Real Simple Home: The Project Reveal!

Back in May, I shared one of the most exciting projects I’d be working on this year—the Real Simple Home. And I’m pleased as punch to FINALLY be sharing an official update… It’s done!!

But let’s back up. After the initial shock of excitement/joy/terror wore off, I spent the rest of May getting to work. The venue was revealed to be 550 Vanderbilt, a gorgeous new residential development in Brooklyn boasting incredible city views and luxe amenities. Our unit was a penthouse, which was partially complete but still waiting on some finishing touches. With kitchen cabinetry, flooring preselected and installed, my job was going to be adding a bit of personality to the space via décor, lighting, and a small amount of furniture, which I’d source from Joss & Main.

Fun and easy, right? Not so fast. My kitchen not only had most pieces already in situ, it was open and adjacent to the living room, which was being designed by Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent.

Wait, did you get that?

NATE BERKUS AND JEREMIAH BRENT. And, oh yeah, the other designers in the mix include Sabrina Soto (love her, and loved styling her for a catalog shoot last summer), Studio McGee (my be-all, end-all for clean-boho-rustic design inspiration), Jenny Komenda, Robin Henry, Ariel Okin of Homepolish, and Jessica McCarthy of Decorist.  

Low stakes, right?

So let’s review this again. I needed to:

  • Build on what was already there.

  • Add a healthy dose of personality.

  • Make it functional.

  • Make it photogenic.

  • Shop it all from Joss & Main.



But since hyperventilating wasn’t going to get me anywhere, I decided to start where I always do: with measurements of the space and a room mockup. (Yup, the same tool I talk endlessly about in my book.) I had a couple of photos to work from, including this rendering of another unit from a real estate listing:

 Source:  550 Vanderbilt

I kept these on my desktop as I began to shop for items that would bring life to the space, testing them out in my digital rendering of a room.

Here’s where I landed with my mockup.


Next, I took things a step further and mocked up what my stools and lights might look like at the island. A little birdie also told me that the walls were being painted a warm cream tone in Nate & Jeremiah’s space, so I included a swatch to ensure everything would flow.


By July, it was time to install. My team from Joss & Main and I headed to Brooklyn to unpack the goods, and we put up this awesome peel-and-stick wallpaper to give things a graphic, youthful spin.

 Source:  Joss & Main

Source: Joss & Main

That’s right, I said peel-and-stick. It’s removable, yo! Installing it was easy as pie, and took just about an hour to do a two-strip section of wall adjacent to the kitchen’s wine fridge.

Next, we tested out lots of different runners and decor to see how they might work together in the space.


Meanwhile, the team at the organizing company Neat Method outfitted all the cabinets with great storage solutions.  It IS Real Simple, after all.

 Image credit: Christopher Testani

Image credit: Christopher Testani

 Image credit: Christopher Testani

Image credit: Christopher Testani

The end result, which we’ll be celebrating at a launch party next week, is below. Not too shabby, right?

 Image credit: Christopher Testani

Image credit: Christopher Testani

 Image credit: Christopher Testani

Image credit: Christopher Testani

Of course, mine was only one of the spaces in the Real Simple Home—and you must, must MUST check out the others in the October issue of the magazine, on stands September 21!

If you’re in the NYC area, you can actually tour the space in person starting next week. Stay tuned to @real_simple on Instagram for updates and hours!

And if you’re looking to shop the products above, you can find them all (plus a few other complementary picks) right here.

What’s your favorite part of the space? Or do you hate it entirely? I’d love to hear your comments below.


Obsessed With: Polished Pet Picks

I’m traveling this week for a fun project: my collaboration on the forthcoming Real Simple Home, which you can read more about here. But naturally, my kids don’t give a crap about why Mom’s out of town or all the cool designers she’s pumped to be working alongside in New York. What’s on their mind? THAT WE’RE GETTING A PUPPY IN AUGUST!! OHMYGOSH IT’S GOING TO BE SO AWESOME MOM CAN WE PLEASE GET THE GIRL PUPPY AND CAN WE NAME HER COOKIE OR FUZZBUTT AND WILL SHE SLEEP IN OUR ROOMS?? OMG OMG OMGGGGGG

 Image credit:  Allie Sepanek

Image credit: Allie Sepanek

Yeah. They’re a little excited. Before now, the only canines in our home were two bronze whippets that previously lived my childhood home in California. My mom mailed them to me in Boston a few years ago, which must have cost her a fortune because they weigh ten thousand pounds. They even got a cameo in my book, as well as a highlight in June’s Rue Magazine feature (photo at right).

Our live pup, meanwhile, is going to be an Australian Labradoodle, owing to A) my allergies and B) our general aversion to dog-hair dust bunnies. Our neighborhood is also Doodle Central—families in our area really seem to like the breed for their size and temperament for city living, and because they’re particularly good around kids.

Our pup’s breeder is super-informative and completely dedicated to his dogs, so for the most part, I’m taking his advice on all things pet gear. There are some uber-practical items we’re going to need: a crate for training and sleeping, and something like this Porch Potty for quick let-outs when it’s freezing and we’re all still in PJs. (We have a limited patio area sans grass.) Mr. Breeder recommends leather dog leashes from Leerburg and something called a martingale collar for walking, and we’ll no doubt take his advice to buy those.

But there are also some opportunities to have some fun with the necessities we buy. Once our dog is crate-trained and walking well on a leash (i.e. not pulling), I’m totally going to accessorize—everything from pet beds to treat canisters. Because ME.

