Soft Spoken: Soft Surroundings Blog

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titleWhat is highlighting? What will it do for the skin? Can any woman at any age use highlighter? These are all important beauty questions that I get from a lot of ladies searching for ways to enhance their look. Accentuating a woman?s unique features is what my makeup philosophy has always been about and using a highlighter is the key to achieving that goal. Carmindy Radiant Glimmer Collection

After spending years as a makeup artists for countless celebs, models and also working with all kinds of women of all ages and backgrounds on my 10 year stint as resident makeup artist and beauty expert on TLC?s What Not To Wear, I created my signature look by using highlighter to play up a woman?s face. I call it Carmindizing because I personally believe makeup should be used to showcase your face not used to hide perceived flaws or change who you are.

In the past, makeup artists taught techniques on how to use heavy brown contour powder and creams to shade and change your face and features. This is a dated concept that only made women feel insecure about themselves and lower their self-esteem. When you use makeup in a positive way to highlight your natural face instead of contour and change it, you feel full of self-confidence and know that you are truly illuminated.

The best way to Carmindize and highlight your face is by applying a pearlescent shimmer in 3 key places. Apply it under the brows on the brow bone area (to light up your eyes), on the inside corners of the eyes near the outside of the tearCarmindu 5 Minute Face Kit duct (to make them sparkle) and on along the tops of the cheekbones (for skin that is radiant). Any woman of any age can use highlighter when it is refined and not glittery, so whether you are 18 or 80 feel free to Carmindize away! It is only when formulas are too glittery that it starts to settle into fine lines and wrinkles, accentuating them and making them look deeper. When a highlighter formula is refined, jet-milled and very pearlescent, it gives any type of skin, with any type of texture, a beautiful luminous look.

By just focusing on these 3 key places you will add radiance to the skin giving a light lifted effect and restoring the look of youth and vitality. My Carmindizing Highlighter Duo in Ethereal is a universal champagne hue that works on all skintones from fair to dark toned and has a split pan of cream and powder. Use the cream side for a more sheer daytime look and the powder side for a more intense evening look. Carmindy In Bloom Crayon Lip Set

Once you get into the habit of applying your Carmindizing Highlighter in these 3 key places then you can start experimenting on other areas of the face and body. Try tracing the outside perimeter of your lips before you put on lipstick to make your smile really stand out. When wearing a skin baring summer dress try blending on my Carmindizing Highlighter to the décolleté and down arms and legs to really get your glow on. So know you know what the true beauty secret is?..Carmindize and recognize your true beauty potential!


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It’s a well-known fact that no matter how large your home is your “stuff” expands to fill the space. Clutter and storage are the top two home décor dilemmas. So why not take a page from the French and try these five quick fixes for tricky spaces? We promise: not one of them involves a big plastic bin!

Doing double duty
The best way to loosen up some functional space but stay impeccably stylish is to find furniture and choose accent pieces that do double duty. For instance, if your favorite earthenware pitcher is great for serving lemonade in the summer have it hold cooking utensils in the off-season. You’ll save countertop and storage space.

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Our Kerstin Writing Desk is another model multi-tasker. With its French blue finish and glass-enclosed shelves, it serves as a pretty place to stow everything from stamps to curiosities. Now pull out the drawer and flip out the ebony writing surface and it’s a compact but ample desk. Two useful pieces in one.

Go up, not out
No doubt this lovely lingerie chest will be at home in any size bedroom, big or small. Its mirrored surfaces naturally dance light around a room to add glamour, of course, but also create the illusion of space.

Mirrored Lingerie Chest Mirrored Lingerie Chest

We were enchanted when we saw a mirrored chest like this in a home in France. It was positioned in a dining room on a narrow wall between two tall, magnificent windows. You would have thought it was made for the space, but it was simply a clever and unexpected placement. And so handy! The seven, slender stacked drawers on our reproduction are ideal to store linen napkins and rings, silverware, candles and more. And because the piece reaches up not out, it occupies much less space than a wide or deep cabinet or chest.

Minimum footprint, maximum impact
Another aspect to consider in respect to small and tricky spaces is the size of the footprint a piece of furniture covers. An overstuffed or wingback chair might look phenomenal, but use up too much precious floor space in your place. Perhaps an armless chair would be better.

Oval Back Side Chair wickerbasket

The French have a way of hiding one useful thing under another useful thing to get out of a tight spot. For instance, you’ll often see wicker baskets or trunks under console tables in French entryways. They become instant, secret storage for books, gloves, table linens, and even tennis racquets.

Another trick is to use nesting tables. Our Gilt Indochine Tables are designed with minimum footprint, maximum tabletop in mind. We love the circular shape and hand-applied gilding on these indispensible beauties.

wiretrunks nestingtable

Shallow can be a good thing
Of course we’re not talking about personalities! We’re referring to chests and consoles with long length but shallow depth measurements. Designs like these hug walls in narrow entryways or squeeze in next to beds in smaller boudoirs to dress out the space while adding storage.

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Place a furnishing like our Le Havre Chest in the area right outside your bath for a surprising twist. It’s narrow enough to fit in the space, but long enough to house anything from towels and sheets to soap and shampoo in its drawers. We love that it does the trick without “taking over” like an armoire might do.

