Before the guests arrive: It’s cleaning time!

It’s almost Thanksgiving…





Give ThanksSource: Elle Decor




And you might think it’s enough that your home is decorated with attractive furniture positioned just so atop beautiful rugs, while great art hangs on the walls and collected curios adorn the appropriate surfaces.





But it’s not.





If there’s a smudge on the wall, a ring on the table, and a dent in your fancy painting, all eyes will be drawn there.





Living room with labSource: Elle Decor




Sure blemishes happen–because life happens–but they can make your carefully designed rooms look worse for wear.




The good news is there are tricks to remedy such things. Designer trade secrets, if you will.





Here are some of the best of them.






Abstract paintingsSource: Unknown



Dented canvases: I have fixed two canvases I thought were surely dented and wrinkled for life with this method. The remedy is as simple as using a wet sponge to saturate the back of your canvas in the area of the dent. Important: wet only the back of the canvas, never the front! Set the canvas outside to dry with the moistened back facing the sun. As the canvas dries, it will shrink and tighten. As a result, the dent will (almost magically!) disappear.





Scratches on wood:  A scratch on dark wood floors or furniture appears light and draws attention to itself. In order to blend it into obscurity, we need to make it dark again. This can be done with a felt-tipped furniture marker in the right shade (available at your local home improvement store). Make sure to draw only on the scratch, not the surrounding area. Brown shoe polish also works wonders.




Recently, I tried a new remedy mixing 1 tablespoon coffee with 2 teaspoons of hot water.





Coffee mixtureAnd I got this.






Using a cotton swab, I applied the solution to the scratched leg of a chair that our new puppy has recently discovered.






Teeth marks chair legAh, puppies. Gotta love ’em, or at least keep reminding yourself, “This is just a stage!”






Apply coffee mixtureApplying the solution, like so.





After letting the solution soak in a moment, I wiped away the excess. While the indentation is still there (oh, puppy teeth) now that it’s the same color as the wood, it’s barely noticeable.






Chair leg afterSo much better!







For light, all-over scratches on hardwood floors, I use a product called Wood Floor Refresher by Bona. You apply it the same as you would a hardwood floor cleaner and it can make an old hardwood floor look new again.




Scuffs and smudges: Who doesn’t have scuffs and smudges on their baseboards, doors, and walls? Not you if you use Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser. True to its name, it lifts marks like magic and with ease. A word of caution: because it can dull an otherwise high-gloss surface, test it in an inconspicuous spot, first.




Rings on wood: True story: My Ostrich egg-esque ceramic vase that I loved so much from West Elm (the one on the far left if you click on this link) leaked and left behind crusty mineral deposits on our wood buffet.  To fix it, I made a solution of equal parts olive oil and white vinegar. Using a paper towel, I rubbed the liquid into the ring, making sure to rub with the grain, until the ring disappeared. I feathered out any extra liquid and used a clean paper towel to wipe the entire surface clean.





Remove furniture ringsThe solution (in both senses of the word).






Ring on tableThe Before. Bad ring, bad.






Wipe tableThe During. Action shot.







No more ringThe After! Ring, what ring?





Holes in walls: Stop. Are you using picture hangers to hang your artwork? If not, you should. They make the tiniest of holes and are sold by the weight they can handle so you’ll never risk hanging a piece that won’t be properly supported. But what if you hung it wrong the first time and need to make the evidence disappear? While wall spackle is best, in a pinch white toothpaste will fill holes 1/4″ and smaller. Squeeze it into the hole and use a credit card to remove the surplus. Allow to dry. If there is any shrinkage, repeat as necessary. Touch up with a spot of paint, if needed.





Black and white gallery wallSource: Unknown, Cat: adorable.




Keep it straight: So you found the perfect spot to hang your art and then you walked back into the room and it had shifted. Breezes, sinking holes, poltergeists, whatever the cause, hung art can move and you can keep it straight with QuakeHold Museum Putty. It comes in a shade of buff and with the consistency of previously chewed bubble gum–but with none of the gross-out factor. Pinch off a small amount and roll it into a ball. Place a ball behind each corner of your wall-mounted art and press the art into place.





Gallery wall gold framesThese don’t actually look straight to me. And it’s not my photo so I’m happy to point that out. Do they to you? Source: Charlotte Moss (what’s up Charlotte, no scale handy?), Lonny Magazine





Streak-free: For streak-less mirrors and windows and glass on framed pieces, make your own natural cleaner. You’ll avoid the cost and chemicals of the store bought stuff and have a superior product. Pour equal pats white vinegar and warm water into a spray bottle; mist your surface and wipe clean with newspaper. Undiluted vinegar can be used to remove the sticky price tag residue off the glossy surface of a newly purchased mirror.





Mirrored globe in kitchenIsn’t that a neat (and very streak-free) kitchen pendant? Source: Cristina Cleveland



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




Happy (it’s almost here) Thanksgiving!


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Don’t be bilked by bonded leather!

You know what’s crummy? Like really, really crummy? The fact that “leather” doesn’t always mean what one would assume it should.





 Black leather sofaDesign by Paul Barbera.





So this is my decorating public service announcement to you–so you may never be duped by the (often misleading) words “100% Genuine Leather”!





When JB and I pooled our furniture in anticipation of cohabitation, I was thrilled that he came with a leather sofa that was only two years old. I equated leather with luxury, longevity, and that Ralph Lauren style I had long coveted. But, a year later, what had once been the star of our living room started shedding like a molting snake.




Peeling leather sofaI wasn’t kidding, huh?




First, a tiny strip threatened to peel off the seat. Within a month, there were more wispy flakes of sofa “skin” littering our living room than on the actual sofa. Eventually we banished the blistered behemoth to the curb and cashed in our garbage service’s once-a-year heavy item haul-away. Flummoxed–since when does leather furniture shed?–and suddenly minus a sofa–I was determined to figure out what had happened.




Brown Leather Sofa 2See the patina on the sofa above? It’s an indication that the leather is real.





Have you noticed how inexpensive leather sofas have become? This is your first clue! If a sofa labeled “real leather” is a smoking deal, it is likely a hot potato and you should walk out of that store right now!