Here are a few things I’ve got my eye on.

  1. Found My Animal ombre adjustable dog leash in Indigo, $62, . 2. The Foggy Dog navy pinstripe dog poop bag, $22,  Etsy . 3. Archie and Oscar herringbone dog bed, from $61,  Wayfair . 4. Clair blue three-piece lidded canister set, $63,  Joss & Main . 5. Waggo dipped ceramic dog bowl in Navy, from $22,  Food52 . 6. The Foggy Dog limited-edition Arroyo dog bandana, from $32,  Etsy.

1. Found My Animal ombre adjustable dog leash in Indigo, $62, 2. The Foggy Dog navy pinstripe dog poop bag, $22, Etsy. 3. Archie and Oscar herringbone dog bed, from $61, Wayfair. 4. Clair blue three-piece lidded canister set, $63, Joss & Main. 5. Waggo dipped ceramic dog bowl in Navy, from $22, Food52. 6. The Foggy Dog limited-edition Arroyo dog bandana, from $32, Etsy.

What am I missing? Any tips on maintaining sanity and style with a new pup in the home? Do dish in the comments or over on Instagram

Featured! My home in Rue Magazine

If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen a few of these pics in the last month. But I wanted to share a link to possibly the most-fun feature I’ve ever been a part of: a Q&A and home tour in the beloved online design magazine, Rue!

The feature landed earlier this summer, and it’s still live here. Here’s a sneak peek of what’s inside. Photographs are all by Allison Sepanek.


They even included a few of my real-life design tips, and featured pieces from my new ceramics collection with Jill Rosenwald!


If I’m being totally honest, these spaces are usually much more lived-in than they appear in this feature. We use every inch of our house, and our counters are usually topped with all manner of construction-paper art projects, pipe cleaners, breakfast dishes, and mail. But whose aren’t? In any given month, these rooms look like the above pics approximately twice, for about twenty minutes at a stretch—and never at the same time. I did manage to sneak in some reminders that people live here, though. Who can spot the Beanie Boo owl on page 21?

Head on over to Rue to read the full story.  And huge thanks to editor Kelli Lamb for the beautifully produced feature!


Me + ​Real Simple = OMG


I’m mayyyyyybe going out on a limb here, but if you’re reading this blog, I’m guessing you’ve heard of the magazine Real Simple. I remember when it launched in 2000—I was a magazine intern at the time, and I thought, “Holy crap. A magazine that’s all about how to make things easier, not just fancier/better/prettier/[insert comparative adjective here]. Why has nobody done this before?”

Real Simple pretty much invented the home hack. I’ve been a reader from the beginning, even contributing a tip or two to the magazine now and then. My 2016 makeover of a Bachelor couple's space was featured on their website, too. 

So it’s extra-exciting to share some news this month: I’ve been tapped to style the kitchen of the Real Simple Idea Home, a project that’s going to be revealed in full in their October issue! A teaser appears in the July edition:

What's the Real Simple Idea Home? In short, it’s a real-life residence that’s going to be full of “aha” moments, from smart decorating ideas to budget-stretching solutions. Each space is being furnished and decorated by a different brand or designer. Being Real Simple, there’ll naturally be tons of storage tips as well, courtesy of the organizing team at Neat Method. There is an INCREDIBLE roster of design talent on board for the project, which I won’t share yet... Just know that I’m floored to be in the mix!

Right now I’m still tinkering with the design. Given my job at Joss & Main, I’ll be filling the space with lots of budget-friendly kitchen items and decorative touches from the website.

You’ll have to wait until late September for the full reveal, but for now, click here to read a teaser from the issue now on stands: "5 Pro-Approved Ways to Make a Small Kitchen Look Bigger."  The kitchen pictured in the article is my own, photographed by Joyelle West for my book (link to purchase here). And pick up a hard copy before it’s gone! 

Obsessed With: Lilac & Saffron

I’m not a purple girl, but lately I’ve been oddly attracted to moody shades of lilac and lavender. Maybe it’s the gray undertones I’m seeing in today’s purples; they feel dusty, moody and sort of antique.

And then, on the opposite end of the spectrum, I’ve been loving bright hits of saffron, yellow mustard, and brighter shades of ochre. One piece in a warm, sunny-afternoon hue can brighten and modernize any space.  

So why not bring them together? Here’s a sampling of lilac- and saffon-colored pieces that caught my eye in June. I’m loving what happens when the two shades mingle.  

  1. Fonteyne purple and teal area rug, from $27,  Joss & Main . 2. Delphine chair, $2,295,  Jayson Home . 3. Wonderland Tropisk wallpaper in Yellow/Green, $1.68/square foot,  Joss & Main . 4. Morphew barrel chair, $290,  Joss & Main . 5. 'Taupe Floral' framed print on canvas, $150,  Joss & Main . 6. Tasseled velvet pillows, $58 each,  Anthropologie .

1. Fonteyne purple and teal area rug, from $27, Joss & Main. 2. Delphine chair, $2,295, Jayson Home. 3. Wonderland Tropisk wallpaper in Yellow/Green, $1.68/square foot, Joss & Main. 4. Morphew barrel chair, $290, Joss & Main. 5. 'Taupe Floral' framed print on canvas, $150, Joss & Main. 6. Tasseled velvet pillows, $58 each, Anthropologie.

Purple and yellow in your house: Yea or nay?