The New Shibori? Bleached Denim Fabric


A while back, Kristin Jackson, author of the blog The Hunted Interior did something revolutionary with denim:Β  she splattered it with bleach, gave it a rinse and dry, then used it to recover her clients’ chairs. (See below.)








Brilliant, right?




I could hardly wait to try this technique, but could not quite convince any of my clients to stray from some of the safer fabric choices to the world of bleach-splattered denim. So I decided to go first and make a chair cushion of my own. Like a design guinea pig if you will.



And it was so wonderfully easy.



I was lucky enough to find a roll of denim at a local fabric store offering deep discounts on remnants, but you can also find denim here. I purchased a gallon of bleach from the 99 Cents Only Store from which I poured approximately one cup (per yard of fabric) into a plastic disposable cup. I used an eye dropper to dribble and drop the bleach in a controlled way before I decided to throw caution to the wind and use a spoon to splash it on willy nilly.



Note: at first you may think nothing is happening. I even asked myself, “Did I accidentally buy indoor/outdoor, stain-resistant denim?” The bleach beaded on the surface of the fabric and the color remained unchanged.











Then ten minutes or so later, things started happening. It was like watching a photo emulsify. The pattern started to appear, faintly at first.










Then, bam! The white became whiter and, in contrast, the blue appeared even bluer.Β  As soon as the fabric reached this stage, I immediately gave it a thorough rinse in cold water so the bleach would cease bleaching (I didn’t want it to deteriorate the fabric), and set it in the sun to dry.










I was so thrilled with the results, I draped my bleached fabric in various poses throughout our house. It was like the gnome in the Travelocity ads, posed in various locations, although it never traveled outside my front door. (Because I wasn’t going to part with it! πŸ™‚ .)












I was so smitten, I used it to create a cushion for a princess chair I’d restrung over winter during the many days we stayed indoors to avoid the ashy air of the Thomas Fire.










Full disclosure: in part, I’m writing this post so when I mention this idea to a client in the future, and I’m met with a raised eyebrow, in response, I’ll direct the doubter here. Ha ha.



This could be the next Shibori. It’s a little Jackson Pollock in its splattered modern art-ness. It’s unexpected. Each piece is a one-off (bespoke, anyone?), and it’s blue and white which I’d argue is one of the most classic color combinations in the history of ever.



Please let me know if you try it. I think you’ll be happy you do. If you have any questions, feel free to write in the comments section and I’ll be sure to respond.







Happy decorating! πŸ™‚


DIY Mud Cloth fabric: a tutorial!


I had been wanting to try my hand at DIY mud cloth–you know, the black and white patterned fabric that has been the design darling of the tribal/Boho/a-black-and-white-pallete-is-all-the-rage movement? Then I did some research about how the real (authentic, and notably expensive) stuff is made and suddenly its steep price seemed justified and it felt almost sacrilegious to even attempt to knock-off what is a very involved textile art form.




Mud cloth has even been popping up on Pinterest in the form of stockings (second from left and far right)!



Yet I did it anyway. With a clear conscience, I can’t really call this a DIY mud cloth tutorial, except in the title, or how else would you have landed here? Rather, what I’ll provide is a tutorial for a technique that, depending on the pattern you follow (confession: I made mine up), can result in a fabric that looks quite similar to the real thing. And if not exactly the same, still cool in its own right.




A wing chair, partially upholstered in mud cloth, by woodworker Ariele Alasko, got the ol’ wheels turning.




I’d argue this technique (inspired by this post) is better than some of the other incarnations of DIY mud cloth on the internet that suggest using a white marker on black cloth (although this one that shows how to make dinner napkins using that method does get a gold star).





I saw this on Instagram and was sorry October had already passed. If you want to get a head start on faux pumpkins for Halloween in a mud cloth motif, click here.




But before we begin, I would be remiss if I didn’t include at least a CliffsNotes version of the history of mud cloth. After all, education fosters appreciation. The next time you pick up a pillow with mud cloth fabric on the face (it is so valuable, it tends to be reserved for one side only) the price might not be such a shock; any irregularities will make more sense (it’s handmade); and it would be nice to think you just helped support a laborer who is likely working more, but eating less than you. To ensure the mud cloth is from a legit source, you can always buy it fair trade.




Another shot from that clever Ariele Alasko. Note how she used the base of an antique sewing machine (that she found on the sidewalk–way better than a penny or quarter, eh?) to prop up her desk.




What exactly is mud cloth?


Mud cloth is handmade in Western Africa, specifically Mali, in a process dating back to the 12th century. Traditionally men wove the cotton into narrow strips which they then sewed into a larger piece and the women did the dyeing. Today men tend to be responsible for the entire production of this ever-popular product.


The pieced together fabric is dyed in baths of leaves from the n’gallama tree which turn it yellow. The fabric is dried then painted in intricate patterns using mud that has been fermented for over a year in clay pots. The residual acid of the leaf-solution causes the fabric to have a chemical reaction with the iron oxide in the mud, turning the mud-painted portions a dark grey. The fabric is left to dry in the sun, then washed to remove excess mud. This is done repeatedly until the areas painted with mud turn almost black. On the final rinse, the fabric is washed with a soap containing potash, shea butter, and peanuts to bleach the yellow areas back to their original ivory color.


The symbolic patterns are individual to each tribe and were used to tell stories passed down from mother to daughter. Some are widely understood (concentric circles represent the Earth), but many remain unbroken codes.


In the 1980s, fashion designer Chris Seydou (1949-1994) brought mud cloth to the runways where it had its fleeting fashion moment only to fade into textile obscurity until…now.Β  Note to self: never throw anything out unless it threatens to attract mice or mold. What’s out will once again be in.



There. Done. See, now you are at least ten times smarter.



So how do you make mud cloth, minus the mud? Here’s how.







Elmer’s Washable, No Run School Glue Gel. (Found here.)


Dylon Velvet Black Permanent Dye. (Found here.)


I used 100% linen fabric, but 100% cotton should work just as well.




Mud cloth covering an ottoman: such a good idea!





Google “mud cloth patterns” and you’ll find plenty to choose from. I read that squeezing the glue bottle can cause a lot of hand cramping (true) so I made up a simple pattern I could apply easily and freehand. If you’re nervous about drawing freehand, you can always use carbon paper to trace a design printed from the internet onto your fabric–or, at the very least, use a pencil and ruler. I’m not so patient so I went rogue and dove in.



The exasperating beading effect of Elmer’s gel glue. Sadly, swear words and threats to throw the bottle across the room do nothing to ameliorate the situation, but reapplication (once, sometimes twice) will do the trick.









Squeeze the glue on the portions of your pattern that you want to remain the natural color of your fabric as the rest will be dyed black. And then the most annoying thing will happen! Just when you think you are almost done, you’ll look back and about half the area you covered will have disappeared. This is because this glue that is so magical in the way it performs like a wax resist without all the mess of hot wax, also does a bit of a disappearing act as it tends to bead up just when you thought you were finished. Go over the missing areas and make sure to watch the glue as it dries so you can redo any spots before all of the glue dries fully. Allow the glue to dry for 12 hours or overnight.




The results of my DIY mud cloth. Totally black (not grey or purple, phew!).



