Saturday, October 3, 2015

Skirts in my Kitchen

I love to wear skirts and dresses (although they do get in the way, and are not helpful at all when I really need to get housework and gardening done. I couldn't tell you how many times I have stood helpless as the vacuum cleaner hungrily wrapped my skirt around its manic spinning brush, never mind explaining how much damage a weed wacker can do to fabric before you can hit the off button). But, as impractical as my wardrobe can be, I enjoy it, and I wear it anyway, but dressing my kitchen in skirts is another matter.

Eclectic, bespoke kitchens are in style, and I am so glad that we finally want them to look like a room in our house, instead of an institutionalized afterthought for preparing food and opening take out containers. We want them to be homey and decorated, especially decorated; rustic, without being too countrified, and sophisticated without being cold and unwelcoming. And, we want the windows open and wide, preferably overlooking a scenic meadow, and we all want poured concrete and butcher block.

And, I couldn't be happier, because I think every room should be dreamy, and that kitchens deserve as much love, beauty and comfort as the rest of the house, but somehow, to me, having a fabric skirt in a kitchen just seems like going to the shops and buying a small headache; it's something else to clean, and a thousand more surfaces to attract all those random splatters and spills.

I honestly don't know how people stay clean in the kitchen, and if I had a zoom on my television, I would probably use it to see if that white blouse that she is cooking in is as spotless as it seems to be. Because I am such a messy cook. I cook and bake all the time, but I can't even wash a dish without sharing it with my fabric clad tummy, so I always wear an apron. And even my apron gets dirtier than I think it should. I am constantly wiping up, and my kitchen still isn't clean, so I can't imagine turning around and seeing fabric covered in goo that needs to be washed every time I get far too exuberant with the chicken and the flour.

So, I think, that as beautiful as some of these fabric laden kitchens are, maybe they aren't quite as practical as they want us to believe. Maybe the woman who lives there uses her oven for storage, or she has people to clean for her, or maybe, just maybe she does gaze out at the meadow in her clean, white blouse, and is a far neater cook than I will ever be....

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Freshly Painted Walls

When I was young, my dad hung up all the pictures in the house; hammering nails into the wall was his domain, and I spent my entire childhood with just two pictures on my bedroom wall. My dad wanted to keep our newly built house nice, and he didn't want to ruin the freshly applied paint; which made sense to him, but no sense at all to my 15 year old self. So, one day when he wasn't looking, I taped a poster to the back of my bedroom door. I figured that tape was okay, but didn't realize that the gluey substance holding up "The Who" must have been created for NASA or something, because despite many attempts to get it off, 35 years later, Roger Daltrey and his crew are a bit worse for wear but still clinging to the back of my old bedroom door.

Fortunately for me, my current home is old, and it has been repainted and spackled more times than I can count, but when I first moved in I thought of my dad, and the fear of making a mess on the walls paralyzed me into avoiding any contact with a hammer. Instead, I would carefully wiggle a hook or nail into an existing hole, not caring if it didn't quite fit, or the picture didn't look right in a certain spot.

Within a short while I had filled up all the existing holes, and my avoidance technique started to feel just a little bit silly (and I realized my dad wasn't actually watching) so I decided to pick up a hammer and see what would happen.

The very first thing that I hung on the wall was a vintage, ostrich feather dress at the top of the second floor hallway (so that no-one else could see it - a very restrained act of rebellion against the restrictions of my childhood room). It's a beautiful dress that I still imagine fitting into one day, and I love the look and feel of it; it is a true party dress from a long time ago, and I can imagine a lady taking great amounts of time getting ready to wear it out to a very fancy dance.

For days after I would look at the dress, and wonder how on earth I could have hidden it away when seeing it on the wall gave me so much pleasure. It was a very subdued ah-ha moment that slowly nudged me to start placing my collection of tea plates down the side of the staircase wall. A few at a time, other favorite things started to attach themselves to the wall and gradually creep down the stairs, like random decorating ninja's peeking ahead to see if my dad was looking.

But of course there was no going back, and before I knew it I had bought even more nails, and I delighted in filling up the oddest of spaces in every single room, and putting things far higher up than they should have been. I decided that I liked seeing things on display, and the balance of shapes and texture was a game of sorts. I found that I didn't have to follow all the rules, and not everything needed the perfect picture hook with a maximum weight limit; sometimes a push pin, or the tiniest of nails was more than enough, and other times I had to be a bit more thoughtful, warding off unexpected falls in the middle of the night.

When my dad visited he laughed at how full my house was, and he didn't remember being so stern in the past, but I still can't get the tape off my Who poster, and I think I will probably always hesitate before taking a hammer to a freshly painted wall ....

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Finding Your Focus

Once upon a time, a very decorated lady glanced around and told her that her room would be so much better if only she had a focal point. The lady stayed for a cup of tea, they pondered the room with much disappointment, then she left.

