Visit our website @

Thanks for visitng the ABD Blog

Although sometimes sporatic I do my best you up to speed on the ever-changing world of design! Come back often to see new products, suggestions, and completed client projects.

Friday, December 11, 2009

5 Essentials for your Guest Room!

Tis the season for... house guests! When you invite people (friends, family, or other) into your home you are inviting them to a part of yourself. Your home and the things in it are a direct reflection of your beliefs, personality, and attitude. What better way to welcome a guest than with a comfortable bedroom or suite to sleep in!
With the holidays well underway your guest room may very well be booked! To help with the preparations, here are 5 essential items that will pamper your guests and keep them coming back for more:

1) Luxurious Bedding! Overstuffed pillows, down comforters, and soft sheets will give the sheep a break and lull even your most sleep-deprived guest right to sleep. Be sure to pay attention to allergies -- if someone is allergic to down try a down-alternative that has a down feel. To find bedding options locally, try F & B Linens on Grand Ave (tell Barb I sent you!) in Saint Paul.
2) Entertainment! Being away from their own bed can be hard for your guest. It may take them awhile to fall asleep in a different environment. Take this to heart and be sure to provide some sort of entertainment for your guest. This can be: a television and dvd player stocked with a variety of movies, magazines, good books, photo albums with pictures of you and your guest, or music. If you opt for a television you may want to type up a channel guide to give your guest that ultimate hotel feel.
3) Provisions! We've all been there -- it's midnight, you're in bed, wide awake, and your stomach is screaming for a snack. Make sure your guest is covered for the late-night munchies! Leave a few bottles of water in the room along with a small package of cookies, a granola bar, and a few pieces of fresh fruit. If you really want to wow your guest, keep a small coffee maker in the room so your guest can enjoy coffee or tea at any point during their stay.
4) Illumination! It sounds simple but you'd be surprised at how many guest rooms I've stayed in that do not have bedside lamps for reading. There is nothing worse than finishing a chapter of a book, getting out of bed to turn off an overhead light, and then stumbling back to bed in a strange room. Alleviate your injury liability and keep a nice bedside lamp in the guest room. The best options have dimmers and provide soft light for reading.
5) Bath Kit! Keep bathroom supplies in as convenient a spot as possible for your guests. Supply their room with a nice basket containing at least the basics: a bath towel, a hand towel, shampoo, toothpaste, soap, and wash cloths. For an extra touch buy a guest robe and slippers to keep on hand for guests.
With these essentials you're sure to have happy guests for the holidays!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Adding Pizazz!

If you're anything like me, on the day before Thanksgiving you are sitting at your desk, working, instead of standing in your kitchen cubing the 8 French baguettes for your from-scratch stuffing. I still can't quite believe that Thanksgiving is TOMORROW! I am sitting here asking myself "where did fall go?". It doesn't feel like Thanksgiving yet; we don't have snow, it isn't 20 degrees outside, and the grass is still partially green. Yet, somehow, the turkey holiday crept up on me.

I haven't had much time to commit to all the decorative details for the festivities taking place at my house; I've been too busy tracking the ever-changing guest list. We began with a semi-challenging 12 for dinner. I made reservations to rent a large dining table as well as serving tables. Then 5 days ago the guest list bumped up, unexpectedly, to 16. So, I cancelled the tables and decided to do a more casual buffet. Yesterday was the final change (I hope!) to this guest list and we are now at a more comfortable 11 guests for dinner. It was too late to rent additional tables so we are keeping the buffet style but now I am realizing that I've been so busy adjusting plans and recipes to accommodate guests that I have completely neglected our decor.

I have to admit I typically buy flowers two or three days in advance. I go to a large floral shop and spend an offensive amount of money on flowers. Afterwards I invest half a day arranging them and sprinkling the house with suitable arrangements for each space. This year, I have done no such thing. This year I made a hasty trip to Trader Joe's to pick up a pre-arranged, overpriced, scrawny arrangement for our small bites table.

As I plunked the few flowers and many fillers into a vase I was so depressed by my centerpiece that I decided to rummage through my craft bin in an effort to add a little pizazz to this mess sitting before me.

The result? Stunning! To my pre-packaged flowers I added: dogwood, curly willow, shrub branches, fresh fruit, pine cones, and a festive bird. Now it looks like I actually called a florist!

