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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Our new planter boxes and the magical, regenerating onions!



When we bought our house last September, one of our pressing projects was to build planter boxes. We loved the idea of eating our way through a vegetable garden (fresh, organic, and cheaper than Whole Foods–oh my!) and we had the perfect spot in mind….




The front yard.



Bark and land




Before you ask, “Isn’t there a backyard?” Well, yes, there is, but it’s somewhat sloped and already bursting with specimens of full-grown this, that, and the other thing–(a redwood tree here, a ginkgo tree there, yuccas, a South African Coral tree, ferns, succulents and many more; my mom captured it well when she proclaimed, “It looks like something Dr. Seuss would have designed.”)–that have already laid claim to the land.


Meanwhile, the front yard had this unused space that was just sitting there…looking lonely and desperate for something cool. And we decided cool would be planter boxes.


Yeah, I know. I can already envision (in the very distant future) potential buyers grimacing as they wonder aloud, “Planter boxes in the front yard?” But those won’t be our buyers. Our buyers will say, “Great use of space. And I see the owners have a thing for kale. Let’s offer over the asking price!”


Admittedly, there was some opposition. One family member said we should plant grass. What? We’re in a drought. There was another–completely reasonable–idea posited to build a patio in the front.  And we pooh-poohed it explaining there’s already one in the back and we prefer our outdoor living to take place in the backyard where (if the mood strikes us) we can cruise around in our pajamas and unkempt hair, without suffering the stares of the dog walkers (crucial because the mood strikes kinda often). Besides, the front yard gets a surplus of sunshine.



So, in the end, the front yard won! We began the project by clearing the existing bark to level the land and make way for the 4′ x 10′ boxes JB built from redwood.



Raking barkSexy leg shot. Two boxes down, one to go.




And when all three boxes were built, we stood back ready to pat each other on the back for work well done…



and we realized the boxes sort of resembled coffins.








But we held strong to our conviction that we had chosen the right spot. And crossed our fingers the boxes would look less creepy when they were filled with dirt and planted with plants. (Spoiler alert: they did.)




Planter boxes and Lilo




Before adding dirt, I laid 4′ x 25′ sheets of hardware cloth over the soil and cut the excess with wire clippers.  Note: Hardware cloth does cost more than chicken wire, but is a wise investment if you have gophers. Hardware cloth has smaller holes and thicker wire and, therefore, makes a superior gopher barricade.


The rolls were 4′ wide (as were the boxes) which didn’t allow enough room to run the edges of the cloth slightly up the sides, so I ran the rolls the long way and fastened their ends to the sides of the planter boxes using a staple gun.





Empty planter boxNot yet gopher-proof.




Galvanized wire





I overlapped the hardware cloth in the main body of the boxes and used galvanized wire to sew the overlap shut. (“Body” and “boxes” in one sentence? Total coffin-lingo.)






Weaving wire







Empty planter box2

Now the message was clear: “No vacancy for gophers.”






Giant pile of dirt




We ordered, and hauled, (60 wheelbarrow trips from the driveway, no less) potting soil from where it was delivered and dumped to the boxes…many, many, many yards away.





Buying lettuces



Then we purchased tiny plants…and watched them grow…


from this…






into this!




Planted planter boxes



It looks like it’s raining sun rays.  JB added caps to the boxes so when you are weeding or harvesting and possibly wearing a skirt, or short shorts, or a bathrobe, instead of bending over, you can sit on the sides, and keep your dignity. (Our front yard is perched on a hill.)





Planter boxes other viewThe other side.




I’m so happy we are now the proud owners of planter boxes. In the end, I think it was a great use of space and the excitement of foraging for veggies in our own garden has not lost its charm. But, perhaps my favorite part of having a planter box garden, has been discovering the magical regenerative power of green onions.



My mom deserves the credit. She told me to save the ends of my store-bought green onions and plant them.




Green onions wholeI started with these.





Chopped green onionUsed the chopped part for a salad and saved the ends.





Planting green onioinPlanted the ends. Note: Fuchsia Crayola marking on pointer finger, completely optional; dirt under fingernails: a must.







New onion growth



And about a week later, the stumpy ends had grown into fresh green onions. Like a lizard’s tail growing back after a cat whacks it off. Only edible. And at least palatable.