While technological advances have often changed life for the better, sometimes they give us bunk. Witness: two cheap materials that have flooded the market, look a lot like leather, are often tagged “real leather”–but are anything but. If you’re considering purchasing a leather sofa, please arm yourself with this information, first.






Brown leather sofa gallery wall




Bonded, reconstituted, or blended leather: Culprit number one goes by any of the aforementioned names. It’s made from scrap leather that is shredded into pulp, dyed, combined with a synthetic bonding agent, then sprayed onto sheets of fiber or paper backing. These sheets are then embossed with a leather pattern and, presto, you have bonded leather.





Buyer beware: While the percentage of pulverized leather fibers in this finished product can run anywhere from 10-70% , since the portion that is leather is 100% real, bonded leather products often claim to be “100% genuine leather”. Like adding a drop of fresh squeezed orange juice into a bottle of water and labeling the bottle “100% real orange juice” in reference to the single drop, it’s semantics and it’s shady advertising.






Modern leather sofa




Bicast, bycast, split or PU (referring to its polyurethane coating) leather: A single intact hide can be split into as many as four usable layers. Split leather takes one of these center layers (the top-grain goes to a higher-end product) to create, not a top surface, but a lowly backing. Sadly the one portion of this “leather” that is real is rendered invisible as it is laminated in colored polyurethane and embossed to fool you.





Chesterfield Sofa and Stag HeadCote de Texas





Why not?: I admit, faux leather sofas look good at first, cost far less than top-grain leather (until you factor in replacing them after a couple of years), and clean up like a dream (because they are made with plastic polymer or sprayed with plastic!) so why wouldn’t you want to own one? Uh, did you miss my intro? They are synthetic–as such, they can off-gas–and they make a mess on your floor. Unlike real leather which improves with age as it softens, becomes more supple, and develops a patina, faux leather can blister, crack and peel as soon as within the first year–especially when placed near a window with direct sun exposure. In contrast to real leather which can be repaired or passed on as a family heirloom or resold, when faux leather starts to fail, there’s no saving it. Congratulations, you just added a sofa to the landfill.







Black leather sofa 2Digs and design belong to the über talented Ellen Degeneres and Portia De Rossi. I’m going to go out on a short limb here and say I bet theirs is real.





How to detect the difference: Consider price, reputation of the company you’re buying from, (avoid the often less-than-scrupulous discount furniture emporiums) and feel: real leather has less give and is stiffer than either bonded or bicast leather. Beyond that, demand that your salesperson tell you the truth!





Chesterfield and bookshelves




If you already have faux leather sofa: The good news is you likely got it for a song and it wipes clean. So while you have it, let’s keep it looking good. Place it in a dimly lit room where it will hardly be used and you’ll have a rich look for a bargain price. Prolong its life by avoiding positioning it in direct sunlight (such as under a window) or near a radiator or fireplace where the heat will accelerate its decomposition.




Restoration Hardware ChesterfieldRestoration Hardware’s chesterfield sofa.





Maintaining the real deal: If you have a real leather sofa, wipe up spots and spills immediately: blot don’t rub. Do not use soap. Period. Use minimal water and only distilled, at that, since water can cause more damage to leather than the stain you want to remove. Wipe grease or oil spots, then leave them and hopefully they will dissipate. (Baking soda helps wick up oil stains. ) Avoid placing leather furniture near air conditioners, radiators, fireplaces, or in areas of prolonged sunshine (think skylights), or, over time, your leather will crack and fade. Reputable purveyors of leather, such as Restoration Hardware, also sell their own products to both clean and condition the leather. Don’t skip this: maintenance is a must!





Brown leather sofa





In other words, don’t let this happen to you…






Bonded leather sofaBye, bye beast: our bonded leather sofa waiting to be hauled away where it will live the rest of its days surrounded by banana peels and soiled synthetic diapers. 🙁







Brown leather sofa 3Note the tear on the sofa arm, above. The front panels are stained enough to make me think this one is real since the plastic element of bonded or bicast leather generally repels moisture and, thus, prevents staining.




Okay, we need to go out on a happy note; otherwise, my design public service announcement seems a bit depressing. So here’s a bit of good news. Jack in the Box is now selling their own version of a cronut (croissant doughnut). And while I’m sure there is no comparison between their cronut and the real ones (that come with filling) that people wait in line for for hours at Dominique Ansel’s bakery in New York City, this thing hit the spot for 89 cents each versus the $5 per at Dominque’s (not to mention the price of airfare!). One might argue this would be the equivalent of eating a bonded or bicast cronut, but with this good deal, the only thing that littered my floor was the tasty cinnamon sugar coating that fell from the doughy goodness as I ripped it apart and shoved it into my mouth. Just sayin’, you might want to try one.





Note: this post was adapted from my column Design Intervention which runs in the Santa Barbara News-Press.





The Newlyweds have landed and other news

PineapplesStrap your pineapples in. The trip is about to begin.





When we last “spoke”, I was showcasing the “ooh” and “ahh” elements I’d spotted while shopping for clients at the La Jolla Design Center.





That was so a month and a half ago.





Since then, things have happened. Big things like I was given a bridal shower; JB and I were married–and we had a honeymoon!  Yep, all that went down in the last forty days. So, I assume I get a pass for not posting every “Now take a look at this!” moment…




Wedding PhotoOh happy day. 9/13/14.





Except I wanted to. I missed blogging the ENTIRE TIME! However, time didn’t care. Time seemed to speed up and, here in Santa Barbara, where we were sweating every glass of water we drank out through our pores in our 90 degrees plus heatwave, I was slowing down–while a whole lotta stuff needed attending to. So blogging took a back burner. And yet, there was so much to say.




Pie is for loversCoral “graffiti” (the best, removable kind, right?) placed against lava rock along the highway, on the Big Island, Hawaii.






So much to SHOW you!





Hilo PalaceA hotel, I’m guessing, in Hilo, Hawaii. It has seen better days, I’m sure, but the good architecture still shines through.





So I captured the fun stuff in photos and wrote little mental notes to you. And came up with a plan…






Chairs at Marriott MauiTwo chairs just whispering, “Take a load off,” at the Marriott, Maui.





I’m going to roll back time (Note: my powers only extend to this blog) in the next few posts so you don’t miss a thing. But, while you’re here, let’s talk honeymoon.





