Santa Barbara Women’s Imaging Center Reveal!


I love words (also known as being a “logophile” from the Greek “logos” meaning “speech”, but since this particular word calls to mind–for me, anyway–logos or strangely logs with little mushrooms on them, and hence log cabins and thus unshaven men in Pendelton attire and/or the word “loco”–which all seem so far removed from the intended meaning–I’ll stick with ‘I love words’).


Favorite words: “crepuscular” (of or relating to twilight); “avuncular” (uncle like); “unctuous” (excessively flattering); crapulous (drunk).


Most charming string of words I may never use for fear of social exile and/or severe eye rolling and subtle throat clearing: “a postprandial confabulation” (an after dinner chat).


But sometimes, when photos say so much, words aren’t necessary. The Before and Afters tell you everything. But just in case this is not one of those times, and you are someone who enjoys a little backstory, I’ll be here, narrating along–you know, in case words are your thing, too!ย  (If not, you have my blessing to scroll at will. ๐Ÿ™‚ )



Welcome to the Before of the Santa Barbara Women’s Imaging Center:ย  Santa Barbara’s medical center for mammograms.




Left side Before.



I was asked to create a space that was modern, but still soft and serene. Actually, the first thing I was asked to do was to help pick a paint color for the areas that did not have wainscotting and new fabric to reupholster the existing furniture, but–as often happens on projects–one thing led to another and the next thing I knew, the space looked like this…






Which of course made for a design job that was worlds more interesting; we moved walls and doors, eliminated some soffits that made the ceiling feel far too low, removed an archway that wasn’t working with the modern look we were after, added a clerestory window to one wall to allow more natural light to stream into the waiting room, and moved the reception counter from the far right of the room to directly across from the entry door so it would be the first thing you would seen upon entering.





The former view when you first walked in.






Ta da! The redesigned view when you walk in.




It’s just the timing of this project was also very interesting because I knew I was pregnant, but it was too soon to share. But as more time went on, and it became time to share, my belly wasn’t just full of a growing fetus; it was overrun with butterflies. How does one announce, “I’m so happy you approved that flooring. It will add just the right amount of warmth while still tying in with the wall color. And did you know there’s a human kicking my ribs, from the inside, as we speak?”


It all felt a bit non-sequitur and I was so focused on the design that sometimes I myself forgot I was pregnant, so why remind (or announce it to) anybody? It was only when it got to the point where I was sure the baggy, ill-fitting tops I was wearing were making me look like I was really starting to let myself go and had perhaps shunned all sartorial sophistication, when the words came tumbling out: “I’m not just gaining weight, well, I am–but it’s because I’m going to have a baby!” Thankfully, everyone was extremely understanding and the only reaction appeared to be one of shared excitement.




Right side Before.



My goal was to design a space that not only looked good, but could help a potentially nervous patient who was about to get a mammogram feel good. I wanted the space to be as soothing and spa-like as possible–I know, high hopes for a medical office! ๐Ÿ™‚





Right side Before.



My direct contact was very instrumental in the design process and a pleasure to work with. He and the doctors trusted my vision of custom tufted settees and white modern chairs in the waiting room and modern art throughout.





Right side view After.





Detail of right side After. Original diptych painting by Rebecca Claussen. If that painting were a locale, I’d book a trip. It looks so restful!








One of the “details” was a suggestion to replace images of brain and body scans that might induce a few shudders to something happier like…HGTV. During the project I was having many appointments at my OB/GYN’s office and I noticed they always had the TV tuned to HGTV and 1) patients (women, sometimes accompanied by male mates) actually watched the screen and 2) the content was so neutral (isn’t watching someone demolish a kitchen mindless fun for all?) that it felt very calming.





Left side After.





Left side After, up close.




Real greenery was added. What space would be complete without the “It” plant, the Fiddle Leaf Fig, right?






After. Original painting by Rebecca Claussen.



I am crazy for this painting by Rebecca Claussen. She is an artist out of LA and when I saw this piece I knew it would be perfect for the space. It is modern without being harsh or primary-colored modern. The use of light and blending and soft pastels just made me think, “Ahh, breathe,” which was really the gist of the entire design concept.





Dressing room Before.



I subscribe to the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” design maxim and never encourage clients to get rid of something if I think it has good bones and we can work with it. That was the case with these chairs. While they weren’t as modern as we wanted for the reception room, they had good feminine lines for the dressing rooms and they were well made and just the right size.





Dressing room After.




So with some new fabric (it’s hard to see in the photo, but it’s a Kravet vinyl that is both wipe-able and looks like fancy ostrich skin) and the addition of nail heads, the chairs were completely revamped.






A Lyn Gianni print.



For the dressing rooms, I placed art from Lyn Gianni (hey, mom!).ย  Each dressing room has a print that is similar to the one above, but with a different color combination to make each room have its own individual look.





Dressing rooms After.



Like so. I used Kravet fabric (Bansuri; color: Slate) for the dressing room drapes. I’m so into this fabric, I’d like to wrap my body in it and call it a dress. I really liked how it united the brownish/grey floors with the grey walls and added just enough pattern to hide potential marks from dirty fingers.




ADA dressing room After.




This is the ADA dressing room with a custom upholstered drop-down bench. That little metal and wood-topped side table on the right is actually from Target and is a great little dual-function piece that looks good and added some much-needed storage (the lid is removable).





Exterior Before.



I refreshed the exterior as much as I could without being able to change the paint color (the shot you see here is part of a two-story building and we were only redoing a portion of the building). We removed the awning, the sign to the left, the suite numerals and word “Suite” to the right which were black plastic, updated the door mat, changed the front door and door handle and added a new plant and bench (which wasn’t in place the day of the photo shoot, darn it!).




Exterior After.



I enlisted my mom (Lyn Gianni) to design the new logo and it was used on everything from the signs to the pens and letterhead to the scrubs and dressing gowns. (Go, mom!)





Exterior After.



New brushed aluminum suite numbers. So much better than black plastic!





Exterior sign After.



The sign looks even better in real life because each part of the brushed aluminum is laser-cut and projects out from the dark charcoal background so you have a level of depth that you, unfortunately, can’t quite get from the photo.





New interior sign.



The interior sign was also made using laser-cut brushed aluminum, but adhered to a frosted resin background.








I would be remiss if I didn’t shout TAKE NOTE OF THE CARVED STONE TILE ON THE FRONT OF THE RECEPTION DESK. Some have interpreted the pattern as waves, others as leaves. Each piece was very hefty which didn’t make for the easiest installation, but it is the first thing you see when you walk in the door and it is so stunning and worth it!





Counseling Room After.






Cabinet detail After.







One of my favorite details were these photo images we used as lenses for the fluorescent lights. Instead of looking up and seeing the typical rectangular light with a bumpy plastic covering, we used smooth photo lenses of images that you might see if you looked up in nature (blossoms, a canopy of trees, clouds) in each exam room to give the illusion of a skylight.










“Swimmers” print by Lyn Gianni.






Hall After.



This painting is giant and amazing and by the talented Ryan Wells. The more I look at it, the more I see. Right now I’m seeing a horse on the right. The wall behind it (despite the color in these photos) is a light grey, Benjamin Moore’s Gray Owl, which was the winner after I agonized over four other gray paint contenders (all by Benjamin Moore) that were so close in color someone actually asked, “Are those all the same color?” Gray can go gloomy very fast if you don’t cut it with a lot of white (i.e., on baseboard, doors and window casing), but this one didn’t need much white. It was that good and it stayed gray without going brown or green (again, despite the photo–you’ll have to trust me!) or blue.





Original painting by Ryan Wells.



Before all these beautiful finishes were added, there were months of demo and rebuilding and meetings and more meetings and as time went by so did my pregnancy and before I knew it, it was winter and I was having a baby. Thankfully since Kai’s birth coincided with the holidays, construction screeched to a halt which gave me a chance to catch up with myself and figure out this New Mom stuff.





Pairing samples of the flooring in the main areas with a fun tile selected for one of the bathrooms.



The week after Kai was born we needed to take him in for his first checkup which meant JB and I were forced to ditch our pajama attire for something more civilized, shower, comb our hair, and confront the outside world again. After the doctor’s visit, we felt like we were on such a roll and on a high from being out in the fresh air again, we decided to really push it and make a trip to CVS and Trader Joe’s. I ran into CVS (sans baby which, I have to say, was kind of a treat after a week of non-stop baby-holding), which completely tuckered me out and left me out of commission for the Trader Joe’s stop so Kai and I stayed in the car where I tried to ignore my throbbing pain and nurse a crying Kai into submission.


I remember reading an US magazine balanced on my leg, while balancing Kai on my lap, and checking my voicemail–a trifecta of modern mom tasks–ha ha! There was a message about a design decision that I can’t recall now, but at the time it seemed hugely important, and I thought, “If I can’t even go grocery shopping like a normal person, how am I going to pull this project off?”


