Home Décor

Hello, my name is Arlene Antoinette Gibbs and I have a Sicily problem.

It’s bad.  Every time I go, i wish I could stay longer.  There’s so much of the island I haven’t seen yet, for example the entire West Coast, the interior, and other islands like Stromboli, Lampedusa, etc. etc.

This time I was on the island for a week, Mt. Etna then Ortigia, for vacation (and to celebrate my birthday).

“It’s good to back,” I said to Rosa, the newish manager, when I walked into the reception room at Monaci delle Terre Nere.   Last year I wrote about Monaci and my first trip to the Sicilian mainland for FATHOM.

This time I stayed in the Floreale room.


The bathroom!


Photos: Monaci

The view from my balcony.


Lunch was served by the pool.

The first time I went to Monaci, it was raining and winter so I had no idea how spectacular the views were. The grounds are gorgeous.


The main villa at sunset.  I would like to decorate a Sicilian villa one day.


One morning I jogged around the forty acre property.  Most of the food served at Monaci comes from their organic gardens. There is a huge chicken coop.  I hesitate to call it a coop.  It’s more like a palace as it’s bigger than my apartment. Lucky chickens.

The breakfast spread was serious.  On the other side were eggs, cheeses, salumi, cakes, breads, cereals, and many other things I didn’t have a chance to try.


I had to buy a jar of their honey.  Fifteen percent of the honey made in Italy comes from this small town.


I had some great Sicilian wines.   I love their aperitivi.  Although there were more guests during this trip (the hotel was at full occupancy) fewer people went to the aperitivi. Perhaps they thought it wasn’t child appropriate?


Several rooms, located a few meters from the main house, have been renovated now. The atmosphere during high season was completely different from off-season. There were lots of families and half the tourists were American.

I had a moment with a fellow American guest who was so rude, it took my breath away.  I believe I had a strong reaction to her snub because it was completely out of context.  The vibe at Monaci is very friendly and chill.  The owners, Guido and Ada, are lovely and as are the other people who work there.  For this basic lady to not understand that said a lot about her.

As soon as I sat down with my book by the pool, I got over it.  I was in a beautiful place and no one was going to put a damper on that.

A slight scent of Sicilian jasmine, and lavender filled the air.  There were roosters in the background and sometimes the volcano “groaned”, loudly.  It was very relaxing despite the sounds coming from Mt. Etna.

A grazie mille to Rosa, Sara, Federico, Nujuan, Salvatore, and of course Guido and Ada for helping make this the best birthday ever.

Note:  My room was in the main villa and on the same floor as the kitchen. I’m an early riser, so I never heard a peep from the kitchen or from the downstairs reception area.

From Monaci, I went to Oritigia.  This time I rented an apartment on the other side of the village.  I couldn’t understand why it was cheaper than my place from last year.  It had a terrace with a partial sea view.

It’s because that side of the town wasn’t completely regentrified, yet.

As you can see in the photos below, some of the buildings are derelict and the empty former prison is on the left.  I liked being only two blocks away from the farmers market but can see how that might not be appealing.

I had to work a bit during my vacation but at least I had a view.


Love the old faded tiles on the right.


Before unpacking, I ran out to get pick up some yogurt, wine, and other important things.  All of a sudden I heard my name and it was X, Erica’s daughter.  Once again, without planning it, our apartments were only blocks away from each other.

The tiny piazza in front of my building at night.


The architecture here is incredible.  Remember to look up.


My friends at Casa Mia wrote about Tabaré (Sicilian dialect for tray) and I had to check it out.  It’s a must.


On my birthday we went to Arenella beach.  We got there early and scored great beach chairs, second row.  It was my first trip to a Sicilian beach and I had a great time.  I love how people of all shapes and sizes rock bikinis and Speedos.


Later that night we went to dinner.  In Italy when it’s your birthday and you invite people to celebrate with you, you pay.  It makes sense to me. You’re the host. I have some American friends who really have an issue with this custom but it’s not just an Italian thing. In the Caribbean if you invite people out for your birthday, you pay.  I get it if you’re in your early 20s and you meet at a bar or something. However, by your 40s/50s and up, the whole invite people to celebrate you and then expect them to pay is a little odd to me.


After dinner Erica insisted on treating me to a post dinner drink in the main piazza.  This is probably one of my favorite churches and piazzas in Italy.  It is ridiculously beautiful.


I was worked up about this birthday but in the end, it turned out to be a perfect day.  Thank you, Ms. Firpo and Ms. Arya.

I’ve been back for less than two weeks and I’m already trying to figure out when I can return. I’m tempted to join one of my friends in Rome who has to go to there for work in October.  Seriously.

Photos (except for the first two): me and my iPhone

Finally, my jet lag is over.  It was much worse in Los Angeles and ended shortly before my return flight to Rome.  How wonderful!