Finding your focal point is a term that is tossed around in the world of design, but we often forget to explain what we mean, what it is, and how you could find one for yourself. It is sometimes implied that they might be elusive, an enigma, something that has that certain je ne sais quoi destined to be a secret for the very few, when really, it is actually quite simple.

How you define it is up to you, but every room needs something that makes you want to go inside, otherwise what is the point? It can be as simple as a tiny photograph, a curious piece of art, or as extravagant as a floor to ceiling stone fireplace, but there should be something that immediately captures your attention. (And, it doesn't have to be nice and designery, it just has to be).

This is why a television is often frowned upon, but if the television is the focus of your room, then accept that and make it as appealing as possible; surround it with art that you love, or make sure it is at least placed on a decent piece of furniture. Try not to drape dirty laundry over it, but, honestly, if you seem to have an endless supply of laundry, and it feels destined to be the focal point of your room, why not place it in a beautiful basket, or find an unusual design that suits your style and blends in with your home a little more.

See, finding a focal point isn't a mystery at all; just find something you like to look at, place it across the room, and you're done....

Friday, September 4, 2015

A Little Undone

I often get anxiety if people are coming to my home for the first time. The label, Interior Designer, is often thrown around, mistakenly attached to my name, and I worry that people will be woefully disappointed when they step inside. Someone even asked me once if they could just come and look around my house, to see what it was like and how I decorated; they didn't even pretend to invite themselves over for a cup of tea, they just wanted to see my house.

The thought terrified me, especially when I knew that their home looked like a page out of a decorating catalog, and mine just looked like, well, it looked like me. The day before she came over I cleaned my home like a mad woman (something I rarely do) and while I would never want my home to look like something from a catalog (well, maybe a small page in "Shabby Couture" or something) my confidence plummeted at the thought of being judged.

Ten minutes before she arrived I tripped over the cat, knocked the plant off the wall, and burst into tears. Unfortunately, the plant was actually in a frame, with water, in a terracotta pot, so there was water, terracotta and aquarium gravel all over me and all over my Living Room floor. Ironically, that was exactly what I needed, and the next minute found me answered the ringing doorbell with no apology, just a wet towel, an angry cat, and an overflowing dustpan.

Almost every single client I see apologizes for something when I walk through the door, when really, I find a perfect home far more disturbing than one with an untidy kitchen and a less than new sofa.

Sometimes, we fall into the trap of creating a perfect room, one that is kept aside for special occasions, holidays and 'company". We want it to look so nice that as soon as we have achieved that niceness we back away slowly, almost closing the door quietly, wanting to preserve it until later. Once we're done, we breathe a sigh of relief, turn around and find our way back to the comfy sofa in the other room, where we can eat ice cream on our belly and tuck our tired, dirty feet into our favorite, old blanket.

With most homes, regardless of our budget or style, being in the middle is usually the best place to be - it shouldn't feel precisely composed, but it also shouldn't require a compass and a tetanus shot to walk around. Actually, a home is a bit like a person; it should never be so perfect that we are afraid to approach, and when we do we usually like them so much more if they are just a little undone....

Friday, August 28, 2015

A Lamp for your Floor

I feel sorry for the Floor Lamp. It seems to have gone the way of the coffee table (are people not
reading, drinking coffee and putting their feet up anymore?). To me, the floor lamp seems like one of the easiest ways to add height and interest to a room, never mind the fact that it also helps us to read at night and is a handy guide for the teen who wants to navigate quietly through the dark, wishfully thinking that their mom has become tired of waiting and fallen fast asleep.

By the way, we haven't really gone to sleep; we are lying in bed waiting for you to come home, wondering whether we should call the police or change the shade on the tattered old floor lamp.

As a person who has a nostalgic love for umbrellas, I am now seeking out a lamp shade just like the one in the photograph. I love the eccentric mix of vintage and modern in this room, and while I am not quite sure if I would have that green, droopy plant on my mantel, this beautiful home (designed by Caleb Anderson) reminded of the three most important reasons why we really all should own a floor lamp...

They stand alone, and don't take up any space at all on our nearest and dearest side table.

Every room needs some height, and floor lamps are naturally quite tall.

With so many choices of stands and shades, they might just be the most perfect design dose of retail therapy; we can mix and match for hours until we find exactly what we need (or the shop closes, whichever comes first....).

Friday, August 21, 2015

A Comfortable Place

If I had to choose between comfort and good looks (in any part of my life) I would choose comfort every time. I think that every home should be filled with as many comfortable places as possible...

