Inspiration in the Studio

Artisan Spotlight :: Windy O'Connor

This week on our Artisan Spotlight we are featuring native-North Carolinian artist + designer, Windy O’Connor. Windy’s work is always fun and makes us smile! Her fabric and wall coverings are filled with color + pattern and infuse an artistic touch to any room. Not only does Windy design fabulous textiles, her original art is spectacular, too!

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I grew up in Eastern NC near Fort Bragg. I never realized how much growing up in such a diverse community had affected my life until I became an adult. I had friends from all over the globe and many military brats as well. I so appreciate the exposure to so many cultures as a young girl. It truly broadened my view of the world.

I have one sister who is very creative and also an artist. My mother is an artist as well. However, I grew up singing and performing in plays at the Fayetteville Little Theatre. I loved musical theatre and all of the lessons I learned about putting yourself out there and being willing to fail. I was the kid who signed up for everything! I wanted to do it all and I am so grateful to my parents for supporting all of my extra curricular activities!

Fast forward, I am a happy wife, proud mother of two very creative and independent young adults and I feel like the luckiest girl I know. I try my best to live one day at a time while cherishing each moment juggling a home, family, friends and a business.

Who are your biggest influences?

The world inspires me daily. My faith inspires and guides my work. I also love studying art and art history. There is so much to learn!

I have always been obsessed with the work of Cy Twombley, Picasso, Joan Mitchel, Basquiet and Willem De Kooning. Seeing and studying their works in person is a soul moving experience. I am also obsessed with Kim Simonsson’s Moss Children and everything about Damien Hirst.

We recently featured a Southern Studio designed chair for the Green Chair Project seen here upholstered in Windy’s Mossy Blues fabric.

When did you first realize you wanted to pursue your artistic dream?

I realized that I wanted to paint for the rest of my life when I started taking painting classes and workshops. My brain was doing full on gymnastics! It is an amazing feeling and I love the fact that there is no end to learning and creating.

Describe your creative process.

It is difficult to describe my process because I don’t really think about it. It is more of an action than thought. I am an intuitive painter and I wake up with my brain full of ideas and never enough hours to create everything that I want make. So, part of my process is scheduling what I want to create along with commissions for clients. Then, I get to work.

This guest bath in our Southern Living Inspired Home featured the Metal Stars wall covering and is adjacent to the bedroom below with Metal Stars window treatments and a bolster to complete the neutral bed.

What’s your favorite medium/material to work with and why?

My favorite medium and material to work with currently is paper. It takes more time to sculpt paper into objects and create dimension but, I love the journey.

What current trend are you following?

I follow design trends but, not necessarily art trends. I love unusual art as a collector.  I tend to like things that I have never seen before or a new way of investigating a subject matter or idea. I love that traditional homes are becoming vogue again. I am also swooning over the quiet contemporary rooms that seem to be on trend.

What is your proudest accomplishment as an artisan?

I have had some amazing moments as an artist. Owning my own company has been an amazing accomplishment and one that I never dreamed accomplishing. One of the highlights of my career is certainly being chosen as the Mint Museum artist for the Visionary Women’s luncheon last year. I cried tears of joy when I received that call. The entire event was so stunning! I had the privilege of creating art for the invitations, the table coverings and art for the front of the Mint  Museum. That was one of the most special days of my life and certainly the highlight of my career so far. I feel so blessed each and every day to have opportunities like that one and to create for a living.

Thanks for infusing color and happiness into the world Windy!

Artisan Spotlight :: Cindi Ornstein

We’re starting a new series on the blog called Artisan Spotlight!  We’ll be sharing artisans in the industry that we love. Our first artisan is Artist Cindi Ornstein, whose paintings we often incorporate into our designs.

When did you first realize you wanted to become an artist?

Growing up I was always creating. Because of that, art has always contributed to my identity. I took every art class in school, entering my first art contest at age 6. My parents always stressed the importance of a college degree and an understanding of business, so I pursued a career in fashion design rather than fine art.

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I currently live in Wilmington, North Carolina with my husband Paul and our 10-month-old Shih Tzu, Sake. Our career path started in women’s fashion where we designed and manufactured women’s large size sportswear in Los Angeles, being amongst the first to create current and fashionable clothing for this forgotten part of the market. The business took us all over the world and introduced a much broader look at design.

When did you start painting?

After 20 years in Los Angeles we sold the business and moved to Charlotte, NC. There I found my Southern roots. Settling in to a new city, and designing our home brought me into another design career… interior design. It was a natural progression as I have always loved the layering of paint colors, fabrics, textures, furniture and accessories in a room. I was fortunate to get to work on some great projects with drivers from NASCAR. When we couldn’t find art that was right for a job I went to work and painted it. Even painting very large-scale paintings for our own home the night before a party. That’s when I seriously started painting again and took oil painting classes from Curt Butler. My career path has been varied but I always knew I would pursue something creative. My husband always told me that my greatest work would be in painting.

