog

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When you walk through the legendary antique markets of Paris and southern France you see an enormous variety of chairs, armoires, and architectural remnants that are two- three- and four hundred years old. You can’t help but wonder, what makes one piece an heirloom, and not another.

Here are a few tips the experienced dealer uses to evaluate antiques and also judge whether new pieces will stand the test of time.

The true fact is well built furniture almost always starts out as a piece of solid wood.

Master woodworkers choose solid oak, maple, cherry or birch to make great furniture. And they craft with special attention to how much stress each panel and joint will need to hold, whether the grain is positioned to seamlessly match and whether it will easily expand and contract as temperature and humidity fluctuate.

So give an eye to the construction and the composition of a piece. If a new or old table or chest is made of solid wood with sound joints, the piece was made to last. If it’s upholstered, look at the quality of the fabric, and how many nails were used to secure it.


One of our favorite examples of luxuriously upholstered furniture is the Soft Surroundings Violet Chair. One hundred percent linen is ruffled like none other. And the linen makes it beautiful and durable.

All of Soft Surroundings French reproductions are made with quality craftsmanship and attention to detail. Most are made using the same old-world techniques as the originals.

A chest like our Place des Vosges has a hand-planed solid oak top and an intricately hand-carved Rococo motif on the drawers. It’s a perfect example of a piece of furniture with the “bones” and the look of an heirloom.

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And, details matter. They indicate skilled workmanship. You may fall madly in love with a sleek quarter sawn oak chest that some might call plain. But what clinched it for you was the antique brass lock and key and elegant brass drawer pulls.

Something simple like the selection of ornate antique brass hardware on our Les Halles Cabinet elevates the chest and gives it a grand finish. If things like this attract your eye and stick in your memory, it’s likely they’ll do the same for your descendants to come.

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Beyond Furniture
Of course, heirlooms don’t have to be big, heavy pieces of furniture. Nearly every family has something small and unexpected they’ve passed down through the ages. Maybe it’s a musical instrument. Or a cup and saucer made of fine bone china. In my family it’s paper! —A collection of love letters written between my mother and father.

I have a good friend who treasures a bottle of Shalimar perfume that doesn’t have a drop of perfume in it! The empty bottle was her grandmother’s, bequeathed to her mother, and then given to her. She can’t imagine parting with it, other than giving it to her own daughter. If that’s not an heirloom, what is?

Collections are another great way to hand things down that appeal to you, en masse. But first, have a lot of fun collecting them.

Jewelry is a classic heirloom, and a collection of pocket watches, cufflinks or cameo brooches are some of the finest. If you’ve started a collection with the intent of handing it down, think about the proper display.

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A smart and elegant option is Soft Surroundings Vitrine Table. The glass is tempered and beveled and it hinges open at the top, not the side, so your collection can come in and out more easily. With its hand-rubbed patina and poplar wood construction, it will be kept as dear as the precious things it holds.

Beyond Monetary Value
Some would say the only thing that separates one man’s trash from another man’s treasure is sentimental value. The story, the inspiration, is an important ingredient in an heirloom. Could a grandfather’s forgotten harmonica be the seed that grows into an “heirloom” song, discovered and rediscovered by generation after generation? Why not? And isn’t that story almost as valuable as the hit song?


When you comb through a French flea market sale, you unearth as much inspiration as antiques. And if stories are big part of what makes something an heirloom, then your house is probably filled with heirlooms-in-the-making, already!



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titleWhat is highlighting? What will it do for the skin? Can any woman at any age use highlighter? These are all important beauty questions that I get from a lot of ladies searching for ways to enhance their look. Accentuating a woman?s unique features is what my makeup philosophy has always been about and using a highlighter is the key to achieving that goal. Carmindy Radiant Glimmer Collection

After spending years as a makeup artists for countless celebs, models and also working with all kinds of women of all ages and backgrounds on my 10 year stint as resident makeup artist and beauty expert on TLC?s What Not To Wear, I created my signature look by using highlighter to play up a woman?s face. I call it Carmindizing because I personally believe makeup should be used to showcase your face not used to hide perceived flaws or change who you are.

In the past, makeup artists taught techniques on how to use heavy brown contour powder and creams to shade and change your face and features. This is a dated concept that only made women feel insecure about themselves and lower their self-esteem. When you use makeup in a positive way to highlight your natural face instead of contour and change it, you feel full of self-confidence and know that you are truly illuminated.