I think it was stubbornness and an insane passion for what I do, but I somehow rallied and by the time Kai was five-weeks-old I had just enough sleep in me (four hours average per night, ugh!!!) to tuck my still-squishy self into a blazer and meet with the architects and get back to work. I attribute avoiding the dreaded postpartum depression to the magnitude of this project: there wasn’t time to be depressed between taking care of a newborn and selecting things like door styles and cabinet hardware and for that I feel eternally grateful!








Here is the flooring, in situ.








Bathroom tile floor in the second bathroom. (And some cute leopard ballet flats, ha ha ๐Ÿ™‚ .)




Bathroom After.







Some feminine flourishes!



I find most design projects rewarding because I get to improve the spaces people live in and I believe beautiful surroundings can boost your mood. But the best part of this project is when I imagine the patients. I like to think the women are having a relaxing experience, that they are feeling calm and good and if that is the case, it makes me feel one simple word: joy.



DIY Modern Dining Table and Modern Bench!

Modern DIY dining table


When we first moved into our house almost three years ago, our circa 1958 dining room looked like this.




Dining room with pony wall first moved in




We replaced the existing sliding glass doors with wider, accordion-style doors from LaCANTINA which are essentially three panels of glass that are hinged together so you can either open one of the panels (one is designated for this purpose) as you would a regular swinging door, or push all the panels off to the side, leaving the entire opening free and clear–as opposed to a regular sliding glass door where one panel of glass slides and the other piece is always fixed in place. Boring explanation aside, the door is awesome and when it is fully ajar, suddenly the dining/living room feels that much bigger because the inside and outside read like one continuous space.




La Cantina door outside

I believe our cat thinks it’s awesome, too.




For anyone who is thinking of installing these types of doors, I give a giant thumbs up, but a couple of things to note are if you can possibly keep your inside flooring material (e.g., wood; carpet; tile) in the same color family as any exterior flooring (e.g., wood; stone; concrete) the more seamless the effect is. In our case, we didn’t do this, because we kind of have this somewhat unintentional, but once recognized, appreciated and adhered to, theme of warm wood and concrete going everywhere, but if you HAD the option to stay in one color family, it would make the space seem that much larger.



The LaCANTINA door comes with three options of threshold heights and we found the trades (the salesman and installer and the company that poured our concrete patio) were adamant that we install a tall threshold to prevent rain from entering the interior, but that would have killed the smooth transition we were after. We were temporarily torn about what to do (we certainly didn’t want to welcome water into the house, but we didn’t want to relinquish our goal of creating a patio that was level with the interior floor it abutted). In the end, the solution was to go with the ADA threshold which isn’t completely flush, but close to it, and have the concrete crew cut into the stucco of our exterior walls and lay a waterproof membrane at the new height of the patio (the patio had to be extra thick in order to be flush with the interior floors); grade the patio so water only had one direction to flow–away from the house!–and to install a few French drains at any point we figured water would want to collect. Granted, rain in California is now as rare as unicorns, but we did get a few heavy rains post installation this past winter, and I’m happy to report nary a drop worked its way inside. Should you do this? The answer is consult with your builder or contractor as the slope of your individual property must be factored in and trapping moisture must always be avoided, but, if possible, it’s certainly ideal to avoid two different heights for both aesthetic reasons and to avoid tripping.




Modern dining table RH chairs pendant dining lights




We painted the walls Benjamin Moore’s Simply White (in an eggshell sheen), replaced the existing chandelier with pendant lights from RH and added taller (5″ inch tall) baseboard. Side note: tall baseboard is one of those little details that is actually huge! Most builder-grade homes have diminutive baseboard, 3 1/2″ or shorter, as well as slim door and window casing, while higher-end homes and homes that were built prior to the 1950s, tend to have more generous trim. It’s true that many fancier and older homes have 9′ or taller ceilings, whereas builder-grade homes, and–darn it!–our, home has 8′ ceilings, so scale is at play, but there is something about good (and tall) trim that just adds a feeling of solid craftsmanship and tells the eye, “You are looking at quality.” So, whenever possible, I suggest replacing baseboard with something that is at least 4 1/4″ and, yes it depends on the style of your home, but nine times out of ten, I’d suggest avoiding flourishes like ogee detail and stick with the good ol’ clean lines of a straight or eased-edge Craftsman style baseboard.



Ogee baseboard detail

Ogee detail at top of the baseboard


Craftsman baseboard


Plain and simple.




Fast forward to the point where our new floors are installed, we have our fireplace stuccoed to look like concrete (you can read all about that here) and we removed that weird pole that dropped down from the ceiling and died into the top of the pony wall. That left the next step: removing the wood cap from the pony wall.




Pony wall with cap




Once the cap was removed, we were left with something like this…




Pony wall wood cap removed





We capped the pony wall with two pieces of Douglas Fir joined with construction adhesive (and clamped together as tightly as possible while the adhesive dried). We did a test run below.





Wood cap on pony wall copy

It fit!




Because this is only a temporary fix until we can spring for truly gutting and remodeling the kitchen, we attached the stained and finished Douglas Fir top by screwing it into the pony wall from the top down. If you were going to do this somewhat permanently, I’d suggest counter-sinking said screws and covering them with dowels that can be stained to match. We’re calling our exposed screws good enough and declaring them “Industrial Chic”–or the term I’m trying to coin: “Industic”.




Bar stools pony wall




Okay, but “The table, the table!” you might be saying. Okay, getting there. We wanted a realllly long (96″) table following the principle that bigger furniture often makes a space look bigger than if you try to stick multiple tiny pieces in a room and your eye just reads the space as so small that it can only accommodate Lilliputian-sized stuff.



So we wanted to go big and what we wanted was this Parson’s table from RH.





RH Parsons Table

RH’s Arles Rectangular Table in Grey Walnut.



But at $3,295, for the 96″ x 39″ x 30″ table, the price was steep, especially when I read the fine print that disclosed it only has veneer of Walnut wood. (Humph!)




We also liked this one.







Roebling Live-Edge RH tablejpg

RH’s Roebling Live-Edge Walnut Table



But at $14,995 for a 96″ x 44″ x 30″ table this was not only a wee bit wider than we wanted, but beyond a wee bit exorbitant and since we had already eaten up nearly the entire budget on five RH Rizzo chairs, we needed a new plan.




RH Rizzo Dining Chairs

RH’s Rizzo chairs



So the plan was hatched to BUILD OUR OWN, from solid planks of wood! It all started with the customizable welded stainless steel legs that JB found from SteelImpression on Etsy. I cannot say enough good things about this company. Not only did the price seem reasonable ($220, including shipping, for the pair), but they had them finished and en route two days after we placed our order. We realized if we made the tabletop with the roughest grade of Redwood Home Depot carried, the boards were only $38 x 4 = $152 plus $220 legs, we were back on budget!



The following picture shows Douglas Fir boards since we started with DF boards which we glued together only to discover they didn’t stay that way (the fourth board, even after a second round of adhesive, refused to stay attached), which is how the pony wall cap project was born (waste not, want not). I am including this photo to show the important first step of using construction adhesive …



Glue redwood diy dining table





And biscuit joints! The combination of the two was the only way we could get four 96″ long boards to work as a team.





Biscuit joint DIY dining table





I cannot stress enough how crucial it is to keep the boards clamped together while drying.





Clamping DIY redwood modern dining table




After the four boards were properly joined, JB sanded them starting with 60 grit then working his way to 100, 150 then 120 grit.ย  We used Minwax stain (color: Provincial) and sealed the top and bottom (to prevent moisture from entering and warping the boards) with Varathane clear water-based Polyurethane in Satin. On that note, if you have room inside (i.e., your garage), let the wood dry there and not outside where it will risk warping due to the elements (a misty morning or dewy evening is enough to cause some warping and create moisture blemishes on your finish).



Next was the bench which was much easier since it was just one piece of wood that needed to be cut and sanded.




DIY dining bench staining

We cut the bench to 74″ long to work with the 96″ long table.




Again with the staining and sealing. Once dry, we flipped it over and screwed in the custom legs. Also from SteelImpressions on Etsy.





Here is the bench where we first positioned it, against the wall, so the RH chairs could be more on display.





Modern dining bench




Like this…





DIY Modern dining table RH leather chairs





Once I reversed the chairs and bench for a photo shoot, I realized the dining room appeared much more open and airy–and the good lines of the bench were no longer hidden–when the bench was placed on the open side of table.




Like so…





DIY modern bench DIY modern dining table




There you have it.



Very easy. Fairly inexpensive, certainly loads less than an RH table, and not a veneer, but solid, sandable wood.



And one more time…the Before (in preparation for hardwood floors and from the looks of that stag painting project in the background, Tannenbaum Time).




