August Adages: Adage Three – Thanks for the memories…

It was my intent to use the month of August adages to write about some of the inane things that have occurred this year, and what I may have learned from them.   However, after the second one, it felt like I was standing on a platform to preach or vent, which is not pretty.  Ever.

I have a lot of continued business, continued clients, and new ones as well.  All of which (currently) are both good clients as well as good people.  I have done many amazing jobs this year, and have more lined up in the near future.  I am  truly grateful that I have a career doing something I love, that I excel at, and allows me to form relationships with many, while doing what I consider to be a form of creative art.  I have a group of employees and coworkers who excel at their jobs with a high level of energy and intelligence.

My first adage this week is a quote from G. B. Stern:

“Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone.”

Therefore, this is a week to offer (non-silent) written gratitude to them, as well as to the clients who most often become friends in addition to being clients..

Though the trunk of my tree of work is Manhattan, the branches spread to Buffalo, Florida, Vermont, and Houston.

Some of the clients have been my clients for over ten years.  One of which I have been with so long and done so much work for that I honestly feel like they are family.

My partner, Sheri, has brought in all of her friends as clients, and destroyed the old adage that one never does business with friends; as she feels even more strongly about performance with friends.  The added bonus is that they all end up being my friends.

Old clients have introduced us to new clients, otherwise known as word of mouth.  The nicest part about this format is that it is a tribute to our talent, personality, and financial fairness.

And then there are the Charnock women:

I am a (non-Mormon) male who has four wives:

Sheri and I have been a couple for twenty six years.  ‘Nuff said right there.  Kathy and I are going on six, and I also have Charlie’s Angels; Heather and Erin.

I could go on for endless paragraphs about how much these woman do, but instead let me sum it up by stating that I would not be in business without them ALL.  Nor would I even want to be in business.

Last, but not least there is Tim (an actual male), who now brings thirty years experience (in more arenas than just design) and architectural guidance to me.

Sheri was around from the beginning.  The balance of the group were gifts.  My group constitutes a lot more pleasant writing process than waxing on past debacles, which belong in the past.

In regard to the above, I will close with a second adage from Buddha:

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

And keep on trying.

Photography by Joe and Vickie ~ Sincere Thanks ~ http://www.joeandvickie.com/

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AUGUST ADAGES: ADAGE TWO – I CHOOSE TO SEE THINGS DIFFERENTLY

Through years of therapy, I remain an all or nothing type of guy.  In some respects this can be a good trait.  When I start something I am fully determined to finish it, and finish it well.  This applies to my job; quite a bit.

As such, I am obsessed with details.  It is one of the traits that allows my finished work to look as good as it does. However, when a client disagrees with an item or area that I am convinced to be correct, I open my (big) mouth and state (often sarcastically) my contrasting belief.  (The sole benefit to this trait is that I never need to gossip behind someones back, as I state exactly what is on my mind to them personally).

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Blatantly honest is a endearing way of describing such behavior.

I am fully convinced that my belief is what is best for the client, best for the job, and as such, best for my skill-set and talent.  To me, at this juncture, it is the only thing that can be done.

Of course, there are times I lose this battle.  I then become convinced that the job is horridly bruised, and switch over to the nothing portion of my thought process.

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I am not a designer who says yes-yes-yes to any ugly item that is phenomenally expensive in order to get a huge fee from the client.  There are certainly expensive items I find critical to the design success, and also items I find for a dollar at a flea market.

My, er, passionate behavior does not always go over so well with clients.  After all, it is their home, and their monies which pay for the items needed.

As such, it is their right to have whatever they want, even if they resemble items usually found in a prostitutes bungalow, or Jon Benet’s bedroom.  (Oops, a bit of sarcasm slipped out. Sorry.)

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It is acceptable for me to question why such clients needed professional assistance in the first place if it was their intent to be their own designer.  This takes me full circle to being a yes-man designer to client choices (and finding much more expensive variations) to add to expensive design fee collected.  A trait I do not have, but the design field carries a reputation of ripoff experts.  As I am many times hired to redo the ugly work, I know it well.

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As such, I have come to the conclusion that instead of vomiting on the street outside the home, I merely state that “I CHOOSE TO SEE THINGS DIFFERENTLY”.  Period. End. And move on.

