This week's Quick Fix: How to update a 1950's fireplace

My latest Quick Fix comes from a former client who is stumped about how to update a tired, 1950's corner, brick fireplace. When I first visited her soon-to-be new home, I was instantly drawn to this nook. There is so much charm and potential in this bright, sunny space. It just needs a little imagination and TLC to modernize it.

I feel like this little corner is a missed opportunity. It's screaming out for something to break up the sea of brick and needs some architectural detail and a hit of symmetry to shine.

Here are my suggestions to make it sing, without blowing the budget:

1. Paint the brick. Creamy white or a lovely gray will make this fireplace sing and coordinate well with the colors the homeowner has chosen for the house.

2. Fake it. Since the firebox doesn't actually continue around the corner, the focal point seems lost and the fireplace imbalanced. I'd recommend treating both walls as one and wrap the mantel around the bend. On the wall that's "fireless" I'd add some lanterns with candles in varying heights beneath the new mantel, in lieu of a firebox.

3. Beef up the mantel piece. The narrow shelf that's currently in use feels underscaled. Adding a thicker mantel will create a more distinct focal point.

Here's a moodboard I created to give you a visual (photos below are clockwise):

And last but not least

4. Accessorize. Add a basket for blankets, or a vessel to stack wood or some tools on the raised hearth. Decorate both mantels with simple, pretty frames, mirrors, plants, etc. Treat them the way you would one mantel with a vignette like these:

What Quick Fixes have you given to your old home to modernize it? Send me a picture! I'd love to share it here on the blog. Are you looking for a Quick Fix of your own? Be the first one to comment on Facebook with your design dilemma and I'll tackle your project and share it next week.

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Giveaway Winner!

Congratulations to Nicole of Bellmore, NY, this week's winner of the Quick Fix Giveaway! Like many of us, Nicole's television is the unofficial focal point in living room/dining room combo. In combined open spaces and solitary ones alike, how can we take the emphasis off the big black box and make it play more nicely with our surroundings?

1. If you can't hide it, embrace it! Including the television in a gallery wall can work wonders if you have the wall space.

 image via  Apartment Therapy

2. Disguise it. Modern Farmhouse style is all the rage these days. This shuttered cabinet from Ballard Designs (it's on sale right now too!) is a great find for a wall mounted unit.

3. Surround it with simple shelves. If your budget is tight, you're fickle or you rent, this idea from Decorola is a great option.

Next week I'll be sharing Nicole's specific dilemma, her inspiration pictures, and my Quick Fix remedy. 

Until then, enjoy your weekend. Do you need a quick fix for your specific design dilemma? Stay tuned for your chance to win one next week or e-mail me today if you can't wait!




Summer Slow down, new services and a Giveaway!

Hello friends! I hope your summer has been full of long, lazy days, sunshine and adventure with the ones you love. I don't know about you, but I try to go off the grid a bit as the kiddos get out of school and the days grow warmer. This summer though, I've been busy with some new clients, and I'm happy to say, developing some new services for you.

In an effort to introduce you to them and to reignite my blog a bit, I'll be giving away my new Quick Fix service to a reader each week until Labor Day.

Here's how to win:

1) Check out the details of the service here. You don't need to live nearby to win this service!

2) If you haven't already done so, please drop by my FB page here and Like it or follow me on Instagram.

3) E-mail me with your specific design dilemma at .

The first reader to email me will receive a free Quick Fix design Consultation!

Thanks for visiting and good luck! I'll announce the winner here on Friday.

updating my son's room

About a year ago I had a vision for my son's room which you can read about here. I figured that my kiddos' rooms would be a great lab for my design practice and his was long overdue for an update. (It was painted as my daughter's nursery almost ten years ago.) My obstacle was overcoming the hoarding and mess I wrote about earlier this week. It got to a point that I kind of just closed my eyes and shut the door and felt completely unmotivated to tackle it.

Now that the clutter is cleared and the room has been purged, I'm ready to give him a room that he can enjoy and will still work as he grows older. Below is the board I created last year, inspired by the dog print he chose on vacation.

I really loved this plan and felt excited about its possibilites. He, on the other hand, wasn't feeling the grey trim and white walls. Instead, he wanted bright orange walls with Kelly green trim and a zebra striped ceiling. Kind of cool but I'm not that good a  mother! I could only think of the beast repainting orange walls would be. So we talked about it, Googled and searched Pinterest for inspiration for a compromise. Here's what we came up with:

Green walls  and white trim like these rooms:

 This room was the first we stumbled on via Pinterest. Check out Erin's blog  Whaling City Cottage  to see all the details of this fabulous  ORC  entry.

This room was the first we stumbled on via Pinterest. Check out Erin's blog Whaling City Cottage to see all the details of this fabulous ORC entry.

rooms above and below are Benjamin Moore's Bunker Hill Green

  Whitney McGregor' s son's room as seen on  Design Sponge

Whitney McGregor's son's room as seen on Design Sponge

The colors we considered are from l-r: Benjamin Moore  Bunker Hill Green, Sherwin Williams Envy and BM Raleigh Green.

Given that Eamon was a good sport on compromising, my more subtle pick (Raleigh Green) was vetoed in favor of SW Envy.  And I can't wait to get started. Here's my updated board with some accessories that will most likely make their way into the space. 

1. a custom portrait of our late dog Cedric, per Eamon's request from this Etsy shop // 2. a ceiling fan like this one from Overstock // 3. simple white roman blinds embellished with some trim like these from Country Curtains //4. adorable elephant  hooks  // 5. a desk similar to this one that I scored for $40 at a thrift store! //6. this elephant pillow (that's his thing these days)

Once the broken window I smashed (you can see that on Instagram) painting its trim is fixed tonight, I can get started!

