Tag Archives: Hollywood

I’m not sure why I started blogging ten years ago today.


The blogging world has changed a great deal since my first post POST.    Back then nobody was making money from blogging.  It was way to communicate, connect, and create.

I rarely read old posts.  Some make me cringe (and not just because of all the typos), others make me thankful I got the heck out Los Angeles, and then there are the posts with the hilarious comments.  The randomness of the posts is bizarre.  One post would be about some serious foreign policy debate and the very next day I would write about an annoying Black Eye Peas song.

At first I used a pseudonym and didn’t tell anyone, outside of close friends, in Hollywood that I had a blog.  Like many other long-time bloggers, I don’t delete old posts…even the embarrassing ones.  These posts are a snapshot of what was going on in the world and/or my life at the time.

There’s much debate about the future of blogs and blogging.  Who knows what will happen. I do know that readers are turned off by constant shilling.

I’m glad I started a blog a decade ago.  Through it I found my voice again and met some great people (several who are close friends to this day).  I wouldn’t have moved to Italy without that blog.  My life would be completely different.

Yes, the title is a question not a statement.  This is a road my entrepreneur/freelancing friends and I are trying to navigate.

I was thinking about this while walking home after meeting up with some girlfriends.


They are a dynamic group of women.

However, one thing I have noticed time and time again (especially when I worked in Hollywood) is that so many of my female friends tend to downplay their success.  They say they’re lucky or get embarrassed when talking about their accomplishments.  Meanwhile, my male friends and colleagues would proudly discuss their success and many would take credit for things they didn’t even do.

Perhaps there is a fine line between bragging and just stating the facts.  What is it?

Is being too humble holding us back?  I’m not saying we need to go to a Trumpian level of bloviating but the constant self-deprecating, aww shucks thing needs to stop.

Even my friends who were born with a sliver platter, hustle.  True, their family’s influence helped them get in the door but they stay in the room because they’re great at what they do.  Luck is only a small part of their success.

Recently, the very talented Felicia Sullivan asked me to be part of a series she’s writing on successful female entrepreneurs.  At first, I wondered why would she want to interview me.  My friend Erica knocked some sense into me and I did the interview.  Then she told me I had to Tweet about it a few times over the next few months. I haven’t. Why not?

The fact that there’s a popular hastag called #humblebrag speaks volumes.  Why be passive aggressive?  A agent friend in Hollywood told me that there’s nothing wrong with with tooting your own horn as long as you also toot the horn of others.  Nobody wants to see or read a feed that is me, me, me, 24/7.

When I think about the self-promotion that turns me off, it’s because the person only talks about themselves. Always.

So I say go ahead and tell the world about the great things you’re doing. How will people know unless you have a publicist? Maybe some people won’t think these things are that great, special, or interesting. That’s okay.  It’s something you’re proud of.

I’m going to work on my own self-deprecating responses.  I now know I won’t succeed if I only dwell on negative things or what I haven’t accomplished yet in my career.  As 2015 draws to a close, I am thinking long and hard regarding how speak about my work and my business.

And yes, I’m going to retweet this interview:

When I first visited Rome in 2008, Arlene took me to the most incredible Italian restaurant–one I would never have found on a map. We were introduced by a woman who was interested in adapting my memoir for film. Although the project fell through, I’m thankful for having met Arlene and for our long-distance friendship since, punctuated by my occasional visits to Italy.

I admire Arlene deeply, embarrassingly so. She left a job, country, and life in pursuit of something other. She wasn’t tethered to age as a means of trapping one in one’s vocation, rather she set out to find her place in the world. Up until a few months ago she was a successful writer/producer and now tell stories in another form: interiors. I love women with verve, women who take risks, break ranks, and live without apology. Arlene is all of these things, but in the end she’s a truth-teller. I only hope to be as successful as I move through my acts. Let her story inspire you. –FS

When I first met you, you’d recently emigrated to Rome from the U.S. Truth be told, I admired you, how brave you were to leave a successful career behind for something other. This was a time before we’d read articles about expats and second acts. Your career has spanned politics, film and entertainment—but tell us how you returned to your first love: decorating. Why did you leave producing behind?

Arlene Gibbs: What timing. Until two months ago, I had two careers going on, screenwriter/producer, and decorator.

