Burnt offerings


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reSawn-Timber-Co-As 2014 came to an end and we rang in the new year I remembered a tradition that my college roommates and I used to do which was write down all of the things that we had done in the past year that we NEVER wanted to repeat.

We would then light a big bonfire and ceremoniously throw our offerings in and watch the sparks rise into the sky and with their disappearance cast off all that we didn’t want to re-visit.

It didn’t always work, and of course you would sometimes find yourself back in the same situation that you thought that you had burnt and cast off forever but sometimes it was enough of a moment that you could indeed let a bad moment go.

As we all know fire is a powerful and sometimes violent force, which can yield its power in opposing ways. It can be a positive cathartic release or it can be an instrument of destruction. You need look no further than the annual Burning Man event as an example of the power of “the burn”.


Burning Man is a week-long annual event that began in San Francisco’s Baker Beach in 1986 and migrated to the Black Rock Desert in northern Nevada. The event begins on the last Monday in August, and ends on the first Monday in September. Over 65,000 people attended the event in 2014, forming what is known as Black Rock City.

black rock city

Burning Man gets its name from the ritual burning of a large wooden effigy in the form of a man, which is set alight on Saturday evening.

I haven’t been myself but I’ve heard that it is an amazing event that everyone should experience at least once. I’ve heard it described as the largest performance art event that you’ll ever attend. I have a soft spot for performance art and for built artistic environments. No surprise here, especially given my chosen profession, that I would like to attend this sometime soon.

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With all of this talk on the burning of wood I would be remiss to not share about Shou Sugi Ban. In case you haven’t heard of it, Shou sugi ban is a Japanese tradition of burning wood siding that dates back thousands of years. This method was done because the Japanese discovered that a heavily charred board used for siding was much more resistant to rot and insects, as well as far less likely to ignite when exposed to sparks or flames. The shou sugi ban method was vital in reducing fires but is now primarily used for its aesthetics and better performance in exterior applications.

There are few companies like resawn timber co. that are specializing in this type of wood.

or Delta Mill Works who have a large collection of interior and exterior cladding

I think when its used in the right application, it can add an unusual textural quality to a project.

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For a quick tutorial on how to make your own shou sugi ban siding check out this video tutorial.

I’m excited to try this since I already have my propane torch from another wood experiment I did a few years back. I’ll have to blog about that one another time.

Let me know if you give it a go and how your burnt offering turned out.


Images courtesy of resawntimberco.com, http://www.assets.nydailynews.com, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=woOHbbaj6fM, http://www.oliverfluck.com, http://www.parlez-vousphotography.quietplacetolive.com, http://www.resawntimberco.com/shou-sugi-ban.html, http://www.deltamillworks.com, http://www.gardenista.com

If you would like your home to be warm, inviting, stylish, and reflect your personal style contact us here to discuss our design services.

Messy Christmas


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Screen Shot 2014-12-15 at 10.38.10 PMI come from a family that believes in the sanctity of the Christmas Tree. It was and still is of extreme importance to pick the best tree you could find. Now mind you our idea of the best tree is not exactly everyones idea of the best tree. My husband and I go round and round about it every year since my family raised me to believe that the best tree meant that you could barely fit it in your car or even on top of your car. If it scraped the ceiling than it was barely close to big enough. He on the other hand, begs me to just once get a tree that we can actually fit through the door without doing damage. He’s a funny guy.


Maybe not this big but I have to say New Yorkers know how to do a Christmas tree right.


Being an interior designer I notice all of the gorgeous trees I see in magazines and in street windows and take note of how well they are done in regard to balance, proportion, scale, color, lighting, thematic content etc.

And there are some really amazing, and very designer-y trees out there.

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However my tree……… while its BIG, it is what could be described as a mess. It has every kind of ornament you can imagine on it. It is not terribly designer-y. Even as much as I would like it to be sometimes. The struggle is real as I go to open the stored ornament boxes and lights. Now there are some really beautiful ornaments and lights in these boxes and I bet if I put my mind to it,  I could find a theme amongst it all but there is a lot more to this story.  You see I have been collecting an ornament a year since I was in my twenties and got my very first tree in my college apartment. I also have a few ornaments from when I was young. My husband also has a few from his childhood.

