DIY: Removable Bathroom Wallpaper

If you saw last week's backsplash post or my desk makeover post before that, you know I'm all about quick, noncommittal decor projects these days. (A whole-house, whole-yard renovation will do that to you. I want things I can finish in two days, max.)

Smug from my recent successes, then, this past week I decided it was time to finally tackle the walls of my kids' bath. I wanted to cover one wall with a pattern that was youthful and fun, but not so childish that they'd grow out of it in 3 years.

Enter Spoonflower. I love this site's vast collection of graphic patterns, all of which can be printed to order on your choice of fabrics or wallpaper, including two types of removable wallpaper. The number of patterns available is staggering. Plus, it's a marketplace for indie designers, so they get a cut of every order. Points for good design karma!

I opted for a pattern called Birch Grove in Summer, by Willow Lane Textiles:

Source: Spoonflower

Source: Spoonflower

Why the birches, you ask? Tree-themed prints have been trending for a while (see: the ever-popular Woods wallpaper by Cole & Sons, originally designed in 1959 but a current darling of designers, or Birds & Butterflies by Schumacher). But I wanted something unique, and the Spoonflower print felt fresh to me. I also suspected it would pair well with the Spring Meadow paint by Benjamin Moore we put on the walls. 

Here we go... The walls before. 

Here we go... The walls before. 

I needed five of the woven peel-and-stick rolls, in custom lengths to fit my 9-foot wall height. Once they arrived, I assembled my supplies: A sharp utility knife, the squeegee that came with the wallpaper, a microfiber cloth to clean the wall. I also ended up using a level, scissors, and a ruler that could double as a cutting guide. As you can see from the above photo, Dave removed all of the towel rings and bars before we started.

My arsenal. 

My arsenal. 

The first step was to unwrap and re-roll the paper so the top was on the outside. Easy enough.

Unrolling. 

Unrolling. 

Then came our first hurdle. The directions instructed us to start hanging the paper from left to right. But the left side of the wall was mostly window. And our ceilings? Not so straight. Eek.

Window troubles. 

Window troubles. 

After much thought and an awkward 10 minutes of standing on the toilet and snickering about "passing me a roll," we eventually decided to break from instructions and go a little rogue. First, we checked to see that the left wall was vertically plumb (it was). Then we pre-trimmed the paper to remove the window section, making the sheet much easier to handle as we positioned it.

After the window cutout. 

After the window cutout. 

Taking off some weight helped us maneuver it more easily and let us see where the pattern was headed. We were pretty conservative with the cut, though, as we planned to trim it more accurately once the edges of the sheet were up.

Then we removed the backing and tacked the top of the wallpaper sheet to the wall, making sure the paper was horizontally level and leaving about an inch of excess at the top. This ensured that even if the walls and ceiling were crooked, our trees would be perfectly upright.

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Once the paper is in tacked in place, you just remove the backing a bit at a time and smooth it all out with the included squeegee. Then you repeat the whole process with the next sheet, overlapping the sheets slightly to get the pattern lined up. We trimmed around the window and vanity as we went, then did all the top and bottom trimming as a final step.

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There was definitely some lifting and re-setting of the paper required to get the pattern match just so, so I was thankful I had selected the peel-and-stick paper rather than the water-activated variety, which isn't as repositionable. I won't lie; that part was a bit tedious. But the OCD paid off: You can barely see the seams between sheets!

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Here it is all done:

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All told, I think we spent about 3.5 to 4 hours on this, including setup and cleanup. I think it would go a lot faster if we did it again. Now that I know how easy the process is (and that I'm actually capable of doing it), I'm tempted to add a fun wallpaper to my son's room, too.  

I'll keep you posted on how it wears over time, but for now, things are looking good. Thoughts? Would you try it? 

DIY: Peel-and-Stick Backsplash

Well, I did it: I bit the bullet and tiled my lovely new, top-o'-the-line kitchen with stick-on subway tiles.

Before you have a chance to type "WTF" in the comments section, let me recap the thought process leading up to this ill-advised move. I've spent the last few months living in the state of Indecision, USA regarding our kitchen walls—the full story is here—and even though I've come around to wall tile, I can't commit to another pricey project, as all our funds are being pumped into the back patio and deck right now. But once I made up my mind to tile, I couldn't bear looking at the bare walls any longer. Every time I walked into the kitchen, they yelled at me: "We're naked! The only thing you'll let us wear is spaghetti sauce! Don't make us suffer through tomorrow's Chicken Tikka Masala!" And I wanted to really KNOW, not just imagine, what tile will make the space look like. 

Spoiler: It looks good. Really good.

Last Monday, I bought 6 packs of STICKTiles online and warned Dave. “Do you know what this weekend is?” I announced. “It’s PEEL AND STICK SUNDAY!”

Cue the side-eye. After killing our budget on a fancy range hood, commercial stove, and marble counters, I was going to put STICKERS all over the wall? Stickers that would likely peel off the paint job we had just paid for a few months ago?

Knowing I was not going to back down, and knowing the at the four-figure cost of real tile was the alternative, Dave took a step back. “Knock yourself out,” he sighed. If it looks great, we agreed, we’d leave it up until we’re ready for real tile. If it looked like ass, we’d just peel it off, sand and repaint, and cut our losses at a couple hundred bucks.

Walls before backsplash
Bare walls before.

Bare walls before.

I got to work clearing the counters, cleaned the walls of dust and grime, and gathered my supplies: A sheet of cardboard to use as a cutting surface, a sharp utility knife, a large, clear ruler, a pencil and some painter’s tape. I unscrewed and removed all of the outlet plates as well. 

My arsenal.

My arsenal.

Starting at the window casing nearest the sink, I penciled a faint guideline along the top edge to ensure the tiles would be level and placed the first piece on the wall. 

Faux tiles going up.

Faux tiles going up.

I worked my way toward the corner, overlapping the sheets of tile.

Applying the removable tile

Because it’s an offset subway pattern, there were naturally lots of gaps in the field at corners and along the bottom. Whenever I cut an extra tile or a piece off a sheet for a corner or outlet, I set the excess aside to use later when filling in gaps.

Glad I saved this little guy!

Glad I saved this little guy!

After the first few tiles were up, I started to worry about a slight lean to the “grout” lines, and the pattern becoming off level by the time I reached the stove. I began tacking subsequent sheets into place temporarily with bits of tape before I actually stuck them to the wall, ensuring the pattern would land in the right place once everything had been adhered.

Aligning the peel-and-stick tiles

I continued the process on the right side of the stove. As each length of wall was finished, things looked better and better. 

Tile backsplash in place

And that’s it! I have to say, aside from the slightly rubbery texture when you press hard on them, the fact that they lay flat instead of protruding at the wall, and the tiniest, nearly invisible lines where the tiles overlap, these things look extremely real. They finish the space and the shine adds some dimension. We’ll see how they hold up, especially since I disregarded the explicit instructions not to place tiles this close to the burners of my stove (#safety #meltingPVC #imminentdeath).  

Yup, that was Sunday dinner. "Mommy's busy, kids! Go play!"

Yup, that was Sunday dinner. "Mommy's busy, kids! Go play!"

Backsplask complete

For now, I'm happy. Next year, when we put in the real stuff. I might go larger format, like this:

Or square:

Source: Front + Main

Source: Front + Main

I also I might extend tile to cover the whole sink wall, even around the door and window, like so:

Credit: Design by SuzAnn Kletzien, Image via HouseBeautiful

Credit: Design by SuzAnn Kletzien, Image via HouseBeautiful

But that’s another idea I need to sell my husband on. Since I know he reads this blog, I’ll just leave these pics of gorgeous all-tiled kitchens right here. They’re SO GOOD.

Source: Better Homes and Gardens

Source: Better Homes and Gardens

What about everyone else? Have you ever tried temporary tiles? Would you?

