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Manner & Lane: A Southern Lifestyle Guide for Women
 
 
Forever Flowers Wedding
 
Muncle Fred Art
 
Loving well is an art, and certainly marriage is the ultimate expression of that kind of love. It seems only fitting then that some of the trappings of a wedding day be enduring and artful as well. Atlanta-based Kayla Stagnaro couldn’t agree more: after designing and cutting her own felt wedding flowers – each one a tiny work of art all on its own – she, along with her friends Michaela Namynanik, Jessica Namynanik and Meghan Vettraino, cultivated the idea for Muncle Fred Art.

Now, from Australia to Britain to Japan, this Southern-grown flower shop is inspiring brides to accentuate their weddings with little bits of art in place of traditional flowers. Muncle Fred Art has effectively laid the stepping stones into a garden of fresh ideas for the modern-day bride. This online-based company provides handmade, hand-cut felt flowers crafted into anything from bouquets and boutonnieres to their newest addition of the bunch: table pieces.

With scissors and glue as their tools and more than 50 shades of felt as their palette, the ladies at Muncle Fred Art (the curious name is a nod to the girls’ sense of humor: a mis-heard reference to Jessica’s reference of “my Uncle Fred.”) got to work. Seemingly simple tasks of cutting, gluing, folding and rolling felt into shapes of various flowers in reality takes hours upon hours of meticulous work, which can only be created by a certain eye for beauty.

So why choose an alternative path for wedding flowers? “They last forever, you can use them as decoration afterwards, guests can take them home, and they make great gifts for bridesmaids,” owner, Kayla, explains. Visions of fresh foliage and flora, intertwining with the memories of a wedding day, remains a keepsake and a memento to be cherished forever until their inevitable bestowing upon future generations.

Photo by Chris Henderson Photography

 
 
 
Home Away From Home Decor
 
HomeCreating an inviting space in which guests feel truly welcome is the hallmark of hospitality, something for which the South is certainly revered. For Austin-based Heather Blue Harkovich, owner of Heather Scott Home & Design, designing and creating these welcoming spaces is her life’s work. “It is important to pay attention to the details,” she says. “It is the little touches . . . You want to signal that you thought about your guests and what they needed before they arrived.” Here, she shares some of her best tips for crafting a guest room so inviting your visitors might not want to leave.

Bedding. Make sure you have quality, well-fitted sheets that are freshly laundered. White is a great color because it’s always in style and it makes you feel like you are staying in a hotel. Also, if it is machine washable, it will stay fresh and bright much longer.

Lighting. Be prepared to offer several layers of lighting for your guests: you need overhead lighting (such as recessed can lights or a chandelier), as well as sufficient task lighting, such a good-sized lamps on the nightstands.

Windows. Make sure your guests have the opportunity to sleep in by providing them functional window coverings. Blinds are great for privacy, but another layer on top, such as blackout curtains, are a fabulous indulgence for visiting guests who probably rarely get the opportunity to sleep in.

Pillows. Give your guests some options for pillow comfort by placing extra sleeping pillows in the closet. That way, they can choose if they want feather or firm. Don't load up the bed with six or seven decorative pillows that guests have to take off and put on the floor each night.

Furniture. Don't overcrowd the room with your cast off furniture. If you have antique family pieces, use them as nightstands, but don't put furniture in your guest room that doesn't comfortably fit. It's nice to have open shelves and some reading options for your guests, such as recent bestsellers, local guides or the latest copies of magazines. And, since this isn't a room that gets daily use, think outside the box and select a non-traditional nightstand for added personality.

Colors. Color schemes are incredibly personal. Some people love orange while others hate it. Regardless of personal preference, I think one should strive to make a guest bedroom welcoming and relaxing. This can be achieved through the use of colors that remind one of the water or ocean, such as pale blues, pale greens, creams and sands. Even if your guest likes vibrant decor, they will still be comfortable and able to relax in your home.