Have any of you let your kids in on the process of decorating their rooms? I'd love to see your pictures. You can share them in the comments below or on FB or Instagram.

Have a great weekend!

when your kids are hoarders

Like most modest, post war homes in the 'burbs, functional storage through much of our house is lacking, but our kids' rooms are a different story. The previous (and original) owners raised six boys here, so creative solutions and space planning was a must. When my son was born, my husband and I moved downstairs deciding to keep both kids together on the second floor. Let's just say they got the good rooms: the ones with multiple closets and drawers built into the crawl spaces which they totally don't deserve! Until a few weeks ago, more often than not,  their rooms looked like this.

 Spending any time in my daughter's room made me lose my mind, so much so, that tackling the much needed facelift felt impossible.

Spending any time in my daughter's room made me lose my mind, so much so, that tackling the much needed facelift felt impossible.

 Even the dog is uncomfortable in this mess. Believe it or not, this shot was taken mid-purge so the floor near my son's  Batcave was actually ten times worse before taking this shot.

Even the dog is uncomfortable in this mess. Believe it or not, this shot was taken mid-purge so the floor near my son's  Batcave was actually ten times worse before taking this shot.

 I understand that they're 7 and 9 and developmentally, not really capable yet of the kind of organization that makes me happy. Over the years, I've tried to set up systems for them and give them the tools they need to be neater, but they've never stuck, and honestly, it's my fault. Often I would only be up there first thing in the morning and at bed-time. After a long day, homework, dinner, activities, etc., the mess was forgotten until it was time for bedtime stories and tuck-ins. This would often turn into the time where my husband or I (but usually me) would start to twitch and yell and declare tomorrow after homework, clean-up time. 

The problem was, they really didn't know how to clean up well and old, outdated toys needed to go. I needed to give them more specific direction and not expect them to clean up the way I would.

The solution? Start with a blank slate. Or as close to a blank one as we could get. I spent an entire rainy weekend after Christmas purging, with their help. I was pleasantly surprised at how good they got at letting go of what they didn't love, use, like or need anymore, but I'm not going to lie. It was daunting and disgusting and I didn't know where to begin.

By Sunday evening their rooms looked like this:

Now, I feel like I can see clearly and  begin to make the updates that will make their rooms function for the long run.

Below is the haul of items ready to drop off at our local thrift store. There were also at least six contractor bags at the curb. It looked like we were moving.

So how do we maintain it going forward? Here are the tips that are working thus far, almost a month out:

1. Keep the instructions and expectations fairly simple. Instead of a laundry list of what needs to be done each day, I'm trying to be realistic and have them tackle the biggest offense. My rule is that the floor must be clear of everything (papers, Legos, toys, clothes, etc.) each night before bed. If I see it the next morning it goes in the garbage can! So far this has worked well and I haven't stepped on a Lego while barefoot yet.  I will give a little guidance, because my son honestly can be standing on top of a pile of laundry and not notice it beneath him, but that's about it. Once they've got this down, we can branch out to desktops and dressers, etc.

2. Be present and follow through. At the end of the day, no matter how tired I am, I've changed my tune and walk through the space with them. This is definitely where I fell short in the past. They usually head up to bed 10-15 minutes before we come to read and they spend part of this time clearing the floor, etc.

3. Show don't tell. Sounds simple enough, but I wasn't always good at this. Each morning when I wake them up now, we make their beds together. They help me, I teach as we go, and eventually, they'll be able to do it well on their own. I hope.

All in all, there's a lot less yelling, they want to spend time in their rooms and they're eager to have a say in how I redecorate their spaces. I hope they'll learn to take pride in their surroundings, and learn a few life skills in the process.  I know that they will get messy again, but I'm hoping we've turned a corner and we keep the hoarding at bay.

Are your kids hoarders too? What works for you when tackling a room that's out of control? Stop by later this week to see an updated  design plan for my son's room.

comfort food: a favorite family recipe

Friday I spent most of the day in preparation for Saturday's blizzard. By preparation I mean stocking up on wine and making my dad's version of my great Aunt Terry's sauce, or as she called it, gravy. (My dad and I can't quite pull that off.) It's my go-to each time a big storm is in the forecast, one because it's hearty, warm and delicious, but also because it's inherently comforting.

Aunt Terry was the only Italian in our family and I looked to her as another grandmother. She's been gone far too long, but I still see her so clearly. She was short. Really short and gave the best hugs. She had jet black hair that I never saw out of place (I can still smell her hairspray), and always wore perfectly applied red or pink lipstick. She was fastidious, tidy and loved her soap operas. She watched them on a little television in the kitchen. Sometimes I would join her to watch One Life to Live or All my Children. We spent hours at her table playing Yahtzee and Racko while my dad and uncle played Cribbage. She had an arsenal of slip on Keds and button down blouses that were like her uniform. On the night she died,  I remember seeing them lined up in her closet so neatly. I was struck by how much seeing them made me feel like she was still there.  She was funny and warm and for the weeks we visited each year, she had a knack for making everything feel special, even doing the dishes together. She was my home away from home.

Somewhere along the way, Aunt Terry who was born and bred in California, taught my very New York, Irish dad how to make her gravy and eventually, my dad taught me. Beyond scrambled eggs and waffles, it's really the only meal I remember my dad making. And he makes it really well. I remember him making it when the weather would first get cold or when we would have a big crowd over. My mom loved it too, but would spend at least an hour cleaning up after the fruits of his labor. I think of this every time I make it myself and find sauce splattered on the cabinets. One time after a group fishing trip it was cure all for my seasickness.  To this day, it's true comfort food.