DIY: An $80 Desk Makeover

For almost as long as we've lived in our house, I've been on the hunt for just the right bedside table. We have a fairly spacious master bedroom by city standards, with room on my side of the bed for more than your average nightstand. A bedside writing desk seemed like a particularly good solution for this space, since I work at home from time to time but don't want to dedicate a whole room to the occasional work-at-home day. 

The problem is, the desk I had, a simple white painted-metal and glass model, wasn’t exactly master-bedroom ready. It was fine in our old office upstairs (now our daughter's room), but it just won't cut it in the master.

Ick. 

Ick. 

Finally I stumbled on a potentially perfect solution: the skirted desk.

Source: Lonny

Source: Lonny

Not only do skirted tables look pretty and polished as a console or desk, but they enable you to stash a ton of stuff underneath. I love secret storage, and love it even more when it looks like this:

Credit: Nam Dang Mitchell via Rough Luxe Perspective

Credit: Nam Dang Mitchell via Rough Luxe Perspective

Credit: Palmer Weiss via La Dolce Vita

Credit: Palmer Weiss via La Dolce Vita

Credit: Tobi Fairley

Credit: Tobi Fairley

Credit: Urban Grace Interiors via Bungalow Blue Interiors

Credit: Urban Grace Interiors via Bungalow Blue Interiors

All of that inspiration aside, however, I did realize that buying yards of fabric and teaching myself to essentially slipcover my desk—box pleats? Yeah, right—was just not in my weekend agenda. So began looking for shortcuts….

Which I found in a 48-inch party table cover that cost just $54. 

Source: Amazon

Source: Amazon

I wasn't done yet, though. While that table cover was just the right size to cover the surface of the Lumisource Pia desk I’d bought at Wayfair.com a few years back, it would be a bit too short to graze the floor. So, to get a little extra length and add a decorative flourish, I turned to decorative trimming. NYC’s M&J Trim has a great selection, and I ordered this 33mm Greek key jacquard ribbon in Pale Blue/Antique for $8 a yard. I needed at least 8 feet to cover the front and sides of the table cover, so I got 3 yards for $24.

he next step was to cut and sew, which I’ll admit I did a little ham-handedly. I simply folded down the ends of the ribbon for a finished edge, then attached it to the skirt via a single stitch along the top edge.

Ribbon trim
Attaching the ribbon
Ribbon trim table skirt edge

Here’s the finished look.

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It’s not perfect. I probably had the tension setting too high when I attached the ribbon, hence the slight puckering you see along the edge. And since the table doesn’t have a center kick pleat, your legs don’t really sit fully under the table like they would a regular desk. But I tend to rove around the house when I work from home, so for the 4-6 hours of my work week that I sit here, it’s not bad. And considering I’ve packed it underneath with magazines and sewing supplies, my legs wouldn’t have any place to go anyhow. All in all, it works. Storage, a work surface, and a clean look? Check, check, and check.

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If you can't sew a stitch, you can't find a premade party cover in the right size, or you're simply strapped for time, another way to get this look is to order a fab custom skirt from Society Social. I love the colors and the preppy solid tape trim. Cute, no?

Source: Society Social

What do you think? Would you attempt this project in a weekend?

 

 

Featured! Jessie James Decker’s Beach-House Makeover in People Magazine

I’ve been all over the place lately, literally and figuratively. But late last month I had the pleasure of heading down to the Gulf Coast for work. My team at Joss & Main had orchestrated a fresh new collaboration with Jessie James Decker, which meant I got to team up with the country singer/reality TV star on a great new look for her family’s vacation house.

Source: Joss & Main

Source: Joss & Main

This was the second time I’ve been able to work with Jessie and her husband, New York Jets wide receiver Eric Decker... and the second time that my job has has made my friends’ HUSBANDS jealous.

Speaking of friends, people often ask me what collaborations like this entail, and frankly working with Jessie was pretty darn easy. She knows her style pretty well, and based on the last collaboration we did, her Nashville house, I knew that she likes neutral, subtly country base furnishings and loves to create a mood and theme through accents. She requested help coming up with fresh looks for her toddler daughter and infant son’s rooms, as well as her living room and play room, which flow together in an open-concept floor plan. I created these mood boards, made a few rounds of revisions and product selections, and everything rolled out from there.

My inspiration: Easy, breezy living.

My inspiration: Easy, breezy living.

My inspiration: Kids on the coast.

My inspiration: Kids on the coast.

My inspiration: A beachy-boho vibe that a little girl can grow into.

My inspiration: A beachy-boho vibe that a little girl can grow into.

My inspiration: The bunk room of a vintage sailboat.

My inspiration: The bunk room of a vintage sailboat.

You can check out the project in the June 27 issue of People, on stands for a few more days, and on People.com. You can also shop the sale on jossandmain.com this week. We put up some bonus content with more from Jessie here, and the photographer Shannon Fontaine shot this li'l YouTube video for us as well.  Whew!   

And just for fun, a few behind-the-scenes shots from the set. 

My colleagues setting up the gallery wall in Jessie's daughter's room.

My colleagues setting up the gallery wall in Jessie's daughter's room.

Our finished look for daughter Vivianne's room. These beds were supposed to be assembled on set by two brawny handymen with power tools. Which ended up being me and my jumpsuit-clad colleague Keriann and two Allen wrenches. Turned out great, though!

Our finished look for daughter Vivianne's room. These beds were supposed to be assembled on set by two brawny handymen with power tools. Which ended up being me and my jumpsuit-clad colleague Keriann and two Allen wrenches. Turned out great, though!

I mapped out the playroom gallery wall on the floor before hanging it—don’t want any extra nail holes! We mixed pieces from Joss & Main, then combed through her personal collection of framed photos and canvas prints to find ones that suited the palette and mood.

I mapped out the playroom gallery wall on the floor before hanging it—don’t want any extra nail holes! We mixed pieces from Joss & Main, then combed through her personal collection of framed photos and canvas prints to find ones that suited the palette and mood.

My team with the Deckers.

My team with the Deckers.

A reward for two hard days on set.

A reward for two hard days on set.

Thoughts on the finished look? Anything you'd do differently for spaces like these?

Obsessed With... Earthy Pinks & Deep Inks

I've never been a pink girl. I look terrible in pastels, and I have a general aversion to anything over-the-top femme (the occasional glamzon animal print aside). Shabby-chic? Not for me. 

Then why am I suddenly drawn to every item in shades of deep rose and raspberry? I think it's the combinations I'm seeing of late--earthier shades of tawny pink mixed with moody indigo dyes and dark walnut woods. It's very '90s boho-romantic, don't you think? Makes me want to swipe on some Revlon Colorstay in Rum Raisin and sip a latte out of an oversized bowl-mug. 

YAAAAASSS.  Source: Bustle.com

YAAAAASSS.  Source: Bustle.com

Have a look at these pink(ish) picks. 

1.  Crescent loveseat in Indigo, price on request, Cisco Brothers.  2. Safavieh 5’x8’rug, $228, Wayfair.  3. Xnasozi chevron denim & leather apron, $85, Brika. 4. Momotombo lounger, $760, Masaya & Co. 5. Peter Dunham Textiles ikat pillow in Pasha, $74, Etsy.          

1.  Crescent loveseat in Indigo, price on request, Cisco Brothers.  2. Safavieh 5’x8’rug, $228, Wayfair.  3. Xnasozi chevron denim & leather apron, $85, Brika. 4. Momotombo lounger, $760, Masaya & Co. 5. Peter Dunham Textiles ikat pillow in Pasha, $74, Etsy.

 

 

 

 

 

What say you: Too funky? Too girly? Just right? 

The Tile Files (a.k.a. Backtracking on the Backsplash)

It's been quiet here aboard the S.S. Blog, for a couple of good reasons. First, I've been dealing with some truly pressing life matters, which you can catch up on here. Second, I've been working on a super-secret project that I'm not allowed to tell you about yet. It's good—really good—and I'll share more soon. I promise!

In the meantime, though, how about a little stroll on the inside of my crazy head? Eh? Sound like fun? Off we go.