This was the scene immediately after leaving the airport and pulling onto the highway.  And in between a cluster of buildings here and there, it carried on, interrupted only by the subtle switch to more lava rock, fewer grasses, more coral graffiti, for the twenty minute drive to our condo destination in Waikoloa.






Big Island driveMauna Kea Volcano in background. Lava rock covered with grasses, grasses and more grasses in foreground.





The land was big, so we felt small and as we shrank, so did any troubles or tethers to back home and we could, at least try to, relax.




This pool helped…





Hali'i Kai PoolSalt water pool with the neatest lounging leaves positioned just above the water’s surface. The “leaves” were stationary, built into a raised platform of concrete that summited just before the “deep end” (alas, all of 4 1/2′ of a so-called deep end). If it got too hot (which was almost always; the Big Island was also suffering their own Hello, Climate-Change! record temps), you could dip your toes or lean your legs into the water for a luke-warm water cool down.




So did eating our meals from our terrace with THIS VIEW!






LanaiHali’i Kai, Big Island.





And dips in this ocean certainly assisted in a water-lapping-against-your-floating-body, Problems, what problems? sort of way.






Kua BayKua Bay, Big Island.





While we did play tourist…






PanioloHanging out with this cowboy for a Paniolo (“cowboy”) moment in the Parker Ranch shopping center. (Do you see the almost photo-bomb, by Security, in the background?)








Happy couple South PointSouth Point selfies.







Drive to South PointThe drive to South Point: the southern most tip of the United States.





South Point TurbinesAnd more driving to South Point. Good thing we had almost a full tank. This road is lonnnng.





Unlike our trip to Kauai (Forgot already? You can refresh your memory, here) the best design I saw wasn’t man-made, but nature-made.





South Point endFinally, we made it to the wind-blown coast known as South Point where except for a natural pool of still water that made the perfect place to douse the flames we imagined rising up from our roasting, sandaled feet, the water looked choppy enough to crush a skull against the lava-rock-lined shore. Unless conditions are usually smoother, this was a Look, But Don’t Swim beach destination.






There were patterns to study. (Don’t miss the gecko, below, who was popping out his head and giving the “And you are?” stare down to the photo-end of my cell phone and me.)







Palm leaf gecko.





Yes, technically this sidewalk is man-made, but I thought the pattern was still worth noting. I’d love to see that mottled design turned into fabric and sewn into a sofa pillow!






Interesting sidewalkA sidewalk trying to emulate lava–and doing a darn good job! Big Island.






Okay, so maybe real lava looks a little different. But again, notice the neat pattern as the lava pressed upon itself and dried in Shar Pei esque folds.







Lava RockThe real deal. Lava rock, Volcano National Park, Hawaii.





More lava rock, plus feet.





Feet on lava rockVolcano National Park, Hawaii.








Flowers Hali'i KaiFlower power at Hali’i Kai, Hawaii.







Kalopa Forest 2Kalopa Forest, Hawaii. Doesn’t it look like the trees’ roots are holding hands or are my honeymoon-colored-glasses still on?





There were black sand beaches.






Punalu'u BeachOuchie. Ouchie. Ouchie. Hottest sand, ever! Punalu’u, Hawaii.






Black sand feetWe could only brave this photo because our feet had just been in the ocean–hence the sand clinging to our toesies. Note: As the posted signs will tell you, it is illegal to remove the sand from the beach. But what if you have a mom at home who wants to see what said black sand looks like in real life and not just a photo of our sand-sullied feet? Answer: You carefully insert your sandy digits into your sandals and run like hell to your rental car!






Nature just popped her pretty head up everywhere.





Even when it couldn’t have been easy.







Fern and door 2I previously posted this photo on Instagram with the caption “Tenacity”. JB thought that was the hokiest thing he’d heard all day and volunteered the counter caption: “Don’t Tread On Me.” (Stair tread humor.) Yuk (and I do mean “yuck”) yuk.






Lily padsA proliferation of bloomin’ lily pads.







Marriott MauiLily pad central: the Koi pond at the Marriott, Maui.





But alas, while the honeymoon doesn’t have to end, the vacation did.




We had to head home.





Drive from Punalu'uRoad from the black sand beach at Punalu’u heading to Volcano National Park.




We said goodbye to our condo with it’s oil rubbed bronze this and dark wood that tropical decor.




Hali'i Kai Bedroom




Goodbye pretty verdigris gate…




Gate at Hali'i Kai




So long wandering without deadlines, hearing the roar of water…it was nice knowing you.




Hilto Hawaii WaterfallOne of my favorite shots JB took on the trip: the waterfall at the Hilton, Hawaii.




Or driving for hours to see a landscape that looked a lot like Mars (if Mars could support fern life).






Volcano National ParkJB calls this “Tenacity 6, 7, and 8.”




No more pretty flowers…




AnthuriumsAnthurium extravaganza at the Farmer’s Market in Kailua Kona.





But, you know what happens in life, one adventure ends and another begins. So, last week, our first official week home from our honeymoon, we decided we needed to add this guy to our lives.




Goodbye vacation. Hello puppy.





Mokie sleepingMeet Moke (“tough guy” in Hawaiian pidgin), but we call him Mokie.



Lilo (our Chiweenie) is less than thrilled. We are zombie-tired after back to back nights of puppy rumbling and ruckus (Mokie wakes up in the night to play with Lilo and Lilo would prefer to slumber–as would we!), stumbling outside–while it’s still dark out!–to make sure Mokie pees OUTSIDE, and speaking of pee, thank goodness these carpets are coming up soon because they, less than fantastically, have been doused in pee and other digestive waste.



So it’s back to realty. Albeit a new, puppy-love-filled, sleep-deprived one in which Lilo looks up at me imploringly with eyes that say, “Why did you do this?”



Welcome home, honeymooners.



Design Inspiration from La Jolla


My circumference is not that big. (No, I’m not talking about my waistline which, in preparation for fitting into a wedding dress in less than a month–yikes!–has been put on caloric restriction and is hopefully shrinking as we speak.) I mean, I tend to move in tiny circles.



Like a dog who’s chasing its tail….





MPLA doorDoor outside MPLA Associates in La Jolla, CA.