How about you, have you tackled any planter boxes lately? Or planted any kale? I’m hoping you’re answering yes so you might be able to answer this question: What do you do when aphids decide to camp out on your kale? I’ve read suggestions online to soak the picked leaves for 20 minutes to an hour in warm water and a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. I plan to try it but if there’s any better way, I’m all ears. Thanks, in advance!

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Fit for a gnome: Tips to make your own terrarium garden!

Recently I needed to come up with a birthday present for a friend–in a jiffy.  A friend I had no idea what to get. A friend who doesn’t like chocolate so homemade brownies or toffee were out of the question. But a friend who likes plants.



Then it hit me, terrariums are kind of A Thing right now.




2 terrariums west elmImage via West Elm




They’re such A Thing, in fact, the other day I saw a fake one (real glass housing artificial succulents submerged in resin-sealed soil) in HomeGoods. For $50!!!



Why, right? Why when you can make a real one yourself for next to nothing.




One that’s alive and beautiful, like a mini indoor-garden for your coffee table or desk.





Three terrariumsImage via West Elm




So, the idea sprung. I would make her a terrarium.




And this is how I did it…





Empty vase




Begin with a clean glass vase (square or round, but on the squatty side with a large, open mouth you can fit your hand through). Alternately, you could use a mason jar or a round, glass goldfish bowl.




Vase with rocks




Add a 1″ layer of pebbles, 1/4″ in size or smaller. Option: you can spread a layer of sheet moss atop the pebbles to soak up any excess water and prevent soil from falling through the pebbles.




vase with dirt




Sprinkle 2-3” of potting soil*—the depth should be determined by the length of your plants’ roots—onto the pebbles (or onto the layer of sheet moss atop the pebbles). Tip: Add activated charcoal pieces (found at nurseries) to your soil to help fight fungus.


*(Potting mix formulated for succulents and cacti is available as most nurseries.)




Succulent terrarium





I used succulents unearthed from my garden, but small specimens of ferns work well, too. Once I positioned the plants, I submerged their roots into the soil and placed clumps of reindeer moss here and there on top of the soil and in between the plants. Not only does the moss assist in containing moisture, but it is another interesting bit of greenery to add to the mix.






Succulent terrarium and artThe staged succulent terrarium. (Pre-gift wrap.)






Fish bowl terrarium





I was so inspired, I made one for myself, too, using ferns foraged from the yard and a fishbowl that had just been taking up valuable space in the garage.  Feel free to add a Lilliputian-sized figurine. (Can you see the bronze wolf standing in mine?) Note: If you add any items from the beach, such as sea glass, driftwood or shells, be sure to thoroughly wash away any residual salt first.







Terrarium SB magIn situ.





Water your new mini indoor garden once a week and mist every few days if using ferns or other small plants such as shown above. A succulent terrarium only needs to be watered once or twice month. PS, The vase in the background was a recent HomeGoods score. It’s ceramic covered in real bark and was calling my name at $9.99. I was worried moisture might seep through causing the bark to peel off, but I’ve had it in use for three weeks now and so far, so good!








Terrarium on spool tableThe overall effect.




Bear in mind we’re just about to begin our remodel when you notice the spool side table above. I salvaged it from a job site, stained it using a mixture of hot water and instant coffee granules, and sealed it with water-based polyurethane. Yes, I know it’s is a total throwback to 60s/70s decor. Where’s my milk crate bookshelf, right? Or maybe I could have a milk crate ottoman! Just kidding. (I think.) But what’s old is new-ish and it was free and while it likely won’t be our forever side table inside the house–in the future, it might work on the patio–for now, I like its funkiness and it’s already so rustic I won’t worry if someone forgets to use a coaster before setting down a glass–good thing since that someone will likely be me!







Row of plantsOur coffee table. I told JB it’s starting to look like an overzealous botanist lives at our house. And a fan of ostrich eggs (me!).





A final note: terrariums can be placed indoors anywhere there is enough indirect sunlight such as on a side table or coffee table in a living room, on a kitchen counter or as a centerpiece on a dining room or entry table, on an office desk, or a bedside table. In other words, they look good almost anywhere!