For the last several months, every time I've walked into our renovated kitchen I've alternated between patting myself on the back and kicking myself in the rear about one component of the kitchen design: the backsplash, or the lack thereof. 

We skipped putting in a backsplash, see, because I've grown sick to death of seeing kitchens clad in white rectangular tile, a.k.a. subway tile. Everyone says it's "timeless" and "classic," but people also thought Sophia and Olivia and George were fresh baby names about 5 years ago. Anti-trends become trends. And while I'm certainly not claiming to be immune to decor trends (hello, herringbone tile all over mah house, and subway tile in my kids' bathroom), I hated to jump right on the subway train for my long-awaited kitchen without at least considering other options. 

"You'll never get sick of this!" -- Everyone on the Internet, 2014-2016

"You'll never get sick of this!" -- Everyone on the Internet, 2014-2016

Problem was, I couldn't find another option that made sense or excited me. Tiny mosaic tile? Just what I needed—more grout to clean. Spanish or Moroccan-style painted or encaustic tiles? Too busy for the space. Rustic travertine? Too porous. Stainless steel tile? Ew.

Hubby and I had already chosen to put a steel panel behind our commercial-style range, and we're clean-as-you-go cooks, so really: Did we need to cover the rest of the kitchen in ceramic or stone? We started to doubt it.

The backsplash-free countertops. Is this sacrilege?

The backsplash-free countertops. Is this sacrilege?

Now the kitchen's finished, sans backsplash. Some days I love the look. Seeing the plaster walls instead of ceramic tile makes the kitchen feel kind of homey and warm, not cold and washroom-y. Other days I look at the walls above the counters and they look so naked. Should I have gone subway after all?

In the last few days, I've been tinkering with the idea of applying subway tiles of the peel-and-stick variety, like Smart Tiles or StickTiles, pictured below. At $25 for four sheets, the StickTiles are not a huge commitment, and they could let me "try on" the look before committing to an expensive tiling project. 

Source: StickTiles

Source: StickTiles

But then, a few days ago, I saw this gorgeous pic on queen-of-style Aerin Lauder's Instagram feed...

Credit: @aerin

Credit: @aerin

... and I thought, holy CRAP. Square tile! Is it back? Is this The Thing I Need?

Yes, square tile. Just when I thought we couldn't go more public-restroom chic than rectangular subway tile, in marches the square variety, just waiting to cover our bathrooms, kitchens, and mudrooms in industrial-cool goodness. The tile in Lauder's pic, above, takes square in a luxe direction via a rich, translucent taupe glaze; I'm not sure where it's from, but it no doubt costs $$$. The extra-wide grout gives the shape even more oomph.

It led me on a search for more square tile inspiration, and now I'm realizing how cool the plainer square stuff can be, too. I mean, look at these pics. 

Source: Door Sixteen

Source: Door Sixteen

Source: DecorPad

Source: DecorPad

Source: House & Home

Source: House & Home

Is this what I need lining my kitchen walls? Will I just regret following this trend instead of the last? Do you even like the look? Should I stick with the StickTiles? Please discuss.

The Laundry List

Fact: Anyone with kids under the age of 6 spends a lot of time in their laundry room. It is unbelievable to me how two people under four feet tall can fill a high-efficiency washer EVERY SINGLE DAY.

Lucky for us, in 2013 we made the massively helpful choice to move our laundry from the then-scary basement level to the top floor of the house, inside the kids' bathroom, before our second was born. The room was previously an empty space with one window that we were using for storage. Here’s a peek at the "before." Our best guess is that this was a "dressing room" for the homeowners circa 1860.

Check out that bare bulb... I suppose we could have kept this as an interrogation room. Note: We stole that patch of wood flooring when repairing the master bedroom floors, since we knew we'd be putting tile in here eventually. 

Check out that bare bulb... I suppose we could have kept this as an interrogation room. Note: We stole that patch of wood flooring when repairing the master bedroom floors, since we knew we'd be putting tile in here eventually. 

The newly constructed full bathroom included a tub/shower combo and sink on one side, and a closet that housed a washer and dryer on the other. Oh, and let’s not forget about the toilet. Cramming all of that functionality into a 9x9 space was not an easy task; actual tears were shed at one point as Dave and I drew and re-drew the room plans.

Here’s the current state of the room. I still have a few finishing style touches to put on the space, including some peel-and-stick wallpaper from Spoonflower that I’m planning to put up in the next month or so.

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 When all is said and done, it should look something like this.

Bathroom mockup

What’s on my mind today, however, is what to do inside the bathroom's laundry closet. My son’s recent diabetes diagnosis means we’re spending even more time in our kids’ bath than usual, because that’s where we set up his middle-of-the-night blood glucose tests and insulin injections. Right now we’re just laying everything out on top of the washer and dryer, but you can imagine how often things get dropped into the gap in between at 2 a.m. I’d love to have a clean, organized surface to lay things out, plus it would be nice to have an actual countertop to fold clothes on during the day. Let’s look at some options together, shall we?

Here’s a laundry nook with a similar layout to ours. It’s a pretty great use of space, and I love the incorporated closet rod.

Baskets keep everything organized in this one. Stone counters are probably more than we’ll spring for, but they look so pretty.

How about wood counters? We did IKEA wood counters in our old, “temporary” kitchen, and they held up really well.

Source: Jenna Sue Design

Source: Jenna Sue Design

Rambling Renovators did their countertops in stainless. Seems really easy to maintain & sterilize, no?

We’ll probably end up doing something like this, in an inexpensive gray Formica-type material. It is just a kids’ bathroom, after all.

Which is your favorite? Are there any other materials or layouts we should consider?

Weights and Measures.

 

I feel like I'm crawling out of a hole. 

Three weeks ago, the last time I posted on this blog, I was staring down a whirlwind schedule, starting with three days of travel to High Point Market to scout décor trends for Joss & Main. I’d return home, see my husband for a day, then launch into four days of single working parenting while he trekked to Seattle and San Francisco for big client meetings. We’d then miss each other by one hour in the airport as he flew in and I departed for a bachelorette-party weekend in Philadelphia. In the meantime, contractors were scaling the back of our house with hammers and stone grinders, continuing our long-anticipated exterior renovations. Back in the office, I had two celebrity collaborations to plan and a sponsored sale to produce. Private decorating clients were waiting in the wings. My literary agent was reviewing a book contract for me, and I had my first book-related shoot to shop for and plan. I had a spring charity gala to design and decorate for my daughter’s school. And then, in a complex jigsaw puzzle of a travel itinerary, this Thursday my husband and I were going to drop the kids off at their grandparents’ house in Ohio, where they would scamper around the barn and feed the chickens while the two of us escaped for four blissful days to South Beach. 

For two weeks, with that sunny reward in sight, I ran. I ran. And I ran some more… Until everything came screeching to a frightening halt. Upon my return from Philly last Sunday, my husband and I began to compare notes and realize that our son, who had spent the last week wetting his bed far more frequently than a 2.5 year old toddler in the midst of potty-training reasonably should, might actually be sick.

We didn't know the half of it. As a few home blood tests and an ER visit quickly confirmed, my son has Type 1 (formerly called juvenile) diabetes. The bedwetting, the insatiable thirst, and the mood swings were all tied to his rapidly failing pancreas. While we’d had our eyes on the symptoms for days, and the ER doctors praised us for catching it early, it was still a complete shock to the system.

We spent two exhausting nights and days at Boston Children’s Hospital, where we got a crash course in finger pricks, blood glucose testing, ketone monitoring, and insulin calculations. I practiced injecting my husband with saline solution. Goodbye, massages in Miami. Goodbye, egg-gathering excursions for the kidsGoodbye, spaghetti Sundays and impromptu stops at the ice cream truck on summer days. Hello to a lifetime of vigilance, emergency Glucagon sticks, and nighttime insulin injections (at least until the doctors tell us we can stop). That scene from Steel Magnolias kept flashing before my eyes.

I was torn about how to share this life-changing diagnosis on this blog, which was conceived as a site about decorating in real life. I suppose one easy connection is that I've never felt life to be any more “real” than it is now.