The best way to Carmindize and highlight your face is by applying a pearlescent shimmer in 3 key places. Apply it under the brows on the brow bone area (to light up your eyes), on the inside corners of the eyes near the outside of the tearCarmindu 5 Minute Face Kit duct (to make them sparkle) and on along the tops of the cheekbones (for skin that is radiant). Any woman of any age can use highlighter when it is refined and not glittery, so whether you are 18 or 80 feel free to Carmindize away! It is only when formulas are too glittery that it starts to settle into fine lines and wrinkles, accentuating them and making them look deeper. When a highlighter formula is refined, jet-milled and very pearlescent, it gives any type of skin, with any type of texture, a beautiful luminous look.

By just focusing on these 3 key places you will add radiance to the skin giving a light lifted effect and restoring the look of youth and vitality. My Carmindizing Highlighter Duo in Ethereal is a universal champagne hue that works on all skintones from fair to dark toned and has a split pan of cream and powder. Use the cream side for a more sheer daytime look and the powder side for a more intense evening look. Carmindy In Bloom Crayon Lip Set

Once you get into the habit of applying your Carmindizing Highlighter in these 3 key places then you can start experimenting on other areas of the face and body. Try tracing the outside perimeter of your lips before you put on lipstick to make your smile really stand out. When wearing a skin baring summer dress try blending on my Carmindizing Highlighter to the décolleté and down arms and legs to really get your glow on. So know you know what the true beauty secret is?..Carmindize and recognize your true beauty potential!


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It’s a well-known fact that no matter how large your home is your “stuff” expands to fill the space. Clutter and storage are the top two home décor dilemmas. So why not take a page from the French and try these five quick fixes for tricky spaces? We promise: not one of them involves a big plastic bin!

Doing double duty
The best way to loosen up some functional space but stay impeccably stylish is to find furniture and choose accent pieces that do double duty. For instance, if your favorite earthenware pitcher is great for serving lemonade in the summer have it hold cooking utensils in the off-season. You’ll save countertop and storage space.

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Our Kerstin Writing Desk is another model multi-tasker. With its French blue finish and glass-enclosed shelves, it serves as a pretty place to stow everything from stamps to curiosities. Now pull out the drawer and flip out the ebony writing surface and it’s a compact but ample desk. Two useful pieces in one.

Go up, not out
No doubt this lovely lingerie chest will be at home in any size bedroom, big or small. Its mirrored surfaces naturally dance light around a room to add glamour, of course, but also create the illusion of space.

Mirrored Lingerie Chest Mirrored Lingerie Chest

We were enchanted when we saw a mirrored chest like this in a home in France. It was positioned in a dining room on a narrow wall between two tall, magnificent windows. You would have thought it was made for the space, but it was simply a clever and unexpected placement. And so handy! The seven, slender stacked drawers on our reproduction are ideal to store linen napkins and rings, silverware, candles and more. And because the piece reaches up not out, it occupies much less space than a wide or deep cabinet or chest.

Minimum footprint, maximum impact
Another aspect to consider in respect to small and tricky spaces is the size of the footprint a piece of furniture covers. An overstuffed or wingback chair might look phenomenal, but use up too much precious floor space in your place. Perhaps an armless chair would be better.

Oval Back Side Chair wickerbasket

The French have a way of hiding one useful thing under another useful thing to get out of a tight spot. For instance, you’ll often see wicker baskets or trunks under console tables in French entryways. They become instant, secret storage for books, gloves, table linens, and even tennis racquets.

Another trick is to use nesting tables. Our Gilt Indochine Tables are designed with minimum footprint, maximum tabletop in mind. We love the circular shape and hand-applied gilding on these indispensible beauties.

wiretrunks nestingtable

Shallow can be a good thing
Of course we’re not talking about personalities! We’re referring to chests and consoles with long length but shallow depth measurements. Designs like these hug walls in narrow entryways or squeeze in next to beds in smaller boudoirs to dress out the space while adding storage.

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Place a furnishing like our Le Havre Chest in the area right outside your bath for a surprising twist. It’s narrow enough to fit in the space, but long enough to house anything from towels and sheets to soap and shampoo in its drawers. We love that it does the trick without “taking over” like an armoire might do.

Chic to be square
When you picture the French country kitchen or dining area in your mind, you instantly think of a big rectangular farmhouse table. But the French know there’s something just as special about the simplicity and symmetry of a square table, especially in a small home. It can be a comfortable spot for a card game or an intimate setting for a small meal. Our Dauphine Table with Bergere Chairs is just that. We adore the curve of its legs, the carvings on the sides, and the antique patina.

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No matter the size of your dwelling, space is almost always at a premium. So take a few tips from the French: keep utility and aesthetics in mind and you’ll have a happy and comfortable place to hang your hat.