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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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Hawaii Part 2

For all of you who received the post “Aloha, Hawaii. We miss you already!” twice, I apologize. (For those who didn’t receive it at all, I also apologize and you can scroll down to the end of this post to view it.) The long explanation involves way too many technological terms. The short one is my blog delivery service went into a precautionary shutdown mode in an effort to combat spam. Problem solved, I think. Fingers and toes are crossed!


When we last left off, we were here…



Beach feet



When I turned around, I saw this…




Dark clouds


It was very strange to look straight ahead and see blue sky and sunshine (see first picture) only to swivel my head and see an impending storm. Good thing we had our fill of Vitamin D and packed in a hurry because a few minutes later we drove down the road and saw this…



giant water spout!



Water SpoutView from Makena beach, Maui




I took this photo from the car window which means we were out of there in minutes. Good thing since we later heard reports there was a flash flood that we (phew!) barely missed.




There were other displays of water, but all more predictable such as the Spouting Horn on Kauai.




Spouting Horn pre spoutWait for it….





Spouting HornThere you go.




Or this beautiful beach (Barking Sands on Kauai) that could only be accessed after a 30 minute bucking bronco style car ride over a dirt road that was more pot holes and sharp rocks than it was dirt. As I drove us in, I scooted all the way forward in my seat with my white knuckles at the top of the steering wheel, hoping we wouldn’t get a flat tire or a busted oil pan.  When we finally arrived, I exclaimed, “This better be the best beach we have ever seen!” Well, it kind of was. It was beautiful, it was desolate (there was one other person that you can barely make out in the background, but those foot prints were all mine) but the sand was also seriously, scorchingly hot!



Barking SandsBarking Sands beach, Kauai. (Ouch, ouch, ouch!)




I read they call it Barking Sands because the sound the grains of sand make when you walk on them. I think it’s because with every step you take, your dogs are barking. I had flip flops on and my feet still felt seared. It was so painful that I ran through the sand dunes (not pictured) on the way back up to the car. Ten minutes later, back onto that bad road, I realized my watch was missing and had likely fallen into those sand dunes and that is where I decided to let it live. As much as I loved that watch, it wasn’t worth ten more minutes doubling back on that terribly bumpy road and I knew I’d never be able to slowly retrace my steps on that sand. If you go, don’t wear lose jewelry (well, ever) and consider going Mainlander style with tennis shoes and socks!






But despite having the soles of my feet slightly singed, I’m happy to report there was good design everywhere…



Hawaii GateGate on the road by Makena beach.





Tidepools ceilingThe tapa cloth ceiling of the Tidepool’s restaurant at the Hyatt, Kauai.






CabanaThe cabanas where we stayed at The Outrigger, Maui. Wouldn’t one of these cabanas be so great in a backyard? Tip: If you’re considering it, you may want to keep it without walls, as shown above; my best friend just returned from Belize and said the (enclosed) room they stayed in had a similar palapa (palm frond) roof and it gave the room a slight scent of a urine soaked basket!





Red SaltRed Salt restaurant, Kauai. Check out that capiz shell chandelier!




Red Salt wall decorA wall in the dining room of Red Salt.




Close up Red SaltUp close, they looked a bit like little Tupperware cups, but very effective from afar.




I even liked the color palette in our hotel room. It was kind of like temporarily living in a sepia-toned photograph (the art was also sepia-toned photography to go with the theme), but I thought it worked. It felt very calming and I loved the radical pattern of the carpet and the giant bamboo on the mirror.




Maui hotel



Nature is always endlessly inspiring…




Tree and oceanNear Spouting Horn, Kauai. There was going to be a rooster in this photo, until he became scared and scooted out of the frame.




WaimeaWaimea Canyon, second lookout spot (don’t just stop at the first and turn around!), Kauai.





Swinging BridgeInspiring nature and architecture (the Swinging Bridge in Hanapepe, Kauai)! I wonder what it would be like to live in that green house at the end of the bridge.




In Hawaii, they even have pleasing designs on their payphones…




Hawaiian Phone BoothYes, a payphone (in Hanalei, Kauai)! I picked it up and there was a dial tone, so I think it must work.



And if you go to Glass Beach by Port Allen…




Glass BeachGlass Beach, Kauai. (That’s beach glass and beach aluminum in my palm.)



You can see this graveyard….




GraveyardEqually eerie and beautiful.