Like a professional hula hooper…




A hamster stuck on its wheel….





Kravet Monkey wallpaperMonkey wallpaper (and free Nespresso!) at Kravet Fabric in La Jolla, CA.




Or like a person who is comfortable in her own backyard (and by backyard, I mean a 20 mile radius, not my actual backyard).





Abstract painting two chairsAre you noticing modern art everywhere, too? I think the red glow of the single, dangling interrogation-style bulb just adds a little sumpthin-sumpthin, no?




For instance, I live in Santa Barbara which is only 1.5 hours from LA (times two if you hit rush hour traffic), yet I almost never go there.




I just circle and repeat.






Abstract art flowersAh modern art. Sometimes you work (see closeup agave leaf painting to the right) and sometimes you don’t (see–flowers?–scaling the wall to the left).





But not lately. Lately I have moved outside my maze and boy does it feel good. The other week I was lucky enough to attend the Las Vegas Design Market (for a refresher, please click here).  And I recently had the pleasure of traveling to La Jolla (5 hours away–woop woop!) with another designer to begin the interior design of a house we’re collaborating on.





Abstract flowers at MPLAWoo wee: more abstract flowers.






So, of course, I took pictures of everything interesting that we saw–so I could share it with you!




Side of flower sculptureWorkin’ the side angle.



The best thing, by far, was this store entrance that had the most whimsical and wacky wall treatment. (Note: somebody did this–so you could, too! It’s just grey paint with white loopy chalk circles drawn on top. I’d suggest sealing the swirls with a clear aerosol spray paint–unless you want them to rub off so you can adjust them from time to time.)




Chalkboard wallMPLA Design Associates, La Jolla, CA.




Here’s a closeup so you can see the design was kind of like a Calder mobile goes 2D. Note the actual mobile in the far right hand corner.





Chalkboard swirls





Kravet had this neat wallpaper in their entry.





Kravet Wallpaper




But MPLA had this terrazzo floor in their bathroom.





Terrazzo floorThis floor had me thinking this might be a neat alternative to tile for a residential bathroom.  No grout = kinda brilliant!






Bon Bon OttomanAnd we couldn’t leave before ordering one of these poufs for our clients. The poufs are 100% wool, they can roll across the floor and they’re named “Bon Bons”–we were defenseless.




How about you? Have you been discovering sometimes you have to go outside your own backyard to find the grass that’s greener?


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Holy cowhide: Our chair is in House Beautiful magazine!

Okay, so it’s not our chair.



But it’s our chair.




(Who’s on first?)



And when I spotted it in the July/August 2014 issue of House Beautiful magazine I jumped for joy and ran around the living room nudging JB and squealing, “Look! That’s our chair! But not our chair.”




I can tell you it was just the two of us standing in the living room. And only one of us was impressed. (The one who’s desperately trying to run with this “Who’s on first?” reference.)







Our chair in House BeautifulYep, that chair. Room design by Juan Carretero.





No, House Beautiful didn’t draw the blue arrow. That was all me making sure you knew what to look for so would understand my glee when…





I showed you this.






Our living room chairOur living room. Design by, yours truly. Disclaimer: we’re on the precipice of a remodel so please ignore that that’s carpet beneath the cowhide rug and not the pretty reclaimed hardwood planks we have selected that–I can only hope and pray–will be installed sooner rather than later. As for any other design fouls, please apply the same “Pre-remodel Pass.”





Before I took the photo to share with you, I remembered I just happened to have a spare cowhide rug hanging out in my garage (as any good hoarder interior designer would) so I set it in place and now I’d say Juan Carretero and I have just about the same style vibe going on. Of course, Juan’s abode is in Manhattan (we’re in Santa Barbara) and his chair is noted as “an antique scroll-arm chair” while ours is “newer”. Then again, his antique version has torn leather and ours, (yay, estate sale scores!), I am happy to report, does not. Point for Juan. Point for me.




House Beautiful chair detailThis is Juan’s chair as shown in House Beautiful. See how the seat looks like someone wearing sandpaper pants sat down one too many times? The funny thing is I didn’t draw that arrow on the pillow; it’s part of the pattern and it’s pointing right to the damaged seat of the chair like, “Check out how worn I am. I’m am so antique, I’m almost refuse.”





But that’s enough about chairs, Juan, and this blogger. As for JB, he still thinks the chair is the most uncomfortable thing he’s ever sat in and longs for the parallel universe where I replace it with some leather squishy thing that reclines and comes fitted with a cup holder. Sorry JB, in this universe, Juan and I would never approve!


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Design inspiration from the Las Vegas Design Market


Last week I lost my Las Vegas Design Market virginity.  It was my first time. And, wow, was it good. So good that sometimes what happens in Vegas must not stay in Vegas. Especially when it’s perfect fodder for a design blog post!




During the trip, I was lucky enough to stay in a house that was so fancy it felt more French castle than Henderson, Nevada. (Thank you J.T. and S.H.!)







It had an outdoor swing that was custom-built (as in the reeds were gathered, soaked, and woven into the basket you see below) to look like a hot air balloon. Uh huh.





Hot Air Balloon chair





And a sofa upholstered in this fabulous fabric. Oh yeah.






Sofa fabric





But enough about the amazing house.





Let’s get on with the show!




I must admit, I felt kinda swanky walking through the front door to the LV Design Center. I mean, just look at that peacock on the glass. Need I say more?




There were three buildings with many, many floors each of which was filled, especially for the show, with design showrooms. It was so tiring, apparently my mind erased how many floors there actually were. Let’s just say we walked from 10 am to 6 pm, non-stop, two days in a row. The glamorous life of a designer. Not.





Las Vegas Design Center





Inside, there were round mirrors o’ plenty. Round mirror trend alert!





Round Wood Mirror




These two sucked me in and I ordered them. Like a Vegas memento. And a reward for all that trudging–I mean walking!





Round mirrors




Sputnik chandeliers (or “Spoot-nik” as my mom recently corrected; Bolshoe spasibo, mom.) are also A THING.





Sputnik chandelier



Antler this and that, (loose antlers, antler mirrors, antler chandeliers, and antlers attached to to the heads of their previously alive owners), were ubiquitous.




