Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Vitality and The Next Cool Thing

F. Scott Fitzgerald said that vitality shows in the ability to persist as well as the ability to start over. If this is true (and I believe it is), you may be reading the words of the most energetic man in interior design. As most of you know, throughout the strained economic times of the past few years and my own strained emotional times of the past few months, I have persisted in creating beautiful interiors for my clients, saving them time and money in the process. And, out of the dying embers of the late, great Beverly Hall Furniture Galleries, I have fanned the flames of the now vital Mark Sunderland Interiors. This could not have happened, of course, without the enthusiastic support and encouragement of my exceptional clients, business associates, family and friends. In other words, you.

Especially as we enter this season of gratitude and giving, I have been thinking about what I can do to show you my thanks and share my vision for the very bright future ahead for us all. And I’m so excited to tell you about it – and invite you to join me for The Next Cool Thing, January 14 – 16, 2011.

The Next Cool Thing will be a vibrant exhibition of Atlanta’s interior design creativity – and Mark Sunderland Interiors is slated as one of the event’s top highlighted talents. Taking our cues from the world of television and film, each exhibitor is creating an environment that entertains, delights and above all, shows the sophistication, quality and cleverness of Atlanta’s best. Most exhibitors will present a small taste of what they can do in a 10 foot by 10 foot space. I’m thinking quite a bit bigger than that, bringing together my top manufacturers, suppliers and artisans in a spectacular 10,000 square foot display of Americana, inspired by American Pickers, television darling of the interior design world.

Throughout the weekend, you’ll see a variety of interior displays – including, of course, my own creation earmarked by signature wit, intelligence and charm. During the day, the event will be a family-friendly festival, featuring local fare, art and live performances. In the evening, it will transform into a star-studded, elegant, red-carpet affair to rival the gala balls of the 1920s. Every attendee will be treated as a celebrity, although we’ll be sipping champagne and martinis with actual celebrities of the film and television world – stay tuned for more info on that.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be highlighting some of the remarkable people and items that I can’t wait for you to see in person. Meanwhile, I want to hear from you! Tell me what you hope to see at this amazing event – and let me know if you want in on the festivities. I’ll be sure to get you access to what promises to be an event that people will be talking about for a long time to come.

I expect that it will be a display of vitality that would make F. Scott quite proud.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Come Ye Thankful People Come...

Coming home to Mom and Dad's house for Thanksgiving is what life's all about, family.

Good memories start flooding into your mind: the way the trees look outside in the woods, a smell from inside an empty oven. Nice memories.

When I was in second grade,...back when you could do this kind of stuff, my teacher, Mrs. Stine (the porcupine....that's another blog) around this time of the year would have the class memorize this song. We probably sang it every day in November, and, of course, my little church, Asbury, sang it every SUNDAY in November. I cannot tell you what my sister's phone number is (stored in direct-dial, voice-command mode in my FANCY phone, ...but I remember most of this song (someone tell me if the next to the last stanza is right, I think not).

Come Ye Thankful People Come,
Raise the song of Harvest Home,
All is safely gathered in
'ere the wintry storms begin.
God our Maker doth provide
For our wants to be supplied.
Come Ye Thankful People Come,
Raise the song of Harvest Home!

Love that song.

As we give thanks this week, why don't we REALLY give thanks? Try a Random Act of Kindness: pay for the next person in line wherever you are, you Starbucks people gotta cough up another five bucks,....I TOLD you that coffee shouldn't cost that much,...pay for the next guy's carwash,....go to your closet today and remove a box of NICE clothes (preferably from this Century) and take them personally to that family whose house just burned down. By the way, they'll LOVE cashmere; just don't tell them that they'll be wearing GOAT.

You don't have to plan this kinda thing; you'll know when it's the right time. You'll know.

Share your ACT of KINDNESS on my blog with the rest of us, or, better yet, just tuck your story in your little heart,...and don't be surprised if your little heart grows a couple sizes bigger this week.

Sure, I'm gonna watch the Macy's parade this Thursday (trying to enjoy the tidbits of live, non-dubbed marching bands,...and I'll have my fair share of bird, filling balls and football, with a deregeor nap or two thrown in,....but I plan to PAY IT FORWARD a few times this week, as I've grown accustomed to doing.