Follow the instructions for dyeing the fabric–sort of. I say this because the package tells you how much water to add to the dye (4 cups) but then instructs you to “fill a bowl/sink with enough warm water for the fabric to move freely”. This was all too vague for me, especially since I had read many disappointing reviews for the dye (which is often used to revitalize faded black denim and was frequently purported to turn it grey, at best, or worse: purple), so I did not add any more water beyond the 4 cups used for the dye bath itself. I had very low expectations so I increased my dyeing time a half hour beyond the recommended time.




My DIY mud cloth used as a table runner.



Rinse your dyed fabric in cold water until the water runs clear, then use warmer water to remove the glue. Full disclosure: my fingernails removed more glue than the warm water did. I let the fabric dry in the sun, then ironed it on a medium setting to further set the color. Not sure if this step was really necessary, but it did make the wrinkled fabric smooth so it seemed logical.



My DIY mud cloth draped on a chair that normally resides in Kai’s nursery.



And there you have it. Your very own inexpensive, fun and easy to make DIY mud cloth!





Happy decorating! πŸ™‚
















Our bedroom reveal!


I almost called this post Progress in the Bedroom.


But thought better of it. πŸ™‚


Some rooms take a long time to get right.Β  Even more so when they start out like this…




Band-Aid colored walls and similarly toned carpet that came with the house.



Especially when you’re an interior designer and, thus, want your house to look social-media-stunning, but just like the contractor with the cracked window, it can be hard to find the time/money/energy to fix your own space. So you do what you can, when you can.



Which resulted in this next stage which I like to call the Don’t-Try-This-At-Home look. It is a culling of garage sale scores, some IKEA bedding (creating a bolster pillow from an IKEA dishtowel was one of my first blog posts; found here) and a precarious placement of mounted antlers that, upon reflection, we’re lucky never impaled us mid slumber.



Walls: still a shade of Band-Aid.




So we painted the walls Benjamin Moore’s Simply White, installed these French Oak floors, found the right-sized bedding (from Pottery Barn and I loved it, but they don’t seem to sell it anymore).




And it was so much better. Except it didn’t feel finished.




Room styled with a bassinet right before leaving for the hospital to have Kai.




Enter: the solution. Grasscloth wallpaper! I had long lusted over grasscloth wallpaper andΒ  used it in enough clients’ homes that I knew its transformative effect. But it’s not inexpensive. So I saved my pennies for the splurge and I’m so glad I did. It continues to look different throughout the day, but always so interesting and natural and textured.




Phillip Jeffries Grasscloth Wallpaper: Extra Fine Arrowroot/color: Wheat




We also decided it was time to upgrade to a King bed for those nights when you want to stretch to your heart’s, and limbs’, content–and not touch another human. That hardly sounds romantic, but with a snuggly toddler, there is so much constant physical contact, personal space has become a cherished thing. And when you want to remember you do, in fact, share the bed with someone, that someone is never more than a few inches of scooting over away.


We knew we wanted to avoid an upholstered headboard following the logic that toddlers are the foe of upholstered fabric. While wood is always a good wipable surface, we fell for this metal-wrapped bed from RH which, PS, is now on super duper sale.







Here is our bedroom as of a couple of weeks ago with my new favorite DIY pillow which all three of us can share while watching movies in bed–for those snuggly moments. For my tips on dyeing Shibori fabric, click here.






Now we come to the closet doors. Ahem. I had mixed feelings about installing these because I know mirrored closet doors have their detractors, but after working on a very high-end home in Malibu with the best views, but not the largest bedrooms, that had these same mirrored closet doors (which made the rooms seem bigger and reflected the view), I realized they can be a very smart design decision.



The mirrored doors make our average-sized room feel much larger and keep the light bouncing around. We chose the very simple aluminum trim so they look streamlined and clean. They reflect the view of the garden and, possibly most importantly, I use them when dressing (there isn’t another logical place to hang a mirror in the room). I am now on team Mirrored Closet Doors–for the right room. πŸ™‚







The other side.


At night our new light (found here) casts a neat honeycomb pattern on the ceiling and, during the day, it’s just odd enough to be very pleasing. Our dresser is an IKEA piece that came with marrying JB, for better or worse, haha. It’s not the dresser of my dreams, but it does work with our color palette and holds all the clothes that don’t fit into our reach-in closet so for that reason, it’s dreamy, for now.







But enough about bedrooms. Our bathroom remodel, which began a few months ago, was stalled in its tracks once we found out that our cast iron pipes likely need to be replaced. Apparently cast iron pipes last 60-80 years and since ours just had their 58th birthday, we would be silly to install new tile just to have to rip it out in a few years when the pipes may fail.



Then one of the plumbers pointed out that when you fix the pipes in one bathroom, it’s smart to fix the pipes of any bathroom that is on the opposite side of the wall. Since said bathroom is our only other bathroom and I have a thing for showering indoors, I’m really not sure where this leaves us. For now, we close the door and try to forget. Then again, it’s hard to forget when the only other bathroom is located off of our bedroom which means now the master bathroom has to be kept a bit cleaner (not my favorite task). And, since the demo-ed bathroom is the only one with a tub, Kai has been bathing al fresco, as of late. Thank goodness for warm weather and kiddie pools!






There was something kind of modern-art ish about this stage…







Lastly, after the quote for good quality fake grass, you know the kind with the dead pieces built in, came in at $10,000 for both sides of the yard and realizing that wasn’t going to happen while there is a bathroom (or two!) to remodel, we opted for the down and dirty quick fix of Home Depot astro turf at $20 per 6′ x 8′ roll for a grand total of $150.







Not a long term fix (I hope), but for not much money, it creates a soft landing pad for when Kai exists his kiddie pool/tub or just trips and falls–our Lab has been known to knock him over :(. As it was not much of an investment, we don’t mind the tricycling and toy explosion that takes place on it (real grass might not survive this kind of activity while the good fake grass can dent). It keeps weeds and dirt at bay and mowing as a non issue. We don’t love that it is artificial and I have this nagging fear that microscopic particles could enter our bloodstream via cracks in our feet–then again, people do walk barefoot on carpet and wear shoes made of all sorts of who-knows-what surfaces. So, for now, it keeps things neat and clean…even with a giant mess on top of it.







And it’s inspiring thoughts of backyard movie nights (a painter’s drop cloth makes a makeshift screen and we found a projector on Craigslist) with really cute beanbag chairs kind of like these…




Jaxx Juniper Chair





So we can do this…









Happy decorating! πŸ™‚




DIY Shibori dyeing tips!

To date, we have 53 days left of summer. That means fifty-three diminishing days of ocean dips, late-night dinners, and forgetting you even own a sweater. It’s around this time that I find myself clinging, with perspiring palms, to the multitude of reasons summer is my favorite season. For example, blue and white textiles–especially Shibori dyed textiles.


Surely you have noticed the Shibori mania.



Photo source




Shibori, an ancient Japanese method of folding fabric and dyeing it with indigo dye, dates back to 8th century Japan, but has been trending heavily for the last two years and, at the moment, its popularity is waxing more than waning.








Shibori stems from a Japanese word meaning “to wring, squeeze and press” and arose during a time when those who did not have a budget for buying cotton and silk garments repaired and dyed their faded hemp attire, giving it a new life and new style.







Today Shibori patterns are formed using various techniques of folding and twisting undyed natural fiber fabric (100% white cotton seems to work the best) and dipping it into a vat of indigo dye. Once the bound fabric is unwound, the resist pattern reveals itself.



