Soft Spoken: Soft Surroundings Blog

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A dozen or more coffee table books have been published in the last few years explaining the way to achieve the look of French interior design. Some even focus on the treasures to be found at French flea markets.

Looking through it all we thought you might be interested in an easier way. The way we do it!

So here is our process—the journey Soft Surroundings takes to bring you fine French furniture—in reproduction form. We’ll demonstrate with four quintessentially French décor pieces and highlight the steps we take to create remarkable remakes for you.

burlapchair

The Louis XV Burlap Chair

We were shopping our way through an antique market in France (L’Isle Sur la Sorge to be exact!) when we spotted the strong, dark lines and soft channel padding of this original 18th century burlap chair. It had Louis XV written all over it—from the carved embellishments on the exposed wood, to the padded arm rests and sturdy cabriole legs.

We brought it back to the US to make our exclusive version, which had to be just as true to type. We began by building the frame by hand out of strong, solid birch. Then our master craftsmen hand-carved grooves, and flower-and-leaf motifs along the wood, just like the original.

Yes, our artisans are key to the fine, high quality results we want. They’ve been woodcarvers for generations, experts at the art.

Beyond the frame, another feature that makes this chair irresistible is the unique channel padding and textural burlap upholstery. We even made sure the seat had hand-sewn stitch work just like the chair we found in France.

petcushion

Grain Sac Pet Cushion

Along with linen, burlap is truly a favorite textile of France. Anything dressed in burlap has a refined, but unostentatious air. For example, tie a few yards of buttery soft burlap around a folding chair and it’s instantly elegant.

Burlap grain sacks also have a long history in the countryside of France. Farmers’ wives would hand weave these sacks with their own signature color and pattern of stripes. The effect was to create a sort of monogram, so when the farmer went to the mill to pick up his sacks, he could identify the ones that belonged to him immediately!

We took inspiration from the iconic French grain sack to create these cool, comfortable pet cushions. They’re irresistibly soft and naturally resistant to dirt and pet hair. We’ve yet to find an adorably pampered pet that doesn’t snuggle in and make them home.

zinctoptable

Zinc Top Tuileries Table

Ask anyone to picture France and the first thing that comes to mind is often an outdoor café or bistro with its distinctively French tables. These metal-topped tables are centerpieces in France, indoor and out.

We found a spectacular perfect one during one of our journeys abroad, and couldn’t wait to create a romantic reproduction for you.

Ours has a zinc top that’s aged to perfection with a hand-rubbed patina. It looks as French as a reproduction can get. Even the hourglass iron stand and scroll legs add to the heirloom look. And there’s no better place for a mid-morning read or a crisp glass of white in the afternoon.

linencabinet

Fantine Linen Cabinet

When we first saw the original of this lovely cabinet in a store in Marseilles, the shop owner told us it had been used as a jam and jelly cabinet.

But with its stately height, ample shelves, crown, and molding, we couldn’t help but envision it holding fresh laundered sheets, linens, fluffy towels, feather pillows and sumptuous throws.

We brought it home and set to making a beautifully crafted reproduction. From the hand-carved center motif on the door to the pleasing diagonal swath of the molding next to the antiqued brass pull handle, this piece has signature style with a French accent. And we’re happy to bring it to you.

Creating reproductions from authentic French originals is our great passion. AT HOME we revel in the romance of history, the patina of age, and the heirlooms of tomorrow.

 

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Jean“You know when I sit and when I rise;  you perceive my thoughts from afar” -Psalm 139

What is your favorite Soft Surroundings product?

Clothing

How would you describe your style?

Casual

What item in your closet receives the most wear?

Jeans

Do you have a signature accessory?

Brighton necklace

What colors or patterns do you gravitate toward?

Black and brights solid

When have you felt your most beautiful?

When my hair is clean freshly blown dry

Name one beauty product you can’t live without.

Eyeliner and mascara

What one woman do you most admire and why?

My friend, Barbara, because of her love of God and positive attitude about everything

What’s your passion project or hobby?

Dancing, being outside, my family

How do you relax?

Browse the computer or walk my dog

Quote to live by

Psalm 139.  ” You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar”

 

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Enter to win our Biltmore Estate Dream Weekend Giveaway!  Click here to enter: http://bit.ly/Drmwknd

The prizes include a two-night stay for two people at the Biltmore Inn (including breakfast), a behind the scenes Biltmore Winery Tour, two Soft Surroundings apparel items, a Perricone MD Power Treatments Kit, a jane iredale Starter Kit, and a $500 Visa gift card (for travel expenses or spending money!) The sweepstakes is open from now until October 8, 2014.

Located in scenic Asheville, North Carolina, the Biltmore Estate is comprised of the Biltmore House and Gardens, Antler Hill Village & Winery, Inn on Biltmore Estate, Cottage on Biltmore Estate, the Equestrian Center, numerous award-winning restaurants, and a retail boutique.