When you're not looking, your personal cornacopia is filling to the brim. Have an apple, folks. Good work.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Jerry Hux; A Memorium

Jerry Hux, my boss and the owner of Beverly Hall, died yesterday, September 22, 2010. He was 64. He was my mentor, my leader, my confidante, and my friend. If there were one word to associate with Jerry, it would be integrity. He had loads of it, and I admired that. He valued above all things his family, which is what every good man should value before anything else. Please pray for strength for Jerry's family: his wife, Anne, his children: Mason and Emily and Spencer, and their mother, Susan, their families, and Jerry's mother and brother, Huxie and Charles. The last few years in this troubling economy have been very difficult in our industry, but Jerry forged ahead and down-scaled his business to maintain a presence in our community. Job well done, Boss!

Jerry was serious and focused, but he treated all of his employees with fairness and respect; we were his second family. He knew more about the Furniture Industry than just about anyone, ....period. There will be a cast of thousands at his services; you'll see.

I loved to see Jerry interacting with his grandchildren, the loves of his life. He became a totally different person around them, and it was a joy to watch. Thank goodness he had that joy, and the love of his wife and children in his life; he deserved it.

I have no idea what the family has chosen for your memorial wishes. As many of you know, I volunteer at Shepherd Center every week. I do this in honour of my buddy and first design assistant that Jerry chose for me, Michael. Michael was in a car accident, going on a house call, ten years ago, and left for dead in his car for over 10 or 20 minutes until they found out he was alive. He was in a coma for a long time in North Fulton Hospital. Shepherd Center usually does not take patients in comas, but Jerry got Michael to Shepherd, and he emerged from his coma and started his recovery. Michael lives in Salem, Mass, now, and we stay in touch. I already have a link to Shepherd Center on my website, shown below, and may I be the first to contribute a separate contribution to Shepherd Center, in memory of Jerry Hux. Jerry was on the board there, in fact, Jerry and Beverly Hall had a list of hundreds of charities that he regular supported. We used to have a list in the Buckhead store, and the list was so long, it wouldn't even fit inside the frame. Jerry gave back.....always did. I can only hope to be half the man he was.

Please keep all of us in your thoughts and prayers as we continue through this difficult week of grief and sadness. May the day come when the emptiness in our hearts is filled with comfort and peace.


740 Holcomb Bridge Road
Roswell, Georgia 30076 USA
RING 770-642-6641
FACSIMILE 770-594-5655
WEB www.msunderland.com

Friday, September 3, 2010

Made in the U.S.A.

...Just How Much Furniture "Out There" Is Still Made Domestically?

Labor Day is Monday, September 6. The first Labor Day in the United States was celebrated on September 5, 1882. Now, in 2010, it's a great day to end our Summer Sale at Beverly Hall Interiors. Most people have the day off, and can shop as couples, placing their orders to assure delivery before the holidays. I'll be working on Monday, and have a couple openings left, so call me for an appointment.

Hickory Chair Company. Century Furniture. Baker. Hancock and Moore. Southwood. TRS Upholstery. Names that represent quality and value in our industry.

One of my favorite people in the furniture world is Jay Reardon, President of Hickory Chair Company. I've known Jay for over fourteen years, and I'm so impressed with his "hands-on" approach to making furniture these days. Jay and I spoke a few weeks ago; here are a few of the things he had to share:

"Our Employees demonstrate the power of American ingenuity and creativity that provides great value for our customers. Our EDGE culture (Employees Dedicated to Growth and Excellence) allows us to produce over 87% of our products in our Hickory Workroom. We are producing exquisitely designed Furniture with personal options to the consumers' specifications. By identifying and eliminating the waste in our processes we deliver these custom pieces in a very timely manner. It's exciting to walk our floors and see so many unique and distinctive pieces on their way to customers' homes to enjoy with family and friends. Each piece we make is truly a Labor of love crafted by our Dedicated Artisans."

Words well spoken.

I LOVE selling American-made furniture; can you tell? I experience the quality and luxury-with-value every day. You should come and see for yourself. As I mentioned, we are open on Labor Day, offering our lowest prices of the year, ...so put out your flag and come by to see all of our wonderful things Made in the U.S.A.!!!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What Kind of Snob are You?