The LCDQ Legends interior designer conference is one of the most popular events in the industry. I’ve heard designers call it the Coachaella or the Oscars of interior design.  There were more than ten thousand RSVPs for the three-day event, with designers from over twenty-four states, and one hundred and fifty designers traveling to Los Angele from overseas.

This was my first year attending. It was fantastic. There were Interesting and informative panel discussions, fun parties, and over sixty-seven inspiring window displays.

Not only did I enjoy visiting some of my favorite (and new) showrooms, I appreciated the style of my fellow decorators. Folks were not playing. It does make sense that many interior designers/decorators have a great sense of style.  I forgot how super casual Los Angeles is until I saw someone walk into Urth Cafe in Beverly Hills wearing pajamas bottoms.  I’m talking about the sloppy, comfortable ones you sleep in, not the dressy ones you would wear to a party.

I also had Hollywood film/TV meetings but since this is not a screenwriting blog, all I will say is that everyone is talking about EMPIRE.  We’ll see how this hit show changes the landscape.

There were many highlights and I left feeling very energized (and determined to move to a new neighborhood).

Opening night gala.  My friend Corrina (an interior design junkie) came with me.  It was packed.  The food was delicious.  I felt drunk despite not drinking at all.  The jet lag struggle was real that night.



The official kick off.  The Bloggers Breakfast.  I met Erinn Valencich from American Dream Builders. So nice. Perhaps my experience is not the norm, but I’m constantly surprised by how friendly and helpful people are in this industry.  At the conference I met some serious A-listers and they couldn’t be more down to earth. It’s shocking!

There were many famous design bloggers attending the breakfast but the room was so crowed it was impossible to move around. I found out who was at the event after seeing their Instagram feeds.

Yes, I took a photo of this Italian shower head. I love that other people were also taking photos of faucets and shower heads. I could spend hours discussing such things.



I’ve written about Peter Dunham before. His showroom, Hollywood at Home, has moved to a new location. Beautiful. I ordered some fabric samples for my Anguilla beach house project.



You know how I feel about Peonies.



Peter’s famous Fig Leaf print.



How gorgeous is this dark blue club chair at Mecox?



This table? Perfect for a bedroom, entryway, or a small office.



Everyone was so cheerful.  It really unnerved me. Ha!

This photo was taken at the ELLE DECOR Power Luncheon.  Very pretty and again, great food.



Lulu Powers making Aperol Spritz before the “Entertaining – The Home As A Social Stage” panel, with Susan McFadden, Kathryn M. Ireland, Russ Diamond, and Lulu.

The take away?  Dining rooms are not obsolete, despite what developers of McMansions say. They’re being used differently, less formal.  I agree and wish I had one.



I read Windsor Smith’s new book once I returned to Rome.  I highly recommend adding it to your library.  It was great to meet Windsor and to spend time in the Arteriors‘ showroom.



I love that Arteriors was serving cocktails at 2:30 p.m. on a Friday afternoon.  Unfortunately, I was driving non-stop in Los Angeles.  Still, I enjoyed the festive atmosphere.



One of the most popular events is the Moore and Giles cocktail party, co-chaired by Harbinger LA and the Hearst shelter magazines (Veranda, Elle Decor, and House Beautiful) in the Harbinger backyard.

More Aperol Spritz.  The Italian inspired menu was catered by Lulu Powers and was delicious.



My incredible experience ended with an intimate party at Kathryn M. Ireland’s beautiful home.  I forgot my phone (the HORROR!).

Paloma Contreras of La Dolce Vita blog wrote a post about it.

Ireland has moved her West Hollywood showroom next door to her textile printing shop on Washington street. Outside, it looks like any other nondescript industrial space. Inside, is a completely different story.

I cannot believe it’s been almost three years since I attended her Interior Design Boot Camp.  It was one of the best investments I’ve made in my career.  It was also a lot of fun.





Work in progress.  Hand printed textiles.


Photos: My and my iPhone.

The last few weeks have been incredibly busy.

I’m working on a new project that will include a bathroom renovation.  It has unique design challenges in that It’s a vacation rental and the room is TINY.

We want the space to function better and to be stylish.  Below are three small spaces that caught my eye.

Compact yet not claustrophobic.  The shelving above the toilet is genius.  Great use of space.


Photo: Banherio Pequeno

In a small space you can use higher-end materials and finishes without blowing out your budget.  Look at these floors.  Stunning.



Photo: Elements of Style

Love the drama of Jenna Lyon’s bathroom.  These floors are spectacular as well.


Photo: Domino

I hope you had a lovely holiday weekend.

It’s still a little chilly here in Rome but I know better than to complain about it.  Our weather is almost tropical compared to some parts of the States.

Growing up in NY/NJ I looked forward to saying, “peace out” to winter and getting ready for spring.  While some of my chores were not fun, I enjoyed helping my parents prep our home.

