Category Archives: home design

make over my house: the details

{Editor’s Note: Welcome to installment #5 in my home design recap! I’ve teamed up with some truly amazing sponsors, including Manor Fine Wares, Rugs USA and woonwinkel home, to make this magic happen. In case you’re behind, check out the rest of the series right here.}

Friends, I’m so flattered that you all loved the house so much! I’m absolutely thrilled with how it turned out. Before we wrap up this series (or at least put it on hiatus until I get around to redoing my bedroom), I have to show off a few of my favorite details in the new room. Because truly, it’s the details that make this space what it is. I lived with the furniture for several weeks before Shannon came over with a pile of accessories to work her magic, and honestly, I didn’t fall in love with the project until that day. By the time she was done, the house felt like a home. Albeit a much fancier home than I’ve ever lived in before.

Today, I thought I’d show you a few of my favorite vignettes in the space, and give you some of Shannon’s amazing tips for styling a room: {click the arrows for more images}

I want to give a huge thanks to woonwinkel for bringing that amazing mantle clock by Dick van Hoff (really more art than anything else) into the space, as well as my yellow bowl from Pigeon Toe Ceramics. I knew I wanted a few modern touches in the space to keep it young and fresh, and I’m genuinely amazed by the impact these pieces had. Every single item in their shop is so special, and so carefully curated – it’s a breath of fresh air to walk into their store. I firmly believe every home needs a few contemporary touches to keep it looking fresh and modern, and the women at woonwinkel are savants at helping you select pieces that will blend with your existing collections without fighting for attention. I just can’t say enough good things.

Before I sign off, I wanted to share a few valuable lessons I’ve collected during this process. This was an amazing project in so many ways, but it was real. There were bumps, disagreements, delays…it’s real life, people. Here’s what I learned:

  1. Hire a designer. Truly, if you’re stumped by your space, having an expert just tell you what it needs is a godsend. I really lucked out with Manor – there were so many advantages to working with a designer affiliated with a store (including being able to try pieces out before committing to them). In the end, I don’t think I spent any more than I would have spent on my own, but I definitely spent better. Plus, having someone come over and style your house is an incomparable pleasure everyone should experience.
  2. Be patient. Real life is not HGTV. Your house won’t be done in 48 hours…and it shouldn’t. Real homes take time to evolve, and putting a deadline on the finished project means you’ll end up with pieces you don’t love, and a process you’ll like even less. Let your designer take the time she needs to find the pieces you’ll love, even if it means living without a coffee table for a month.
  3. Be flexible. Letting someone else shop for me wasn’t easy. But the results were the most impressive when I trusted Shannon’s judgment. If you really don’t like something, absolutely say so…but have faith in the designer you pick, give their ideas a chance, and trust that they’ll steer you straight.
  4. Be honest. Shannon touched on this in her Q&A, but I wanted to reiterate. If you’re a TV-watching house, admit it so that the designer can orient the furniture that way. If your husband needs a recliner, say so. It’s your space, and you’re the one living in it after the designer has moved on to other projects, so make it work for you, not some idealized version of the life you wish you lived.
  5. Be creative. For all the advice I took from Shannon, sometimes I did go out on my own (often because I’m cheap). The doggie sketches by Michele Maule were all me, and I adore them. My $39 mirror from HomeGoods worked out just fine. And easily 80% of the art, knickknacks and other touches in this room came from other rooms in my house – I gave Shannon free rein to wander the house and pilfer at will, and it saved me all kinds of money. A good designer will be honest about the pieces that you can source elsewhere to help with the budget – just be sure to keep them in the loop before you go rogue.

Finally, if you love what Manor did for me, know that they can do the same for you, on just about any budget. This holiday season, they’re launching online design services which will be reasonably-priced and accessible to everyone. And in the meantime, if you’re stumped by something, talk to them! Send them a photo of that sofa that needs new throw pillows, and let them suggest ideas. Show them your bookcase that needs styling, and they’ll give you advice. This is a local store with good, helpful people working there, and they live for this stuff!

