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…




I would like to take a little detour today to reflect on a lecture I saw yesterday on, amongst a number of topics, branding.  In short, every single person walking the earth should be aware of, develop, and maintain a personal brand.

Now this sounds like a lot of busywork at first blush, but think about it.  If we start to consider ourselves as little brands, then what do we need to develop?  A mission statement?  Sure!  Everyone should have a sense of purpose in their lives, and writing it down on paper makes it that much more livable.  A logo?  YES!

A logo is a visual cue that instantly identifies the owner or originator of an object.  Recognize this one?

Image result for target logo images

Yup, that’s Target!  Easy, right?

Image result for mercedes logo

I suppose Mercedes-Benz doesn’t count because most cars use their logos on the hood or trunk for decoration.  But what about someone that used their initials as a logo?

Image result for louis vuitton logo

I can’t imagine not recognizing this one, from Louis Vuitton, but I do suppose that there are people that might not.

Finally, everyone knows this one:

Image result for nike logo

From Nike, when you see the swish on literally every item they make, you know it’s them.

Branding is everywhere.  You can’t open an account on most social media platforms without providing some sort of description of yourself.  Across the vast internet universe, it’s important to present yourself in a consistent manner.  And when you present yourself, let it always be in a way that supports your mission.

My web page developer, Brian, has been after me to come up with a logo for a while.  Hand drawn will not do.  But I was resisting because, quite frankly, I had other seemingly more important things to work on.  No longer.  Soon, I will launch my new logo.  I already have 8 versions to pair down.  I hope the one I land on catches on like:

See the source image

Apple Inc.

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!


Mud Room, Organization

Mud Rooms

Remember when I almost moved?  One of the big reasons I was so excited was that I was going to create a 400 sq ft mud room.  I still get a far away expression and have trouble completing my thought when I talk about it…in my mind, no backpack, running shoe, lacrosse stick, etc would ever make it’s way into the main area of my home with the mud room I was going to build.  No sir.

But it got me thinking…what’s going on in my mud room right now that is making me want to move rather than tackle it?  I can answer that truthfully…13 years now of layering on cork board push pins and stuffing in cubbies has it busting at the seems.  It was time to start over in that room, and I don’t mean knocking out the kitchen to create a giant mudroom.

The misconception is that the mudroom is where you store certain things.  That, for the most part, is not true.  While I subscribe to the theory that you should never put something down NOT in it’s place (just put it back now!), the mud room provides a transitional area to leave items that are either still being used, or are finishing their use.  Examples are wet raincoats, your purse, muddy shoes, anything that can’t just yet go back in it’s regular spot, or whose regular spot is on your person.  The problem in my house is that we have gotten away from it being a transition area, and have started to store things, inappropriately, in there.  It got claustrophobic.  Looking for sunscreen?  Check the ledge above the key rack.  What?

Yes, well, all of that has changed.  Because if you carefully read between the lines of my text here, you will hear a familiar falsehood…I need more storage.  No dear, you need less stuff.  Or more to the point, you need to find a more appropriate place for all that stuff.

The basic math of a mudroom is some sort of bench like run, with shoe keeping capability under it, and some sort of hanging capability at about 5 feet.  Mudrooms are, most of the time, that great small size where you can make a statement and it’s not too overwhelming (cough cough, cement tile floor).   Let’s look at some I found on Houzz…

Love the light fixture, love the floor, love the space.  You name it!

These next two I want to point out because they have fully enclosed fronts.  This is an awesome idea if you can get away with it.  Leave the clutter behind closed doors.

Of course, open lockers look adorable too, and in a smaller space, they feel a little more spacious, provided you don’t overload the hooks!

Those floors!

This last one is the inspiration for my mudroom reno…love!


Function, Organization

The Drama of Laundry

Today might not be the day to tackle this subject, because my 11, 13 and 15 year olds have been on summer break (translation: home and available for copious transport) for about a month now.  The build up and excitement of the Fourth of July is behind us, and this morning it seems like I am seeing my house for the first time in a month.  Where in the heck did all of these socks come from?

Admittedly, my dog Phillip likes to relocate them around the house.  But when you are a dog owner, you learn to take certain precautions:  don’t leave a plate of food on the coffee table, keep the bathroom doors shut, and (I thought we knew) keep your socks put away/on your feet.  Apparently not.

But further, various High School/summer sports mean wardrobe changes.  Many, many changes throughout the day.  Apparently, those changes must be executed on the first floor, which makes for a light dusting of various items of clothing through out the main living spaces.

Organization and function is always on my mind, so I start with the things that I cannot change, and the one big immovable truth of my home is that I have a first floor laundry room.  Back when we built our house, it was popular to have the laundry room on the second floor.  We opted not to do that, instead, positioning it off of the garage and off of the locker room, the main thoroughfare into the house.  I have never regretted that move, especially when we bought our front loading washer, who’s spin cycle rivals the decibel level of a jet engine.

As the kids have aged, I find that they are very good at packing clothing for themselves.  Meaning, the clean clothes put neatly away are easy to grab and take with them on the off chance they are needed.  But when they are faced with the daunting task of taking an unworn item back to their rooms to hang up, or just tossing it into the laundry room, well, it gets tossed.  This.  Will.  Not.  Do.  Aside from the fact that it’s not green to be washing unworn clothing, tossing it in the laundry so that mom will fold it and take it up grates my nerves.  Maybe now that the kids are older, a second floor laundry room is the answer?