When we first met, I was writing full-time and developing a few projects as a producer. Everyone told me it would be impossible to be a screenwriter/producer based in Rome (especially without a trust fund). Even after our movie Jumping The Broom was released, and importantly was a hit, I heard the same thing. Nothing changed. Nobody cared. It was a “niche” film. When I pointed out to a producer friend that there were plenty of successful British screenwriters who worked in Hollywood but lived in London, I was told, “Yes, but they are British, white, and male.”

To your last question, it took me forever to see the light. Earlier this summer, one of my dear friends, who lives in Rome, said that the universe was screaming at me and I was ignoring the signs. This friend is usually not that crunchy. I needed to heed her advice.

Then I read this quote from JJ Martin, an American fashion and design journalist who lives in Milan, and everything clicked.

The best advice I’ve ever received was to look at everything that comes your way as an opportunity. Do not underestimate the power of chance and fate. Do what you love, what opens you up, not what closes you down, and makes you act like an asshole. Be responsible, be loving, be caring. That’s what I advise to anyone starting out. If you truly love fashion, it will come to you.

She’s talking about fashion but it could be applied to any creative endeavor. I wasn’t an asshole when I worked in Hollywood, my former assistants still speak to me, but I was not myself. I became a very bitter person.

I was recently hired for a decorating project in Los Angeles. It was my first trip back since making my big decision. It was a great experience. I returned to Rome feeling positive instead of depressed.

The rest of the interview is HERE.

Thanks again, Felicia!






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 one-two punch of the SONY hack from a few weeks ago and the terrorist attack in Paris on Wednesday, is a clear reminder that the right to express oneself is very important in a modern society.  This is a bigger issue than a comedy or a cartoon.

Without freedom of expression, democracy cannot exist.

Last night, on my way home, I walked through Piazza Farnese where the French Embassy is located in Rome.   I have been in this building several times, mostly to vote.  I saw many employees, neighbors, and French expatriates gathered in the square holding candles.  The entire square was packed.  It was somber but moving.




Buon weekend a tutti.

Recently AWAR (The American Women’s Association of Rome) had the privilege of taking a small (only twenty members) private tour of Bulgari’s Heritage Collection.

I RSVPed the minute I read the invitation.

I haven’t been inside the store since the Peter Marino renovation.  One morning, when I was jogging up Via Condotti on my way to Villa Borghese Park, I’m positive I saw the architect walking out of the store.  Who else would be wearing that outfit at 8:30 in the morning, in Rome?

Bulgari was founded by Sotirios Bulgaris in Rome one hundred and thirty years ago. The Heritage Collection is a celebration of this history.  There are over six hundred unique pieces.  The jewelery, watches, accessories, and drawings were curated during years of research and archival work.  Bulgari has been buying back importance pieces from auctions and private collections.

While Bulgari is part of the French high-end global powerhouse LVMH, the DNA of the company is Roman.

DOMUS means home in Latin and that space (located on the second floor) is where you will find pieces from the Heritage Collection.

The store is gorgeous.  Marino, inspired by the Pantheon and other Roman masterpieces, modernized the flagship store without stripping it of its history and charm.

The foyer on the first floor. Nods to the Pantheon in this circular space.



The back stairs that lead to Domus.  That pattern.



This floor and that table.  No words.



Here’s a picture I took of the floor so you can see the intricate tiling.  Stunning.  I gasped when I saw it.



Caterina Riccardi, Bulgari Brand Heritage Special Projects, explains the connection between the Heritage Collection and the Eternal City. Ms. Riccardi was the Via Condotti store manager for over thirty years.  Her tour was excellent, informative and entertaining.



This sapphire necklace was bought from a private collector in the States.  Be still, my beating heart.



Richard Burton once said, “The only Italian word Elizabeth knows is Bulgari.”   Burton gave Taylor this sapphire and diamond necklace  and ring for her fortieth birthday.  Actress Jessica Chastin wore the iconic necklace at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.  She was the first person to wear it since Taylor.




From 1960, a gold watch bracelet with diamonds and rubies.  I do not like snakes but I’d make an exception for this one.


This is just a little taste of the incredible pieces in this collection.   I was inspired by the colors, the designs, and the craftsmanship.

By appointment only. To reserve a visit, contact: or +39 06 688101

First three photos: Bulgari.

Other photos:  Me and my iPhone.











Perhaps I’m naive but I believe good design incorporates a space that functions well.