A huge, huge, bear hug of a thank you to Manor, to Rugs USA and to woonwinkel. You made this an extraordinary process, and I couldn’t have even imagined it without each of you!

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make over my house: the big reveal!

{Editor’s Note: Welcome to installment #4 in my home design recap! I’ve teamed up with some truly amazing sponsors, including Manor Fine Wares, Rugs USA and woonwinkel home, to turn this big empty space into something really special. In case you’re behind, check out the rest of the series right here.}

Friends, it’s time!! Are you ready to see the finished product?

Chairs (and here) / Lamp / Clock, c.o woonwinkel home / Rug, c.o Rugs USA

Ta-da! This is the view as you walk in the front door – remember those drawings from my lookbook? Pretty spot-on, isn’t it? Except that instead of that delicious (and sorely out of budget) round mirror, I opted for one I found at HomeGoods for $39. And instead of a plant (which died almost immediately upon entering my house), I decided a side chair would have a longer life span in that corner.

Pay particular attention to a few of my favorite things, including my fabulous new green lamp (it’s called the Melon lamp, which makes me love it even more), and that beyond-fab Moroccan souk rug from Rugs USA. It’s like walking around on a giant Ugg slipper. Also, the pups are crazy for it – they think we got them an 8×10 dog bed. Rugs threatened to be a major budget obstacle for this project, but the pricing at Rugs USA was outstanding, the shipping was free, and I absolutely could not be happier with the quality. (Tip: they have coupons all the time, so sign up for their emails and you’ll score a serious steal.)

Reclaimed barn wood coffee table
/ Chevron pillows / Whale pillow / Poufs

This is the view from the fireplace. Yay, gratuitous pillows! Husbands love gratuitous pillows. Mostly, I love the magical way those chevron pillows make the entire room work. The fabric and the color palette pull everything together instantly. They’re definitely what you’d classify as a splurge (or an act of madness), but truly, the room wasn’t nearly as good without them – I couldn’t believe the difference when I tried to take them out. So, I swallowed my yuppie guilt.

Art: Michele Maule, Jen Garrido, Nick Hlobeczy

A close-up of some of the detail on those beautiful cabinets. The gallery wall is all my own art, including two custom puppy portraits by the amazingly talented and patient Michele Maule. That awesome-sauce clock? You’ll be hearing more about it next week when I give you an up-close peek at some of my favorite details in the room. But it’s from woonwinkel home, and I’m obsessed. Talk about not your grandmother’s mantle clock! I love the dose of clean, modern simplicity it brings to the room.

Lamps / Console Table / Yellow bowl, c.o woonwinkel & Pigeon Toe Ceramics /
Zigzag runner (a steal!), dining table & pendant light, call Manor to order / Jute rug
, c.o Rugs USA

I promised myself that I would have an IKEA-free home, but honestly, after searching high and low (the biggest understatement of all time), this sleek white desk was the perfect size to live behind the sofa, and I love the modern edge it brings to the room. Truly, I think this might be my favorite spot in the whole house. Love the poufs, love the navy lamps, love the yellow bowl filled with jelly beans (another awesome piece from woonwinkel)…the whole thing is very, very me.

The dining room was especially tricky, but Shannon worked some serious magic by choosing a long, narrow table (this one’s made of recycled tires!), which worked wonders for opening up the space. That super-soft jute rug from Rugs USA warms up the room and keeps it from going too industrial. It also ties in all of the other rugs in the space. It can be hard to connect multiple smaller rugs in one room, but by changing up the textures and keeping the palette neutral, I think they play off each other perfectly.

The chairs belonged to my last table – yay for not replacing everything! And that light fixture. I kicked and screamed over that. Not enough light, I said! Try candles, Shannon said, ever so calmly. She was right…it’s a stunner.

And just because I can’t resist a photo with my beloved tiger, the Brigadier General, here’s a nicely-styled bench in the living room:

Everything you see was already mine, except that basket underneath, which I was convinced a snake would jump out of at any moment, so I sent it back. Incidentally, the hubs thought I should point out here all of the different ways we’ve displayed art throughout the rooms. I’m not sure it’s so much “displayed” as “haven’t gotten around to hanging,” but I like his enthusiasm.

