Freshening up your front door for fall, and other news.

This week decorating felt trivial.

Coronavirus cases spiked across the globe, California went back to being on a purple tier, and, closer to home, we lost a good friend.

He was kind and steady. He could fix most IT problems (he once saved my computer and the 300-page novel I was working on when I thought it was wiped). He grew an enviable garden full of species native to Santa Barbara; if you didn’t recognize a plant you could bring it to him and he’d name it and tell you how to keep it alive. He was known to grumble a bit, but in an endearing way. He was the first of our group to marry and, many anniversaries later, he and his wife inspired us all by still using pet names and seeming as smitten as ever. He turned 52 a few weeks ago and died, unexpectedly, last week. His name was Geoff Jewel.

At first the news was shocking, then disbelief turned to sadness. It clung to everything and hung in the air like a gloomy mist. The short, dark days weren’t helping. I’d vacillate between trying to cheer myself up and feeling guilty for trying to shake the sadness because I know his wife won’t be able to, at least not for a very long time.

Geoff stopped by our house a couple of weeks ago to drop off two giant cycads from his collection to thank me for some design help. Since we are mostly home these days, it was strange we were out, but we were. Now we’ll never see him again and the cycads have taken on a sentimental status. I’m determined to keep them thriving.

I imagine so many of us are going through something similar. There have been too many deaths from this pandemic to come through entirely untouched. Or if you have come through untouched, I think all it takes is turning on the news and hearing the latest numbers to feel overwhelmed with empathy. And you want to help, but you don’t know how and intellectually you recognize feeling sad isn’t really helping anybody.

So what do we do with all this sadness? Is it okay to file it away, tilt our chins upward and trudge along like everything is fine? Is it okay to want to be happy when so many people are suffering?

I finally decided it was. I wasn’t helping anybody being stuck in a funk. So I decided to choose happiness.

This mural was painted on the wall leading to the restroom of Thai Tap, a Thai restaurant in Santa Barbara. This was years ago before they changed locations but at the time I liked it so much I photographed it with my phone and have remembered the sentiment all these years.

What started to lift the muck of melancholy, was to make things prettier around our house. Decorating didn’t feel so trivial anymore. (I strongly believe beautiful environments elevate our mood–I think that’s why I do what I do for a living).

This mat arrived and inspired me to freshen up our front door. I’ve used it on three different houses over the years and decided it was time to buy it for ours. I love it and it’s a great price ($12.99!) but, truth be told, at 30″ x 18″, it’s barely wide enough for our 32″ wide front door.

Design tip: In general, you want your doormat to be at least as wide as your front door, if not slightly wider. Since most doors are also flanked with a few inches of casing on both sides, your impression of the width of the door is wider than just the literal width of the door itself. So when calculating what size to buy, I’d say err on the side of wider than the door. So, yes, it could be wider, but I love the pattern so much I’m forcing it to work and what helped was sliding it out from the front door a few inches making it less obvious that it wasn’t as wide as the door.

The leopard doormat below is equally cute, albeit a bit pricier, but does come in a larger size option. It would work so well with my shoes. 🙂

I’ve used this braided rubber one on a couple of projects and it’s so neutral it looks good year-round. Since it doesn’t try to steal the show, you can dress up everything around it (sometimes a doormat is just a doormat, right Freud?).

But this next one had me at “jute”. Of course it’s only going to work for “sheltered outdoor use”, per its online description, but it’s classic and good and adds just the right touch of natural, organic materials which I’m always drawn to.

I hung this preserved boxwood wreath from Target which we’ve had for almost seven years now and it’s still going strong. I love that it’s real boxwood but since it’s preserved it keeps on lasting and lasting. A real green option! Get it? 🙂

It’s so neutral, in fact, I’m going to transition it into all-things-Christmas the day after Thanksgiving. I used it on this house last year.

The new wreath along with a lantern and new doormat gave an instant refresh.

Here’s a faux berry wreath that has some definite holiday spirit. My mom has a similar one she hangs on her front door for the holidays. Her front door is painted a very dark charcoal so the wreath looks amazing in contrast.

During these politically-charged times, this battery-operated lighted peace sign wreath certainly sends a nice message.

A lantern by the front door is not only pretty, but adds a welcoming touch. I use battery-operated LED candles set to timer-mode in ours so they automatically turn on at dusk like magic. The lanterns below from Pottery Barn are similar to the ones I placed by our front door although I bought ours years ago at Osh of all places.

I’ve had my eye on these below from Pottery Barn for our back door. Here’s a less expensive version from Target.

A planter or two, or three, by your front door not only softens the the scene, but is a good transitional piece from the outside in.

These ones one would work with most home styles from traditional to modern.

And the glaze on these next ones is so good. I recently saw something similar at the home of renowned Santa Barbara landscape designer. I can imagine them filled with ferns or succulents (climate permitting; succulents are usually sun-loving, but the aeoniums by our front door have tolerated the shade surprisingly well).

These lit twig orbs are similar to ours and would add a warm, welcoming glow at night.

And there you have it. I hope these ideas sparked some design inspiration. It’s easy to feel like letting it all go with thoughts of “What’s the point? Why do we try?” But I think we do need to keep trying. So chins up and off we go, trudging into another week. But let’s do so with a mindset of proactively choosing happiness and being thankful, shall we? I know it’s easier said than done. Perhaps check out this article which gives some good tips about cultivating joy.

Wishing you a very, very happy Thanksgiving next week!

Kai turns one: A year in review!

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



“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. 🙂 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, “It’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, “Oh, 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.  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!”  I stared down at Kai who was looking very serious, grimacing even, but otherwise being perfectly well behaved. And thought,  “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, “Being a parent is the best worst job.” Or maybe I said it—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.)  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. 🙂






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, “Ah, 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, “Well, 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, “I 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, “You 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.  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. 🙂








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, “Wake 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 “Oh 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’m  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 “that” 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, “Wait, 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, “Look, 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.  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. 🙂




Happy decorating and Happy New Year! 🙂







What’s the difference between sisal and seagrass?


