Bathroom, Bedrooms, Dining Rooms, Kitchen, Living Rooms

Color Pop

Have you ever been to Maine?  We go every year, and in my travels, I have learned that the least sad way to leave a beloved vacation spot is to bring something home with you.  This year, I brought home inspiration!

Maine is a beautiful place.  I use that simple sentence because it sums it up so well.  Mainers really have life figured out.  They live outdoors; biking, shooting, canoeing, paddle boarding, sailing, surfing, skiing, you name it.   But they aren’t spoiled by month after month of perfect weather.  Nope, Maine’s perfect summer lasts about 10 days at the beginning of August.  The rest of the year is a variety of rain, cold, mist, snow, you name it.   So you can either stay inside and feel sorry for yourself, or you can suit up for the weather and get outside and have fun!

One of my favorite things about Maine is it’s perfect little balance between New England and the Midwest.  It’s not considered East Coast; in fact, there are somewhere around 70 miles of usable beach on the southern end of Maine.  The rest of the place is logging forests, lakes and rocks. I think that’s what makes their style so subtly unique.  They understand that basically nobody lives in the perfect spot because no place is perfect year round; you just make the best of what’s around you at the time.  It’s that thought that is why, a month after getting home, I am still so inspired.

What happens when you live in a place that, for centuries, made it’s living off of logging?  You have a lot of natural wood interiors to work with!  So Mainers have mastered the art of the color pop.  In the imperfect weather that can sometimes drag on, they gravitate towards refreshing influences of reds, blues and yellows.  But it’s not always in ways you expect:

This is a great example of adding a punch of color to the rich neutrals on the walls, and the natural wood vanity.  I think this is from Minnesota, but the same concept applies.

Moving to the dining room, chairs are such a fun, non committal way to add color to a room!

The chairs are a nice reminder of how gorgeous the ocean is on a clear day.  I love the loads of natural wood, too!

A look in a bedroom is a sweet color surprise mixed in with tons of wood…

And then let’s look outside, where most people have an idea of what New England homes look like.  Is this what you were thinking of?

If you are looking for a fun Instagram account that has mastered the art of color popping, check out Jackie Greaney:


I just love Maine!







Kitchen, Living Rooms

Feeling Blue

My husband is usually totally on board with (read: mostly indifferent to) my ideas for updating our house.  Painting the foyer apricot (it feels like a hug every time you walk in!) was a small change with a big impact, and after it was painted, he loved it.  I talked about the updates I made to the mudroom in a previous post, including the bright yellow door, and he liked that too.  But when I mentioned painting the kitchen island and stove cabinet blue, he braked real hard.  Whaaaaaaaaat?!  Since when do you second guess moi?

With any client, be it yourself or someone else, it’s important to look at what you have to currently work with before you start dreaming up new, new, new everything.  What I have is a beautifully designed kitchen, that needs a little updating.  Cherry floors, cherry island and stove cabinet, and maple everywhere else.  Lots.  Of.  Wood.  The cabinets are awesome, high-end, well made, and would be a crime to rip out.  So I propose gussying up my kitchen with a bit of paint and tile:

The first rule of blue in a kitchen is that it should be used sparingly.  Combining the white on the perimeter and blue in the middle is brilliant.  This kitchen has a clean feel, with a pop of color.  This kitchen also has a mix of metals that is subtle, but amazing.  Love!

I love this kitchen as well because of the gray perimeter with the blue-gray island.  This is such a soothing color palette.  I love the organic wood elements in the shelves and pendants.  Such a great space!

This one is a great example of getting seriously busy on the bottom half of the room, and letting the top half breath.  I love the use of the cement tile on the floor, and the finishing touch of the blue crown molding.

Not everyone has a gigantic kitchen footprint to work with.  Here is a spot on small space with all of the right ideas.  Notice how great the blue looks with the gold cabinet pulls!

This is the clincher.  I know it’s not my kitchen exactly.  In fact, my snarkier friends will point out it’s the opposite of what I am proposing.  BUT STILL!  The blue looks so great with the pale wood, which maple is.  And that cement tile behind the stove is just the right amount of whimsy.  Plus, I bet it hides marinara splatters like a pro!

The point is, it’s time to tweak the kitchen.  I can’t tell you how happy I am that it is so well designed, and the cabinets are so well made.  That’s an expense, and mess,  I am extremely happy to avoid.  Further, let’s face it, it’s just paint.  But what really makes me happy is that I actually live in a house that can support this look.  The last thing you want to do is make a change to crucial room, like a kitchen, and have it not make sense with the rest of the house.  This one does make sense.

I will let you know what he says…


Dining Rooms, Kitchen, Living Rooms

‘Holiday’ Themed Design

Bear with me, here, I don’t mean Christmas!

Maybe I shouldn’t call it ‘holiday’; it’s too misleading.  What I am talking about is the time-of-year dependent decorations we put up to help us get and be excited about a particular time of year or approaching event.