In a lot of ways, my dad and I are pretty similar and we have a very easy relationship. We get each other's humor and often use it as a means to deal with unpleasant ends. I remember his cooking lesson so clearly. It's something I'm really grateful for. No matter how far away my dad is, or how many years my aunt has been gone, a part of them is with me and alive when I prepare it. My kids now look forward to this meal the way I always did and ask me to tell the stories that go along with it. 

I know this recipe isn't anything too original, and that every Italian family probably has their own way of making but good food is meant to be shared. So, as Aunt Terry used to say, "Mangia!" and enjoy.

my California-New York inspired "Gravy"


2 cans (28 oz) crushed tomatoes ( I like Cento or San Marzano, Dad likes Red Pack ; )

2 cans (28 oz) tomato sauce

1 medium onion chopped

1 T garlic, minced

olive oil 

Italian seasonings, to taste (I use dried but add fresh herbs as well when I have it)

garlic powder, to taste

fresh basil, parsley or oregano to taste, optional

sweet Italian sausage in its casings (1 package/6-8 links)

hot-Italian sausage in its casings (1 package/6-8 links)

Pepperoni (depending on the crowd, I buy one or two sticks and cut them in quarters)

sugar or red wine, to taste

salt and pepper, to taste (and about 1/2 teaspoon for the base)

1/2 t (or more depending on your taste) of crushed red pepper flakes

serves: a lot! maybe 10-12


Brown the sausage in olive oil (enough to coat the bottom of a pan) for a couple of minutes on each side. They do not have to be cooked all the way through at this point. Reserve for later. In the same pan, add garlic and sauté  just until fragrant. (add more olive oil if needed)

Add the onions and cook until soft, about 2-3 minutes.  Season with salt, pepper, Italian seasonings and crushed red pepper flakes. Add one can of the tomato sauce and a half of a can of crushed tomatoes. Stir and simmer (low to medium heat) for a few minutes. I usually add a little red wine or sugar at this point to balance out the sweetness and acidity. Adjust the seasonings to taste here a little, but don't go crazy trying to get it perfect yet. 


Get your meat ready. Add the browned sausage to a large pot. If I'm using both sweet and hot sausage, I cut the hot sausage in half before I add them. This way when I'm serving them I can distinguish between the two. If using pepperoni, I cut the sticks in quarters. 

After 5-10 minutes of simmering the base on fairly low-medium heat, transfer to the large pot that has the meat in it. Add the remaining cans of crushed tomatoes and sauce. Add a little more seasoning, sugar or wine and let it simmer for a while before tasting again. Keep the heat low-to medium and stir frequently enough to avoid having the sauce burn or stick to the bottom. 

The beauty of this kind of sauce is that you can let it simmer all day and really let the meat flavor it or just simmer for an hour or two depending upon how much time you have.  I've found that the more I leave it alone in the beginning, the better. That pepperoni is my dad's secret weapon (not anymore). It really lends some fantastic flavor. Continue to adjust the seasonings to your taste and preference as the day goes on. I recommend not going too heavy on the salt, as the meat is fairly salty. At the end, I usually add more sugar or wine, salt, pepper, garlic powder (or a little Adobo powder) and Italian seasonings if it needs more depth. 

When you've gotten it where you want it, serve and enjoy with your favorite pasta, a salad and some warm bread and the rest of the wine you were cooking with ; ). Oh, and be sure to freeze the leftovers.

What recipes do you find comfort in? I'd love to know. You can share them in the comments or on FB or Instagram, or email me:


making real life rooms work: vol. 1

I daydream of a house with a fireplace: a gorgeous, double-sided fireplace that draws you in and beckons you to relax.

There's a living room with multiple seating areas for lounging, napping, playing games with the kiddos, watching tv and entertaining friends.

It has an entry that's spacious, but welcoming and not ostentatious at all. It's stylish and functional and there's a place for everything. It makes getting out of the house in the morning an organized breeze  and the giant dog is never underfoot.

And then I woke up. It's all totally unnecessary and impractical in our modest 1948 Cape that sits on a pretty small suburban postage stamp. It certainly won't happen when we downsize someday, so there's reality to contend with and I'm guessing many of you are in a similar predicament.

It's easy to get carried away in our daydreams when there is so much access to images like these, especially when working with our own spaces can be like figuring out a puzzle. Last week,  I asked you what the challenges were in your living spaces, and one of the most common responses I received was how to place furniture that provides enough seating in a small and/or open concept space. I struggle with this myself in my own living room (more on that another day), so I thought I'd share a few tips and ideas over the next few weeks about how to make the space we have work better for us. 

Today's tip?

 Embrace the sectional

I used to be anti-sectional, at least for my long narrow living room. We had one from a friend when we first bought our house. It was incredibly comfortable and really nice but, eventually, stained beyond repair when the kids were babies. It was also better scaled for our friends' open basement, than our skinny living room. There's the lesson. It's all about scale when shopping for any furniture, but especially a sectional. They can provide a lot of seating and a place to lounge but they key is to find one that isn't a monster. 

This sectional is definitely a larger scale than I might go with and has pretty beefy arms,  but, it makes use of every inch of the space, creates an entry out of a room without one and looks so comfortable. 

This one is right up my alley. It has simple clean lines and could really work with any style. I like that chaise has a bit of a back which offers an extra seat or two.

 image via The Madcap Cottage

image via The Madcap Cottage

This traditional and kind of preppy option has rolled arms, but they're not huge. Paired with a small slipper chair and an ottoman, it uses the space well and has a really inviting feel.

 images by The Lettered Cottage featured on the  blog Southern Hospitality

images by The Lettered Cottage featured on the blog Southern Hospitality

Another great choice from The Lettered Cottage, this sectional works great for those of you with long, narrow spaces, like me. It offers plenty of seating and still provides room for a pair of similarly scaled arm chairs.