You’ve heard of sisal.  You’ve heard of seagrass.  So what’s the difference between the two?




People often use these terms interchangeably–and even more frequently mispronounce “sisal”.  (Say “sigh-zhel” quickly and with a slight slur and you’ve got it right.) The confusion is understandable as the two do have quite a bit in common. Both are natural, renewable fibers used to create rugs and wall-to-wall flooring. They are somewhat similar in appearance with their woven texture and natural hues and look strikingly rich–although each generally costs less than most nylon carpets and certainly less than wool. But perhaps their greatest asset is their stylistic versatility. Sisal and seagrass are idea candidates for nearly any design direction from chic to shabby, modern to traditional.




Chevron-patterned seagrass. Photo source: Lonny.




However, as someone who has lived with both, I can tell you these two are not the same, nor do they wear the same. They’re not even made from the same plant! And that’s just the beginning of their differences. Here are the rest, including pros and cons.




Memorize this: this is sisal.



Agave Sisalana: Sisal fibers are extracted from the crushed leaves of the agave plant. (Nope, not the one used to make tequila.) The telltale look of sisal flooring is tight, neatly woven rows that are natural in color; however the absorbent fibers can also be dyed and/or woven into patterns such as a chevron pattern. These same fibers are used to make rope and scratching posts for cats which gives you an idea of how soft it’s going to be: not very. So maybe not ideal for still-crawling children, but the problem isn’t lack-of-softness as much as it is sisal’s sensitivity to stains.




Sisal stair runner. Photo source: J.K. Kling Associates.




You spill, you stain: Sisal and seagrass both start out as beauties, but, unlike seagrass, sisal is so absorbent that it can soon turn beastly with blemishes. If you spill wine on sisal, you have two options: learn to live with the stain or throw the flooring out. If you think the third option should be clean with water or carpet cleaner, think again. Most cleansers will discolor the sisal, and water, as odd as it sounds, may stain sisal, leaving a watermark behind. The one way to “fix” a watermark is to wet the entire surface which is not, of course, a great option for wall-to-wall installation (as moisture can be trapped below the flooring leading to mold, mildew and/or subfloor damage). For rugs, make sure the rug has an arid, sunny spot to dry or a mold/mildew problem may trump any stain issue you were originally trying to ameliorate.





dark-sisalDyed sisal.




The splendor of seagrass: Like sisal, seagrass also comes in a chevron pattern, but its classic and most common look is a basket weave (although the spacing and thickness of the weave will vary). Unlike the crushed fibers that comprise sisal, seagrass is a marsh-growing weed and no stranger to water. During production, the slick skin of the reed is kept intact making it somewhat impervious to stains. Seagrass is also inherently static-free and therefore dust and dirt repellent. A clean, damp cloth can be used to blot away most spills if you catch them right away. Note: I have used 5 parts water to one part bleach to remove stains of the potty-training-a-dog-variety. 🙂





Memorize this: this is seagrass in its most common, classic form.





Seagrass woven into a chevron pattern.




Soak it up: Seagrass’s resistance to moisture makes it equally resistant to dye. This is why you will almost always see it in its natural state which is slightly green when first unrolled; in a week or so, after interior exposure to light and air, it will dry and turn a shade of wheat. Note: When sisal or seagrass are insalled wall-to-wall, they can be treated as a hard surface with rugs thrown atop them; however, seagrass, more than sisal, needs to breathe. Any areas you cover with a  rug will stay green longer. You will also want to avoid placing plastic mats, like the ones used to protect a floor from rolling office chairs, on top of seagrsass, as you risk trapping moisture (again with that pesky potential for mold and mildew!).






Seagrass flooring. Photo source: Architectural Digest. Designer: Suzanne Kasler.





Sticky situation: Both sisal and seagrass can be cut and bound into custom-sized rugs (have the edges bound or they will fray and unravel) or installed wall-to-wall. The edges can be bound in anything from plain cotton to a leather that has been tooled to resemble alligator skin. If you choose cotton, select something in the dust color family which will show dirty footprints less than darker shades–even if that sounds totally counter-intuitive! it is important to note that sisal and seagrass come with a latex backing that helps hold the rug together and provides a built-in cushion. If you have hardwood floors, do not lay your rug directly on them since over time the latex back may stick to the hardwood. Note: when selecting a rug pad, use one that is rated to go over hardwood floors as some of the perforated rug pads have been known to (gulp!) adhere to hardwood floors, as well.






Seagrass rug. Photo source: unknown.




Wall to wall: Unlike regular carpet, instead of resting atop a pad and being stretched in place with tackstrip, the latex backing of sisal oar seagrass is glued directly to the subfloor. If a spongier surface is desired–after all, this tightly woven floor is less cushy than regular carpet to begin with–a urethane pad can be added. This is a special pad is made specifically for use with natural fiber flooring. One side will be glued to the seagrass with a permanent adhesive and the other side, the one that will rest on your subfloor, must be glued with a pressure-sensitive adhesive. This step is crucial so if you ever decide to remove the pad and flooring you can, without pulling up part of your subfloor (whether wood or concrete) with it. A notable benefit of wall-to-wall sisal and seagrass is that they are so tightly woven that dirt is less likely to penetrate through to the backing, which means dirt and debris are kept mostly on the surface where they can easily be swept or vacuumed.






Seagrass installed wall to wall. Photo source: Lauren Liess. Designer: Lauren Liess.





Shrinkage: The fact is, natural fibers shrink. While they are stored on a roll, moisture is retained, but once the material is unrolled and exposed to light and air, seagrass can shrink up to 3″ on each side. It is imperative that not only is shrinkage accounted for when your rooms are measured but that the installer who cuts your flooring waits at least 24 hours for the material to shrink to size before the final trimming and gluing commences. Any sooner and your carpet will gap at the walls!






Natural fiber rugs (likely sisal or jute). Source: Eric Olsen Design.





Hold it down!: Even well-installed sisal or seagrass needs something to keep its raw edges from fraying at the walls. If you already have baseboard, shoe molding can be installed to the base of the baseboard or, for a touch of whimsy, natural rope, 1/2″ or thicker, can be hot glued in place.