At the same time, this new reality—measuring every meal, counting units of medication, juggling a career, parenting, marriage, and renovation--doesn't make subject of decoration any more or less frivolous than before. On the contrary, I crave a home that speaks to my need for calm, normalcy, beauty, and serenity now more tha  ever. It would have been easy to come home from the hospital and unload the syringes, prep pads, and lancets on all of our kitchen counters.  It would be easy to succumb to the depressing pile of medical must-haves and left it strewn about on every surface. Easy to say, this new life sucks, and we’re just going to endure it; what was important before isn't important now. We could just accept it.

I’m quickly realizing that finding our new “normal” is not about changing our life to accommodate J’s treatment. It’s about folding his careful treatment into our daily routine in order to own it and address it in full. The fabric of my being isn’t going to change because our circumstances have. Which is a long-winded way of saying I’m not going to stop being a busy mom, a working writer, or an aesthete because my son has diabetes. And home is still a haven. For me, for him, for all of us.  

So, without further ado… What’s a gal who likes a calm, tidy kitchen to do when she suddenly needs to measure, weigh, and calculate every ounce of every meal? Shop for new gadgets, of course. Here are some of the pretty and functional pieces I’ve found that can help track those carbs and portion sizes. As with my toiletries, I’m partial to neutral, minimal items that I can keep in plain view without adding a lot of visual clutter to my countertops. Every one of these picks makes me smile, and these days, that’s worth 100 grams of gold.

1. Typhoon Novo mechanical kitchen scale, $64, Amazon. 2. Copper measuring cups, $50, Brook Farm General Store. 3. Portmeiron Sophie Conran white measuring jug, $24, Wayfair. 4. Portmeiron Sophie Conran white measuring cups (set of 4), $19, Wayfair. 5. Milk bottle stacking measuring cups, $24, Anthropologie. 6. Cinco stainless-steel bento box, $40, LunchBots.


1. Typhoon Novo mechanical kitchen scale, $64, Amazon. 2. Copper measuring cups, $50, Brook Farm General Store. 3. Portmeiron Sophie Conran white measuring jug, $24, Wayfair. 4. Portmeiron Sophie Conran white measuring cups (set of 4), $19, Wayfair. 5. Milk bottle stacking measuring cups, $24, Anthropologie. 6. Cinco stainless-steel bento box, $40, LunchBots.

On the Rail Trail

Some people spend the last few weeks of winter looking for the first red-breasted robin, or waiting for the purple crocuses to bloom. Home-renovation junkies like me, however, be like, “It’s going to be 54 tomorrow! Call the door guys! Have we lined up the mason? Where’s the ironwork dude?”

My poor husband. My poor contractor. My poor WALLET.

So yes, now that it’s truly, finally spring, Chez Garlough is back under the knife. 

First we replaced the exterior door leading out from our kitchen, which the door manufacturer built incorrectly when we switched this opening from a window to a doorway last fall.

Door to nowhere. Moldings and hardware coming soon!

Door to nowhere. Moldings and hardware coming soon!

We had installed the one that was delivered simply because we had no choice, but only sort of tacked it into place knowing this guy was coming. This handsome fella is made of the right wood (mahogany), has the right style locks (full mortise), and it even swings the right way. Whew.

Now it’s time to build the balcony onto which this door will open. I’ve shared the general plans by our landscape designer, Andrea Nilsen, in this post, but finish materials have been TBD, so that’s where we are right now. We need to choose railing designs, fence material and color, what stone we want on the upper patio, and such, so that the crew can build it all in the next month or two.

Railings have proven to be a not-so-simple decision. Andrea suggested we take inspiration from the ornamental grates and railings in our neighborhood. She directed me to to her blog, where she had pics of various ironwork from the streets around ours.

Credit: Andrea Nilsen

Credit: Andrea Nilsen

Credit: Andrea Nilsen

Credit: Andrea Nilsen

Credit: Andrea Nilsen

Credit: Andrea Nilsen

Credit: Andrea Nilsen

Credit: Andrea Nilsen

Additionally, I scouted the following designs on a walk in our ‘hood.

Iron stair railing designs
Decorative iron balcony railing

Aren’t those stars and arrows on point (ha)? 

Ultimately I suspect we’ll end up with something more like this, which has the same ornamental vibe but can be constructed more quickly and inexpensively.

Source: Paris Perfect

Source: Paris Perfect

Installing a custom forged iron design like the ones above, by contrast, will likely be heavy, slow, and expensive, and when it comes to attaching a balcony to the back of my house, those are my three least favorite words.

Now, to find a bistro set.... Any leads on the perfect Paris sidewalk-cafe style table and chairs?  

 

Obsessed With... Strapped Leather Furniture

I first spied this chair in an Traditional Home's February/March 2016 issue: A design by Kara Mann for Baker Furniture's Milling Road collection.

Edgy and glamorous all at once, the design jumped off the page and into the back of my head. The leather! The burnished gold! That cantilevered seat! Hubba. I can see this chair getting so much better, and so much cooler, with age.

Then, a month later, a Baker catalog arrived in my mailbox, and I fell in love all over again. Now I can't look at a decor site or showroom without seeing furniture constructed from woven straps of leather or sling-style seats fashioned from a single piece of hide. Have a look at some of my latest favorites.

1. Butler Modern Expressions luggage rack, $429, Wayfair. 2. Campaign chair, $1,516, Jayson Home. 3. William Sheppee 18-inch bar stool, $175, Wayfair. 4. Safavieh Dilan safari chair, $995, safaviehhome.com. 5. Vintage leather folding magazine rack, $200, 1stDibs. 6. Vintage midcentury Colombo Italian chair, $359, Chairish. 

1. Butler Modern Expressions luggage rack, $429, Wayfair. 2. Campaign chair, $1,516, Jayson Home. 3. William Sheppee 18-inch bar stool, $175, Wayfair. 4. Safavieh Dilan safari chair, $995, safaviehhome.com. 5. Vintage leather folding magazine rack, $200, 1stDibs. 6. Vintage midcentury Colombo Italian chair, $359, Chairish

Since I don't currently have any room in my house for any of the above, save perhaps the magazine rack, a pair of cute-ass Sole Society wedges is probably the only way I'll be incorporating this strap-happy trend into my life. But what about you? Like the look or hate it? 

 

Featured! How to Style a Brown Sofa

 

When I first moved in with my boyfriend (now husband), the first “big” furniture purchase we made together was a beige sofa-loveseat combo. And when I say “big,” I mean it – this duo was like something out of Alice in Wonderland. The enormous cushions were grossly overstuffed, and it had these big swooping arms. Cuddling on this matching set of hot-cocoa-colored marshmallows under the bright lights of Bernie & Phyl's Discount Furniture, we felt delightfully grown-up.

Man, I wish I could go back and rip the Fleet Bank debit card out of our hands that day, because that god-awful sofa set stayed with us way too long—more than a decade. It was long enough for me to grow up, acquire a little taste, and begin to despise its existence. But doesn’t everyone have a sofa story like this? Doesn’t everyone have to wrestle with a wretched brown sofa at some point? We buy them because beige and brown seem so safe, and then, after looking at them for a few years, they just start to look so…. Blah.

Needless to say, when About.com Home asked me for some tips on how to style a brown sofa, I had more than a few ideas. A few key takeaways:

1. Throw pillows are your friends. 

In quotes:  "Incorporating pillows in different textures, colors and sizes will help you create a plush, inviting display.”

2. Throw blankets are also your friends. 

In quotes: "A large throw can help disguise a splotch or sunken part of a sofa cushion.  Instead of neatly folding the throw over a sofa arm, try either draping it from the top so it fans out over one or two of the cushions, or drape it over the entire back of the sofa so the fringe hangs down. For even more texture, consider a faux fur throw, a cable-knit style, or a nubby chenille."

3. Distract, distract, distract.

 In quotes: "Create an eye-catching grouping of decorative accents on the adjacent end tables," Garlough says, "by choosing items that complement your sofa’s new color and style theme."  A pair of table lamps with interesting shades, for instance, can flank your couch in style.  