Here's a round-up of some great options from accessible retailers at different price points. I haven't personally sat in any of them, but they are definitely worthy of a look based on their reviews.

   1.  //  2.  //  3 . //  4 .//  5 . //

1. // 2. // 3. // 4.// 5. //

Tips for choosing a sectional:

1. Measure. Measure. Measure. After you've measured your space and looked at the dimensions of the sectional, tape off those dimensions on your bare floor with painter's tape. It will give you a sense of how it will fit in your space. If you don't have an empty space, draw the space out on graph paper within the dimensions of your room. Don't bring anything into your space that won't fit or makes walking/living in the space a hazard.

2. Don't be afraid of their size. Sometimes, large pieces can actually make a small room feel bigger. The key is choosing the right scale for your room. Stick to pieces that are not overstuffed (think of the reclining variety) with pillow back cushions and arms. Also, try to avoid overly large arms which can eat up a lot of space. Instead, look for narrower arms or clean lines. Make sure that the scale you choose relates to the scale of any other chairs or tables etc. in the space. (don't have a tailored, streamlined sofa and a huge overstuffed recliner.)

Does you have a sectional you absolutely love? If so, please send me a picture! I'd love to share it here. You can email me here.

comfort food

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I spent the weekend purging my kiddos' bedrooms. This turned out to be a full, weekend-long project, beginning Friday night and ending before dinner yesterday. Just to keep me on my toes, I made a quick trip to the ER vet at 2 am Sunday morning too. Nell is fine, but needless to say all of this produced a ton of laundry and sleep to catch up on, so tonight, dinner is all about comfort and ease.

Thankfully  in the midst of this, (please note sarcasm) my husband went to B.J.'s and came home with one of these:

 because don't we all need a  hot dog steamer??

Yeah. I don't know how we've lived without a hot-dog steamer all these years either, but I may as well take advantage of it.

Tonight I'm in the mood for comfort food. I'm pairing the dogs with home-made macaroni and cheese. I know I said last week that I was trying to eat healthier, but some nights, you just need a dinner that's a little sinful. At least, I do.  I am trying to reduce the amount of processed stuff I make, so in lieu of the boxed variety, I'm using this recipe and adding a green salad and brussels sprouts. That should make up for all the bad, unnatural stuff in the hot dogs, no?

Macaroni and cheese with tater-tots mixed in. I've made this before, most recently on July 4th, and it's always a hit.  It's ridiculously delicious and decadent, but simple and down-to-earth. It's good for a weeknight meal, or a casual party with family and friends as it can be made ahead and baked just before serving. 

What are your weeknight dinner favorites? Any guilty-pleasure comfort foods that you love?

Feel free to share them in the comments or on FB or Instagram.

Okay. Back to Monday. 

Hope yours is going well,

one living room, two ways

This time of year, I'm always trying to figure out how our living room can function and look better for the next few months of nesting indoors. Once the Christmas decorations are put away and the tree comes down, I spend a day or two (or more) moving furniture around, vacuuming up pine needles, and moving things some more.  Since I'm still midway through this process,  I thought I'd share a living room design that's a bit more fresh and inspiring.

A few months back I designed one living room, two ways for a local e-Design client. She truly had a blank slate for me to work with, but had no idea where to begin. As much as she might disagree, my client had good taste and a home with great bones (they had previously gutted and opened up a very chopped-up floor plan). Like so many of us, the dilemma was that she didn't have the objectivity to move forward, so she lived with a pretty unfinished shell that functioned poorly for everyone. 

With two small girls and a dog, this busy young family needed a space with practical, durable finishes that could withstand some abuse, and handy but hidden storage for toys.  She also craved a grown-up space that was interesting and chic and incorporated her love of unfussy, clean lines and a crisp grey and black palette. This became my jumping off point and the thread between the two different options I created for her.

Option A is definitely the most traditional and buttoned-up of the two designs. If you're unsure of your style or where to begin, you can never go wrong with tailored, classic pieces, but that doesn't mean they have to feel old-fashioned. Here the upholstered pieces have traditional forms but feel contemporary because of the fabrics, patterns and finishes. A good tip when working with a room full of geometric shapes and boxy lines is to balance them with a few rounded shapes and patterns like I did with the cocktail table, lamp and coral pillow. The round table also allows for more room to circulate and eliminates sharp corners for little heads and knees. To keep this room from feeling too formal, I added texture and softness with an area rug and draperies that lend a casual vibe to the space.

aqua pillow / coral pillow (similar to) /  sofa / cocktail table / accent chair / media unit / end table / lamp / drapes / rug

Option B is still grounded by fairly traditional, clean-lined pieces, but it was my opportunity to inject a fun, youthful, yet still chic quality to the space and give my client a slightly unexpected design. The two colors she mentioned wanting to incorporate in small doses were red and aqua/blue. As soon as I found the oblong, Schumacher Chiang Mai pillow, I knew where I was headed. A tufted ottoman in a blue pulled from the pillow has a feminine shape and can function multiple ways. I sourced wood finishes that would relate to the nearby dining table which add warmth and a causal feel, while providing great storage. To add more levity and contrast to the room, I chose a few mid-century inpsired pieces inspired by the sofa. They blend well, creating an eclectic, but really livable space to relax, play and entertain. 

sofa / ottoman / accent chair / media storage / console table / end table / standing lamp / table lamp / rug / mulit-colored pillow / aqua pillow / red pillow / drapes

The beauty of this kind of project and having more than one option, is that it gets the wheels spinning for my clients and it can for you too. Whether they choose to purchase all or none of the pieces I source, it gives them a road map and can serve as inspiration to take matters into their own hands as their time and means allow. At the end of the day, I truly believe that designing for real life and all its challenges can still be functional and stylish.