  • A favorite reading spot, surrounded by books old and new. 
  • A napping place, all soft and cozy.
  • A thinking spot by the window, perfect for daydreaming.
  • A chair at the dining room table, comfortable even when dining alone.
  • A sofa, wanting us to curl up our feet, grab a blanket, and stay until morning.
  • An office desk, almost organized, inspiring and personal.
  • A family kitchen, warm and welcoming.
  • An outdoor path, sunny and tickly on our toes.

Wherever you are in your home, try to do as much as you can to make it comfortable, because really, when you think about it, why would you want any space in your home to be uncomfortable? 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Cabinet Conundrum

Did you know that the average kitchen has 20 - 40 cabinet knobs and drawer pulls?
More than you thought, right? Have you been shopping for them lately? I am not quite sure whether it is terrifying or fun, but I do know it can be confusing. A bit like when we are choosing a paint color; we are dazzled by the endless array, told to choose wisely, surprised by the cost, advised not to scrimp on quality, then wander back home with an exhausted face and an empty shopping basket.

We are told that they are the jewelry of the kitchen, and the finishing touch that we need to pull the entire home together. We start to believe that without these coveted little gems our dreams will surely be squashed, and our kitchen will never, ever be featured on the cover of a beautiful magazine.

But I don't really agree. I think they are both less and more important than we realize, and I find that when we rush to buy them we can easily add a lot of unwanted clutter to our homes. I wouldn't pile on twenty five versions of the same, pretty necklace, or dot thirty three lamps around my living room, so why would I place dozens of tiny, repetitive objects all around my kitchen without more than a moment's thought.

I know I always tell people to buy what they love, and it will all magically work together, but this is totally different; of course you must like them, but if you are buying multiples of something permanent, that all look the same, they automatically become part of your design instead of just a random decoration. I think I actually just confused myself with that sentence, but hopefully you know what I mean.
Forget the usefulness of them for a minute (we know they work) and just think of cabinet knobs and drawer pulls as being lots and lots of small (sometimes shiny) accessories on display in your kitchen.

It sounds frightening (and a bit weird) but really all I am suggesting is that you plan before you buy. Try to decide ahead of time whether you want them to blend in and be part of the design, or a deliberate style statement. If it's a deliberate style that you want, then go ahead, but if you want them to seamlessly fit into your kitchen, do your research, and see what will really suit your home.

And, don't forget to count. It doesn't matter whether you want to have an entire zoo attached to your cabinets, or the simplest of brass pulls, no-one ever has just one ...

Thursday, July 30, 2015

A Daily Dose

These last few weeks have been a bit topsy turvy, 
and last night found me just wishing for a few serene hours;  
with nothing more to think about than what we were having dinner,
 and whether or not I should tackle the gray hair that keeps peeking at me through the mirror.  

While I try to keep current with my media work, 
I have to confess
that my business Facebook page has always been my daily dose of comfort and indulgence. 
At first, I worried about pleasing everyone, and I wanted to fit my posts into an exact design formula, but I quickly realized that all anyone wants is for you to be yourself.
They want to get to know you, then decide whether they like you or not. 
If you just show one side of who you are then people get bored,
and it all starts to feel a little fake. 

I like not planning my posts.
Being able to go from sharing a quick recipe for the perfect scone,
 to gushing about a favorite new designer and exploring the latest trend in treetop homes.   

Of course, not every post will knock your socks off, 
but it isn't meant to. 
It is merely a snippet of a little something that will hopefully make you smile as you pass on by. 

If you want to check out my blue giraffe daily Facebook page, just click the title below, 
and, if you would like some help creating your own one blog or page, just ask.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Beauty of Ordinary Things

The other day I went to sleep with most of the windows open. It was one of those deliciously breezy nights, where I almost didn't care whether I slept or not; all I wanted to do was listen to the trees, feel the cool air, and dream of sweet, Summer days.

But, because of the breeze (enough to send a vase flying, and knock almost everything off my desk) I balled up a t-shirt and put it against the bedroom door to stop it from slamming shut. As I lay back in bed, thinking my lovely thoughts, all I could think of was that I had just crumpled up one of my favorite tops. Yes, it needed a wash, but now it would also be covered in dog hair, the cat will probably sleep on it, and the image of it being on the floor didn't exactly fit in with all of my idyllic imagining.... So, I got up, put it in the laundry hamper and grabbed a favorite rock off my dresser to place against the door instead (everyone has rocks in their bedroom, right?).

This week, inspired by my favorite rock, I wanted to share with you some photographs of a few ordinary, beautiful things.