I did find this mirror beautiful, and all the more so, when I convinced myself it was made from antlers that had fallen, naturally.




Antler room




Do you have a wood plank wall, yet?



As cool as a distressed wood plank wall looks–I love that they’re almost always made from reclaimed wood and offer a rugged, organic look over something that’s sleek, smooth, and sterile–I have to wonder, are these for us what the wood panel wall was in the 70s? You know, the wood panel wall that everyone grimaces at today and can’t wait to take a paint roller and some white paint to?




Plank wall




There was some pretty stuff…






Bliss Studio SignThis was just a sign outside a showroom, but I thought it was too beautiful not to capture and share.






This wall would be easy enough to recreate for instant “wallpaper” on the cheap.






Abstract wallpaper





Feather chandelier fitted with a bulb that changes colors, anyone?






Feather lights





I loved the simplicity of this line drawing and, of course, that it was of a dog.





Dog drawing on wallThis would be a nice touch in a kid’s room.





Here was the perfect two-in-one: the clever bookshelf chair.





Bookshelf chair





But if you want a little more b-b-b-b-bling in your chair…





Circular ChairThis chair comes with a diamante’ option–the salesperson told me so! I guess she thought I loved the chair, not that I was posing in it because I thought it was so over-the-top crazy.





Or maybe a cradle rocking bed is more your style…





Okay, for a rock star client (Note to self: must get one of those!) this would be kind of perfect, no?





Cradle Bed





There were quirky things.






Backwards booksAnd the award goes to this display for Least Practical Way to Store Books, Ever! (But it did look very cool.)





I have a client who I think, I think, I think might have this wallpaper installed in her office. I hope so! I love it.





Book wallpaper





And there were odd things. Things that made you say, “Huh?”




Like this…





Racoons taxidermy




And this…





Horse lamp




And this…





Gold banana




And even this….





Horse tableNote the human leg pedestal table in the background.





Some stuff was a little dark. No I don’t mean the ten thousand hanging lights or the sparking geodes (oh yeah, geodes are also A THING; if you want to be on-trend, you must get a smattering for your desk, coffee table, bookshelf, or entry table. Like yesterday or at least by tomorrow).





Snake wallpaper




No, I meant dark as in this creepy snake wallpaper.





Snake wallpaper detail





Some things fell into the category of, “Now who would buy that?”





Yellow bling chair





Others fell into, “Wow!”





Figure sculptureThis was a “Wow”. So was the wall behind “him”.




And others fell into…well, you tell me…





Toilet seatThis chair was on display by the escalator and wore tags like it was a totally legit piece of merchandise.





We happened to sit down at a snack table where Amy Yancey of Flipping Vegas, and her architect, Darryl, were sitting. We all started talking and they were extremely nice and down-to-earth.





Amy Flipping VegasCelebrity selfie.





Since a trip to Vegas is not complete without venturing out to The Strip, we headed there and witnessed some good design in the Ladies’ Room in the Paris Las Vegas Hotel.






Paris bathroomThose were some fancy Kohler sinks. Ooh la la.




But, by far, I thought the most design “eye candy” was had at The Cosmopolitan.




Even their sign in their parking garage was exciting.





Cosmopolitan Las VegasThose letters were at least as tall as a professional basketball player.





The entrance to their China Poblano Chinese/Mexican (?) food restaurant took “making an entrance” to a whole new level.






Poblano Las Vegas





The dog sculptures at The Cosmopolitan weren’t bad either.






Dog sculpture CosmopolitanJust look at that carpet! That wall pattern!






But the three-story chandelier for the aptly named The Chandelier Lounge…had us at “three-story chandelier”.







Cosmopolitan chandelier




How about you? Are you seeing antlers, geodes and distressed plank walls EVERYWHERE? But not snake wallpaper, gilded bananas and toilet armchairs, right? At least, I hope not!


Marching ahead: We have a wedding site in sight!



Our procrastination and foot dragging has been rewarded. Big time.





If you ran into me this week, I likely spilled forth a soliloquy on the subject so, for you, this is oh-so-yesterday’s newsflash, but for the virgin ears:  We found a site for our wedding! Or, I should say, it found us! I’m not kidding; it was like the stars aligned…and shone their luck down on us like laser beams.





Save the date writing on facesImage source, Rachel Schulz






Remember how I said I was in molasses-mode about planning our September holy-cow-that’s-3 1/2-months-away wedding?






Save the date red fingerprintsImage source, unknown.








Save the date black fingerprintsImage via Dynamite Weddings





Well, the other day, something magical happened. But it didn’t start out that magical. It started with a simple walk. My mom had stopped over to walk my dog, Lilo, with me. My usual walk is up a steep hill, and down, and then up again, and back, but my mom was feeling tired, so she suggested somewhere flatter, shorter, different. Get that? This is example Number One of “What were the odds?”





Save the date shadow signImage source, unknown.





I’ve only taken this short route two other times, (in the nine months since JB and I moved here), so, not only was it highly unusual that I would be there, but I almost never run into anyone on my walks, so it was highly unusual that anyone else would be there, either. But, low and behold, we spotted a couple. (Hint: This is the, “It was fate!” detail number 2.)






Faceless save the dateImage source, unknown.




A couple I recognized as two fun and friendly people I helped pick floors for about three years ago. I remember they had a very neat, arty house. And that they liked seagrass and wool carpet. And that was about it. I mean, come on, that was three years ago.





Save the date Scrabble tilesImage source, unknown.





So we quickly caught up. Their house had burned down (ohhhh!)  been rebuilt (ohhhh?) and they had just moved back in the week before (ohhhh!). (Last and third coincidence: Since they’d only just moved back into the neighborhood, we would NOT have been able to run into one another, until now.) Ooh eee ooh = the sound of destiny unfolding.





Save the date with dogImage via The Frosted Petticoat





I shared that my fiancee’ and I had bought a house–which turns out is only a few blocks from theirs–back in September. (More “Ohhhh’s”, but, from them, this time.) When the wife asked me the date of the wedding, I think she looked a little stricken when I said, “September,” but even more so when I added I was still looking for a location. And then these words passed her lips, “We have a house!” and I’m sure I looked whatever the opposite of stricken is. (Gleeful!)