Next time you come home from the grocery with a floral arrangement, be creative, add something unexpected. The result will be something that is unique and makes you smile. This is an easy way to stretch your entertaining dollars and impress your guests all in one step. The holidays are a wonderful, celebratory time. Don't let the expense of decorating drain your holiday spirit, instead, be creative and daring. The results will surprise you!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Big Sale at IMS!

You read correctly -- a big SALE is happening at International Market Square this Thursday, Friday, and Saturday only. Showrooms will be liquidating merchandise at 50 - 80% off retail prices! You'll find great deals from Baker, Hickory Chair, Hancock and Moore, Brunschwig & Fils, and more!!
Hours are:
Thursday, November 5th: 4-8pm
Friday, November 6th: 9am-6pm
Saturday, November 7th: 9am-1pm
If you're looking for great prices on high-end furniture you don't want to miss this sale!

If you need help selecting pieces or deciding if something will work in your home, please call our office at 612-746-5519 and we can schedule an appointment during this sale.

Happy Shopping!

Friday, October 16, 2009

FLOR Tiles

FLOR ( is a product that has been available for a few years but is now gaining popularity in residential settings. The FLOR product is a 19.7" square modular flooring tile with a non-skid backing. This product can be used to create an area rug or it can be used in wall-t0-wall scenarios. The sample shown above is: needlepoint stripe, color: ginger.

The FLOR website is very user friendly; you can look at different styles and order samples (3 samples for $5.00). The website also features a rug designer feature and a handy calculator to help you figure the quantity of tiles you need for a given application.

What makes FLOR so great? Well, first, it's really inexpensive! If you are looking for a heavy-duty rug for your mud room or maybe just a temporary area rug these tiles are incredibly affordable. A 5 x 7 rug will average $150. The beauty of this product is the durability factor. FLOR tiles are designed, mainly, for commercial spaces with high-traffic so the tiles really hold up in a residential setting. If something does happen and one of the tiles is stained you can simply lift that tile and replace it with a new one. It's really that simple!

This is a great product to consider for play spaces, 3-season porches, mud rooms, basements, kids' rooms, bathrooms, and utility spaces. It can also be used in just about any room you desire but the finished look will be casual.

From October 15th - November 15th we will offer 10% off any FLOR products purchased through Annie Ballantine Designs. We will also provide you with free samples. This discount cannot be used on clearance items; sorry! Happy shopping!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Be Bold

Several weeks ago I was making rounds to some of my favorite odd shops for great finds. I went into a shop in Highland Park and found a great painting that I instantly loved. It's shown above and as you can probably see, is a very colorful and slightly convoluted clown.

I've shown this, excitedly, to many people and have had a variety of reactions: dislike, disdain, fondness, and adoration.

At this exact moment the painting sits in the ABD inventory, awaiting it's new home. I know the perfect setting will come along for this lonely clown.

Where do I plan to use it? Certainly not in a child's bedroom or nursery. I think it would be fabulous in a powder room or a hallway -- a place where the viewer has a fleeting experience with the painting.

As I have had this sitting in my office for several days I have noticed that sometimes the clown is smirking, sometimes he's mournful, and occasionally I look at him and he appears sly, as though he's plotting something. Regardless of what I might see in this piece each day, it is interesting that each time I look at the painting I see something new; a different expression, a sense of feeling, or a wayward brushstroke. It continues to engage me in a thought process; something I feel art should do.

As you put finishing touches in your home, try to do something unexpected and bold. Do something that will catch people off guard. Put a clown in the powder room.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Long Awaited After Photos!

I have resigned myself to the fact that a good space is never done. Spaces should evolve and change just as the people who use the space do. There is always something to be added, edited, updated, or rearranged in any space. This is my glorified excuse for not posting my master bathroom "After" photos until now. =)
In the photos the wall material looks like it could simply be paint so I've included an image of the Valtekz fabric that we used on the walls. It has a leather texture to it that is very subtle and doesn't read at a great distance.
Work was completed on this bathroom during the summer months but it has taken some time to find some of the finishing touches for the space. It isn't done, but rather, it is a work in process; always.


Friday, October 2, 2009

Hot New Textile!

