April 23, 2014

Get This Look For Less

I love recreating a room that only looks expensive. This dining area/possible office has all the components of a great room regardless of how you use ittable, chairs, bookcase. To me, you can use this combination in any room of the house in a myriad of ways.
Find the white tulip table here.
The caned chairs here. (2 for 1)
The bookcase here.
All for $470. Or to complete the room with the items below approximately $840!
Similar mirror here, something a bit different here.
Jute rug here and here.
Orange lacquered boxes here.
Brass pendant here.

Image via domainhome.com

April 22, 2014

Flip Flops

As soon as there is a warm wind, my daughter's start sporting flip flops. I've never been a fan. And of course, as a mother, I would argue how bad they were for their feet, blah, blah, blah. But I also understood the appeal. I don't like to wear shoes during the summer because my feet get too hot. (Contrary to the winter months when I can't seem to keep them warm enough!) Then I found Teva flip flops a few years ago in a shop in Chatham. They are so comfortable that you feel like you're walking on a cloud. They support your feet and you won't even notice there's something between your toes. I have two pairs of blackone for the beach and one for wearing around town. The solid colors are stylish enough to wear with a skirt and blouse. Check them out for yourself, you'll love them.

April 18, 2014

Do You Read About Food?

I don't think there is any kind of book I won't read, but cookbooks can be tricky. It's so easy to grab a recipe off the internet these days that I wonder if cookbooks have become passé. Not according to The New York Times. Cookbooks have changed for the better. Instead of thumbing through pages and pages of ingredients, we can now look at beautiful photographs, intricate drawings, and learn all about the digestive benefits of cuminall culminating into an edible feast for the senses. I can remember the first time I came across a Susan Branch book in the 80s and thought, "this is more like it".
I've since sought out storied recipes, instead of the other way around. Frances Mayes led the way with her delectable descriptions of the Tuscan countryside whetting more than just one kind of appetite. Then there are authors like Erica Bauermeister who have written about cooking, but left out the recipes until her readers wanted to know how to make the food she was writing about, so she gave them the recipes too. You can fall in love with Paris (again and again) through the pages of My Paris Kitchen by food blogger David Lebovitz. Visions of beautifully polished copper pots will begin to dance in your head.
In fact, food blogs are taking over blogland with their luscious photographs, potable concoctions, humorous anecdotes, and of coursefood. Dinner: A Love Story is a food blog "devoted (mostly) to helping parents figure out how to get family dinner on the table", which leaves lots of room for stories about the family meal and all the challenges that ensue.

You can find recipes focused on seasonal and high quality ingredients that will make you want to get up and drive to the farmers' market right then and there. The revolution of gluten-free and certified organic will have you seeking out your nearest natural market. Thank goodness more and more national chains are starting to include these items among their shelves.

I'm writing this post as I run in and out of my kitchen trying to simultaneously sauté peppers and onions for tonight's supper. My cookbooks sit on a shelf in my pantry and I have maybe two or three I reference. The rest of my recipes have been collected and created over time and scribbled or pasted into two hefty volumes that I hope to pass onto my children. The best of the best at any rate. (Like my spicy chicken rub and this yummy fudge recipe.)

If you love cooking and eating, I hope you enjoy these links...

Best food blogs of 2014: Saveur magazine

Oldies, but goodies: 10 essential cookbooks.

Make it yourself...you'll be glad you did. Homemade ketchup.

Ever dream of taking a cooking class? (Live in Brooklyn? Try this one.)

Why I love France Mayes.

A cookbook that reads like a book. A cookbook without any recipes. (It's Italian. Enough said.)

Have wonderful weekend, Easter, and Passover!

Image via nytimes.com

April 17, 2014

Lemon Cake with Raspberry Sauce

If I'm going to eat dessert, it's probably going to be something chocolate, but during the warmer months, I fall in love with lemons all over again. Lemon shampoo, lotion, lemon water...I can't get enough. So one day when I came across a box lemon cake in the grocery store (Betty Crocker makes a good one), I decided I would make my own and then play with some berries. I love adding blueberries to my banana muffins so I thought maybe strawberries or raspberries would pair better with lemon. I love the combination of sweet and tart the raspberries add. This is what I came up with.