So? What’s the verdict? Are you as in love as I am? Swooning heartily encouraged, friends. And stay tuned…next week, I’ll show off all the little details that make the space special, give you some of Shannon’s top-secret styling tips, and share a few key things I’ve learned during this project that you’ll definitely want to file away for your next reno.

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get gifting: a happy housewarming

{Editor’s Note: Happy Labor Day, friends! I hope you’re off doing something exciting, and not stuck at the office, pretending to work but actually just reading SMC to pass the time. I’m so happy to introduce you to our new columnist, Jennefer, who’s about to be your best friend when you’re on the hunt for a gift. Bookmark these…I guarantee they’re going to come in handy!}

Jennefer ~ Welcome to the land of the gift-obsessed! I’m a compulsive gift-shopper, and what was once an innocent hobby has now turned into a full-fledged addiction…complete with a room in my home dedicated to all my “you never know when someone will have something to celebrate” purchases. I can’t wait to share a few of my favorites with you!

First up: housewarming gifts. This time of year always seems to bring on a bevy of housewarming parties. Friends spent the summer relocating, and are finally ready to show off their new digs. Moving into a new home is a big deal, and it deserves to be celebrated! As the dedicated friend/sister/employee of a lucky new homeowner, it’s your job to pony up with not only something fun and creative but useful. Here are a few of my absolute favorite housewarming gifts to give and receive:

1. I consider wine to be the fifth, and sometimes only, food group. And there is nothing better than sitting on the porch sipping vino without the worry of breakage. Which is why I love GoVino. A set of 8, especially when paired with your favorite bottle of wine (mine is The Prisoner – I should own stock in that winery) makes a great, affordable gift…and will come in handy until your pal unpacks her crystal. {GoVino Wine Glasses, $28/8}

2. A sassy, vintage-style apron is a perfect gift for a girl that likes to putter around the kitchen. On first glance, an eye-roll may ensue, however once they give it a spin, there’s something about that girly, retro vibe that always makes it a favorite gift. {Jessie Steele apron, $30 / 3-D Toile Full Apron, Anthropologie, $32}

3. For friends enamored with the culinary arts, an old-school, hand-cranked pasta machine is another go-to. This is one of those gifts everyone wants to try, but no one wants to splurge on for themselves. Plus, even if your friend never uses it, they look great sitting on a kitchen counter (much like the Kitchen-Aid mixer I got for my wedding and never use). {Marcato Altas Pasta Machine, $100}

4. If you’re a traditionalist, a beautiful bouquet is always a winner. Nobody has more beautiful flowers than Calyx, and their orchid bouquets are just breathtaking. Send one of these and you are assured to be invited for dinner again and again, so the return on your investment makes these a surefire winner. {Captiva Orchids, Calyx Flowers, $60+}

5. Monogrammed and personalized gifts amp up the thoughtfulness factor, and prove you didn’t pop into Target last-minute on your way to the housewarming party. It is the advance planning that really makes these gifts special. Two of my favorites for a housewarming are a monogrammed welcome mat or a personalized throw pillow. They can be more of a splurge, but they’ll be used every day and make great conversation starters. {Monogrammed Door Mat, Pottery Barn, $59+ / Custom Pillow, Uptown Artworks, $149}

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make over my house: designer q&a

{Editor’s Note: Welcome to installment #3 in my home design recap! I’ve teamed up with one of my absolute favorite home stores, Manor Fine Wares, and a few other wonderful sponsors you’ll be hearing about, to complete a total redesign of my main living areas. In case you’re behind, check out the before pics and the design plan lookbook over here.}

As I’ve mentioned in prior weeks, when I first moved into my new space, I was stumped. The layout wasn’t making sense to me, none of my furniture was working, and even though I like to think I have a bit of expertise in the world of style, I knew I was completely out of my league.