Seagrass runner in chevron pattern bound with light colored cotton binding tape. Photo source: Shine Your Light.




So-so seams: While most nylon carpet is 12′ wide, sisal and seagrass generally span 13′ 2″. This is a big plus as many bedrooms are 12′ or narrower, meaning no seams are necessary. (As with any woven or looped flooring, seams on sisal or seagrass are harder to hide than on thick, cut-pile carpet.) However, if your rooms are wide, don’t worry. A good installer can work wonders with side seams. Cross or T-seams are another story, though, and should be entirely avoided to prevent an obvious split or frayed seam later on.





Sisal rug. Source: Emily Henderson.






Sisal rug. Source: Serena and Lily.




What’s that smell?: Unlike sisal, seagrass has a strong, basket-like smell that becomes especially pungent in humid weather or when a house has been sealed up for a while. This is a natural smell that is pleasing to many, but make sure you can include yourself in that bunch before you have it installed in your home. Take a close whiff of the sample and then imagine that smell concentrated and hitting your nose like a wall when you open your front door after an extended vacation.









The finicky foot: Whether you choose sisal or seagrass, understand that both are highly textured and thus very bumpy underfoot. The texture falls under the “love it or hate it” category. Before purchasing either, walk on a sample barefoot. This is especially important if you don’t wear shoes at home. Some will find the nubby texture like a massage (interestingly, usually women); others may actually find it painful (men).






Seagrass. Source: Lauren Liess.



Personally, I love seagrass and I love sisal, but I love seagrass a bit more for its stain-resistant properties.  It’s a great compromise between carpet and a hard surface flooring (such as wood or tile). I am fairly anti-carpet so whenever I can talk a client out of installing carpet in a bedroom or living room I feel I have done a public service (carpet holds dirt, dust mites, and is, in general, just very unhygienic), but when there isn’t enough money in the budget to replace carpet with a hard surface like wood, stone, or tile, seagrass is a great alternative as it is stain-resistant, natural, classic, and just so good to look at!



This post is an adaptation of my column, Design Intervention, and first appeared in the Santa Barbara News-Press.



Happy decorating! 🙂






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



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



A thang I couldn’t quite keep up with.



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


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


“My dogs know more words than he does.”





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




Baby Kai with chalkboard wings




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



Every. Single. Day.



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




Kai on paisley bed cover




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



Brick fireplace before

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




Brick fireplace demo

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




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



50s living room before clock on wall

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




50s living room demo

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





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




50s kitchen before

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




50s kitchen demo

Walls will soon be bumped out. Yahoo!




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





Demo day reception room

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





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





Rock wall

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





Cobblestone patio

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





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


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




Independent article

You can imagine I did the “happy dance” when I read the headline. 🙂




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


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



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


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



Happy Thursday! 🙂




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Design trends from the Las Vegas Market 2015!




It’s all over the internet: Facebook users are less likely to LOL (Laugh Out Loud) than they are to phoneticize their guffaw with a “haha” or a “hehe”. At least that’s what the social media “share and show off site” (aka FB) discovered after analyzing posts written in English during the last week of May.






Chair with spine design on backOkay, maybe for Halloween, or if you’re an orthopedic surgeon, but those are THE ONLY INSTANCES when this chair does not max out the creepy-bad-taste meter.






Good, I say. I was always a “haha” kind of person who found LOL too trendy, too socialized, and too embraced by the same folks who chant “Woo!” to articulate unbridled enthusiasm, think terms like “jelly” are acceptable substitutes for the word “jealous” and respond with ROFL (Rolling On Floor Laughing) to anything other than grievous news.







Rattan circular chairThis chair, on the other hand, sure it may be totally uninviting and poky looking (certainly not ideal characteristics for an everyday chair) but isn’t it still just so darn charming?





But that’s right now, this moment, if you want to be on-trend. It’s head-spinning to keep up isn’t it?  So imagine my disposition a few weeks ago when I attended the Las Vegas Design Market, a To-the-Trade-only mecca for the latest in home decor where climbing the escalator through three buildings, 42 floors in all, I had two days to absorb showrooms packed with what’s promised to be the next design craze. The latest and greatest. Stuff that will be coming soon to a living room near you–yours if you should be so lucky! Here they are, the top design trends from the Las Vegas Market 2015, and they’re so worthy on an OMG!






Leather Chair with metal petrified wood side tableNote the petrified wood side table.






So old, it’s new: Side tables fashioned from a slice of polished petrified wood atop slim metal legs are the side table du jour. A few years back, the ridiculously heavy solid petrified stumps were a home fashion must-have, but, thankfully, for the health of our backs (have you tried to lift one of those things?) styles have shifted to the airier, open-legged look.







White Peacock clear acrylic chairWhat to say? Words escape me.






Seeing clearly: Calling to mind Cinderella’s glass slipper, surprisingly see-thru acrylic chairs in the French style of a rounded back dining chair (transparent shades are available, but devoid of color was the clear winner) will add some cheeky glam to your desk or dining table. Used sparingly, wacky wallpaper (framed old photos of movie stars, rows of vintage books, abstract bunnies) adds the perfect whimsical backdrop.







Black and white photo wallpaper Andrew MartinPoints for fascinating.







Gilded frame art wallpaperThis wallpaper takes the gallery wall concept to a new level and does all the agonizing work of placement and hanging for you!








Andrew Martin book wallpaperThink of all the real books you could store if you just built a bookshelf where this wallpaper would hang.








Kravet bunny wallpaperWho doesn’t want to be reminded of Easter all year long?








White lacquer table metal legs plastic formed chairs cowhideImage via Elle Espana.






Smooth surfaces: If you’re riding the sleek and modern wave, consider a desk or dining table finished in glossy white lacquer with sparkling X-base legs for your home office or dining room. Not only is the look clean, the smooth surface is a breeze to wipe up.









Leather and metal dining chairNote the X-base table legs, the bench seating and the metal/leather chair combo.








Wood plank headboardIdea alert: this could be your next DIY project!