Describe your creative process.

Anything and everything around me can be an inspiration. When I paint I start with a plan but I follow where the paint and brush take me. I build up layer upon layer until the painting is revealed. I love the push and pull of the buttery oil paints, and today I paint largely for interior designers and furniture shops, where I can use my experience with fabrics, interior design and art to create something that has the power to pull a room together. The greatest asset I have is my husband’s critique. He has the best eye and always helps me to see what I was missing. He frames all my pieces and we have spent most of our careers working together.

What current art trend are you following?

My work centers on inspiration from my local surroundings.  I find that saleable art today is more abstract and interpretive than ever. Using non-brush implements to get the basic shapes on canvas helps to give less information with more impact. I have created a color palette that is current for todays homes and is soft and environmental. I feel strongly that bringing the outdoors in with color will create a soothing living environment. I love that art can literally change the tone of a space in a way nothing else can.

What is your proudest accomplishment as an artist?

I pour myself into each layer of paint , so when people respond to my art it warms my heart. I started painting to express the joy I find in creating. My proudest accomplishment is the relationships I have with wonderful storeowners, designers, clients and fellow artists. I was fortunate to sell my work at B.D. Jeffries in Charlotte and I sold a large oyster painting to Charlotte Moss, for her beach home. That was a proud, feel good moment. Paula Deen also has an oyster painting of mine in her Savannah home.

I love what I do and am so grateful for the gift I’ve been given!

Thanks for sharing your talent with us, Cindi!

One of Our Latest Projects! Great Clients. Great Builder.

As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. I think the saying is appropriate for this project. We were fortunate enough to work with some wonderful clients throughout the construction and furnishing of their beautiful home. Kudos to Alan Blankenship, an incredibly talented builder with Blankenship Custom Homes!

Love this keeping room….cozy and comfortable!  I actually stopped by recently and found myself lingering a bit too long in that swivel chair.

This is a dream kitchen with state-of-the-art appliances. Notice the beautiful finish on the hood!

The finishes in this dining room are stunning….the faux finish walls and exquisite window treatments.

Now this is an office! Not a bad place to spend the day.

And, the bathrooms…let’s just say details are key!

Thanks, John and Lauren for sharing your home!  When we first met many months ago, we knew we’d be spending a lot of time together. I have to say, we’re missing you these days. Enjoy it all!

Photography by Dustin Peck

Inspiration in the Studio: can decorative painting

The summer months bring energy and carefree days (well, not always carefree but I like the thought).  Last Friday morning, we enjoyed a cup of coffee with Michelle California-Aguiar of can decorative paint, our favorite source for decorative painting and finishes.  Michelle and her husband, Davide, skillfully craft beautiful finishes for walls, ceilings, furniture….you name it.  She shared a few samples that we are working to incorporate into a current project….

We need to find the perfect fit for this design that is just beginning to beautifully evolve!

Lots of inspiration in the studio these days!  We’ll be back at it after enjoying friends and fireworks and independence…Happy 4th!

Making Progress on a Remarkable Remodel!

For the past several months, I’ve had the absolute pleasure of working on a significant remodel project. I find that remodeling is often more challenging than new construction. There are many challenges and obstacles that need to be overcome. But, there’s also something about the memories and character of an older home that I love. I’m always aware of the personality of a home and its owners…and this one warms my heart!

First, the before photos….


The kitchen was small and confining but with a load-bearing brick wall on one side and a staircase on the other, the options were limited. The answer became clear…say good-bye to the staircase! No need to worry, a second staircase can handle the traffic.


I love the character of the exposed brick wall….


The carpet was replaced with pine wood floors to match the adjoining dining and living rooms. The beams and paneling were painted to freshen the space. Believe me, I always struggle with covering the natural beauty of stained wood and this was a heavily debated decision.


The new kitchen with center island is fresh and functional. A few finishing touches are still needed…fabric panels in the chicken wire cabinets, great bar stools and the wine cubbies need to be filled with fine wines!


An arched opening replaced a window over the sink that opens to a new back entrance.


There’s a few details of this space that I had to share, like this fabulous backsplash of wine corks! We wanted a unique backsplash detail and our awesome client was up for the challenge. She agreed to tackle the project and I think the end-result was worth the effort!


A narrow back hallway needed something special too, so we painted neutral wide stripes on the walls and added a soft green on the ceiling.


And, who says a laundry room has to be boring? The soft green cabinets look beautiful against the mosaic tile backsplash.


We’re still working on the finishing touches and I can hardly wait to see it all come together! Who’s responsible for this remarkable remodel? Sid Cutts with Corbitt Hills Construction…and I can’t say enough about his talent and dedication to each and every project! And, of course, no project would ever be possible without patient clients who value fine craftsmanship.