Restful. If you have the room, it is really nice for your company to have a place to sit (such as an upholstered bench at the foot of the bed or a window seat), other than the bed, to type some emails or get the latest sports results.

Details. Don't forget to add a few personal touches before your guests arrive. Fluff the pillows, put fresh flowers in a vase (even a simple bud in a bud vase) and provide some drinking water, a working alarm clock and notepad and pen. Also, if you have one, write down your wireless internet code and place it on the nightstand for your guests to use. These simple touches tell your guest you took the time to think about them and are glad for their company.

 
 
 
Reap What You Sow Culture
 
FarmIn a society that thrives on convenience, it can be easy to get swept up in the chaos of our everyday lives, especially when it comes to our eating habits. Many of us choose ease and accessibility over health, usually followed by a heavy dose of guilt. But Marlena Bolin, proprietor of Girl Next Door Farm, has a deep understanding of the reward that comes with a hard day’s work and the increasing importance of having access to fresh, chemical-free produce.

A Louisville native, Marlena has farming in her DNA. Her mother and father grew up in rural agricultural communities, and both sets of grandparents owned farming operations. However, this farmer’s story doesn’t begin in the field. After studying Cultural Anthropology at the University of Louisville, she worked in the legal world for four years. Health problems swayed Marlena to switch her diet to organic, plant-based foods, so she began volunteering for several agricultural nonprofits. This led to a full-blown farming internship where she learned the intense labor and steadfast dedication that is necessary to yield produce.

In 2010, she rented out a plot of land and commenced her own farming operation, though she admits that it wasn’t easy. “My first season, everything went wrong that could go wrong. I was unsure of myself, unsure of the land,” she says. But that didn’t put a damper on her spirit. Marlena learned from her mistakes and had a prosperous second season, adding CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) shares where local residents invest in the farming operation in exchange for a box of fresh produce each week. She’s even offering a unique “work-share membership” allowing people to work 12 hours a month in the field for a discounted CSA rate.

Now, as she reflects upon her most recent growing year (while also gearing up for the new season), it’s safe to say Girl Next Door has a wildly successful farming operation. “This year was amazing. Everything is working much more efficiently, and I feel very happy about the product I’ve produced,” Marlena says. She’s growing about 40 to 50 different varieties of vegetables. Beets, squash, carrots, Swiss chard and heirloom tomatoes (she’s even growing some of her great-grandfather’s Pink German heirloom seeds) are just some of the bounty that Marlena’s land yields. In addition to her CSA shares, you can find her produce at the Rainbow Blossom Market in Louisville and local eateries including Harvest Restaurant and The Root Cellar.

Like her ancestors before her, farming is Marlena’s life now. She has big plans to eventually expand and buy her own property where she can add fruit orchards and bramble bushes. Marlena’s devotion to the land is obvious in the way she speaks about it. “I’m married to the farm. It’s my family. All the seeds out there are my little babies,” she says.

 
 
 
Lathered In Good Fortune Beauty
 
Good Fortune
 
For Jennifer Jack Strain, her entrepreneurial spirit made its debut early in life. At just ten years old, she was the proud owner of a profitable friendship bracelet company called Jennifer Fantastics. As she grew, so did her love of all things handmade, and in 2006, she decided to make it her life’s work. While researching to create handmade soaps as gifts for friends and family, she was quite literally washed over with the idea for a line of eco-friendly bath and body products, and Good Fortune, based in East Tennessee, was born.

“I approach my recipes as a scientist would,” Jennifer says. “I have really sensitive skin, so I’ve done my research on natural ingredients that moisturize without irritating.” A line of body, shaving and facial cleansers derive their benefits from essential oils, fatty cocoa and shea butters, while steering clear of synthetic colorings and fragrances. Her soaps, for instance, get their luscious pigments from natural ingredients like cocoa powder, cinnamon and a variety of herbs.