This statement (the adage of the week), does not question their decision, nor am I required to validate that which is a personal belief of mine.

Unfortunately, the job still remains ruined.  But in a more polite manner.

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AUGUST ADAGES: ADAGE ONE – LIVE AND LEARN

The four weeks of August will provide four separate adages.

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I have always had an honest demeanor and a trusting belief in others.  Until recently.

I signed on a client, who’s job grew in scope until it was to build a new home for them on a beach.  I am a great designer with 35 years experience, but cesspools are not my forte.  As such I engaged the services of a local “Architect” (from here forward referred to as Mr. Muzzle), who then negotiated a very high fee from the client.   As the job progressed I had apprehension as Muzzles talent and moreover his experience.  As I had introduced Muzzle to the job, I laid low.  That is, until I discovered that Muzzle was not licensed (as he claimed to be repeatedly).  Moreover, I was informed the Muzzle had been spreading false rumors, emails, etc. about me to many people, and was intentionally steering potential work away for locals who were qualified and in need of income.  Muzzle was also fully engaged in trying to increase his huge fee, ploying various potential avenues.  For those of you not familiar with license requirements of architects, having a non licensed architect built a house (on a cliff overlooking a beach, no less) is equivalent to having an unlicensed surgeon give a heart transplant.

When I requested Muzzle to meet regarding his (non existent) license, he terminated me by email.  The client fully backed him on this termination, which was somewhat of an additional surprise, as this client had just spent three days in New York City with myself and my staff reviewing four bathrooms and a kitchen.  I now comprehend that this was done to intentionally gain design that was not to be paid for.  Shortly after this trip and the termination, the client asked Charnock to send all documents and specs to them (fully unpaid for).  I did so out of respect, and concern that I had (unintentionally) introduced them to a liar who was barely a draftsperson.

 

After a period of disbelief (always ditch the person who introduced you to the biggest job of your life as an appropriate thank you) and hurt, I have turned Muzzle over to the American Institute of Architects and local Bahamian Architectural board, and have retained a lawyer to officially remove my name from any association with this project.  I will take Muzzle to court if need be, as I was intentionally not paid for my work; a deliberate plan to have me provide design services with no fee.

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I am now grateful to be removed from this job and any association with people as low life as Muzzle.  However, as the entire house design, the interior layout, concept, baths, kitchen, and six months of work was mine (all Muzzle contributed was a two car garage), I will take this issue as far as need be to get rightfully paid.  I have  drawings, specs, and witnesses (a cadre of past clients has volunteered, as well as local Bahamians) to insure I win the case and monies due.  Additionally, he walked out on a NYC filing job which resulted in a $500.00 a day penalty to my client (which was transferred to me).  Again, I have all documentation required to validate same.  When I win this case and receive payment, I will be even more grateful.

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I no longer trust so easily.

The adage of above is LIVE AND LEARN.

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Good Will To Men (and Women)

I was brought up within a Catholic Christmas environment.  I was an altar boy, choir boy, and lector/commentator.  My mother was in charge of the altar boys and fabricated 28 red silk vests for the choir boys.  I loved those vests almost as much as the lace trimmed cassock and surplus worn as an altar boy.

        

As such, Christmas was a big part of our lives.  I gave necessary due respect to the birth of Christ, but suspected Santa Claus fraud when I realized he somehow appeared in three different stores at the same time and looked somewhat different in all of them.

    

The one component I loved and took part in from a very young age was DECORATING done for the event.  At the age of twelve, I drilled holes into ouraluminum front porch awning to insure the exterior lights (they used to be a lot larger than twinkle lights are today) were at perfect vertical alignment,andwere exactly 6” apart from one another.  I got a beating but it was secondary to properly aligned lighting.

       

My father would take about half the furniture out of the living room and construct a train platform about 6’ x 12’, supported by sawhorses with paper brick skirting so that all the needed electrical (every house had a light and there were lit street lights) could be accessed.  The “town” had more than the standard church and train station, had drive in movies, and a small town which held department store, hardware store, etc.  On the center of the platform was the tree, which were only available as bushy, live ones in those days.

      

In that Dad took charge of the platform and tree, I was relegated to fluffing up my mothers overly Italian yuletide decor additions (many ornate mangers).  I loved this portion far better than the train platform (providing a hint of myfuture choices, in regard to both career as well as my sexuality).  Back then such hints were fully ignored whenever possible.