Photograph Credits:
Wendy's,  BUTTONS - Kate Kessling,  HELLO MAT - The Store,  PLATES - Pinterest, SOAP DISH Pinterest,
Wendy's,  SHAVING CUP -  Butcher Shop Glasgow,
STRING TIN - Pinterest,  I LOVE CAKE - Pinterest,  ROCK DOOR STOP - Shelterness,  DUTCH OVEN - Ebay

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Memory Dance

I was watching the Rachel Ray show the other day, where uber Organizer, Peter Walsh, was talking to Regis Philbin about how to declutter his memorabilia room. Regis, a collector and a celebrity, is the recipient of so many awards and accolades, and had an entire room filled with wonderful memories; everything from autographed football helmets to vintage posters and designer clothing. But, for all his celebrity status, he was just like us, and his biggest fear was that Peter was going to see it as "too much stuff", and tell him to get rid of it.

But he didn't, because it wasn't about value, or taking up too much space, it was about memories, and I loved seeing the relief on Regis' face when he was told that everything could stay (but it just needed to be a little more organized). Nothing was going to be thrown away.

This was Peter's philosophy...

I have paraphrased what he said, but Peter is right; if something is that important (or sentimental) that you want to keep it, then give it meaning, and put it away safely, or display it well, and, most importantly, have it accessible...... Be able to find it. If you can't find it, or see it, is it really that important?

Watching the show reminded me that I will always be a sentimental clutterer, and I don't have to force myself to live in a spartan house or get rid of things that seem too old, all I have to do is honor my memories, visit them often, and use them to feed and nourish my happiness ...

Friday, July 3, 2015

A Day in Bed

Every designer and health guru will tell you to take the technology out of your bedroom. It should be a retreat; a peaceful space to begin and end your day, to sleep, read, and do whatever else makes you happy. No clutter, no clothes on the floor, no unmade beds, and definitely no television.

But bed can be a wonderful place to be, and binge-watching television has become a current, cultural addiction, so put them together and the odds are that many of your favorite shows are probably already being watched in bed.

We all know a bedroom should be quiet and calm, but it can also be a place to indulge, so if you want to spend a day watching television, why not make a plan, order the pizza, pull up the covers, and have some fun.

Ideally, choose a day, write it on your calendar, and tidy up your bedroom the day before. The point is to make it as minimal and calm as you can, so you can concentrate on whatever you are watching, and feel a little spoiled at the same time. If you can't be bothered to clean properly, just grab everything and get it out of sight; put it in garbage bags if you want, shove it in the closet, or hide it in your teenager's room (they might not even notice).

Then, I would make up the bed with clean sheets and pillows. I know, I know, it's a pain sometimes, but there is nothing more blissful than getting into a freshly made bed. Plan what you will wear, and again, it should be clean, not that shirt that you cooked dinner in last night, or that the dog has been sniffing at all day.

Run the vacuum if you are inclined, or not, but pick up any rubbish or things that shouldn't be lying on the floor in the first place. By now, it should be looking quite nice, and you may even feel a little tempted to go to bed already, but you need to think about food, drinks and snacks.

Plan ahead, and buy some things that you love (finger food is best); you don't want to spend your day rooting around the refrigerator for leftover's, or having to decide between cooking an entire chicken or spooning up an old yogurt. And, do you have a night table to put these things on, or do you need to bring up something? Are you a fancy tray person, or are you a shove everything in a bag type of person? Even if you are the bag type of person, you need a hard surface, within arm's reach, to put your drink on in between scenes (no matter how thirsty I am, I can't hold a drink and watch Sons of Anarchy at the same time. And, I can't watch it at night either, but that's another story...).

So, you have your bedroom ready, and your snacks are organized. Oh, while I think about it, do you need a garbage bin somewhere nearby? Perhaps a little one, just in case your snacks are of the crinkly bag type.

The other thing I would probably do is turn off my phone, but that is entirely up to you. It's your day, and if you don't mind fielding calls and texting then go right ahead.

I think that's about it. Oh, one last thing..... don't feel guilty. For goodness sake, there is no point in planning a day in bed if you are going to feel that you should be doing something else, or that you are being some drain on society because you're not running all over town like an organized chicken with your head cut off. (The world will really be okay without you).

We do all need some time off, and if you decide to spend your time watching television in bed, then that could very well end up being one of the best day's ever...

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Fire, Fun and a bit of Fear

If you put a bunch of teenagers in front of a fire pit they will always have more fun. The parents might get a bit wobbly about it (like I did) but it kind of makes them feel like we are letting them do something dangerous, while the crackling wood and dark skies give them the veiled illusion of privacy.

As a fireman's daughter, I think I was probably about 23 years old before I dared to light a match; I never thought I was afraid of fire, but I definitely had a healthy respect for what a spark could turn into. Of course, my housewarming present was a fire extinguisher, but when I actually had a small fire in my house it was the baking soda that I reached for (low tech that I am, I couldn't follow the paragraph of instructions on the fire extinguisher, but I could quickly open a box....).

When we had just moved into our house, I decided to entertain on an epic level, and I filled my Living Room with lots of candles for a fancy dinner party. Beautiful, hand-rolled beeswax candles were placed on top of vintage wooden spools, mismatched silver candlesticks were clean but not too polished, and dozens of tea lights were tucked inside newly bought mason jars.