This weekend I asked my ‘squad’ this very question.  Those with second floor laundry rooms swear by them.  The theory there is that the laundry never comes downstairs.  I am not convinced.  My fear is that my family will start to dress out of the laundry room.  Idea being, it’s all folded or hanging up in there, why move it?  I will have to do more research, because next month we go to Maine for a week.  And I think it will be hard to convince me it’s a better idea to drag those sandy, sea watery messes through the house and up the stairs than to drop them one foot inside the door.  At any rate, here are a couple of laundry rooms that I would GLADLY wash obviously clean clothes in…

I like the function of this room.  It’s gorgeous and white with a bit of bling, but I love the hanging bar.  I really feel like you can’t have enough hanging space in a laundry room.  Drying clothes need room to breathe!

This one makes me so happy to look at, the tile floor, adorable light, blue cabinets, reclaimed wood.  So freaking adorable!

Adult, Bedrooms, Child, Lighting

Window Benches

Some of the features that make homes unique can also provide a design challenge in finishing a space.  Bay windows, overly large rooms, or any odd angle in a room all add character to a home, a lot of times for what they look like on the exterior elevations.  But they also present a bit of a pause when it comes time to specify furniture and finishes.

These spaces are never a problem, so to speak, because a design challenge is always an opportunity to come up with an amazing solution.  Let’s take a look at a room that had such an opportunity, and did not capitalize on it.

This is by Sarah Richardson, and I include this option because she DID use window benches at other places in this project, and her decision to not use one here may have been budget related.  In other words, I bet she has a very good reason why she didn’t.  But what we are looking at is the inset windows with two chairs and a small upholstered table between them.  It looks beautiful, but more could have been done.  So let’s look at another room in the same project:

The bench under the window is adorable.  And here is why…window benches allow for several added layers of decoration.  You have your traditional window coverings, but then you add in the details of the bench, upholstering the pad on top, and the pillows that go on top of it, and it’s an opportunity for so much more.  Further, what’s placed under the bench adds interest.  And as always, the lighting makes the space it’s own little moment in the bedroom.

The use of shiplap is subtle texture, which also take the eye out to the view.  Brilliant!

Love the use of the inset shelving on either side of the niche and drawers underneath!

Here is a very large room with an opportunity created by the ceiling lines.  Love the use of grass cloth and the addition of storage closets!

Maybe electrical isn’t in the budget…this is a great use of lamps in the space!

Last but not least:

Orange is a bit dramatic for a bedroom…most people want soothing colors for the place they recharge their batteries.  But this niche is so cool: the lighting, both recessed and pendant, is perfect.  Excellent use of texture with the natural fiber window covers.  Love how the orange gets carried around the room.  Such a fun space for an early teen girl!


Kitchen, Lighting

A Kitchen Island Without Pendants?

It might sound crazy to suggest a kitchen island without pendants hanging above it, but lately I have been in a few kitchens that would function better without them.

Yup, I am talking about function again.

We have talked about the three kinds of lighting in the past, and no where is that more important than the kitchen.  Can lights in the ceiling, LED rope under the upper cabinets, pendants over the island…you get it.  But one of the exciting parts of American interior design is our gigantic, open concept Great Rooms.  And most of those rooms have a huge kitchen with an island on one end, a big family room on the other, and maybe even a dining room separating them.  So when you are in the kitchen, that is a lot of hanging lighting to look past in order to see the Superbowl on the opposite wall.

Sometimes pendants just are not a good option.  Be it low ceilings, vaulted ceilings, or small square footage, there can be times that dropping pendants over the island just doesn’t feel right.  Other times, like below, flush mount lighting looks every bit as cool as pendants.

I like how open this space feels.  Instead of stopping the eye with pendants, you get a good look at the back splash.  Further, the lack of emphasis on the ceiling allows an opportunity to place something striking on the countertop, like these branches.  LOVE!

Here we have a vaulted ceiling that they certainly could have suspended a couple of fixtures from, but decided to leave the cool lighting to the walls.  I love it!  Now we get to really appreciate the beams and shiplap on the ceiling.

I like the way they used track lighting throughout the kitchen and dining room.  Not everyone would want this space for themselves, but I think from a design perspective, it’s pretty amazing.  The point here is to avoid taking the eye away from the view.  Even all closed up at night, I bet you still get a strong feeling of being outside.  And that natural light…yes please!

This next one is so cool.  Modern, but I love the way the track becomes a design element.

It’s genius to tray the ceiling and make the track lighting more of a statement!

This next one I selected because it’s not modern.

I don’t know what they ARE using for light in this kitchen, but it’s not pendants!  The funny thing about this project is that it has farmhouse chandeliers in almost every room of the house, including some closets.  But not the main kitchen.

Finally, this is my new favorite kitchen obsession…blue cabinets.

I love how the millwork gets the attention it deserves.  And the tray in the ceiling adds that pop of interest that makes the lack of pendants seem intentional.

The point of all of this is not to just ditch pendants.  There needs to be SOMETHING on the ceiling.  Whether it’s flush mount lights or tracks, something above an island must help define it’s position in the room.  Otherwise, it starts to feel like something was overlooked, and that is never a good feeling.  When we take a closer look, the lack of pendants provides a nice opportunity to personalize a space on a larger scale.  We saw oversized branches and pops of color with flowers and vases.  It’s nice to see intentional decoration in a kitchen beyond platters of food!