Asheville, NC  is a charming area, known for exquisite dining, historic and architectural interests, boutique shopping and the fine arts – a wonderful destination for travelers!

About the Biltmore House (From Biltmore.com):

“Completed in 1895, George Vanderbilt’s 250-room chateau is as impressive today as it was more than a century ago.  Biltmore House is truly a wonder of architecture and hospitality.  As our guest, you’re invited to enjoy a self-guided tour of the house, as well as the beautiful gardens and grounds surrounding it, designed by renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted.”

For reservations, tickets, and information on the Biltmore Estate, please visit www.biltmore.com/softsurroundings or call 866-851-4661.

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Q: As a successful neuroscientist, how did you get your start in creating skin care products?
I am passionate about studying the active components of snake venoms (cobra and rattlesnake) and understanding how these venoms can safely and effectively help people live better and more fulfilling lives.
While researching the properties of cobra venom for the treatment of multiple sclerosis, infectious diseases and rheumatoid arthritis, my notion that a formula with King Cobra Venom could offer significant benefits to the skin, that are not only soothing and calming, but also helpful for enhancing entire skincare regimens evolved. It was already known that orthosilicic acid was an important anti-wrinkle and skin maintenance agent while venom from the King Cobra contained charged cell penetrating neuropeptides. The idea was to combine these two agents and use King cobra venom to enhance the delivery of orthosilicic acid. Consequently, I began formulating our flagship product – Concentrated Neuropeptide Renewal Serum – which is the first and only serum to use the naturally occurring peptides and neuropeptides from King Cobra Venom.

Q: Your Concentrated Neuropeptide Renewal Serum contains pure King Cobra Venom, Red Marine Algae, and Vitamins A, B6, D3, and E – Can you tell us about how you discovered this powerful combination of ingredients?
When developing Concentrated Neuropeptide Renewal Serum, my objective was to create the most advanced solution to target the major visible signs of aging – tone, texture, firmness, hydration and fine lines and wrinkles. The ingredients that I chose to incorporate into Concentrated Neuropeptide Renewal Serum were selected specifically for their ability to successfully address these concerns.

Q: What types of benefits and results can customers expect by using your Concentrated Neuropeptide Renewal Serum?
Our serum offers a multi-tiered solution for reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, improving firmness and elasticity, soothing visibly irritated skin, evening skin tone and hydrating dry skin – resulting in a brighter complexion, more youthful glow and softer and better feeling skin.

Q: What one skin care tip do you feel is most important for women to remember?
The best skincare tip I can offer is to avoid exposure to the sun and other environmental toxins. This exposure can lead to free radical production, which is considered a leading cause of visibly aged skin. The scientific blend of ingredients in Concentrated Neuropeptide Renewal Serum serve as free radical scavengers that help combat the visible signs of aging while renewing skin to a more youthful appearance.

Q: Can women with sensitive skin use your products effectively?
Yes, absolutely. This serum is non-irritating, hypoallergenic, fragrance-free, gluten-free and is formulated without sulfates and parabens. It is appropriate for all skin types and ethnicities.

VeninRoyale

Q: Why should women choose to purchase your skincare products over the competitor’s products?
King Cobra Venom is a game changing cosmetic ingredient and is exclusively available in Concentrated Neuropeptide Renewal Serum. Women do not necessarily need to replace their current skincare products with our serum. Instead, they should use Concentrated Neuropeptide Renewal Serum as a base layer to help enhance their entire skincare program. Alternatively, for women that are looking for a single product solution, Concentrated Neuropeptide Renewal Serum is the ideal option.

Q: We have had a lot of positive comments from customers on your Concentrated Neuropeptide Renewal Serum – Can you tell us about any customer success stories you have heard?
We have been pleased to receive a great deal of positive feedback from our customers. Most notably women comment on the youthful glow of their skin and their improved tone, texture and softness resulting from their continued use of the serum.

For more information and to purchase Venin Royale Concentrated Neuropeptide Renewal Serum, click here.

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WATCH to discover tricks to a chic, modern mani with nail-strengthening Dermelect!

Infused with nail strengthening peptides, Dermelect nail treatments are like a protein shake for your mani. Try their beautiful palette of polishes or spice up your manicure with these on-trend terrific top coats for a little sparkle or modern matte look. SEE how easy it is…

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We have the foolproof tips to test, buy & love your makeup before you leave the store!