4. Hit the floor.

In quotes: "A statement rug can draw the eye away from a lackluster sofa," Garlough offers… "Or try a great, on-trend trick for adding interest on the floor: Layer two rugs, such as a cowhide or a smaller fringed oriental under a basic jute or sisal rug" as another way to draw attention away from a ho-hum couch.

To read the full story, click here. If you still don’t believe a brown sofa can be all that, have a look at these five rooms, where I think brown is anything but boring.  

Credit: Design by Murphy & Co., via Houzz

Credit: Design by Murphy & Co., via Houzz

Credit: Design by Jeannette Whitson; image via HouseBeautiful

Credit: Design by Jeannette Whitson; image via HouseBeautiful

Source: Lonny mag via Elements of Style

Source: Lonny mag via Elements of Style

Which of these looks is your fave? Or can you simply not stomach a chocolate-colored sofa?


Obsessed With... Parrots

The last few times I went to scope out trends at home decor shows, it felt a bit like I was birdwatching. What was that flash of green: a crested cockatoo? Over there—a blue macaw! Parrots and other tropical birds—their likenesses, not the real deal—seemed to be everywhere.

As proof, here are a few of my snaps:

Parrot prints for every room.

Parrot prints for every room.

This was from a REAL BIRD, reconstructed into REAL BIRD SHAPE. OMG.

This was from a REAL BIRD, reconstructed into REAL BIRD SHAPE. OMG.

I think this was at Lillian August. Don't quote me, though.

I think this was at Lillian August. Don't quote me, though.

Parrot: Your days are over, Foo. Foo dog: You're lunch.

Parrot: Your days are over, Foo. Foo dog: You're lunch.

This budgie ain't budging. Although I think he's technically a parakeet.

This budgie ain't budging. Although I think he's technically a parakeet.

Goofy trend? Yes. But I find it very refreshing, because A) I love color, B) I love vintage ornithological prints and sketches, and C) I’m getting sick to death of all the other animal trends of late—the barn owls, the foo dogs, the octopi, the tortoise shells, the horses. Parrots? RAWK! I can do parrots. And they go so nicely with all of the jungle-licious decor trends I’ve been seeing lately, like palm leaves, pineapples, succulents, rattan furniture, and string hammocks.

Check out a few of my favorite recent finds.

1. Porcelain parrot and cockatoo figurines, $47 each, Wayfair. 2. Napa Home and Garden six-piece framed parrot wall art, $170, Wayfair. 3. Vintage cockatoo etching, $155, Chairish. 4. Peacoquette Designs Laughing Cockatoos wallpaper, $60 per standard roll, Spoonflower. 5. Vintage white hand-carved wood parrot lamp, $280, Chairish. 6. Parrots weatherproof figurines in Storm Blue, $280 for a set of two, Wayfair.

1. Porcelain parrot and cockatoo figurines, $47 each, Wayfair. 2. Napa Home and Garden six-piece framed parrot wall art, $170, Wayfair. 3. Vintage cockatoo etching, $155, Chairish. 4. Peacoquette Designs Laughing Cockatoos wallpaper, $60 per standard roll, Spoonflower. 5. Vintage white hand-carved wood parrot lamp, $280, Chairish. 6. Parrots weatherproof figurines in Storm Blue, $280 for a set of two, Wayfair.

Branching Out

I’ve been traveling a lot for work lately, which has my head spinning a bit. So today I’m just going to share one little tidbit of styling know-how that came in handy on set in L.A. last week. It’s a little thing that can have a big impact on a space, both in-person and in a photo.

Working alongside the interior designer Jake Arnold, who created the space we were shooting, I spent last Wednesday morning adding decorative touches to a certain celeb's outdoor spaces to get them photo ready. Our goal was to make it feel finished and stylishly "lived-in.” 

Table stakes.


Table stakes.

After dressing the flat surface of the dining table with a host of trays, pitchers, and other tabletop items, Jake and I stood back and assessed the space. We both agreed it needed a fresh arrangement of flowers or greens to wake up the scene, and blurted out the same conclusion at the same time: ”What this needs is something branchy.”

Our choice: An oversized bunch of eucalyptus branches.


Our choice: An oversized bunch of eucalyptus branches.

Big, branching arrangements, you see, have a way of transforming a space--they add texture and function as a dynamic focal point. They eye lands immediately on the center of the arrangement, then up and out into the rest of the room. They can bring organic softness to a room full of harsh, modern lines; freshness to an industrial or masculine space; or playfulness to a serious setup.  Depending on whether you choose something leafy, like eucalyptus, or floral, like yellow forsythia or pink cherry blossoms, you can bring a calming, invigorating feel to the room or infuse it with a healthy pop of color.

Below is another scene that begged for branches. For this little vignette, I literally scrambled up the (celebrity) homeowner’s freshly mulched hillside and twisted these branches off a tree. As I jumped to grab them, Jake was at the ready with a pair of shears. Not my most glamorous moment… But look how pretty and poetic they look on set!

Click through to my Instagram feed to see these babies in ACTION.


Click through to my Instagram feed to see these babies in ACTION.

Not convinced of the magic in the big and branchy? Here’s a handful of amazing interior shots I’ve bookmarked recently that show the room-boosting power of a good branch. Try to visualize each image without the arrangement--many of the photos just wouldn't be as interesting without the leaves, twigs, and buds.

Credit: Suzy Hoodless via My Domaine


Credit: Suzy Hoodless via My Domaine

Credit: Daleet Spector via HouseBeautiful


Credit: Daleet Spector via HouseBeautiful

The abode of Frank Muytjens of J. Crew. Credit: Elle Decor via 12 Chairs


The abode of Frank Muytjens of J. Crew. Credit: Elle Decor via 12 Chairs

Source: H&M Home


Source: H&M Home

Funny enough, I was looking at the following shots of Jenna Lyons' much-photographed Brooklyn home, and hey hey! The stylist used the exact same vase of branches in two different shots. It does wonders for both. 

Source: Domino


Source: Domino

Source: Sotheby's via Apartment Therapy


Source: Sotheby's via Apartment Therapy

What kinds of branches work? Pretty much anything over 2 feet long, honestly. You can go to a flower shop or floral market and pick up eucalyptus, olive branches, or fruit-tree blossoms like cherry, quince, or almond. If it's late winter, you can even clip the bud-less branches off these flowering fruit trees and force them to bloom early by sticking them in warm water and bringing them indoors. Or you can do what prop stylists often do: Tromp around in the weeds and cut down something with a nice arch and leaf. Just be sure it's not poisonous. Because that'll bring a whole other dimension to the space. 

Love leafy, branchy arrangements? What type is your fave? 

Featured! My Homekeeping Tips on Glamour.com

As my husband will tell you, I have a pretty sensitive schnoz. If there's even a hint of mildew in a hotel bathtub, I'll smell it; if I'm on the bus next to someone who's left their laundry in the washer a few hours too long, I'll know. It's a curse. 

So when the folks at Glamour.com pinged me a few weeks ago asking me what household items I thought people don't clean often enough, of course I had a few things to say. My shortlist: Throw pillows, window treatments, and (my personal peeve) shower curtain liners.

Source: Glamour


Source: Glamour

Here's a blurb:

In a bathroom that's used daily by multiple people, fabric shower curtains should be washed monthly to keep mildew from forming, and the liner should we washed every week or two. Garlough shares her tips on washing those tricky liners: "To clean plastic liners, spray them down with a diluted vinegar solution, let it sit, and then rinse. Fabric liners should be machine-washed (with bleach if they're white, oxygen bleach if they're not) and dried in the dryer. If a mildew smell does develop, fabric liners can usually be salvaged with an extra-hot wash cycle; plastic ones should be replaced."

You can read the full story by clicking here. Of course, the guidelines and timelines I provided are skewed for a rented flat that several fashionable young Glamour readers share, and might not apply to everyone. If your guest room rarely gets used, or if your curtained shower stays dry while you take your daily soak in a deep tub (you lucky bastard), these  timelines can be stretched out.  