When my kids were born we started a tradition of going to the store and they would each pick out one special ornament for that years Christmas tree. They would carefully put their initials and current year on the bottom of their special ornament with the thought that one day, when they have their own apartment, I will ship them their box of childhood ornaments.

So on the night we get our HUGE tree, it has become a tradition to go through the ornament boxes as a family and find our special ornaments and place them on the tree. With my kids now 16, and 18 and with all that John and I have collected, as you can imagine, we need a really big tree to fit it all on. See there is method to my madness. It’s a special night and every ornament comes with a memory of a Christmas past. It usually takes us a few hours to get them all placed and when finished we watch our annual viewing of “ELF”, because like me Buddy, the main character, had a fine appreciation of a good Christmas tree.


And here is the final result.




Yes, its not going to be photographed anytime soon for any design magazine but that’s ok. We love our mess of a Christmas tree and I wouldn’t have it any other way.



Messy Christmas to you all and hope you have a lovely holiday.



Images courtesy of BetterHomes and Gardens.com, New York Magazine.com, infoniac.com, izeko.hubpages.com, imdb.com


If you would like your home to be warm, inviting, stylish, and reflect your personal style contact us here to discuss our design services.


The Cost Of Perfection


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“God is in the details” so declared Mies van der Rohe, the famous German born architect and one of the pioneering masters of modern architecture. It’s a phrase often quoted in architecture and design schools to inspire upcoming talents to consider the smallest decisions and make each choice in their projects highly considered.

It’s a good philosophy and those who have adhered to looking at their work with a discerning eye that not only makes broad sweeps but also considers the smallest moments, have given us some truly amazing moments in architecture and design.

Christian Liagre

But when does perfection become the enemy? This became a topic of discussion the other day between myself and another colleague. It came about because he was complaining that another colleague had come through their project that they had recently completed and instead of noticing all that was done with a discerning eye and a high level of skill and execution, they pointed out everything that was wrong. Commenting on all that wasn’t “perfect” in their mind.

door detail

As you can imagine this can be quite frustrating. But it is what we, who are in this industry, have been trained to do. We are asked on a daily basis to look at space and objects and put them into a form that is aesthetically pleasing, detailed, and in essence, perfect. We are looking for what is out of place, what is wrong that is creating dissonance in a design. Picking it apart to make it better, always better.

If we are good at what we do, we do indeed make it better but I think its important sometimes to honor that which is already working. To make note of and point out successes, along with that which didn’t succeed.

Wabi sabiSometimes what is imperfect is actually what can make it perfect. Just look at what success Axel Vervoordt has had with his work and his base philosophy of WABI SABI. Wabi-sabi is the art of finding beauty in imperfection.


Now granted, he is still very concerned with the details and execution but there is an ethos of honoring that which is unexpected and details that sometimes defy perfection.

With Thanksgiving approaching this has come to the forefront of my mind as the whole spirit of this holiday is about being thankful for what we have. It is not about lamenting over that which we don’t have. Its about honoring the successes, the positives in our lives.


Do I want my work to be perfect? Of course. As my husband will tell you, I will work a detail to death, staying up late into the night to get it just right. However, I’ve set my mind to trying to remember that perfection can be a double edge sword and that I need to be thankful and mindful of all that is good and good enough.

Images courtesy of http://www.archdaily.com, http://www.jealphilippepiter.com, http://www.feedly.com, http://www.wabisabi-style.blogspot.com, http://www.hollygregor.com, http://www.modernsauce.blogspot.com

If you would like your home to be warm, inviting, stylish, and reflect your personal style contact us here to discuss our design services.

Artist vs. scientist or not?


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nerioxman_monocoque1_01_620_413_c1Do you remember in High School when they made you take the assessment test for your possible career options according to how you answered a panel of questions?

When I got mine back it basically indicated that I could choose careers that were on opposite ends of the spectrum. Artist VS Scientist. I showed the results to my parents and being practical and of course protective my dad said “I think you might want to consider the medical field before you commit to being a musician or a painter.”

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I knew they meant well and were looking out for my best interests and honestly I felt really torn so advice on what to do was needed. I loved science, specifically biology, but I also found myself in the art room, going to concerts, or “happenings” whenever a free moment was to be found.

So I started college in the Pre-med program. I suffered through hours of organic chemistry and math courses while at the same time taking every art history, or art course I could fit in. This usually put me at 21 credits every semester and I was exhausted at the end of my Junior year. I needed to take the MCAT test in the next few months, then something happened…. my dad got very ill. They told us he was dying and we started to prepare ourselves.