Lemon Cake

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup vegetable shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1 large lemon, zested
5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
vegetable spray
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Sift and mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and sugar.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat together shortening, sugar, and fresh lemon juice until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and continuing beating until well combined.
  4. Fold in the lemon zest.
  5. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients a little at a time. Do not over mix the batter.
  6. Spray the pan of your choice with a good amount of vegetable spray. You can pour the batter into a bundt pan, 2 9" round pans, or a large loaf pan, it's up to you.
  7. Bake approximately 30-35 minutes. Insert a wooden toothpick to test. Let cool for 10 minutes.
Raspberry Sauce

2-3 pints fresh raspberries
2 tablespoons sugar
  1. I set aside a dozen or so for garnish. Use 3 pints if you prefer more garnish.
  2. Sprinkle sugar over top and let set for 15 minutes and then I push the remaining raspberries through a sieve. You can use cheesecloth too. The goal is to get as much juice out without any seeds. If you don't mind the seeds, continue with this method but allow some of the seeds and fruit to push through as well.
  3. Add garnish and drizzle sauce over cake just before serving.
Even better with fresh whipped cream. (I don't like mine too sweet, so if you're like me, just add the vanilla.)


Let me share decorBase with you... If you're a DIYer, decorator, or design enthusiast, you can find more than 15,000 products to decorate your home, create mood boards to see how things look, and even list your services. Check them out!

April 16, 2014

Spring Color Inspiration

I'm usually not a fan of subtle colors, but when I saw this inspiration board featured in Veranda magazine, it spoke to me. Soothing, serene, yet still infused with some intensity, it inspired me to find these paint colors.

Color Inspiration
BM 808 Sapphire Ice, BM 2069-40 Violet Stone, BM 537 Shades of Spring,
BM 1270 Tara, BM 2067-30 Twilight

The Paris Journal

I've been a fan of Little Brown Pen (now Obvious State) for a while now. Nichole Robertson's photographs are just lovely, but so are her stories. She and her husband Evan have come up with a very ingenious idea by combining Nichole's photographs with fictitious journal entries in their new collaboration, The Paris Journal, Book One. Check out their blog to win a copy and don't forget to sign up for their mailing list for an extended sneak peek.

April 15, 2014

Boston Strong

Today we remember the lives that were changed forever one year ago today. Boston is where I was born, went to college, worked, and lived for many years. My sister-in-law, a seasoned marathon runner, was helping with the race, her son, my nephew, had just crossed the finish line. Two other nephews were watching. They were okay. Years ago, we would have had at least fifteen family members camped along the streets cheering the runners on. For months afterward you could still not access parts of Boylston Street. All I could think of was the fact that my daughter would be there next year...just down the road. Another piece of innocence was lost.

I've never been more proud of the Bostonians and New Englanders that rallied together on that day and the days that followed. They shut down the whole city! Do you know how unbelievable that is? Everyone did what they were told and put up with the inconveniences and let good triumph over evil. The one thing the nation, the world learned that day...you don't mess around with Boston!

I will be saying a special prayer tonight.

April 11, 2014

Polar Plunge Doggie Style

Even though there is still some snow on the ground, spring is finally here. So yesterday afternoon, my husband asked if I wanted to take the dogs for a walk at the state park. I'm ashamed to say that I've been so cold this winter that our doggie walks dwindled considerably this year. My family is getting enough exercise, but I realized my dogs weren't. I've vowed to whip them back into shape even if I have to drag Cooper around on his leash. And he hates his leash. 

My daughters and their friends have been participating in a Polar Plunge. It's even made the papers due to the dangers of jumping into freezing water. Luckily, all of their friends have been smart about the plungemaking sure there are enough people on hand to help anyone who can't make it out, and staying away from strong currents. After I shot a bunch of pictures and video of the dogs yesterday, I thought it looked like they had participated in their own version. Dante (the husky) loves the water. Cooper does not. Dante is trying to coax him across the flooded grassy area just before you reach the beach. 

Cooper was hooked. He did it again and again. 

This was our walk to and from the beach. The sun hasn't gotten rid of all of the snow just yet and they couldn't pass up the chance to roll around in it again and again.

A few links for dog lovers...

Cooper and Dante's kennel stays are over. We finally have a dog-sitter! If you're looking to give your dog/pet a taste of home while you're away, check out DogVacay.