Mix, don’t match: Imagine this: dining chairs on one side of your table and on the other side…a bench!  A bench with a dining table brings to mind a merry BBQ al fresco feel, can accommodate more guests than individual chairs will, and offering two different seating options at one table is just, well, fun. So what are the tables looking like these days? Traditional polished wood tables with turned legs are in short supply, but live-edge tops, rough-hewn planks, and concrete topped tables pared with metal or wood Parson’s legs are ubiquitous. Note: plank wood everything from headboards to buffets are so plentiful, I fear they may not sustain the saturation.







Herman Miller formed plastic dining chairHerman Miller chairs.






Fifties fanaticism: The love affair with Mid Century Modern continues. White or brightly colored formed-plastic chairs with metal tubular legs are being marketed for the living and dining room although I find the look a bit classroom–cafeteria, at best!  Tapered wood or metal hairpin legs that appear so spindly they seem likely to crush under the weight of the chairs, console tables, and buffets they’re holding up are apparently supported by a mighty big fan base. Table lamps with bases of walnut or fired ceramic paired with textured linen shades were outnumbered only by the plethora of arcing floor lamps with over-sized barrel shades. Tip: the latter are great for placing next to a sofa for super task lighting, but only if you can make peace with the sensational of something dangling over your head.







Leather and metal tube modern lounge chairMetal tubes and distressed leather? Oh, yes. Does anyone remember the Maxell ads from the 80s where the man is sitting low in his Le Corbusier chair, blown back by the sound of his Maxell speaker system? I feel like that man when I sit in these new low sofas/lounge chairs.






How low can you go?: Lounge chairs and sofas have gone deep and low. How deep? So deep that if you lean back you’re slouching, and if you aren’t terribly tall, you may find your feet are dangling. But how low? Let’s just say if you’re with child or your joints are aching, forget about getting up gracefully. That being said, they are a thing of beauty. Muted tones still reign supreme, with sofa styles toggling between tufted and tailored to the even cleaner line of the tight back and single bench-seat sofa (say goodbye to sitting on a seam). Adding to the ever popular oatmeal-toned linen fabric was this newcomer: distressed brown leather. This sanded-looking leather was often accompanied by what appeared to be metal tubes wrapping around the sides of said sofa or chair. Very Bauhaus. Very a la mode.







Maxell speaker 80s ad Le Corbusier chair80s Maxell advertisement. Image via iconic photos.





This post was adapted from my column, Design Intervention Diary, which runs every other Saturday in the Santa Barbara News-Press.





Happy decorating and happy Tuesday! 🙂



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Wading and waddling through the Las Vegas Design Market

At the beginning of August, JB was kind enough to agree to brave the Las Vegas Design Market with me. This is a great plan, I told him. A last hurrah. A babymoon. A chance to find amazing furniture for clients and maybe even something for our nursery.



Oh yeah, that room. I’m often asked, “How is the nursery decor coming along?” It’s not. Or it is if you know we’re still waiting for the new window, closet doors, floors, and paint that will magically (if my prayers are answered) come together in the nick of time. But if you weren’t warned, it would look like a guest bedroom gone wrong. There is one piece of furniture (if you don’t count the ironing board): a totally baby-inappropriate, Queen-sized bed that is currently covered with clothes and sprinkled with a snowy layer of drywall dust since even though the drywall guys used plastic to cover most surfaces, drywall dust found its way EVERYWHERE. (Do you remember this post on surviving a remodel while staying in your home?)




At this point, it’s rather hard to imagine the room ever looking cute, let alone SAFE for an infant to enter.




But back to the Design Market. I attended it last year (you can find that post here) so I knew there would be three buildings, and 42 floors of viewing pleasure to traverse that would, by the third day, make my eyes glaze over with sensory overload and my feet implore me to seek the nearest bench for goodness’ sake before my arches made good on their threat to collapse. And I know Vegas is hot, but it has been hot here in Santa Barbara so I figured my body was somewhat acclimated. I assumed I’d be fine. And that it was a brilliant idea to go.*




*I assumed wrong, but more on that later.




Last year I was posing on interesting chairs.




Circular Chair




This year, I stare at that photo and think, “So that’s what my legs looked like before the swollen calves of pregnancy pounds. Harrumph.” There will be no selfie’s posted because I did not ask JB to capture me sitting or standing or walking. It was enough to be that person with the side to side waddle wearing a sleeveless dress tied at the waist where my market badge hung just over my bulging stomach bouncing and bopping with each step, very professional-like. My pony tail had fallen flat in the heat, even my elbows were sweating–so you can imagine the state of everything else! And what, at the hotel, had seemed like a fine denim ensemble felt Midwestern frumpy the moment I entered the first glamorous showroom. I felt like an impostor until I decided not to care and just embrace my pregnant self.




And then we actually started to enjoy ourselves because we saw this…





Andrew Martin astronaut artCheck out those monogram side tables (“I” and “P” in this case.)





If there is a showroom to cheer you up and remind you that design doesn’t have to be about fuss and formality, it belongs to Andrew Martin. From the black and white Polaroid print wallpaper to the giant, neon-lit double astronaut image, their displays are like a celebration of playfulness and a high five to irreverent decor.




Which can be a breath of fresh air after you’ve just exited a showroom like this…





Christopher Guy pink bedroom Las Vegas MarketThe Christopher Guy Collection.




Entering the showroom of Christopher Guy is an experience. The salespeople are well-groomed (no denim frocks, here) and slick, but if you’re quick enough you can slip into their separately staged rooms covertly snapping photos with your iPhone without suffering a stiff finger poke on the shoulder accompanied by a disarming, “No photos allowed,” glare. Somehow, even with a belly bump, I waddled in and out of these rooms with extreme stealth so I could bring to you the glamour, the nod to Art Deco, the strange world that is…




Christopher Guy…






Christopher Guy bedroom Las Vegas MarketThis is a very dramatic headboard but, sadly, only suitable if you also happen to have soaring ceilings. If you have standard 8′ ceilings, you need not apply.







Christopher Guy chairs Las Vegas MarketIn the market for lacquered furniture? Christopher Guy is your guy.