But asking for help? From a professional? That seemed even more out of my league. Surely, I was nowhere near the budget of a girl that would hire a designer. And surely they’d look at my little job and laugh me right out of the store. When I first mentioned my idea at Manor, I fully expected to be told I was nuts. But instead, they were so excited! They loved the prospect of working on a lower-priced job, and my designer, Shannon, told me more than once she was really enjoying the challenge of hunting down good design pieces on a budget. I’m choosing to believe her.

Since for most of us, the idea of hiring a designer feels like traveling to a foreign country, I wanted to have Shannon give us the low-down on everything there is to know about hiring a designer. Prepare for some serious design expertise!

SMC: When you’re working with a new client, how do you get started? What is the typical process like?

Shannon: The first session really about just getting to know one another. I like to discuss what the client is interested in, what their living style is like, and what brings them joy. I also like to walk around the space with them and discuss how they came to have the pieces they do and what pieces really mean something to them so we can try to use them in the new plan.

I feel that the key to being a good designer and giving the client the end result they are searching for requires being a good listener – you can determine a lot of what someone is really wanting within their home by listening and reading between the lines. From there I will take measurements and discuss timelines. I try to tell clients that they set the pace of the project, so we can move as slowly or quickly as they like.

Read on

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make over my house: the lookbook

{Editor’s Note: As I mentioned last week, I’ve teamed up with one of my absolute favorite home stores, Manor Fine Wares, and a few other wonderful sponsors you’ll be hearing about, to complete a total redesign of my main living areas.}

As I told you all last week, when I moved into my new house, I needed serious help transforming it into the light, airy, clean space I had in mind. Luckily, the amazing people at Manor Fine Wares came to my rescue!

I had absolutely no idea what to expect when I first met with Shannon (my designer extraordinaire) – after all, I’d never had a design consultation. So, I came armed with lots of adjectives about what I wanted (and didn’t want) the space to be, color preferences and loads of photos.

What actually happened? She walked into the room, and immediately said “Yeah, this isn’t working, is it?” and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Sadly the biggest offender in the new space was my beloved bird chair (you can see it in the “before” pics). I positively adore that chair, but it was taking over the room in the new house. Shannon’s immediate reaction made it clear: the birds had to go.

Next, it was time to talk about musts. What furniture has to stay? Well, the sofa…because I’m too cheap to replace it, and I love it. And my secretary desk/china hutch in the dining space. And a few pieces of art that I could never part with. But beyond that, I was flexible. And what is a “must have” in the new space? The husband’s recliner…he’s a miserable mope without it. Also, said recliner must face the television. Marriage/life lesson: some battles just aren’t worth fighting.

Beyond that, we talked more about mood and feel than specifics – I told Shannon that my last place had been cozy and filled with books, knickknacks and bright art, with color and clutter everywhere. This time, I wanted a clean slate. Something soothing to my eyes, very little visual clutter, even less color, and a light, airy feel. Urban beach house, without the cheesy ocean-themed accessories, I told her.

And this is what she gave me (click the arrows to see the full lookbook):

Pretty wonderful, right? (I’m especially in love with that souk rug from Rugs USA) One of the biggest challenges in this space for me was layout. I was really resisting the traditional placement of the dining table (it felt like a huge blockade when you walked in the door), had no idea what to do with the alcoves on either side of the fireplace, and was stumped by which direction the couch should face. Shannon solved every problem. And honestly, just having that voice of authority to tell me this was the solution was pretty priceless.

I’d have never, ever come up with those chests of drawers flanking the fireplace. And it would have taken me ages to realize that my round dining table was never going to work in this space. But Shannon just knew…and saved me months of agonizing over what would have made this room work.

Plus, take note: not all of the pieces in that lookbook are from Manor. My budget precluded the full-on, high-end design orgy I had in mind. My total budget for the project (yep, I’ll just tell you) was $7,000. Not cheap, certainly, but not even a drop in the bucket compared to most design clients. But Shannon didn’t balk. She went to West Elm. She went to Cost Plus. She went to Rugs USA. And she found pieces that blended seamlessly with her picks from Manor.

Next week? A little Q&A session with Ms. Shannon, where we’ll nab all of her best design secrets! Stay tuned.