In a recent fabric showing I fell in love with Bart Halpern's pleated upholstery fabric. This fabric is a tough blend of Polyurethan, Polyester, and Viscose with an abrasion rating of 201,000 double rubs. As a point of reference, a normal residential fabric should fall in the 15,000-45,000 double rub category. The double rub (Wyzenbeek) method for testing fabric durability involves rubbing a surface against the fabric to see how many strokes (up and down equals one double rub) the fabric can withstand before it starts to show normal wear. At 201,000 double rubs it would practically take explosives to destroy this fabric!

This fabric is so versatile! It can be used in upholstery, window treatments, as a wall covering, or as bedding. The fabric is available in 33 colors and it can be ordered with or without backing. The production time is only 3-4 weeks and there is a 6 yard minimum order.

Please inquire about pricing by calling our office: 612-746-5519.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The New World of Wall Coverings

Although I hate to admit this, I've become a delinquent blogger...AGAIN! Apologies to my loyal readers. I owe you "after" photos of the exterior of my house and of the completed master bath. Although nothing is ever "done" I will at least show the progress we've made.

This week I'd like to direct your attention to wall coverings. For many years home owners were shying away from wall coverings due to the hassle of having them hung and, if necessary, taking them down (gulp!). If you too have been shy about using wall coverings I invite you to take a look into the new, innovative products available. These are not your mother's, or grandmother's, wall coverings. This year texture and graphic prints are all the rage in wall coverings. I encourage you to take a look at Trove, a company that specializes in wall coverings, and offers some very dramatic options. Of course, these wall coverings will not be appropriate for all spaces as they can be overwhelming. However, if you have a small powder bath or an office that needs some instant character or a "wow factor" consider using a wall covering! You can find Trove products by clicking on this link:
Please enjoy!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Cozy up the Cave!

The best way to describe our master bath was CAVE-LIKE. When we bought our house the master bathroom was just partially finished. The builder had made choices that were very style specific and not at all neutral. This posed several design problems.
First, the bathroom is very small (about 7' by 10') yet the builder selected materials that were heavily patterned and felt very imposing. The flooring in this space is slate tile. The tile certainly has an interesting texture but it is so varied in color that when the tile was paired with the deep, saturated red-brown wall color the space felt as if it could close in and gulp someone up at any moment. The same slate tile (although a smaller size) was utilized as the shower surround and the whirlpool tub surround. With all that color and texture on the floor and parts of the walls, I knew I needed to calm the walls down quite a bit. I first thought of colors for this space. I liked the idea of using a cool color as I knew this would help expand the small space visually. I hesitated with a cool paint color as this space is already had a very cold feeling -- I didn't want to enhance that at all. I selected a great product called Valtekz (this can be purchased through ABD) that is actually a heavy-duty composite fabric. Valtekz has a leather look yet it is constructed of man-made materials that give this product unparalleled durability and flexability of use. Valtekz is most commonly used in yacht applications yet it can be used as a fabric in a residential application and it can also be used as a wall covering. I decided to use this product as a wall covering in our master bath. I chose this fabric as it would add a soft, warming sense with the very subtle texture but I also knew it would help to expand the space visually as well.
(Please note: If you decide to use Valtekz as a wall covering, be sure that you work with an experienced paper hanger who understands the product and how it should be installed. If you need a referral please contact our office and we will be happy to help you.)

I had several other design challenges in this space: 1) The mill work was low-quality and needed finishing work, 2) The vanity lights were domed down lights, creating shadows on anyone standing at the sinks, 3) The shower was not finished and did not have a door, 4)There is very little wall space to fit enough hardware to accommodate towel bars.

For the mill work issue I decided to enamel all of the mill work including the built-in vanity. I used Benjamin Moore Bone White in the Impervo enamel product. This product worked well but I would recommend hiring someone to do enamel work -- it is very tedious!

I decided to cut down on cost and leave the vanity lights where they were (above where mirrors would go) but I did change out the fixtures. For light fixtures I selected a very transitional 3-light fixture from Forecast that features three linen-shaded lamps. The fixtures add a nice soft light to the space while the linen shades add interesting texture in a subtle way.

