Nothing like some pretty things to take your mind off sadness, right? IKEA is kind of killing it this year with their new lines. And I love the dark/moody + shiny art direction. 

I'm not a big fan of talking about the holidays this early in the year -- in fact, it kind of enrages me. But I would like to paint a thing black and then throw a bunch of shiny stuff all around it, right this second. 

Hey, sexy lights. Come over to my house and we'll have a dimmer party. Hee. "Dimmer party."

I always find myself getting way into plaid in the fall/winter months. It's just so cozy. And that wallpaper! GIVE IT TO ME.

I will have this chair, and I will sit in it, and I will feel like some sort of Scandinavian style celebrity. The end.

PS. Thank you all so much for your sweet comments, emails, and carrier pigeons. They all made me cry, in the good way. xoxo.

AuthorAB Chao
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This post is brought to you by Illume Candles.

A couple of weeks ago, over the weekend of my Minneapolis mini-camp, I was invited to spend a day at the Illume Candles headquarters. Look! They made me a sign, y'all!

The creative team and actual candle-making factory are all contained in one building, so I got to see lots of exciting things, starting with their shelves and shelves of already-made candles. I accidentally stole them all.

The creative team's offices all look like this. I am not sure how they became so cool, but I was not asking questions. I was mainly gawking. 

"Oh, I think I'll just play with some watercolors here on this table, trying to come up with some ideas for next year's designs," said a cool person who knows how to use watercolors.

Don't you wish your inspiration board were baller like this? I do.

After a little tour and a few minutes drinking coffee and walking around meeting everyone -- yeah, I met the CEO of Illume Candles, we're best friends now -- it was time for a tour of the factory.

First up: the Burn Room. The Burn Room consists of about a million candles all going at once, and all being tested for something different: flame height, something called mushrooming, vessel temperature, smoking, burn time, and fragrance throw (there's cold throw, which is how the candle smells when it's not burning, and hot throw, which is how the candle smells when... it IS burning. I am now a candle expert.)

There was one room dedicated to all the different fragrance oils, powders, and pigments. And there were wicks! So many wicks, you guys. Did you know that the wick is chosen depending on the particular candle? Now you do.

Something is happening above which I do not remember, but which I do know looked super cool. I was tempted to pocket those awesome wooden squares, but I did not, because my outfit didn't have pockets.

Then we went to the back of the factory, and all of a sudden I was in an episode of Breaking Bad. I was assured that there were no meth-making products on these shelves. Allegedly.

Making candles: it's kind of like baking with Crisco. Each candle has its own individual recipe, and everything has to be measured and checked off extra-carefully to ensure identical quality across batches. This is just one of the vats that the candles are mixed in. I resisted the urge to taste it.

Wick-holder-downer thingers! These are for safety, so that when one's candle burns to the bottom, there is still a little wax left and no one starts a fire. Also they are for looking really cute in large barrels.

The wick machine, which -- you guessed it! -- attaches the wicks, is apparently very fancy. It's German, from whence many fancy wick-machines hail.

These gorgeous pillar candles are made in something that resembles a springform pan. See? Candle-making: it's a lot like baking. Except, sadly, you cannot eat the end product. 

Here is an Essential Jar candle, from start to finish. Please also note Jenny's cool rings.

And, suddenly, the tour was over. I was a little sad, because I could have stayed in that factory all day watching and learning. To assuage my sadness, Jenny (my Illume contact, tour guide, and other new best friend) had planned something called Crafternoon, during which time the creative staff all sat around a big table eating chocolates and mod-podging fabric onto trays. Apparently they do something like this every week. Um, WHAT? Hi, I work here now.

We got the tray idea from Martha Stewart, and the fabric from Josi Severson (in whose adorable shop I held my camp!).

Since the people at Illume are basically the sweetest people in all the land, they sent me home with lots of candles. The ones you see below are their Coconut Milk Mango pillars, and, along with smelling super-dreamy, are the perfect shade of pale pink. I've been really into pink lately.

Jenny encouraged me to burn several candles at once to make up a WHOLE NEW SCENT, and...y'all, she is kind of a genius. Below: Garden Sage Starlight Tin, Amber Dunes Essential Tin, and Coconut Milk Mango Essential Mini Tin. The combined scent smelled like butterscotch and summer. I'm still sitting here, right now.

Thank you so much to everyone at Illume for such a fun adventure! I hope to burn your candles for many days henceforth. I'll be back next week for Crafternoon.

Photo: Meredith Pardue

Perhaps you have seen certain paintings on this site, or heard me talk about my friend Meredith Pardue. Perhaps you have loved, admired, yearned for one of her beautiful paintings. Well, you are in luck, reader, because she has just announced two new shows, for your viewing + purchasing pleasure!

1. EDEN: Opens October 4, 6-9 p.m. @ Bryant Street Gallery, in Palo Alto.

2. THE ELYSIAN FIELDS: Opens October 12, 6-9 p.m. @ Laura Rathe Fine Art, in Dallas.

Go! Go! Go! Wait, where are you going? It's not until October.

AuthorAB Chao
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Oh, hello. Are you a super-awesome expert knitter? Perhaps you know one? Because I would really like to have this blanket happening in my life, but I cannot find one anywhere that is as perfect. And, really, what is a blog for if not to find a stranger on the Internet from whom to commission work? I ask you.