A blog site that offers a great visual tutorial of the folding methods and dyeing process can be found here. But I found there was nothing like the trial and error of doing it myself and I have tried to round up my best pointers for this post as I found some conflicting information between various DIY posts and the directions that come with the dye kit.



Itajime fold using a drop cloth for the fabric and squares of cardboard in lieu of wooden blocks.



Select the items you will dye bearing in mind that natural fibers will accept the dye the best. Be resourceful. Use cardboard, binder clips, PVC pipes, rubber bands and twine as your “tools”.



Prewash and dry your fabric, then submerge it in clean, cold water and squeeze out the excess. I used a Home Depot bucket to mix my dye. Wearing gloves, I lowered my fabric into the dye bath holding it just below the surface (it will want to float). The instructions warn you to not let the items sink to the bottom as they can pick up fallen sediment. With my first dyeing attempt, I held mine just below the surface with my gloved hands and within 10 minutes, my brand new rubber kitchen gloves started to fail and my hands were dyed a lovely shade of blue. Eventually I decided it didn’t actually make a difference if items touched the bottom, and towards the end of my dyeing endeavor, I was shoving as many pieces as I could into the bucket, weighing them down with rocks from our garden, and I did not notice any marks made due to touching sediment at the bottom of the bucket.



Home Depot bucket for indigo dyeing




The package advertises the kit can dye more than 15 shirts or 5 lbs of fabric. I dyed somewhere near that and still had dye left over to share with my neighbor, but you must keep in mind that it lasts 3 – 5 days. On day 4 it went from full intensity to losing nearly all potency and my poor neighbors ended up with shorts dyed with the palest of baby blue patterns, not the deep indigo they intended.








The longer you dye your fabric, the deeper the hue. You can also remove the dyed fabric, set it out to oxidize for a bit (20 minutes is good) and then stick it back into the dye vat (just make sure not to unbind the piece until you are completely finished dyeing it). After some trial and error, I began to prefer dyeing pieces for 30 minutes, setting them out to oxidize for 20 minutes and then redyeing for another 30 minutes and leaving them to oxidize for an hour or more before unwrapping. This gave the intense indigo I was after. You may want to experiment with a scrap and start with ten minutes of dyeing as a baseline.




Our outdoor ping pong table made an impromptu drying rack. Good thing it was already a dark blue!




Once removed from the dye, the fabric will take 20 minutes or so to fully oxidize. When you first pull it out, it will look yellowish-green, but before your eyes it will begin to appear deep blue. (Note: it will lighten as it dries so don’t trust this initial blue as the final color.)




I read conflicting advice on the next step, (the kit says one thing; DIY blogs another), but found that the best way to keep the indigo color as dark and vibrant as possible was to let my oxidized, unbound fabric dry in the sun; once dry, hand wash it with cold water and mild detergent; then either dry it in the dryer set to the hottest setting or line dry it and then heat-set it with an iron set to the hottest setting







There are various folding techniques that can be found online. My two favorites were the Itajime technique (accordion fold fabric lengthwise flipping it back and forth as you go, then accordion fold your long rectangular piece into a square, then sandwich the folded square between two pieces of wood; hold the wood pieces in place using rubber bands). All of the instructions seemed to recommend using two blocks of wood for this process, but the dyeing kit only comes with one pair of wood blocks and they are fairly small, so I experimented using squares of cardboard and happily discovered they worked just as well although you will need to use new pieces for each time you dye.




The Itajime fold




The dyed and unfolded Itajime looks like this which I could definitely see being used as pillow, bedspread, or even window treatment (I’m picturing a Roman shade for a kitchen with all-white cabinets).




The Itajime fold, unfolded




Not knowing the name of this next technique (although please tell me if you know; it was one of my favorites), I called it Rubber Band Circles. I’d twist the fabric either randomly or in rows and tightly secure the twists with a rubber band. The area where the rubber band was resists the dye and leaves a colorless circle.




The “Rubber Band Circles” technique




I was so crazy about how this particular technique turned out (I dyed linen for the piece shown below), I have been draping it everywhere (on the sofa, on the back of a dining room chair, on the chair in our office, shown below).







I sewed mine into a bolster pillow for our bed.







You know, the other design craze of the moment: the exaggeratedly long bolster pillow for the bed!







Note:Β  they aren’t kidding when they say use natural fiber fabric if you want to dye your fabric dark indigo. However, I was running out of some of my higher quality fabric so I cut a drop cloth (from Home Depot) in half and while it didn’t take the dye as well as the other pieces, it resulted in a more of a faded denim look, I can still see using it as a tablecloth, picnic blanket, or “blanket” to throw on the floor for our toddler to eat messy food on. The drop cloth fabric is also so thick it could definitely be used for upholstery (i.e., a bench seat or dining room chairs, a floor cushion or…the possibilities are endless!)








I realized I had a Shibori dyeing addiction when I rounded up all the fabric for this photo. It was hard not to want to dye every bit of white or light colored fabric in sight!




If Shibori dyeing sounds daunting at all, It shouldn’t. It’s really very simple. And you can always enlist your friends to help and host a Champagne and Shibori soiree!





Some great items to dye:
Flour sack dish towels (can be found at Target),
Fabric napkins (World Market is a good source)
Pillow covers, duvet covers, reusable grocery sacks, drop cloths, scarves, shirts, onesies (great baby shower presents), fabric for upholstery or fabric to sew into pillows




Indigo dye kit. I used this one.
Natural fiber fabric. I also used a drop cloth from Home Depot although it turned more light denim blue than indigo.
Cardboard (can be used instead of wood blocks for the Itajime technique)
Drop cloth (or plastic trash bags) for an area to work on that you don’t mind dyeing blue
Rubber bands (the kit will come with some but I found I needed about 3x that amount; two packages from the 99 Cents store solved that problem)
Long wooden stick to stir the dye (ask a paint store if they don’t mind you taking a stir stick)
PVC pipe (if you want to do the Arashi pole wrapping technique which you can find examples of online)




Happy Shibori-ing! πŸ™‚

Blue and White Family Room Reveal!


This room was really not so bad to begin with. It had good bones and French doors.



And if a room has French doors, there’s always hope.



It also had Oak floors and a vertical shiplap-esque wall detail (Joanna Gaines would approve) and just about the nicest owners ever.








Once it was decided that what the room needed was a more coastal feel, (it is a Santa Barbara home, after all), we were on a roll. We painted the walls my go-to bright white (Benjamin Moore’s Simply White), added a more generous-sized custom rug made of indoor/outdoor carpet from Couristan (sourced locally from Timber and Wool) that was both UV and stain resistant so it would hold up to sunshine and grandkids, recovered the ottoman (not shown in the Before; it was already at the upholsterer’s) in a faux leather made of wipe-able Kravet vinyl, slip covered the sofa in a Kravet indoor/outdoor UV and stain resistant fabric, and replaced the white metal blinds with natural fiber shades.



Then it was time to select new art and our full-steam-ahead came to a screeching halt. Art can be an odd thing to pick for clients since I think it should mean something to them–yet I’m choosing it.







So we left the walls bare while we thought and thought and I came up with every wacky DIY idea in the book until one of them sounded like it just might work: blue and white block prints made with…fresh produce.