Save the date banner and trainImage source, unknown.






This house to which she referred, did she mean the newly built one they had just finished explaining is all glass and metal (no more of that flammable material called wood!) and nothing short of amazing? Yes, she did. “Call us!” she said and I floated the rest of the way home.





Save the date 50s homemakers

Image via Craig Clement






Then I let a week and a half go by. I told you, when it comes to this wedding, I have been dragging my feet all zombie-style. But last weekend, I dutifully checked my To Do list and like a good, trying-not-to-procrastinate-any-longer engaged person, I made the call.





Save the date letters on the grassImage source, unknown.





The call that changed everything! The call that prompted the super duper, incredibly nice and generous couple to say, “Come on over and check it out.” So we did. I took photos and drooled and smiled and my inspiration banks started filling because this was one of the most impressive houses I have ever seen. (Big, big statement here since 1) Their house before was pretty rockin’ and, 2) Well, this is Santa Barbara and all, where there is no dearth of dreamy houses.)  This house was wowwwww with its modern juxtaposition of weather-worn corrugated Corten steel siding and sleek stucco walls, towering doors, swooping roof lines, and staggering mountain views. All–could this get any better?–within walking distance form our house.





Literally saving the date copyGenius image via Lydias Next Step





Inside, adjacent walls were painted lime, red, and deep eggplant. And it worked, brilliantly, says the white walls devotee (me). A motorized garage door separated her office from the open floor plan living room/dining room/kitchen with all the “Woah, check it out!” mountain views. In the guest bath, instead of cupboards under the countertop, there was a bicycle. Oh, and there was an elevator. An elevator! Everywhere I looked, I saw modern art, giant fans (from the Big Ass Fan company), and ceilings as tall as Barbie’s legs are long. And down below, next to the Olympic-sized pool, was a beautiful orchard of oak trees.





Save the date on balloonsImage source, unknown.





The kind of orchard you picture all done up with twinkly lights and long tables adorned with succulent centerpieces, burlap ribbon, and, you know, Pinterest stuff. “I love it,” I said, and then mustered enough confidence to ask, gulp, “How much will it cost?”




“Nothing! It’s our wedding present to you!”




And I’m sure I looked as far from stricken as possible. (Bursting with glee.)





What!?!? As JB’s friend, Chris, said when he heard we got engaged, “Head explodes!” (I can only hope Chris meant it as a good thing, but that’s definitely how I mean it.)






Save the date credit cardImage via The Bridal Detective





I mean, I was a bad delayer, putting off finding a site like there was…something around the corner that was just meant to be and…it turned out, there was!





Just when the news is all about the bad folks killing the good folks, and you wonder, “Why? Why? Why?” you meet people who are so, unexpectedly, I can hardly believe it, do-they-really-make-people-like-this-anymore? nice, and it makes me happy to be human again.





Tying the knot save the dateImage source, unknown





And not want to give up on mankind. Not when there are some good souls. And your silly stalling is rewarded–for a site that is better than you could ever have imagined!






Save the date written on bootsImage source, unknown.





All because you took a walk–because your mom was tired–in a different direction.






PrintImage source, unknown.





While I snapped about twenty photos with my iPad, I have yet to ask formal permission to post any of the photos of the house so I’ll limit my sharing to this one of the exterior. I think it sums up the genius of this couple. It is their Steinway piano (once a shiny red Baby Grand) that was burned in the fire and is now placed outside as a piece of sculpture. Brilliant, isn’t it?





Steinway piano sculpture










Save the date library cardImage source, unknown.





Of course, the next step is to send out our Save the Dates–hence the proliferation of themed photos in this post.





I know I included a mass of them, but each one was so darn creative, I couldn’t bear to give it the boot.




I’m studying them like mad, now. And prodding JB, “Hey, look at this one. And this one. Oh, and this one.” He is not only being kindly patient, but when I said, “I love them all, but we need to come up with our own creative version and vision,” he came up with something. Just in case we can actually pull this off, I don’t want to give it away entirely, but I’ll say it involves his bicep, a fake tattoo of my name on said bicep, a tattoo shop and a tattoo needle in my hand. Now, all we have to do is find a tattoo parlor that is willing to let us turn this bizarre photo shoot idea into a reality. (Wish us luck with this one!)






Save the date suitcase copyImage via Wedding Paper Divas




And to stop procrastinating! A big thank you to our neighbors who have offered their brand new, amazing home as a wedding site. Now that we know the where, this all finally feels real. And for that, I am the three G’s: grateful, glad, and giddy!




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Art Inspiration: meow or woof?

Growing up, my artist mom taught me to notice design in the unlikeliest of places. Odd places like the marks grass makes on a bare knee; the stretched shadow of a chain link fence; or the intricate pattern that traces the rind of any melon. The idea was inspiration is everywhere. All you had to do was look.




Toilet paper roll artToilet paper rolls by Studio Zerbey Architecture + Design Image via Houzz




So I started looking and, over the years, I developed a thing for off-beat art.





Donut paintingThis painting of doughnuts hangs, in all its gilded frame glory, in our kitchen. Unconventional subject matter for an oil painting to be sure; but to me, that’s its appeal.





I gravitated towards quirky art.






Paper bag painting40″ x 50″ (in other words, very big) abstract acrylic of a paper bag. It was given to me by a generous friend and now hangs center stage in our living room.






And irreverent art–and, apparently, art with food as its subject–gets me every time.






Bacon paintingLarge acrylic bacon painting in our living room by the talented Lyn Gianni (but I call her Mom”).





I think one of the most important things about a piece of art is it should speak to you.






You Only Live OnceEclectic Bedroom by Los Angeles Photographers Alex Amend Photography Image via Houzz






And the other day, I thought perhaps it should say, “Meow.”





Here’s the part where I need to tell you I’m nearing the finish line on the living room design for a client who adores her cat. That this client thinks her cat is wonderful and I think my client is wonderful and I need to find her art that is as neat as she is. Ho-hum won’t cut it. And that the other day, while I was brainstorming what piece we should hang over her sofa, I had an idea.



Brace yourself. It’s a wild one.



We could take a photo of her cat in black and white, enlarge the image until it was huge (as in ginormously, jaw-droppingly large), frame it and hang it above said sofa.




