AJS Team in Quarantine:: Barbara Pederzini

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Ciao a tutti,
This is Barbara, Annette’s friend and Italian member of her team, and I live in Modena, Italy. The global pandemic that hit us a few months ago shook up my plans for spring, and Annette thought it would be interesting for you to read how I dealt with what happened.

When I’m not collaborating with Annette on one of her projects, I am a freelance marketing consultant and a stylist. The first big impact Covid-19 had on my life was that all the events I had lined up for the season were either canceled or pushed to the end of the year. Meanwhile, my beloved home (that had housed my office for the past eleven years) had to be repurposed to accommodate working space for my husband Max (who’s a product manager for an international corporation) as well as homeschooling space for both my children, aged 15 and 9.

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Here’s how I organized our space (a medium-sized flat of around 1560 square feet) and our days to weather out the pandemic:

Everyone got their own ‘work’ space, complete with device and closing door.
This was my number one priority. The week Italy went in full lockdown (on March 8), we brainstormed what we needed to change to achieve this; we moved around some furniture, repurposed a few props I had stored in our garage (since Ikea shipments were delayed until the end of April), and we managed to create work stations for everybody in different rooms. This way, we can all have conference calls, classes, or Intercontinental aperitivo without disturbing or being disturbed. Having well-defined working areas has also helped with keeping healthy boundaries. My husband and I “go into work” and “come back home” at designated times, and I reckon this has been a great way to reduce overwhelm at a time when work is often frantic to make up for the long-distance mode.

We got to work on our home improvement list.
Before Coronavirus hit, I had a long list of home projects I wanted to tackle—some organization ones and a few adjustments that required Max’s technical expertise. We usually have a hectic life, as we both travel for work, and we frequently visit family in another region, so the projects had piled up over the years. Tackling them one at a time, making clever use of what we already have (since shopping opportunities are limited), has been a great way to take our minds off things we can’t control while allowing to make the space we live more functional and purposeful. Plus, ticking the projects off the list enables us to feel productive even on days when it seems we are aimlessly wandering around.

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We wrote down routines, meal plans, and chore lists for everybody.
Lockdown means no cleaning lady, no restaurant meals, double the meals we eat at home and double the mess and dirt. Drafting a routine for everybody, allowing time for cooking, cleanup, and laundry, might seem like a control-freak approach to a shake-up. On the other hand, doing it with common sense allowed us to have guidelines to follow when we felt lost while empowering everyone in the family to do something for the others. Make no mistake, we NEVER follow routines and chore lists to a T. We are a very imperfect bunch. But having that mainframe in place has inspired us to do better, and it has helped us feel more in control of the situation.

I lowered the bar.
As I said, we were never perfect in the first place. But pretty soon after we started sheltering in place, I realized we couldn’t expect too much from ourselves. At this time, concentration is shot, moods swing wildly, and I think we have a stronger need to feel comforted. So there are days when the kids are allowed limitless screen time, others when we splurge on delivery from our favorite ice cream place, others when I take a day off, and binge read a book I love. It would be putting unnecessary (and way too much) pressure on ourselves to expect to perform at our best at these extraordinary times.

The truth is we were very lucky; as far as we know, nobody in our family was infected by the virus. Last Monday, Italy inaugurated phase two of the pandemic, so businesses that had closed will gradually reopen, and the real new normal will take shape. Restaurants will reduce their seats to allow for a safe distance between patrons; shops will implement queues and booking times to protect shoppers; sanitization procedures will be compulsory for all businesses. So far, people seem to be acting responsibly, and we are hopeful we will be able to keep the curve under control (if not flat) until a vaccine has been developed. To be honest, in our family, we haven’t gone outside much so far, aside from finally resuming exercise (Max is a runner and a cyclist) and longer walks. We are still working from home, and we will be for the rest of May, at least. If people can keep adhering to distancing, mask-wearing, and hands washing, I reckon most of Italy will have reopened by June. That should give us time to learn new routines and new ways of socializing while relieving the stress on our economy and our hospitals at the same time. It is not over, but I think we are better equipped to deal with it now. Also, I like to think this was a wake-up call to all of us to craft more sustainable ways of life.

Best,
Barbara

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Minted Holiday Gift Ideas: Art is the perfect gift

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This is the story about a young lawyer, our daughter, Alex, and her husband David moving into their first home. Alex has lots of questions about how to make their space reflect both of their styles. Of course, I am here to guide her. As a stylist, I have lots of ideas and opinions about how they should style their house, but…

One of the most important things to think about when decorating is to express yourself. Artwork is the best way to do this. Alex and I picked a few pieces that would reflect her love of abstract art along with a few quirky additions.

When Alex asked me where to start, I suggested Minted. The thing that is so amazing about Minted is that all of the artwork they sell is commissioned, and the art is originally created for the Minted Collection.

Alex picked artwork that worked well on her gallery wall. Using various sizes makes the wall interesting. Their Corgi Cornelius even got into the act!