      

As I grew older, the platform disappeared to make way for the silver tree with pink ornaments and whirling colored spotlight from below. By this time, I had fully taken over the holiday decor planning and execution (along with furniture rearranging while mother went to bingo or get her hair done).  Aside from utter pleasure derived, I knew, even at twelve years old, that I was good at it.

      

Today, forty years later, most of the religious association is gone, and has also melded with Hanukkah as the “holiday” season rather than specific to Christmas.  One area remains, has grown, and is still fully done by me is the decor package.  I love doing it, and the results (still) give me great pleasure.  Not only for the decorating aspect, but in that somehow it invokes a feeling of familial celebration and sharing.

       

My immediate family is now my partner, two dogs, and three cats.  My overall family  extends to my close friends.  I share this decor with my non-Christian friends, some of whom grew up in a prior era, when the December holidays were not shared as todays are.  In the 1950’s and 60’s, non-Christians were barely allowed to look at Christmas trees, train platforms, or Santa.  Sad; and probably fueled therapist treatment at some juncture.

This December blog posting is to share some of my current decor package.  And wish good will to all men, women, and children out there.

TOM

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GRATITUDE ATTITUDE

Happy Halloween from Chanel!

At this time Charnock & Company is busy.   Extremely busy!  We are busy in that we are talented and creative. We are also intelligent, honest, nice, and lucky.  We strive to maintain positive relationships with our contractors, suppliers, vendors and reps (as well as the clients).

Some make that process quite difficult, and we do not support them.  We choose manufacturers who have products that are both well designed and appropriate for the application.

Beyond that, we choose manufacturers and vendors who offer professional service, and employees (reps, office workers, etc.) who are both knowledgeable and nice.
We support those, who, if and when there is a problem, assist in the necessary steps to solve the problem; particularly when the issue in question is a result of manufacturing.  Or even worse, a problem caused by Charnock & Company.

Our clients lean toward more lucrative items.  As such, one would hope that the manufacturer and its representatives are also better and lucrative.

This is not always the case. Unfortunately, many are not.

Though one is tempted to make a listing of all the pretentious men, insipid women, unknowledgeable and rude personnel.  I am not going to do so at this time.
It is a waste of time.  What I will do is provide a list of the most professional, diligent, knowledgeable, talented and honest parties in my industry.

A sincere, heartfelt thank you to the individuals below.

You have all gone above and beyond the norm, or any of your competitors.  You are one more reason why Charnock & Company is so busy.  As such, we pass our busy-ness and business on to you.

Patricia Martin Baretela

Senior sales associates
Baker Knapp & Tubbs NYC Showroom

Patti from Baker, Knapp and Tubbs, is one of the industry mavens for a furniture resource of well-designed and well known products that designers use consistently.  She has always treated us well, even back in the days when we designed two apartments a year. She is knowledgeable and one of the few reps that treats both us and our clients nicely and will answer all of the questions, thoroughly and honestly; a rarity in our industry.  (Perhaps more importantly, she shares designer clothing trade resources with Sheri, who has worked with me for twenty five years.)

Carmine Esposito

Urban Office

I almost forgot to add Carmine, as he is an even closer friend than a business associate. Very close friend indeed, but also one of the most knowledgeable people I work with.  He is both extremely intelligent and creative, and thorough as is possible.  He furnishes presentation materials in excess of what most others would provide to insure that the client is both impressed and won over.  I welcome and value his speaking directly to the client to insure we are correctly addressing the requirements of same.  He is like a brother to me, and I’m more grateful for that than anything I wrote above.

Bonnie Gangel

Showroom Sales
Kravet NYC Design Showroom

Bonnie could be (and should be) be the role model for every single person to work in the fabric or furniture industry.  She is well experienced, knowledgeable, and always helpful and supportive.  Although Kravet has become an indispensible manufacturer in all regards, it is made far more so by the presence of Bonnie.

George Kosmidis

Owner
G.K Painting

George is a more recent addition to Charnock & Company specifications.  However, I believe the addition will be long term both in regards to the amazing (And unlike others) talent of his, and the craftsmanship offered.  Both somewhat unusual in his industry, as well as unusual in this country.