Dining Room before with carpet torn up




And After…




Modern dining table modern dining bench




Wood for table: Four pieces of 2″ x 12” x 96″ rough-hewn Redwood planks from Home Depot at $38 each. We trimmed each board to 10″ wide so with four boards the final width of the table is 40″;ย  the length is 96″ and with the legs it is 30″ tall.


Legs for table: $220, Steel Impressions from Etsy. 29″ tall x 36″ wide–total width, including the opening between the legs.


Wood for bench: One piece of rough-hewn Redwood 2″ x 12″ x 96″ cut to 74″ long, $38.


Legs for bench:ย  $160, Steel Impressions from Etsy. 17″ tall x 10″ wide–total width, including the opening between the legs.


Stain: Minwax in color Provincial $8 per quart


Finish: Varathane Polyurethane, Satin, water-based $17 per quart


Total cost for the DIY modern table: $397


Total cost for the DIY modern bench: $98



Happy Saturday! ๐Ÿ™‚


Pink signature


Our dining room reveal with a DIY dining table!

Dining room After

This is a strange time isn’t it? First the speeches by the RNC, then the DNC. I find myself longing for anything that will make me LMAO (Laugh My Ass Off), or at least smile. Between the finger pointing and the tongue wagging and headlines that could inspire anything from sighing deeply to curling up into the fetal position and questioning the humanity of humans, I can’t help thinking of that bumper sticker:ย  “If you aren’t pissed off, you aren’t paying attention!”



And sometimes that makes me question what I do for a living. I mean who cares what color is being painted on the walls when there is tundra melting in Siberia and releasing anthrax, when the Zika virus has made its way to Florida, and we found out Bernie never stood a chance. I mean, really.




Dining room with pony wall first moved inBefore: A few days after we moved in. Note the beige walls, beige carpet (that is, for some reason, reading pink in this photo) and strange pole attaching the pony wall to the ceiling.





Suddenly it hit me that I have based my career upon designing, ordering, placing, adjusting, and “Let’s try moving it once more. Okay, perfect!” THINGS. That my job as an interior designer revolves around MATERIAL OBJECTS!





Dining table fall centerpiece

Through the seasons, I would decorate the table to keep all eyes distracted from that beige carpet and those beige walls. I thought the chandelier was neat in its own way, but all the hanging crystal and faux candles were not working with the modern direction we were taking our house, and that table, from JB’s bachelor life, while a decent Pottery Barn specimen, wasn’t quite hitting the mark, either.






I felt as shallow as an ice cube tray.






Succulent Chrismas table setting

This table setting says: “Notice me and not the carpet. Thank you.”








Dining Room before with carpet torn up

Progress is made! Carpet comes up, the concrete subfloor is exposed and that weird pole atop the pony wall is still hanging out and doing whatever it is it thought it was supposed to be doing (turns out not much; spoiler alert: we remove it!).






I probably spend 80% of my waking hours thinking and talking about design–even when I’m supposed to be thinking about and discussing other things like how JB’s day at work went.






Dining Room After before new table

Hardwood floors go in. The modern painting that has been in my family since I was a baby goes up, but that table and those rush seats and Parsons chairs are still not giving the modern vibe we’re going for.






Which seems really ludicrous once you know the tundra in Siberia is melting.






Kitchen and dining before

The pole from the pony wall is removed–hurray! For a brief moment, we thought we’d hold off on installing the hardwood floors in the kitchen until we redo the kitchen, then we realized that would mean we’d be seeing that scratched and stained kitchen vinyl for a verrrry long time; hence you’ll see hardwood goes into the kitchen in the next photo. JB created the temporary wood counter on the left with leftover wood flooring to add some much-needed counter space. Note the dome light which we remove the dome of by the next shot.







So I thought and thought and might have even dragged JB into a drawn-out discussion about the meaning of life and why watching the RNC made me feel dispirited whereas watching the DNC unearthed some deeply buried patriotism and that when Michelle Obama said “When they go low, we go high” it resonated so deeply I said, “Yes, yes, yes! Let’s all do that!” to both the TV screen and Baby Kai who looked at me with great bewilderment and I landed on this: so I might not be able to fix the tundra issue, I don’t know how to stop the spread of Zika and I’ve already let Bernie down by declaring, “I’m with Her”, but good design matters, too.







Before kitchen and backside of pony wall

As you can see, much still needs to be done in the kitchen (like a full gut-job and remodel), but, until that day arrives, at least the dining room chandelier is replaced by RH globe pendants (aka: progress!).






Because I know how a poorly designed and/or decorated space can make a mood plummet. ๐Ÿ™







Dining room After

Here she is: the After featuring a pony-wall-turned-bar which we created by simply removing the existing narrow wood cap on the pony wall and replacing it with two pieces of joined (via construction adhesive and biscuit joints) wood, the new modern dining table that JB designed and built and new RH dining chairs.





And how a beautiful one just seems to lift the spirits of everyone who enters it…







DIY Modern dining table RH leather chairs

Upclose. Ahh!





And it gave me permission to remember how important it is to be good and create good.






Bar stools pony wall

Another closeup.






That it’s okay for pretty things to lift our spirits





Modern dining bench

The modern bench that JB built from very rustic Redwood!





in these times when we need it most.





La Cantina door outside

We removed the existing sliding door and replaced it with an accordion-folding La Cantina Door that makes the indoor space now flow into the outdoor space.






In our house that meant redoing the dining room with new hardwood flooring, adding pendant lighting and chairs from Restoration Hardware and…a new dining table and bench that JB built out of the roughest, cheapest Redwood Home Depot has to offer and turned it into a thing of modern beauty. He’s good like that.






Ostrich egg centerpiece custom dining table modern art

What centerpiece would be complete without some quirky Ostrich eggs, eh?





Stay tuned for the How-To post!




Happy decorating! ๐Ÿ™‚





Pink signature

From white brick to grey stucco: our fireplace’s metamorphosis!

Grey stucco fireplace after


Our fireplace has been reincarnated from plain white brick to grey stucco. But before you start imagining a grainy, textured surface–nope, not that kind of stucco. We went with a smooth finish in a color that gives the effect of polished concrete. But more on that later.



In its former life, when we first moved in, it looked like this…




White brick fireplace before in living roomI can’t get enough of this picture. It just sums up the bare essentials so well: chairs, dog bed, a television and, of course, a Fiddle Leaf Fig in a decorative basket.



We wasted no time attaching blue painter’s tape to the wall in an attempt to figure out how to flank both sides with shelving to house my expansive collection of this and that (I call them “objects d’art”; JB says “stuff”; potato; potato) as well as the TV which had no other place to go as our house has an open-concept dining room/living room, but, darn it, no other rooms that weren’t already claimed as bedrooms or office that could serve as a den or family room. In other words, this room had to play double duty as formal living room and casual TV room.



White brick fireplace woman painting



It was a tricky design dilemma because the white brick of the fireplace only projected 2″ out from the wall which meant any adjacent shelves or built-ins (12″ standard depth for bookshelves; base cabinet depth, if custom and not in a kitchen, is a bit more negotiable, but almost all depths just looked too deep) would jut out so far in comparison, they’d only accentuate the existing flatness of the fireplace.



During our first year and a half in our house, I’d hang various paintings to make the fireplace as interesting as possible, but when we had visitors, it was always one of the first spots that I’d point to and explain it needed to be deeper and better but the “how” part hadn’t quite come to me.



Painting of woman brick fireplace

This painting is one of my favorite garage sale finds. I bought it about ten years ago from the woman who painted it who was having a garage sale. She was probably in her late 70s and only asking $5 for the painting and I think I might have embarrassed her when I told her how much I loved it and asked if she would sign it (she signed the back with her pink ballpoint pen). It now hangs in my bathroom and it makes me smile every time I look at the brassy expression and akimbo stance of the subject that are so different from the unassuming manner of the actual artist.





Then I saw this photo of a fireplace and thought, “That’s it!”




White stucco fireplace inspiration



And, heck, I already owned a “Liberace-called-and-he-wants-his-mirror-back” mirror that I was VERY into. We were almost there! White stucco it would be.




Gold mirror over fireplace

Hair-on-hide just barely visible underneath the chair, but it’s there along with my trusty Fiddle Leaf Fig from Day One. I could just see the inspiration of that other photo coming to life.





But, just to be sure that white stucco would look better than grey, I painted a wash of grey paint on the bricks. And the fireplace immediately felt like it jumped forward a foot! Suddenly it felt much too massive for the room. Just more confirmation that grey was not the way to go.



We added 4″ strips of cardboard to help imagine what bringing the fireplace out 4″ (for a total of 6″ depth) would look like. I was going around measuring the depth of fireplaces at clients’ homes and 8″ was a very common depth but that felt far too deep at our house.