I know. Weird right? Crazy? Maybe. Admittedly, I wasn’t entirely sold on the idea myself until a few days later my mom and I happened to be strolling down Main street in Ventura and we spotted this window display outside a thrift store that raises money for pets in need.





Black and white dog and chair





It was my wacky idea come to life.






Black and white dog and cat behind counter




And I loved it! Unfortunately, the owners of the thrift store felt the exact same way so they weren’t willing to part with any of the photographs but they did tell me a local artist took them and that the images were processed locally. And that’s where the information stopped. Neither owner could remember the who or the where. But that’s what the internet is for. If my client decides she likes this idea, I’ll let my fingers do the…typing.




Note: Costco will enlarge a photo of your choice and print it on stretched canvas for a nominal charge so there’s always that option. (See below.)





Costco art




But back to that black and white photography.




This is a case of “You had to be there” because no matter how I tried to position my body or angle my lens, I could not capture the scale of these pet photos. This is frustrating because it’s their overblown–well beyond life-size–largesse that took them from ordinary pet portraits to something so fun it verged on pop art.





Black and white pug





Later the same day, we ate at a Thai food restaurant that featured this large design on one wall.





Bottles on wall




I think this ideas has some major potential. I’m not saying it’s perfect–far from. The scale of the fake flowers is off and the faux flora is beyond dreadful and someone should tell them to put the Christmas balls away in May–and possibly until the end of time. But, what if, for example, they used some realistic looking faux succulents at the top? I think whoever created this brilliantly devised an inexpensive way to give a large wall some major impact and I’m filing this idea under, “Maybe–with some tweaking.”





Don’t worry, I’m not even close to considering painting large bottles on my client’s wall. Or incorporating a Cat-zilla sized image as shown below. But notice how the scale is what takes this image from cute to imposing. For better or worse, in this example.






Cat-zilla muralAce Hotel, Portland




If my client does decide to go in this direction, I’m proposing a scale similar to this…





Large dog photo green wallModern Dining Room by San Francisco Interior Designers & Decorators Jennifer Kesteloot Image via Houzz





Minus the lime green. I prefer a white wall as a backdrop for art.






Large cat muralContemporary Home Office by New York Interior Designers & Decorators Duane Kaschak, ID Image via Houzz




Definitely not purple. 🙂



How about you? Are you willing to call out, “Say Tuna!” or “Say beef bone!” to get Whiskers or Fido to pose for a larger-than-life-sized portrait? If so, do share the results!




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Balsa wood flowers: pretty green for a white flower.


When it came to choosing a wedding date, 10 months ago we confidently declared, “In September!” But now that September is a fleeting four months away, it is with mumbled speech that I admit while we know the when, we haven’t locked down the where.




Table in fieldThis is, however, the “where” that I picture in my head. Image via Ruffled.



I know, I know. I’m on the verge of failing planning-your-own-wedding. But not having secured the location isn’t for lack of trying. We’ve had brilliant ideas like renting the group camp site at El Capitan: A somewhat private locale, an ocean view, and decor a la nature. What’s not to love? The answer: the $1,200 price tag–not to mention all the Saturdays in our planned marital month were already booked. (Sunday is an option, but then you must deal with the port a potty of Saturday’s wedding–which means Sunday is not an option.)



Rustic weddingWhat a fun serpentine-shaped table arrangement! Image via Ruffled.




So we’ve upped the ante. We’re spreading the word (“Nice couple desperately seeks wedding site!”), scouring the internet for local spots, and moving wedding plans from the back burner, to the front. While the hunt continues, I’m taking inspiration everywhere I can find it.




A few weekends ago, I found some at JB’s cousin’s wedding. It was a baseball-themed wedding with some very cute touches such as this cake…





Baseball theme wedding cake





Upon closer inspection, this cake topper has me wondering. While the couple tanned in preparation for the blessed event, their skin tone has never matched the ethnicity these figurines suggest. I can only assume there was a run on the paler version of dog-inclusive cake toppers.




There were clever, handmade, (by the talented bride), centerpieces like this…




Baseball wedding centerpiece





But what really grabbed my attention were the flowers. At first I couldn’t figure out what they were made of. Then the bride revealed they were made of wood. What?!






Tapioca flowers in jar





Yes, wood! They were the only flowers on site and the industrious bride made each boutonniere, bouquet, and centerpiece using them. So what exactly are wood flowers? I did some online sleuthing and discovered they go by the name of balsa wood, tapioca wood, or sola wood flowers and can be purchased here.






Balsa wood bouquet with greenery






Each petal is cut from the wood peel of the tapioca plant and is pressed into shape, then formed into a flower. They blossoms come in a natural ivory tone, but can be painted, as the bride did, to match any wedding color palette.






Bride and Groom TableThe bride and groom’s table.






The beauty–besides that of their appearance–is, unlike regular flowers, you don’t have to worry about them wilting during a hot summer wedding.






Balsa wood boutonniereBalsa wood flower and feather boutonniere example courtesy JL Design.




Other pluses: They are ecologically friendly in the sense that using them avoids sacrificing real flowers; they’re great for allergy-sufferers; they’re purported to last as long as “forever”, and, at as low as 28 cents per flower (see the Shell flower here), your floral budget will come up smelling like roses. On that note, you can also scent their centers with essential oils, give them a spritz of your signature perfume, or Angel Aromatics will sell them to you pre-scented.





Tapioca wood shell flowers





While white on white is attractive, I think their beauty really blossoms with the addition of a soft green.  Succulents such as the type that looks like strands of green pearls (aptly named String of Pearls; botanical name: senecio rowleyanus) would look very pretty.






Balsa wood bouquetImage via JL Design.






If you need some more visual inspiration, the floral company JL Design seems to have cornered the market on decorating with these flowers. Every amazing picture I found came from them. You can visit their site here.




Tapioca flower and driftwood centerpieceImage via JL Design. I counted 23 flowers. If each is say 28 cents, plus a piece of found (read: free!) driftwood, that comes out to a whole lot of “Stunning centerpiece!” for only $6.40.







Balsa wood pomanderImage via JL Design.