Carol Paplin

Senior Sales Manager
EVENSONBEST

Carol and I go back a few years.  Ironically, or not, I work with her more now than previously.  She is always receptive to whatever clients or issues we might have at the moment, provides accurate support, and is also great company for dinner.  I’ve also known her “boss” for many years, and am happy to support both Evenson Best and Carol specifically.

Elizabeth Sarkisian

Interior Resource
Angela Brown Ltd

Elizabeth works for a woman I have known for a very long time, in several capacities.  Aside from Angela having developed a unique representation of some of the best fabrics available, she employs one of the best reps we work with.  Charnock & Company is happy to consistently use these products and support both of the above noted women.

Roz Slack

Owner
Major Mills, Inc.

One of my primary associates, Kathy Pereira works exclusively with Major Mills.
As such, she emphatically states that Roz is an invaluable addition to our team.  Her showroom offers fabrics from all of the major manufacturers.  They order memos, samples and get them to us in an expeditious manner; always treating our projects with the highest of priority.

Sharon Snell

Customer Service Representative
Knoll Textiles

Sharon offers us prompt, efficient sampling, CFA’s, charges etc., in a pleasant format and with complete professional demeanor.  Adjectives such as pleasant and professional do not often occur in the same sentence.  As one of my past lives was a contract designer (for twenty years) I used Knoll fabrics from the onset of my residential career.  Many other residential designers have now jumped on board, but I was there from the get-go.  Good fabrics, with a great rep.

Setta Tavitian

Sales Associate
Ann Sacks

Charnock & Company has worked with every single manufacturer competitor of Ann Sacks in the industry. Every single job we do requires such products.  Anne Sacks and Setta are unquestionably the front runners.  Setta is beyond accommodating to our varied and multiple needs, and well beyond what is offered by other manufacturers and reps in that venue.  Ann Sacks offers many stellar and beautiful products; Setta is the greatest and most beautiful of all of them.

Ken Vukel

Owner/General Contractor
Vukel Contracting Inc.

We would use Ken on any job, and he has successfully done most of them for us.  We will use a client’s specified contractor if required.  However, if we are forced to work with a contractor from hell (and there are plenty), we can become the designers from hell.  We always win.
Ken is (and will remain) one of the primary collaborators of our continued success.


Andrew J. Zetterstrom

Senior Sales Representative
Philips Lightolier

AJ and I have only met recently.  I have dealt with Lightolier in some capacity for over twenty years, and he is by far the best representative of this manufacturer I have ever dealt with.  It feels as if we have worked together for a lot longer than what is actual timeframe.  Charnock & Company is well assisted by AJ’s knowledge and assistance, which in more ways than one illuminates our projects.

Final note:
The photographs shown in conjunction with this blog posting are various interior shots of the autumn interior decor package added to the Charnock residence.

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Architectural Hiccups

My web site designer has been chastising me for being remiss in contributing regularly to my blog.  I’ve fallen back on the fact that I’ve been unbelievably busy, which though true is an excuse that could keep me procrastinating indefinitely.

A brand new home (front view) fully designed by Charnock & Company, to be constructed for our client in Eluethera, Bahamas

As busy as I am with myriad clientele, there are items occurring daily that certainly qualify for some extended e-mails and telephone conversations.  Alternatively, I’ll  time share this information with all by way of my blog.

I’m presently redoing several jobs previously done by some well known architects.  The term redoing is a polite way of stating gutting and demolition.  I happen to be a very architecturally-oriented interior designer, so I well appreciate and fully understand all architectural requirements and methodology.

I’m designing a great prewar apartment on Central Park West for a family that is the ideal client for someone of my talent and personality.  Aside from living through/surviving a total renovation to their home (including no bedrooms and unusable bathrooms,) they are both respectful of my abilities and fully cooperative in all regards.  The wife has an extremely design-oriented career and the husband… well he’s a very design-oriented male by nature (more on this subject a bit later in this writing).  Several years ago they hired a somewhat well-known architect who managed to transform a sizeable and luxurious prewar apartment into what more or less resembled corporate office design of 1980, with  identical built-ins throughout the apartment that looked like conference room credenzas.  Also, the 11-foot high ceilings were lowered over 30 inches and had a bazillion down-lights installed.  It’s my understanding that one of the primary reasons one moves to a prewar Manhattan apartment is in the hopes of having a ceiling in excess of 8 feet in height.  The architect further specified a material only recommended for counter tops for kitchen flooring that held up as if it were tap danced on daily.  And the list goes on…  So, I’ve now been working over 6 months on the apartment, and it has become a beautiful and stellar home for people who not only deserve, but appreciate such a residence.  I sincerely hope to stay with this family in the future as both a designer and friend.

