Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Graham Hotel - Georgetown

The Graham Hotel Lobby
A few weeks ago, I attended a birthday party on the rooftop of The Graham Hotel, located in Georgetown. It was my first time stopping in, although the hotel celebrated its grand opening in the Spring of 2013. It was previously known as the Monticello Hotel but after an extensive renovation, it has been revamped and renamed after Alexander Graham Bell, who was once a resident of the neighborhood.  I was pleasantly surprised by the beautiful decor that greeted me in the lobby, as well as the chic design and styling throughout the rest of the hotel.  I was so impressed with The Graham's level of customer service and the hors d'oeuvres served to our group, my date and I left the party early and decided to have dinner in the hotel restaurant, AGB.  The menu offered a varied array of American fare, from grilled cheese and tomato soup to braised short rib.  We ended up ordering the lobster roll and the steak frites.  The food was delicious and being that we sat down right at 5pm, we were lucky to have the space all to ourselves and thus were able to riddle our server with lots of questions about the menu, the restaurant and the hotel.  I am totally adding this to my list of "staycation" hotels in the city and I will definitely be a fixture on their rooftop next summer.  Check out the photos below.

The Graham hotel
The Graham Lobby. 

Sitting area.


Lounge area in the hotel's restaurant ABG.
Photo my own.

The Graham Rooftop Bar and Lounge

*All photos courtesy of The Graham Hotel unless otherwise indicated.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Little Ambassadors' Academy

When Lauren, the Executive Director at Little Ambassadors' Academy, reached out to me and told me she was getting ready to open her second location and that she wanted me to design the teacher's lounge, I was ecstatic.  I was excited she had asked me back after working with her to design a conference room and a library at LAA's first location and at the challenge of creating a space where the teacher's could let their hair down and relax a little bit, but still function as a place to receive parents and their pre-schoolers.  Then she informed me of the catch, the ribbon cutting ceremony for the school would be in 3 weeks and I would need to have the space completed by then.  We were also working with a small budget.  Never one to back down from a challenge, I accepted the job and went to work.  

Photos of Little Ambassador's Academy, Cherrydale Campus, at the initial meeting. 
I started the process by researching online what was available, because I only had 3 weeks to turn this space around and I was working with a smaller budget, I knew I definitely wouldn't be able to go full custom and use any of my Washington Design Center resources.  I started by checking out what the big retail furniture stores, CB2, Pottery Barn, West Elm, and Z Gallerie, had in the way of sizes that would fit the space and the respective price points.  Once I felt certain I'd found the pieces that would anchor the space online, I took a field trip to the stores to see them in person and check out fabric swatches/finishes and check on delivery times.  Satisfied with the selections and that I could complete the project on time, I began drawing the space plan to show Lauren my vision.

Presentation boards
Once Lauren approved the board and gave the go ahead, I began ordering the furniture and scheduling the deliveries.  With about two weeks left, I felt confident everything would fall into place and the Ribbon Cutting ceremony would go off without a hitch, all I had to do was sit and wait for the deliveries.  I should have known better.  I'd arranged to have the furniture delivered on a Thursday, three days before the ceremony.  When I arrived to the site, the space was essentially as it had been when I had seen it three weeks prior.  It had not been painted and there were construction materials lying about everywhere.  The crew was nowhere in sight after having reported that they were finished and that everything had been completed.  Begin panic mode.  I contacted Lauren and we begin to devise a plan.  She asked if I could get my tradespeople to come in and finish up whatever work remained to get the teacher's lounge ready for show.  I began calling every painter I'd ever worked with in DC trying to find someone on short notice to arrive the next day to paint. With none picking up or returning my calls, I felt sure we were stuck.