I told my dad I was dropping out of school and wanted to spend time with him. We wanted to take all of those trips that we never took, before it was too late. Then the phone call came. They were wrong. They had misdiagnosed and turns out he wasn’t dying at all. World rocked I was simultaniously thrilled and lost. Did I really want to be a member of a profession that could make such a gross error?

And so I told my dad that I needed to travel. I promised I would return to school but I really needed some time to figure out what I should do. As it turned out I found that I spent most of my free time in museums, going to architecture lectures, and taking courses in the arts. While still fascinated by quantum physics and the such I decided that the arts was where I belonged.



Going back to school was still a dilemma because I loved all my classes in fine arts, art history, interior design, graphic design and architecture.  How to decide on one was frustrating. I finally ended up majoring in Art Education because I could study them all and figured I would specialize in a Masters later. It took me almost ten years later but I did re-enroll and got my second degree in interiors.

Now here comes the really great part…. as I began to explore my new field I found that there were others who were integrating their love for science into their interiors, buildings, artwork, and furniture.

People like Neri Oxman who’s goal is to enhance the relationship between the built and the natural environments by employing design principles inspired by nature.

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Areas of application include product and architectural design, as well as digital fabrication and construction. Both an architect and designer, Neri Oxman is the Sony Corporation Career Development Professor and Associate Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at the MIT Media Lab. Oxman says she studies processes that occur in nature, deciphering them by means of computerized codes that she herself creates, and uses them for construction-related applications as well as for designing aesthetic objects. Here is one of  her prototype chairs

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Not sure if I would readily use this in any of my projects but is is supposed to be exceedingly comfortable and has been used in practical applications for those who are recovering from injury. Check out her link above to see some other really amazing products she has been developing.

This idea of using what nature has already designed and incorporating it into our modern day designs is being studied in the design discipline “biomimicry“. The core idea is that Nature, imaginative by necessity, has already solved many of the problems we are grappling with: energy, food production, climate control, non-toxic chemistry, transportation, packaging, and a whole lot more. This definition was taken from Asknature.org where you can read more about all of the advances being made by using this design discipline.

Michael Pawlyn is another architect who’s work has focused on the use of biomimicry in his work. From 1997 to 2007 he worked with Grimshaw Architects and was part of the core team that designed the Eden Project. The Eden Project is a visitor attraction in Cornwall, England. Inside the artificial biomes are plants that are collected from all around the world.


The complex is dominated by two huge enclosures consisting of adjoining domes that house thousands of plant species, and each enclosure emulates a natural biome. The domes consist of hundreds of hexagonal and pentagonal, inflated, plastic cells supported by steel frames. See Michael Pawlyn’s TED talk lecture here where he discusses how they used nature to help them with the fabrication of this rather amazing structure.

On a personal note I’ve been using nature, specifically close ups of various natural materials in the development of the fabric line I’ve been working on.

The surface of an urchin shell


A mosquito egg

nature.com mosquito egg

Tortoise shell bamboo


Some great inspiration here. I was really stuck for a awhile. Endless drawings of things that didn’t seem to have any heart in them. No real reason or direction. Then I remembered the work of Neri Oxman and began looking to biology/nature for inspiration and there it was.  When art and science are combined you get some very interesting solutions. It’s about alchemy, which is the idea this blog was originally founded around. Combining various and sometimes disparate thoughts, ideologies, or items to create something much stronger when combined. “Is it art vs. science or not?” I say a resounding NOT.

Images provided courtesy of http://www.materialecology.com, http://www.seo.com, http://www.desktopbackgrounds.me, http://www.interviewmagazine.com, http://www.commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:JürgenMatern, http://www.web.stagram.com, http://www.nature.com, http://www.lucasproductions.com

If you would like your home to be warm, inviting, stylish, and reflect your personal style contact us here to discuss our design services.

Time to cozy up


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laine-mohair creature

UMMMMM, well maybe not this cozy. (Sorry couldn’t help myself when I found this image.) But it is beginning to feel a bit chillier around here. I just saw my neighbors oak tree begin to flash its first leaves of red and orange, a sure sign that fall is just around the corner.

