Santa Barbara street sign photographs and guest bedroom reveals



A few years ago, I came up with an idea to create custom art for a client’s guest bedroom. Since the house was here in Santa Barbara, and the room was a guest room, I thought it would be fun to take photos of street signs that were iconic to Santa Barbara (Santa Barbara Street, Mission Street, California Street) and print, frame, and hang them ourselves.




Santa Barbara street sign photography



Cute/fun/intriguing, right? But the project never got off the ground. Or, more to the point, neither the client nor I made the time to go around snapping street signs.


Fast forward five years later to the client who has




an open mind..


and an iPhone that takes very good photos!



And that is how my idea for custom Santa Barbara street sign photographs, to hang in a guest bedroom, finally came to fruition.



A guest room which began like this…





Guest Bedroom before




Well, not exactly like this. The first element to be ordered was the seagrass headboard which was prevented from having its true moment until we fixed up the rest of the room.



Which we did…





Guest bedroom shot after




There was a bit of cajoling before I could convince her of the greatness of this nightstand from Pottery Barn, but the moment we placed it she agreed it added the right amount of world-traveler-whimsy to the space.





Pottery Barn trunk side table glass table lamp



The other side of the bed…




Nightstand jute shade lamp





And the other side of the room with a new lamp, pillows and accessories…




One day, or so I’m promised, we can reupholster that chair in an oatmeal shade of Belgian linen. For now, it got a pillow makeover. The orange table lamp was a super find as it tied in so nicely with the custom orange bolster pillow.  PS, My client sewed all the pillows herself with fabric we selected from Your Remnant Store.




White bed seagrass headboard 2





Not bad, eh?





Three blue and white Euros pillows on bed



Note: The street sign photos were taken on a regular ol’ iPhone and printed in sepia at regular ol’ Costco. We popped them into pre-fab frames from Aaron Brother’s and…ta da…inexpensive, original art, ideal for a Santa Barbara guest bedroom was born!



Speaking of guest bedrooms, here’s Guest Bedroom Number Two as I first saw it…





Guest bedroom before






Not bad. It has that all-white bed thing going for it. But we could do better, so it was transformed into this…





Guest bedroom after 1



The nightstands…





Nightstand in guest bedroom





Opposite wall…





Guest bedroom other view(More Santa Barbara-themed art, this time an old rendering of the Santa Barbara Mission.)





Notice the lighter version of the seagrass headboard that we used in the other bedroom and, my favorite part, the custom Euro pillows (Kravet fabric: Nashik/Bluemoon) that my client was happy to sew herself!





Guest bedroom with three pillows seagrasss headboard





Here’s to turning the ideas floating around in our heads into finished projects! 🙂




Happy weekend!



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Succulents and roses: DIY wedding bouquet!


Before there was a burgeoning baby bump…




Kisha bump shot by plants




before each day was a new day to receive different advice on co-sleeping, sleep training, and BPA-free bottles; another opportunity to try to fathom how a little baby will change our lives in such a big way, there were more casual thoughts…




like how to plan a DIY wedding.




It feels like forever ago, but just last September we had our Big Day full of rustic this and handmade that and one of the best elements was the bouquet




…inspired by this one!




Meryl Brown Bouquet inspiration




Oh so pretty, but also so pricey which prompted the DIY idea.



The task began with step one…



Pick your flora. I was lucky enough to have the help of a friend and mentor who just happened to have an account at a wholesale nursery, but flowers from Trader Joe’s, Costco, and/or your local Farmer’s Market, are also reasonable sources.




flowers at florist




Act fast or wear a parka; it’s cold in there!



I remember those walk-in refrigerator rooms being so chilly I had to grab a blanket from the car to wrap myself in like I was wearing a giant shawl–if shawls came in orange fleece. Now, that I’m pregnant and like a walking fevered person who daydreams about ice hotels and the walk-in at Costco where they keep the milk and eggs, this frigid rooms sounds teeth-chatteringly pleasant.




Flowers at wholesale florist




 Hurry, before the frost bite sets in!





Greenery at wholesale florist




Lay out your picks before you make your final purchase.