This wire man sculpture was astoundingly affordable (in the hundreds, not thousands) but JB was the voice of reason convincing me one man in our house is enough.







Wire man sculpture Las Vegas Design Market




I thought this wall art was clever…and so easy to replicate as a DIY project!





White sofa chandelier Four HandsFour Hands Furniture.





Here is a closeup…






Abstract line artIKEA frames + paper + black Sharpie= DIY wall art, right?





I will be sharing a more comprehensive post on the show in the next few days, but before we wrap up, check out these outdoor lights. The bulb is a battery-operated light that fits into an outdoor-compliant base with an acrylic drum shade. I love quirkiness of having indoor looking table lamps outside, but I didn’t love the price: $500 retail.






Solar table lamps




I can’t recall where I snapped this photo (below), but it was on the way from one casino to another. (Yeah, I know, very specific.) JB and I are still toying with the idea of doing something similar, but in black and white, on our one bare living room wall, yet we haven’t found an image that either of us likes enough to see as a permanent feature and blown up to life-size scale. However, this one gives the feeling I’m aiming for where it is just so charming I don’t even care that I don’t know who these people are. Maybe we need to stop searching for images online and start looking through old boxes of family photos. Or maybe we’ll decide this is a terrible idea and cover the wall (it is currently a chalkboard wall) in grasscloth wallpaper.





Sepai photo feature wall





The Magritte-esque horse sculpture and fun faux flower “clouds” at the Aria Casino…





Aria hotel blue horse and hat





So why was going on this trip a crazy idea? Certainly it was worthwhile as a business trip, but it somehow slipped my mind that to enter or exit our hotel one must cross the floor of a casino with air thick with fetus-threatening exhaled smoke that made me panic every single time (stress = not so great for the fetus, either) until I decided the best I could do, since holding my breath seemed like a problematic, if not unrealistic, option, was to hold a wad of paper towels to my nose and use it as an filter. JB would walk ahead, in a, “Not associated with the crazy chick behind me,” manner and and I would walk as quickly as I could shuffle, trying to own my paper-towel-clutched-to-nose pollution filter like I was wearing a chic Asian surgical mask.





And that was just the walk through the casinos. The halls to the rooms were kept so chilly I got goosebumps and just when my body had adjusted to the Arctic chill, bam, I’d be hit with the wall of heat outside.  Heat like I had forgotten existed. Heat that was so much worse than our Santa Barbara heatwave. Heat that made me seek benches in the shade so I could sip my water bottle, sometimes pour it on my head, douse my paper napkin air filter with water and wipe my neck while questioning my sanity for bringing us to this place.






Suite at Venetian Las VegasOur “living room/office” at the Venetian.





Why? Because Vegas is a crazy-loud place filled with talking billboards and loud music and throngs of people who are competing to be even louder.






Our room became a sort of respite from the chaos. Even if it was freezing before I figured out how to turn the air conditioning down.







The Venetian hotel bathroom vanityThis vanity was a nice touch so that one person could use the separate toilet room while another person could agonize over how to get her pony tail to lie flat on top.








Lotus wallpaper Venetian HotelThe cute wallpaper inside said powder room.





More fun wallpaper in the marble-themed bathroom. Can you imagine if you slipped? Ouch!







Venetian Hotel shower






And just when things were seeming fancy, we were brought back down by the view outside our window (because I didn’t spring for the additional $45 per night for a view of The Strip).







Room out view Venetian HotelKinda takes your breath away (in a…gasping for fresh air…and green trees kind of way)!





I don’t think I have ever been so happy to come home from a “vacation”. Avoiding the smoke, volume and heat was kind of like being stuck in a video game dodging bad guys. For the finale? In the airport, on the way home, I opted for the pat down and the TSA agent commented, “Last flight for you for a while, huh?” Yep, small talk, small talk, (pat, pat). She asked me when I was due (this is not so bad, kind of like a full-body massage). I told her (patting ceases). She says, “Huh, you really shouldn’t be flying,” and divulges that her sister went into early labor while flying, due to the change in altitude, and the plane had to make an emergency landing. “Oh, really, how far along was she?” (weak smile). “The same as you,” (knowing look). “Uhhh…” (gasp, look of horror, more gasping).





I tottered over to JB who was waiting at the end of the conveyor belt with my carry-on luggage and repeated the story. And burst into tears. I questioned our pre-parental prudence, “Should we be driving instead?! I cannot go into labor on the plane or the baby might not survive!” He calmed me down. We both cursed the TSA agent. And flew home. Without incident.






To the safety of our drywall-dust-covered-house. 🙂







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Common design mistakes and how to correct them!



Hearts sank and minds buzzed at the news: After ten years and three kids, Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck were throwing in the marital towel.




They lived in an 8,800 s/f estate, nay compound, where I’d assume the furniture transcended stylish, the sheets had thread counts in the high hundreds, and everything was perfectly in its place. Surely dust did not reside in that house. But, apparently, neither did enough happiness to keep the house a home.



Ben Affleck Jennifer Garner houseSource: NY Daily News



It reminded me of a quote I have taped to my computer, “You can only do what you can do.” When I catch myself striving for perfection, or thinking someone’s grass is truly greener than my drought-devoured lawn, it becomes my mantra. Which brings us to houses. Yours, mine, even that really bad one down the street. What do we all have in common? We’re doing what we can do. Perfection is not the goal, or perhaps even a possibility, but doing our best is. In that spirit, here are some interior design mistakes and their very easy corrections.




The magic carpet effect: A living room rug should not only define the space, but unite the furnishings; however, all too often, I see homes with rugs that appear to float like magic carpets because they are just too tiny. I’ve pondered the explanation–smaller rugs cost less and/or tend to be readily available whereas larger ones can require a special order–but whatever the reason, there’s an epidemic of dinky rugs.





Living room small rugSource: unknown. Okay, this one is like a trick question. Clearly the neutral rug is large enough (and could even be made slightly narrower) yet upon first viewing, the bright fuchsia rug reads as THE rug and it is clearly on the wee side.