This is why I completely disagree with the finale (SPOILERS ahead) of the NBC show “American Dream Builders”.  Looking at their Facebook page, I’m not the only one.

Earlier, I wrote about why I enjoyed the show.

They should change the name of the show because there was nothing about Lukas’s beach house that worked for the clients.

The job of a decorator/interior designer is to address the needs of the client.  He did not do that.   All Lukas talked about was his vision. He is talented but Jay should have won.

On what planet is it a good idea to paint a beach house in SOUTHERN California black?  It’s not edgy.  A black shingled house in Maine, or Martha’s Vineyard, that could be cool.  Does Lukas know that that the light is different in New England compared to the Southern Californian  Coast? One of the judges said the house looked like it had been in a fire.

Also, Lukas did not deal with any of the design flaws of his house.  That kitchen was awkward.

This a beach house for a multigenerational family.  Their reaction at the reveal was priceless.  I adore mid-century design and would use it in a beach house but would mix it up.

Nate kept saying Lukas was forward-thinking.  Has Nate ever been to IKEA? I know he has traveled to Europe.  This beach house would work for a single person with no kids who never entertains.

Nate raved about Lukas’s $30 chandelier.   Again, this is in a beach house.  I go to a beach house to relax.   Who’s going to clean it and replace the light bulbs?  It’s not functional.

This room.  Where are the young children going to hang out?



Nice to look at.  Wouldn’t want to sit there for a long meal.   What is that statue about in the corner?

View More:


Not relaxing.  These chairs would be fab in a loft apartment, not at the beach.

View More: the Neighborhood Council voted for the finale winner, Jay would’ve won hands down.    Elaine was eliminated for her red family room because it didn’t fit the décor of the rest of the house, but Lukas can win the whole competition for this house?  Please.

If they didn’t want a home builder to win, don’t put them in the competition.

I don’t know if the series has been renewed for a second season.  It’s a shame that the finale was such a disappointment but I enjoyed the earlier episodes.




I wish I knew I how to do this.

Trust me, this is not a humblebrag.  You know when you ask someone how they’re doing and they reply, “BUSY!”?  Then they proceed to talk for twenty minutes about how busy they are?

I used to do the BUSY thing all the time when I lived in Los Angeles.  I broke out of that habit after living here a few years.  When Italians ask, “how are you?”, they really want to know.  It’s a conversation starter, not an opportunity to brag about how much work you do.  Nobody wants to hear that mess unless you are at a work conference or something.

While I have calmed down a bit since my big move, I still find myself feeling guilty for not working all the time.  I know there are people who never stop.  I did that during my Hollywood years but had nothing to show for it other than missed weddings back east, stress, and debt.

So I know I wasn’t healthy or happy during that time yet August in Rome continues to freak me out.  This week my vendors are closing up for the summer.  There is nothing I can do regarding deliveries, invoices, my projects, etc.

Last year when I went to Salina, I had a view like this,


but I was constantly checking my emails and on the phone with my clients. However, that was in June.  August is another story.

In August I’m forced to slow down so why can’t I just chill the heck out without feeling guilty about it?  One of my favorite designers, Erin Gates of ELEMENTS OF STYLE, wrote a fantastic POST about the pressure we Americans put on ourselves to do it all.

It’s madness.  I told myself that this year would be different.   It’s not.  It’s only the 6th and instead of reveling in the summer, I want September to get here already.

My local caffe and many of my favorite restaurants are shutting down this week.  Only the places catering to tourists will be opened.  Most of my friends are gone and the rest are leaving next week.  Tumbleweeds will roll down Lungotevere.

I should try to follow my dad’s example.  He was an incredibly hard worker but he also knew how to relax.  He truly appreciated the little vacation and down time he had.  My mom also worked hard but NEVER relaxed.  Even on her days off from work she was going, going, going.  I used to think I was a combination of the two but no, I’m more like my mom.  There’s always something that must be done.

I have my own company.  You’d think I would be able to give myself a break and/or vacation.  No, instead I think if don’t burn the candle at both ends I won’t be able to succeed, which means I won’t be able to pay my rent, therefore I will end up living under the Ponte Sisto bridge.

Okay, this summer I am going to break the cycle, dammit!  I must do it for my mental, physical, and creative health.

We’ll see how the rest of the year shapes up as I start my quest to partake in the fine Italian tradition of Dolce Far Niente.

Any suggestions?








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