Just like designing a room, you want all the components to work together. I brought the stump and glass hurricane along with us as a reminder of what the centerpieces would look like. Notice how the glass is starting to fog from being in the fridge one moment, the tepid air the next. To my annoyance, my eye glasses were doing the exact same thing so I had to view our selection through a foggy haze. Good thing I had another set of eyes with me. Perhaps that should be the next tip.



Bring along a friend whose opinions you value. You’re stressed out enough; don’t try to tackle this alone.




Flowers lined up at wholesale florist




Once at home, set the stems in buckets of water and place the bucket in the fridge until the moment you are ready to assemble your bouquet. (Once your bouquet is made, it will go back in the fridge to chill until it’s ceremony time.)



Gather your supplies: floral wire, floral tape, scissors, wide ribbon and pearl hat pins.





Tools for DIY bouquet




Arrange a small cluster of flowers, working from the center, out. You will end up making a few of these small groupings and wrapping them together as one large bouquet.







DIY bouquet



We skipped the succulents for my bouquet, but they are so easy to work with that I did a bouquet-making-reenactment to show you how.



Gather your succulents.




Succulents for wedding bouquet




Use your fingers to pinch off any extra leaves.





Pinch leaves off succulent make bouquet





Once you have a clean stem, insert floral wire near the top and pull through to create two loose ends dangling near the stem.






Floral wire in succulent bouquet





Wrap the two loose ends together. 





wrapping floral wire succulent bouquet





Cover the wire “stem” by wrapping it with floral tape. Tug at it as you go so the tape will become tacky and stick to itself.






wrap floral wire with floral tape diy bouquet




Repeat this process for each succulent floret.





wrap succulents floral tape diy wedding bouquet




Continue making your small groupings until you are ready to bring them together and wrap as one.






make your own bouquet





As you build your bouquet, stand in front of a mirror and hold your bouquet in front of you so you can see how it will be viewed during the ceremony and in photos.






making your own wedding bouquet





When you have it just right, wrap the stems together with floral tape. Submerge the bottom of the stems in a container of water inside your refrigerator. Just before the ceremony, wrap the floral tape with ribbon starting at the top and working your way down. Tuck in or fold over the raw edge of the ribbon and pin it in place. For extra security, pin the ribbon at both the bottom and top. 




I did not have a picture of this process as my friend kindly did this step for me while I was getting ready, so I did another reenactment as seen below.





DIY succulent wedding bouquet





We used the leftover flowers to decorate the cake.





wedding cake succulents tree stump





We used them for the centerpieces, as well. Since the wedding was located in a high-fire area, we only used battery-operated candles so we didn’t risk the fern fronds burning. Instead, when night fell, they looked so pretty with the glow of the candle behind them.






wedding centerpiece ferns succulents tree tump




The same technique of wiring and wrapping was used to create the boutonnieres and for the bridesmaid bouquets…





Bride and bridesmaids holding wedding bouquets over faces





and the rest went to the bouquet!






Bouquet 2



See? Totally easy!



Thank you to Jennifer Taylor of Taylor House Interiors for teaching me how it’s done so I could have a bouquet just as pretty as the one that was not in the budget! 🙂




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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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Five-minute DIY circle painting!

I was inspired by the circle painting on the left.



Image via Houzz; design by Amber Interiors.



In fact, I was inspired by the entire space but it’s a completely different design direction than we’re taking our house since our 1958 house is whispering (yelling, in some areas) that it should go modern. Thus, we’ve installed a frosted glass and aluminum front door; the single panel Shaker style interior doors we ordered (a full 11 weeks ago, but were back-ordered!) to replace our current, flat panel, hollow doors (the ones with the veneer that has begun to split and peel at the bottom creating an unsightly, pants-snagging “fringe” effect) go in tomorrow; and, as far as trim, we’re opting for minimal and as many ninety degree angles as possible. Not an arch in sight!



But the circle painting…it could certainly fit into almost any decor. Including ours!



So I hacked it…




And so can you!




So let’s get started!




Like any good hack, it begins with an IKEA product: the  27 1/2″  x 39 1/4″ RIBBA* frame for $24.99.




Ribba practice drawing circles




*Note: I chose a black frame, but when I just looked at IKEA online, the only colors listed for this size were Brown or Aluminum; however, those colors would work as well. Maybe the Brown more than the Aluminum-if we’re going to get picky about it.