You can make your own pomanders to use at a bridal shower, wedding, or baby shower by hot gluing each flower to a foam sphere. Before you cover the entire sphere, attach a loop of ribbon (i.e., in a cream-colored satin or other coordinating wedding color) to the sphere with hot glue. Use a pearl-topped pin to additionally secure the ribbon to the sphere. Finish by gluing the remaining flowers around (but not on top of) the spot where the ribbon is attached to camouflage the area. Note: when selecting the size of your sphere, bear in mind that it will “grow” with the addition of flowers.






Balsa wood flowers in bowl




The bride generously let some of the ladies take a pomander home. I was one of the lucky ladies and, upon returning home, popped mine into a silver bowl for a spring table top decoration that happened as fast as you can say, “No water changes necessary!”



PS, Yes, that is a painting of bacon. That is what happens when you mention to your sweet artist mother that you think a pop-art influenced bacon painting would be a fun conversation piece over your table: she is kind enough to surprise you with one for Christmas! And that is just one among the many reasons that make her the best mom I could ever ask for. Happy Every-Day-Should-Be-Mother’s-Day, mom!





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Holy Craigslist: We bought a Sub-Zero fridge!

As an interior designer, I had to polish up (pun intended) on my knowledge of high-end kitchen appliances. Sure these might be items I would only dream of owning, that I may never operate–outside a display in a fancy showroom–but for the sake of my clients, I had to learn what was what.




The more I educated myself, the more I began to want these appliance–for myself! My “Drool List” went something like this:




The Miele Built-In Espresso Maker (with its trademarked Conical Grinding System, Frother and Integrated Milk Tank)…




Miele espresso makerRetailing at (gulp) $3,299.00 Not deterred? You can find one here.




La Cornue’s stove and range top–which, to me, always looked a lot like upscale luggage (literally and figuratively?).


La Cornue RangePrices vary.  Think $8,600-$35,000 range. It’s one of those, “If you have to ask….” products. But if you have to see, you can, here.




And the Sub-Zero refrigerator.




Sub-zero fridgeWhile we’re at it, I wouldn’t mind their wine cooler, either.



And last weekend…(drum roll, please)…JB found one on Craigslist for $100!



Yes, a hundred dollars! Sure, it’s used–but lovingly so. And since we haven’t started our kitchen remodel yet this is going to be a sort of refrigerator test run. This way we can see if the size and style and energy usage works for us–so we’ll know if we want to spring for a new one when it really matters!



Here is our old fridge inherited from the previous owners…


Old fridge door closedThe two magnets were ours, but the scratches, dents and random blobs of cream-colored paint were not.





old fridge closeup

See? I wasn’t kidding about the cream paint marks–on a white fridge! I can only wonder about the why and the how.





And here is our new (to us) Sub-Zero in all its stainless steel glory!




SUB-ZERO front



I think it’s so pretty and it slid into the opening of our existing cabinets with a 1/16 of an inch to spare, kinda like the Refrigerator Gods were smiling down on us. It’s already worlds better–and quieter–than our archaic one that incessantly moaned, groaned, and hummed.  (The Sub-Zero makes more of a steady white noise somewhere between waves crashing and being on an airplane, but quieter.) I’ll keep you posted about how it affects our electric bill!






Moving truckIt took this truck (thank you JT!), the help of a super friend (thank you, Michael!) and some swear words (sorry, neighbors!) before the new fridge entered our home.




In a moment of “The more contrasting metals the better!” JB gave the old hardware a vinegar soak to remove years of caked-on grease and then used Brasso to polish the heck out of it. Admittedly, it’s a bit on the clashy side, (I like to see it as our kitchen just went Bohemian Chic), but I do like the soft shade of brass, more like a brushed finish, than super brassy and shiny.  In the past, I have had clients boil their shiny brass hardware in water and vinegar to age it, but now what’s old…is a tiny bit out and the sparkly stuff is en vogue again. Funny how that happens.


Brass hardware polishedNew warm tone. And a lot less grime. 🙂





Besides good looks and a subtle sound, I’m not just judging this fridge by its cover. It’s what’s inside that counts and that is a heck of a lot of room. It’s huge! I feel like I can fit the contents of three refrigerators in here. We transferred all our food from the former fridge (see below) –that was stuffed to the max–and in the new fridge, it’s nothing.



Old fridge door openIck. Uck. Oh, the suffering every time my hand brushed across the exposed screw on the upper deck. Skin was lost I tell you. And the clutter. Oh boy.




And now…It looks like a (non-cooking) bachelor lives here.




SUB-ZERO inside



We even have room for our three varieties of butter!




Butter trio in fridge



Yes, we’re butter gluttons. Since we went gluten-free, we have been delving deeper into the world of dairy products. Have you tried the Ferrarini Italian butter (the one on the left) from Costco? It’s not cheap, but the flavor justifies the cost. We find ourselves eating small slices atop (rice) crackers as though it were cheese. It’s that good. And we’re that bad.



Inside the fridge



I’m so excited to have a stainless steel fridge with a bottom drawer freezer so I can run experiments like:



1) What does all that stooping do to your back? Will it become natural to squat and open the drawer instead of leaning over? (Ah ha! Who needs to go to the gym when you open your freezer drawer enough…unless, of course, you’re opening it to reach for vanilla ice cream, eh hem!, on a nightly basis?)



2) Well, this one I can confirm. Magnets don’t stick to the door. One of my clients was recently a bit dismayed when she found this out for herself, but we both agreed it’s a blessing because it forces people to keep their fridge free and clear of magnets, kind of like what we designers and stagers will do to your fridge anyway if we’re trying to make the house look its best. Now cluttering with magnets and take-out menus and kid’s art isn’t even an option which is not such a bad thing.



 3) Will  more food fit into  a bottom-drawer freezer than a side-door freezer? Confirmed, yes!




What about you, have you had a Sub-Zero for years and are wondering what took me so long to join the club? (The $100 price tag secured my membership.)  Do you have a fridge you think is even better? The couple we bought the Sub-Zero from are investing in a Miele Smart fridge and a La Cornue stove and vent hood. Sigh. Although, I’m not entirely envious of their Smart appliance. From the hacking stories we’ve heard, they might not be such a smart idea. For now, we’re going analog with our new pretty beast.

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