Rug too small living roomSource: Besidesign. No brainer, right? This rug is postage stamp small and not grounding anything. The whole tennis-shoes-under-the-coffee-table, packing tape and bills scattered about, and crooked picture over the sofa makes me feel like we’re seeing this room at an unfair advantage, like it’s still in its bathrobe and we just barged in.






Brook Shields Living room natural fiber rugSource: Architectural Digest, Brooke Shields’ living room. Notice how the front legs of both the sofa and two chairs rest on the natural fiber rug. If it bothers your eye that the back legs don’t, you could increase the size of the rug but risk engulfing the room. Generally you want to see at least 18″ to 24″ of exposed floor around the perimeter of the room. In this case, even more works.





When sizing a rug for your living room: a good rule to follow is that the rug should begin under the front legs of your sofa. It should extend under your coffee table and continue until it fits beneath at least the front legs, if not all four, of any chairs placed opposite your sofa. Finally, the rug should measure, at the minimum, one foot beyond both sides of your sofa. While I highly encourage you to get out your tape measure and plot this out, generally speaking, an 8′ x 10′ rug works for most living rooms; a 9′ x 12′ is best for larger living rooms with massive furniture. If you have a rug you know is too small, but you can’t bear parting with it, consider layering it atop a larger rug that has a minimal pattern such as a natural fiber rug.






Architectural Digest living room large rugSource: Architectural Digest. Design by Daniel Romualdez. Drag your eyes away from that instantly entertaining graphic art (yuy, yuk) and notice the fine execution of rug sizing.





Sitting pretty: Dining room rugs should be large enough to accommodate a guest sitting in a chair without feeling like that chair will teeter off the rug. To determine the correct rug size, measure the length and width of your table and add 36″ to 48″ to both the length and the width. For a round table, add 36″ to 48″ to the diameter and decide whether a round or square rug suits you style. Select the closest standard rug size or visit your local flooring store where they can fabricate a custom rug from the myriad choices of pattern, colors and materials.





Clean dining table pendant lights right sized rugSource: Designmobler. Witness: the well-measured dining room rug.







black cowhide modern dining tableSource: Nwlug. Just when we were getting rather rule-centric, enter the exception to all that rigidity: animal hides. Go as big as you can, then call it good enough.






Help me, I’m a feature wall: Feature walls became A Thing around the same era when design shows began featuring fixing up your neighbor’s house while they were unsuspectingly on vacation and painting not only their heirloom armoire but also one of their walls a shocking shade of orange, a throw-out-the-rules bear hug towards embracing color, the bolder the better! Except they weren’t better, they visually shrunk spaces and made everyone who had to sit near that orange wall appear to have a sudden case of jaundice. In the interest of allowing your space to return to light and airy, I’d suggest painting any feature walls back to the same neutral color as their surrounding walls.





orange feature wall modern houseSource: If everyone suddenly has a strange pallor, it might be the tangerine colored wall.




How do you determine the right neutral for the rest of the walls? Settle on your top three paint colors, paint them on sample boards (available at paint stores) and attach them to the walls in question with painter’s tape to observe how they are affected by the light of morning, noon, and incandescent light, at night. This may seem like a lot of effort, but so is repainting your walls so you want to get it right the first time. If you must have a feature wall, how about a subtle one? To achieve this, locate the color of your surrounding walls on a paint sample strip and select a feature wall color that is in the same row, but one or two shades below. This new color will still give you some drama, without diverging from the color family.





Neutral modern living roomSource: Design by Kraszweska The drama of the back walls is heightened by the deeper saturation of grey, but everything still feels calm and light. That is, until you take a closer look at the giant painting behind the sofa and ask yourself, “Who lives here and what are their hobbies?”






Set it aside: If your bed, nightstands and dresser all match, I’m calling a design intervention. Sure it was one-stop shopping, but it’s also dead-end design. Yes, the styles should relate to one another, but having them all be exactly the same is lazy decorating. If you can replace at least one of these pieces (note: mismatched nightstands can be whimsical!) to break up the set, please do it. Other options include repainting or staining, say the nightstands or dresser, in a new, fresh shade that plays off the color(s) in your existing bedding, rug, or window coverings. Or simply give your dresser or nightstands a new, individual identity with new hardware!






Matching bedroom set pine furnitureSource: Wholesale Furniture Brokers. If you wanted to, you could click on the link and this set could be yours for $2,249.96, but don’t do it, I beg of you!








Mismatched bedside tables white bedroomSource: Decorpad.  See how the nightstands and lamps don’t match but they are similar in finish being white tables and mercury glass lamps so the whole design still appears cohesive without feeling stilted. Now this designer obviously still had a hankering for a little more matching and, hence, the bench was upholstered in the same fabric as the headboard. Personally, I could see a clear acrylic bench with a light and fluffy Mongolian seat so the whole effect stays light and airy, not clashy, yet without a repeat of pattern.







Like this…






Mongolian lamb acrylic benchSource: Ebay where this bench is a mere $3,695. At this top ticket price, don’t you think staging it somewhere other than in front of their vegetable garden would’ve been more appropriate? Then again, they are offering free shipping so one mustn’t be too picky.







Happy Monday and happy decorating! 🙂




This post has been adapted from my column, Design Intervention, which runs every other Saturday in the Santa Barbara News-Press.




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How to incorporate Boho Chic in your decor!



The other day I flipped through a fashion magazine and saw a spread announcing the resurrection of flared jeans. This is big news. This is wardrobe-changing, budget-gobbling, “I invested how much in skinny jeans and now they’re a fashion flub?” news. Just when we females (and some menfolk) finally embraced the sensation of denim grasping our ankles like cling wrap, we must welcome flared bottoms flapping and whacking our calves with each gladiator-sandled step?




Boho chic flared jeansImage via Something Navy





Yep. It’s all part of Boho Chic (Bohemian Chic), the sartorial shift to get your gypsy on, to pull your scarves and shawls out of the “To Donate” box that never made its way out of the attic, and ask your inner Stevie Nicks if she’s ready to roll. And, folks, this fashion movement has found its way into the world of home decor!