1. Sketch the design on a piece of paper to get your wrist warmed up. Then, using a wide brush and black acrylic craft paint, paint a trial run directly on the plastic-wrapped frame. This helps your hand and wrist get a sense of how big those circles must be in order to fit the scale of the frame. If you don’t like your first go-round, if you work fast enough, you can use a wet paper towel to wash off the first attempt, and try again.




Paint in foil in bowl




Handy tip: I like to pour my paint into any disposable plastic container (i.e., yogurt, salsa, wrinkle cream) so I can feel okay about dumping (recycling) it when the the little bit of remaining paint has dried and can easily be peeled away. However, with no plastic containers available, I wrapped a porcelain bowl with foil which completely protected the bowl and made for easy clean up and I have now decided this is the superior method.





Ribba template




2. Place your brown craft paper on the ground. Use the RIBBA paper that comes with the frame, which is conveniently the same size as the plexiglass, to create your template and cut your craft paper to size.




DIY black painting circles drying





3. If you have as little patience as I do, and are into this self-imposed five minute deadline thing, a hairdryer will help speed up the drying process.




4. Use a black Sharpie marker to autograph your art so everyone who sees the image can associate its universal appeal with little ol’ you. Once the image has dried, pop it back into the frame in preparation for hanging your masterpiece.



Note: And don’t, please don’t, stare at the plexiglass and wonder why IKEA was “so stupid!” as to print “IKEA” on both sides of the plexiglass, then call your mom to schedule the next pilgrimage to IKEA because, you whine, “They will have to take this useless thing back; I can’t use it with “IKEA” stamped all over it!” only to take a nap from which you awaken refreshed with your pregnant brain recharged and back to the state of a normal, thinking person’s brain and then realize the plexiglass was covered with stamped, protective sheets of plastic that peel off both sides of the plexiglass in under two seconds.  And then you deeply regret using the word “stupid” and compulsively eat three brownies to make the universe feel right again. Nope, don’t do that.




Black circles modern DIY painting




Full disclosure:  In our house where the flooring is pulled up to expose the concrete (and we’re not talking the pretty, intentional polished kind but the When-are-those-darn floors coming, again? variety), and every interior door and jamb has been ripped from the walls in preparation for new doors, and the dining table is hanging out in the living room, where it really doesn’t fit, because the new doors are in the dining room, you might understand how there is NO PLACE TO PHOTOGRAPH OUR HOUSE WHERE IT DOESN’T LOOK LIKE A CONSTRUCTION ZONE except for in front of the fireplace! So the ornate gilded mirror that usually lives above the fireplace came down and I put my styling powers to the test to give you a hint of how this painting could look…



…in your normal, I’m just guessing here, non-construction zone house.





However, the moment those fireplace photos were snapped, I hung the circle painting where it will really live…




Black circles DIY painting entry




In the entry where, one day, when the doors and floors are installed and the walls are painted, and we move the heater up to the attic so the intake vent can be relocated as a ceiling vent and not make it an illogical place to set a basket, this space will look so pretty with a circle painting.


One day! 🙂




Happy Friday!





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Biggest (little) project!

I had to think for a moment about how to categorize this post. Design Musings? Nah, that’s better suited for a future post on nurseries. Before and After? (I could show you some tummy-tracking selfies that might make you gasp, “How much weight are you supposed to gain in the first trimester?!” and understand why my wardrobe has had so many reruns as of late. Black stretchy pants and Indian tunic: I couldn’t have put off buying actual maternity clothes for so long without you!) Nope, this one is definitely going to be filed under Projects.



Projects with an estimated completion date…



of 11/15/15.





Bun in the oven



Translation: As of this posting, I am 16 weeks pregnant! And, yes, that blue oven means something: it’s a boy!



A big thanks to Farid at Reid’s Appliances who never balked once when I walked in toting a tiny paper bag containing the Mexican pastry I bought down the street for the sole purpose of It Was The Only Pastry That Didn’t Have Pink Frosting, and asked, “Would it be all right if I did a ‘Bun in the Oven’ photo shoot using your ovens?”*


*I really wish I could tell you who makes this awesome looking oven but lately my hormone-addled brain has experienced a few, “Hmm. That’s a good question,” moments.  Ah “pregnancy brain”, how long will I get to use you as an excuse?