A brand new home (rear view) fully designed by Charnock & Company, to be constructed for our client in Eluethera, Bahamas

Another story I’d like to share is that of a family I helped out on the Upper East Side who hired the architect from hell.  The design for the children’s bedrooms weren’t able to accommodate  basics such as beds and closets, and further had fully exposed heat abundant radiators not enclosed.  When i contacted him he informed me that the room didnt “feel right” with closets, and fitting a bed was not of importance to him.  I believe the architects prior experience must have been designing prisons.  He designed a kitchen with no overhead lighting. I find that cooking in the dark helps to conceal all the burns one gets from doing so

What makes both of the above stories even worse is that in neither case did the consultants bother to fully review such design scenarios with the clients so that they were fully surprised in an unwelcome way by the design details.

I’m doing a house in Vermont in which the architect did not think it necessary to do furniture layout or planning so that no furniture actually fits into the rooms.  Living rooms without sofas may be logical for a French country mansion, but they are not too practical in most other lifestyles.  The same house had windows in bizarre locations and a den in which there was not any location for a television.  The fully remodeled kitchen layout was the size of one might find in a studio apartment, and though the client has children the refrigerator was so buried that it would take a treasure chest map to find or use it. Ironically this family entertains weekly groups of 20 to 30 guests and this client actually enjoys preparing food for them.   Not so easy in a 6×8 kitchen in a home sized to readily accommodates this many guests.

A brand new home (side view) fully designed by Charnock & Company, to be constructed for our client in Eluethera, Bahamas

These are not clients who are silly or uneducated in any way.  They are intelligent, savvy people who paid sizable fees for the above results.

I’m doing yet another job in downtown Manhattan which (unlike the above) is extremely well-designed architectually.  However, the decoration portion is not unlike the lower class Italian decor I personally grew up with and as such avoid at all costs.  All of the fabric in the apartment came from 1 or 2 fabric resources and all of the fabrics are the exact same (powder blue?) color without any texture.  I think they believed the male owner to be color-blind.  Even more startling is that the limited 2 (total) showrooms in which the fabrics were found are located right next to each other in an NYC building that house approximately 150 such showrooms. Adding insult to injury, 1 of the showrooms specializes in fabrics to be used exclusively for hospitals and their wares are perfect for such.  The walls have been painted a grey color that is, if not hospital appropriate, certainly used in several factories.  The end table that the client was well overcharged was from a retail catalog for unruly aunts and grandmothers.

Looking at the noted situations, I can easily appear a design genius for putting closets in bedrooms or using more than 1 color in a design presentation.  Though I’m readily able to resolve these situations, it doesn’t remotely make it right that such inferior, costly, and unusable work should be so common for clients that frankly deserve better.

I’m doing a job in the nearby suburbs of NYC for a family that had begun to be fully abused and ripped off by a retailer/decorator (housewife with a business card).  I presented an entire first floor design solution which proved in excess fiscally of what they desired to spend.  After the wife was presented with the overall budget for this refurbishment and decor she sent us the following as a way of asking us to come in at a somewhat lower price range:

“Before I got married, I went to pick out my gown.  My mom took me to Vera Wang.  There were three rooms, each one more expensive than the next.  I was allowed to look in one room because that was the room my budget permitted me to browse.  I never saw the other dresses, so, in a way, they never existed and my chosen dress was the most beautiful of all.  So now, here we are.  We have browsed in all the rooms, in our budget or not, and things readily added up beyond our initial expectations and allowances.”

I’ve never heard a client respond so appropriately.  I’ll gladly work with this family to give them an amazing and wonderful design that meets their expectations and allowances. I may not be Vera Wang, but certainly Yves St. Laurent or equal.