CLEAN YOUR SHOWERS, PEOPLE. THEY SMELL. 

With Love, 
Donna

 

 

How to Train Your Curtains

Unless you grew up in a FANCY house, were trained and certified as a decorating ninja, or read every page of every issue of Martha Stewart Living, there are some decorating secrets the average person never picks up. Like how to fold a fitted sheet, for example, or the life-changing sushi-roll technique for putting on a duvet. These are things that someone needs to let you in on.

As a former employee of the great Martha herself, I was lucky enough to learn the folded-sheet trick from a photo stylist on her team, and the sushi-roll secret was bestowed upon me by an episode of Meredith Vieira. (I was “sick” that day, I swear.) But it wasn’t until I was fussing with six fairly inexpensive curtain panels that just… wouldn’t… hang…. right…. that I discovered the mother of all decorating secrets.

Ahem.

Your curtains? They need to be trained.

As soon as I read this enlightened little fact, tucked away in a quiet corner of the World Wide Web, it was like someone had thrown back twelve layers of Belgian linen and dupioni silk and revealed the Great and Powerful Oz to me. PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE LIFE-HACKERS BEHIND THAT VERY USEFUL AND MONEY-SAVING ADVICE! shouted the curtain people from behind the blackout shades. CONTINUE PAYING $200 PER PANEL, OR YOU’LL NEVER BE HAPPY!

Indeed. (And by the way, I’ve never paid $200 for a curtain panel. Even if I’d wanted to.)

Here’s the secret, guys. While I won’t deny that really good fabric curtains, purchased in the right size for your window and hung at the proper height from great mounting hardware, can make a TON of difference in how your windows look, there’s another factor that separates ultra-nice drapes from the ones you buy in a two-pack at Bed Bath & Elsewhere. First, better-quality drapes  are engineered to hang properly; they’re backed with a layer of lining, and frequently have small lead weights embedded along the bottom hem. The added weight keeps the folds in check and the pleats from going all wonky.

But part of it happens after they’re hung, I learned. This article showed me that pleats don’t just appear; they first have to be arranged. This one took it a step further, suggesting that you bind the arranged folds of fabric for a few days to set the pleats. Once set, you can open and close your curtains and the fabric will automatically default to the “trained” folds. It's like reverse Botox: You tell the wrinkles exactly where you want them to appear.

Want proof? Check out these faux-silk curtains right after I’d hung them. The fabric blew with every breeze; they flared out at the base in a sort of trapezoidal shape. It was time to start hacking.

The curtains before their training regimen. 


The curtains before their training regimen. 

Step 1: Adding pleats  

First I did what any resourceful home-decorator would do and waited for my mom to fly cross-country to visit. After letting her spend seven minutes with my children, I handed her my sewing bag and asked her to pinch-pleat the curtain tops. (“Six Dutch pleats per panel, Mom! You can see the kids when you finish them all.”) Pleating the tops was not a necessary step for great-looking curtains—hanging them from curtain clips would be just fine—but I’m an opportunist, so hey.

Thanks, ma.


Thanks, ma.

Step 2: The weigh-in

Next it was time to weight the curtains. This time I enlisted my 5-year-old daughter, whose hands you see here. While lead weights, either sewn into the bottom corners or all along the panel’s bottom edge, are the traditional method, I am 1) too lazy to go to the fabric store, 2) too impatient to wait for Amazon, 3) paranoid abour my children swallowing lead doodads, and 4) cheap. In lieu of drapery weights, I slipped six pennies into each corner of each panel. It worked like a charm and cost 12 cents per drape! 

Wee helping hands.


Wee helping hands.

If your curtains don’t have a slot like this, you can open the hem with a seam ripper, put our weights in, and follow the next step.

Step 3: Closing the gap  

Once the “weights" were in, I tacked the curtain hem shut with a needle and thread. I used contrast-colored thread here so you could see my stitching. (Just kidding! I was too lazy to go to go out and buy gold thread, so gray it is!)

Tacked shut.


Tacked shut.

Step 4: Arranging the folds

My mom was nice enough to put the curtain hooks in for me, so next I hung the panels from the installed rods and hooks I began the training process. I pushed each panel as far to the side as I could, then ran my hands along the fabric to form six accordion-style pleats from top to bottom (one for each curtain hook, excluding the ones at the ends). I used a strip of scrap fabric to “belt” each panel into position, securing it with a safety pin.

Folded and bound.


Folded and bound.

Step 5: The training period

After three days in lockup, it was time to let the fabric loose. I removed the belt, smoothed the panels, and took this pic.  Check out how much more tailored the one on the left looks now. One nice straight line, top to bottom. Ahhh.

Trained curtains

Anyone have any other tips on making store-bought curtains look their best?


Obsessed With... Tasseled Touches

Sometimes an obsession is deeply rooted, inspired by an experience (like finding the perfect piece of African mudcloth at a flea market).  Other times it’s inspired by a specific need (like finding a replacement for a discontinued item). And then, sometimes, it’s just a picture--one image that you see and just say, that. I want that.

I think I found this shot while looking for pics of gray or black doors:

I bookmarked it immediately, thinking how nice a large tassel would look slung over each of my home’s brass doorknobs, or how cute a tiny tassel would be hung on one of the wee brass keys. (We have put working, old-fashioned mortise locks in every door we’ve replaced or refinished so far.)

I’m always looking for low-effort, high-impact ways to put a little pep in my home’s step, and this fits the bill, doesn't it? I just figured I’d pick up some curtain tiebacks next time I was shopping, shorten them as needed, and be good to go.

Then I saw this chest from Oomph. Oomph.

Source: Oomph


Source: Oomph

You can combine any finish with any tassel color, taking the look from traditional to glamorous to quirky. 

Of course the fascination spiraled from there. At this point I'm considering changing my name to Lt. DangleHere are some of my latest tasseled finds.

1. Easton Chest, $3,575, Oomph. 2. Laura Kirar for Arteriors tassel lamp, $636, Candelabra. 3. Gold leaf tassel-leg table, $160, Chairish. 4. Square cute tassel tieback, $36, Wayfair. 5. Metropolitan by Minka Vintage two-light sconce, $305, Wayfair. 6. Bungalow 5 Brigitte three-drawer chest, $1,224, Layla Grace. 


1. Easton Chest, $3,575, Oomph. 2. Laura Kirar for Arteriors tassel lamp, $636, Candelabra. 3. Gold leaf tassel-leg table, $160, Chairish. 4. Square cute tassel tieback, $36, Wayfair. 5. Metropolitan by Minka Vintage two-light sconce, $305, Wayfair. 6. Bungalow 5 Brigitte three-drawer chest, $1,224, Layla Grace

Wanted: A Four-Bedroom Kondo.

When it comes to home and lifestyle trends, I’ll admit I'm not the earliest adopter. I didn't try the South Beach Diet or Master Cleanse until years after every fitness magazine had written about it; I didn’t catch on to the Real Housewives until a few seasons of OC had passed. I still haven't picked up an adult-coloring book. (Talk about a fast-moving trend... Any day now, some cheeky publisher is going to come out with a literal “adult coloring book” that’s completely NSFW.)

Part of it is wanting to see a trend prove out before I jump on the bandwagon, or not have to compare myself to the legions already self-discovering through the latest fad. Which is how I came to devour a copy of professional organizer Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up on a 4.5-hour flight home from Salt Lake City two weeks ago. The sequel, Spark Joy, is already flying off bookshelves, and my curiosity finally got the better of me. 

Your guide to Kondo living. $10, Amazon.


Your guide to Kondo living. $10, Amazon.

The weekend after I read the book, I filled three trash bags with clothing to donate and discard. This past weekend, I filled two more. I’ve plowed through the contents of three closets, re-folded every one of my sweaters and socks, and freed up massive amounts of storage space. My closet now looks like this:

Two weeks ago, all of those empty hangers held clothes.