Kaui tombstoneI know it is kapu (forbidden) to take home lava rocks lest you welcome calamity in your life. Let’s just hope there is not a similar rule for posting and blogging about photos of grave sites with lava rocks at their bases.




Each grave stone appeared entirely different (from afar, that is; I didn’t get too close). Strangely enough, there are many, many graveyards along major roads in Kauai, but what was perhaps most interesting about this one was its view…





Recycling PlantNot bad for all of eternity–except maybe the view of the recycling plant but it is the reason behind all that cool beach glass.




Our friends were staying at the Hyatt so we got to walk the grounds (and wish we were staying there)…






Feed the koi fish…




Feeding koi


To create this feeding frenzy koi vortex…an interesting design unto its own…








And, guess what the rooms at the Hyatt have? Only Carara marble floors and the Toto Washlet (bidet) toilets, of course.




Toto at HyattThe Toto Neorest 700H Dual Flush model runs a mere $4,450.00. If you don’t consider that flushing money down the toilet, you can find one here.



But it was the free things found in nature we found most fun like this view…




Taro FieldsThe taro fields in Hanalei, Kauai.




Or spotting this guy on the side of the road…




Horse I pulled over to take this shot but didn’t get any closer in case the horse didn’t care much for gawking tourists. I was feeling bad for this horse strangely tied up to a fence alongside a main road (the road on the way to the dirt path for Barking Sands) until we passed two more horses that were tied up and eating and we realized this was a two-in-one to keep the vegetation down and feed the horses for free. Not a bad idea, I guess.




And eating the local fruit fare was a must.








Exposed rambutanRambutan–not as sweet and flavorful as lychee, but still fun in it’s grape-meets-tropical-fruit melding nonetheless. Plus I love the design of their softly spiked reddish pink skins.




What about you? Are you planning a trip soon? Don’t forget to leave lose jewelry at home and consider paying someone to carry you over any beaches calling themselves Barking Sands!


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Aloha, Hawaii. We miss you already!

Aloha to you as well. I have been gone. Which means I have been a bad blogger. Bloggers aren’t supposed to stop. Ever. To sleep, maybe. Eat. But there should be no extended breaks from blogging. There are rules about this sort of thing.




And I broke them. Because I was here (see below). And JB, too. In Maui first and then Kauai.



Beach feet




To get there, required a stop here: the San Francisco airport.





San Francisco Airport globes




Have you been there lately? They have remodeled an entire terminal and added a cool display of giant silvery orbs.




SF sign(This.)



There is now a water bottle filling station which the green girl in me loved.  The penurious girl in me who didn’t want to shell out for the inflated price of airport sundries liked it too.



GlobaltapSo smart. Is this company public? Someone should look into that.





Refilling water bottleWith the push of a button clean (I hope), fresh (I doubt) water.




There was a Yoga Center with a lone stretcher whose zen we did not want to interrupt so we quietly shut the door. And burst into giggles. Only in SF.




Yoga CenterThe lotus pose and a cup of coffee? Is that what this image is suggesting?



The San Francisco airport is even cool enough to feature a display of Japanese toys down their long corridors.  My heart went all aflutter when I spotted the tower of Hello Kittys. “Kitties?” (Somehow that just looks wrong.)




Hello Kitty displayI know, I look maniacal in this photo. I like the contrast between the actual child on the left who walked right past the display versus me who demanded a photograph be taken and is beaming with almost inexplicable joy.



So, yes the SF airport had a lot to offer, but what it didn’t have was five minutes to spare for us to arrive from our connecting Santa Barbara flight and catch our flight to Kahului, Maui. As we jumped off the shuttle and ran towards the (closed) doors we were told we missed our flight by 5 minutes. They showed no mercy, so we were forced to show ourselves a good time for the next 4.5 hours eating and wandering through the airport. There were a lot of water refills. And, photos taken. (As you can see.)



It wasn’t all bad. We stopped in a wine bistro and I spotted this child’s version of the Ghost Chair. I prefer the clear ones, but it was fun to see one so tiny. If you need to have one, I found the website where you can buy them  here. Uh huh, that is $147.00 for plastic, but it is cute. Wait a minute, what were kid-sized chairs doing in a wine bistro? Only in SF.



Child Ghost Chair



There were new, modern-looking grown up chairs in the lounge-y areas. Like this…



SF airportBlurry photo, but you get the idea.