For an hour or so it looked beautiful, until the wax started to drip (a lot) and the candles started to soften and fall. I hastily blew them out, just as we heard a couple of very loud cracking noises; apparently, the mason jars were for decoration only, and the barely warm heat from the tea lights was just enough to make the bottoms crack.

Fortunately, the glass didn't travel too far, but broken glass is not a happy time at anyone's party. We cleaned up the mess, the romance was gone, and I immediately fell back in love with the glow of a light bulb.

With Summer here, the lure of cozy fires and charcoal on my food, makes me once again reach for the matches. I want to make like my favorite magazine and spend long evenings sitting outside with friends, talking over a chorus of frogs, and festooning my trees with dozens of flickering candles and miles of tiny fairy lights.
But I can't, because in real life my trees would catch on fire, and the fairy lights would probably get eaten by a passing squirrel, so instead, I will invite friends over, we will toast marshmallows on sticks, get bitten by mosquito's, use tortilla chips to start the fire pit burning (try it, it really does work), keep a jug of water nearby, and be sure to keep the lid on very, very tight....

Saturday, June 20, 2015

What Every Room Needs

You know that I cringe at rules,
but now and again we all want a simple answer to something that we can't quite figure out.
We want to know what the magic is, what other people have,
and how we can get it before we have to run off and do something else.
I do it myself, and in a mad moment I will find myself googling the most ridiculous of things.

So, in answer to what I got asked twice this last week, 
here are seven things that I think every room needs.


A room can't breathe without a touch of something inky dark.
 It doesn't have to be much,
but a smudge of black here and there (even a squiggle on a pillow) 
will add something that is almost inexplicable but so necessary. 


Nature rarely does straight lines. 
Organic curves and shapes will bring warmth, life, 
and a natural, reassuring comfort to your home.   


Something from the past.
Whether it is an old photograph, a vintage piece of furniture, 
or a beloved book from your childhood,
it will always invite a question and a story.  


Represent yourself in a very personal way. 
Old or new, you must have something that you absolutely love, 
beyond a shadow of a doubt, in every single room. 


You don't even need to own a book.
 Shelves will instantly add interest to your room, 
while organizing your endless collection of bits and bobs
 into a neat, confined little rectangle.


We are a fickle bunch, and we like to look at pretty things.
But we don't need a designer. 
If it makes you happy, and you like the way it looks, 
then it will be beautiful to you. 


Every home should have some. 
It feels calming, balanced, and energizing all at the same time. 
For moments of green without commitment, 
grow a plant, use apple scented shampoo,
draw a picture with a green crayon,  
and spend at least fifteen minutes wondering why people eat artichokes.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Take A Picture

My phone is not very smart, and I still have to open it up like an old-fashioned, mirrored compact; it isn't in a hurry, can take several hours to get a message, and when it finally arrives it will have been jumbled into neat little piles of 140 characters or less. I know I am holding onto it a little too tightly; resisting change, and dreading the time when checking my email might become more important than noticing a flower, or driving my car in a straight line.

But, I can barely see the screen, it no long likes to type the letter m or b, and it doesn't take photographs anymore. Well, it does, but they are the size of a postage stamp, and by the time I have squinted enough to see what I am doing, it has gone back to some random setting and politely asks me if I want to send a message. Some days, I am not sure who is more confused.

And, I need photographs. Whether it is stored in a cloud (don't ask me, I don't even know what that means either) or in a basket on my dining room table (much better) I need memories and art in my everyday life.

They are also one of my favorite things to use in decorating. It is so hard to be objective about our own space that taking a photograph will instantly help you to see what others see. Like they say, the camera doesn't lie; it might add on ten pounds, but it's okay if your sofa and chair are looking a little plump that week.

A photograph gives you time to sit and look at what you truly have. It's a captured moment of your life, and even though you walk through your home a dozen times a day, it is a rare person who will actually notice what is there.

If you're selling your home, it is also the absolute best way to see your house from a buyer's perspective. Try to imagine that you are the Realtor, and take photographs from across the street and all throughout your home. Be honest, or show a friend, and ask yourself how it really looks. Let these photographs be a reference, and use them for making a few changes, and tidying up a little before you put your home on the market.

The same goes for decorating your home. If you feel stuck, and don't know what it is about a room that you don't like, or you do but don't know how to fix it, take a photograph. You will be amazed at how different your home looks through a lens (it's a little like buying skinny jeans with your eyes closed, then coming home and realizing that the view from behind could traumatize small children).

Ironically, to be able to take photographs is probably the only reason that would push me to get a new phone, which is kind of funny, because then I think the obvious solution would be to actually buy a camera....