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shop drop: best made company

Kind of freaking out over the awesomeness that is the Best Made Company.

You guys, they have a whole section devoted to axes. Really.

I know, I know, it’s a little bit hipster. But I live in Portland now…it’s my moral obligation to be a little bit hipster, no? One thing I know for sure: the next time I need a man gift, I know exactly where I’m headed.


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make over my house: the before

{Editor’s Note: Friends, I am so, so excited for this series! I’ve teamed up with one of my absolute favorite home stores, Manor Fine Wares, and a few other wonderful sponsors you’ll be hearing about, to complete a total redesign of my main living areas. It was a huge project, and I can’t wait to show you everything over the next few weeks!}

For those of you that follow me elsewhere (ahem, Twitter and Facebook), you’ll know that I moved earlier this summer. Specifically, I moved from a cozy old Victorian to a sleek, modern/traditional condo (with a killer view).

As soon as the movers pulled away and I saw our furniture in the new space, I knew it was all wrong. All of my beloved bright colors were completely overpowering in the new house. What had felt warm, bright and inviting in our old space was now just plain too much. The furniture was too big, the colors were too bold, and it felt like nothing was working.

In my dream scenario, HGTV would have swooped in and saved the day. But in reality, I got something that was even better: a chance to work with a designer at a store I already know and love, to get all that personalized expertise, but none of the “Oh lord, I hate that chair she picked!” or “I hope they leave soon, so I can repaint that green wall.”

From the day I arrived in Portland (almost literally), I’ve harbored a fantasy that I’d hire a local store called Manor Fine Wares to redesign my house. The store is utterly unlike anything else in town – sophisticated and fun, rustic and surprising. Want to see a few of the many, many reasons I heart Manor?

Oh, it’s so good, friends. So good.

When I knew a redesign was in order, I thought I’d start at the top – and luckily, when I approached them with the idea of teaming up to redesign my space, they jumped at the chance. As it turns out, working with a designer is actually nothing at all like HGTV…but it’s no less awesome. Shannon Riordan, my designer extraordinaire at Manor, is pretty much a mad genius with layouts, details and creative solutions – all of the things I’m terrible at.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be giving you the skinny on what it’s really like to hire and work with an interior designer – how the process works, what real-world design budgets look like, and Shannon’s best tricks of the trade. And then, of course, we’ll cap it all off with The Big Reveal, which I just know you’re going to love!

Next week, I’ll show off the mood board and layout that Shannon came up with to get us started. Can’t wait!

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compulsive design: decorative desks

That mega house-redesign project I’m working on (the series starts next week!!) has really brought out the compulsive shopper in me. Give me a retail task, and I’m like a frantic, obsessive beagle tracking a scent….no way am I giving up until I find that thing! So, I shop and shop (and shop), looking for every.possible.option, until I’m so sick of whatever I’m looking for that I can’t stand the thought of seeing one more, ever.

Then, inevitably, just as I’m ready to move so that I don’t have to find a console table at all, the right option materializes.

So, I was thinking….I might as well put some of that obsessive hunting to good use and share it. What do you say? Are you up for a little more chatter about design?

With that, a few of my favorite desks from the latest compulsive hunting project:

Left to right, from top: Josephine desk in light blue, World Market, $140 / Parsons desk in diamond-weave grasscloth, West Elm, $499 / Beckett desk, Serena & Lily, $899 / Besta-Burs desk in white (also in black and red), Ikea $269 / Ava desk in nickel (also with wood base), Pottery Barn, $499 / Go-cart desk in chartreuse (also in orange and carbon), CB2, $149

I was looking for something feminine, but not girly. Something I could put in an office that my hubs wouldn’t be embarrassed to use occasionally. And, most important of all, something with a very light footprint that would sort of disappear into the room. My office/guest room/library has become a furniture graveyard – currently, it boasts four bookcases, a queen bed, a giant upholstered chair, filing cabinets and a cedar chest. Adding a desk to the mix almost seems cruel, but I’ve got work to do!

What did I end up with? It’s all in the reveal, friends. I know, such a tease. Mark your calendars – my home redesign series starts next week!

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