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makeup

Makeup 101
Before browsing the cosmetics counter, it’s important to keep a couple of tips in mind. Makeup is meant to enhance, not distract from your own natural beauty. You want people to see you, not your makeup. Testing products in natural light is the best way to ensure your makeup looks luminous and gorgeous, not heavy-handed or garishly hued. Simply ask the associate if you can take the mirror outside for a daylight test. And always use disposable wands, applicators and sponges for the most germ-free testing.

foundation

Foundation Situation
Foundation is not meant to be seen. It should be invisible, finessing imperfections and creating flawless, glowing, natural-looking skin. To avoid that harsh, telltale line of demarcation, you must match your foundation to your neck. The best way to do that is to test foundation along your jawline or on your neck to make sure it’s completely seamless. Your clavicle is another great spot to test your shade.

shades of beauty

Shades of Beauty
As a starting point, avoid pinkish-hued foundations which don’t blend with most complexions. Fairer skins do best with ecru, buff or beige. Mid-toned skins like light olive, tan and Asian have warm undertones, so medium or golden foundations are best. African American women want to avoid products with high levels of titanium dioxide, which can make darker skins look ashy. Look for shades of tan, sand or sable. Remember to recheck your foundation as the seasons change. You may need a slightly darker foundation in the summer months.

concealer

The Deal with Concealer
Concealer is typically best tested where you need it… under eyes, on blemishes or dark spots. But you can cheat a little with dark circles and test your under-eye concealer on the blue veins of your wrist. Remember, different-colored concealers cover different concerns. Warm, peachy tones cancel out the blues of dark circles. Green-hued formulas neutralize redness and blemishes. Dark spots are best covered with a tone that’s one shade lighter than your foundation.

blushing

I’m Blushing
With blush, the goal is to find that shade that mimics your natural flush, so it looks natural, not painted on. One tip is to pick a shade that matches your natural lipcolor. Tonally, a blush that’s in the same color family as your lipstick will give you a fresh, harmonious look. Be sure to wear your foundation for blush testing since the product will look differently on clean skin. At the store, smile and test blush on the apples of your cheeks for the most natural, rosy glow.

lipstick

Lipstick Shtick
Instead of swiping lipstick after lipstick on the back of your hand, try testing on your fingertips which are more pink and closer in hue to your natural lipcolor. First find your best nude shade, great for daytime. The ideal hue will be a just-bitten shade just a touch darker than your natural color. Your a.m. lipcolor will give you a clue as to whether warm or cool tones suit you best, making it easier to pick a stronger p.m. lipcolor based on the undertones. Keep in mind that lighter colors tend to make lips look fuller. Of course, you can also go with a color-shifting lipstick that self-adjusts to your pH to guarantee the perfect shade!

eyes

The Eyes Have It
Eyeshadow is one product you can test on the back of your hand. Even better, try the inside of your wrist which is lighter, like your eyelids. A simple bend of the wrist will tell if the shadow can pass the no-crease test. Eyeliner can also be tested on the back of your hand. After a moment, drag your finger across the line to see if it smears. A little smudging is good for a smoky eye, but if it completely wipes away, it won’t have much staying power on your eyes.

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HelloSunshine

The first in a 3-part SLEEP series! This month: how to transform yourself from night owl to cheery morning riser.

Beauty sleep is not just a catchphrase. Good sleep means better health and more youthful vitality, so over the next three months, The Scoop will run a series focused on the health and beauty benefits of a good night’s sleep… and how to get it.

theriseandfall

The Rise & Fall of a Consistent Bedtime
Becoming a morning person rests with getting a better night’s sleep. Listening to your internal clock is a great place to start. To reset your internal clock and rise earlier, it’s important to be consistent and go to bed and wake at the same time every day. Yes, even on weekends. Sleeping in may sound divine, but it can backfire, making you feel even more groggy. Pay attention to your optimal sleep window, when your body starts to slow and you begin to feel sleepy. Miss it and you risk a sleepless night trying to get back to your sleepy state.

timetemp

Time & Temperature
Temperature plays a key role in our ability to fall and stay asleep, then easily wake up. Our core body temperature rises and falls with our circadian rhythm over a 24-hour period. A cooler core will ensure you get into a deeper sleep more quickly, and stay there, making it easier to get up. Room temperatures between 60-67˚ are optimal to slip into the deepest sleep. Drop the temperature in your house an hour before bedtime to make sure the house is refreshingly cool. Then set your thermostat to start warming the house an hour before you need to rise, to start your gradual warm-up and wake-up.

windingdownWinding Down
Establish a good bedtime routine. Make your bed plush and inviting with a good supportive mattress, fluffy pillows and soft, cozy bedding. Luxuriate in a warm, relaxing bath with soothing lavender essential oil. Many women find reading before bed relaxes them. Avoid these known sleep saboteurs right before bed: eating or drinking too much, the bright lights of tv and personal electronics and even mental clutter. Jot down your to-dos well ahead of bedtime so they don’t preoccupy your sweet slumber.

