The savvy owners of Bonne Nuit, a bedroom and bath boutique in The Promenade in Bonita Springs, know what Naples homeowners want. "High thread count, lightweight fabrics, bold, bright patterns and vivid colors," says Gloria Baur, an interior designer who opened Bonne Nuit in December along with her partner and daughter Dara Hall.
Hall is the chief linen expert, Mom handles most design dilemmas and is responsible for the dreamy vignette look of the spacious gallery, which has an airy feel conducive to lengthy browsing. The beautifully dressed beds are shown with side tables, lamps, throws, benches and chairs, giving the customer a sense of how the most special room of the home should come together.
"Often a customer will buy a complete set of bedding, including the iron bed, and then ask me to come to her home and make up the bed," reveals Baur. "It's part of our service, and I'm usually asked to also provide advice about furniture and window treatments while I'm there. People today want a coordinated but highly personal look to the bedroom and master bath, and it takes time and talent to acquire and organize everything." Baur says the most popular bed size in Naples is king.
An attractive and comfortable bed is worth having because a third of our lives is spent undercover. High concept iron, leather and ornately carved wood beds and fine European linens have never been more coveted by Americans, especially those who are well traveled and used to staying in luxury boutique hotels.
Baur and Hall know how to properly dress a bed to maximize both the design impact and relaxation level. Today, beds are composed in layers of luxury textiles, giving them a couture aspect and cozy feel.
Start with a new panel-type bed skirt, a significant improvement over the old kind that covered the box spring and required lifting the mattress. No more moving the mattress. Instead, you buy long and short panels in the fabric and color of your choice. The panels attach directly to the box spring with special pins (you push them straight in and it's easy). This way you can adjust the height of the bed skirt and can eliminate one panel if you have a footboard. Everyone definitely needs one of these new bed skirts!
Next comes a mattress cover. Scandia makes one in down for extra luxury. Now, layer on a feather bed (if you are using one) and cover with a deep pocket-fitted sheet (at least 17 inches) to encase, but not squash, the feather bed. The top sheet is next (remember, nice sharp hospital corners) and then a light coverlet. Add the down comforter in its cuddly duvet and fold it back so that it only covers the bottom third or fourth of the bed.
Pillows are next. If your headboard is high, you'll want three European shams (they are big and square). In front of those go two standard or king-sized pillows, the cases in a different color or pattern than the shams. Then toss on three or so boudoir pillows. These can be quite fancy-velvet with bead trims or embossed silk-because they are just for accent. You won't be sleeping on them. Drape a cashmere throw over a corner and there you have it, the perfect bed.
Fine textiles cost a lot of money (a sheet can be $600, a duvet can easily run into the thousands) but they are an investmentbecause a high thread count set of Egyptian cotton sheets will last for many generations when cared for properly.
How to care for them? The Bonne Nuit experts say never use bleach. Machine wash in a gentle detergent or a brand-name linen wash (Bonne Nuit stocks two). Tumble dry on a cool setting. By rights, fine linen should be ironed and sprayed with a scented water made especially for bedding. These fragrances in lemon, rose or lavender are soothing and make the sheets seem as though they were line -dried in a meadow.
Some people send their fine linens out to a laundry to be washed and pressed. Others have a willing housekeeper. And still others stand by the dryer, snatch up the sheets and rush to the bed to make it up before wrinkles set in, lightly spraying a mist-scented water as they tuck and fold.
The European brands carried by Bonne Nuit include Pierre Frey and Yves Delorme from France. From Austria there is Leitner; and from Italy, you can choose from the Anachini or Sferra Brothers line. These European sheets and coverlets are made for the U.S. export market and are sized to fit our beds. If you buy these same brands in Europe, they are made for European beds. Europeans usually don't care about fitted sheets, and their pillowcases are longer than ours.
American manufacturers are now attuned to the high thread count (above 350 per square inch) and fine Egyptian cotton. Among the best (and most expensive) at Bonne Nuit are Austin Horn, Ann Gish and Nancy Koltes. Besides all the yummy bedding, you'll find some lovely German cotton lingerie from Celestine, French Rance soaps, Shelley Kyle lotions and even an assortment of decorative tiny round tins holding flavored lip balms such as peach ($7). "A little added something when you kiss your sweetie goodnight," says Baur. I'll tell you what, these two women have thought of everything for the bedroom and luxury bath. You need to investigate Bonne Nuit.
Swedes For all Seasons
No doubt about it, this new century is starting off great for Sweden. The design world is heaping praise and focusing manufacturing efforts on reproducing the look of 18th-century Swedish Gustavian furniture, while collectors are hot for the real thing. Swedish tennis phenom Thomas Johansson won the Australian Open. Film director Lasse Hallstrom basked in kudos for the Kevin Spacey/Cate Blanchett movie, The Shipping News, and in New York, the super trendy Scandinavian restaurant Aquavit and its chef, Marcus Samuelsson, are making tasty culinary national news.