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With the holiday season upon on us, I had an idea for Alex. Why not gift some art to friends that are like her – they are moving and decorating their first homes? I think that art is really the perfect gift. Minted has all sorts of sizes and styles and affordable choices. What better way to gift a memento and keepsake and a memory?
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Alex wrapped a small canvas for a friend using minted wrapping paper. It’s a piece of art of something pleasing and personal.
Head to Minted for their Black Friday deals:
  • Enjoy 20% off all orders $150+, 15% off all orders, plus free shipping. Shop holiday cards, gifts, fine art, wedding and home decor.
    • Code to use at checkout: BF2019 
    • Offer valid: Wednesday, 11/27 – Friday, 11/29

Thanks to Minted, Alex’s gallery wall is looking great. Now for the rest of the house…

Here are some more deals that might be interested in.

  • Receive a FREE photo calendar ($29 value) when you save 10 personal occasions. Find your favorite calendar design at minted.com/calendars. Add 10 personal occasions, and we’ll save them, making future calendar orders even easier. You’ll receive a promo code for a FREE calendar. Shipping & tax may apply.
  • Just in time for holiday shopping, Minted has launched NEW Personalized Gifts and Children’s Home Decor. In addition to its popular art and stationery gifts, the design marketplace now offers high-quality customizable triangle chairs and coordinating personalized pillows for kids, plus accessories like tote bags, backpacks, clutches, pouches, and scarves — all featuring Minted’s famous prints.

xx Annette

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Fabulous Fall Centerpiece: make it once but use it twice!

IMG_9427 I love fall, it’s such a beautiful season. I love the color palette. With autumn officially setting in, it’s time to place some fall decor around your home. One secret you may not know about me is that I don’t love loud Halloween decor. I love the combination of orange and black, but Halloween overkill makes me dizzy. As far as decor goes, I adore changing out the house for the season, and fall is one of the best.

As for an expert tip? I like to combine Halloween and Thanksgiving decor when I can. Here’s how I create a fabulous fall centerpiece:

The nice thing about decorating for both Halloween and Thanksgiving is that you simply remove the scary stuff early November and leave the rest. That is until you are ready for holiday/Christmas decor!

Centerpieces are my passion. Here’s the one I did a few years back for my own table. As you can see, it’s festive and fall-ish with a little Halloween flair.
IMG_9421 copy – a collection of ceramic tureens or vessels, I like white or cream
– a selection of fall flowers, I used hydrangeas and they will dry nicely
– 3 small pumpkins about 4 inches in diameter
– 1 bunch of bittersweet branches
– dried thistle
– 1 blackbird
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Have fun with it! Layer as you go and let the process take over.

xx Annette

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Our First Ever La Fortezza Antiques and Merchants of Italy Shopping Retreat

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Ciao Tutti! We had amazing whirlwind of a week with our first ever La Fortezza Antiques and Merchants of Italy Shopping Retreat. My co-leader Lisa Burnett of Inner Pieces Inc. could not have been a better partner in crime. We hosted 7 lovely ladies and toured them all over the Italian countryside, to shop and meet local artisans and vendors that I love. It was an insiders shopping tour that was both exciting and informative.

Every day there were new destinations and some surprises. We could not have asked for a more fun group of ladies. Even though they did not know each other before, I think some solid bonds were formed. We danced, drank, made pasta and enjoyed the beautiful fall weather on the terrace.

Of course, there was a pizza party where a few of our attendees tried their hand at making pizza in the pizza oven. We loved sharing information about how and why we choose certain props, discussed searching for antiques and loved shopping at my super secret locations. Lisa spent a couple of extra days, so we checked out some of her Italian vendors and hope to expand the shopping experience next year.

We will be conducting this retreat again in 2020 because it had such an overwhelming response when we posted it. Since we still have 50 people on the waitlist from last year, we have decided to do this retreat for 2 consecutive weeks in 2020. If you are interested in joining us and want first dibs sign up for the newsletter. We will be sending a private mailing to our list before the workshop goes public.

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grazie Lisa you’re simply the best! x

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We only have 6 spots available in each retreat, so this shopping retreat very limited. We have decided to vary the schedule in case some of you want to join us for both weeks. We have so much to show you. I cannot express how wonderful it is to meet like-minded shoppers, who share the love of beautiful things. As a prop stylist, I have to say sharing my resources with our groups gives me great joy. Thank you again to my most talented and lovely friend, Lisa. x Let’s shop ’til we drop in 2020.

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Coffee Table books: Style and Content

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I have the biggest stack of coffee table books on my studio coffee table. Everyone that passes it says, “WOW that’s a lot of books. You must love coffee table books!” Truth is, I do love all sorts of books including coffee table books, but the books in the studio are used for styling. Back in the day, I was only styling interiors for magazines, companies, and designers, so I needed lots of books as props.

I love decorative books for style and content. I only buy books that look great on the outside but also have some great inspiration on the inside. The list below are some of my absolute favorites. In fact, here are my 10 choices to start your own collection of coffee table books. Books are always a great investment. Spice up your coffee table with these gorgeous books:

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1. American Originals- William Abramowicz 

* Note Bill will be with us in Italy leading his own photography workshop October 9-14th at La Fortezza Workshops

2. The House that Pinterest Built- Diane Keaton

3. The Selby- Todd Selby

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4. Wabi Inspirations – Alex Vervoordt

5. House- Diane Keaton

6. Francois Halard

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7. The Wes Anderson Collection

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8. May I Come In?: Discovering the World in Other People’s Houses – Wendy Goodman

9. Simplicity- Nancy Braithwaite

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