But, I can tell you this. We’re very, very excited and we’re scrambling to transform our house’s current state of bare concrete floors (when JB, in a moment of great ambition, last winter, pulled up our carpet, we never imagined we’d be staring at this unsightly, pitted concrete for this long), the splitting-in-long-strips-at-the-bottom, noise-transferring hollow core doors with builder-grade brass handles, the walls painted a shade I’ve, not so affectionately, termed Band-Aid, and…oh, yeah there’s that little (big!) detail of transforming the guest room which has served as JB’s walk-in closet for far too long (or from the moment we moved in and I took over ours) into a Pin-It worthy nursery.


But, in other news, we just found out the house next door to ours is for sale which prompted us to take a good long, shock-inducing look at our front yard–that we recently had stripped and yanked of its former ivy ground cover, yet that tenacious ivy soldiers on and is popping back up like a darn weed–and inspired us to spend the weekend fixing up the front yard first, before we drive the price of the nice neighbor’s house down! I figure I better do all I can while I still have the gusto.




Happy, gusto-filled, weekend to you!



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How to survive a remodel!



Remodels are fun at The Beginning (when the arrival of a crew and the removal of a wall means, “This is really happening!”) and at The End (when all that planning, hard work and check writing results in a fantastically revamped living space)–but, in the middle, they can be full of so many twists, turns, and travails, that your sanity feels at risk.





House plans tape measure hammerImage source:




If you can move out, do. But if you plan to stick it out at home during your remodel, here are some tips for survival.




Beam construction photo




Choose wisely: If you go the contractor route, go for the best reputation, not the lowest bid. Ask around. Check references. Visit an ongoing job and speak to the owners of a house that was remodeled long enough ago (over two years) that if the work was shoddy, problems would’ve already arisen. Remember, cheap labor is only cheap until you have to pay to redo it.




Your contract should include a scope of services, a timeline estimate, payment terms, an outline of what materials will be used, and what is and is not included. If you have any special requests such as no radio playing or smoking on the premises or, “If you deposit debris on my rose garden, I will come unglued!”now is the time to state them. As the job progresses, email any requests or changes so you have a written record. This will help avoid, “But I thought we said…” discussions later.




Stick around: Now is not the time to take a vacation. Even if you think you’ve thought of everything, there will be unforeseen issues and you will need to be available to make design decisions, pronto, lest your job comes to a screeching, time-and-money-gobbling halt.




demo studs debris remodelImage source:





Rise and design: Crews generally like to begin at 7 am. To avoid a discussion about surprise dry rot while standing in your pajamas, blinking the sleep out of your eyes, prepare to become an early riser.




Not so fast: Until walls are opened, you just don’t know what will be found. Hopefully not mold, dry rot, or galvanized pipes, but there will likely be something. Brace yourself. Problems aren’t usually solved immediately and kitchens can take months to redo–no matter what you see on television.





Remodel constructionImage source: Huff Insurance




Plan ahead: Permits take time, ditto anything ordered from Europe or with the word “custom” in front of it. To avoid costly delays, have your design planned down to the last slow-close hinge and make sure materials are on site, ready for installation, before the installer arrives. You don’t want your plumber standing around tapping his foot, and counting dollar signs in his head, while you’re on the phone tracking down your back-ordered faucet!





Casa camping: Preserve one area as your sanctuary from all the noise, dust and strangers who have invaded your home. A makeshift kitchen can be set up in a garage or laundry room. (Freeze meals ahead of time.) A toaster oven, hotplate and paper plates will become your new best friends. If you’re remodeling bathrooms, do one at a time so you do not find yourself signing up for a family YMCA membership just to keep up with personal hygiene.




Construction debris




Here, there, everywhere: Dust will happen. Work areas should be sealed off with plastic sheets and painter’s tape or, better yet, plastic sheets with a double-sided zipper. Remove and store what you can, especially fragile items and sensitive electronic equipment.




Vacate the premises: Stay away when chemical-laden materials (adhesives, paint, stain, etc.) are being used. Really, isn’t this the perfect excuse for a much-needed hotel getaway? There will be times when your electricity, gas, and water will be shut off. Plan accordingly.