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Blending Houses into Homes

I don't like labels at all; they make me feel confined, and I don't want to assume that something is the way it is just because we have put it into some preconceived category with barely a second glance. Life is never that simple, and we are always evolving, so hopefully most labels will become a thing of the past as we discover new, kinder words for what we see.

But, blending is a word that I like very much. Whether it's about mushing all sorts of odd and wonderful things together, or sipping the perfect vanilla milkshake on a Summer's day, it's a happy word, that sounds good when you say it.

To say the definition of family has changed is an understatement, and while some are moving apart, there are even more who are joining together; blending the people that they love into a new family, and very often, a new home.

The process of combining homes often means that everything (and everyone) is piled into a truck, bedrooms are assigned, and boxes are stacked; how you plan to decorate seems so unimportant compared to everything else that it usually doesn't even make it onto the "Honey Do" list. But, once the dust settles, you realize that you just have too much, and what seemed like a good idea several weeks ago now means that you have more sofa's than people, and you really don't want to keep using that one bar of soap in the communal shower.

It's a wonderful thing to join lives, but joining homes can be a challenge. There are a million guides to tell you how to do it right, and how to divide things up and plan it all out diplomatically, but honestly, every situation is different, and no amount of negotiation is going to make someone give up their favorite La-Z-Boy recliner. So, I think the best way to do it is to just know that there will be a few bumps in the road, and pretend like you are little kids again.
  • Be kind.
  • Don't forget to share.
  • Take turns.
  • Laugh often.
And, when in doubt, have a snack and go to sleep.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

A Change of Plans

Over ten years ago we had a sun-room added to the back of our house. I was lucky enough to be able to design it, and it instantly became my most favorite room. Whether it was pouring with rain, covered in snow, or just too hot to think, I could sit in that room and the world instantly became a better place. With windows all around and skylights up above, it was a small piece of paradise leading from my back door.

Then, one day, the air hockey table arrived, and my dream was gone. No matter how much I decorated around it, I could still see it; it ruined my view, and the flowered tablecloth looked so uncomfortable with the intrusion of the noisy, plastic, over-sized toy. I briefly considered moving it into the dining room, but in reality the logistics of eating at an air hockey table were a bit odd, so I wondered if I could put a plant on it, or disguise it with some books and a blanket.

After a while I gave up, and accepted the room with the new addition, but I didn't like it, and what had seemed cozy and eclectic, now seemed cluttered and dismal. I liked to play air hockey, but curling up with a book was never quite the same when I had to stare at the sea of plastic, and check for flying discs before I walked in the room.

So, I did the crazy thing that some of us do; I moved everything around and around, like a ridiculous Rubik's cube that I couldn't solve, refusing to accept the 4 foot by 8 foot toy that took up half of the room. I was reluctant to take anything out, because it was my room, and I knew from the beginning how I had wanted it to look.

But whatever I did didn't make it look better, so I gave the room over to the cat and the dog. I gave up because I was annoyed, stuck in denial, and letting go of my idyllic room was still not on my agenda. Now and again I would walk in, frown, and leave, until this past week.

During the Winter I had decided to store the wood for the stove in the entrance of the sun-room. (A well learned lesson from the previous year, when we got wood delivered, threw a tarpaulin over it, and promptly had a snow and ice storm. The next day we lost power, so you would have seen us standing on the ice, chipping away with shovels until one of us (me) fell through the wood pile and gashed her leg open). Anyway, bringing the wood inside before the snow meant that we always had wood for the fire, and no-one got damaged in the process.

So, last week I was stacking the leftover wood into neat piles, frowning at the sun-room, when I finally realized that it was just too crowded, and the air hockey table wasn't going anywhere anytime soon. I needed to let go of my old ideas, and I knew I could make it just as nice if I tweaked it a bit.

As soon as I took out a few pieces of furniture it all started to make sense; I had been so stuck in my own head that I couldn't see the reality through the fog and clutter of my own thoughts. It's funny, because it was so easy to change, and took no time at all, but I had become so emotionally invested in that room that I felt like I had been told to give up something important. My stubbornness had actually stopped me from adjusting and enjoying the room.

Now, I am happy to spend time in my sun-room, and while it is different than before, the differences have merged, and it has become a usable, lovable space again.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

How to Find your Decorating Style

Sometimes, we don't know what we like until we like it, but, if we don't know what we like, then how do we know what we like?

We are all indecisive (and decisive) in different areas of our life. It's a strength that I have with decorating, but am woefully lacking in almost every other department. Ask me what I want to eat at a diner, and I will always choose one of three things; the choice is overwhelming, and asking me to decide from more than two hundred items on a menu will have me quickly ordering the grilled cheese before you have even turned the page.