I am also beginning to see all of the big box stores putting out their fall colored accessories and Halloween decorations. Already? it seemed like summer would go on forever in Seattle this year. Amazing, endless days of sunshine and we Seattleites soaked up every gorgeous ray we could get.

However sweater weather is upon us and honestly fall is my favorite season. So many gorgeous colors, and the fall morning mist is something I look forward to every year.

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With the fall upon us I thought I would put out a post on Mohair since it is one of the coziest fabrics I can think of and is definitely a favorite of mine whether being used in a really great sweater,mohair sweater 2

or on a sofa.


Mohair comes from the wool of Angora goats.


Both durable and resilient, mohair is notable for its high luster and sheen, which has helped give it the nickname the “Diamond Fiber”, and can be used in fiber blends to add these qualities to a textile. I have samples on my desk right now and most of them show this fabric to withstand 40-100 thousand double rubs, tough stuff. (Double rubs are a fabric test that determines how long a fabric can stand being abraded before it falls apart)

Mohair takes dye exceptionally well which is one of the reasons I love it so much. The colors you can get in Mohair are like no other fabric.

Mohair is warm in winter as it has great insulating properties, while remaining cool in summer due to its moisture wicking properties. It is naturally elastic, flame resistant, crease resistant, and does not felt. It is considered to be a luxury fiber, like cashmere, angora and silk, and is usually more expensive than most wool that comes from sheep but it will last nearly forever if treated properly.


Mohair is shorn from the goat without harming the animal. Shearing is done twice a year, in the spring and in the fall. One goat will produce 11 to 17 pounds (5–8 kg) of mohair a year.  South Africa is the largest mohair producer in the world, with the majority of South African mohair being produced in the Eastern Cape. The United States is the second-largest producer, with the majority of American mohair being produced in Texas.


Mohair is also one of the oldest textile fibers in use. The Angora goat is thought to originate from the mountains of Tibet, reaching Turkey in the 16th century. However, fabric made of mohair was known in England as early as the 8th century. To get really technical on you….. The word “mohair” was adopted into English sometime before 1570 from the Arabic: مخير mukhayyar. (thanks Wikipedia)


Opuzen as seen above makes some really lovely mohairs.


I also really love the colors that Rogers and Goffigan offer in their mohairs seen above.

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Schumacher has a line called San Carlo that I also really like.

All gorgeous stuff really. Can’t wait to specify some on my next project because of its beauty and durability. Hopefully we might have a yard or so left over that my client will pass on to me to use on some cozy pillows for those chilly fall days ahead.


Images courtesy of http://lolannonces.fr/blog/2012/11/03/les-plus-beaux-bibendums-en-mohair/laine-mohair/, http://digital-art-gallery.com/photo/914, http://www.countingstonesheep.tumblr.com/post/17756302865, http://www.//be0k.tumblr.com/post/80549909704, http://www.nikisawyer.com/sheep/sheep_image_3741.htm, http://www.//kansasfiberfarm.blogspot.com/p/mohair-for-sale.html, commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:ANGORA_GOATS_GRAZE_ON_A_FARM, http://www.opuzen.com, http://www.delanyandlong.com, http://www.fschumacher.com

If you would like your home to be warm, inviting, stylish, and reflect your personal style contact us here to discuss our design services.

Homes of creatives


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nests-of-creatives John DerianAfter my last post on Hemingway, I began thinking about the homes of other creatives and how their homes reflect who they are and the work they do. (Above we see the home of John Derian.)

After doing some research I found that Rizzoli has just released The Inspired Home: Nests of Creatives by Kim Ficaro and Todd Nickey It’s a fresh eye comparing a variety of approaches to living, rather than the depiction of a particular style. The book presents 17 houses belonging to creative people whose quarters reflect their personal and rather inspired approaches to living.


Kim Ficaro is a prop and interiors stylist, and Todd Nickey, is an interior designer and co-owner of Nickey Kehoe, a very cool design shop in LA.  For this book, they stepped back and used their vision to record the work of others. They used the very talented Ditte Isager to do the photography. Her home is also included in the book.

They discovered a great selection of creative types, from designers and tastemakers to writers and musicians. The homeowners passions, aesthetics, and sensibilities are reflected in their surroundings for us to observe and sometimes take note for their rejection of the norms in “designed” spaces. Some good old fashioned rule breaking never hurt anyone I say.

inspired-home-203-ms111099_sqSoothing blues evoke the sea in Athena and Victor Calderone’s Amagansett, New York, beach house.