This doesn’t happen very often–in fact, it’s hard to imagine another clothing trend crossing the threshold of the home; but Boho Chic has done it. Ah, but get ready to breathe a sigh of relief. There is no need to overhaul your existing decor; this look is so style specific that just a few elements can transform your space. So let’s get layering!





 Boho chic layered rugsImage source: unknown






Lay it down: If there’s an essential element of Boho Chic, it’s the use of rugs. They can be brightly hued flat-weave kilims, vivid suzanis with with their radiating circles and scrolls galore, or cream-colored Moroccan wedding blanket rugs with rows of fluffy fringe embellished with silver sequin bling. Or all three–slightly overlapping. No kidding.





Flokati rug Moroccan wedding blanket bedspread boho chicImage via Fashion Squad






For a conservative approach to Boho Chic, I’d suggest using a brightly colored rug here or there, as these color-rich rugs can otherwise be overpowering. Or place a large natural fiber rug in, say, the living room and add a smaller, more colorful rug on top for a subtle layered effect. The vanilla tones of a Moroccan wedding blanket rug or a fluffy wool flokati certainly offer a softer look–not to mention a place to sink your toes!





 Boho chic tapestry headboardElle Decor; Ellen Pompeo’s bedroom; image via Portwings






Looking up: Rugs need not be limited to the floor. Suspended on the wall, at the head of the bed, they are the latest DIY headboard.




Pile it on:  Perhaps in contrast to all the neutral decor as of late, pillows must be drenched in color and more is, well, more. Mismatched? Oh yes, but focus your selection on bright blue and white batiks, ikat, Moroccan and suzani patterns, fringe-centric Moroccan Wedding Blanket pillows and anything that says “world traveler”. Note: bright colored pillows tend to look best against neutral colored sofas or bedding. Finishing touch? Toss a blanket edged in fringe or pom poms across your sofa, chair or bed.




Boho chic bedroomSource Amber Interiors






Fiddle leaf fig Boho chic decor lambskin rugImage via Homemaker




They’re alive!: Those mood lifting, air-cleaning, room brightening elements called plants are thankfully being re-embraced as essential elements of Boho decor. Top picks: Fiddle Leaf Figs, Snake Plants, Boston Ferns and Majesty Palms. You’ll want to place yours in over-sized natural fiber baskets and, I kid you not, macrame planters are back.





Suzani table cloth gallery wall bohemian chicImage via HomeEdit





On the wall: Walls are mostly painted white or the extreme opposite: plastered with large scale, busy-as possible wallpaper. Adorn said white walls with gallery groupings of portrait paintings (thrift stores are a great source) and, if there was ever a time for incorporating bad seascapes, your gallery wall is taking submissions.





Bohemian chic bedImage via DigsDigs





Boho loves brass: Boho Chic has a soft spot for all things brass from light fixtures to cabinet hardware, planters and vases to curios.






Sheepskin rugs on chairs dining table boho chicImage via Mix and Chic




Diversification: Small-sized lambskin rugs can be draped on chairs to give them some Boho flair. And if these chairs are at a dining table, don’t worry if they don’t all match. In fact, this is a mix and match, vintage-embracing, causal style where pairing a Mid-Century Modern credenza in the same room with Balinese footstools, patterned poufs and a brass tray-topped coffee table with folding wood legs can read as charmingly cohesive. Really.





Mismatched chairs dining roomImage via Digs Digs




Be seated: Did you ever think you’d see hanging wicker pod chairs suspended from a ceiling again? Or wicker for that matter? Just when you thought something was “out” enough to get rid of, it’s back. But a Boho home just wouldn’t be chic without the random odds and ends like a wooden dough bowl filled with strands of chunky glass beads set out on a coffee table and don’t forget to add the shawl-cum-table runner to your dining room table–you’ll find one in the attic in the box marked “To Donate”!





Boho chic decor wicker chair lambskin rugImage via Etsy





This post has been adapted from my column, Design Intervention, which runs every other Saturday in The Santa Barbara News-Press.




Happy decorating! 🙂


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Boho Chic decor at The Goodland Hotel in Goleta, California



As a married couple trying to squeeze in a bit of grownup time (as in going out to dinner) before the baby arrives in November, last weekend we decided to have dinner at the Outpost restaurant at The Goodland Hotel in Goleta.



It’s a Kimpton hotel and Kimpton is known for creating hotels that feel young, trendy and hipster-worthy. Not that I’m feeling any of these things at the moment, but I wanted to see how a formerly dated (but aren’t they all?) Holiday Inn could be transformed into something a designer friend described as, “Very cool and very Bohemian Chic!”



So I was game…



and not the least bit disappointed!



Here’s the head-on view as you enter…



Boho chic entry Goodland hotel


They had me at serpentine sofa. And Moroccan wedding blanket pillow, poufs, and a kilim rug with fringe that looks like it has a case of cowlick.





If you look over to the left, there was this unconventional hotel decor…




That is not wallpaper, those are  1″ x 2″ boards protruding from the wall and adding detail–and, methinks, a lot of hard to reach spots that housekeeping might not be too enthused about having to dust.




Boho chic hotel decor



But these chairs…




Lounge chairs at Goodland hotel



I would never have chosen a fabric that light for a commercial setting, but, right this minute…they look amazing. I made asked JB to study how they were made…just in case he needs to build something similar at our house.




To the right, it was like visiting your cool friend’s living room.




Boho chic lounge goodland hotel




The reception desk had an inventive rope pattern in the front and check out that chevron plank feature wall. But don’t forget about the offbeat, randomly colored, hexagonal tile floor. I sure won’t.




Check in desk Goodland hotel




The restaurant had these seats. (Each one appeared to be slightly different.)





Chair at Outpost restaurant




Therefore, of course, each back featured a different quote. Quotes on backs of chairs? Now that’s just clever, right?




Back of chair at Outpost restaurant





Perhaps a depressing quote, but intriguing, nonetheless.