Once I moved to Los Angeles I didn’t have to worry about such things.  There are seasons but the changes are subtle. Nothing drastic like mountains of snow and not a single sunny day in February.

One thing I appreciate about living in Rome is having “real” seasons again but without the bone chilling North East winters.

I’ve written before about how my mom did not play when it came to keeping a clean house.  Spring cleaning was like Oscars week for her.  I get it. She grew up in the Caribbean and never got used to the weather.  After a long brutal winter, it’s nice to open all the windows and let your home breathe.

I don’t like heights, so I would ask my dad if I could pass on cleaning the gutters. I loved working in the garden with him. What I didn’t love so much… changing the draperies. They were heavy and we had a LOT of windows when we lived in New York City and when we moved out to suburban New Jersey.  I couldn’t avoid ladders completely.   Once the drapes were down, they were off to the dry cleaners and my mom and I would put up pretty Spring/Summer curtains.

After a thorough cleaning, it’s on to the next step.

Along with swapping out heavy draperies and bed lines (goodbye thick duvets!), pillows are an easy way to bring some Spring into your home.  I’d rather make custom pillows but if you don’t have time to pick out fabric, stores like West Elm, Crate and Barrel, and IKEA have some fantastic and affordable choices.  Like this Ella Square from Crate and Barrel.


If you go the custom route, below are my some of my favorites for Spring/Summer 2015:

Dedar’s Rataplan.  A very pretty and interesting take on stripes.  I’m seeing a glass (or two) of Franciacorta with this print.


Peter Dunham’s Peterazzi in Pale Indigo.  This silvery blue says Spring and a nice chilled white wine from Agrigento, Sicily.


Kathryn M. Ireland’s Brianza from her Summer in France line. This would look great against a white linen sofa and with a glass of Rosé.


For a more graphic design, Kelly Wearstler’s Groundworks line for Lee Jofa is gorgeous. I’m thinking a Martini for this one.


Also from Lee Jofa, David Hicks’ La Fiorentina Red.   A Negroni cocktail (which was invented in Florence) would be perfect.


Here is everything (and I mean everything) you need to know about Spring Cleaning from the one and only Martha Stewart.  It’s a good thing.




And what a view it is.


One of my friends just returned to Rome from visiting the States and she kindly picked up a copy of VERANDA magazine for me.  It’s not an easy magazine to find in Rome (in Milan, yes).

Brooke Giannetti’s Velvet & Linen blog is fantastic.  She has a very large following and has posted a few photos in the past of the home she is building in Ojai, California with her architect husband Steve.

It’s so interesting to me that this a new build, yet their home has the warmth and vibe of a house that has been in a family for generations.  You can read more about Brooke and Steve’s Patina Farm journey, here.

One day I would love to have a tub/shower like this.   Love it.  Of course it’s only possible if there are no neighbors close by.  A friend here has an outdoor shower on his terrace.  He lives in Trastevere and the upper floors of a church and another palazzo are right across the narrow street.  The man has no screens.  Yeah, no.

To see more photos, go to VERANDA’s website.


Borghetto Flaminio is not as well known as the famous Porto Portese market.  The latter has more furniture but Flaminio is the market to check out for authentic vintage/used designer clothes and interesting tableware.

As with any flea market there could be some fakes, but this market has a good reputation.  Many of the vendors are regulars. If they were selling fake Prada, Gucci, Hermès, etc. the word would get out pretty quickly.

Borghetto Flaminio is tiny. I suggest getting there early. It’s packed with fantastic finds.  I hadn’t been there in years so when my friend, artist and florist Marta, suggested we check it out, I was ready.

A cool tea set from the 40s.



Lovely monogrammed vintage linen.



A taste of Hermès.  This was the most popular vendor in the market.  They also had some drop dead gorgeous vintage Gucci, Valentino, Prada, and Fendi bags.



Love this Murano glass set from the 60s.



Marta was VERY excited about this patent leather Prada bag.


Sundays (except holidays)

Piazza della Marina, 32
Sundays, 10AM – 7PM
€1.60 entrance fee

From mid-September to mid-July

Design blogs blew up this week when the news hit that Patone’s color for 2015 was Marsala.

I enjoy cooking with Marsala wine.   I really do but I must agree with majority and say, “what is this madness?!”

This color reminds me of Dusty Rose from the ’80s.  Not a good look.


Could someone please explain to me what is going on in the picture below.  What is Pantone trying to say?


The gentleman in the apron looks salty.  Why? Perhaps he’s not feeling the color either.

I’m very curious to see how this color choice plays out in fashion and home décor trends next year.   I don’t think it’s an easy color to wear.  For the home, I love the color of Marsala wine which is a deeper burgundy than this color.  That rich color would be fantastic.



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