Chic to be square
When you picture the French country kitchen or dining area in your mind, you instantly think of a big rectangular farmhouse table. But the French know there’s something just as special about the simplicity and symmetry of a square table, especially in a small home. It can be a comfortable spot for a card game or an intimate setting for a small meal. Our Dauphine Table with Bergere Chairs is just that. We adore the curve of its legs, the carvings on the sides, and the antique patina.

Dauphine Game Table gametable3

No matter the size of your dwelling, space is almost always at a premium. So take a few tips from the French: keep utility and aesthetics in mind and you’ll have a happy and comfortable place to hang your hat.




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 Watch and see how easy it is to apply the creamy gel liner using the Angle Eyeliner Brush to create two different looks. You will want to try it out immediately!


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If you can’t do something, don’t interrupt those who are doing it

What is your favorite Soft Surroundings product? Not Your Daughter’s Jeans

How would you describe your style? Classy casual

What item in your closet receives the most wear? Jeans

Do you have a signature accessory? Scarves

What colors or patterns do you gravitate toward? Blues, pinks, greens with small patterns or plain.

When have you felt your most beautiful? Knee length skirt with a fabulous short jacket and accessories such as a scarf.

Name one beauty product you can’t live without. Moisturizer

What one woman do you most admire and why? Christie Brinkley has great style, beautiful low profile make up habits, and believes that age is to be done gracefully , but with acceptance. Beauty comes from within.

What’s your passion project or hobby? Gardening & quilting

How do you relax? Crocheting, reading, and baking.

Quote to live by     “If you can’t do something, don’t interrupt those who are doing it”.


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gildedtitleThe French have an inexpressible way of making their mark on a room by combining simple, pared-down, rustic pieces with luxurious ornate ones. This technique adds visual interest, depth and surprise. There is a new direction in home décor—one we like to call “The Gilded Age”—and it’s a perfect example of this French styling approach.

5 ways to capitalize on the trend toward gold

 1. Juxtaposition.  Keep an eye out for accent pieces and design elements that have a touch of French gilding or a warm bronze finish to them.  They don’t have to be big or dramatic, although that’s great too!  The juxtaposition of gold glittering next to the worn patina of wood, or the pastel washes of French verdigris suggests the Palace of Versailles, without being over-the-top.

Take, for example, our Fleuri Switch plates.  They are inspired by fleur de lis and classic acanthus leaves on 13th and 14th century French cathedrals.  Imagine how their gold finish will accent a switch on a mottled terra cotta or grey-blue wall.  We use a multi-step gilding process to give them that catch-the-light allure.

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2.  Drama. Another way to infuse the mystique of gold into a room is to add a bold linchpin piece. Our signature Gilt Mirrors make that kind of impact.  The French stylists scoop up mirrors like our Avalon or Guinevere and hang them in entryways, over vintage sinks and vanities, or above stone fireplace mantels.  They instantly give a room old-world charm and modern chic.


We’ve seen French homes with more than one gilt mirror leaning on the mantel, layered with the smallest one in the front.  It’s a brilliant way to bring dimension, angles and shine to the space.

Or consider hanging French gilt mirrors on a wall surrounded by picture frames that have a gold perimeter around the center art.  The glints of bright metal tie the ensemble together and dazzle with drama.

3. Versatility and Longevity.  By that we mean seek out and buy gilt items that nod to the current trend, but will also serve as glittering focal points this holiday and beyond.  There’s no better example than our hand-gilt Martini Tables.  Next to an archetypal French wingback chair, one of these tables is “everyday” enough for a cup of chai and the crossword.  Then, put a potted spruce or glimmering bowl filled with boxwood balls on it this holiday, and it’s the epitome of an authentic French Christmas.

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4. Other Precious Elements. All that glitters is not gold.  Sometimes it’s bronze or antique brass!  But the direction is definitely away from silver, chrome and stainless—those cooler metals—and toward the warmer ones.  That’s why you’ll see more and more gilt and bronze adornments on larger pieces.  For instance, our Parterre D’eau Demilune table has a hand-rubbed ivory finish, with bronze swags, fluting and crests.  The affect is a slightly regal twist on a simple favorite.

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Another way to take advantage of the movement toward gilding without investing a lot of money or space is through our gilt architectural fragments.  We always get a huge thrill when we bring back architectural bits and pieces from our trips abroad. They never stop inspiring ideas! Our Acanthus Fragment is a perfect example.  Use this ‘found treasure’ as a paperweight, or fill a vintage basket with a quite a few and place them on a desk or console.   You’d be surprised how much attention they get.

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5. Light the way. Gilt chandeliers are one of the quickest ways to give a room the glamour of gold.  It’s even better if the chandelier is dripping with crystals.  The combination of facets and finish catch and reflect the twinkling light.  Ours exclusively, the Eleonore Chandelier is just the right mix of metal and glass.  It effortlessly adds a little Hollywood opulence to a romantic bedroom or dressing room. Big or small, finishes to furnishings, anywhere you incorporate gilt elements into your décor you’ll feel the shift to cozy warmth.  That’s why “The Gilded Age” is so popular and why the French have embraced it for years.