This topic has really been on my mind lately, because now is an odd time in holiday decorating.  We have already packed up all of the red, white and blues of the 4th of July, (or not, because patriotism is a year round thing!) and there is a definite feeling of something big coming with school starting.  But at the same time, Autumn doesn’t technically start until September 21st, so that means we are only a little over half way through summer.  Huh!

All of this adds together to create an idea that perhaps the answer to what we should be displaying right now is absolutely nothing.  WRONG!  There is always something about the time of year to celebrate, and this time of year in Chicago, what we celebrate is growing outside.

My wreath hanger on the front door is always a great place to start, so this time of year, dried herbs and flowers are a great way to celebrate the season…

Or this…

Moving inside, decorating is not just about the eyes.  Bring in all of the scents.  Right now I love burning herb scented candles.  I am really loving Hearth & Hand with Magnolia’s Cardamom & Vetiver scented candle (from Target!).  It’s an unexpected spicy scent that has a sweet heat after effect.  Obsessed!  Don’t forget about hand soap in the powder room, either.

Floral arrangements are so beautiful this time of year.  Check out what’s growing in the back yard, maybe there’s a blossom or two to bring in and add to a bouquet you picked up at the local market.  And don’t forget about those vegetables.  Kitchen décor is always successful when you use food to decorate, so instead of hiding the tomatoes and cucumbers in the fridge, get a glass bowl out and show off the bounty!


Bedrooms, Dining Rooms, Living Rooms

Layered Rugs

When I redid my living room, I specified all new furniture in a different formation.  The room has always been a head scratcher for me from a space planning perspective.  It’s too large to put the furniture against the walls, has a fireplace and spectacular view competing for your eye on 2 separate, adjacent walls, and a turret off of one corner.  Seating arrangement was relatively easy to land on.  But the tried and true obvious answer for carpet size would have required a HUGE carpet, and the fabric I carefully chose for the chairs and sectional would have been no competition for the miles of wool on the floor.  Nope, that wasn’t going to work.  In the end, we decided on a smaller rug for the sectional seating area.  And then I went back to scratching my head for the chairs, until I realized the answer was so simple…a second rug.

Most home owners face a similar dilemma at some point in their quest to ‘finish decorating this house’.  Whether the perfect carpet remnant by your favorite maker is, like, only a foot too small, or you loved a bold pattern on line and on the ground it’s making the room spin, or the room is really more of a long, wide hallway shape than anything else, there are ways to calm the inevitable drama that results from the fact that stock carpet only comes in certain sizes.

Keep an open mind here.  In researching this topic, I saw plenty of rooms that could be classified as ‘we couldn’t decide on just one’.   That’s not where I am going.  The root of layering carpet almost always starts with a floor that begs for softening.  Be it wood, or concrete, or tile, it needs something.  You could bring in a local broadloom guy and he will bind a carpet for you in whatever size you want.  But that’s not as fun!

The most conservative step into layering is to start with a large, natural fiber rug.  Be it sisal, jute, or something similar, from a space planning perspective, all of the furniture fits on this basic layer.  Natural fiber can be rough on the feet, and lack color, so by itself it’s not the most appealing floor covering.  But it’s usually inexpensive, and makes a beautiful backdrop to show off another rug.  Put it this way, if finishing a floor is like framing a photograph, the natural fiber carpet is the matte.  Indented and on top of that, is the photo.

These are great examples of how the natural fiber rug makes a seating area whole, whether it’s utilizing the hide rug, or making a smaller rug work, it’s a great staple to make any room beautiful.

Now let’s kick it up a notch and layer some pattern on top of pattern!

This room seems to be a bit of an odd shape, in that it’s long and not very wide.  I love how they did two separate patterns on the floor.  For a kids room, it’s the perfect amount of whimsy.

I went back and forth about including this one, because it has the base sisal, and both carpets seem adequately sized.  But I decided to show it because, even though I might have done it differently, it’s a nice representation of different ways to present carpeting.

The second layer seems to be bringing the chaise back into the seating arrangement.

Finally, the cherry on the sundae, this was taken from an article on Houzz about how to decorate a living room.  I think he was referring to contrasting neutrals in the room, but I just could not stop loving the carpets!

Exterior, Living Rooms

Painted Brick

I have vivid memories of my aunt’s house in the western suburbs from when I was a kid.  In my mind, the oak cabinets, Windsor chairs, red brick exteriors and natural wood flooring and stairs, all blend together to become ’80’s Wheaton’.  Even now, when I flip through cabinetry brochures and I see the arched inlay on doors, I cringe.  Not because I didn’t like that look.  On the contrary, I loved it.  But I also loved sky high bangs, tight rolling my jeans, and v-neck sweaters you could wear forwards or backwards.  Lesson being, that which I loved then, well, my taste has changed.