Scents like Peppermint Tea Tree (All Purpose Soap, $5.95) are organic and light with ingredients that act as natural antibacterials with a tingly, refreshing finish. Sandalwood Lavender Element room spray ($8.50) is a personal favorite for Jennifer. “It’s manly and herbally – so relaxing. I keep it on my nightstand and spray my pillow every night before I go to sleep,” she says.

The faucet soaps (like Sweet Spice or Grapefruit Orange, both $10) – a modern take on the soap-on-a-rope – are another go-to, lasting as long as two months, even with daily use. Contained in hangable mesh bags, they lather up to create a loofah-like experience. After a shower, the soaps can be hung to dry and solidify.

Beyond creating products that are merely functional, Jennifer aims to create products that are inspirational. Soaps are packaged and tied up with quote cards that embody her devotion to love, faith, courage and strength. “I want to share things that have helped me on my journey. I want to make a difference in someone’s day or life with encouragement.” Now, that’s good, clean living.

 
 
 
Southern Views: Amber Perley Style
 
AmberSometimes, our childhood affinities are an excellent predictor of future passions and provide the perspective needed to understand that our strong drive is really a calling.

Such is certainly true for Dallas native Amber Perley, who started sewing when she was just eight years old; fashion has been in her blood ever since. After a stint with designer Charlotte Ronson and a position in the buying department for Neiman Marcus, The Louisiana State University grad launched Texas-based Pearl Southern Couture in 2008 and began navigating the tricky fashion-design world on her own. Five years later, her big break may now be just around the corner as she’s one of 13 designers competing on NBC’s Fashion Star Season 2, debuting March 8. Below, Amber shares her individuality as a designer and her love of a short hemline.

How do you describe your design style?
Classic, feminine, bohemian and preppy.

Being a designer is tough. What led you to the show?
Being a fashion designer entails more than just designing. You’re running a business, managing a team, designing for the modern-day, American woman and trying to sell, sell, sell. Fashion Star also reflects the instant gratification customers have grown accustomed to with online shopping. Viewers see the design on the runway, and they can buy it online that night. After building my company up for the past four years, I realized what a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity it would be to get my designs in front of these buyers and millions of viewers.

Do you have any design signatures? What about your work makes it distinct?
First and foremost is a good fit. I pay special attention to fit and detail. I love to create a tailored dress that has a very feminine feel and shows off a woman's best features. If you see a deep cut-out back on a cocktail dress or off-the-shoulder ruffles, you know it's a Pearl Southern Couture dress.

How do you think being from the South influences your design aesthetic?
I think being from the South gives me a more feminine and funky approach to design. I love color and short hemlines! My customer wants to throw on a dress that she can wear with cowboy boots or heels.

What are some of your favorite materials?
I work with lightweight and breathable fabrics that have movement. I love working with linen, chiffon, lace and cotton. I want my customers to stay comfortable and cool.

What kind of woman do you design for?
My customers range in age and size, but they are all in search of a well-made dress that fits well and that they can keep in their closet forever. They want a dress they can wear to a special occasion that most likely no one else will be wearing. She is an outgoing, social, professional woman who loves a beautiful dress.

What was it like being on the show, and how do you think this will shape your future?
Being on the show was such a wild ride! It was such a surreal experience being filmed and working with and against other designers. Getting feedback from the buyers and mentors was invaluable and such a great learning experience! My involvement with the show and the exposure my line will receive will no doubt grow my company and shape my future as a successful fashion designer.

Do you have any favorite boutiques in Dallas that you particularly love?
Growing up in Dallas, I was a frequent shopper at Neiman Marcus. My grandmother and mother started taking me there at a very young age. It was such a treat to have brunch in the Zodiac Room downtown and see the Christmas displays in the windows. Also, Hemline carries my line and you can find their boutiques in Dallas, Austin, New Orleans and in numerous other Southern cities.

 
 
 
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