What's the biggest challenge in your living space? I'd love to hear some thoughts on the design dilemmas you face.

Happy 2016: Trying to get a healthy start.

Happy 2016! I hope that your holidays were happy and you had a chance to rest, reflect, connect and make merry.

We did a lot of that around here. Since I've had children, I've come to really enjoy December 26th and the week that follows. I'm in no rush for the big day to be over, but it's nice to get a chance to slow down, catch my breath and enjoy the gift of time.

That said, I'm ready to get back into a routine today and so is my waistline. I don't typically make too many resolutions because, honestly, I'm terrible at keeping them. I like my wiggle room and the word itself is a bit unforgiving. I do like to start the new year off with some goals though, and at the top of my list is eating better. I don't mean dieting, because for me, that's where it gets sticky. I do mean eating more mindfully, planning in advance more thoughtfully and focusing on less processed ingredients. I got to catch up on some reading this week and found a bunch of great, very doable, relatively healthy dinners in January's Southern Living. (Even though I'm born and bred in NY, this is one of my favorite magazines.) I thought I'd share a few that I plan on trying below, in case some of you have similar goals. And sometimes sharing your goals makes attaining them a bit more likely.

Chicken with carrots and potatoes. This one dish meal, all prepared on a baking sheet looks delicious and gives me time to help with homework and multi-task while it roasts. I'd throw a simple baby spinach salad on the side since my kiddos are more likely to eat that than the carrots.

Honey-soy-glazed salmon with oranges. We all pretty much like salmon, and it's so quick and easy to roast. I'm always looking for new ways to prepare it so we don't get bored. I would add some raw green veggies to the table like cucumbers, baby carrots and celery, because in all honesty, my kids enjoy those. I always make them try the vegetable I prepare, but I'm realistic. I didn't enjoy asparagus until I was 30.

Pork chops with roasted apples & brussels sprouts. I don't make pork chops often. I have bad memories of dry, tough, flavorless chops from childhood (sorry Mom) but when they're done well, I love them and so does the rest of my household. Again, the brussels sprouts may not be a hit with the kids, but they'll love the apples. 

I'm already optimistic that having a loose plan for the week ahead will help start me off on the right foot. It will also make my shopping trips less tedious. 

Are you a menu planner or do you wing it?

I'd love hear some of your favorite recipes and tips for menu-planning. Feel free to share them in the comments or on FB.

Christmas vignettes: day one & avoiding a seasonal meltdown.

I woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. I was up too late. My kids were up too early fighting over the bathroom, complaining about the gorgeous weather and lack of snow. The dog was being a weirdo hiding under the kitchen table from me (she's 91 pounds) hoping to avoid her eye drops. Most of December I'm usually like an overgrown Christmas Elf. I have every intention of not caving to the hustle and bustle of this busy month. And then somehow I realize Christmas is ten days away. And I crack, every year. By ten a.m. it was time to check myself and hit the reset button.

If I'm honest, I know I won't be "done" until the very last minute. It's who I am: constantly fluffing, preening, adding a ribbon, taking one away, moving pillows from room to room. I accept it and embrace it. It's actually one of the things I enjoy most about this month. When I'm feeling Grinchy, playing around with my decor is a good distraction.  Cutting back on the amount of "stuff" I put out has helped me find ways to be creative  and therefore more relaxed,  (shopping Amazon Prime has too) so this week I'll be sharing a series of Christmas vignettes that help me keep things simple yet festive.

These candlesticks belonged to my aunt/Godmother who passed away not too long ago. Her birthday would be Friday and she's been on my mind. Although a bit tarnished these are a sweet reminder of her. Paired with my Pottery Barn reindeer, simple white candles and my large bowls, this vignette adds a neutral, quiet dose of Christmas atop my fridge and out of the fray.

You've seen this corner before. It's one of the most functional spots in my kitchen and I'm always tweaking it to get it to work harder for me. The silver drinks bucket holds mason jars with all the tools my kiddos need to do homework and create the comics that are their latest obsession. My favorite Homegoods lamp, a clipping from our Christmas tree and a small collection of sentimental art and photos make this corner pretty for me and practical for them.

These little moments in my home don't shorten my to-do list,  make my dog less wacky, or my kids stop bickering, but they bring me some joy in the midst of the craziness which goes a long way in my book.

How do you avoid a seasonal meltdown? 


I'm back. And with a new look. Maybe even a new outlook. I took a break from the blog thinking I would reset and figure out what was holding me back. I have this tendency to focus on the future maybe a bit too much. When I'm constantly looking at where I'm heading, it's often hard to take advantage of the moment and its opportunities. Having a plan is a great thing, but planning, for me, can get in the way of being and doing.

So, here I am, in the present. And it's pretty nice most days, but I'll confess, other days it's challenging. Like a little kid sitting in church in fancy, itchy clothes, I feel confined and hemmed in by the stillness. In that stillness though, when I do tap into it, is a well of good stuff. 

It's that good stuff that I thrive on, that brings me comfort and excites me. It's what makes me productive, creative and passionate. It's what challenges me and makes me think and it's what I want to share with you. You'll still find lots of design-inspired posts here, but what I've learned from this hiatus is that to me, home is more than the beautiful things we fill it with. It's full of messes and noisy kids, tiny kitchens and wonky floors, good food, simple meals lots of imperfection. 