Kitchen cabinets from the eighties are long gone, but the red brick houses that they lived in are still there.  After the hard lessons of 2008, people that built big brick houses even up to that year are wisely holding them, slowly building equity and making smart upgrades as things wear out.  Why the trip down memory lane you ask?  Because the new builds that I drive by today are missing one thing that almost every house built just a decade ago had by the ton…bricks.  Today you see beautiful clean lines, light grays and whites.  But not the matte red of dried clay.  Does that mean that the old beauties of yesterday have seen their time and should be put to pasture?   Heck no.  If you live in one, should you resign yourself to the frugal lessons of our past?  Nope.  If you want beautiful clean lines and gray or white, go for it!  Hire a painter!

The following homes I saved on Houzz to my Painted Brick file.  Keep a close eye at the shape of the homes.  Some are traditional, and are so beautifully updated by the coat of paint.  Others have been updated to entirely new modern or farmhouse finished products.  The point is, there is a lot you can do with a coat of paint!

This traditional home gets updated!

Such a fresh feeling!

This cottage is so charming…add some smart landscaping and modern palette of stone, and this is a whole new house!

Love the reclaimed wood shutters and iron work!


This could have been formerly 70’s and now is current and modern!



Kitchen, Living Rooms, Organization, Sustainability

Spring Cleaning

It’s finally Spring in Chicago and I have been bitten by the NEED to organize my home!  All of the May magazines are advertising articles for spring cleaning and organizing, and the glossy pictures of minimalist craft rooms and pantries has me drooling.  YES!  I need a wall mounted wrapping paper station!

But let’s take a beat here, because when we talk about getting organized, we are not talking about running out to our local hardware store and buying ‘organizers’.  Besides, I am more of a gift bag girl.  No, the first step to getting organized is, in a word, purging.

The sustainable side of me always cringes at that word because too often it means ‘send it to the landfill.’  But that is not what I mean.  When we talk about purging, we talk about a philosophical shift in your home.  Make due with less.  I marvel at my home every time I return from a vacation, because I have just lived my life for a week with the sum total of that which I can carry.  So what in the heck do I really need the rest of this stuff for?  Let’s give it to someone else who DOES need it and CAN use it.

Start with your cabinets.  What is in there?  Are they things you use all of the time?  Or are they ‘put away’, therefore have a place in your home.  Be honest with yourself here, but also be forgiving.  Is there something in there with the tag on it, that you thought you were going to use, but haven’t quite had the opportunity?  Let it go.  Get a big plastic bin and delicately place it in there…the lovely people at Salvation Army will sell it and do great things with the money.  The same goes with discarded items you ‘might find a use for one day’.  Also, anything that ‘when I find the time I am going to…’ and anything the kids haven’t picked up in a while.  They all go in the bin.  Forgive yourself by saying that it’s not fair to the next person that you are keeping these things when they, or their children, could be using them right now.  Recycle that which cannot be donated, of course, and now you have some serious storage space to place the items you trip over because you use them on a regular basis.

Rarely do I meet a client that legitimately needs more storage.  More often than not, they just need less stuff.  The reality is that if you build storage in the attic or the basement, you will actually store things on your stairs awaiting the person who will walk them up to the attic or down to the basement.  Once there, well, now they have a place in your home.  And there they shall sit.

Exterior, Living Rooms

Statement Entrance

Is that even a thing?

Sure it is.  The word ‘statement’ is actually a cool, descriptive word.  It sends a message.  It communicates.  It makes you feel.  There are statement necklaces, statement jackets, statement walls etc.  So why not statement entrance?

When I talk about a ‘statement entrance’, I am talking about the exterior.  I am talking about driving up your driveway, looking at your home,  and saying, ‘Heck yeah!  I live here!’ *edited in case my mom reads this.  One could argue it already has a name: curb appeal.  But I think that is too general of a term. A statement entrance invites you in, packs a punch, gets you excited!  It does more than appeal to you, it psyches you up!

There are countless ways to provide this level of enthusiasm.  Let’s look at a few:

The front pathway makes an unmistakable entrance to this home.  But the alliteration of the windows with respect to the door is visually pleasing.  What I like about this is that the entire first floor is involved in the entrance, not just the front door.  They accomplished this through the use of the porch, and provided definition of the entrance through the path.

From alliteration, to asymmetry, my ELA classes are getting a recall today.  This front pathway is so interesting because it is NOT a straight shot to the door.  The path diverts, and there is even a short wall in the way.  The door is off-center, asymmetrical if you will, which I love.  And I love the courtyard effect it has.  It creates a little outdoor room, without cutting down on natural light into the home.

This one uses an entirely different building material to draw attention to the entrance.  Brilliant!

What a charming surprise greeting us at this home.  Love that lighting under the benches!

Remember when I talked about bringing color into a space through the ceiling.  Wow!

Last but not least, Joanna Gaines with Magnolia Homes is a master at curb appeal.  Take a look at her work if you are into Modern Farmhouse, she 100% appreciates and maximizes the importance of the front entrance to a home.