The windows were dressed in macrame and wooden beads…





Macrame window treatment Goodland hotel





And if you went to the restroom…





Women's bathroom Goodland hotel





(the ladies’ room, in this case)





Women's bathroom at the Goodland hotel




you would pass this hall on the way…





Hall of art the Goodland hotel




Again, no seen-it-before commercial carpet or carpet tile, here. Instead, real tile (more of that wacky pattern), and a blow-your-mind-big kilim rug.




Closeup of the beach-themed art…






Beach art at Goodland hotel




Inside one of the rooms–courtesy of the website since we were only there for dinner…





Goodland hotel roomSource: The Goodland Hotel




As far as the food in the Outpost restaurant, it was decent. JB and I both liked the Bao Buns–like an open-faced Manapua and if you happen to be from Hawaii, this reference will make sense–the best; however, at $4 a tiny bun, if you plan to fill up on them, you’ll soon eclipse the price of an entree. The tacos (we tried both the battered fish and chicken) were just “meh”, but the fried brussel sprouts and artichoke hearts were darn good and the steamed chocolate cake satiated even my picky palate (which becomes even more, “You better do right by me!” when it comes to dessert).




Besides the fun decor, another neat thing we stumbled upon was the Summer Movie Screening. A large, inflatable movie screen was set up on a green lawn (in our drought-ridden area, this was very exciting, like spotting a leprechaun) and streaming Endless Summer. The grass was strewn with puffy meringue-like poufs for–I’m assuming–guests-only to sink into while they watched the surf flick. We only witnessed two women who were taking advantage of this opportunity, but just the fact that it’s offered is another way The Goodland seems to be setting themselves apart from the stuffy hotel vibe and angling for inclusive over exclusive.





Goodland hotel movie screeningImage via their website.






Excuse me, now I have to go and ask JB when he’s planning to make us some of those chairs we spotted in the entry.





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How to make a small space feel bigger!



The first time I watched Tiny House Nation, I assumed the concept was to construct a ridiculously small house just to see if it could be done. It took a second viewing before I realized the homes were being built for people who actually wanted to live in these down-sized domiciles. The Tiny House Movement, a social movement for simplified living, not only exists, but it’s not so little. Apparently, teensy digs are the next big thing!




Tiny house modern awning desertImage source: Tiny House Living




Do these folks like to feel swaddled by small spaces? Abhor cleaning capacious quarters? Appreciate that tiny homes fill up quickly and thus discourage gross (in both senses of the word) consumption–because you don’t need what you can’t fit in? Possibly, but add to this that tiny digs also leave a shallower footprint on the Earth’s tender terrain (fewer building materials required and less square footage to illuminate, cool or heat.) With regard to economics, smaller houses equal smaller price tags and a miniature space demands minimum effort to maintain. In other words, there are myriad reasons to support less is more.




 Tiny house window wallImage source: Care 2 Care





If you happen to inhabit a pocket-sized space, whether it be anything less than 1,000 s/f (the national home average is 2,600 s/f), or a true Tiny House (ranging between 100-400 s/f), here are some ideas to make even a home with Lilliputian-sized rooms feel big.





Bibelots be gone: Pairing down is the first step in opening up small space. If you aren’t using it, you don’t love it and/or it doesn’t truly fit or do anything to improve the space, recycle or donate it. Amen.





mantel decor Image source: Studio McGee





Let it shine: Allowing more light to enter a room will make it appear more vast. If privacy isn’t an issue, consider sheer drapes. Avoid “chopping up” walls by choosing sheers in a similar color to your wall color and keeping the pattern small to non-existent. Or lose the heavy look of drapes entirely in favor of the tailored, crisp lines of blinds or shutters.




Studio McGee InteriorsImage source: Domino




Lighten up: Warm, dark colors will make spaces feel tighter, whereas light, cool colors visually recede, making rooms feel more expansive. A light, monochromatic color palette used for large areas such as walls, flooring and big pieces of furniture will do wonders to widen a room. Break up the blandness by introducing color through smaller items like art, plants, accessories, a throw blanket, and/or decorative pillows.




Seeing clearly: When you can see through furniture, it takes up less visual space. Thus glass or acrylic coffee tables are ideal for diminutive digs.  Following this logic, exposed legs on chairs and sofas offer an airier appearance than skirted pieces.





Lucite coffee table Mathew JamesEh, yes, these are skirted pieces. Focus, instead, on the lucite coffee table by Mathew James Designs via Etsy




Pulling away: Instead of placing a sofa pressed up against a wall, move it out a few inches. The “breathing room” behind it will make the sofa appear less cramped. Another trick? Angle it in the room and suddenly the formerly small space may appear to grow.




 White sofa striped rug coastal living roomImage source: Unknown





Run with it: Run plank flooring (wood, laminate, tile) the length of the room to make it read as larger.






Lucite chairs capiz chandelierImage source: Best of BKYLYN




All together: A unified space will appear larger. This means, when possible, keep the same flooring running throughout the house. When you get to areas that may require a different flooring choice (i.e., tile in bathrooms or kitchens) select a surface in a similar color palette. The same concept applies to rugs: the less contrast, the better. Tip: a natural fiber rug pairs very subtly with wood floors.






Side to side: Sliding barn doors and pocket doors free up space by not swinging into it.






Rustic distressed barn door Image source: Vintage Mulberry




Smart storage: Consider floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. Even if every book you own is already stored on your Kindle, bookshelves are a great way to display curios in one centralized area instead of sprinkling them across every spare surface.




No smoke, only mirrors: Use them to create the illusion of an expanding space and to bounce light around. The fewer shadows, the more open your rooms will feel.





 living room with mirrorsImage source:





Go big: Oddly enough, a few big pieces of furniture can make a room look larger than many smaller pieces. (Same goes for walls. Select one larger piece of art versus several tiny framed pieces as a gallery wall can go busy very quickly.) For a win-win, select furniture that does double duty, such as an ottoman that functions as both a coffee table or extra seating, a trunk that acts as a side table as well as a handy storage spot, or a daybed that doubles as a sofa with room for storage boxes to slide underneath and out of sight.





trunk coffee table coastal living room





Happy decorating!




This post has been adapted from my column, Design Intervention, which can be found every other Saturday in the Santa Barbara News-Press.



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