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 Watch and see how easy it is to apply the creamy gel liner using the Angle Eyeliner Brush to create two different looks. You will want to try it out immediately!


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If you can’t do something, don’t interrupt those who are doing it

What is your favorite Soft Surroundings product? Not Your Daughter’s Jeans

How would you describe your style? Classy casual

What item in your closet receives the most wear? Jeans

Do you have a signature accessory? Scarves

What colors or patterns do you gravitate toward? Blues, pinks, greens with small patterns or plain.

When have you felt your most beautiful? Knee length skirt with a fabulous short jacket and accessories such as a scarf.

Name one beauty product you can’t live without. Moisturizer

What one woman do you most admire and why? Christie Brinkley has great style, beautiful low profile make up habits, and believes that age is to be done gracefully , but with acceptance. Beauty comes from within.

What’s your passion project or hobby? Gardening & quilting

How do you relax? Crocheting, reading, and baking.

Quote to live by     “If you can’t do something, don’t interrupt those who are doing it”.


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gildedtitleThe French have an inexpressible way of making their mark on a room by combining simple, pared-down, rustic pieces with luxurious ornate ones. This technique adds visual interest, depth and surprise. There is a new direction in home décor—one we like to call “The Gilded Age”—and it’s a perfect example of this French styling approach.

5 ways to capitalize on the trend toward gold

 1. Juxtaposition.  Keep an eye out for accent pieces and design elements that have a touch of French gilding or a warm bronze finish to them.  They don’t have to be big or dramatic, although that’s great too!  The juxtaposition of gold glittering next to the worn patina of wood, or the pastel washes of French verdigris suggests the Palace of Versailles, without being over-the-top.

Take, for example, our Fleuri Switch plates.  They are inspired by fleur de lis and classic acanthus leaves on 13th and 14th century French cathedrals.  Imagine how their gold finish will accent a switch on a mottled terra cotta or grey-blue wall.  We use a multi-step gilding process to give them that catch-the-light allure.

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2.  Drama. Another way to infuse the mystique of gold into a room is to add a bold linchpin piece. Our signature Gilt Mirrors make that kind of impact.  The French stylists scoop up mirrors like our Avalon or Guinevere and hang them in entryways, over vintage sinks and vanities, or above stone fireplace mantels.  They instantly give a room old-world charm and modern chic.


We’ve seen French homes with more than one gilt mirror leaning on the mantel, layered with the smallest one in the front.  It’s a brilliant way to bring dimension, angles and shine to the space.

Or consider hanging French gilt mirrors on a wall surrounded by picture frames that have a gold perimeter around the center art.  The glints of bright metal tie the ensemble together and dazzle with drama.

3. Versatility and Longevity.  By that we mean seek out and buy gilt items that nod to the current trend, but will also serve as glittering focal points this holiday and beyond.  There’s no better example than our hand-gilt Martini Tables.  Next to an archetypal French wingback chair, one of these tables is “everyday” enough for a cup of chai and the crossword.  Then, put a potted spruce or glimmering bowl filled with boxwood balls on it this holiday, and it’s the epitome of an authentic French Christmas.

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4. Other Precious Elements. All that glitters is not gold.  Sometimes it’s bronze or antique brass!  But the direction is definitely away from silver, chrome and stainless—those cooler metals—and toward the warmer ones.  That’s why you’ll see more and more gilt and bronze adornments on larger pieces.  For instance, our Parterre D’eau Demilune table has a hand-rubbed ivory finish, with bronze swags, fluting and crests.  The affect is a slightly regal twist on a simple favorite.

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Another way to take advantage of the movement toward gilding without investing a lot of money or space is through our gilt architectural fragments.  We always get a huge thrill when we bring back architectural bits and pieces from our trips abroad. They never stop inspiring ideas! Our Acanthus Fragment is a perfect example.  Use this ‘found treasure’ as a paperweight, or fill a vintage basket with a quite a few and place them on a desk or console.   You’d be surprised how much attention they get.

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5. Light the way. Gilt chandeliers are one of the quickest ways to give a room the glamour of gold.  It’s even better if the chandelier is dripping with crystals.  The combination of facets and finish catch and reflect the twinkling light.  Ours exclusively, the Eleonore Chandelier is just the right mix of metal and glass.  It effortlessly adds a little Hollywood opulence to a romantic bedroom or dressing room. Big or small, finishes to furnishings, anywhere you incorporate gilt elements into your décor you’ll feel the shift to cozy warmth.  That’s why “The Gilded Age” is so popular and why the French have embraced it for years.




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