Soft Spoken: Soft Surroundings Blog

With the allure of fall colors just around the corner, a vest offers endless layering options for now and later. Vests are wonderful pieces to add to a wardrobe because of the variety of looks they provide, whether relaxed or polished.

Trellised Terrace Vest Rio Rancho Boots

Sweater vests can offer a light layer of additional warmth during crisp fall days, without the bulk of a jacket or sweater. Looking chic over knit tops, blouses, and dresses is what makes the vest a go-to piece this fall. Try adding a belt to your vest, around the waist or hips, for a fashion-forward look and an extra pop of personality.

Goldrush Necklace Arden Belt

Statement necklaces make a great addition to a vest ensemble by creating additional visual interest. Boots, a favorite fall item, also pair beautifully with vests and denim.Create a fabulous look with a vest, knit top or blouse, a statement necklace, denim, and a pair of the season’s most stunning boots.

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My Style Profile Winner Mary C.“I’m smart enough to get what I want and that’s as smart as I’ve ever wanted to be…” – Marilyn Monroe

What is your favorite current Soft Surroundings product? I’ve got on my favorite Soft Surroundings item!! The gray Cozy Up Top!! It’s a blouse/jacket/sweater all in one.  And it’s incredibly SOFT!!!

What three words best describe your style? Classic. Artistic. Eclectic.

My idea of a perfect day is…? Today!! I painted some wooden letters for my niece’s nursery in whimsical patterns of blue and white. Now, my cat Fritzi is cuddled in my lap!!!

Who has most inspired your fashion sense? Coco Channels classic lines!

What one fashion rule do you always abide by? I don’t wear anything too tight-fitting.  It’s not elegant.

What article of clothing is at the top of your shopping list? A cashmere sweater that cuddled and warm!

Describe what is in your travel beauty bag. A hand-held mirror so that I can see myself at all angles!

Name your signature scent. Pleasures in Bloom by Este’ Lauder

How do you unwind? Sit by the fire with my cat in my lap and my iPad shopping online!!

Where is your favorite place to travel? South of France and Africa on a safari.

Do you have a passion project or hobby? Painting on canvas, furniture, or today, wooden letters spelling out a baby boy’s name.

Describe the most memorable gift you’ve ever received. A pair of diamond earrings, the night before my wedding!

One item I would never leave the house without… My purse

Quote to live by “I’m smart enough to get what I want and that’s as smart as I’ve ever wanted to be…” -Marilyn Monroe

 

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entertaining_titleOf course you want your next party to be unforgettable. You want the ambiance to be just right. And you want to dress up the décor a bit without a lot of bother. Easy. Whether it’s a big elegant dinner party or a casual little brunch, here are a few entertaining essentials to help you pull it off without a lot of fuss.

Shiny and Sparkling
Bright, shiny object ALWAYS attract attention. So create a focal point like a tablescape that features etched and cut crystal vases and hurricanes, silvery mercury glass candlesticks and bottles with gold or platinum accents. Add one subtle color like a creamy yellow to this artful mise-en-scéne and the look is understated elegance with minimal effort.

candlestick vase1

Be sure to include things of varying heights and shapes. Nothing has to look perfect—better still if it doesn’t—it will encourage your guests to look, touch and enjoy it all.

Our latest favorites along these lines are our Platinum Artichokes. They make a visually interesting addition to a console display, or as a centerpiece. Put them in a classic ceramic bowl like our Hestia and enjoy these ancient symbols of prosperity.

artichokes bowl

Exclusivity
The best parties have an air of exclusivity—everyone is a special guest—while being friendly, fun and welcoming. Your choice of decorations can help achieve this balance.

If you want to pinpoint one easy way to elevate the specialness, it’s with a dessert table. Even if there’s a good, old-fashioned apple pie and some chocolate chunk brownies on it, the act of giving sweets their own separate space raises the glamour quotient of the party.

marcoon

Our faithful reproductions of antique Macaroon Stands are the kind of eye candy the French like to incorporate into a dessert spread. (But you surely don’t need a party as an excuse to use them!) They are as pretty as the cakes and cookies they might hold. Plus, like many of the entertaining essentials mentioned in this post, they’re exclusively from Soft Surroundings.

Fresh and Vibrant
It seems a must that French get-togethers have a sense of life to them. One way they do that is by weaving notes of color and nature into their party décor.

tablecloth napkin

Our bright Hydrangea Tablecloth and Napkins will bring that air to your next casual brunch or lunch al fresco. The colors cue the sea and sun of the South of France, and when they’re positioned next to crisp white plates or with a ceramic centerpiece filled with lemons, the vibe is all about a zest for life.