Next in what can only be considered a series of unfortunate events, there was a mixup with one of the deliveries. The driver refused to deliver the furniture and I was told, I would have to reschedule for another day. I was at my wits end.  It seemed as if this project was about to blow up in my face.  I called the store and was re-routed to every salesperson, logistics person, store manager in a 50 mile radius before finally hearing that the driver would be able to deliver the furniture that day.  You would think that would have been the worst of it but no, the driver arrived with a partial delivery.  I was missing a bookcase and the base to a table.  Again, I called the store and put up a major fuss until I was assured I would have the missing furniture delivered the next day, 2 days before the ceremony.  And we still needed a painter...

Without a confirmed painter at 530pm on a Thursday, I headed over to Potomac Paint and purchased the paint just in case the gods decided to smile upon me.  I headed back to the site, dropped off the paint and began my commute home.  At 630pm, I received a phone call from a painter confirming that he was available to paint the space the next day and would arrive at 8am.  Whew. 

We narrowed the paint choices down to these two colors
but ended up going with Ostrich.  Paint swatches are C2.
Friday. It was a marathon of a day.  I met the painter at 8am, got him squared away with what I needed and then went about searching for items to style the space.  My first stop was Target.  I'd looked online and knew they had a few small, decorative pieces I wanted to use to accessorize the space.  I found pretty much everything I needed in about 40 minutes and was in and out the door in under an hour.  I made subsequent stops at TJ Maxx and Pier 1 but didn't see anything I was willing to commit to on the spot.  I headed back to the school and got to work assembling the furniture.

Jairo, the painter and life saver, painting the teacher's lounge.  

Assembling the chairs, purchased from West Elm.

Almost fully assembled.  Chairs from West Elm.
Much of the rest of the day was spent assembling furniture and setting up.  Once all the furniture was assembled and in place, I was able to get a feel for what other styling accessories were needed to complete the space.  Since the day had been long, I decided I would shop for the remaining items the following day.  I left feeling exhausted but accomplished.

Chairs from West Elm.  Table from CB2.
Ikea GESTALTA Figure - Artist's Figure.

CB2 Cielo II Sectional in Shadow.  Pillows from Target.
Ottoman also Target.

Baskets from Target. 
 With the end almost in sight, I asked Lauren for a few children's books to add to the bookshelves to complete the space.  Check out the pictures of the completed space below.

Little Ambassadors' Academy's, Cherrydale Campus.
Alba Credenza, CB2.  Clock, vase and decorative art blocks, Ikea.

Hancock Bookshelf, CB2.
Stuffed animals, Ikea.

All wall art from Target.

Pillows from Target.

Ikea 8-bit reindeer designed by Monika Mulder.
It has been said that in Scandinavian culture the reindeer is a
prophetic creature and a symbol of change.
All books from TJ Maxx.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Choosing Happy

The last two days I've been participating in a social experiment entitled "100 Happy Days".  Over the last month I've seen Instagram posts and tweets with that hashtag and figuring it to be the latest social media trend, I decided to avoid it but Sunday evening, I saw a post which gave me a better understanding of '100 happy days' and for a myriad of reasons, I decided to participate.
This month and last month, there has been a certain theme to my conversations with friends, a feeling of life having not turned out the way they thought it would; marriage not being as blissful, kids not being as well behaved, being married and not being able to have children, to not being married at all or not as successful at work, or not making a certain amount of money within a certain time frame, and on and on.  Everyone I talked to seemed to share this sentiment of not being happy exactly where they are, with exactly what they have at this moment.  It led me to wonder if this is a consequence of choices or a consequence of settling. The more I've considered it, the more I believe it is about choices, so Sunday when I saw the 100 happy days post describing the experiment as a choice, it struck a nerve.  
For me the experiment does not stand as a test to be happy all day, every day for 100 consecutive days but instead as a choice to find at least ONE piece of joy in each day, every day for 100 days.  It is often I see and hear and even experience it myself, where something goes wrong and it robs the joy from the day, one little thing makes it difficult to find our way back to happy.  How ironic that happiness can be so fleeting while anger and misery so lasting.  But we can all make a different choice.  I am choosing a happiness that lasts. I am choosing to find at least one piece of joy in every day for the next 98 days.  Won't you join me?