"Most of Us Take Something to the Point of Snobbery."

I'm a snob; I admit it. Anyone who takes his life and profession very seriously without accepting mediocrity is somewhat of a snob. What's wrong with liking nice things? Range Rovers. Polo by Ralph Lauren clothes. My Patek.

It's easy to be a furniture snob where I work, since we offer name brands representing quality and value. I love it when I can propose a sofa for $1899. that is made better and will last longer than that sofa at the mall for $2299. Or that end table hand-made by quality craftsmen in Viet Nam: it's less expensive because the labor is less, but it is still good quality.

Can you prove (or rationalize) that your $4 cup of coffee is better than my cup of Folger's? Or that your handbag is better than that purse from WalMart? Most times you can.

Let's face it, if you eat granola bought in bulk and hug trees on your lunch hour, you may "think" you're not a snob. But what about your Birkenstocks?

I'd love to hear from you, as would my "peeps." This should be good; come on, fess up!!! "What Kind of Snob are You?"

Saturday, August 21, 2010

What Do You Think Makes a Good Sofa?

...How to get what you want and what you need in a sofa.

Some people would rather go to the dentist than shop for a new sofa. Many more than that would certainly prefer a round of golf (in the rain) to spending a whole afternoon in furniture stores.

Why the anxiety? Why the hate?

Because we're all afraid of making a mistake (see my blog, My Biggest Mistake). Purchasing a sofa isn't rocket science or brain surgery, but I can make an educated guess that Neil Armstrong or Sanjay Gupta couldn't do it in an hour. You can, with my help, or the help of a good interior designer.

The layman decorator can't help but "think inside the box." She's looking at the new colours while he's imagining long naps on a leather couch that probably won't fit through the door.

Sad, buy very true.

Stop looking and touching and start sitting. Sofas are all about comfort--TRY 'EM OUT!!! And instead of pushing away that salesperson who wants to help, ASK QUESTIONS!!! Here's a few good ones:

1)"Why is that sofa $1599 and that one $3500?"

2)"Is this made in the United States?"

3)"What does, 'eight-way, hand-tied' mean?"

4)"Will this fabric wear well?"

Once you understand some of these things, and find a sofa frame that fits your body and fits your room and fits within your budget, the rest is easy. Your designer or salesperson proposes a fabric or leather (preferably from the same manufacturer as the sofa frame...to save you money...), and prices it out within minutes.

Order your new sofa, and within 2 or 3 months, you'll have a comfortable couch to come home to, ...without missing another round of golf.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

How To Come Up With A Budget

(i.e., "Make your Plan and Work your Plan")

I can save you money by helping you establish a furntiture budget...read how:"

In the sixteen or so years I've been decorating homes and selling furniture, I could probably count on one hand those clients who came to me with a clear budget for buying home furnishings. I still find it hard to believe (...when you go out to buy a car, new or used, your pretty-much have an idea of how much money you need), but that's the way it is.

If you're one of those "I/We don't have a budget, but let's buy anyway," turn around, go home, and find someone who insists on a budget (per room, per house) before selling you anything. Everyone has a budget, whether they say so or not.

I learned years ago how to apply "THE PLAN" to my new and old clients at Beverly Hall. Iris Byers, my design-consultant guru, taught me that it's my job to make this process a whole lot easier (and maybe even fun and enjoyable), by listening and establishing a budget based on your wants and needs.

The process is as easy as 1-2-3. First, at our initial meeting at the showroom, I ask what specific room you are working on. I quickly sketch the room, noting what items you already own and what items you need. In our first walk-through our 35,000 square foot showroom, I can save you time, bypassing those rooms of items you don't need. I explain that I'll mention price points as we walk, so you can see that sofas, for instance, range from $1500. to $6,000. each. If I know that you have $8,000. to spend on a family room, we can bypass those sofas priced at $3500.

The second step is me coming to your home for an hour or so visit. I might bring samples of fabrics you responded to in the showroom, or a few tear-sheets of items you liked, but I'm sure to bring my measuring tape so I can leave with the exact dimensions of the room you're working on.

The third step is you coming back to the store (by appointment within two weeks of the visit), where I propose the exact pieces of furniture that will fit perfectly (they'll fit the room and fit within your budget, which you've already given me in Step 2).