Yep, the savvy daughters of my clients got out the produce and the paint and some extra thick paper and got to work stamping using acrylic paint and an onion for the image on the left and an apple for the one on the right and the middle design was created using watercolors, oil, and water. For the marbleized effect, A pod of blue watercolor paint was popped out of one of those watercolor sets made for kids and dissolved in hot water. Both the dissolved blue paint and vegetable oil were added to the surface of the thick paper with an eye dropper and the paper was shimmied and shaken and then shaken some more for good measure until the image was just right. All images were left to dry before popping into a prefab mat and frame from Aaron Brother’s.








I can still hardly believe how well they turned out. If you want to try your hand at vegetable block peeling click here, or marbleizing paper, click here.




In a quickie news update, Kai and I tagged along with JB on his business trip to Austin last month so of course we needed to make a detour to Waco to check out all that is Joanna Gaines, of Fixer Upper fame, and her Magnolia Market. To me it was like design mecca; a little less so for JB (he pointed out that most of the patrons were women and he was right).



It was just humid enough that the idea of standing for twenty minutes* in line to try Joanna’s cupcakes sounded like 19 minutes too many, but this might have been the wrong move as that was a few weeks ago and I’m still thinking about them and wondering what we might have missed. Have you guys tried them?



*I asked someone who was almost about to go in how long it had taken her.






We did, however, spend fifteen minutes waiting for our fancy food truck meal of grilled cheese and jam sandwiches served with minted watermelon salad (super simple: watermelon tossed with a chiffonade of mint) and they were delicious and well worth the wait.




Kai and I posed in front of the famous Magnolia silos.





My $3 Target fedora was barely doing its job of keeping the sun off my face. Goodness, Texas is hot in the Spring!





These silos…











And let’s head out on this “Do not attempt this at home” design note–although it was pretty perfect for a place called Banger’s Sausage House on the not-to-be-missed Rainey Street in Austin.










Happy decorating! πŸ™‚




Conference Room Reveal!


I was recently enlisted to re-design a room that had one smallish window and a spatial configuration that made it feel like a glorified storage closet (on its best day) into a conference room worthy of a group of medical professionals.



So it was decided walls must come down and a new ceiling would go up. Accordion-style frosted glass doors were installed along with faux wood vinyl flooring.







But it still needed some wow. So as I presented my design to the group of doctors who would be using this space, I shared my idea for the wow: a giant mural! A mural that would inspire everyone who entered. Yet not distract from important presentations. A mural that would be fun. But not too fun. Or offensive. It had to appeal to both genders, all races, and be uplifting in a generalized sort of way. I concluded with, “Kind of like a Nike ad with an athlete running, except no athlete.” And somehow they agreed and still kept me on as their designer. πŸ™‚



I was determined to find the right image for the mural, yet had no idea what that would be. Back at my office, I pulled another client’s file, and, due to some random “rearranging” by Kai a photo from my Inspiration file was stuck to it. (I must remember that Kai works in mysterious ways the next time I tell him not to mess with mommy’s files!) The photo below landed in my lap; light bulbs flickered in my head; I texted the client a shot of the image and he replied with an emphatic thumbs-up emoji.




Source: Elle Decor Italia




Thus, the idea of a 20′ long mural that filled an entire wall with images of black and white clouds was born and installed and I couldn’t be happier with the results.







I sourced the mural through EazyWallz who didn’t actually offer any black and white cloud designs on their website (they were all blue/white) so we chose a blue and white version, adjusted the cloud configuration ten million times (or so it felt; there were many revisions) and then had the tone changed to black and white prior to printing. Their customer service was exceptional and if you are in need of a peel-and-stick wall mural, (custom or standard) I highly recommend them.




Other angle…










Other side Before. (And Kai’s baby feet in blurry motion.) πŸ™‚









La Cantina accordion-style doors allow conference attendees to spill out into the vestibule during the most popular presentations.









The halo lights were hung crazily high (we broke the standard of 30″ above the tabletop) because the table is modular, and thus re-position-able, so we had to make sure noggin’ knocking was avoided–aesthetic rules be damned.








And the all-important kitchenette (coming soon: the right sized fridge πŸ˜‰ ).









Happy decorating, happy Friday, and I hope your day is filled with blue skies! πŸ™‚





Zen Room Book-Nook Reveal!



I’ll skip the “It’s been a while” confab. I’m here, you’re here (if you are reading this, I can only assume, and I am so ever-grateful).


And onto the lovely transformation of an empty room into a Zen Room (with a reading nook, to boot). Now doesn’t that sound fun?



It began something like this.



My client had a room that was not doing much of anything except for functioning as a sort of dumping grounds for this and that. So after a good ol’ decluttering, we gave the room a refresh by replacing the carpet with dark hardwood floors, adding Craftsman style trim to the windows, tall baseboard to the walls, lightening the paint color, and installing new closet doors and hardware.


And that is how the room sat. For months, or longer. Because it was a room that just didn’t know what it wanted to be, until one day its owner had a brainstorm: we could create a room with a zen-like feel and a cozy spot to read books.


She handed me a few images of various book-nooks she had pulled from newspapers and magazines. We discussed the essence of what she wanted and I distilled that essence into this drawing. (To my artist mom: please avert your eyes from the perspective-gone-awry at the top of the bookshelves. I am cringing with you.)






At our next meeting, I came armed with a roll of painter’s tape and together we followed the dimensions I had plotted until we had “drawn” the nook with blue tape.







Now I know it looks really rough as in, “That is….what?” But I happen to know a great craftsman who can make magic happen out of blue tape and a few dimensions and he transformed our wall “sketch” into this reality…














And here is the finished product. A Zen Room book-nook in all her cozy glory.







Up close so you can see the grasscloth detail–not to be outdone by the pillow selection! πŸ™‚







They even had their own closeup moment on Instagram.







Other side…







Casual corner–with a bit of beaded-pillow-bling.








And just to make sure we got the coziness quotient right, Kai gave the Moroccan rug a trial run {rest}.







He approved.



Happy decorating! πŸ™‚





DIY: Faux clamshell with succulents!


You know that feeling when you figure out how to do something and you want to share it with the world? The other day I decided I wanted to make a faux giant clamshell filled with succulents that didn’t cost hundreds of dollars like the ones sold on sites such as Ballard Design and Houzz.




giant clam shell succulents

Source: Ballard Design



Well, inspiration struck, she didn’t let me down, and I want to share with you that you can do this, too! It’s so easy! The results are awesome! And it was very inexpensive! πŸ™‚



I have long had an ooey gooey crush on giant clamshells, but their hundreds-plus price tag kept obstructing our conscious coupling. (Oh Gwennie Paltrow, may the lovely alliteration of your odd press statement live on.)





Source: Elle Decor





They are just so good looking.






Source: Unknown.




They add equal parts whimsy and style to any room…





Source: Unknown






And can be so versatile. Witness the planter-turned-drink-dispenser below.






giant clam shell drink dispenser

Source: Unknown.





But, again, so expensive, even for a faux version. Until now.




I began with a clear plastic clamshell.Β  I happened to purchase one years ago at a garage sale and occasionally used it to serve salad for the equally occasional tropical-themed party. But you can find the same thing at the Oriental Trading Company where they term theirs a Sea Shell Punch Bowl.



Lightly sand the shell, inside and out (focus on the exterior if you will only be using it as a planter and not a drink dispenser or decorative bowl to hold say blown glass balls).