When it came time to decide on a shower door I felt this was a place that I wanted to splurge a little. In my mind there was nothing worse than the thought of using a framed shower door in the small shower space. The white frame of a shower door would have contrasted with the dark slate in a way that anyone looking at the space would have immediately paid attention to the shower door but not the tile design. I selected a frameless shower door design with a 28" wide glass door and an 18" glass panel. Both the door and the panel are installed with minimal hardware in a satin nickel finish. This application allows the slate tile to be the focal point, not the shower door. One thing to note with frameless shower doors is that they can be difficult to clean. I recommend using Rain-X to clean the glass -- this product will also help minimize water spotting on the glass.

When it came to installing hardware I used Restoration Hardware because I needed a "train rack" towel bar system and Restoration Hardware has the best selection of train racks that coordinate with other hardware. The train rack was installed above the whirlpool tub. This piece allows space for hanging bath towels but it also has extra storage for unused towels -- this was a must-have in our small bath with minimal storage! I added a small towel ring by one of the sinks and a towel hook right outside the shower door.
I have posted some "BEFORE" photos with this post! I will post the "AFTER" photos next week! Peek in next week to see the finished product!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

ABD Presents Salon 568

In 1725 the Salon de Paris began a tradition of official art exhibitions to showcase great French artists. At ABD we are pleased to present our own local version: Salon 568.

At ABD we are committed to supporting local artists and our local economy. We are excited to present a four-part series of Salon 568. This is a unique opportunity to see one-of-a-kind, local art and meet the artist. This is your chance to find that special piece for your home or office and hear the story behind it.

Our first Salon 568 will be held on Wednesday, August 5th from 4:30-7:30pm at the ABD office in International Market Square. The featured artist is Kate Pearce of Saint Paul, MN. You can read more about Kate by visiting her website:

Please join us for this exciting event!

Our address:
275 Market Street Suite 568
Minneapolis, MN 55405
"Root" by Kate Pearce (shown above)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Adding an Arch

When my husband and I first moved into our home last summer the kitchen was the one space that I felt needed the least amount of change. There was only one issue that was truly an eye sore and that was a small rectangular opening between the kitchen and living room. The opening was approximately 40" high by 50" wide and it is located directly in front of the kitchen sink. When you look through the opening you can see our living room space and past that, you see through the patio door into the backyard. On the living room side of this opening there is a small granite bar where people can sit and use a lap top computer or eat a casual meal.
I told my husband that we needed to arch that opening and he agreed that it might look a little bit better but he couldn't understand the full reason that I wanted the opening arched. One challenge that I noticed straight away is that our kitchen has a ceiling height of 9'0" while the living room ceiling height is 12'0" -- a difference of three feet! So, with this low opening it often felt that the kitchen was a small cave compared to the living room. I knew that opening up the space with a soft arch would alleviate that visual issue and it would make the transition from the kitchen to the living room more smooth and visually pleasing. I knew the change would also FEEL better.
Even I was surprised by the massive difference this small change made in not only our kitchen but also our living room. As neighbors came to visit and see the new arch they too were blown away. My husband instantly became a believer in small changes making a huge difference in the aesthetics and comfort of a space.
In an effort to add more lighting to our living room we added wall-mounted sconces to each side of the arch on the living room side. These sconces are on a dimmer and we often have just those lights on late at night to create a relaxing, soft, and sometimes romantic atmosphere.
When we first moved into our home every single wall in the entire house was painted a simple yellow beige color that is actually not an unattractive color but in this house it blends almost seamlessly with the mill work and therefore there is no contrast between cabinetry and the walls which results in a very monotonous look. When the arch was added we painted the kitchen a dark copper red hue so that there would be more contrast from the wall color to the cabinetry and the result is a cozy, warm environment for not only cooking but also eating casual meals.
The living room will be painted entirely (someday!) but for the now only the wall with the arch has been painted a rich ashy brown, this is still a somewhat neutral color selection but most importantly it allows the viewer to clearly see the boundaries from walls to mill work and built-in cabinetry.
So, what's next on the project list? Well, we just finished our master bathroom so I will be posting that next week and we also hired a closet designer for our master closet -- photos and comments to come...
As always, questions and comments are much appreciated and always welcome!