While we were in the process of mocking things up, we experimented with placing a couple of boards of wood on the bottom to see what closing the bottom of the fireplace–turning the opening from a square that dropped to the floor, to a raised rectangle–would look like. We were instantly sold. Not only did the rectangle give the more modern look we were after, but suddenly the raised opening became more of a focal point…and we had plans for that opening. Oh, just you wait!




Brick fireplace grey




First the fireplace was clad in an armor of non-combustible (but of course!) metal, to bring it out to a total depth of 6″.



Grey metal fireplace 2

I found it kind of interesting like that–in a modern art sort of way.




Brown coat on fireplace



And then the scratch coat went on and we both realized we preferred the grey. Lesson? Painted grey bricks look nothing like smooth grey stucco.



Just to make things super complicated, I picked two different colors of pigment from two different stucco companies to make a custom color. What began as a somewhat simple directive ofย  “2/3 Coral Gables from La Habra and 1/3 Titanium from Merlex” devolved into me suggesting, “How about 1/8 cup more Coral Gables? Hmm. A little more. More. Okay, there.” In the end, I’m not exactly sure what the ratio of pigment to pigment was, but we ended up with the color I was after.




Which wasn’t this…




Grey stucco fireplace drying

Oh Lordy, the final coat was dark when it first went on.ย  We sat back kind of stunned until we realized it was lightening so quickly we could actually witness the process. When it landed on the color I wanted, I plead with it to stop and what do you know, it listened! I’d say it reached its final color by Day 3, in case you ever find yourself in this situation.



The color became the one you see in the closeup below.



Burnished grey stucco on fireplace

Note: Mottling is important! I probably drove the stucco installers crazy by repeatedly confirming that they would use a metal trowel and burnish the surface for “a lot of mottling” which I would then try to pantomime with my hands, mid air, but I didn’t need to worry. We used Baez Plastering Expression Inc. and they did SUCH a good job!





The bottom of the firebox needed to be raised once we created the bottom exterior lip so we enlisted Tubular George to raise the gas line, pour concrete to raise the bottom, paint the walls with flat black BBQ paint to give a fresh look and…





Need to paint inside of fireplace black





add a raised gas tray and concrete FireBalls (the 4″ size in color Natural) on a bed of sand and FireGlitter (in color Platinum) in the surrounding area.




Adding glass to fireplace

The installation of balls.




So we went from this…





Lilo on bare floor

This shot was taken eight months ago, the weekend before I had Baby Kai, when JB had just finished painting the formerly BAND-AID-colored walls Benjamin Moore’s Simply White and the floors were being installed (we chose California Classic’s Mediterranean Collection French Oak in the color Aegean) and I was still avoiding the house as it off-gassed except to come inspect the work and say things like, “Gosh, we still need to do something about that fireplace!”




to this!





Living room with grey stucco fireplace and FireBalls

Ah, progress!



Now that the fireplace is such a feature and 6″ deep, I’m working on figuring out the base cabinets to hold the media components (cable box, etc.). The TV will be mounted to the wall so it won’t project farther than the fireplace, as it does now. If the space calls for a shelf or two above, it will get them, but right now I’m thinking I prefer a cleaner, shelf-less look. And, don’t worry, we realize installing a fireplace full of tempered glass, sand, and concrete balls is not exactly kid-friendly. When Kai is more mobile, the fireplace will either be fitted with a temporary glass insert or JB will whip up an impenetrable barrier out of wood. (He’s handy like that!)



And here she is, our new fireplace, ready for her closeup.




Grey stucco fireplace after

You might just barely be able to make out the flames in the background. It is much more dramatic at night, but nearly impossible to capture in a photograph since flames have this way of never staying still.




Speaking of never staying still, the children’s book I wrote and my mom illustrated, My Pet Cloud, is moving up in the world!ย  As of last month, it’s now available at Chaucer’s Bookstore, Plum Goods, Chicken Little, and Tecolote Book Shop. If you don’t live anywhere near Santa Barbara, you can always find it online at




It was also featured in the current issue of Season’s Magazine. ๐Ÿ™‚




My Pet Cloud Santa Barbara Seasons artice





and in last week’s issue of the Montecito journal! ๐Ÿ™‚





Happy Tuesday! ๐Ÿ™‚





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Design work and diaper changes: Life with a six-month-old!

Kai on paisley bed cover



There are bloggers who have babies and keep writing blog posts like it ain’t no thang. For me, it was a thang. A big thang.



A thang I couldn’t quite keep up with.



The last time we met here, Kai was seven-weeks-old. I didn’t have the free time to scribe posts, so instead I scribbled notes:


“There are condiments in the fridge that are older than Kai.”


“My dogs know more words than he does.”





I pondered how no one can really prepare you for how your life will change when you have a baby. That I found it like being suddenly shoved on stage, with the expectation of giving the performance of a lifetime, when I’d never even seen the script. So I started moving and scrambling (“Dance, monkey! Dance!”) and ad libbing and hoping my audience wouldn’t throw tomatoes (or, in the case of my infant, a Let’s-hope-the-neighbors-can’t-hear-this! tantrum). To use a different metaphor, I realized I must swim or I would sink. Maybe I wasn’t exactly pulling off the Butterfly Stroke, but I was sure dog-paddling like hell!




Baby Kai with chalkboard wings




I questioned why Home Economics classes would think asking students to carry around an uncooked egg would somehow convey the responsibility of having a baby. Hauling around an alarm clock with an inoperable snooze button would be more like it. Drive around with it, take it on walks, hold it with one hand while you use your free hand to shove food in your face. I dare you to try to sleep in the same room with it. Then imagine feeding, burping, and wiping it (all the while stimulating its brain: It’s never too early to start reading to an infant!; Skin-to-skin contact is essential to instill a sense of security!; Narrating every move you make will jump-start brain activity!, Eye contact will foster bonding, but avoid it at all costs when trying to get your infant to fall asleep!; In between nursing, don’t forget to pump, pump, pump!; Have two hours really passed already?; Feeding time!; Crying, why are you crying when you are fed, warm and clean?; The rest of us really enjoy sleep, I promise, people even pay to go on vacation to sleep and it’s not like you have any other pressing duties!; Are you sure you don’t like naps? I’ve heard other babies love naps!; Do other babies cry this much?) all on those five hours of splintered sleep you were “lucky” enough to have had and then, REPEAT.



Every. Single. Day.



Why, I wondered, does anyone congratulate a pregnant person? I told JB, we need to tattoo our wrists with “Note to selves: This is hard. Don’t try this again!”ย  But then the coos and giggles and belly-shaking laughter came and, for the first time, I thought “Oh come on, it wasn’t that bad!” (Nature, you trickster, you. This is how you keep the population going, isn’t it?) And then, just last week, Kai turned six-months-old and we asked ourselves, how did we get here? How did we do it?




Kai on paisley bed cover




The sleep coma has begun to retreat, Kai has discovered he actually enjoys napping and I remember that no matter how hard it seemed, there was never a morning that I didn’t wrench myself from Dream Land to stare fuzzily over at Kai while it sank in that yes, he was here, he was real, and suddenly I’d go all giddy like it was Christmas morning and Kai was the gift.



Brick fireplace before

See ya, scalloped woodwork. This house is getting a gutting.




Brick fireplace demo

Ah, better already. Wait till you see the fireplace transformation we have planned!




Then I ask, what was so hard about the first few months, exactly? Maybe because lucid thoughts seemed out of reach. I felt like an ESL student trying to string words together. Forming sentences took a frightening amount of effort. Forget “Baby on Board” signs suctioned to car windows, they should say “New Mom Driving”; the day I drove a street I’ve driven hundreds of times and entered an oncoming lane, mistaking it for a turn lane, (thankfully no other cars were around, and JB was there to yell, “What are you doing?”), I took up drinking coffee.



50s living room before clock on wall

Is it wrong that I actually kind of liked that clock? Probably. Well the client didn’t so it’s on its way out.




50s living room demo

Along with the ceiling (making room for a tray ceiling) and the flooring.





The other week I heard that my niece-in-law is pregnant with…drum roll…twins! I was shocked to hear myself exclaim, “That is awesome news! I am so happy for you!” And to truly mean it! I didn’t think of the sleepless nights and the shushing and swaddling and missing reading a book before bed instead of turning out the lights and starting the twenty minute routine of “Shh, it’s okay,” over the roar of a crying baby until he falls asleep. Nope, not a thought of former social lives or how easy it used to be to leave the house without a litany of items (Kai developed a Linus-like relationship with his blankie and it cannot be forgotten–or else!) or how once-upon-a-time we could watch a TV show uninterrupted, or the days when duties like steaming and blending veggies for baby food were not on my To Do list. Nope, all I could think of was how much joy those two babies will bring.




50s kitchen before

You can rest easy, this cabinetry is now gone. Along with that fan, etc.