To begin building the layers of the finish, spray the shell with white or cream colored spray paint.








Once the spray paint has dried, use a paint brush to paint the shell a cream color.







While (whilst?) the paint is still wet, sprinkle with sand. Note: we didn’t have any sand on hand, but we do have a DG (decomposed granite) pathway that has a lot of sand mixed with the DG, so I sourced my sand that way. This is all to say, don’t worry about taking this step too seriously. Sprinkle sand on, rub some off, add some more (like a chef seasoning a soup: just use your intuition) and you’ll get it right.







Here is my hand, paint-dotted fingernail and all, displaying the shell in between coats of paint and sand. After this point I brushed off some sand, added more paint, and tossed on more sand. Layering, folks, it’s all about the layering.









When I was happy with the look and the paint/sand was dry, I filled the planter with cacti/succulent potting mix and planted the succulents. Note: the online versions of faux clamshells stuffed with succulents come with faux succulents, but I think a faux shell is enough faux and opted for live plants. You will need to water the succulents about every week or so and if you will not be placing them in a sunny spot indoors, give them at lest an hour or two al fresco every few days to make sure they stay happy and healthy.









Here is the one I made for a client. We used it for her coastal-themed dining room.










And on my table…I couldn’t help making one for myself, now could I?

















And good ol’ Bunny Williams stuffs moss in hers (I think it goes without saying that I didn’t make hers), because she’s clever like that.










Happy weekend and happy decorating and happy faux giant clamshell succulent planter making–phew, a mouthful! πŸ™‚






From dated to Modern-Rustic: Before and After!


I apologize for my hiatus which has admittedly been extensive. Post election I’ve been feeling a bit out-of-sorts somewhat subscribing to the wise words of Thumper (Bambi’s buddy), “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.” I don’t know how much longer I can bite my tongue, but I do have something nice to say, something about a house I spent almost a year and a half working on and the sweet client who was gutsy enough to hire me.



You see, when I first saw the house, it looked like this upon entering.







And I looked like I had just swallowed a GMO watermelon! I met with the client on a Thursday and had baby Kai the following Tuesday. I was just delusional enough (high on hormones?) to say something like, “I’ll need about three weeks off after giving birth,” and my client was just crazy enough to say “Okay!” (I take this as a HUGE compliment because I had competition–he interviewed at least one other designer.)







There was not much about this house that was working. The entry had a bad pony wall, the living room felt cut off from the kitchen–wait until you see the kitchen (someone had a strong affinity for scalloped cabinets), and the bathrooms were…less than lovely.







But almost every house has some beauty lurking beneath, so I called upon my go-to architect, Jake Niksto, to help me unearth it, and we joined forces with the adept contractor Litchfield Builders. And thus the preliminary meetings began.






Luckily for me, Kai arrived in late November so in between holiday this and inclement weather that, said meetings were postponed so I was able to have about two months of baby-bonding before the pencils hit the paper. And when those team meetings really got going, Kai was just little and sleepy enough that quite often I could get away with wearing him strapped to my chest as long as I kept standing and swaying. I’m sure his subconscious is filled with all sorts of interesting facts about footings and tray ceilings.





I love this rough-hewn mantel. It took the client a six-hour drive, there and back, in an oversized truck that the contractor was kind enough to loan, to retrieve this raw wood that was hernia-heavy, but I think it was worth every mile, sweaty brow, and penny! This is a double-sided fireplace so you’ll see it, in a moment, on the kitchen side, as well.






But first, a closeup of the concrete FireBalls, the lava rock that was placed with such care, (mini on the pan, large on the base) and a hearth fabricated from some of the coolest cement tiles I have ever seen. We searched high and low through many, many styles and color-ways of cement tile and this was the clear winner; however, if you are ever planning to use a black grout on a cement tile that has white in its design, brace yourself for a headache or, better yet, email me and I’ll tell you how we avoided turning the tiles into a smeary black dis-ass-tuh, as that person in the White House might say.






New French doors were installed, (landscaping happening now so please excuse the view beyond the doors), along with new ceiling registers which the contractor was able to make completely flush with the wall which was a bit more effort and money, but very aesthetically pleasing to avoid the usual over-mount overlap. We laughed that there were about four people in the world who would appreciate such a thing–and we were all standing in the same room.






The wood floors are California Collection Mediterranean Classics, color: Aegean. (We have the same floors at our house and I can vouch for them being quite dog and toddler proof!)



Here’s the scallop cabinetry detail in the former kitchen with some outdated tiled counters to boot.






And After!









I’m trying to give you the same vantage point in the Before and Afters, but it’s a bit tricky, because quite a few walls were removed and repositioned.







The curtained door in the photograph below, for example, was swallowed up by the new laundry room.







A different angle…







Now switching to the other side of the kitchen, and the other side of that double-sided fireplace which we had clad in a smooth gray stucco.







It’s hard to tell from the photo, but up close the stucco on the fireplace has a very pretty burnished effect. We instructed the stucco guys to burnish and then burnish some more and the result is a lot like concrete, but with more depth and mottling.







And who doesn’t want a wine fridge in the kitchen? Or juice-box cooler for the wee folks?






Here’s a shot with the funky, rusty looking pendants from RH.






For the most part, we veered away from open shelving because storage was key, but we gave just a touch of open shelves for some pretty on-display dishes.






Like so…






Okay, before your eyes start rolling at one more gratuitous kitchen photo, let’s look into the dining room (albeit through the kitchen), shall we?







Dining room with the barn door…






A few people have asked about this barn door and I’ll just say it was custom, with wood sourced on that aforementioned six hour (both ways!) drive and that when it comes to barn door hardware (and so many other things, darn it), you often get what you pay for, so if you want a barn door that glides with just a gentle push from your index finger, the hardware to get is KROWNLAB. (Plus their Black Stainless finish is very good, and not at all fake-aged in appearance.)



Unfortunately there aren’t any Before photos of the laundry room because to build it, we stole some of the former kitchen space, (of which there was plenty once we bumped out to add a new dining room). Good thing we had such a clever architect!







More barn door hardware from good ol’ KROWNLAB.







The other side of the laundry room. (More storage!)







This powder room also sprung up from borrowed kitchen space. I’m mad for this copper light from Rejuvenation and seriously considering recommending wall-mounted faucets for every bathroom remodel. Not only do they look interesting, but their position, as it relates to gravity, avoids the inevitable muck of pooled water that affects counter-mounted faucets.







The business (toilet) side. And more cement tile. The client and I were big fans but do remember that you need to seal cement tile very, very well to keep it looking clean and especially to avoid tinkle stains, ahem!








On to more bathrooms… Here is the Before of the guest bathroom.








And After!





The other side Before…





And After!






The master bath Before (with a little demo begun)…







And After…







This was as custom-built vanity and the plan was to paint it a very bright, knock-you-over-the-head-in-a-good-way blue since every other component of the bathroom would be chrome, glass, and a variation of white. Color winner: Benjamin Moore’s Old Navy.




The Toto Washlet Bidet Toilet. Prior to ordering, we researched that it has been called “a life changer”. My client has reported back: “Affirmative”.




