"Those who have experienced Paris have advantage over those who have not. We are the ones who have glimpsed a little bit of heaven, down here on earth." - Deirdre Kelly

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Temple Atelier

This sign hangs over the doorway to Temple Designs
and was custom made for me by the fabulous folks at Family Attic 

"Sanctuary, on a personal level, is where
we perform the job of taking care of our souls"
- Christopher Forrest McDowell

I love the word Atelier - the French word for the workshop of an artist in fine arts. After years of dreaming about having one of my own, the thing that spurred me to actually create one was the realization that I actually dearly needed a Sanctuary. A sacred space that was fully and completely mine.

While the notion of having an Atelier was always romantically appealing, I never needed one. My bedroom, my whole house really, was my creative space - I didn't need a specially designated room.

Ma chambre a coucher (my bedroom - still a work in progress)

But after I married Mr. Gorgeous that changed; my bedroom was no longer solely my own. The arrival of my beloved three little ones, combined with my steadily growing academic and art projects, meant that diapers, toys, camera lenses, books and papers, paints and paint brushes seemingly competed for space in every room, on every surface.

One afternoon, after I spilled an Apple juice filled baby cup on a term paper I was correcting on the kitchen table, I knew that it was time for me to have my own hubby free, baby free space. Moreover, I was feeling suffocated. There was not one room in our home that had not given way to the primacy of motherhood. There was no where I could go, close the door, and just...work. I wanted, needed, a sacred space that was fully and completely mine.

I realized that I not only needed an Atelier, I needed a Sanctuary...

We've got this tiny room off the garage, completely removed from the rest of the house - perfect. Of course, Paris inspired every inch of this room.

My budget was very small, so I began by rummaging through our basement: the glass and column desk I designed (from my college days), picture and photo frames, a few tables and lamps. My inspiration board is framed by an antique frame from the 1920s (from my mother-in-law's basement). I just lined it with dime-store corkboard - et voila.

Next, I 'appropriated' furniture from other rooms in my house: the settee and floor lamp are from my bedroom, the benches from by bedroom and bathroom. I purchased the Paris pillow covers from Sa Sea Boutique (an Etsy shop, of course). I got a few yards of toile fabric and with it I made the blanket that covers the settee and recovered all of the benches and footstools (I love my staple gun!)

Since matting and framing pictures/photos is so expensive, and I got tired of my treasured Paris 'watercolor nudes' sitting in their packing, I matted them on their cardboard packing and tacked them to my wall. There's quite a story about the Purple watercolor. This photo of me standing at the entrance to my favorite flower shop in Paris (on Ille St. Louis) has been in my basement for 10 years. Well, no longer...
Parisian inspiration, imagination, rummaging, repurposing, recovering, etc. got me a very long way in creating my Sanctuary. Better yet, it allowed me to splurge on a few pieces...
My glorious petite ventless fireplace

Two of the walls of my room are sliding glass doors, so my room can get really cold in the winter. I've always loved fireplaces, but of course it would have been way too expensive to have a traditional one installed. But I really wanted one. So I did some research and discovered ventless fireplaces. They look and work like a traditional fireplace but, behind porcelain logs, you put 1-2 cans of Real Flame Gel Fuel Cans - just pull of the top and use a fireplace lighter - et voila. You get real flame and heat, no fumes, and it actually crackles.

My conundrum was that the only available wall space is very narrow. I found mine, appropriately named the 'Tillman Petite Fireplace' at Amazon (@ $150). I put it together in about 30 minutes and painted it white. A case of 24/13 oz. cans of Gel Fuel costs $80, also at Amazon (free shipping). Of course you'll go through more cans in the winter - but it's glorious to have a hot crackling fire when you're working late. And I did say it was a splurge - and well worth it.

Crystal Chandelier Fantastico!

For me, there's nothing more Parisian than a crystal chandelier. I got mine, for a crazy reasonable price at Gallery 802. Their prices are so reasonable (but still a splurge) because they send your chandelier to you in pieces. So this splurge, should you choose to indulge, comes in two parts: the cost of the chandelier and the cost of someone to assemble and install it (if you live in Chicagoland I've got a handyman extradordinare for you).

My shabby chic armoire

This splurge was actually practical too. I found this armoire at the Treasure House Reseale Shop. It's located in a pretty swanky 'burb so a lot of their donated items are tres high quality pieces that would be ridiculously expensive at retail. It's very heavy - Sal (handymany amazing) hauled it to my garage and, after I painted it white, it took 3 of my neighbors and Mr. Gorgeous to wrestle it into my room. The doors slide into the armoire and it's got three electrical outlets (from it's former life as a tv cabinet). It holds all of my academic and art supplies, and I can hide the jumble I can't seem to get rid of behind the lovely doors - how fabulous is that?

The beautiful antique marble topped, gold legged table was a gift from my aunt; the chair was my grandmothers (I found the pillow at Pier 1), and I got the area rug for a great price at Overstock.com.


Sanctuary has a tiny deck - boundless inspiration awaits. The 'Ravinia' table is from Crate & Barrel (@ $30). The Teak deck chairs are 20 years old. The pillow chair backs are 20+ year old purchases from Pier 1 (that's also where I got the outdoor rug, for @$20 on sale). I covered the pillows with handmade slip covers (from left over toile fabric - did I mention that I love my glue gun?). I got the faux terra cotta planters from a local nursery (Home Depot, etc. has them too, for very reasonable prices). Yeah, I'm trying to figure out how to put a fireplace out there too. I don't think it will be possible. Maybe one of those outdoor heaters (Costco has them for ridiculously reasonable prices-hmmm)?

The perfect spot for a bit of French Press in one of the Monet demitasse cups I brought back from my last trip to Paris.

Yeah, there's a chandelier out there too. I found a plug-in outdoor chandelier for $100 at Amazon. The beads came from my Christmas tree ornament collection. A pair of scissors + a bit of twine = bling!

One of my favorite things about my tiny deck is my perennial potted garden:

Who knew that you could grow Catnip in a pot?

My SnapDragons take a long time to bloom, but when they do - wow!

Tiger Lillies
these are in the ground, but I wonder if I can get them to grow in pots? Hmmm.

Hydrangea Bush in my front yard
Yes, I said bush. And it's the size of a Volkswagon Beetle!

And what do I create in my Atelier? Jewelry and Fine Art Photography inspired by Paris...

The Paris Earrings (earwire or clip-ons)
*all bracelets and earrings are available as sets or a la carte

Emeraude Chandelier Earrings (with an interesting backstory).

I also create Fine Art Photography inspired by Paris...

Boundless Readers, 2011
I've also donated my photography to some wonderful causes

At first, my Atelier/Sanctuary was my opportunity to create my own private Paris. With no regard as to whether or not it was kid friendly or too feminine for Peter to feel comfortable in. But having this dedicated space allowed me the time and space - literally and figuratively - to freely further explore my photography and jewelry making. And this freedom encouraged me to start Temple Designs. This post is much longer, and much more detailed, than usual. But that's because I'm hoping to inspire you to create an Atelier/Sanctuary of your very own. For you to have for yourself a sacred, safe space where you can fully and freely perform the job of taking care of your soul...

Vivre! Rire! Aimer!



  1. What a wonderful sanctuary. It all looks lovely...I could move right in...
    Bonne week-end,


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