I hope you'll continue to follow along with me as I explore and share these themes of home and everyday life. I also hope you'll chime in and share your own thoughts and experiences.

I'm happy to be back and excited to see how this whole resetting thing unfolds.

How do you "reset" or recharge when your plans have other plans?



What We're Not...

You probably thought I quit blogging didn't you?

I haven't.

I've just been blocked. I love design and really do think about it all the time. In fact, my brain is brimming with ideas for my spaces so much that sometimes I get in my own way and inertia sets in. I'm always waiting to find that perfect piece or find the time to paint that wall or make those slipcovers and then it's all too much at one time and I find myself stagnant instead of diving in.

I hesitate to show you my spaces because they are largely so unfinished.

Kind of like most of us.

Something made me stop and think about this recently. The way my brain works, I am constantly focusing on what needs to be fixed, changed or enhanced in my home instead of seeing what's already there. To some degree I do this personally too. Why can't I enjoy that new, shorter haircut instead of thinking about how much easier it is to maintain when it's longer? Instead of focusing on how jiggly I think my triceps are, why not be proud of the hard work I've put in at the gym over the last few months and appreciate how much stronger I feel?

Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not looking for validation or reassurance in any way. At the end of the day, I know what's true and important. I also know that this tendency is fairly universal. Maybe looking at this flip-side is what motivates us to achieve, improve and evolve, but damn, sometimes it's exhausting!

One morning while waiting for a class at the gym, I was talking and listening to some of the other ladies: ladies of all different ages and experiences, all strong, capable, experienced and beautiful and a common thread in our conversation was about what we're not:

  • thin enough
  • fit enough
  • smooth haired and coiffed enough
  • young enough, etc. etc.
What dawned on me as we sweat our butts off was how remarkable the lot of us really are. We were all there, intelligent, funny, compassionate, healthy, able-bodied and accomplished women in so many ways. And not one of us passed out or quit moving. Why don't we talk about that?!  Is it modesty, humility, insecurity or a little bit of each?

Whatever it is, it made me want to work at focusing on what we are and recognize our attributes instead of getting bogged down by what we're not. It made me want to share and highlight remarkable women as well as the lovely spaces that inspire me. It reminded me to focus on what's real too, in life and in design.

To start, I'll share some spaces in and around my home that might be unfinished, but that make me happy nonetheless.

A glimpse of our kitchen, painted SW Loyal Blue this past fall.
I intentionally left the real-life mess for you to see. This room is the heart and hub of our home. It's humble and filled with light all day long.
Progress in the Man-Cave Closet:
It's slow and not always steady, but bright, functional and taking shape!
 Our sunny perch: 
I am always plotting, scheming and dreaming of a larger yard and how I could reconfigure ours if we tore our detached garage down. When I stop and smell the roses (or hydrangeas in my case) we've made ours function really well for our family.  The deck my husband built last year  acts as extra living space and has changed the feel of our yard.
It's the people who make the party (and apparently the booze too ). 
Enjoying our friends on the deck this past July 4th.

 I've loved setting the table since I was a little girl. 
I went to town, using linens from Homegoods and Pier 1, most of which I already had. And then the rain came sending everything into the dryer, keeping me humble and on my toes.

As the summer continues, I hope you find some time to take stock in what makes you and your spaces remarkable, enjoyable and lovely. I'll be back sooner than later.

If you'd like to share a real-life remarkable woman or space with me, please leave a comment here, on Instagram or Facebook.

Real life Fridays: An update and a review

So, it's been a little while. Our school year is winding down and I've been busy chipping away on my husband's mancave closet. If you follow me on Instagram and Facebook you've seen some progress. It's slow but I'm pleased with how it's coming along. In the last week I've painted the ceiling (SW Sea Salt) and the doors (BM Onyx) and today I laid down a rug I scored at  a Consignment shop last year for $20. I actually bought two of these rugs on impulse and they've been waiting in the basement for the right home.

At first, I was hesitant about using this rug in here because it's a flat weave and doesn't have a ton of body to it. In the past I've used the rubber rug pads that you can cut to size yourself. While they do the job, I typically find that after a while, they start to shift and fall apart, creating a ton of dust and dirt between the pad and floor. So when Rug Pad Corner contacted me to try their Ultra Premium Non Slip Rug Pad, I jumped at the chance.

After browsing their site and reading this description, I was sold.

“Imagine a non slip rug pad that will not stick to your floor or break down to dust. Imagine a rug pad that does not smell like chemicals, one safe enough for kids to play on – Ultra Premium contains real rubber that is Heat Pressed to the felt, not glued – No chemicals or adhesives means a safe and odor free rug pad – stop imagining!

In the past few years I've learned a lot more about sustainability so I was intrigued when I read that these pads are made without chemicals, glues and harsh adhesives and are backed by the United States Green Building Council. I can absolutely attest to the fact that there was virtually no off gassing smell to this pad. The best part of laying down this rug was that the top of the pad is made of recycled felt and treated to have a texture that helps keep the rug from shifting laterally. It's 1/3'' thick too, so it will provide a nice cushion underfoot for getting dressed in the morning. 

I've also put one in my son's room underneath an old rug we've had for a while and he loves playing on as it is very cushioned. It hasn't shifted at all even with my son moving his kid-sized furniture around constantly. That space isn't fit for showing right now, so you'll have to take my word for it. (somebody is cleaning his room after school)

If you'd like to learn more about Rug Pad Corner's products please check out their site here. They've been kind enough to offer my readers a 15% discount off your entire order. 
Use this code at checkout: REVIEW15

Below are some recent shots of the progress I've made:

Paint colors: Walls: BM (Natura)-Balboa Mist, Trim: BM (Natura) White Dove, Doors: BM (Natura) Onyx

another shot of my thrifted rug atop an Ultra Premium Non-Slip rug pad 

And here's a shot of the ceiling (my worst paint job ever- I need to start hiring someone out for that!)
It's really subtle and pretty. Kind of like a faint blue sky after a rainstorm. It's SW Sea Salt.