Entry tile demo




Your furry family: If you find the sound of a jackhammer unbearable, imagine how it affects Fido’s ears! At least you know why that stranger is making loud noises. Fido doesn’t. Warning: Your otherwise fenced yard may be opened for heavy equipment to enter. With doors removed or left ajar, startled pets may flee or run right into dangerous machinery. Create a safe haven indoors with toys and blankets to burrow into when the volume cranks up. And prepare to leash up the dogs for around-the-block potty breaks more times than you’d ever thought necessary.





Construction equipment demo day





Warn thy neighbor: Loud noises, too many parked trucks and an unsightly dumpster in your front yard can make your neighbors turn their noses up at you faster than you can say, “porta potty fumes”. Informing them in advance, offering invites for sneak peeks, and even providing a thank-you-for-your-patience potted plant at the end will go a long way towards keeping the peace.





Construction three story houseImage source: Unknown




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




Happy Monday!


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Artificial grass: not always greener!



There are many reasons to consider a synthetic lawn. “California is in a drought!” likely tops the list and the rationale blooms from there: Fake grass won’t develop unsightly brown patches no matter how many times Mr. Foo Foo tinkles on it. It will thrive under the canopy of your large shade tree where no other plants can survive. It can be installed around the perimeter of a swimming pool–splashes of chlorinated or saline water be damned! Best of all, it will look amazing. Amazing like you spend every weekend weeding and mowing and fertilizing–except you won’t have to, for the life of the lawn.




Fake grass pool modern paversSource: Greener Better Lawns



Sounds intriguing, right? A perfect green lawn? Bring it on! Curb appeal can be yours no matter how black your thumb. But not so fast. While there are copious reasons to go faux, there are some equally compelling reasons not to. Here’s what you need to know before you start thinking artificial grass is always greener.



fake-grass-with-stones-2  Source: Greener Better Lawns




Why you might like it: If we’re going to talk pros and cons, to be fair, I should add synthetic grass is a nice alternative when you’re allergic to the real stuff. It reduces the potential of dirt and mud tracked into your home and will appear lush all year long. And, by reducing water use and eliminating the need for fertilizers, pesticides and mowers, it can seem like a green solution–but more on that later.



Lawn and swimming pool with sand stone borderSource: Greener Better Lawns




The cost: This is a case of you get what you pay for and get ready to pay a lot. The cheap stuff goes for $2-$3 a square foot and will look cheap, whereas quality turf can cost upwards of $7 per square foot. Factor in supplies and labor and artificial turf can run up to $22 per square foot, installed.




modern fake lawn built in bench modern landscapeSource: Unknown



The look: The short, flat, monochromatic faux grass of yesteryear has been replaced with thick, long blades that come complete with built-in “dead” pieces that make it, at least in the high-end varieties, read as very natural.





Longevity: A good synthetic grass is made of polypropylene or polyethylene. Avoid those made of nylon, which can curl and turn crunchy when exposed to the sun.



Synthetic lawn patio modern chairs Source: Lonny





Maintenance: Hey, isn’t it supposed to be maintenance-free? Not exactly. Weeds can grow in areas where dust or dead leaves accumulate. And that claim of never having to water is a bit off the meter. You’ll still need to periodically rinse the faux lawn to remove dust and, if you own animals, this rinsing becomes imperative to remove the stinky (although invisible) scent of urine. The infill or top-dressing will also break down and can require replacement in as few as three years.





The sound: There is an unexpected rustle, underfoot.





Dirtier than dirt: Unlike real grass, synthetic grass doesn’t harbor the helpful microorganisms that break down the bacteria found in bird droppings, animal waste and dust, which means that faux grass can easily become a breeding ground for harmful bacteria. (Some sport teams have had to disinfect their Astroturf to prevent athletes from catching MRSA and Staph.)


 Harold Leidner Landscape faux lawn giant chess piecesSource: Harold Leidner Landscape Architects





The scent: There are complaints of unpleasant odors as the plastic grass heats in the sun. Add pets to the mix and you do the olfactory math. Some volcanic ash infills (such as ZeoFill) help absorb the moisture of pet urine, but do nothing regarding the bacteria. You may need an additional product–made by the same company, and, notably, available in a “fresh grass” fragrance–to add good bacteria to break down the urine, and yet another product to disinfect the grass and kill the bad bacteria.




