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™‚




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™‚





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!




Project Updates and a Kitchen Reveal!



I was all set to write a day-after-the-election post. It was going to begin something like this: “Phew!” And then things turned out…as they did…and I have been feeling quite the opposite of “phew!” But through the brow furrowing, stomach dropping, hand wringing and general sense of, “My God, What Have We Done?”* as President Obama cheerfully reminded us–perhaps a wee bit cheerier than our tear stained, swollen-eyed heads were ready to hear–yes, the sun did come up. And so we breathe. And focus. And try to stay calm–or peacefully protest; it’s your prerogative. πŸ™‚



*Quote attribution: Commander Robert Lewis as the bomb detonated over Hiroshima.



Okay, on to design. Who doesn’t love a good Before and After? I missed the After up until a few weeks ago because much of the installation happened while I was having a baby and taking care of said baby, but I was recently able to see the transformation in person.



The Before








And one more..








The After








Ahh…So nice, right?







One detail that, unfortunately, isn’t visible in the Before photos is the ceiling which was formerly smooth. In order to give it some pizazz, the plan was to add tongue and groove boards. There was a bit of a debate about whether to go with the tight wainscotted look associated with country farmhouses (this house is a 1920s colonial-meets-Craftsman) which was already originally used in some areas of the house versus wider (think shiplap) boards. It was a funny moment when the contractor flipped the sample of the skinny version over and we realized if we installed the skinny stuff backwards, we’d get the much wider dimensions that I had visions of dancing in my head.Β  With that visual literally in hand, (and a stack of photos I’d brought to illustrate how much BETTER the wider boards would look), the client was convinced and this beautiful ceiling was born. I now think 2/3 of America’s kitchens need this ceiling. It is that good.




We reserved the furniture foot for the sink area only, which added some mega charm.





It’s hard to see from the photo, but the porcelain tile has this watery gray glaze with tons of subtle crazing (crackles in the glaze) so it becomes even more interesting the closer you get.




In other news, here is a bathroom at a different home that looked like this when I first “met” it…










It’s quickly becoming the zen-like space the clients were after, starting with the shower. More photos to come after the installation is complete and it’s ready for its close-up.








On to another house that is getting the full gut-job (which always leads to some of the most exciting results). Walls were bumped out, footings poured; new windows in different sizes and locations than the previous windows were also installed. Here is the kitchen, looking rather naked.








A little less naked…








Getting dressed in its Limestone (color: Ash) backsplash along with Caesarstone quartz counters (color: Raven). “Jewelry” (hardware, appliances, sink, etc.) to come.








The double-sided fireplace was formerly raw brick on the kitchen side (as seen below) and clad in large 70s style stones on the other.





Kitchen-side view of the double-sided fireplace.



It has now been refreshed with stucco.




Rough coat




smooth-coat-stucco-double-sided-fireplaceSmooth coat.




The hearth will be made of this very bold cement tile which the flooring installers were figuring out how to picture-frame with the new wood flooring when I took this shot, (dirty footprints, and all!).









Mantels have been chosen…










The master bath has been redesigned to be devoid of shower walls or even a shower curb. Instead there will be one 18″ wide glass fin that goes from floor to almost the ceiling to separate the shower from the rest of the room and the tile floor will gradually slope toward the drain to keep the water headed in that direction. In order to do this, we were limited to a 2″ x 2″ tile size so a white hex it is. A Japanese soaking tub will live in the corner.





No tile necessary:Β  instead, white Merlex Super Shower Finish (looks very similar to smooth stucco) on the shower walls!




All the components of the master bath (floor, walls, tub, toilet, sink, and counter) will be white except for the...dark blue…master vanity.





Master vanity color options. Winner on the right.




New board and batten siding replaced the former siding that had dimensions that just felt off (too bulky).










Sticking with the house “getting dressed” analogy, itΒ  now looks a bit like it’s wearing a pin-striped suit, in a handsome-man sort of way. We have since chosen the world’s best shade of exterior white (at least we think so after much agonizing) which definitely tones down the “pin stripes” (aka the battens).




My client mentioned wanting a red door in the very, very beginning and I immediately started showing him alternative colors because I didn’t see this house as having the traditional, done-so-many-times-before red door. But we worked our way back to the red family and finally found a winner with an orange-ish red which I Iove because it takes the drama of a red door and adds a kind of pop art spin. Is it too soon to suggest orange is the new red?









Here is Kai at 10-months-old helping me select a grout color for the backsplash.




kai-looking-at-tileHe chose wisely!




PS, I had such a nice response to the How To Clean A Sheepskin Rug post (thank you, all!) that I have decided it is time to sift through my old Design Intervention newspaper columns and give them a new lease on life on my blog. For those of you who read them when they were first published, I hope you don’t mind seeing them again. And for those of you who have never read them, I think/hope they will teach you something new and since they will exist here on the blog, they will be easy to reference if/when you need to. Posting them is one of my goals for the New Year, so I figured if I wrote about it here, I might feel compelled to actually makeΒ  it happen! I know the sun will come out if I do it or don’t, but we might as well all keep doing our best, right? Here’s to fighting the good fight and doing what we can!



Wishing you a peaceful and wonderful Thanksgiving! πŸ™‚




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!Β  (If not, you have my blessing to scroll at will. πŸ™‚ )



Welcome to the Before of the Santa Barbara Women’s Imaging Center:Β  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! πŸ™‚





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!).Β  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 πŸ™‚ .)




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.



Our dining room reveal with a DIY dining table!

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:Β  “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. πŸ™







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! πŸ™‚





Pink signature

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


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 ofΒ  “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.Β  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!Β  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 Amazon.com.




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




My Pet Cloud Santa Barbara Seasons artice





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





Happy Tuesday! πŸ™‚





Pink signature




Welcome baby Kai and the nursery reveal!

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.Β  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:Β  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 isΒ  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.”Β  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 andΒ  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!





Pink signature












1 2 3