And just for the sake of keeping it real, head on over to Instagram or FB to check out another view of the room in progress.

Have a great weekend.

Vacation Condo: how to make a coastal inspired palette work

Recently, a friend asked for a little guidance on decorating her new condo in Florida. Right now, it's an escape and a vacation investment, but some day, it will be her full-time digs. She felt the urge to keep things light and bright and reference it's coastal locale without getting too themey. She was concerned about using blues and tans together. The best way to achieve harmony when pairing any colors is to make sure that they share similar undertones.

While paint was already in progress, and her taste really great, I offered to put a concept board together to reassure her and show her how well the pairing could work. Sometimes having a visual is all you need to give you confidence in your design decisisons and preferences and can serve as a road map to set you on your way.

Here is the board I put together for inspiration:

I selected some pieces based upon her preferences and the style that I gleaned from her Pinterest boards. Some are pieces from retailers in the area where the condo is located, others from on-line retailers like Joss & Main. (For sources, please click on the caption above. All can be found on Olioboard.)

Tips to make this pairing work:

1. Choose a jumping off point to set your palette. In this case it was the striped rug.

2. Repetition. Repeat the dominant colors from the palette throughout the space for fluidity. Here, 
    most of the upholstery is white and accents are blue.

3. Layer other shades of your accent color. To take this soothing palette to the next level, you  
    could add pillows and accents in lighter, darker and brighter shades of blue. It adds interest and  
    depth but keeps things harmonious.

4. Add texture.  Here texture is layered by using baskets, accessories and finishes that resemble and       complement the palette. Adding texture keeps a space from looking too contrived and flat. It also       lends interest and warmth to the cool palette.

Since sending out the board, my friend shared that she CLEANED up at a local consignment store scoring fabulous pieces for bargain prices. I can't wait to see how her place evolves and captures the vision she has. If you'd like to get a peek at the Pinterest board I created for her, click here.

Do you need help bringing your ideas to life? If you'd like your own custom Design Concept board and Pinterest board for a space in your home, please contact me. I'd love to help.

Fresh Greens: bringing spring's palette indoors

One of my favorite color pairings has always been blue and green. If you look in my closet, especially this time of year, you'll see it's what I gravitate towards first. It's fresh, crisp, classic and a little bit preppy. Sitting beside each other on the color wheel, these hues inherently work well together. Just look outside on a clear, sunny spring day and you'll see how they harmonize. Mother nature hardly gets it wrong.

I've been feeling the pull to bring fresh spring greens into my home these days: think Kelly and Emerald, mixed with the colors of sky, sea and sunsets. Below, I've shared some of what's inspiring me around the web these days.

Image of Green & Glass China Cabinet with Fretwork 
I found this piece at Suite Pieces here on Long Island via Chairish a couple of weeks ago and I can't get it out of my head. I've been looking for an armoire or china cabinet to function as office/art supply storage in the corner of my living room where I work. It's probably not ideal since there's no closed storage at all to hide things like printers and routers, but man is this right up my alley. 

Moraine- Original Oil Painting 16x20 - Seascape, Abstract Painting
Moraine, by artist Donna Walker would be a great jumping off point to establish this palette in a room. I found Donna's work on Esty a while ago. I'm always drawn to the abstract form and the beautiful sense of light in her oil paintings. Her work can also be found at Serena & Lily. Check out Donna's website if you'd like to learn more.

Band of Blue- Original Oil Painting, 8x10, Landscape Painting, on canvas   1805 Antique Dog Print Terrier Greyhound Print Copperplate Antique Engraving
Abstract Sketch 1 - Large Dark Grey  \Emerald Green Original Watercolor Painting - Original Abstract - Malachite -  Wall Art - 12x12     
A gallery of works by artists I found on Etsy would reinforce the palette. Click on the picture for links.

Another gorgeous green china cabinet. This one is by Jennifer from Dimples & Tangles

LOVE! Emily Henderson: "Kelly green and this color of navy, with white and gold accents is pretty much my color palette. I own it. It's patented, reserved for me."
a vintage chair revived in Kelly Green against SW Loyal Blue, by Emily Henderson

Lauren Liess Interiors
Designer Lauren Liess, adds blue and green to a neutral palette, perfectly.

Love the ecclectic vibe and colors in this living room!

Bring the look home yourself by layering these accessories into a neutral scheme. Click on the pictures for links to sources.
Colorblock Stripe Pillow Set - Emerald & Navy Blue Striped Pillow and Color Block Pillow Set by JillianReneDecor (Set of 3)
a preppy collection of striped pillows you can purchase from Etsy seller Jillian Rene Decor

Schumacher Betwixt in Peacock Decorative Pillow Cover, Toss Pillow, Accent Pillow, Throw Pillow  Plaid Tartan Decorative Designer Pillow 12 x 16" lumbar Green Navy Blue Accent Cushion Cover Rustic Modern Robert Allen Design farmhouse

Cotton Velvet Pillow Cover - Midnight Navy - Navy - 18 inch - BOTH SIDES - Navy Pillow - Velvet Pillow - Navy Blue Pillow - Decorative Pillo  10x20 to 12x24 Hunter Green Decorative Bolster Pillow Cover-15 COLOR CHOICES -Medium Weight Cotton Velvet - Knife Or Pipping Edge
this mix of patterns and textures can work well in the fall and winter

Nadia Vase
Add some blooms from your yard to a vintage ginger jar, or a retail knock-off a for an easy pairing. The one above is from Joss & Main and is only $24.95.