We checked out the art.





Trailer photoOnly in SF.



Then finally, finally we got to board our plane.  And head for here…




Outrigger PoolThe Outrigger, Lahaina.



And it was…paradise. But paradise can take a lot out of you…well the plane ride home can and the jet lag, and the photos to sift through. So I’m going to be a “bad” blogger once more and ask you to hold on and wait for Part II.



Mahalo.  🙂



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What goes down, must not stay there: Our new mailbox!

When we first moved in, I remember remarking, “It’s so quiet here. We fall asleep to the sound of crickets, and wake up to the chirp of birds.” It was idyllic. It was tranquil. It was short lived.




Torn up street

Okay, that’s not really our street, (Did the age of the cars give it away?), but the scene was similar.



Apparently the water main on our street had something terribly wrong with it. A malady that required digging and hauling and street-patching to make it right again. And so, two months ago a construction crew arrived complete with tractors, digging machines (forgive me, I’m sure there’s a more technical term) and a port-a-potty. They set up shop and every weekday morning they drowned out the sound of the birds. For two whole months!




BirdsImage via David Kanigan



Which was bad enough. Then one day, we came home to find this.




Mailbox knocked down

Our mailbox, down for the count.



And I couldn’t have been happier!


I’m a firm believer that good design should start at–or extend to–the mailbox so we’d already agreed to replace ours. But the laid best plans…can be put off. Fortuitously, now we were forced to make that good design happen–sooner than later!




Buck mailboxes

No, not like this, but these made me laugh. Image via Odd Stuff Magazine




First, we needed a design plan. For inspiration, I started studying mailboxes as I drove around town. Most of them fell into two categories: dull or unattractive. I was disappointed to note that even some very nice houses didn’t extend their great design to the mailboxes.




Ugly mailboxes




So I Googled “creative mailboxes”. And found this….



Microwave mailbox

Points for creativity and wacky irreverence, but a demerit for “Neighbors Would Hate It!”




We wanted something more sophisticated. One of my favorite mailboxes is this one in Montecito.




 Cyclist mailboxIt gives you an indication that the house just might be awesome, too. Which it is. Image via flickr.





Book house

This is the house that matches that mailbox. Neat, right? Image via Ed Hat 




So we racked our brains to come up with something cool we could repurpose. And came up with zilch. Then I took Lilo for a walk in our neighborhood and my jaw dropped.





Cool mailbox front

Uh huh.




It was the best I had seen! But we couldn’t just copy it exactly; that would be a design no-no. But we could use it for inspiration.




Cool Mailbox side viewThat’s a surfboard skeg for the flag. Oh so clever!




Side note: When I gathered up the nerve to measure the mailbox (for reference) who was standing next to it, putting out the trash, but its owner. When I admitted I was coveting his mailbox, he couldn’t have been nicer and gave our planned mailbox-homage his blessing.



We started with–where else do all good projects start?–a trip to Home Depot….




Lilo on Home Depot Cart

 Poor guy walked the plank and jumped on the hard concrete right after this shot was taken.  (Bad mommy.)





Selected our numbers…(spoiler alert: we went with the large, nickel finished ones at top).




Address numerals




We plotted the width of the planks and used nails to determine the spacing between them…..




Plotting the planks




We framed and secured the box…. Well, JB did. I said supportive things like,  “That looks really good!”



Mailbox frame





Next we plotted the spacing of the address numerals using the templates they came with.



Plotting mailbox numbers





Once we had the templates in place, we found it was easier to drill right through them rather than tapping a mark, removing the paper, then drilling–as the instructions suggested.




Drilling holes

Ignoring instructions.  Almost there….



And here it is…front left.




Mailbox front




And front right.




Mailbox side

We used a metal ruler as our flag as a nod to all things engineering and JB.




Both sides…a total delight! Sorry, I couldn’t help myself; it rhymed.



I purchased the Kangaroo Paw plant but the rest were cuttings from larger plants in our backyard. That’s the great thing about succulents, you can just snip, plant, cross-your-fingers-while-you-water-them, and they’ll reroot.


I’m looking forward to when they’re full-sized (especially the agave) and fill in the surrounding area so it doesn’t look so “new construction-ish”. And as the redwood ages, it will mellow out to a more subtle, silvery patina. But for now, it’s working for us and sets the tone for the rest of the house which we have finally decided (finally!) will be a little modern meets a little rustic.