Last, but certainly not least, I must bring up the variance in todays design clientele, in which the married males are far more involved in the overall process than what used to be the case, when color televisions and stereo locations were the only involvment of same.  In most of my current jobs, the husband is as actively involved, or perhaps moreso, than the wife.  In one case i actually believe the man missed a call in my profession. In all cases the participation is welcome and logical.  Much, much different than it was five or ten years ago. I am unsure of exactly how and when this transpired, but it certainly has.

Of the same nature is my revisiting a finished clients home recently, to find their two children and a friend watching television on the living room sofa. (Indoor/outdoor fabrics have come a long way to allow such lifestyles as typical. Once my Mother vaccumed her way out of the living room, a rope across the doorway would have prevented  footprints on the vacuum floor swirls which were strictly prohibited.) Upon my greeting the kids, the five year old girl informed her six year old friend that i was “Tom, he is our Interior Designer”. The six year old friend responded by saying hello and letting me know that  her other friends Mother was also a renowned decorator. They weren’t paging through this month’s Elle Decor, but certainly could have been doing so.

Only in New York. Or is it?

Hoping to run into all in the Vera Wang showroom…

Tom

P.S.  Since the subject matter of this entry was primarily architectural, I thought it most appropriate to include three recent renderings of a  brand new home fully designed by Charnock & Company, to be constructed for our client in Eluethera, Bahamas. I wanted to include at least one example of what proper, extremely well designed architecture looks like.

P.S.S. Below is the kind of email that good architecture (and of course some good help from my employees) gets you. I recieved this one this morning:

“I feel like I have to thank you when I have such a wonderful weekend here!!!! Daniel and I had a fabulous weekend and the apartment is amazing and he LOVES sleeping on the sofa it is soooooo comfortable.
Xox”

Needless to say, im also thankful to have this caliber of client (and most are…).

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Our Design Encompasses A Lot More Than A Good Decor Package for Your Home

Charnock & Company does Bar Mitzvahs!

Table Setting Close-Up

I have always been of the belief that a good interior designer’s talents should not necessarily be limited to interiors and decorating of rooms.  My personal design nature reaches into just about every avenue available to me.  As such I get to design a lot more than just the room or rooms of the initial project- for many clients and many more friends.

In this blog post, you will find some photos from a recent Bar Mitzvah for Steven, the son of my employee (best friend) Sheri Halsband. This event was held in a Country Club, and I was in charge of the full decor package, from the obvious areas to the actual dress that Sheri wore.

Now that’s my idea of a complete design job!

Adult Dining Area

We used a lot of accessories from Ikea including the hanging large light fixtures that resemble bouquets of flowering trees. Also, we designed the tables with HomeGoods elements as well as very slightly sprayed fall fruit and foliage. My party planning friend John had to have 9 hardworking folks to install this unusual selection for which he did an amazing job as usual.

In addition, we found a woman to fabricate an amazing version of a 1968 design from a (still) very famous designer. I’m sure if the original could be found it would have been five thousand dollars, but we managed to make this dress for the properly reduced amount.

Mother and Best Friend Sheri

I did have to snatch 1 client’s throw pillow material momentarily for the hostesses’ bust line (which client noticed quite immediately), but got it replaced in time for her pillows to compliment the loveseat as designed for her room. Sheri listened to all instructional comments…from colors not to paint her nails (some time-telling photographic shade like purple) to getting an updo that was more suitable to the dress design.

The event was a huge success…a party in which the host and hostess had as great a time as the gaggle of bus-transported city kids.

Steven at his Bar Mitzvah

An added and desirable plus was that the large amount of adult guests had a great time too.  Now that is what good design helps to create when wise friends pay attention and listen!

I need to truly thank the savvy professional photographers for taking many amazing photographs and working with me to provide them for this article. Below you will find the names and addresses of the key fabricators whose time and efforts definitely were a huge component of the successful design. I sincerely recommend them all!

Photographer
Brad Photographers and Video
973 696 8763
http://www.bradphotovideo.com

Party Planner and Florist
Jon Dorio
908 233 5603

Seamstress Extraordinaire
Penny Babel
212 879 5844

And of course the flawless Charnock backup of Kathy Pereira.

EXCELLENT DESIGN IS AN IMPORTANT and CRUCIAL PART OF MOST PARTS OF OUR LIFE.

I remain a true believer of that. Thankfully, so are my friends and the people whose names are listed above…

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