A self-proclaimed Francophile (perhaps I was a chic Parisian in my last life!), I have always adored country French design and architecture, especially gorgeous exposed beams. Rustic and enchanting when mixed with modern interiors, exposed beams have a way of adding an unexpected and dashing level of detail to a home. I remember several years ago attending an engagement party at a breathtaking estate here in the Big D, and upon entering the living room, was greeted by a grid of reclaimed exposed beams, perfectly juxtaposed with an incredible collection of abstract art – c’est magnifique! And so, inspired as always, here are some beautiful uses of exposed beams. Which is your favorite?
Birmingham Home & Garden


Social Etiquette: Mastering The Art of Small Talk

Many of my blog posts arise from real life experiences, and today’s is no exception, dear readers! While waiting for my wheels at the car wash last week, a precious little tot and her mom sat down beside me. Being that my baby bump is at it’s prime, the woman asked about my due date, if we knew the baby’s gender, etc. – basic small talk, and a lovely conversation at that. We chatted until both of our cars were spic-and-span, and then parted ways. That very same day, an MBB reader kindly requested more posts about the art of socializing and small talk – how timely and inspiring given my recent interaction, and of course I had to write about it! So what is the secret to striking up a sparkling conversation with a new friend or with a acquaintance at a fabulous fete? Follow these five tips and you’ll be the reigning queen of small talk. Enjoy!

  • Smile and engage: Smiles will always be in style, so flash your pearly whites and introduce yourself. If you’re unsure of how to engage with your new found friend, consider offering a genuine compliment – it’s a tried and true way of starting a conversation. Keep in mind, the first tip also applies when someone else is initiating the conversation with you – be friendly!
  • Be open: Ask open-ended questions (and ask for their opinions) and offer open-ended answers to keep the conversation flowing. So if you’re spending the afternoon at a charity luncheon where small talk is on the menu, instead of asking the person sitting next to you, “Have you been to this luncheon before?” (this could be answered with a yes/no) try “How did you become involved with this organization?” (this could be answered with an intriguing story). 
  • Share the spotlight: Focus on the other person (really perk up those ears and listen!), and tailor the conversation to them. For instance, at the car wash, while the woman I was chatting with asked me about my pregnancy, I asked about her darling daughter, life as a mom, etc., giving her a chance to be the center of the conversation. 
  • Light and breezy: Just as it sounds, small talk is meant to be light and breezy, so stay away from anything controversial (religion, politics) or too personal (your love life, a recent illness) and instead keep the dialogue about airier topics (travel, movies).  
  • The perfect finish: When it’s time to bring the conversation to an end, a simple “It was so wonderful chatting with you, I loved hearing about X. Have a great day/night!” works beautifully. Also, in the event you’re at a sensational party and ending a conversation (perhaps your cocktail needs a fresher),  consider “It’s been fantastic chatting with you. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to grab another glass of champagne, but I hope to see you again soon!”