Two weeks ago, all of those empty hangers held clothes.

Shirts and sweaters are folded and "filed" vertically.


Shirts and sweaters are folded and "filed" vertically.

Handbags and clutches are stacked so I can easily identify each one in profile (or by its protective dust cover).


Handbags and clutches are stacked so I can easily identify each one in profile (or by its protective dust cover).

I have this strange feeling that, unlike my previous clutter purges, my things are going to stay this way. Getting packed and unpacked from a business trip following the re-org was unbelievably easy; so is getting dressed every morning. I’m a convert.

Vertically-filed pajamas and loungewear, post-Kondo purge.


Vertically-filed pajamas and loungewear, post-Kondo purge.

BUT. There’s one aspect of Kondo’s method that I have doubts about: the mandate that one must declutter a house in full. She instructs readers to winnow one's belongings all in one go, no exceptions. First you do the clothes (every piece you own), followed by your books, then other categories of belongings like papers and mementos, subjecting every piece to her kooky but effective “does it spark joy?” test. This process can supposedly be completed in six months. She is adamant about this all-or-nothing schedule of organizing category by category. Going room by room is no-go.

I don’t have six months to spend organizing. Even if I believed the process would yield me a bigger-feeling house, self-actualization, and a skinnier ass, I cannot dedicate 26 consecutive weeks of 2016 to this process. And with a full-time job, bedrooms on four floors, two kids whose sleep schedules don’t leave me many opportunities to rifle through their closets undisturbed… IT AIN’T HAPPENING, MARIE.

So I’m exploring: Is it possible to do a modified Kondo? Instead of tearing through my house looking for every last article of kids’ clothing, can I do an initial purge and then apply her vetting and organizing techniques to my belongings as I encounter them? In other words, is there a denomination of Kondo-ism that lets me continue the progress I’ve made in a way that works for my crazy life? 

Marie Kondo proudly boasts that no client has lapsed after following her carefully prescribed purge, so perhaps modifying is damning... Maybe I'm just setting myself up for a future of coin-littered bedside tables and drawers full of unmatched socks. But I can't know until I try.

Meanwhile, Kondo also rails against the purchase of so-called organization aids like baskets and plastic bins. I totally get why she does; you can't solve the problem of stuff with more stuff. But here are three pieces I found helpful in the Kondo-style conquering of my own clutter. Maybe they'll help you, too. 

1. The shallow, open-top basket.

Helps me file folded clothes vertically while leaving enough of each garment exposed so I can identify what I'm looking for. These work especially well for tees, folded jeans, and sweaters (but beware baskets with rough fibers that will catch on knits).

 

2. The multipurpose box.

Can be used inside a drawer to corral smaller items, like tights and underthings. I also use these all over the house to store kids' toys, because they're stackable and allow the kiddos to easily ID what's inside. 

3. An under-bed shoe bin. On wheels.

Kondo seems generally opposed to any storage solution that keeps your belongings out of sight, as those belongings are more likely to become forgotten clutter. But with the seasonal weather shifts we see in New England, I don't see how I can't maintain some deep, put-away storage for my out-of-season kicks. I like these wheeled boxes with picnic-style lids far better than the canvas shoe-storage bags I've used in the past, because the contents of the latter so easily jumble when you're cramming the bag back under the bed. I'll take two, please.

Who knows? Maybe this is terrible advice and you should all do exactly as the joy-sparking guru says. But perhaps my late-to-the-game adoption and modifications of the KonMari method will lead me to my own revelatory, life-changing discoveries. Maybe I’ll be that cult member who starts a new sub-cult and takes you all with me, Jerry Maguire-style. We'll spark our own joy, goddamnit!  WHO'S COMING? HUH? WHO'S COMING??

Or maybe I'll just keep folding my socks into sixths. I'll let you know. 

Secrets of a Style Director: What I'll Never Buy for My Own Home

OK, guys, it’s confession time. I’ve just returned from Alt Summit, the annual design bloggers’ conference in Salt Lake City, where I was schmoozing on behalf of Joss & Main. Between booth sessions and lots of posing for our #whitesofachallenge, however, I was able to pop into some of the breakout sessions and roundtables on blogging and design.

After hours of talks on creativity, finding your voice, and #authenticity, I decided I needed to let a skeleton or two out of my own closet from time to time. So today I’m here to tell you all that I…

Um. 

This is really hard. Let me try again.

See, ever since I was in college, I [cough]....

Ugh. You know what? Fuck it.

I only buy neutral-colored toiletries.  

I'll let that sink in for a moment. I’m a mess, am I not? But seriously, I simply do not possess the ability to buy a bottle of Garnier Fructis shampoo. Walking through Sephora or CVS, I mentally whittle the selection down to only those bottles I’d be willing to put on public display, and only then can I begin to comparison shop. 

Want proof? Here’s my shelf in the shower. (It’s getting real, folks.)

image.jpg

Here's what's around my sink.

image.jpg
image.jpg

Not everything I own is pure white, gray, taupe, or black. Translucent colors, pastels, metallics, or pops of color on the label are OK if the overall look is clean and tailored, e.g. Molton BrownDr. Hauschka, or Fresh.  But the overall effect is neutral. Like, barely-notice-anything's-there neutral.

Where did this weird compulsion originate? It may have come from my early obsession with lifestyle magazines and home-furnishings catalogs, and me wishing that I’d one day have a bathroom that looked as put-together and well-edited as this:

Source: Domino magazine via Pinterest


Source: Domino magazine via Pinterest

Source: Pottery Barn


Source: Pottery Barn

It could have been my stint as a beauty editor at Whole Living magazine, where I had to find products that were not only eco- and health-friendly but also had packaging pretty enough to photograph. A lot of the time, we had to shoot the organic beauty products in unwrapped or deconstructed form because the packaging was so detestable, not unlike this:

Source: Pietro Scordo Photography via Pinterest


Source: Pietro Scordo Photography via Pinterest

Source: Greg Broom Photography via Pinterest


Source: Greg Broom Photography via Pinterest

Or perhaps it’s all of the time I’ve spent writing and thinking about well-designed homes, not to mention renovating my own. To me, a bathroom just looks so much better when it’s not cluttered up with ugly drugstore cosmetics, which are purposely designed to scream at you from the shelves. If you’re going to put all this work and money into choosing tile and faucets and finishes, I say, why muck up the look with piles of fluorescent-colored plastic?

Karl Lagerfeld's bathroom. I'm not sure we could be friends. Source: Harper’s Bazaar via Guest of a Guest


Karl Lagerfeld's bathroom. I'm not sure we could be friends. Source: Harper’s Bazaar via Guest of a Guest

It's so much better this way, isnt' it?

I’m moving in. Image via Shelterness


I’m moving in. Image via Shelterness

Buying only neutral products also allows me to be a little lazy. While I like to imagine I could commit to a Marie Kondo-like routine of putting every product back in its place after every use, owning mostly neutral items means I can leave my moisturizers and serums and things out on the sink from time to time and not see a mess.

I’ve read advice from professional organizers and in magazines about transferring products from ugly containers into pretty, uniformly sized ones to keep your bath looking clean, but that’s always struck me as an expensive and annoying extra step. It also makes it hard to check the product’s ingredients, which can be really important if you have sensitive skin or a health condition, or to find out when a product has expired.

Does this neutral-only restriction ever cause me issues? For sure. There are times when I want to buy the citrus-scented facial scrub, but ultimately can’t put the chartreuse-colored bottle in my cart. The exception is when it'll fit in my medicine cabinet, but most bath & body products are too large. Know this: You’ll never find a bottle of aquarium-themed Softsoap on my sink, a Yankee Candle in my powder room, or a stack of Irish Spring on my open shelves, even if I liked those things. I'm a ruthless packaging snob, and now I'm admitting it to everyone. 

What about you? Are there any products you’re ultra-picky or weird about, for reasons other than the usual ones? ‘Fess up in the comments, and help me feel a little less weird...