I could use these tips. I hate lugging around my good camera all the time, so my iPhone has been filling in. Check out these 10 tips for photographing your dog like I plan to.

Dogs welcoming soldiers home. Tissues might be a good idea.

Woman's best friend.

Marley and Me is one of the best dog movies you can see. (And the book is good, too.)

Have a great weekend!

April 9, 2014

How Do I Pick the Right Lamp?

Lamps are pretty, but they're also supposed to be functional.
  • In the Bedroom: Lamps are not only used to add light, they're used for reading so the lamp height is important. On a bedside table, a lamp the stands 26"-30" should work, but make sure the bottom of the shade reaches the bottom of your nose. (This is true for any reading lampfloor or desk style.) Also, Hansen or swing-arm lamps are excellent reading-in-bed lamps and can be positioned to maximize light wherever you lay in bed.
  • On a Desk: Bright is the key here. Following the rules above, make sure the lamp is placed in the actual work area and not just on the corner of the desk. Use the brightest bulb you can and stay away from dark shades.
  • On an End Table: Your lamps don't need to match in order for them to work. Simply choose similar heights (within 2" of each other) and styles and you're good to go.
  • In a Dining Room: Like you see in the photo above, bigger is better. Remember the size and height of the table and the room the lamp is being placed in makes a difference. This lamp will be able to show off what's on the buffet as well as add to the overall light in the room.
  • In the Living Room: All the above applies, but let's discuss floor lamps. They're perfect if space is at a premiumyou don't need a table. Height needs vary depending on the person, but the average floor lamp should stand between 60"-62" high. I love to us telescoping, architect, or pharmacy style lamps so height isn't an issue.
Choosing the right size shade is just as important. Here's how to choose the right size for a new or old lamp. (Replacing a shade is a great way to update the look of a lamp.)
  • Measure for Size: The shade should be about a third to half the height of the base. The taller and thinner the lamp is the smaller the shade should be. The larger the table and/or room the larger the base and shade should be.
  • Shape: Mimic the shape of the base with the shaderound with round, square with square, etc. Think a little differently and contrast those shapes for a distinct look. Drum shades always work for modern spaces. Clean lines work with every décor.
  • Texture and Color: Texture is in. Update your plain-Jane shade with a waffle-weave or jute-wrapped shade. Just remember the purpose of the lamp. The heavier the material the less light you will have. Only use a colored shade if you have sufficient lighting and lamps in other areas of the room. A dark shade concentrates the light directly beneath it only.
  • Details: You should never see the mechanics (the harp or switch) when you look at a lamp. If you can, the shade is too short. Add details to the lamp if appropriatetassels, fringe, pom poms. All of these can be very attractive if you have the right setting. You can hang a tassel from a switch on a lamp in a living room. Save the beaded fringe for the bedroom.
Be Inspired

Image via dominomag.com

April 8, 2014

Easter Eggs

Easter is just around the corner. I don't decorate very elaborately for the holiday, but I do make sure the table looks pretty and there are plenty of eggs all around. My speckled eggs (below right) make an appearance as soon as I decorate for spring, but my colorful Easter eggs are saved for the holiday.

I can remember buying dozens of white eggs and vegetable dye when my children were younger in preparation for the Easter Bunny. I knew we'd all have green/blue/purple hands by the end of the day, but that was part of the fun. We'd boil our eggs, dip and color, and then fill bowls and platters to set on the kitchen table. As they grew older, we decided to take our egg decorating up a notch. The eggs you see above are between 8 and 15 years old. I can't believe they've lasted this long, but I do make sure to tuck them away safely every year. In order to make these colorful eggs all you need is some paper toweling, acrylic paints, and white eggs.

Because I wanted them to last, I blew out the eggs before the kids got to color them. If you've never done it, it's a pretty simple process. First (gently) pierce a hole at either end of the egg using a pin. Carefully enlarge the hole by swirling the pin around in circles. Once you've done this, stick the pin in as far as it can go and swirl some more to help break up the yolk. Then carefully blow through one end. It takes a little time to get it started, but the egg should start to come out the other end. Let them dry completely before decorating.