We used a special stucco (Merlex SuperShower) to waterproof the walls on the shower side so we could keep the wall looking like a regular painted wall instead of tiling it, yet still ensuring it was waterproof. We also skipped glass walls and doors for the shower (only using a very minimal glass fin) and sloped the floor so water from the shower would head straight to the drain so we could avoid a dam/curb on the floor. This let a somewhat tight space feel as open and airy as possible and gave the European Shower feel that the client had requested.



There is also the cool factor of this Japanese Soaking tub giving this Euro-bath some Asian flair.







I styled the niche with a bar of soap and some greenery, but we all agreed this would be the perfect spot to rest a glass of wine–or sake. πŸ™‚







Look, Ma! No walls (or dam/curb)!








And there you have it! Next on the list is adding furniture. But, for now, a parting shot of the charming cement tile…and me clicking my heels that the stars aligned and somehow let me simultaneously pull off the birth of my first baby and a client’s house (since this house was fully gutted and reborn in many ways)!



PS, When the Alec Baldwin skits aren’t even enough to settle the sense of unease, I try to remember the good people (the ones who were willing to hire the pregnant designer, haha) and that instead of biting my tongue, it might be better to share the nice things, the good stories, to remind ourselves of our strength, our value, and our conviction that good must triumph over evil. πŸ™‚







Happy decorating!




Kai turns one: A year in review!

WARNING: This is a long post. Thank you, in advance, if you make it to the end. πŸ™‚



“Arrival is such a definite thing; it is hard to live up to it.” –Peter Mayne, A Year in Marrakesh.



Kai turned one at the end of November which means we made it to the other side of a year, for the most part unscathed considering our lives turned upside down by their pant legs, shaken until their pockets fell out; our house is now sprinkled with “charming” children’s toys, the de rigueur decor of new parents, we go to bed a full two hours earlier than pre-parenthood, and our social lives, as a result, are but a distant memory. By now Kai usually sleeps through the night which means we are fairly well-rested with only the occasional sleepy day after a hard night–although, look closely, and we’re still a little foggy in the eyes as life now seems a constant study in, “And what is in store for today?” But mostly, we are fine, better than fine–ecstatic even–because we have Kai.




Last New Year’s Eve. Kai crashed out at 10:00 pm so we followed suit and never saw midnight.



I told JB, having a baby is like inviting someone you have never met to live with you for eighteen years. First it’s just you and your partner. You establish a routine, you find your groove. Someone is assigned taker-outer of the trash; the other person does dishes; sometimes one person is pregnant so the other person does both duties. πŸ™‚ Then you bring a stranger (your new baby) home and, unlike most roommates, this one will take rather than contribute to the household income. He’ll eat a lot and then fart and burp like no one else is in the room. He will come with a whole lot of paraphernalia and require frequent baths as though we’re not in a severe drought and dictate when, and if, we sleep. You can only hope he’ll grow up to have similar interests and taste as you, laugh at your jokes, make some of his own, and, eventually register as a Democrat. The rest we just have to leave up to nature and nurture and cross our fingers that when eighteen rolls around, he will leave the nest (and head to college), but call and visit often.




Or, as a client and friend said, “Having a baby is like dropping a bomb on a marriage. Having two babies is like dropping two bombs.” (It’s kinda making us want to stick to having just one, but you never know.)







The morning after Kai turned one, I said to JB, β€œIt’s so much nicer waking up to a one-year old than a one-day old.” Mostly because when you wake, it will likely be after you had six, eight–maybe more–consecutive hours of sleep. And sleep is a marvelous thing. A thing so great that you never knew you loved, treasured, and so desperately needed in order to speak or think in anything other than an unintelligible mumble of jumble–until it was gone. I remember watching people on commercials during the early days (Kai didn’t let us focus on actual shows for a very long time, even now we only process about a third of what’s on the screen, the rest obscured by the noises and interruptions of our dear pre-toddler) and the actors would snuggle into their Sleep Number Beds or rest soundly because they took NyQuil and could finally stop sneezing and fall asleep and I’d think, “Oh lucky you. You bastard. You don’t know how good you’ve got it heading to bed like you don’t even appreciate it. Man I’d love to appreciate it for you.” Thoughts were like that. Weird and disjointed, often centered around, and due-to-the-lack-of, the precious commodity that was in low supply and high demand: at least five consecutive hours (the minimum it takes, they say, to avoid clinical sleep deprivation) of, blessed, sleep.



Another noteworthy thing that happens when your baby grows older is you get to switch from counting in weeks like you do when pregnant or with a newborn, to months which is nice since any time computation is involved (“How many months is fifteen weeks? How pregnant is that person? How old is that baby? How old is my baby?”) my head hurts–especially when under the influence of clinical sleep deprivation. And so began the great recounting of what we were doing at this time last year.





Oh it is so much better now than say Kai’s third day on the planet. That third day, but his first day home, we returned to our very new-feeling house that we had remodeled 3/4 of and just moved back into the weekend before I popped out (or rather, “labored out”) a baby. Everything was in place, devoid of dust and it all looked so pretty, if a bit foreign in its newness; it was still a surprise to walk into a freshly decorated room, β€œOh, what is this? How nice!” I remember thinking what a double-whammy of excitement it was: moving back into our “new” house with a new baby. Our house had changed, and bringing a baby over its threshold, so had life as we knew it.





We had placed the antique bassinet, which would serve as Kai’s bed until he was old enough to transfer to the crib in his nursery, in our master bedroom. The bassinet was a gift from a close friend and design mentor, outfitted with a skirt of ivory-colored linen, draped with an antique lace receiving blanket and accessorized with a vintage teddy bear with moveable arms and legs. I’d styled the items just-so and parked the bassinet on an angle so everything looked magazine-ready–or at least Instagram-worthy. We had just come home from the hospital and JB was on a Trader Joe’s run stocking up on prefab meals. I sat on our bed nursing Kai while talking on the phone with another new mom. I chatted as Kai contentedly nursed and thought, “This is not so hard!” When he began to look a little sleepy, I got off the phone and arranged him in his new bassinet.Β  Brimming with pride over the picturesque scene and the ease with which I was apparently navigating the learning curve of this motherhood thing, I snapped a photo of Kai looking very much like a catalog baby and texted it to JB along with, “He’s sleeping!”–the subtext being, “We got this!” Moments later, Kai erupted in a howl that lasted and lasted. And lasted. Except for the moments when he was eating, or very briefly sleeping (ten minutes here or there), there was no respite.





By 4 am, I desperately wanted to call my mom and ask her what to do but realized she shouldn’t have to suffer just because we were. She had done her duty as a parent, now it was our turn to figure it out. Kai screamed if we set him in the bassinet and walked more than a couple of steps away so the beatific vision of him sleeping there was short-lived (although the bassinet did serve another purpose as a very mobile changing table). Instead JB pulled the back cushions off the sofas to make a pillow fortress so Kai and I could sleep on one sofa (JB on the other) and in case, God forbid, Kai slipped during the night, the drop would only be a few inches and the landing would be cushioned. We “slept” like that, JB continually checking on us from his sofa, and me waking up to make sure that Kai was still safely tucked next to me–and, more importantly, still breathing! Those first few nights were the scariest where the fear of smothering was constant. I’d wake up every couple of hours so tired, but so relieved Kai was still alive!







Our real estate agent had said the first three months of having a baby feels like three years and now I understood. The lactation consultant told us that the parents who were the most pleased with themselves were those of five-month-olds so I held out for that milestone and was happy to discover that by four months it became, if not easy, than easier. Then actually fun. Kai smiled and laughed and seemed to recognize who we were and maybe even like us.