Classic and Colorful
One more entertaining essential is an assortment of vessels to hold bouquets, chill champagne, or dish up delicious food. Again, the French have a way with this kind of thing and their mantra is “imperfect perfection”.

vase2

So don’t make everything match. Play with size, color and style. And let the spirit take you. Our Cinzano Vase is the embodiment of this attitude. It has classic Italian lines, scroll handles, and the imperfection of a crackle glaze that lets the terra cotta show through. What a casually elegant way to ice the rosé.

Romantic and Practical
No party is complete without candles. The glimmering light and aura they cast on an evening celebration is a romantic necessity. And it always seems like guests feel more comfortable, and even more conversational by candlelight.

So gather a few candlesticks and tapers of different lengths, arrange some tea candles, or create a medley of pillars. It’s an effortless way to make your event of any size intimate.

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Flameless pillars are one of the latest innovations for parties. They impart the glow of romance without any of the drippy mess. And ours have a handy remote to let you turn them on and off from afar.

Last but not least, a party should be fun—especially for the hostess! So choose decorations and tools that are simple, beautiful and make your life easier. With that single tip in mind, you’ll see yourself reinventing the pieces you love for a variety of occasions and for years to come.

 

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title

Soak up the secrets to choosing the best moisturizer for your specific skin needs.

Over time, our ability to lock in and retain moisture starts to diminish. If your face or skin feels tight, you need more moisture. And if you’ve been using the same formula for years, it may be time for a switch. Also, be sure to adjust your level of hydration as the seasons change. As humidity levels rise in the summer months, you should generally be moisturizerable to use a lighter weight lotion than in winter. But pay special attention to your skin after a day in the sun and surf. You may need to rehydrate with a creamier, more emollient moisturizer. The best time to moisturize is while skin is still damp so that it really soaks in well.

In the long hot days of summer, dry skin can become even drier as sun, wind, heat, seawater and chlorine sap moisture. Look for dryskinricher creams for the best hydration. Products that contain humectants like Hyaluronic Acid, Glycerin and Ceramides are a great solution. Humectants draw and seal in moisture from the air, giving you a fresh, dewy appearance. Sleep on this: sleeping with a humidifier is also an easy way to keep dry skin hydrated.

It may seem counterintuitive to moisturize oily skin, but oily skin needs hydration, too. Skipping moisturizer on oily skin can actually spur greater oil production, making skin even greasier, as your skin tries to compensate for a lack of oilyskinmoisture. The key is to choose a lightweight, oil-free moisturizer that’s non-comedogenic, meaning it won’t clog pores. Formulas with Retinols or Alpha Lipoic Acid can help regulate oil production. Alpha Hydroxy Acids, like Alpha Lipoic or Glycolic can help keep pores clear, reducing the incidence of breakouts.

Sensitive, easily-irritated skin, especially those suffering from rosacea and eczema, benefit from moisturizers with less ingredients. Fewer ingredients means less potential for an adverse reaction and if you do have a breakout, it may be easier to identify the allergenic culprit. Look for hypoallergenic solutions without alcohol, dyes or fragrance. Be sure to steer clear of acids like Alpha Hydroxy, Glycolic and Salicylic. sensitiveThese acids can be beneficial for their anti-aging and anti-acne properties, but can be too harsh for people with sensitive skin. On the flipside, Allantoin has great moisturizing properties and has been known to help heal skin without irritation, making it a great ingredient for sensitive skin, especially those suffering from eczema.

There is a new class of multi-tasking moisturizers that do more than just hydrate. BB and CC Creams pair moisture with anti-aging boosters, sun protection and often a light tint for a warm, sunny glow. Products with antioxidants like Vitamins A, C, E, Resveratrol and Green Tea can help reverse the signs of aging by diminishing dark spots and wrinkles and treatmentsevening skintone. When it comes to sunscreen, look for moisturizers that offer broad spectrum protection, shielding skin from both UVA and UVB rays. Some self-tanners do it all… firming, toning and hydrating all while bathing skin in gorgeous, sunkissed radiance.

 

The moisture needs for your body are much different than for your face. Waxy ingredients or richly hydrating oils like Shea Butter, beautifulMineral Oil or Lanolin are too heavy and pore-clogging for your face, but are wonderful body hydrators. Lotions with Glycolic Acid or Lactic Acid can help you smooth away the annoying red bumps of Keratosis Pilaris on the backs of your arms or fronts of your legs.

 

While you were sleeping, your body was hard at work doing its best repairwork. This is the best time to use your anti-aging moisturizers, nighttimewhen you’re at rest and your skin isn’t under assault from environmental aggressors. This will let the anti-aging ingredients sink deep into your pores and really work, so when you wake you’ll look even more youthful and refreshed.

 

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market

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.

Furniture
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.

wood

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.

place des vosges chest place des vosges chest 2

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.

las halles cabinet voilet chair

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.

collectorstable collectorstable2

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?

market2

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.

Writing Desk writingdesk2

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.

leharvechest1 leharvechest2

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.

Dauphine Game Table gametable3

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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