Photo: Abigail Ahern

Are you the knitter for me? Hit me in the comments.

In other news:

I spied this little ring today via Design*Sponge's IG feed, and now I feel I must have one. Or two. Or maybe ten. Is ten nine too many? Maybe.

This has been today's edition of "Things AB Chao Wants and/or Needs Immediately." Enjoy!

AuthorAB Chao
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I received an awesome email yesterday from one of my former campers, and I just had to share. Grace, who attended the Austin camp, wrote a lovely letter and attached these truly great before and after pics of her dining room. Design Camp is basically the most fun I have ever had at a job, and getting emails like this is part of the reason why. Grace writes:

I attended your Design Camp in Austin last summer (and loved it!). I thought I'd include a few before and after pictures of my house to show you what we've been working on since Camp. I keep thinking I'll send some when we finish this or that, but it's never really done, is it? 

I had a baby at the beginning of the summer and when our photographer came out to take newborn pictures of our girl, she took some of our house as well. The problem areas I had shown at Camp were my dining room/breakfast nook and my bedroom.  In our discussion at Camp, you suggested painting the dining room black, painting and recovering the chairs, and taking down the plate racks and hanging my collection of plates together. My husband and I have tried some crazy paint colors in the past, but I don't think I'd ever have been brave enough to do black without your suggestion. We did it and we love it! Oh, and you are so right about how pictures allow you to see the room in a new way. Since we've gotten the pictures back from the photographer, it's made me see so much better what things need to be changed or moved around, etc.  So interesting how much it helps just to look at it as a picture.  

There is a hallway to the right of the dining room, and we are currently making arrangements to have wallpaper put up.  I've been dying to have wallpaper somewhere ever since Camp and can't wait for it to happen. My husband and I really enjoy doing house projects together and he always seems to get on board with an idea of mine quicker if I say something you told us in Camp.  For example, in advocating for the wallpaper:  "AB told us that you shouldn't neglect hallways...."  Camp was such a special experience for me.  I will always think of it with such fondness.  

Thank you so much, Grace, for your sweet letter. And without further ado, let's look at that dining room! Before:

Aaaaaaaaand... after!

Photos by Hannah Kate Photography

It's gorgeous, right? I think so. What a transformation you can achieve with just a few changes.

Oh, and hey: do you want to come to camp, and you live in or near Raleigh, Washington, DC, or New Orleans? You're in luck. Sign up here! A million thanks to Grace for sharing!

AuthorAB Chao
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Way back in days of yore, when I lived in Arlington, Texas, there existed a show on the Oxygen Network called Inhale with Steve Ross. Having yet to contract the adult-onset athleticism that would afflict me in my thirties, I decided that taking up yoga was the perfect non-exercise exercise for me. After all, I had been a gymnast for years: how hard could it be?

Reader, it could be hard. So hard, in fact, that I could barely finish the first episode I tried. But I tried it again. And again.  And eventually, I grew addicted to it. I also grew amazing arm muscles, but that's neither here nor there.

When we moved to Monroe in 2003, we no longer received the Oxygen Network; thus, no more Steve. Now, this was before the days where you could download/watch things on the Internet, so I made my friend Pam -- who had introduced me to Inhale, so this was all her fault anyway -- tape some episodes onto a VHS TAPE and mail it to me. Y'all, I wore that tape out. In fact, I bet I could do every single one of those episodes from memory, right now, with a yoga mat tied behind my back. Unfortunately, the show was unceremoniously cancelled in 2010, which made many people very sad.

There is an entire website devoted to bringing Inhale back, if you're interested.

Anyway, when I made a Life List, one of the items I included was "Attend a yoga class with Steve Ross in LA." And then I kind of forgot about it and never scheduled it, even though I am in LA pretty often. Lucky for me, Beth Pointer, the sweetest person in all the land, remembered seeing it on my life list and scheduled a class for me during the week of my LA Design Camp. Is that not the best thing ever? I believe it is. I love you, Bethers.

And so it was that I found myself in Steve's studio at Maha Yoga one Tuesday morning, wearing Uniqlo pajama pants and an ill-fitting tank top (I forgot to bring anything to wear, because I am not smart). It was so exciting when Steve walked in and hollered, "Stand up!" JUST LIKE ON TV, Y'ALL. 

I need not tell you that the class was amazing; the format was very similar to the show, but longer and with more poses, and a more extensive variety of music (Thrift Shop, holla!). I was nervous that I wouldn't make it since I haven't done yoga in a while, but it all came back to me pretty quickly. Also, Steve smiled at me a bunch of times and said, "Having fun yet?" JUST LIKE ON TV Y'ALL.

After we were all done, I told Steve that I was there because attending his class was on my life list, and he seemed to be tickled about that. Also, we hugged. I know, no one likes a bragger. But I hugged Steve Ross, people. As if that weren't enough, the sweet Maha Yoga folks emailed me a few days after class to make sure I had liked it, and to tell me that Steve really enjoyed having me in class. What? OKAY.

At the very end of class, Steve had us lie on our backs and tranquil music was playing and he kind of instructed us to let in whatever thought came to mind. As I lay there in that Los Angeles yoga studio, the word that kept echoing in my head was, "Grateful. Grateful. Grateful." And I am, for so many things in my life. Thanks, Steve.

AuthorAB Chao
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