Fill paper toweling with drops of paint. Start sparingly, you can always add more. Carefully roll the egg around the paper towel in circles until you reach the desired look. You can use more than one color by lining up different towels with paint or add multiple colors to one towel. Let dry between applications. Remember, the less paint you use the better. You can even wrap the egg in the paper towel for more coverage. The texture of the towel helps set the design.

If you'd like to create a more organic looking egg, then natural dyes are a good idea. Linda from r house has created these beautiful silk-dyed eggs (directions below), and these are my speckled eggs created by using brown acrylic paint. Simply apply paint to a toothbrush and run your thumb along the bristles and over the egg. Use more paint for larger spots and less paint for smaller ones. You can even use a paintbrush. The closer you get, the more paint will be applied. You can test your technique on a paper towel first. Let one side dry first and rest them in an egg crate. Repeat for the other side.

Silk-Dyed Eggs

You'll need eggs, string, rubber bands, or twist ties, and 100% silk fabric such as a scarf, tie, old blouse, boxer shorts, etc., and 100% cotton fabric from a t-shirt or pillowcase.
  • Cut pieces of silk and cotton fabric into 5x5 squares for each egg.
  • Lightly dampen silk fabric and place one egg in the center printed side up.
  • Gather eggs tightly in fabric and tie with a piece of string, twist tie, or rubber band.
  • Place the silk-tied egg into the center of a piece of cotton and tie securely as well.
  • Place eggs in a single layer in a non-reactive pot and add enough water to cover eggs plus 2".
  • Add 4 tablespoons of white vinegar, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 40 minutes.
Note: If you choose to blow out the eggs instead, place a colander or upside down steamer basket in the pot to keep the eggs under water.
  • Remove eggs with tongs and let them cool, about 20 minutes. Unwrap and enjoy your designs!
Thanks Linda!

For more inspiration, check out this Pinterest board filled with ideas. Need Easter menu and table setting ideas? You can find some here.

April 4, 2014

(Children's) Books

My goal was to read all seven Harry Potter books over the winter. I'm almost done with book #4. I read the first book of the series when it first came out because the book club I belonged to at the time decided we needed something "light" to read, so I didsort of. I couldn't get into it even though my son was utterly fascinated. (A lesson in giving books a second chance.) He couldn't read through the series fast enough, and when he had to wait until they were published he was not happy. Once book #7 came out he pretty much locked himself in a room until he was finished. I can still remember taking him to the first movie...we we're absolutely enchanted by then.

Then it was the girls turn. As soon as they started to read them, they were dedicated fans. In fact, all of my children have read through them at least twice. Now it was my turn. Because we had two copies of each book in the house, my daughters were kind enough (if not entirely willing) to let me borrow one. We're all very particular about our books, so I decided it was time I had my own set.

After a day of prom dress shopping, my youngest daughter and I went into the bookstore and I asked her where would I find them. She replied fantasy, so off I went. I came up empty-handed and then went to one of the computers to help me out. To my (silly) surprise, I found out they were housed in the children's section. Of course I knew these books were children's books, kind of, but it never occurred to me that they hadn't graduated somehow to the fiction section.

Harry Potter is much more than a children's book. J.K. Rowling is a brilliant writer who captured a world that anyone would want to return to again and again. Lurking behind the narrative of witches, wizards, and quidditch, lies a story of friendship, family, bravery, love, and hope. READ THEM.

I've already started purchasing books for my granddaughter. I bought her Guess How Much I Love You and The Very Hungry Caterpillar for starters. I know my son will make sure she has her very own set of Harry Potter books before I can say "expelliarmus".

Do you have favorites from your childhood? Here are some links you might enjoy...

As a young girl, my oldest daughter liked the Madeline series. She's very much into dystopian novels such as The Hunger Games and Divergent today. My youngest daughter liked the book The Very Noisy Night when she was little. She was a fan of the Dairy Queen series and now, The Summer I Turned Pretty Series. My son also loves/loved Brian Jacques.

We're huge fans of the Berenstain Bears and Dr. Seuss! I have boxes and boxes packed away for each of my children.

I read We're Going on a Bear Hunt again and again and againand again. (As well as the above.)

You can get a whole list of children's book recommendations here.

Once you're finished with the books, you MUST see the movies. (I adore Alan Rickman and Maggie Smith.) We hold a Harry Potter marathon every New Year. ABC Family also runs Harry Potter weekends, so check it out.

Have a wonderful weekend!