Finding our decorating style is a bit like reading the diner menu; we can't decide, then, when we finally do, we wish we had what the other person was having. But, if we had just ordered what we wanted instinctively, without too much thought, we might really like our choice, and we probably wouldn't be drooling over the other person's spanakopita (well, we might, but I am sure if we asked nicely they would share a piece with us).

So, if you're not sure what your decorating style is (and, like me, diner menu's make you close your eyes and order the grilled cheese) here is a great little quiz from Houzz that might just help. Unfortunately, you do have to make a few decisions here as well, but I promise you, it isn't hard at all, and no-one is holding a pen and a notepad over your head waiting for you to finish.

Honestly, I was going to make up my own quiz, but I found this, and it seemed pretty fun and accurate when I took it (it labeled my style as Eclectic), so I thought you might enjoy taking it too.

Just click on the picture at the top, and it will take you right there.

Enjoy the rest of your week!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Fun with Chips and Dip

If you've been to my house before, you have probably had food served on something that wasn't meant to have that particular food on it. It's not that I am trying to impress, but if I like you, and you stop by, I have found that even the most simple food will feel far more special if I plonk it down on something pretty and give you a cloth napkin.

When I first started to entertain, I bought all the correct dishes, including a turkey platter to put the turkey on at Thanksgiving. I was convinced that nothing else would hold my turkey, except the platter that was about two feet long and had a picture of a turkey on it. The same with chips and dip; I had to buy a chip and dip bowl combination before I could serve anyone chips and dip. It never occurred to me to just grab two bowls that I already had in the cupboard. Never once.

Over time, I noticed that other people had the exact same chip and dip bowl that I had, that the turkey platter was not really my favorite, and that it was far too big and heavy to pass across a crowded table. So I decided to rebel (okay, so my rebellious streaks are often giant hurdles for me, but smaller than most children's tantrums) and I got rid of most of my dishes, and decided that I didn't want to be told what to do anymore.

I started to look for things that were more interesting to me and my kitchen; whether I was at a garden center, a flea market, or at a home store, I tried to imagine the less obvious choice. My one rule was that if I couldn't use it, and I didn't love it, I wouldn't buy it. I found that I loved the adventure of mismatching everything, and over time, this conglomeration of seemingly erratic purchases turned into my own beloved haphazard collection.

Now, I have pieces that are so different, but they all go together. None of them are food specific, and if I am not sure about their age, or what they are actually made from, then I just pop a napkin or extra dish inside them.

I couldn't tell you my favorite piece, because I love them all, but my most unusual one is a distressed copper planter tray that came with a clear plastic liner (actually, I think the liner was just meant to separate the trays, but I asked if I could keep it anyway). Originally intended for plants, I bought it new and would never dream of putting a plant in it. I guard the plastic liner as if it were pure gold, because it sits so nicely inside, and protects food from touching the questionably aged copper.

My most used piece has to be a simple, glass pedestal trifle bowl. It was inexpensive, and as boring as they come, but you can fill it with absolutely anything and it just looks good (watermelon wedges, fresh vegetables, muffins, a giant pile of french fries - yum - chocolate mousse with a giant spoon, clementine's, pretzels, wrapped candy, nuts still in their shell, utensils, fried chicken etc). I bet you could even put kale in that bowl and it would look appetizing.

With picnics and parties in full swing, why not look outside your normal entertaining standbys? Blend the old with the new, and search your home for unexpected (and more fun) ways to present what you have. Even if you are serving the most mundane of foods, if you serve them in a different way, it will look more interesting, and make you and your guests feel just a little bit more special...

p.s. The only dip I ever make is the one I learned at school (a packet of Onion soup mixed into Sour cream or creme fraiche), otherwise I buy a store bought one, and pop it in a nice bowl. 

The photograph of the artfully displayed potato chips is from Pinterest via For The Love of the South

Thursday, May 7, 2015

If You Give A Mom A Minute......

 Once upon a time, when my daughter was little
someone asked me what the heck I did all day.
These are just the bits I could remember...

If you give a Mom a minute,she'll want a cup of tea and a magazine.Reaches for her favorite mug,but starts to unload the dishwasher instead.

While putting away the dishes,
she rearranges the cupboards.
Decides to put some dishes aside for a garage sale.
Calls her friend for advice,
but forgets to ask about garage sales.

Goes to the toilet, and notices the shower is dirty.
Sprays and scrubs the shower stall,
while she reorganizes the body scrubs and shampoos.
Throws away expired medicines,
and cleans the bathroom cabinet.

This reminds her to call the Doctor for a check up.
On the way downstairs to get the telephone number,
she notices the floor needs vacuuming.
Gets the vacuum cleaner,
and sees all of her handbags.

Distracted, she starts to look inside them.
Throws out a a pile of old lists,
seventeen hair ties and a melted lollipop.
A dirty cigarette packet,
but knows she doesn't smoke.
Puzzled, and embarrassed,
she remembers picking it up off the lawn months ago.