50s kitchen demo

Walls will soon be bumped out. Yahoo!




On the design front, (I know, that was promised in the title), most of my jobs are either just beginning or in the not-so-beautiful (except to clients and me) stage of demo (we love this stage because it signifies progress!).





Demo day reception room

A commercial job I’m working on that became mired in the permit process but will be picking up steam soon!





It was with a heavy heart that I resigned from my interior design column, Design Intervention, (this blog’s title is an offshoot) that I’ve written for the Santa Barbara News-Press for the past four years. I loved writing the column and hearing from readers who wrote in, and I had the coolest and kindest (and very patient about my hitting my deadlines at the last minute) editor I could ever ask for, but if I want to give Kai and my clients the attention they deserve, I came to the realization that I had to free up some time somewhere and the time it took to research and write the column was akin to falling down “the rabbit hole”. I plan to reboot some of the best ones into blog posts and give them a new life outside of a recycling center, but that will take some time as well, so we’ll see.





Rock wall

There was a moment when the beautiful rock wall might have been the only thing that was going to be kept on this project due to a nasty case of easement contracts. And then, goodwill, logic, and most likely good karma (this client is a very good human being) came through and things are looking up.





Cobblestone patio

Thank goodness because this new sandstone cobblestone patio and covered roof is going to be a beautiful space when it’s finished!





This week, I was lucky enough to be featured, along with fellow interior designer Michelle Beamer, in the Santa Barbara Independent.


Here is a photo. To read the full article, you can click here.




Independent article

You can imagine I did the “happy dance” when I read the headline. ๐Ÿ™‚




Besides working on projects for clients, I can hardly wait to share the projects we’re working on at home. I’m excited to show you our new office reveal and the Before and Afters of our house that were finished when we first brought Kai home but I never photographed and posted. We (and by “we”, I mean “JB”) and I began a DIY project to build a custom 96″ long dining table out of Douglas Fir last week and as soon as the last coat of stain and sealer go on and we attach the metal band legs from Etsy, I will share it. Yesterday I had my wonderful builder (he has the best can-do attitude of any tradesperson I know) and his stucco guy look at our fireplace (the one shown in the Independent photo above). The plan is to build it out 6″, finish the new structure in white stucco, and add a gas conversion and concrete FireBalls on a bed of either lava rocks or glass. To the left of the fireplace we will add base cabinets, a place for the TV to fit in, and either floating or built-in shelves–depending on whether we want the look to be built-in or more casual, but more on that later.


I’ll keep you posted on all that, Kai permitting.



If you made it to here, thank you for your loyalty and patience. I treasure you as a reader and thank you for reading my blog. You make it all worth it!


PS, If you want to read a good article on old-fashioned niceties that deserve a comebackย  (I think we could all use a reminder), click here.



Happy Thursday! ๐Ÿ™‚




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My Pet Cloud: A children’s book you won’t want to throw against the wall!

My Pet Cloud front cover


You know how people say, “I’d love to write a children’s book”? Well, my mom and I did it! I wrote it, my mom (Lyn Gianni, an artist by trade) illustrated it and it’s now available at and Chaucer’s Bookstore here in Santa Barbara.




My Pet Cloud front cover






The inspiration came from my sister who conjured up the title. We all kind of sat on the idea for years until JB and I got married and I decided now is the time to write a children’s book. I became pregnant soon after so I must have had kids on the brain!



Microsoft Word - My Pet Cloud for upload.doc




The story is this: We have all seen shapes in the clouds but the young boy looks up and finds a special cloud. He names the cloud Harold and they become inseparable (except when Harold has to go indoors, of course) friends for life.



Microsoft Word - My Pet Cloud for upload.doc




Harold and the boy play and share adventures and the cloud is a reassuring presence. The boy learns that he can count on Harold for support and even though the cloud may disappear for a little while, as people in our lives sometimes must (whether it’s a parent leaving for work or a date night, or something more serious like a relative or pet passing away) their strong connection ensures that Harold will always be there for him.



Microsoft Word - My Pet Cloud for upload.doc





Our goal was to create a children’s book that delivered a good message (you are not alone) via a fun concept (a cloud that could be your best buddy).




My Pet Cloud sleeping




The world can be a scary place, but it’s a little less scary when you have a pet cloud. What we really loved about the concept of the pet cloud was it was something every child could have access to: no matter how rich or poor, no matter where you live or how you live, every kid can have a pet cloud.




Microsoft Word - My Pet Cloud for upload.doc




I studied children’s books before writing My Pet Cloud, but it was purely in the context of research (to capture the correct cadence, get a feel for how many words per page, gauge age-appropriate subject matter, etc.) and it was before I had a child of my own. Now that Kai has come along and I’m reading the same books I had previously studied to him over and over (and over and over again!) I’m discovering that some of the ones I once liked, I can now barely stand.



Microsoft Word - My Pet Cloud for upload.doc






But I’m happy to say, My Pet Cloud is holding up to the “Parent Test”; it’s not only still likable after umpteen-plus readings, but I find more to like about it each time I read it.




Microsoft Word - My Pet Cloud for upload.doc





But you don’t have to just take my word for it; you can click here for some online reviews.



Microsoft Word - My Pet Cloud for upload.doc







If you’d like to own your very own copy of My Pet Cloud, it is available onย  It is also at Chaucer’s Bookstore in Santa Barbara.



For local readers, Chaucer’s (at 3321 State Street) is hosting a reading and book signing for my Pet Cloud this Sunday, April 3rd, from 2pm-3pm. I will be there singing copies of the book, with Kai in tow, and we’d love to see a friendly face if you can make it! ๐Ÿ™‚



PS, Thank you to Matt Kettman and the Santa Barbara Independent for running a story on My Pet Cloud. The issue hit the stands today, but you can see an online version here.



Santa Barbara Independent My Pet Cloud 2


Photo credit Paul Wellman via the SB Independent.



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Welcome baby Kai and the nursery reveal!

Safari themed nursery cowhide stuffed giraffe

Belly bump supporting plate of cookies




Warning: this post may be riddled with typos, run-ons, and an abundance of incoherent ramblings as the author is operating on an average of four to five hours of sleep per night.*





*And people say I should consider that a “good amount of sleep”. (Asses.**)





**Warning: there could be swearing.





Seven weeks ago, I looked like this…






Bump shot leaning from tree






I was prone to hug a tree, pat my belly, and lean back all smiles and wagging ponytail.





And one more BEFORE shot because I miss my eyes before the appearance of dark circles, my hair when I had more than thirty seconds to devote to it, and seeing myself in an outfit sans spit-up.






Bump shot in front of doorThe self-indulgent second BEFORE photo because self-indulgence is in short supply these days.





I was strong, well rested (if I’m already to forget the need to get up to pee forty times per night and the incessant “Holy $&*^!” Charlie Horses that would send me bolting out of bed), and bursting with energy, an intense energy compounded with a raging case of the Nesting Instinct.






Lilo on bare floor

Our house during the installation of the floors.






That surplus of energy was a blessing because JB and I were crazy enough to think it was a bright idea to tackle a remodel during most of my pregnancy, a remodel that only concluded the weekend before I gave birth.ย  In the final month of let’s-get-this-done, when new paint went up and floors went down, I moved into my mom’s house to avoid toxic fumes and JB moved everything we owned that didn’t come from the kitchen or bathrooms (sadly, those areas will remain circa 1958–and not the cool version of Mid-Century, but the very uncool peach tub, teal sink, electric stove variety– until the budget says otherwise) out of the house and onto the patio in a towering pile reminiscent of an estate sale if people who ran the estate sale stacked the items in an inaccessible heap which led to many an utterance of, “Are you sure you can’t remember where you put my {insert item}?” by me to which JB (the sole lifter/hauler/stacker/hider of items I cherished and missed) would reply, “No,” which was an interesting lesson in “Do I need all this STUFF?” when I did without it for the most part, for an entire month, just fine. But I digress.






Stuffed giraffe nursery






Instead I need to tell you about the weekend before the baby arrived when we moved every item back into the house (well, JB did all the heavy lifting and I made important comments like, “Another six inches to the left.”), and the 80s song Final Countdown kept looping in my head to the point where I actually started humming it until JB pleaded with me to stop.





Safari themed nursery cowhide stuffed giraffe






Which I did, but it WAS a final countdown and I was in an adrenaline-fueled mode that I look back upon now and think, thank goodness, since we had a house’s worth of furniture to arrange, art to hang, and accessories to place before we brought a baby home two days later.






Panda in crib cowhide nursery





It oddly felt like staging a home for a client–except the client was a newborn. I neurotically adjusted the position of furniture, rearranged curios and went as far as polishing the leaves on every Fiddle Leaf Fig and Snake Plant we own–(3 Figs, 1 Snake which adds up to a heck of a lot of leaf polishing) only occasionally stopping to sit down and clutch my cramping stomach until the urge to straighten, shift or reposition something brought me back to my swollen feet.