What about you, have you driven around studying mailboxes too? Or am I the only one with mailboxes on the brain?




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Sneak peek: My client’s guest bedroom

Here’s a peek at my client’s guest bedroom.


We started here…



Guest Bedroom Before

(I used to have that same lamp back in college–from Staples).




Printed grass cloth guest bedroom



And ended here.



What a difference!




My client added the peace pillow she found on a trip to Cambria and I love how it relaxes the formality of the chandelier and pleated drapes.  The bedding calls to mind a giant pin-tucked marshmallow (if there ever were such a thing) and makes the room so cozy. I am crazy for the printed grasscloth wallpaper (from Thibaut’s Andros Collection/Cream on Beige.)



Printed grasscloth wallpaper

 Here’s a closeup of the printed grasscloth. The motif was kind of falling gingko leaves meets bare trees.




We had the acoustic “popcorn” ceiling smoothed, replaced the window, painted the ceiling and walls, added a chandelier, crown molding and a more stately baseboard, door, and window trim. Oatmeal-toned Berber wool carpet was installed along with a wrought iron rod and custom curtains, new bedroom and closet doors and these beauties…




Baldwin doorknob

Ah, the Baldwin egg knobs.




I cannot state enough what a difference good hardware makes. These slightly distressed Baldwin egg knobs feel so solid and cool-to-the-touch in your palm. You can just feel the good craftsmanship. (Baldwin hand-forges their knobs from a billet of solid brass; you can read more about the process here). I know it might sound odd to say a doorknob feels exciting, but they really do.





This chandelier may be beautiful but was oh-so-tedious to assemble!




There are more rooms to go, but this is the first finished one.  I’ll keep you posted (pun intended) on more to come!


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Decorating with Stag Horn Ferns: Meet Philomena!

Stag Horn Fern and Bench(That’s Philomena! Above, top right.)


I have a thing for garage sales. My mom and I go ever Saturday, like it’s our religion, and most people we know are dumbfounded by this. They pepper us with questions. “Do you haggle?” No, we’re shy so we usually pay full price unless that price is ridiculous and we’re brave enough to suggest a lower figure. “What are you looking for?” Nothing in particular. It’s like a treasure hunt. We go with an open mind in search for awesomeness–at a fair price.



Gilded cash register This was $1,200. I don’t know if that’s a fair price or not. But I do know it did not make my cut for “reasonably priced items for staging.”



Case in point, the other day, I found these, in a box marked “Free”. Seriously? Seriously. For free. The garage sale woman was so nice, she reiterated, “They’re free,” in case I had missed the sign. (I had not.) JB and I just finished making a table (more on that in a future post) using turned legs from Home Depot (at $10 a leg x 4 legs, definitely not free), so I cursed myself a bit for not being prophetic enough to foresee that there would be free table legs in my future. Oh well. It’s okay, there will be more tables to build. I can see it already.



Carved table Legs

I get excited every time I look at these. All that carving…and free! 



Anyway, I also have a thing (read: big, pulsating crush) for stag horn ferns. You know, these guys.



Stag horns on wall




JB’s last name starts with a “B” and rhymes with “luck” so you can imagine why all things resembling antlers and horns have a special soft place in my heart.



Stag horn on white house




See the resemblance?



Real stag



So when I found this stag horn fern at a garage sale for $15, I handed over my fifteen dollars. (Home Depot charges $45 for the same size so this was a case of very fair pricing.) I christened it Philomena (I guess I gave it a gender, too) and brought it home with all sorts of ideas blooming in my mind. Note: I name all my houseplants. Philomena joined her siblings Gertrude, Anastasia, Penelope and Roger. The “boy” in the bunch belongs to JB. Somebody needs to have some kids already, eh?



Stag Horn Fern MountedThis is Philomena before I gave her some style.



I thought maybe I’d hang her in the bathroom because stag horn ferns are fans of humidity–they don’t like the temperature to dip below 65 degrees–and we all know showers make bathrooms feel a bit equatorial every time we use them. But she didn’t look right there. (I did, however, suspend an air plant and moss in a glass orb to see how an air plant survives in a bathroom. I can tell you they do not survive in my office or living room.)




