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4 design books worth your dime

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I’ve been waiting for this bad boy to come out for SIX months! It’s finally here, and it totally lives up to the hype. So many design books make me crazy – they’re impossibly perfect and offer no useful advice. If you’re curious, I made a list of the only 4 I’ve read that have actually been helpful during this reno. Great aspirational photos, ideas that can actually be pared down and recreated, plus oodles of real-world advice (snaps to Remodelista & Emily Henderson in particular for making this process slightly less terrifying).

You should probably just buy them all for yourself. Right now. In fact, here are some links:

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decisions, decisions


| Frank Muytjens home, Elle Decor, Oct 2012 // via my overflowing Pinterest board |

Hi, friends. Remember me? I know, I know. I was such a tease with my “Hey, guess what? Bought a house! Can’t wait to tell you all about it!!”


All I can say is this: those joyful people on HGTV, blissfully renovating their homes without a care in the world? They LIE.

I’m trying, really I am, to find the joy in this process, but honestly? The best I can come up with is chanting, “It will be worth it when it’s done. It will be worth it when it’s done. It will be…” over and over to myself in moments of crisis. Which seem to come about three times a day.

I’m thanking my lucky stars for two things right now: the incredible Mr. SMC, who somehow manages to be calm no matter what is happening (it’s freaky, actually). And the fact that I ponied up to hire a designer, despite my cheapskate, “I can totally do this myself” instincts. {*Scrap that…she was a disaster, and has been sacked.} And honestly, I probably could. But then you’d all have to promise to come visit me in the looney bin, where you’ll find me wandering the halls with my tape measure, muttering to myself about needing to find space for extra storage.

My house is still in a wrecking-ball-grade state of disrepair, but here’s what I know so far: Renovating is, basically, decisions. A constant stream of rapid-fire decisions, some of which matter and some of which, frankly, don’t. Alas, decisions have never been my strong suit. I’ve discussed this with a few friends recently, and we all agree that making decisions for others is much easier than making decisions for ourselves. Whether it’s a new pair of jeans or the hardware for your kitchen cabinets, I can browse the www until my eyes cross, but actually biting the bullet and picking the hardware I’ll have to look at every day? It’s paralyzing. And sure, you can ask your friends, but they’ll all have a different opinion and then you’re more confused than you were when you started. So, for now, I’m sticking with my dream team, and occasionally asking friends to just be kind and validate my choice. “So, orange in the master bedroom? I love it!” Trust me, it’s easier.

Though I definitely feel like I’m in the tall grass more often than not these days, the truth is, it’ll be fine. It’ll all get done, one way or another. And rationally, I know I’ll love it in the end – I have a contractor, a designer and a spouse who will make sure of that. But, ditching those annoying hang-ups that petrify and paralyze us isn’t always a rational thing, now is it?

For now, here’s what I’m trying: taking a deep breath. Trying to get a grip on reality and remember that hey, it’s just cabinet hardware. Stepping away from it for a while if I have to. Figuring out what it is I need in order to be sure. More info? Keep researching. Less info? Ask the spouse to help me cull my options. A better visual? I mock things up in Photoshop almost daily now. And then, at some point, I bite the bullet, make the decision and try living with it. If I wake up in the morning hating what I picked? Well, there’s your answer. And when all else fails, you write a 6-page email to your designer, forcing her to tell you that no, you’re not just missing something. Eight-inch Mission-style drawer pulls in natural brass for under $10 each do not, in fact, exist anywhere on this planet.

And now, to make up for the ranting, a few of the inspiration photos I’m using to try to make this uber-generic 1960s townhouse into something really special. (Want more? My Pinterest page for the casa runneth over…)




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a good night’s sleep

loom & leaf mattress review

| My Loom & Leaf mattress posing with my world-famous ginger scones. How much do I love those glasses? Quite a lot. |

As most of you know by now, I have a few little health glitches to deal with from time to time. (Said the girl currently rocking a case of hives that would make the Elephant Man hightail it to the nearest exit.) Anyway, the latest in this Lifetime miniseries is a star-studded cast of inflammatory hijinks which generally add up to a pretty uncomfortable life more often than not. Joints spontaneously swell, muscles ache despite my total aversion to physical activity, and pain pops up in the most random of places (who in the world gets sore toes, for Pete’s sake?).