But before that, when Kai was six weeks old, I took a walk with the same new mom friend I’d called on Kai’s first day home. Her second son was two months older than Kai and when I expressed how difficult I was finding being a new parent (lack of sleep, lack of free time, lack of recognizing your former life in your new childcare-filled one where you, as the mom, have the starring role of childcare provider), she chided, “Oh you are going to miss this stage and want another soon!”Β  I stared down at Kai who was looking very serious, grimacing even, but otherwise being perfectly well behaved. And thought,Β  “Really?



I realized some of my favorite moments were when I was either walking Kai in a stroller or driving with him in the car because I could go at the same pace as I had in my PK (Pre Kai) life, so I was feeling the thrill of power-walking like a non-mom, but I knew as soon as we were home, we’d be back to the strict regimen of nursing/burping/changing/repeat in between bouts of crying. We weren’t quite to the fun, giving back (smiles, giggles, dancing together) stage and I thought, “What exactly am I going to miss about this?” And I still wonder.








I have never felt so dragged down and unhealthy as after having a baby. For a while I was obsessed that I might not live to see Kai grow up to be a man because I felt so unusually achy and mortal (feeling back to normal now, thankfully). I was in awe of all parents. “You did this? You survived this? Your kid(s) survived this?” I felt like something was wrong with me because even though he was small and snugly and cute, it didn’t seem like such a good trade-off for giving up sleeping and getting any work done. Heck, if all I wanted was something warm and little to wrap in a blanket, I would have been satisfied raising my Chiweenie whom I can leave unattended for hours and is fully potty trained.





I think this means I am someone who the Baby stage was a little lost on. I definitely prefer the baby/toddler period to the baby/infant period which is probably for the best since, in retrospect, the infant stage lasted all of a nanosecond (even though if you had asked me back then, I would’ve said time was standing still and I was in a sleepless purgatory) so I figure it’s a good thing I’m super keen on the kid stage since we have years more of that to come whereas the baby part was but a blip on the ol’ childhood trajectory.






I think it was a friend who wisely said, β€œBeing a parent is the best worst job.” Or maybe I said itβ€”I can’t remember; former sleep deprivation has wiped away parts of my memory. I haven’t watched children since I was a child and babysitting other people’s children for money so, at times, it has been hard to change gears from doing my design work to essentially babysitting. (Funny story: One day when JB told a coworker he had to hurry home because I had to be somewhere and he had to babysit Kai, the coworker, also a father, said, “When it’s your own kid, it’s not called ‘babysitting’, it’s called ‘parenting’.” Ahem.)Β  I have female friends who took the first year of their child’s life off from work so they could exclusively watch their kid. I think it is wonderful that they report back, “I love staying home! We make cookies and dance around and go to the park.” In contrast, I see myself enjoying that for the first four hours and then sinking into a cavernous pit of depression.






Don’t worry, I didn’t/won’t go all Brooke Shields (sorry, Brooke); however, I freely admit I didn’t find the transition to parenting to be as seamless as I had hoped. It wasn’t until I realized I needed to hire someone to come in so I could keep up with my work and have some balance in my life which had suddenly shifted to all childcare all the time, that the clouds lifted. Otherwise, a storm was probably imminent.





My rationale for hiring babysitters so I could get some work done, as first told to JB: “I love Kai more than anything, but imagine something else lovable such as ice cream. We’ve all know people who loved ice cream and then got a summer job working in an ice cream store where they could eat as much as they wanted and the next thing you know they hated ice cream. This is why I need to hire babysitters so I can still work. Too much of even a great thing is a bad thing and I want to still love ice cream*.”



*Kai is Haagen Dazs’s Rum Raisin, my all-time favorite flavor of ice cream, in this analogy.





Okay, more truth serum. Sometimes I feel guilty that I enjoy when Kai is napping because that means I enjoy time away from him. Then I remind myself of my ice cream analogy and realize that it’s similar to the sage words of that country lyric, “How can I miss you if you won’t go away?” If you know another mom who feels like this, or you yourself feel like this, I think it’s important that you know you are not alone and it is okay to want to get things done. That doesn’t make us bad moms, it makes us complex people who like to get a lot done. Plus, that little break can make you come back refreshed, and ready to do things like make cookies, dance around the house, and go to the park. πŸ™‚






I’m not sure why I felt so stressed out and in a giant hurry for about the first ten months, but it was like there was a giant ticking clock in my ear (not my biological clock this time, but the “alarm” of baby Kai waking from a nap with a shrill cry which is how he would awaken, 9 times out of 10). I’d be so grateful for the moments that I could move around with my arms free, at my naturally accelerated speed, that I’d speed up even more. I’d race around going back and forth between work stuff and cleaning and work stuff again. If I was calling a client, I’d be thinking about all the dishes that were still in the sink. But if I was cleaning the counters, I’d be thinking about the client I hadn’t emailed back. Always a sense of needing to do more, faster. Of course, not everyone gets to work at home, so I’d count my blessings, but I noticed I was often having to remind myself how lucky I was, which was kind of telling unto itself and told me it was time to have someone watch Kai during the hours I needed to focus on work and the counters and dirty dishes could wait.



Trip to Home Depot. Kai “telling us” how it is.




When I see other new parents with babies, I think, β€œAh, that looks so quaint. Romantic even. What a cute and cozy family.” I visited my niece-in-law when her twins were a few weeks old and they mostly slept and made occasional gurgling noises. I thought, β€œWell, that looks quite easy!” (Note: I know it is NOT. I since found out that while the twins did sleep through the day, they did not do much sleeping at night. So, sometimes what looks so easy is “smoke and mirrors” which actually applies to many aspects of life.) So why, why, why, did I find it hard with only one sweet baby?







Perhaps it’s the game of Perfection. And I don’t mean metaphorically; it’s an actual game. I had to look up the name because I had forgotten it, but it’s a game I had growing up where you have to fit plastic pieces into their plastic slots while a timer loudly ticks and if you don’t finish in time, the buzzer sounds and all your work is undone as the pieces fly into the air and scatter. Having a baby is a lot like this. I’d hear a loud imaginary buzzer (in reality: Kai screaming when he awoke) that announced: “Put your work down and walk away. Your time is up!” Being a mom you learn to be so fast, so efficient, go as quickly as you can until the baby goes pop (cries). After a while I could feel the stress like a physical toxic goo, running from my shoulders down into my arms and hands. I had to learn stop and breathe and think, “So I may not finish. Oh well.”






When Kai was ten-months-old, we took a trip to Hawaii. It was his first time on a plane and he did very well, but was extremely fidgety if we stayed seated and only happy if I stood up and bounced him. As a result, I spent much of the flight standing and swaying and bouncing baby Kai at the back of the plane by the bathroom. At one point a woman stood in line with her five-year-old daughter and told me, “It doesn’t get any easier. I thought it would, but it doesn’t. The challenges just change as they get older.” Hmm. That was probably the last thing I needed to hear. I was already a little nervous about how this vacation-with-child was going to play out and while I smiled and thanked her, I thought, “Thanks for the parental buzzkill, lady.” Personally, I like to think that it does get easier because it already has. I get that the issues will morph, but that also means that we get to leave some of the stages that aren’t so pleasant (diaper changes, the freakiness of watching your child learn to walk and not being able to stop every fall, sucking the snot out of your baby’s nose) behind. So there!