When I visit your house, I can observe what you're already surrounding yourself with. Many times, I can reccomend moving something from another room, ...even from basements and attics. I discover unique attributes about your home (how many pets,...toddlers, ...teenagers?). My knowledge of my product can help you pin-point a realistic budget for upholstery, case goods, rugs, lamps, and draperies, in that order.

With the help of a professional interior designer who understands the value of your time and money, decorating your home can truly be more enjoyable. And who among us doesn't like to save money? Tell me about YOUR PLAN:

Monday, July 26, 2010

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Sitting on the beach on a wooden deck chair from the 1930s, finishing another book on WWII as the waves come crashing in,...the salt water soothing my sunburned legs. Does it get any better than this?

Summer vacations, or any vacation for that matter, can provide times of solitude and reflection, times with family enjoying a hot dog roast, and times (more than likely on a rainy day) to find treasures to display in your home to remember a time and a place where alarm clocks retire and diets go into hibernation.

As a decorator, I've been known to use everything from a bottle of seashells to a staged family portrait with everyone wearing white in my clients' houses. I encourage you all to visit art galleries as well as the omnipresent souvenir shoppes when you are on vacation. I've framed many an oil or watercolour that I've found just sitting around in someone's closet. Many times, "vacation art" is delegated to powder rooms and guest bedrooms, but the savvy traveler might have a beautiful painting from a yet-to-be-discovered artist for me to hang perfectly above the fireplace in the family room.

Collections work well in your bookcases. Thimbles. Baseballs. Small statues. Buy a nice hardcover book of photographs from your vacation spot to glace at on that dismal rainy day in the winter.

Arrange photos of annual trips in similar or same frames and display them in a group. Get the picture?

A vacation can provide your home with many opportunities to remember those far and distant places.

What will I have in my home to remember the Summer of 2010? My new Johnny Cash cd, "Six." Driving to the island in my Mini convertible with my 88 year-old father enjoying the tunes as we zip through Georgia, one of us say, "There's not a better voice in the world," as the other smiles in recognition.

It doesn't get any better than that.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


I LOVE helping my clients enhance and beautify the homes they’ve worked so hard to obtain. Over the past sixteen years, I've created designs for second homes ranging from a cabin in the woods to an estate on Kiawah Island. Nantucket. Destin. Snow Mass. Hilton Head. And every one of them has been magnificent, each in its own way.

It always surprises me when people treat their second homes as if they don’t matter. The second home is where they put things that are too worn or out of style for their regular homes – and this makes no sense to me! Whether it's a one-bedroom studio or a mansion on the lake, second homes should be valued for the comfort and relaxation they provide.

A good designer can recycle those "oldies-but-goodies" and put them in "just the right place". However, if quality time isn't spent discussing function and comfort, that wonderful second home can become a not-so-wonderful secondary afterthought. Do you entertain for six or eight for dinner? Then your 48" round table won't cut the mustard. Do you have a counter at your island to sit at and eat your cereal? Those old barstools are probably too high.

Regardless of whether you decide to recycle old items or buy new, do treat yourself to a good mattress and box springs. Losing sleep at your vacation home is an oxymoron at best. Your sofa needs to be comfortable for those Sunday afternoon naps, too - no springs popping up through the cushions!

A second home need not be secondary. With careful thought, working within a plan and specified budget, your second home will provide many years of good times and fond memories.

I don’t have a second home (I hope to one day). But a little vicarious living can be fun. So, if you don’t have a second home (yet), I’d love to hear what your dream home would be. If you do, tell us what you love most about it!


Summer is finally here! Of course, if you live in Atlanta like me, Summer (and its 95 degree afternoons), has been here for the last three weeks! Summer is a time for walks on the beach, hand-scooped ice cream, and evenings watching baseball under the lights.

The savvy home-decorator knows another thing about summer: it's the best time of the year to order furniture. That's right, July and August are months when furniture manufacturers offer an extra percent off to their retailers, and the retailers pass those discounts on to their customers. That’s why stores offer their highest discounts to those who order their furniture before Labor Day.

A designer has more time to give to his clients during these hot months, too. Smart customers take advantage of this, knowing that decisions they make now mean saving money – and having beautiful rooms of furniture and draperies ready to install in the Fall, when life cranks back up to full-tilt.