 Margie Grace landscape design fake grass contemporary landscape pod chairsSource: Margie Grace Landscape Design





Feeling hot, hot, hot: Synthetic grass can become dangerously hot in the direct sun. A 2012 study by Penn State sites surface temps reaching up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Other studies have shown the soil 2 inches below the grass registering an additional 20 degrees hotter. When Penn State concludes that athletes should avoid Astroturf during the sun’s peak hours, for their safety, consider your bare feet and/or your pet’s bare paws.




Black pug artificial turn lawnSource: Chenango Contracting




Is it green?: Artificial grass is touted as Eco-friendly, but many brands cannot be recycled and will wind up in the landfill. If you frequently wash your faux lawn to rid it of feces and urine, your water use could actually be greater than with a live lawn. Living grass provides a habitat for the bugs that birds eat, absorbs our carbon monoxide and gives us oxygen. In contrast, there is a real concern that when a petroleum-based product like faux grass is set out in the sun, it can off-gas, raise the ambient temperature and increase the soil temperature, affecting the root system of your surrounding, live, plants.






What are your thoughts? Are you considering faux grass? Or, more to the point, are you STILL considering faux grass?



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Project updates!

I’d love to show you some Afters. The pretty stuff. Styled and well lit. But, right now, every project I’m working on is, unfortunately, so far from its reveal that if I waited until each was ready for a full feature, I’d be forced to completely rely on posting my past newspaper columns as new posts. As it is, with my posting rate being as here, there and where? as it has been, I’m already worried I’m going to be asked to turn in my blogger badge*.



*Blogger badge: totally fictional concept, thank goodness!



So this post is to let you know, I haven’t just been sitting around popping bon bons in my mouth.*



*Although, that sounds lovely about now.



Instead, there are projects happening. Projects like this…



See the merlot-colored wall in this wine cellar? Sure it was wine colored and all, but it also made the space feel dark and oppressive and like the wall was thrusting forward and engulfing what little space there was so I had my client change it to a much lighter paint color (which, ahem, exactly works with the adjacent natural stone wall), Pale Almond (OC-2)  by Benjamin Moore.




Wine room wall before



Alas, it somehow never dawned on me to capture the After so you’ll just have to imagine a HUGE IMPROVEMENT and focus on this next photo featuring a header painted a color that made it read like a super long Band-Aid.




Wine room header before




I had my go-to guy cover it by installing reclaimed shiplap from Indo Teak from Pioneer Floors. A tin ceiling went up and…my, how much better it looks! Oh, hey, you can see the lighter wall reflected in the glass if you look just below the reflection of the painting. (See below.)





Wine room with wood plank wall



This newly framed bathroom is oh so close to being finished. When I came on board, it looked like this…




Bathroom gutted



Then it looked like this…




Shower coating walls




Flooring went down…




Bathroom floor install



Tile and a marble door surround went up…




Shower progress



It is now more finished than this (above) shot, but it’s still not quite, almost there, how long is this going to take already?, ready. But, soon. Soon, promises the contractor.




This guest bedroom went from this disheveled state…





Guest bedroom before





To this. With a headboard and custom pillows on their way and art to be hung. PS, I was so pleased with these nightstands  from Home Decorators Club and they were quite reasonable!





Guest bedroom in progress




I procured a giant (hard to tell from the photo, but this hammered silver bowl was about 24″ in diameter) container and planted it with live succulents for this…





Succulents in metal bowl



equally gargantuan dining table. Note: One day I’ll remember to take a photo of the flax-colored fixed panels that we installed above these windows. They hang from custom made oil rubbed bronze drapery rods that are oh so stylish. But a view is still a view.





Succulent display dining room



This empty space…




Kitchen progress



Now has cabinets!





Kitchen cabinets installed



And they’re painted and there are Carrara countertops and beautiful smoky grey glazed tiles for the backsplash and a cute light above the sink…but the gosh darn hardware is taking forever to arrive.