Feeding Stag Horn Banana PeelFood (banana peels or Gro Now tablets) goes right back there.



But I had the perfect place outside. So I hung her. Then I fed her. Yes, here is maybe the best part of owning a stag horn fern: you can/should/will really want to feed them banana peels. The woman who sold her to me told me once a month. Advice on the internet runs the gamut from one per month to 4 to 8 per month. I’m sticking to one per month since I also  read that the decomposing banana peel can attract fruit flies. If you own one, please let me know if you feed it banana peels and how often.



Stag Horn Fern in Bathtub

I took this picture standing outside the restaurants The Lark and The Lucky Penny, here in Santa Barbara. I have stag horn fern (and galvanized bathtub) envy. So pretty!



Then my garage sale partner (aka, my mom) called and said, “You know what would look good? A frame around Philomena.” My mom’s an artist so she’s always coming up with clever ideas like that. I don’t know how I got so lucky (for my mom and for what I’m about to tell you), but I happened to already own an empty frame that was…the exact size I needed. I popped it over the board Philomena was mounted on and it fit–just like that. I know, right? (Note: Frame was former garage sale find. One of those items I had no idea what I’d do with it, but for $2, I knew I would come up with something. And that, is why, garage sales are worth getting up early for.)



Stag Horn Fern Framed

Lookin’ good Philomena! 


Before I go, I feel like I must impart some of my new-found knowledge about stag horn ferns. Allow me to boil my hour of internet research into a palatable few factoids. If you happen to have a giant stag horn fern, like my friend Tim, and should separate it into smaller pups (yes, that is stag horn fern lingo; you read it here) so the weight of one doesn’t make your tree topple over and so you can pass the pups on to a dear friend who really loves stag horn ferns and can think of a few other place she (eh hem!) would like to put them, you can watch a great video on how to do that here.



Stag Horn by House

 This is my friend Tim’s stag horn fern. I think it needs dividing…




Hanging Stag Horn

Tim is the lucky owner of this beautiful monster, too. Which also looks in desperate need of dividing…(in my biased opinion).




Stag horn fern cluster

I’d turn it into this.


And now, a bit of advice…


Stag Horn Fern Facts (try saying that 5 times fast!):


1. SHFs are epiphytes or “air plants” which means they do not need to have direct contact with the soil. They take their nutrients from the air.



Stag horn ferns on patio



2. And banana peels. To feed your SHF a banana peel, stick it behind the mound of the plant.  (See photo with my hand, above.) The decaying peel will feed the plant–and a few fruit flies, so watch out. The potassium in the banana peel helps offset sodium and SHFs, like many humans, try to avoid sodium. If you don’t want to attract fruit flies with decomposing banana peels, place two Gro Now tablets in the back of the plant (where the banana peels would otherwise go) once or twice a year. As the plant is watered, the nutrients will be released.


3. There are 17 species in the SHF Platycerium genus. One of them is known as “Hula Hands” and has fronds that appear to curl and wave in the breeze, much like the hands of an actual hula dancer.  Note: Alas, this is not the variety I have.



Stag horn fern office



4. If the root ball looks dry or it is hot and dry outside (like it is now; 86 degrees in March, by gosh!) water the plant twice a week by drizzling water into its mound or submerging it in a bath or bucket of water. When it is not hot, watering once a month should suffice. (Keep an eye on that root ball!) Mist your SHF, using clean water, as often as you’re trigger finger can handle–they love it!


5. The plant forms it’s own mounding backdrop from what are called base shields. As new ones form, old ones die and decompose allowing the plant to feed itself.



Stag horns Elle Decor

Image via Elle Decor


6. As one site said, they like “bright shade”. Yes, that’s a bit of an oxymoron, but they went on to clarify saying, “filtered sun.” If you keep yours indoors, SHFs prefer natural light from a south or east facing window. They don’t want to get chillier than 55 degrees so if you have yours outside, like mine, you may want to hang it so you can bring it in at night during the winter.


7. Don’t wipe the soft fibers when cleaning the leaves.



Stag horn ferns on walljpg



8. Name your SHF. Bucky? Fernalicious? Staggy? I’ll leave this part up to you.



Do you have any tips on taking care of stag horn ferns? Do you love them as much as I do? (Hard task, as I love them a lot!)


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