A few months ago, I started noticing that things were remarkably, undeniably worse when I first woke up in the morning. Initially, I blamed it on my pain meds…how dare they wear off! But slowly, I came to terms with the fact that it might be my mattress. Read on

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this or that: styling a cozy reading nook


1: Embroidered Paris pillow, catstudio (I’m obsessed!) | Sheepskin | Throw | Lamp | Mug
2: Pillow | Vintage kantha throw | Art | Book

There’s nothing I love so much as a cozy reading nook. Something welcoming, comforting and stylish, but a little bit fun too. Besides being a perfect excuse to curl up with a book (or the latest Vogue), a well-styled reading nook just instantly makes me feel calmer and more relaxed somehow, even when the rest of my house is a shambles.

I happen to love my current nook quite a bit. It has a picture-perfect view of the pond out back, and in the morning, I get just the right mix of sunlight and crisp breezes when I settle in with my cup of tea. 

But even spaces you love can use a little update now and then. Luckily, there’s nothing easier in the world of interiors than creating (or updating) a reading nook. All you really need is a chair, a lamp and maybe a side table (you’ll need a spot to set your tea, after all), and the possibilities become infinite. It’s like the little black dress of design – classic and always ripe for reinvention.

So, I decided to have a little fun with the options, and loved the results so much, I thought I’d share. The one on the left is so relaxing, simple and elegant – I feel calmer just looking at it! But the other is so cozy and inviting. What’s your pick, friends? (As you may have noticed, someone in my house has already cast her vote…)


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me and art

Anna Valdez

|  My first grown-up art purchase, by the insanely-talented Anna Valdez  |

We don’t talk about it enough here, but I’m what you might call an aspiring art collector. I’ve always secretly wanted to be a Collector (yes, with a capital “C”). You know, one of those obnoxious people who “acquires pieces” at a pretentious gallery opening instead of buying posters in the museum gift shop. Yep, I aspire to snobbery. I admit it.

Alas, I probably won’t be making off with a Picasso from a Sotheby’s auction any time soon. And for most of my life, that seemed like the only way to collect. You had to be a high roller. But then, the Internet happened. And after that, 20×200 happened. And the world of collecting art suddenly became…possible.

20×200 was the first time I realized that mere mortals could, in fact, learn about art, be knowledgeable about up-and-coming artists, and even collect art – all without a seven-figure bank account or a loft in Manhattan. I was in love pretty much from Day One.

So, it’s safe to say that it makes my entire week to tell you that I’m teaming up with them on a series of Q&As with their incredibly smart and savvy founder, Jen Bekman. I’m pumping her for the skinny on everything there is to know about being a grown-up art collector (without a Silicon Valley art-buying budget).

The first one launched today, and I won’t lie…my feathers are pretty fluffed up about the whole thing. I hope you’ll love it.


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Gift Guide: The Gourmet

gourmet gift guide, food gift guide, foodie gift guide, edible gift ideas, best gift baskets

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12

They’re your go-to for the inside scoop on the hottest new restaurants, they always have something delicious bubbling away on their stove and everyone clears their calendars when they decide to throw a dinner party. Here are a few gifts that any gourmet would love to receive for the holidays.

Read on

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make over my house: the easiest living room update

{Editor’s Note: This living room update came together in partnership with my friends at Lulu & Georgia, but as always, opinions and picks are 100% mine. Thanks for supporting the wonderful businesses that keep the lights on at SMC HQ!}


Grey pillow | Blue pillow | White Throw | White Jar | Photo Frame | Giraffe | Zebra dish

Friends, most of you have seen my casa by now – the whole “make over my house” saga was front and center at SMC for quite a while. And while I adored everything about the finished product, it’s been a couple of years, and things were looking a little worse for wear. Plus, sometimes a girl just needs a change. But I was in no way mentally prepared to undertake a complete overhaul of my space again. And really, it didn’t need it – the room still has a great foundation. It just needed a little nip/tuck to make things feel shiny and new again.

So, when Lulu & Georgia asked if I’d be interested in updating a room and showing it off, you can imagine how long it took me to say yes. Read on

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