Mirrored closet doors nursery

The controversial decision to install mirrored closet doors which I stand behind (future post coming soon!) as they nicely reflect the view, the light, and offer the right amount of sleekness for our somewhat modern aesthetic.





I was fueled with enough neurotic compulsion to finish decorating our house before giving birth that the day of I fit in a visit to the lamp store to purchase a piece that makes lamp shades sit straight (yes, this exists). I was obsessed with being READY and getting things DONE. I felt so bad that I’d be leaving a design client mid-remodel that in the half hour before we left for the hospital, I managed to text her photos of paint color selections off my paint chip deck. So there was a lot that I did do, but the thing I didn’t do, that I wanted to do, that I still feel bad about was not sending a blog post.




Rocking chair and giraffe





Not only did I want to check in–which was something I had stopped doing during the last month of the remodel when I had moved out of the house, and thus my office, and therefore my computer was spending some time outdoors on the patio–but to share my thoughts about pregnancy like this one:ย  not knowing when you’re going into labor is akin to trying to pretend all is well knowing, at any given moment, you will, metaphorically, be pulled into an alley and pummeled. Of course, the hospital is nothing like a seedy alley, or any alley for that matter, but labor will, in some way, beat you up. And anticipating that pain is a weird, unusual thing.






Giraffe lamp nursery





I’d recall scenes in movies where the special agent protagonist, tied to a chair, was repeatedly whipped, yet no matter how many lashings or punches to the head, refused to reveal where the microchip/disc/mass fortune was hidden, never succumbing to the ouch factor. And I thought, I need to channel that badassness. Or, as Evangeline Lilly explained during an interview on Conan, if you can stay in the the center of the pain during labor, that somehow makes it bearable.






Children's books nursery






I discovered she was right. Labor hurt like heck but then it was over. However, because I’d always heard you forget about the pain of childbirth I just assumed the pain stopped there. Next stop: baby bliss. What I hadn’t factored in was the pain of recovering from stitches “down there”, the, as one nurse described it, “foot to the floor” pain of your breasts acclimating to breastfeeding, and sleep deprivation. Oh the sleep deprivation.





DIY changing table nursery

DIY changing table created from the leftover 4 1/4″ tall baseboard–much cheaper than the $80 one offered by Pottery Barn!




During the weeks that followed, I’d often consider how after any other surgery you’re advised to, “Get lots of rest so you recover quickly”–but not after childbirth. Instead, you go home and…no sleep for you. Howling infant, yes. Painful parts. Uh huh. Sore boobs and an intense desire to curl up into a ball and sleep it off so you can fully process what just happened, yes. But sleep. Not so much. And yet you not only must stay awake, but be the sharpest you have ever been as you are now responsible for all sorts of things you may never have done in your life from diaper changing (it’s true; we were diaper changing virgins) to keeping a new life alive.






Nursery safari theme

Doesn’t every nursery need a Willie Nelson painting?




At one point, JB suggested, “The baby isย  trying to kill us. He’s wearing us down, weakening us.” And we laughed, and I think I started cry-laughing because I was that insanely tired that it seemed equal parts funny and possibly true. Around the same time, a well-wisher said, “Enjoy every minute,” and I wanted to retort, “Are you crazy? This is hell. I want to fast forward to when he’s four or at least sleeps through the night.” I was in awe of anyone who had more than one kid. I questioned their sanity but was cheered by the thought that it must get better if people willfully have a second, a third, and more. I was so delirious with pain and no sleep, even focusing on television shows I used to love (Anthony Bourdain, I couldn’t follow a thing you said) seemed impossible for the first few days and I thought, this is a lot like being home with the flu. In theory it sounds all nice and cozy, staying home, watching TV, scarfing Trader Joe’s prefab meals, but it’s not nice because you have the flu and feel like crap. Of course I didn’t have the flu, but I did feel like crap. Pain and sleep deprivation will do that to you.






Quirky fox Duralee fabric

The fabric that inspired it all that isn’t actually in the nursery yet. It may or may not become a future valance to accompany a natural grass window treatment.





I told my friend, “Waking up every two hours {to feed a baby} is like enjoying a warm bath and then someone says, ‘Okay, now get out and jump into that kiddie pool of ice water.'” She (mother of a baby, as well, and a toddler) responded, “Right now, you’re being broken in. Like a shoe.”ย  I wailed back, “This is so hard! I saw you during those first few days after your babies were born. You seemed happy and fine.” Her reply? “I was faking it.” Really? Really. My new theory is everyone had to fake it and lie to you or the human race would come to an abrupt halt.



Felt reindeer head nursery





I began staring at humans (on TV and during the occasional outing to the doctor’s) and contemplating, “Every one of us came out of a female human. There was no other way. Plenty of women have done this. I can do this,” alternated with looking at homeless people and the poor hunchbacked lady I saw leaving the hospital and marveling, “You were someone’s precious little baby once. What happened?” (Hey, I warned you up top there might be some rambling, stream of consciousnesses. Delivered, as promised.)





Willie Nelson signed portrait

My mom painted Willie’s portrait in 2002. My dad who lives in Maui, where Willie lives, had him sign it.




Those were the low-functioning wearing-pajamas-all-day days (although I met a personal goal of never once skipping a shower), when we were deep in the trenches, trying to figure it out and survive. My biggest accomplishment (other than keeping a new life thriving) was cleaning our new hardwood floors on a near daily basis. I ran that Bona-Hardwood mop over the wood like a man in a mid-life crisis polishes his sports car, perhaps because I was house-bound, perhaps because pinned to the sofa during bouts of breastfeeding and pumping, I’d otherwise be forced to stare down the dust bunnies and clumps of dog hair and the prospect of that was more depressing than being house-bound.







Jellycat Hedgehog nursery





Somehow I learned to operate exceptionally fast in two hour increments (the baby is fed, how quickly can I move?) and each morning when I was, inevitably up and watching the sun rise and swore I’d have to fit in a nap or I’d never make it through the day, the moment the sun came up, all systems switched on. Like I was suddenly solar powered. I didn’t even have to yawn. Four hours of sleep and I was somehow charged up, ready for duty. Heck, if I knew I could survive on 5 hours of sleep all this time, just think of the things I could’ve accomplished.





Master bedroom bassinet

The bassinet in our bedroom where, despite the styled nursery, Kai actually sleeps.






I mastered the art of eating with one hand and only occasionally dribbled or dropped food onto Kai’s onesie and when I agreed to my first client meeting–at 8 am, no less. I knew I was somewhat “back”. Being away from your own baby for the first time is rather exhilarating in that whole “How can I miss you if you don’t go away?” kind of way. It felt good to miss him and possibly even better to realize my brain could still come up with design solutions andย  thus began my steady crawl back to normalcy.






Kai on faux fur

Baby Kai, days old.




Each day there is progress as Kai and I both seem better, stronger and I feel less like an inebriated person trying to pass as sober (although, the first few work emails I wrote I’d have to read aloud about five times to make sure they made sense). As Kai is sleeping more, I’m squinting less through the lens of sleep deprivation. It’s not the same as before. It’s definitely a new normal. Just when I want to throw myself a pity party, thoughts of Kai going off to kindergarten send me into a tizzy of protectiveness and I thank my lucky stars to be spit up on and even the nights filled with cries that verge on howling (mostly Kai, yuk, yuk) don’t seem so bad and the bliss comes pouring in for a wonderful new soul named Kai. If, per chance, he ever reads this, know for all my complaining, I’m ridiculously giddily, glad you’re here! (PS, Remind me of this when, one day, you ask for an increase in your allowance.)






Kai on sheepskin

Baby Kai, 5 weeks old.





Welcome home, Kai!





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Jonathan and Ben’s inspiring house reveal!

Foo dog living room glass table


Do you remember when the Refrigerator Gods smiled down upon us and JB spotted a Sub-Zero refrigerator listed on Craigslist for $100?


When we thought this can’t be right, maybe they forgot a zero? But they didn’t. Or, maybe it won’t work? But it did. And then seven hours later (after the hauling, the grunting, the kindness of one friend who lent us her moving truck and another who lent us his muscles) as though an appliance miracle was taking place, the new fridge slid into the old built-in opening in our kitchen with 1/16″ to spare? Well, if you don’t, you can read all the scintillating (Do we like it? Why do we like it?) details here, but this post is not about that fridge.



This post is about the previous owners of that fridge, Ben and Jonathan, who were parting with their Sub-Zero for a very good reason: they were going with all-new appliances for a very, very impressive remodel.




How impressive?



I’m glad you asked.




It’s not like there was anything wrong with the Before. In fact there was a lot that was right with it. And there’s our fridge, cute as ever, as it sat in their yet-to-be-transformed-into-awesomeness kitchen/dining room.