Thoughts of smoky handbags remind her to wash the laundry,
and she forgets to call the Doctor.
As the laundry spins,
she begins to tidy the cellar.
Makes another pile of things for the garage sale,
wondering why on earth she agreed to do it in the first place.

The laundry done, she hears a drip,
but decides to ignore it.
Folds the laundry, opens the mail,
and fills the tea kettle with water.

As she waits for it to boil,
she absently wonders why the water is still running.
Perhaps the washing machine has turned back on,
or maybe it is starting to rain.
A lot.

She hears more noises in the cellar.
The cat is crying, and the phone is starting to ring.
So she just stops listening.
Her child is sick, at school,
and must be picked up immediately,
if not sooner.

Before she hangs up,
she is sweetly reminded that she has to bring four decorated cakes,
473 dark blue napkins and 8 dozen bottles of water to school.
Tomorrow. By 7:30am.
It's Children Appreciation Day.
Oh, and don't forget -
no gluten, no sugar, no peanuts, no dairy, no food coloring, and absolutely no mushrooms.

She drives to the school,
brings her child home, and puts her to bed.
With a bucket.
Which reminds her of water, and the crying cat.
Marooned on a shelf,
he is watching as the water steadily laps around the basement floor.

Calling the Plumber reminds her that she never did drink that cup of tea,
so she decides to turn the tea kettle on,
and takes that minute....

Written by Wendy E. Wrzos (Copyright 2012). The photograph is of my daughter, after she had baked her first batch of Butterfly Cakes, and the poem was inspired by Laura Numeroff's wonderful books for children.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

5 Spring Things

I never thought I would be so happy to see a dandelion!

It is so nice to be able to run outside with no shoes on, and grab the mail without getting frostbite and sprinkling ice melt ahead of me. The sunshine is a welcome change, and despite what we might be thinking in the darkness of February, Spring does always manage to find its way back to us.

People are happier, they are shopping, and they are decorating; we are all so grateful to grab onto the feeling of warm, blue skies and fresh, green grass.

Someone asked me the other day what the trends are for the season. It's a question I get asked a lot, and my answer is to often look to the runway; design seems to follow fashion, and in Spring I think the biggest trend anywhere always ends up being a celebration of life.
 I don't mean in the deeply spiritual way, I mean literally. 
After six months of Winter we become nostalgic for what we haven't had; we want to be less restricted in our clothes, we want softness and color around us, lots of warmth, and we want to be surrounded by things that feel more alive and organic.

So if you can't find a dandelion, and you need a little bit of design inspiration, here are five of my favorite Spring trends.


Bohemian fabrics, a relaxed style, and the color blue are here to stay. 
Not too precious, the slightly worn colors are still saturated enough to be our favorites, but comfortable enough for every day. If you're not quite ready for a pile of floor pillows on your Living Room floor, why not update your patio or deck with a more temporary take on this gorgeous global inspiration.
                                                             A FLORAL MOMENT

Flowers are dominating the fashion and design houses this year. 
If you don't want a sofa covered in daffodils, or a brightly colored floral dress, buy (or pick) yourself a bunch of roses. A very formal flower, they look their best when they don't look like they are trying too hard; snip them down to a smaller size and pop them into a jar
 (skip the baby's breath).


Influenced by the vintage military and automaton trend, steam-punk has gone mainstream; what once used to be on the fringe of the design world is now the perfect way to add a small amount of quirk to your home, without committing to a certain industrial style.
 I think that every home should have some elements of metal in it, so I am happy that our options are endless and pieces of metal can easily be mixed and matched into any room.


Maybe it's baby boom nostalgia, but shelves are back in style.
Whether it's for storing your collection of books, or a place to keep your favorite coffee cup, we now want to see what we have. Of course they are great for organizing, but they are also the simplest way to add personality to your home; why not share your randomly found objects, remember your treasured vacation souvenir, and use your now defunct wedding china.
Enjoy what you have, and if dusting all those open spaces is a worry,
 then don't dust.


The opposite of so many things, a pile of something natural is often the best trend of all.
When I first saw cotton growing in a field, I had to stop the car.
It was breathtaking to see acres of pods bursting with pure, soft white balls of fluff. To this day, it is still one of my favorite things in the whole world, and I have a small bundle of it in a glass bowl in my Living Room. Whether it is pine cones, twigs, cotton, rocks, or a fallen, abandoned bird’s nest, adding something raw and organic will always be beautiful,
and never go out of style.

Photographs borrowed from: M.inmagine (Dandelion)  Houzz (Moroccan) White Flower Farm (Roses) Restoration Hardware (Steampunk), Bookmania (Bookshelves) and Vertboitex (Cotton).