How I Build a Mood Board

Lately several friends and coworkers have asked me what software and processes I use to start a mood board, a.k.a. a visual room plan. Mood boards are a tool I use all the time, both for brainstorming new looks for our team to sell on Joss & Main, and for keeping my renovations and décor projects on track. It’s so helpful to see all of your ideas in one place, and to have a visual north star of sorts to guide you when you’re in a store and getting distracted by a million pretty things. A mood board reminds you where you want to be.

  A mood board I created for a holiday kids’ table concept on Joss & Main. Click through for the pics!

 

A mood board I created for a holiday kids’ table concept on Joss & Main. Click through for the pics!

My favorite tool for making mood boards, owing mostly to my lack of graphic design prowess, is Google Drawings. Not only is it absurdly easy to use, it lets me save all my boards on Google Drive, where I can access them from anywhere I have an Internet connection. Other people I know create mood boards in Photoshop, Illustrator, or even an Excel sheet. There are also lots of mood board-creation sites like Olioboard, Niice, or SampleBoard. You can use whatever floats your boat.

What about Pinterest? you might ask. Let me pause here and say that while I love Pinterest for gathering inspiration, as a planning tool I find it falls short, because it’s hard to see how all of your chosen items relate to one another in terms of silhouette and scale. It's just not contextual enough.

My mood boards are often more like room mockups than idea boards, because I try to make them reflect the balance of textures, patterns, and colors you’ll find in the finished space. For instance, if I’m designing a dining room with six upholstered chairs, I like to see six upholstered chairs in the mockup, not just one.  At the very least, I’ll enlarge the fabric swatch in the mood board to reflect how much of that color and pattern there will be in the room relative to everything else. This will help you see if the whole space has too much going on, looks bland, etc.  If you have a big zebra print on eight dining chairs, that’s going to create a whole lot more noise in the room than just one zebra-print chair, and you want to account for that as you choose other items for the space.

Whatever the platform, I like to start by taking items that you own or are certain you’ll purchase and drop them (or their online doppelgangers) into the board, along with any items and images that really capture the vibe you like. These will become the "fixtures" you make your other selections around.

Note: These anchor pieces DO NOT have to be large pieces of furniture! A mood board can start with anything you like—even a photo that’s not from the world from home décor.

  This mood board, which I created for reality-star and country singer Jessie James Decker’s nursery, started with the framed vintage-sports prints. See the resulting room here on People.com.

 

This mood board, which I created for reality-star and country singer Jessie James Decker’s nursery, started with the framed vintage-sports prints. See the resulting room here on People.com.

They key is that the inspiration items NEED to have a vibe or color. It’s hard to start a mood board around a vague concept, like “vintage” or “Scandinavian,” for example, or a plain white sofa (unless it has some sort of cool detail that you can begin to make other product decisions against).  To me, the process doesn’t begin until your board has a piece with some life in it, whether it’s a vintage find or a piece of art or a pillow. Materials are good, as are patterns and fabrics. Anything that sends a visual cue, or that you can place another image, color, or product next to and say “I think that goes,” or “wow, that looks terrible," is a good starting place.

To give you an example of how this process works for me, let's look at a scheme I pulled together for my friend Jamie's office. She recently switched jobs and emailed me: Have been assigned new office/closet-- tiny, no window, institutional!  the interns used to be in here.  all the furniture has to be fire-rated. must enliven, what do you think?  rug, lamps?  mirror?! 

Jamie wanted a welcoming yet not-too-stodgy vibe. And she had a somewhat oddball pair of items she was hanging onto as inspiration: a vintage Pyrex pitcher with gold starburst details, and a black spindle-back chair she’d bought on a whim at a flea market and was thinking of repainting.

  The office inspiration—seriously.

 

The office inspiration—seriously.

She also had some cute glam-ish desk accessories and wall art she’d picked up with some store credit online. Starting with those cues, and knowing that Jamie has a slightly Eastern/boho side to her style (she’s half-Asian, like me, and loves a lot of the same Oriental motifs I do) I began building a board.

First, I took pictures of her Pyrex pitcher, trays, chair, and accents and dropped them in to a blank Google Drawing. I added a big indigo-toned rug that would bring some softness to the very utilitarian space, and a gold sunburst mirror to add some glamour and reflect light in the room.  A couple of table and task lamps would illuminate the space enough that she could leave the overhead fluorescents off.

Jamie's office in progress

Next we had to tackle her desk, which was a standard-issue doctor’s office particleboard masterpiece. I suggested draping it with some indigo shibori fabric, which would break up the swath of faux-cherry veneer, and I brought in some accents to complement the trays she already owned.  A sheepskin throw to cover the outdated flower detail on the chair, a funky urchin objet, and BOOM. We have a pretty cool office setup, don’t we?

Jamie's office

I’d love to hear what tools/starting points others use to create mood boards. If you’re not a designer, how feasible does this process seem to you? I’d love to hear your take in the comments section. Do tell…

Obsessed With... Horns and Hooves

Maybe it started with all the horn accessories I saw at home shows over the last few years. Maybe it was that blasted ram’s head table, which I still haven’t bought and am now second-guessing for its size. But suddenly I feel like I’m being followed by a flock of bighorn sheep, with a few gazelles and goats tagging along behind. They’re on my Pinterest feed, in magazines, and even my email inbox.

The experience—noticing a detail, then suddenly seeing it everywhere—is one I have often in this industry, and it’s not unlike what happened when I was a food writer. A chef would bring out a dish with black garlic, and suddenly I couldn’t go out to dinner without seeing a dish with black garlic. Black garlic for everyone!

But back to the rams. This week, I spotted this design by Amy Berry via Viyet, anchored by a Hollywood Regency-style ram’s head table topped with glass. 

  Credit: Design by Amy Berry, via Viyet. This room also features the famous Martinique wallpaper found in the Beverly Hills Hotel, a print that everyone in the blog world is currently cray-cray for.

 

Credit: Design by Amy Berry, via Viyet. This room also features the famous Martinique wallpaper found in the Beverly Hills Hotel, a print that everyone in the blog world is currently cray-cray for.

Then the online magazine Rue brought me this airy-yet-glam space from jewelry designer Zoe Chicco, featuring a cocktail-sized version of the same table. 

And then, of course, I realized that the gorgeous design tome Habitat by Lauren Liess, which I’ve been poring over for weeks, is full of horns and rammy things...

  Credit: Designer Lauren Liess, author of Habitat and the blog Pure Style Home

 

Credit: Designer Lauren Liess, author of Habitat and the blog Pure Style Home

...and all of a sudden I’m shopping for ram’s head bookends and hoof-shaped paperweights and vintage zoological prints of curly-horned sheep and holy hell I need to stop before a nymph jumps out of my bedroom closet with a pan flute.

For now, I might just indulge my fixation by printing and framing this illustration that I found in the New York Public Library’s Digital Collections.

  Source: NYPLDC

 

Source: NYPLDC

(Note: If you haven’t heard of the NYPL Digital Collections, go check ‘em out tout de suite. A few years ago the NYPL put their archives online, and you can now access over 600,000 fascinating images including botanical, ornithological, and zoological prints, for free. You can print them yourself or order higher-quality prints via the website. It’s a great way to fill out a gallery wall on a budget.)

Ready for more horns and hooves? Let’s shop.

  1. Nairobi table lamp, $400, Wayfair. 2. Dugaleon wall hook, $54, Wayfair. 3. Tyrol horn cups, $22 each, Jayson Home. 4. Horn magnifying glass, $29, Joss & Main. 5. Noir Furniture Pegas console table,  $1,332, Zinc Door. 6. Pair of ram’s head bookends, $475, 1stdibs. 

 

1. Nairobi table lamp, $400, Wayfair. 2. Dugaleon wall hook, $54, Wayfair. 3. Tyrol horn cups, $22 each, Jayson Home. 4. Horn magnifying glass, $29, Joss & Main. 5. Noir Furniture Pegas console table,  $1,332, Zinc Door. 6. Pair of ram’s head bookends, $475, 1stdibs