Kitchen cabinets painted



I styled this bathroom…




Free standing tub bathroom before



like this…





Free standing tub and sidetable




This house is mid-maekover





Improvements on front of house



and this shot shows its new driveway…





House new driveway



And brick herringbone pathway…




Herringbone brick path




This bathroom is getting new everything, but I am kind of crazy for this picture as a Before shot since it looks so completely awful.




Bathroom before




Even our house got some sprucing. Check out the Before, featuring way too much ivy…





Ivy covered yard front



The During!




Front back




Yes, I know, it’s so far from an After. Not even close. But that’s the point. None of these are. They are messy, in-progress, we’re gettin’ there photos. Just like real life.



You know, In the spirit of Keepin’ it Real? Don’t worry, there will be prettier stuff to come. Also, just like real life.



Happy weekend!






Hello, Progress!

A few weeks ago, these big machines pulled up in our driveway…




Construction equipment demo day





and our steps, retaining wall, and patio that used to look like this…





Patio before(We dismantled the pergola before they arrived.)





became this rather large pile of dirt.






View of yard demo




Even though our backyard was forced to enter the “It’ll loook worse before it looks better” stage, (and it looked baaaad!) each day something new and exciting would happen–always accompanied by a lot of noise, dust, and the smell of gasoline that made us wonder, “What is that?” (Apparently gasoline is used to grease the plywood forms so they will not stick to the newly poured concrete. Apparently.)*




*Or someone spilled some gasoline while filling the big machines because the forms were up for two days, yet the air generally smelled for weeks after.




Forms for retaining wall




After some design decisions that made us wonder, “Ahck, was that the right choice?”–because this was our first (concrete) rodeo–our confidence grew as the new retaining wall, steps and patio were slowly unveiled.





Smoothing concrete patio





Check out the plywood boards the workers wore strapped to their feet to prevent footprints! Kinda like snowshoes!






Stamping concrete patio




Grooves were made every 48″ square as both an aesthetic choice and to prevent cracking. A brushed finish was added to the concrete that was colored Dark Grey–at least, in theory. (Despite the name, the color cured to one that is much closer to a light, bluish grey.)





When the patio and stairs were finally smoothed and finished, they required 24 hours of drying time before we could step on them…






Concrete patio stamped








and do a little dance for joy because we LOVED how it all turned out!






New poured concrete patio






The surrounding area still needs plants galore and some amazing outdoor furniture and styling before it is really ready for its closeup. (JB walked by as I was typing this and remarked, “The patio is not ready for a reveal!”)




But who knows how far off that will be? For now, we have an RH fire pit (from the 40% off sale at the RH outlet. We made the forty minute trek for patio furniture which, sadly, was either too gargantuan or too puny and as we stood there willing it to be otherwise, a salesperson wheeled the very fire pit I was hoping they’d have and parked it in front of our feet–like it was a sign from the furniture gods! At least that’s what I kept telling JB!). And, really, what more does a patio need?






Restoration Hardware fire box






Oh, right, chairs!







New patio RH fire table patio chairs





Don’t worry, I’m on it. 🙂





How about you? Have you been sprucing up your yard in the spirit of “Spring has sprung”?




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The eggceptional style of ostrich eggs!

Well, we’ve all seen chicken eggs used to decorate for Spring. Natural, dyed, real or faux, they look pretty and are likely to inspire at least one, “Aw, isn’t that cute?” But only in this season. After Easter, keep those same eggs on display and you’re more likely to hear, “Have you cracked up?”




Two ostriches walkingImage source.



At least that’s the case for chicken eggs. But ostrich eggs are the egg anomaly. Up to 7″ long and weighing as much as 5 lbs, they’re the largest of all living species’ eggs. (The giant moa of New Zealand and elephant birds of Madagascar, now extinct, produced larger eggs.)





Single ostrich eggImage source.




As for appearance, no dye is necessary; their beautiful cream-toned shell looks best in the buff. And they have year-round appeal. In other words, they’re impressively large objects of natural, timeless beauty with a side order of quirkiness. Here are some ways to incorporate them into your home.





Ostrich eggs in bowl antlersSource unknown.





A good egg: I’ve had a bowl of ostrich eggs resting either on my buffet, coffee or entry table for years and an ostrich egg lamp on my bedside table that I found at a garage sale for $15 and have treasured ever since. But as much as I have a thing for ostrich eggs, I knew next to nothing about the birds that produce them. A quick internet search changed that. Allow me to boil my hours of research into these few fun facts.