banishmayhem

Banish the Morning Mayhem
If you know your day will be hectic before you’ve even climbed out of bed, it’s probably time to rethink and simplify your morning routine. Prepare as much as you can the night before. Choose your clothes, pack up whatever you need for the day… if you don’t have a long list of things to do the moment your eyes open, you might be more eager to wake. Streamline your beauty regimen with a 5-minute makeup plan or try multi-tasking products like BB Creams which can be a total time saver.

brightside

On the Bright Side
Have you ever noticed that it’s easier to get out of bed in the summer, when the sun rises earlier? Why not let the power of the sun help you wake up? Frame your bedroom windows with lovely sheers that let the sun shine in. The filtered light of the gradual sunrise as it peers into your bedroom is a gracious, easy way to slowly wake. Need to rise earlier than the sun? Try a mood-boosting bedside lamp that mimics natural daylight.

newsensation

New Sensation
Beyond the sun, another way to wake bright-eyed is to stimulate your senses first thing in the a.m. Set your coffee pot to start brewing 45 minutes before you wake so the inviting scent wafts through the house. A citrus-scented body wash is a great perk-me-up. Try a strong mint toothpaste to energize your palate. Crack the windows and let the sounds of nature wake you. Maybe try a sound machine alarm clock with chirping bird sounds. Or create your own nature sounds. Start feeding the backyard birds and their early morning revelry at the feeders is sure to get your stirring.

pleaseme

Please Please Me
Don’t forget the power of anticipation as a great motivator for rising on the early side. Establish a pleasing ritual in the morning that has you looking forward to starting the day with a little smile. Maybe it’s that special cup of coffee or time to read the paper on the patio. Or how about a walk with your ever-cheery furry friend? Don’t worry, he’ll give you a wake-up nudge to remind you it’s time to get up and go. Yogic stretches in the a.m. charge your muscles and fuel energy for the whole day. Plus, the mind-opening calm just starts your day on the right note.

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Every product line offers a serum, but why do I need it and how does it fit into my skin care regimen?

SkinLovingSerums

 

whatareserums

What are serums?
Serums are your most concentrated skin treatments, packing the most potent anti-aging benefits in precious few drops. The age-bending results of serums are so amazing because extensive scientific research, cutting edge technology and specially-sourced anti-aging ingredients, along with proven vitamins, antioxidants and exclusive peptides, go into the creation of each one. Serums are your skin saviors, often delivering the results of pricey dermatologist’s procedures without the pain or hassle. There are also luxe hair serums which revitalize dry, damaged tresses and add glorious shine.

What exactly will it do for me?
The natural decline in collagen production as we age leads to a loss of firmness, more set-in wrinkles and more uneven skintone as new skin cells are produced less and less frequently. Serums work deep under the skin at the cellular level to repair and renew skin, boosting cell turnover and stimulating collagen production for more youthful, refreshed skin. Fine lines and wrinkles are diminished or even erased. Dark spots and discoloration fade. Skin is sculpted and tightened as the supportive collagen network is reinvigorated, improving skin’s elasticity. As the old skin cells are lifted and new skin emerges, you’ll start to see a brighter, more luminous complexion.

iusemoisturizer

But I use a moisturizer!
Moisturizers are essential to plump and hydrate skin, but they can’t do the intensive work of a serum. Plus, the emollient properties of a moisturizer can create a barrier for the most active therapeutic ingredients. Serums eliminate most of the fluid and feature smaller molecules that can quickly sink deeply into the skin to work more effectively. Serums and moisturizers pair well together for the ultimate anti-aging regimen. Use your hydrating moisturizer on top of your rejuvenating serum to seal in the youth-restoring benefits and the skin-plumping moisture.

I have sensitive skin. Can I still use serums?
Yes. The trick is to find the right serum for you because some active ingredients may be too harsh for your sensitive skin, like Retinols or Alpha Hydroxy Acids. Women with chronic skin conditions like eczema or rosacea should try serums cautiously. Try one new product at a time so you can determine if it gives you a reaction. To slow down your skin’s absorption of the active ingredients, let your face dry completely after washing before you apply any serum.

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How should I use it?
You always want to start with a clean, freshly-washed face, so remove all traces of makeup and dirt first. Nighttime is a great time to apply serum because your skin is at rest, doing its best repair work and not under assault from the day’s environmental toxins. Apply serum while skin is still moist (except sensitive girls). Apply little dots all over your face and gently massage, don’t tug, your skin. Don’t use too much. There’s a reason serums often come in tiny bottles and dispense tiny drops at a time. You don’t need that much to be effective. In fact, if you use too much at a time, you risk clogging pores and creating other problems. Follow up with your moisturizer. Products in one particular line are often designed to work together, so if you’re finding your new serum isn’t producing results, it may be clashing with your typical moisturizer.

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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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