Hand-painted wallpaper brightens mornings in Allison Shearmur’s Los Angeles home.

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The living room of Shearmur’s home is stately and minimal. The bookshelves contain an amazing array of art books as well as smaller collected pieces.inspired-home-Ferreti

A modern chair sits beside an old wallpapering table in the white-and-gray New Hope, Pennsylvania, home of Richard Ferretti and James Gager.


An artful, orderly array of cabinets adjacent to the kitchen in the Ferretti/Gager home. inspired-home-167-ms111099_sq

In Doug Lloyd’s Hamptons retreat, floor-to-ceiling sliding doors blur the boundaries between indoors and out.


A serene, large-format photograph by Ditte Isager and a chandelier hang above the bed in her room.

Another great book I found was Interiors by Martyn Thompson.


Martyn is an expat from Australia currently residing in NYC who began his photographic career over 30 years ago starting with shooting his own fashion line. However his images grabbed more attention than his clothing line and thus he began working for the likes of Architectural Digest, W, Vogue, as well as capturing imagery for Tiffanys, Ralph Lauren, Hermes, and Gucci.

A book was born when many people had suggested that he publish a book of the interiors work he had shot for creatives the world over, then, talking one day with the co-author, Kirsten Willey, she offered to put it all together and so the book was set in motion.


Highland Lodge in Scotland by Designer, Suzy Hoodless


Vincent Van Duysen, architect, Belgium


Liddie Holt Harrison, Model, England


Francisco Costa, fashion designer, New York


Lesley Crawford, film and set designer, Sydney

So many great interiors. I showcased but a select few from these two books but hopefully it gave you a taste of what was to be found inside: deeply personal and memorable interiors that speak to the owners interests and aesthetics.

Images courtesy of : Nests by Ditte Isager,  Interiors by Martyn Thompson.

If you would like your home to be warm, inviting, stylish, and reflect your personal style contact us here to discuss our design services.






Hemingway got it


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Ernest_Hemingway_1923_passport_photoWalking through my neighborhood last week I spotted a vintage motorcycle in a garage. Not just any motorcycle, but a vintage Norton. You may remember my post a while back on my vintage bike, well I couldn’t help but stop and look. I then met my neighbor who told me about his treasured bike and how he restored it and a few others in his garage that were either completed or in process. I mentioned that I had a 1966 Honda S90 that I couldn’t get to start and one thing led to another and within 30 minutes we had my bike in his garage and had it torn apart. By the next day we had it running and along the way I got to know a bit more about my new friend… ok so I know you are wondering what this has to do with Hemingway. Turns out my friend has a fondness for Africa, hunting, whiskey, and good writing. Needless to say he is also then quite fond of Hemingway. Birds of a feather. He had a coffee table book on Hemingway that he showed me. By then he knew what I did for a living and he wanted to show me Hemingways’ house in Cuba. It was named Finca Vigía, or Lookout Farm, where Ernest Hemingway had made his home from 1939 to 1960, and where he had written seven books, including The Old Man and the Sea, A Moveable Feast and Islands in the Stream. The photo above is Hemingways’ passport photo from 1923. He was quite a handsome fellow. Below are images of his home, Finca Vigia, in Cuba.

photo posted on post-gazette.com


Hemingway's living room


Hem deskI studied the images for a moment and with a designers eye I began to dissect it. What was it that made these images so appealing enough so that my friend would want to share it with me. I posed this question to my friend and it began a discussion on why we remember certain homes. He felt that it was the special objects one collects along the way and we place these in our home. Reminders of of an experience. Tokens of our lives hopefully well lived. Hemingway would definitely approve of that notion.

Hemingway, or papa as he liked to be called, was a cult personality. He wanted to be known for his bold and impassioned life.  He desired to be of genuine character, right and true.  His goal was to embody a spirit of adventure and have iconic passions that defined his very character. He loved bullfighting, sport fishing, travel to exotic locations, a fine rum, and a good, poignant, thought provoking discussion. He wanted things to be simple, beautiful, thoughtful, and of the highest quality. Objects needed to be purposeful, memorable, useful, and comfortable.