Exclusive Design Seminar: COLOR

On Thursday, June 25th, ABD will be hosting a Design Seminar, "How to select paint colors for your home" at Cravings Wine Bar located in Woodbury, MN. The seminar will begin promptly at 6:00pm and will end at 7:00pm. As an attendee you can expect to gain insight into the process of selecting paint colors as well as information on how to select paint finishes and brands. You will leave the seminar with increased confidence in your ability to chose paint colors for your home. We will be serving wine and other beverages as well as appetizers from Cravings. This event is complimentary but registration is required as space is very limited. To register please contact Annie at 612-746-5519 or e-mail We hope to see you there!

Cravings is located at:

755 Bielenberg Drive

Woodbury, MN 55125

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Seeing Red

A few weekends ago my husband and I decided to up the sweat equity in our house and stain the exterior cedar ourselves. FUN -- not! Actually, it went much faster than expected as we had extra help (thank goodness for parents).

As the stain dried my reaction was one of shock as the color looked nothing like the sample chips I had selected from. It turns out that after I had collected my sample chips and before we bought the stain Cabot Stain was purchased by Valspar and their formulas were changed. That would have been nice to know up front as the colors are not what we anticipated. We were told to wait several weeks as the highly saturated colors (reds) fade quite a bit in the first two weeks. Although we have noticed a lot of fading the colors aren't quite as mellow as I'd like but I am willing to live with it for now.

Our next task on the front exterior is to paint the front door and garage doors. Once that is complete we will be adding some shrubs and plants to the front yard. At this point we have decided to leave the back yard as-is (with the exception of adding a deck) until next year.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

UNIQUE PRODUCT: Kilim Remnants

One purpose for this blog is to alert my readers of unique, interesting, or one-of-a-kind products that I happen upon. I have attached a photo of a Turkish Kilim rug remnant that has been sewn onto a neutral linen. If you're not familiar with Kilim rugs they are traditional, flat-weave rugs from Turkey or Afghanistan. Typically these rugs are made from wool and the patterns are usually geometric in form. Rich colors are the standard for these types of rugs as vegetable dyes are used on the wool fibers. Wool takes dye very well.

It is difficult to find antique Kilims that are in perfect condition. I loved the idea of preserving the beauty of the rug by saving just a small piece and having it framed to hang on the wall. Unique pieces like this are interesting and are far different than traditional art prints, so typical to many homes.

I had the opportunity to purchase three pieces that I am offering to my clients. If you are intersted please contact my office for pricing information.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

ABD Open House

2009 has brought several changes to ABD, LLC. The most exciting change has been the move to our new space at International Market Square (IMS). We moved into suite 568 (just down the hall from our old space) at the end of January. We began this new adventure with one shared desk but as we've settled in we are now set with our design studio in the back of the office with our conference and show space in the front. From our design studio we see the new Twins' Stadium and the downtown Minneapolis skyline -- stunning!
On May 21st we celebrated the new space with our clients and vendors. Thanks to many local vendors (Floral Logic, Cocoa and Fig, One Simple Plan...) we were able to have a beautiful event with great sweets and tasty drinks. Thank you to everyone who was able to attend; your support means to world to us!
Coming up this summer and fall look for our new E-Newsletter, Designer Seminar Series, and more! We look forward to growing, stretching our boundaries, and most importantly, designing with you, our clients.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Back to Blogs

So I started this blog in November of '08 with the expectation that I would been finishing projects on my own house at the speed of light! Well, life took over and although it's a blessing that client projects have kept me so busy, my own house has suffered.
We are still working on the exterior of the house! The driveway and sod went in last August and we recently stained the columns, front porch, and cedar shingles. What's next? The garage doors and front door need a few coats of paint and the landscaping must begin!
During the winter we did make some progress on the interior. We added an arch to the kitchen -- what a dramatic change! Before the arch was built the kitchen felt like a small cave off of the living room. Our living room has 16' ceilings while the kitchen has 9' ceilings and the straight horizontal line of the cut-through brought attention to the major difference in ceiling heights. Now the kitchen feels like an extension of the living room and the whole area is much more inviting and feels quite spacious.
I will continue to make updates on my own house but in between I've decided to add in design information, inspirations, new products, and thoughts on design. I welcome your design questions and I look forward to blogging each week (really!!).
Thank you for your patience!