So enjoy your Summer, everyone! And don't forget to special-order that room of furniture while the sales are red-hot!!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

My Favourite Things

Raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens – I don’t really care about either of those things all that much. But I do love my house. Probably because it is filled with lots of things I've collected over the years. Fiestaware plates. Duke of Windsor stuff. Paris flea market finds. When I look at them, they put me in mind of different times and places. And they make me feel good.

Our favorite things communicate a lot about us. They start conversations. They create a visible representation of the way we see ourselves. For instance, my house has a lot of books, but not so many that it looks like a library. There are Edward VIII plates in a hallway and a Ralph Lauren sofa (which I bought) next to my grandfather’s desk (which I inherited). When people come to my house, I hope that they see old-world charm and 1920s elegance. I hope they get a sense of literacy and wit.

When I go to my clients’ houses for the first time, I look for their favorite things. Are family photos framed and displayed? Are certain colours more prevalent than others? Are there collections of any kind? What’s important to them? What do they want to communicate about themselves?

One of my favorite design projects started with a MacKenzie-Childs pillow in a Neiman Marcus bag. It was the first day I had met the clients, who were looking for a designer to set up their new condo in Destin, Florida. The pillow didn’t come with a great story or a long history. But the clients loved it and ultimately, the colours and textures of this one "favorite thing" became the “launching pad” for the entire project.

Six months after our first meeting, my clients were enjoying new furnishings in soft lilacs and apple greens, re-enjoying an old set of dining chairs upholstered in a new coral fabric, and placing a glass of wine on a beautiful, black, three-tiered bar/end table. Their collection of Alvar paintings and colourful art glass in all shapes and sizes were perfectly displayed. Except for a few new lamps and rugs, new accessories were not even needed. The end result was a new home that highlighted old treasures in a new way. It remains one of my favorite projects.

A great home is a combination of intelligence, passion and integrity. We make some decisions intellectually: “Our dining room must be able to serve at least ten people.” Some decisions are a matter of passion: “I simply adore this fabric – its pattern, its colours , its textures… I have got to have it somewhere in this room.” Most important, we want our homes to have integrity so that they are not just a collection of unconnected things. But they are a specific kind of place in which even unrelated items come together and work.

As it turns out, the qualities of a great home are the same as the qualities of a great designer. You want someone with intelligence, who can see your home and recognize key elements of color, texture, proportion and style. You want someone with passion for his work – and an appreciation of the things that matter most to you. And, of course, you want a designer with integrity – who explains what he does and who does exactly what he says he will (or, perhaps, even more. That goes back to the element of passion). I like to think that this describes me. Because, clearly, creating beautiful designs that work for my clients is probably my very most favorite thing.

Knowing what your own favorite things are is important – it’s a way of knowing yourself and knowing what your home says about you. So, look around your home and tell me: what are a few of your favorite things? I’d love to hear about it.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

My Biggest Mistake

Have you ever made a mistake? Of course, you have. We've all made mistakes. They aren’t fun. But mistakes are only disasters if we don’t learn from them. And if we learn from them, hopefully, we become better human beings.

It Started When I Needed a New Sofa

Back in my twenties, when I bought my first home, I made a big mistake. I was working in fashion at the time but I always had an eye for interiors. And I knew that it was time to retire my five year old, unnaturally shiny Herculon couch and go shopping for a new, "eighties-looking" sofa. Yes, I know - sofa is just a nicer way to refer to a couch. And that’s what I needed – a nicer kind of couch. So I starting getting ideas.

I've always believed in giving business back to where I got business. It happened that one of my clients had a family-run furniture business, so I decided that I would buy my sofa from them. My client’s furniture store was in Houtzdale, Pennsylvania, some Podunk town I had only heard mentioned when big news happened there. Like maybe a bake sale.

I relished a road trip on my day off, so I hopped in the B'mer, rolled back the sunroof, turned on Talking Heads full blast, and I was off to Houtzdale. I had made an appointment, since, no matter where you are, an appointment gets you better service than “just showing up.” I arrived in this sleepy little town and, had I been in the Southwest, I might have seen some sagebrush tumbling by. Then, I saw the store and realized why people from all over the Commonwealth came there to buy their furniture. It was a big store. A HUGE store. I was met at the front door and introduced me to every employee within earshot. Made me feel so important. Then, Mrs. Ann Sahlaney escorted me to an old building elevator.