Ostrich egg lamp bedsideSource: my bedroom. There’s Lilo (in the framed photo) lounging in leopard print.







Three baby ostriches open mouthsImage source.






Did you know?: Ostriches are native to South Africa. There farmers encourage them to roam alongside their sheep and cattle because, while ostriches eat a mostly vegetarian diet of grasses, fruits, flowers and the occasional locust, they can also take down the prey of their fellow grazers (think mountain lions) with one swift kick. If you’re human, you may also be kicked and killed, but the ostrich is just as likely to be afraid of you and run away–clocking in at speeds up to 43 mph–or hide, laying its body flat to the ground.







Ostrich eggs in bowl Elle Decor nude gallery wallSource Elle Decor.





But they won’t be burying their heads in the sand. That myth likely stems from their system for nest building. A dominant male uses its head to dig a hole in the sand, creating a nest for his hens’ eggs. While doing so, his head appears to be buried, as does the female’s as she dips her head into the nest to turn the eggs. No head burying involved! Instead, if she’s the dominant female, she’s likely too busy sniffing out the weaker females’ eggs and tossing them out of the nest, in an alpha-imposed natural selection process.






Ostrich egg mirror Elle decorSource Elle Decor.





Foot fact: Ostriches can also be a bit fumbly on their feet and have been known to step on and crush their own beautiful eggs. This may or may not have something to do with their brains reportedly being the same size as their eyeballs!





Ostrich eggs bowl gallery wallSource Elle Decor.





Incredible and edible: Ostriches lack teeth, so they swallow pebbles to grind food in their gizzards. They can live for an average of 75 years, growing a foot per month during their first year of life! An adult female can lay eggs until age 40 at an average of 60 per annum (the record is 100!) but the laying–and mortality–is often cut short because ostrich skin is a fashionable alternative to cow leather, their plumes are popular for feather dusters (and chic lights) and their meat (touted to be low in fat and cholesterol and to taste more like steak than chicken) makes regular appearances on menus in Europe.





Ostrich feather lightImage source.






The sunny side: Here in Santa Barbara, we’re lucky enough to live forty five minutes away from OstrichLand in Buellton where you can purchase fresh eggs that will keep you in scrambled eggs for days. (One ostrich egg equals 18-24 chicken eggs.) If you blow the shell yourself you’ll end up with an eggshell souvenir and DIY pride. Don’t worry, you’ll have time to build up your egg-blowing courage. OstrichLand says a fresh ostrich egg will keep for 30 days unrefrigerated and 60 days in your fridge.





Ostrich egg light South African hotel House BeautifulSource House Beautiful.





Do try this at home!: When you’re ready, wash the shell with hot soapy water. Determine which end you want the hole to be on and rest the opposite end in a coffee mug. Grab a Phillips screwdriver, a hammer, a skewer, and a plastic straw. Position your screwdriver where you’d like the hole and tap the hammer down on the top of the screwdriver’s handle. The shell is about .06″ thick so this may take a few taps. Once you start the hole, enlarge it by slanting the screwdriver and chipping away until the hole widens. When the hole becomes the size of a dime, insert a wooden skewer and stir the egg and yolk to break it up making it easier to flow out of the hole. For good measure, give the egg a vigorous shake, as well.





Next: Insert a plastic straw into the hole, suspend the egg over a large bowl and begin blowing air into the straw. Yolk and egg white will blow up through the space surrounding the straw. Keep going until all the insides are extracted. Rinse the egg inside and out with warm soapy water, pour out the excess water and set it in a safe place to air dry.






Ostrich egg decor Elle decorSource Elle Decor.





Good eats: Once the contents of your egg are removed from the shell, if refrigerated they’ll have an edible lifespan of about a week and a half. Or you can freeze them. You’ll end up with a mixture of commingled white and yolk which is ideal for scrambled eggs, omelets, and quiches. Ostrich eggs tend to be lighter and fluffier than chicken eggs. Tip: If the egg mix starts to smell bad, it is bad and you should toss it.



Happy, almost, Easter!




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


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