I know it gets easier because even the crying isn’t as hard to hear as it once was. I often wonder if that is in part why having a newborn, at least your first newborn, seemed like such an endurance test. It only makes sense that instinctively crying makes us tense up and go out of our minds because crying is cause for alarm: someone (your precious, vulnerable, helpless baby) is in need and needs YOU to fix it. Once you learn a cry can mean, β€œI want another chip and I want it NOW!” you learn every cry is not an occasion to jump…or freak out.



However, JB does not seem to be bothered by the cries as much as I am. This must be something built in: the mom gene? To me, the cries are like nails on a chalkboard or any other metaphor for extremely hard to hear and verging on a form of torture. For JB, I think it’s just background noise. For me, the sound is almost physically painful.







For precisely that reason, I wanted to enact a firm “You wake him, you watch him” policy, but, alas, I am the owner of the mammary glands and therefore the great soother. At least I was. Without warning, Kai went from being an A-plus nurser to going on a nursing strike the night of the election (perhaps he could sense my stress). Our pediatrician said he had never heard of a baby stopping so suddenly, but to consider myself lucky since we were only a couple of weeks from the one-year mark anyway and this meant I’d get to avoid having an eighteen-month-old trying to lift my shirt in public.



Here is how it went down: The first time, I thought, “How unusual. You are always such a good nurser,” or something to that effect. It was only the next day, when each attempt was met with a funny “Pffbt” laugh from Kai, a look like, β€œYou have got to be kidding me!” and him trying to scramble off my lap in the opposite direction of my chest, that I knew something was up. So I moved on, grateful for breast pumps. Sappy commercials would make me cry, JB accidentally putting a beloved dessert plate with a gold rim in the microwave where the gold burned off made me yell more than I should have and for the next few days I was probably very hard to live with as I rode the hormonal wave of weepy to tantrum to back to before my body was responsible for someone’s sustenance. It did suck that I didn’t know the last time was the last time so with no fanfare, or gradual weaning to prevent my chest from filling up with what felt like rocks, my magical powers of being able to instantly soothe Kai in general, and soothe him back to sleep, in particular, were gone. My reign as a super hero was over.Β  Darn it, I’m like a normal person again, but I think that gives JB a feeling of equal parental footing (he can now soothe as well as I can) so that’s good. πŸ™‚








I do actually have another latent super power. Even when Kai is sleeping in the next room, with his door closed, the heater blowing, the dishwasher creating its soothing white noise, if he makes the tiniest noise, the most muffled peep is magnified in my eardrum like a large conch shell blowing to say, β€œWake up, mom. You’re on!”  Funny how what to me is a blaring cry for help, fails to wake JB up and he lies beside me, breathing softly, contentedly a sleeping dad.






One of the best parts about having a baby has been the Christmas-morning feeling of β€œOh my gosh, you’re finally here!” I wonder if/when it will wear off. I’m pretty sure it isn’t the first thing my mom thinks when she wakes up, although I have been meaning to ask her, “Do you wake up and the first thing you think of is how lucky you are that I’m alive?” As close as we are, I’mΒ  guessing the answer is a definitive, “No.”



At times when I feel like I will never get anything done or do it when I want to or for as long as I want, it will suddenly dawn on me that JB’s mom and my mom are not having to worry about when we are hungry or tired or need to go to the bathroom and that they (for the most part) do as they please, which means this is just a stage. I figure I better get that concept soon so I can enjoy this as a transitory period, not a sentence, so when Kai is a tween and wipes our kisses off and wants us to drop him off a block from the school or the skate park and rolls his eyes behind our backs (Kai, please don’t turn into β€œthat” kid), that I will think we sucked everything out of this stage like it was a bone and we got down to the marrow and that we were really present, enjoying it as much as possible. So when my selfish self surfaces and I get frustrated that my time is no longer my own and when I fear that all the one-way conversations with Kai may make my mind turn to mush, or at least make it 50% more likely that I might start talking to myself in public, and, during the other times, when it is just plain lonely, I try to remember that, just like the breastfeeding, when it suddenly stops, I very likely will be startled into saying, β€œWait, slow down! Can we just freeze time?”






We are in a super cute stage now. There are the bobbing dance moves (his and ours) any time music comes on–even when I “sing” (in quotes because it’s not that musical) and his trick of holding things in his mouth hands-free (cute things like his rubber ducky, his sippy cup, and less cute things like his dirty socks) while making a noise that says, β€œLook, Ma! No hands!” There’s what I call “the ET finger” where he points at everything he wants and says, “Doh” like he’s Homer Simpson. The sort of screechy “pterodactyl speak” has turned into a heart-warming “Minion babble” although Kai seems to think the word for almost everything (besides “Mamamama” for me and “Dah” for JB) is, strangely enough, “Dog”. And the other day he held the remote control to his ear like it was a phone and said, “Ello,” like he was Oliver Twist and the parental, “Aww!” was probably audible even next door.



The other day, I started to tell a pregnant acquaintance about how hard the early days were and I saw her face begin to fall so I quickly swerved the story from drama to comedy and made sure to give it a happy ending. She didn’t need to hear me complain. She’ll have her own sleepless nights. Like the woman on the plane, I didn’t want to be her buzzkill.







At ten months my mind seemed to reawaken and it felt like most of the cobwebs cleared out.Β  Prior to that, thoughts would wriggle away like slippery fish before I could catch them. Free time was non-existent so reflection was out of reach. Even writing in Kai’s baby book seemed almost impossible. Now when I look at it, I notice my handwriting was very near illegible in the early months as I raced through getting the words down. As time went on, my penmanship became almost comically clearer. So maybe it was just this sense of not having the time, and cognizance, to process the biggest (and greatest) thing that has ever happened to us that made it hard to “go with the flow” as much as I wanted to. I wanted to be a Superstar Mom, a mom who was loving every minute of it. At least we weren’t in Syria (my go to aphorism for cheer)–or worse. We were blessed so what was I complaining about? I guess there was still an “elephant on our foot” even if the elephant was darn cute and didn’t even weigh ten pounds yet.



I remember when Kai was one week old, I went to the weekly hospital weigh-in where a lactation nurse would make sure you were feeding your baby correctly. One I liked in particular said she would watch the new moms pour in the door, stunned with the “Thousand-yard stare”. She used phrases like “shell-shocked” and being “still in the trenches” to describe new motherhood. I think this says it all. There’s a sense of having been to war. We have come back to civilian life, but we’re different now. I am still fascinated by this parenthood thing and can’t entirely grasp that we are actually living it. I have spent most of my life as a non-parent so it’s rather radical to suddenly be one forevermore. The closest thing I can compare it to is we opened the treasure box, the white light poured out, and we saw what was inside. We are forever changed because we saw something special and now it is time for us to raise someone special. And for that I am eternally, blissfully grateful.







If you made it this far, thank you. Stay tuned for the next blog post as we will be back to our regular programing of all things to do with design.




Lastly, this week we lost a great talent, the actress, and amazing author, Carrie Fisher. From one “over-sharer” (she used that term to describe her writing) to another, if they read blogs in heaven, this one’s for you. πŸ™‚




Happy decorating and Happy New Year! πŸ™‚







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