What colors make you happiest this time of year?

hello Monday: a sweet escape and great inspiration

Hello Monday. 

I was lucky enough to sneak away with some friends this past weekend. The timing was perfect and helped recharge and reset my batteries after a crazy week.

We visited Greenport, New York, eating, tasting wine, laughing and enjoying this beautiful part of our island. 

We stayed at this gem of a hotel overlooking the harbor last year too. It's a fantastic find: comfortable, beautifully designed and fantastic service.

Hello Blue Canoe Oyster Bar & Grill, a fabulous find my sister-in-law recommended.

It was a hit on every level: great food, decor and amazing setting and the perfect way to start the weekend off.
This shot is from the restaurant's website. They were just getting the outside prepped so we didn't get to enjoy the fireplaces this trip, but how cool is this spot?

We enjoyed beers on the deck and watched the Shelter Island ferry pass to and fro for a good hour.

Hello attention to detail: even the light posts were charming.

 Hello great coastal style. Grainy, instagram photos, but you get the idea. I loved everything about the interior of the restaurant. I could live in this space.

Hello Spring in full bloom. We hit the winery trail on Saturday, and even though the sun was in and out, the gorgeous green that was everywhere brightened the day. The wine didn't hurt either.

 Some traveled by coach bus.

We hoofed it instead but the rewards were just as sweet.

Today it's back to reality.
Hello to a house in need of cleaning, purging, organizing and laundry.
Hello to a day filled with catching up on emails, bills and all that un-sexy real life stuff.
Hello and Happy Birthday to my best-friend since childhood AND my "little" cousin.
Hello to the sun trying to break through, a visit from our family and a short week.

Hello to you.

What are you saying hello to this week?

hello monday: color and pattern stories that I owe to my Mom

Hello Monday and hello to you. 

My mother has given me lots of gifts in my life: faith, good manners, the ability to look on the bright side of things and give people the benefit of the doubt.  She's also given me my appreciation for design.  If it weren't for my mom going on and on about the color of the sky on a particular day, the gorgeous colonial she loved on her favorite street in Cape Cod, or her tri-annual need to rearrange the furniture, I probably wouldn't love this world as much as I do.

When I was about to graduate from college, it was my mom who encouraged me to go back to school for design even though she and my dad had just spent four years  paying for my English degree. At the time, I felt I should do something more "noble and practical" and become a teacher. When I mused about design school, my mother suggested that giving people a beautiful space was noble because it makes them feel good.

At twenty-two, I thought her answer was too simple. How could she possibly figure it out so easily? Here I am seventeen years later and mom was right all along.

So this Monday, as I work on selecting a color and pattern story for a window treatment class I'm taking, I'm thinking of my mom and how she really inspired it all for me.

Thanks, Mom. Now which scheme would she choose? 
Feel frree to weigh in, readers!

A.This is for the fictional client who has recently added a large, shared bedroom for her four and six year old daughters. She wants it to be a happy, youthful space that can evolve as the girls grow.

B. Probably mom's favorite. This is for the client who also has a young family, but lives in an old Dutch colonial in a neighborhood full of historic homes, near the harbor. They want a somewhat traditional feel to the room, but with a contemporary, less serious twist.

 C & D. These next two are for the same type of client. I was working with a ton of samples I already had and really wanted to see how I could pair these two wallpapers in a unique and cohesive way.

This last one needs something else. Maybe a pin stripe, maybe a small dot pattern. 
I'd love to hear your thoughts! Please weigh in below in the comments or on FB.

What are you saying hello to this week?

Outdoor living: my favorite place to be

For many of us here in the northeast our winter looked something like this:

With a beautiful forecast on tap for the weekend, I'm hoping to spend as much time outside as possible, lounging on our deck. Since my husband built it last spring, it has made our small house feel just a little larger in the warmer months. It's also turned our yard from being a place I dreaded into a haven.

Like any real space, time and budget often dictate how "finished" and pulled together a new space is. The key pieces we purchased immediately were the sofa, cocktail table (Amazon believe it or not), and umbrella (Ace Hardware). I had given my husband the ottomans as a birthday gift and all the other items we already had at the time

The space evolved a bit throughout the summer and fall as the garden filled in. We used it a ton to relax while the kids played, entertain friends and family, enjoy cocktails, casual al fresco dinners and to stargaze.
Since I can never leave well-enough alone, I'd like to help it evolve this summer and 
pull it together even more.

Here' s what's on the list:
  • large candle lanterns to flank the DIY flag I painted (inspired by this post by Emily A. Clark), 
  • two chairs to complement the sofa that are closer in scale to the sofa 
  • an outdoor rug
  •  add more colorful/patterned pillows to the sofa (Insert my husband's eye roll here. I will never have enough pillows.)
  • redesign the firepit area (and get rid of the dilapidated benches surrounding it)
  • add some evergreens to the large pots on the deck
After a quick on-line search, I found a couple of accents that grabbed my attention:

26" Timeless Stainless Lantern, Silver

Pottery Barn


And here's a little preview of what it might look like:

And here are a few items I spied at T.J. Maxx the other day that I'm coveting for cocktails, barbeques and cool nights.

because even in the dog day's of summer, I need a blanket when I curl up on the sofa at night.

these pops of watery turquoise remind me of the ocean and summer skies

I hope you get outside this weekend and enjoy some sunshine and relaxation with your favorite people.  Do you have an outdoor space you love? If you need some help pulling yours together, I'm just an email away.