Most important for fashion groupies, 35-year-old Lars Nilsson has been named to succeed famed couture designer Bill Blass as the head of Blass' celebrated house of fashion. Actually, Nilsson has been on the job for just over a year and everyone seems satisfied with the way he's advancing the B.B. tradition of clean, modern American good looks, comfortable but tailored by day and ladylike glamorous by night.
When's the last time a Swede took up such a mantle? Not that Nilsson is designing mantles. He's much more into spring and summer day wear-separates, suits and slacks in those chalky pastel Swedish colors of pale greens, blues and yellows. At night he shifts to bold red or vivid yellow with plenty of beading and hand embroidery.
The tall, slim and affable Nilsson came to Saks Fifth Avenue at Waterside Shops in Naples recently to unpack a dazzling trunk show of day and evening wear. He brought 62 outfits ranging in price from $1,600 to about $20,000, and no one there sipping champagne and smiling was one bit concerned about the number of zeros on the tags. Most of these ladies have been to trunk shows before and love shopping this way.
A trunk show is kind of like demi-couture, explained the designer. The helpers show examples of what Nilsson has designed and guests can order the styles they want in the appropriate sizes. The process is somewhat couture-like, because you can order a jacket in one size, a matching skirt in another. You can try on the clothes. And you have some range of freedom of color choices and little details.
The level of personal service and special tailoring is higher than ready-to-wear, but you aren't buying a one-of-a-kind original that will be fitted on your body at the designer's atelier. However, the sales staff at Saks makes sure that an outfit doesn't get sold to more than one woman in the Naples geographic area. When you buy a Bill Blass, you do want a bit of exclusivity.
The Waterside Saks does not currently stock any Bill Blass. You can slap the racks for Dolce & Gabbana, St. John, Zoran, Dana Buchman and Escada. And Chanel has its own signature boutique within the store. But, as of yet, no Bill Blass. So, when the B.B. trunk show comes to town, it is a big deal.
A trunk show is a way to gauge trends up close and personal. And you see the clothes before the general public does. As a bonus you get to meet Nilsson, who has a rich couture resume for someone so young. Trained in menswear tailoring, Nilsson apprenticed in the Chanel atelier and worked with Christian Lacroix, Oscar De La Renta, John Galliano and Ralph Lauren before coming into the Bill Blass house. He's thoroughly comfortable in it and has made it his own,as the Naples trunk show beautifully demonstrated.
At home with design
It's not about price, it's all about design excellence and innovation. Look what Michael Graves did for the housewares at Target. Look what Nancy Young Mosny has done for the west coast of Florida with her hip showroom in Bell Tower Shops called Nancy Young. This ambitious Chinese-American woman, who grew up in New York's Chinatown, knows all about coming to terms with different cultures and drew upon her own struggle for her book "Pieces of Gold." She's lived in Austria, among other places, but when she began vacationing on Sanibel Island, she thought maybe she'd come home. Now, Young Mosny and her husband and family live part of the year in Manhattan and part of the year in Florida.
And, when the businesswoman is in this part of Florida, she checks on her eponymous retail emporium that is brimming with fun and chic, expensive and budget home accessories, most of them in the modern mode and all of them representing various contemporary cultures around the world.
Young Mosny is not a designer, she's a woman with a terrific eye and the expertise to gather the contemporary home accessories she admires into a gallery where shoppers can find their personal favorites. The Nancy Young store in Bell Tower opened in June of 1998 and it's been a destination ever since for the bridal registry crowd, tourists, young couples furnishing their first home, and discriminating homeowners outfitting a beach retreat with a modern twist.
One of the most popular collections is the serving platters,-bowls, vases and candlesticks made of palladium. A metal mined in Russia, palladium has a highly polished silver-like sheen, but never needs polishing because it doesn't tarnish. This naturally occurring element has long been used for making surgical instruments and nonmagnetic watch parts. Now palladium is seeing artistic uses in jewelry, silverware and home decor objects. Young Monsy has imported streamlined palladium pieces that are both practical and gorgeous.. It's no wonder brides covet palladium and sign up for plenty.
Not getting married, but want to have palladium of your own? "We have a holiday, birthday and anniversary registry for just that purpose," says sales manager, Amanda Baclit. "People who are about to celebrate an occasion or who want to alert friends and family to what they want for Christmas come in and register for gifts. We give them a stack of business cards and they just hand them out to friends and family. Shopping is really easy. Some of the gift-givers just call us on the phone, ask us to run down the list, and pick their gift. Our registry service isn't just for brides."
What else is there to love at Nancy Young? Beechwood and chrome bar stools that have an ergonomic seat modeled after a tractor seat. How about a colorful piece of Bohemian glass made and signed by artists in the Czech Republic? And check out the 30 or so black-and-white Italian wall clocks that have a definite Salvador Dali aspect. One seems to melt into the wall and is missing the two,three and four hours. Oh, well, time goes by and you need to go shopping!