Kitchen and dining before





Just to build the drama and so the Before looks a bit more lack-luster, here is the space as it starts to enter the “It has got to look like hell before it gets better” phase.






Kitchen before 2





And then it turned into this.




I know, right?





La Cornue kitchen stoveOh, how I have La Cornue range envy. And copper pot envy. And everything about that kitchen envy!









Dishwasher open






A La Cornue sink?! We just hit a whole new level of fancy!






La Cornue porcelain sink






Another shot of their new paneled fridge with all its come-hither, walk-towards-the-light, open-door glory.






Fridge door open





The living room Before…





Living room before Ben










Living room remodel





And now? Goodbye beams with track lighting. Hello tongue and groove ceiling, light and airy color palette, a chandelier to make RH blush, new doors, windows and hardware.






Foo dog living room glass table





This door hardware!





Door detail





Shall we take a closeup of that chair…with the Hermes throw? Wow. Good use of the Foo Dog as a coffee table accessory, too. I’m now inspired to pull mine out of “storage”. (You know, “storage”, aka “our garage”, the area that inspires JB to chant, “Hoarder!” on the hottest of days when he knocks his knee into a stack of my chairs, trips over a bag of my throw pillows, and almost gets the guillotine by a mirror that’s threatening to shimmy off a shelf? That place.)





Hermes blanket white slip covered chair






The fireplace in progress…






Fireplace remodel




And After…





Marble fireplace





The master bedroom…





Bedroom wallpaper





With this amazing chinoiserie wallpaper detail…





Bedroom wallpaper detail





Master bath After…





Copper free standing tub master bath






But the transformation was not limited to the interior. Here is the exterior Before…






House exterior











House exterior progress





And after…




House exterior finished 1





Tile detail







And in case you thought you were having a hard day…







Installing fountain 2





count your blessings that you aren’t outside heaving a million-pound fountain to the wall…





Installing fountain





Of course once you attach said fountain, there is the fun part of standing in it?!





House exterior




Thank you to Ben and Jonathan for sharing pictures of their amazing remodel and, guys, if you ever decide it’s time to upgrade the Miele built-in espresso maker, our Sub-Zero said it wouldn’t mind sharing the spotlight with another show-stealing appliance. You know my number.





Congratulations on your beautiful remodel! ๐Ÿ™‚






Miele espresso maker kitchen remodel





Happy decorating!





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Progress at our house with a side order of kvetching!

Outdoor patio furniture white outdoor umbrella


I’ve hit what I have termed the Molasses Stage of pregnancy where moving quickly seems impossible–unless some sort of caffeine stimulant were involved–and we all know that is on the Uh-Uh-Uh (insert mental image of wagging finger) List. And it sucks. Former me operated in an accelerated mode. Revved up was my default setting. Now I’m huffing and puffing on the walk JB and I always considered “the short walk”, and the moment I crest the hill (a minor incline to non-pregnant persons, Mt. Everest, to me), I’m declaring, “I did it!” between gasping breaths with not the slightest bit of sarcasm.





Mirrored closet door installationMirrored closet doors in the master and nursery. A controversial design choice, to be sure, to be defended by design logic in upcoming blog post.





Flipping over in bed (the expectant mother is advised to avoid sleeping on her back in favor of lying on her left side; right is second best although that may smoosh her liver, to allow the greatest blood flow to both baby and her legs, these legs that may still awaken her, regardless, cramped with Charlie Horses with ridiculous regularity, each morning just before 6 am) has become a very big deal. Each flip is accompanied by grunts and moans as though it is the greatest of Herculean efforts. And, for me, it is. As I explained to my Ob-Gyn, “It’s like there’s a hard cover dictionary strapped to my stomach.” “Well,” she says, “there kind of is.” “Well,” I add, “this dictionary can kick!”





Window to be replacedThis window was replaced with the one you see below–for better or worse. I actually loved the minimalism of the original one and freaked out when I saw the heavy mullions of the new one, but the client (JB, in this case) insisted dual pane was a necessity and he preferred the modern look of the replacement.






Clear annodized aluminum Jeld-Wen window modern windowReplacement windows.







Nursery constructionNursery before new window and new closet doors go in. Notice the unsightly fence outside the window that JB covers in the next shot.







Modern wood fencey outside windowBig improvement! Not only did JB build a pretty fence to cover the strange looking existing one, but he fastened wires so the newly planted passion fruit vine can be trained to espalier. Now it’s, almost, a room with a view.





The other day, walking from the car to the entrance of Trader Joe’s, I thought the arch in my left foot might give out. Then it righted itself. Such is this new life. I explained to my friend who tells me what it’s like to have a new baby, whom I remind what it was like to be pregnant, there is a constant toggle between sitting, “Ahhh,” to standing, “Ooh, I can’t sit for another second,” to needing to sit again. I’ve read over and over that that those with buns in the oven are not supposed to be on their feet for very long, even when preparing food that must go in an oven that, thus, requires some standing while chopping, dicing, stirring and the lot. I thought that must only apply to other pregnant people because I was feeling fine. But now, I’m not. At 32 weeks, my belly has grown to be low and egg-shaped, a la Humpty Dumpty, and it’s darn heavy to heave around.






Custom fire table insert redwoodAnother proud JB moment when he built this custom insert, using fence scraps, for our fire table so it can function as a coffee table when the fire element is not in use. So smart!






Outdoor patio furniture white outdoor umbrellaNew 11′ x 13′ white umbrella goes up making the outdoor seating bearable during this heatwave.





And the heat, the heat that I used to love! It couldn’t have been me who used to recoil at the sight of Halloween decorations in the stores when we were only in September. “Slow down!” I’d say. When Christmas decor began it’s early infiltration I cringed at the thought of the shadowy, shortened days that would soon be upon is. “Stop the clock at summer,” I’d lament. “Summer months are for truly living. They only give us major holidays in fall/winter to focus on so we make it out alive.” And now? I long for the chill, dream of sweaters and blankets and not feeling like I’m melting every moment. Heat has become my Kryptonite and I yearn to shiver. Cold weather, I’m, waiting for you. Hurry, please!






Opening pocket door exposed headerWe decided to raise the sight line of our doors by replacing the 6′ 8″ doors with 7′ tall doors. Surprise, when the installer uncovered the existing headers they were all too wimpy to use and had to be replaced with beefier ones which means we have been staring at exposed headers, like this one, for quite a long time. Charming, no?






Furnace closet constructionWe had the “clever” but almost budget-breaking idea of moving the furnace into the attic to 1) gain storage and 2) move the intake vent that greeted you at the bottom of the entry wall to the hall ceiling where it is now less conspicuous.







Painting wallsThe air intake vent used to live here. Now something pretty like a potted plant can live here. ๐Ÿ™‚







Modern door surround detailWe pulled off the door trim and opted for the more modern, no-trim, look achieved through square-edge bullnose and a huge chunk of the budget. (We came to realize it would have been half as expensive to tack on trim. Arghh.)







Single panel doors modern doors constructionIt’s only a matter of time until the door levers we ordered can be installed and we can stop using washcloths for doorknobs. Or so I remind myself.







Note-to-self: trying not to breathe while at home is next to impossible, if not deadly, so maybe trying to fit a remodel in while pregnant was a loopy idea. Drywall dust coats every surface in our house with its snowy powder. The poor baby probably thinks it’s gestating during war time what with all the racket of construction sounds. Pounding hammers, screeching saws, the slam of wood as it hits the scrap pile, the recurrent yelling at Moki to return the roll of drywall tape, electrical tape, or drill bit he just stole, “This minute!”: it’s all very loud and probably a lot for a fetus to have to bear. It’s a lot for the fetus’s mother to bear!






Dining room construction zoneOur dining room is also the staging area for construction supplies. Very cozy. As witnessed by the paint samples on the wall, the new wall color has been chosen: Benjamin Moore’s Simply White.







Construction hallwayBoob lights have come down (and been replaced by 4″ LED recessed lights) and floors and baseboard and entry tile has come up.






Faux knob and tube wiring modern houseThe existing toggle switches have been replaced by faux knob and tube switches as a nod to our design concept that straddles old/new.ย  The plates will be brushed nickel to match the door levers.







Reclaimed wood stepsIn an effort to decrease the great amount of dirt that tumbles down and sullies our new concrete stairs (as evidenced in this photo), JB is reusing the wood from our former pergola and turning it into a secondary retaining wall with an extra landing at the top. El Nino, we’re ready for you!






Then there was yesterday when I realized the job site I was standing in that had just finished demo the day before had walls painted with lead paint. Lead paint!? Yes, lead paint in a 1920s house. The client/owner was kind enough to rush me out of the house and continue our meeting elsewhere to spare me from inhaling any more fine lead powder (ack!! panic sets in at the typing of those words). I need to be back on site on Monday, but, will bring a dust mask and might even wear my respirator, fashion be damned, in favor of protecting a fetus!