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alexandramTwenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do…

What three words best describe your style?

Classic, sophisticated and preppy.

My idea of a perfect day…?

As a writer, I especially enjoy bringing my laptop to the beach so that I can work on my projects with the ocean as a backdrop.

Who has most inspired your fashion sense?

As a petite woman, I’ve always admired Susan Lucci’s style. Whether being herself or playing her signature role of Erica Kane, Ms. Lucci is ever elegant and impeccably dressed.

What one fashion rule do you always abide by?

Dress for the season.

The biggest fashion faux pas (mistake) I ever made was…

A too-tight perm. It was the 1980s.

What article of clothing is at the top of your shopping list?

Cashmere sweaters.

Describe what’s in your travel beauty bag.

Sunscreen with varying SPFs, gel moisturizer, lip gloss, bronzer, and nail polish in a bright coral.

The best beauty advice I ever received was…

To treat my skin very gently.

Name your signature scent.

Sicily. In homage to half of my heritage.

How do you unwind?

By taking a walk through a cemetery. They are, in a sense, outdoor museums and reading the inscriptions is thought-provoking. Nor, can the serenity be beat.

Where is your favorite place to travel?

Anywhere there is a beach.

Do you have a passion project or hobby?

I photograph cemetery statuary and mausoleums. This exquisite mortuary architecture is a lost art.

Describe the most memorable gift you’ve ever received.

A full-length shearling coat, which was a birthday gift from the special man in my life. It sure did keep me warm this winter.

How has your style evolved over the years?

I’ve learned to better accessorize.

One item I never leave the house without…


Quote to live by?

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

What is your favorite Soft Surroundings product?Silk Cashmere Robe

The Silk Cashmere Robe. It’s beautiful in every color.


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Steamy summer days can be a challenge for all skin types, especially oily, but did you know that excess oil may actually be helping you age more gracefully?

Oil Schtick
Sebum, your body’s natural oil, can cause breakouts and excess shine, especially in the sweltering summer, but before you scrub away the oil, consider this, your natural sebum is vital to moisturizing, lubricating and protecting your skin and hair. In fact, many dermatologists believe that oily skin ages better with fewer lines and wrinkles, a more even complexion and even fewer dark spots.

oilyskinThe Original Natural Moisturizer
Sebum emulsifies with sweat to create the acid mantle, the thin layer of moisture that forms a protective barrier on your skin. The acid mantle keeps skin soft and supple, slowing the evaporation of water and moisture. Oily skin is thicker and more plump because the acid mantle is stronger allowing your skin to retain water better. After menopause, sebum production naturally slows, so skin that may have once been too oily, may be just right now.

Vitamin E
Skin-loving Vitamin E is produced right in your own oil glands. By virtue of having more sebum, oily skin has more Vitamin E goodness. A natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, Vitamin E neutralizes free radicals giving you greater protection against sun damage and other environmental stressors. This free radical busting vitamin boosts the effectiveness of sunscreen and naturally reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

vitamineA Better Clean
While you might be inclined to strip away all of the oil on your face, it’s important to note that overcleansing can disturb the delicate pH balance of the protective acid mantle, inviting dryness, irritation, even bacteria. If your skin feels tight after washing, you’ve probably overdone it. Look for pH-balanced cleansers with Alpha Hydroxy Acid or Glycolic Acid, which are kinder to more mature skin, yet still effectively wash away skin-dulling debris.

Yes, Moisturize
Even though oily skin is naturally moisturized, it’s important to still use a lightweight oil-free moisturizer or you risk sending oil production into overdrive as skin tries to compensate. Moisturize with Retinols at bedtime to control oil production and boost cell turnover. Alpha Lipoic Acid, a potent antioxidant more powerful than Vitamins A or C, also regulates oil production. A favorite of famed dermatologist Dr. Nicholas Perricone MD, Alpha Lipoic Acid also provides the added bonus of refining pores by sweeping away pore-clogging impurities and visibly minimizing pore size.

Perricone MD Intensive Pore TreatmentShiny Happy People
With that extra oil usually comes too much shine. But before you completely blot it out, remember that young skin is dewy and fresh, so a little bit of shine is actually a good thing, giving you a naturally youthful glow. To temper the shine, opt for primers and mattifying lotions. Blotting papers are great for on-the-go touch-ups. For makeup, choose oil-free loose powders over creamy foundations which can slide off oily skin. And shimmery makeup is best left to winter when there’s less shine to compete.

Acne Busters
The acne of your youth is not the same as the breakouts in later years. And products designed for the teen market, like Benzoyl Peroxide, are simply too harsh for mature skin. Anti-inflammatory treatments with Salicylic Acid can dry up the pimples. Be sure to get a lower strength of less than 1%. A clay mask can also safely deep clean and soothe irritation, drawing out impurities and reducing acne-related redness. Acne typically decreases as we age, but if you’ve noticed an uptick in breakouts and redness, it might be time to visit your dermatologist. Rosacea, in addition to hormonal fluctuations, can be behind your adult acne.



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