Upon arrival at the fourth floor, I witnessed what had to be the largest collection of sofas I had ever seen. There were probably a hundred or so and, like many of my clients today, I was overwhelmed by the task of selecting the RIGHT sofa for my new home.

Selecting the Right Sofa was Easy – NOT.

Keep in mind that I was a buyer and a selling manager in better men's and women's wear. If my job that day had been to buy $10,000 worth of men's suits in the best-selling sizes, colours and fabrics, I would have had no problem! But this was different. This was going to be my only sofa, and, being the trend-setting icon that I saw myself to be, I just couldn’t make a mistake. Those of you who know me well can probably already guess that I wasn't going to leave town without buying something or placing an order.

[side note: If you want to take two years to find the right couch for your home, think twice before you come to me for help. Make an appointment, come with a budget and rest assured - I'll order you that sofa within two hours.]

Halfway through the day, I went through the fabric samples on these big metal rings from the company whose sofa I liked and I narrowed my selection down to three choices (always a good idea). By this time, the salesman had stopped offering recommendations because, clearly, I could see, he understood my exemplary taste level. One of my fashionista mentors had used the word, "duck-cloth", so, when I came to the selection of duck-cloths, I knew that I was on the homestretch. My sofa (mine – not one of the "floor samples"), was going to be a classic, "tuxedo-style" sofa, with three back cushions over three seat cushions, and these two cute little "kidney-pillows." And it would be made in the most wonderful neutral-colour duck cloth that the mills had ever woven.

Mission Accomplished? Maybe not.

I was drunk with excitement. My dream had been fulfilled by a Drexel Heritage, name-brand sofa in a fabric that I alone had selected. I couldn't write the deposit check fast enough, seal the deal and drive home through the mountains to return to my soon-to-be-photographed house. After all, how could Architectural Digest resist?

Remember, this is a story about mistakes. So, what was the problem? Was the sofa too big? It could have been. You know, I NEVER thought about my award-winning sofa being too big for the room... and I lucked out in that it fit perfectly. Was it comfortable? Yes, it was. In fact, I still own it; it's in my library. Was the problem actually that beige duck cloth I had chosen so carefully to wear well and look fantastic?

Oh yes.

The Sahlaney truck arrived and the delivery men entered with my prized piece of furniture, wrapped like a mummy. I could hardly contain myself. The wait was over, and the men proceeded to carefully unwrap my treasure. I think I remember going to the kitchen to get the men a glass of cold water, and, when I returned, there it was… wait - my WHITE sofa?

I was speechless. What I had remembered as a cousin to khaki had evolved into an albino aberration of cushions and pillows. I didn't know whether to move to Hollywood or find out where my Grandpap got his bubble-wrap covers for his car seats on his '56 Nash, but I quickly signed the paper on the clipboard being held in front of me and crashed back to earth.

I drank back then, but even I knew that a Johnny Walker straight up (or two or three) wasn't going to change my dinosaur egg into the colour I should have ordered. At least I had bought a quality product, worthy of reupholstering. So, within a short year of napping, entertaining, and just plain-old TV watching, my seven-foot duck showed proof that I owned an Olde English sheepdog and I knew I had to call my best friend, Marlene, and hire her to slip-cover my Joan Crawford nightmare. It was time to move on with my life.

What did I Learn? A Lot.

So, what is the moral here? Never buy a white sofa? No, white is good for some rooms. It just wasn’t good for mine.

The lesson here is to know what you want and be willing to listen to someone who knows something you may not. Had I allowed myself to be warned about how a light fabric can appear up five times lighter when it actually appears on the furniture in a room, or had I thought to share that I had a dog, or had I at least been offered fabric protection, things might have turned out differently.

Thankfully, the wonderful business consultant and trainer, Iris Byers, taught me how to help my clients avoid my own earlier error: Let me listen to you, ask questions and work with you. You can rest assured that you’ll wind up with furniture that fits your home, your style and your budget.

So, how about you? In the great wide world of your home, what was your biggest mistake?