Happy decorating!:)



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Happy Anniversary! DIY Rustic Wedding Decor Ideas!

Wedding dog tuxedo Lilo



This Sunday marks the one-year anniversary of my wedding to JB. In commemoration, I’m posting the column I wrote two days prior to our Big Day.ย  Imagine prepping for a DIY wedding that was taking up every spare moment meaning I hadn’t had time to pen my vows and, thus, was agonizing over writing them at 9:30 pm the night before, praying I’d come up with something that elicited at least a few giggles from the guests and, of course, would be meaningful to my future husband when all I really wanted to do was fall into a deep slumber from the utter exhaustion brought on by the two days straight we spent outdoors setting up for the event during the 90 degree heat wave–and my column was due just two days before the wedding; ack, it was a hectic time! Included are photos of some of the DIY decor we tackled for our rustic wedding. I’m happy to say I met my deadline (for the column and the vows, although I was editing them down to the last minute while my hair was being curled and brushed into submission). The column ran the morning of our wedding: 9/13/14. Enjoy! ๐Ÿ™‚





Happily Ever After SignSimple sign created from leftover planks of hardwood flooring, painted with lettering and nailed to a piece of plywood.





The day this column appears in print, I’ll be standing at the end of a borrowed carpet runner, poised beneath a makeshift copper arch, and gripping (likely with perspiring palms) my homemade bouquet. And uttering some (hopefully) profound words which will culminate in the momentous proclamation of (gulp!) “I do”. Today is the day I marry the best man I’ve ever known.






Wedding dog tuxedo LiloSweet Lilo, my Chiweenie, sporting a tuxedo from Petco.





If you and I had hours to spare, I’d tell you about the panic attacks, the pages and pages of “To Do” lists that caused me to bolt upright in bed wondering, “Did I…?” and the multitude of design decisions that had us thinking, “Eloping would’ve been so much easier!” Because–everyone was right, planning a wedding is a lot like having a second job–one that costs more than it pays! But along the way we discovered some design ideas we really loved, and since they were DIY, they helped keep the budget down. So without further ado (after all, I have a wedding to get to!) here are some of our favorite homespun wedding decor ideas.





Chalkboard frame signsOh the many uses of a framed chalkboard sign.





Love signs: Chalkboard signs are a perfect way to convey table numbers, label an unrecognizable dish such as, say, “Vegan Bratwurst” or explain the contents of a drink dispenser containing “Cucumber water”. When marked with the words “Love” or “thanks!” these signs do double-duty as props held by the bride and groom for photos that can later be printed into custom thank you cards. And, unlike so much wedding decor, chalkboard signs can be wiped clean and used for party decor throughout the year. (Imagine “Boo” or “Pumpkin soup” in October.)





Chalkboard framed Love sign DIY wedding decorLove signs.





99 cents store frameFrame from the 99 Cents Only store.






Spray paint glassRemove glass insert and spray with aerosol chalkboard paint.







Chalkboard paint on glassLet the sprayed glass dry, then cure.






Chalboard framesPop the chalkboard painted glass back into the frames.






Hang chalkboard frameIf you want to hang the signs on the back of a chair, thread ribbon through the picture hanging loop on the back of the frame.







Mr. Mrs. Chalkboard signsTa da!





To make these, begin with photo frames, preferably ones with slightly ornate, even gilded, frames–if they aren’t gilded, you can spray them to be. (The 99 Cents Only store is a great source.) Remove the glass and spray one side of it with aerosol chalkboard paint. Dry for fifteen minutes then spray a second coat. Let dry for at least two hours, then pop the glass back into the frame, painted side facing out. Important: Do not skip the next, crucial stop of curing the surface of your chalkboard by rubbing its face with the side of a piece of chalk and then wiping it off with a clean dry cloth lest whatever you write be forever etched into its surface.






Paper strips of brown paper bagsUse a paper cutter or scissors to cut 1/2″ x 12″ slices from a paper grocery sack.








Paper bag strip love napkin band DIY wedding decorSuggestion.






Paper wedding bands: Decorate any linen or paper dinner napkin that has been folded into a rectangle with a personalized band. Use a paper cutter to slice 1/2″ wide x 12″ long strips from the plain, unprinted side of brown paper grocery bags. Wrap the band around the center of the napkin and secure it to itself on the underside of the napkin with a piece of clear tape. Use your best script or individual letter stamps and a stamp pad to create a special message. Example: “Love”, the wedding date, the first names of the bride and groom connected by an ampersand, or a dot of sealing wax in the center stamped with the couple’s monogram. (For upcoming holidays, this same technique can be used to write, “Thankful” or “Peace”.)







Wedding favor wine jellyThank you to my sister for making this fantastic wine jelly. The “silverware” was plastic cutlery from the 99 Cents Only Store.






Ceremonial sprigs: For a twist on traditional flowers, use sprigs of rosemary, lavender or sage to decorate wedding cupcakes, a tiered wedding cake, or tuck into the aforementioned napkin bands. Lavender, long associated with love, virtue and devotion, has calming properties which may just come in handy on The Big Day.ย  Sage is linked with wisdom and mortality, but rosemary has the most notable history. Tied to Aphrodite, the goddess of love, and also a symbol of fidelity, brides used to weave it into their wreath headdresses, decorate branches to give as wedding favors, or dip into their wine during toasts. Lasses would sleep with sprigs under their pillows to induce dreams portending their husbands to be. Cautious (and superstitious!) brides slipped sprigs into their partner’s pocket to ensure faithfulness. All three of these herbs grow prolifically, so any of these plants can be purchase for the occasion, stripped of some leaves, and then planted in the garden to commemorate the red-letter day–not to mention seasoning many shared meals to come!






Cork Love Wedding Sign Wedding DecorThis was actually not at our wedding. I randomly saw it a few months ago at a wedding held at a restaurant that I happened to pass by and it was so cute, I could not resist taking a photo and sharing it with you.





Framed!: A large, empty frame from a thrift store or garage sale makes a fun photo prop for wedding pictures. The more ornate, the better. If it’s not already gilded, spray it with gold or silver paint. Guests can take turns holding the frame in front of themselves as they pose. Tip: Attach rows of twine across the back of a large frame, hang it to the wall, and clip plain wooden clothespins to the twine rows. Keep a Polaroid camera on hand (these can be found online) so guests can take selfies and pin them to the twine. The best shots can later be placed into a photo album for the newlyweds.






Mr Mrs chair signsYet another use for chalkboard signs. The chairs were from an estate sale.





Take a seat: Look to your local thrift store for old and interesting wood dining chairs for the bride and groom. If the seats need new fabric, see if they can be unscrewed (from below) and popped out. If so, reupholstery can be as simple as using a staple gun to cover the seat with your favorite fabrics. Tip: Painter’s drop cloths are an inexpensive alternative to linen; natural burlap is nice, too. If the wood structure has seen better days, painting it white or gold–or any one of your wedding colors–will quickly refresh it. Just so it doesn’t look too new, you may want to consider strategically sanding the freshly painted wood to give it a gently aged appearance. Tie the chair back with strands of ribbon and signs reading “His ” and “Hers” or “Mr.” and “Mrs.”.






Holding bouquetsMy dress was second-hand, but I loved it. Here are my ladies of honor holding our DIY bouquets. See the tutorial on how to make your own here.





Say “Yes” to a designer dress: Without growing broke, that is. Bridal dresses usually come two ways: expensive and beautiful or cheap and they look it. As of last year, Santa Barbara got another option with the arrival of The White Peacock bridal consignment store. Because these dresses have been worn (usually once) and dry-cleaned, they look brand new. And because most of them are designer names, they’re jaw-droppingly beautiful, which means you can be too, without the price tag to match. Tip: After your wedding, if you’re not inclined to keep your dress for posterity, you can always sell it back to recoup some of that wedding expense!





wedding centerpiece ferns succulents tree tumpStumps and succulents: a perfect, inexpensive, combo!






Stumps and succulents: This project can take some foresight, but if you have time, keep an eye out for any neighbors who are felling trees. If they are kind enough to let you have any of the refuse, stumps make great centerpiece bases for a rustic wedding (add a glass hurricane, candle, and/or flower arrangement on top) and can be used as risers on buffet tables. Instead of renting a wedding cake riser, an extra-large stump adds a touch of nature–and saves you a rental fee! Succulents, in lieu of flowers, not only hold up to the heat of a summer wedding, but need not be tossed. A bouquet or centerpiece of succulents will re-root if planted in your garden and will continue to commemorate your special day.






Happily Ever After light signThis sign was inspired by the Lite-Brite kids’ toy from our childhoods. It was as easy to make as drilling holes into a plywood board, painting the board black, and inserting Christmas lights.





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