April 3, 2014

April Mood Board

Lush greens on the wall, in the yard, are calling to me. I just purchased a baby fern to add to my dining table centerpiece. The spring bulbs are starting to bloom and the promise of bushes full of heavenly-scented peonies are just around the corner. Herbs, vegetables, flowers...soon they'll all be in abundance. It's time to go for a bike ride and pair a spring-weighted sweater with a pair of shorts.
Color Inspiration
1. BM CSP-475 Wild Mulberry. 2. Ralph Lauren ML15 Sea Grass. 3. Valspar 6009-9 Lovely Green.
4. Farrow & Ball Minister Green. 5. BM 2031-40 Spring Meadow Green. 6. SW 0074 Radiant Lilac.
7. BM 2073-20 Autumn Purple
Images via houzz.com and tumblr.com

April 2, 2014

The Home Office Grows Up

I don't like matching dining room tables and chairs and I don't like your typical office designhome or otherwise. Matching furniture just says "boring" to me. So when I saw this photo of Emily's all grown up office, I just had to share. Someday, maybe, when I add on to the other end of the house, I envision building a dining room/home office that would look similar to this. I love bookcases and they're perfect for storing not only books, but all of those office supplies that you need within reach but out of sight. (Can you see the bottom shelves? They're filled with baskets, boxes, and reference materials.)

I used to have a farm table just like this. I loved the large surface, but unlike Emily, I don't have a lot of storage space, so I moved my studio desk into my home office. I will say that it's a lot easier to be able to pull open a drawer that's right in front of you for tape, a stapler, and post-its, but I miss the larger table surface my farm table provided. Instead of shelves, my books are housed in an antique china cabinet and larger office supplies are tucked away in a chest of drawers. So although it's not exactly my dream office, it really doesn't look like much of an office at all.

Let me tell you what else I love about this room...
  • Painted bookcases. This is bright, airy room, but the smoky gray backs of the bookcase helps to ground the space and shows off books and collectibles. You can also take a lesson from how she arranged these books. when you have a lot of shelves, don't get too fussy with display. Keep it simple, but interesting.
  • A large light fixture. Actually there are two. I love the chandelier and the lamp. One thing I will point out is that a dark shade (like you see here) is going to concentrate the light on the table and the table only. However, the large chandelier is going to help illuminate the room and the area over the desk with a lot of light. If you don't have a second, brighter light source, the lamp must be more functional so say good-bye to the dark shade.
  • A comfy chair. Instead of the usual office swivel, an attractive upholstered chair is used instead. It's stylish, comfortable, and helps to soften the room. However, scooting that chair back and forth between the desk and the bookcase is going to be a challenge. Consider casters, or...consider it a part of your exercise routine and get up from the chair to get your things.
  • Pops of color. Notice the blue throughout the room? How about some orange? Even it's just a small amount, move it around the room. The room flows from one area to another.
And finally... Always, always, always decorate with the things you love. It doesn't matter what room you're decorating. Each room should have something personal displayed that makes you happy just to look at it. I'm sure Emily's room is filled with all kinds of treasures.

Update: Emily has reinvented the room a bit more. It's now an office/dining room. My favorite kind of dining room!

Academy Update

Is a career in decorating right for you? Join me for a FREE teleclass of the same name on Wednesday, April 9th at 12:00 ET.

If you've been asking yourself that very question for a very long time, then it's time to get some answers. People often get confused about where to begin, what a career in this field actually entails, and how they can carve out a niche for themselves. When I started as an interior decorator, I learned a lot while in the fieldmore than they ever taught me in design school, so when I began teaching classes, I took that into consideration. Just what does it take? What type of education do you really need? And how can you start a career without investing a lot of money? And so much more. I was able to incorporate some of my other skills and education into the mix when I began writing and teaching all about design. Who knew I could do all that?
Email me at beautifulliving@msn.com to register.

Request your copy of my eBook "Is a Career in Interior Decorating Right For You - Exploring the World of Decorating, Interior Redesign & Home Staging" upon registering.
Upcoming Classes:
Certified Decorating Professional ®
April 28th-30th (Business by Design & Staged to Sell May 1st & 2nd.)
June 9th-11th (Business by Design & Staged to Sell June 12th & 13th.)
The rest of the 2014 calendar will be posted soon.