Yeah, Hemingway got it in my opinion. Almost all of these descriptors I could use to describe a really great interior. So it was no surprise to me when I saw the interiors of his home.

I look around my own home and I see a story in almost all of the objects. There are the black walnuts in the bowl that I collected on a walk with my son when he was still a toddler, a porcelain bowl from an art installation that I did for my final thesis in college, an African necklace from a Vashon island antique store, a card deck of botanical drawings that I used when I was learning about herbals, a table that I purchased and spray painted a thousand times over when I lived in this beautiful old, stone home in Virginia. There are other objects that don’t always have such positive memories attached to them and I have been, as of late, trying to get rid of these things. Especially as I was getting ready to write this post. If our homes contain objects that are so important to how we remember a place then shouldn’t I try to make sure that what is there are things that bring joyful memories?

I believe that our homes can and should bring us joy. I personally want a home that I can’t wait to come home to. That makes me feel great and is my sanctuary. I want a home that is filled with furniture, art and objects that speak to a life well lived. I think we all deserve this and I know that Hemingway would shout a resounding “YES! by God, do it.”

Images courtesy of Wikipedia. org, Cadenahaban.cu, Pau Salazar Photography, Tracey Eaton, Hemingwaycuba.com,  Colette.vacations.com.

If you would like your home to be warm, inviting, stylish, and reflect your personal style contact us here to discuss our design services.



Open Air


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tumblr_mckq55oJnq1rrqsx6o1_500When we get a week of sun in Seattle,  I start thinking about outdoor entertaining. I inevitably find myself looking through catalogs at the newest outdoor furniture and accessories. I start to dream about how great it would be to have an outdoor room like the one pictured above, that spills out onto a large exterior dining area. We have a really great pergola that was here when we purchased our house. There is an enormous wisteria that has overtaken it and it is now slightly off center. I know the day will come when we have to re-do it, so I start to dream about how we would renovate our exterior dining area. I’ve been looking through websites and various publications and thought I would share some of the great exterior products I’ve found recently.

Screen Shot 2014-06-12 at 10.40.14 PMLike the new COSTA exterior furniture collection from Restoration Hardware. I really like its low lines and classic styling.

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The LEAGRAVE collection is also quite nice. I just love that chair. Think I would prefer a different table but the chair is what really drew my eye to this collection. I have to say one word of caution however…. I read in a review that some buyers were having issues with RH’s exterior cushions. That they were holding water and molding. I haven’t purchased either of these collections but if you could just purchase the frames I would do it.

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If your looking for a new hammock that is comfortable and a bit more unusual, the Le Beanock hammock in canvas is a great alternative to the classic hammock.

Screen Shot 2014-06-12 at 11.03.06 PMThe Weber Summit S-670 is my favorite grill for serious entertaining at a mid-range price. I trust the Weber name and the company stands behind their products. My first BBQ was a Weber kettle that we had for at least 10 years and it served us well. I never was very good at cooking chicken on it though. Finally as we were about to wheel it out and roll in the gas grill someone mentioned to me as I was lamenting over my eternally burned BBQ chicken that you had to microwave or bake it a bit first to get the inside cooked as the skin will burn long before the inside is cooked. Ah well. So if you have a kettle BBQ, now you know the secret.

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If you prefer to cook over a fire; there’s Grillworks’ crank-controlled wood grilling system, with prices ranging from $2,850 for the original Grillery to $8,975 for the Grillworks Dual 42 CRE with two crank wheels and nine feet of total cooking area. This is pro-level barbecuing. This is the unit you need if you are a true grilling enthusiast who knows their way around their BBQ woods.

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For portable grills, I’ve been admiring the Lodge cast iron grill. Its sturdy, and yet light enough to be portable. It has an adjustable height grill and a draft door to regulate heat.

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While we are on the subject of heat…. nothing to me says summer more than sitting around the fire at night. It could be something as well designed as this San Francisco backyard which was transformed by Arterra Landscape Architects. It could also be something much simpler. One of the best fire pit moments I remember was when my husband and I attended what is called “Opening day” in Seattle. It is when many boat owners take the tarps off, polish the rails and form a parade of boats that go from Eastlake, through the Montlake canal and into Lake Washington. It is a welcoming of the boating season. On this particular day we were at a client’s home that was directly on the Montlake canal and she was having a party that spilled out of her beautiful home (its still one my favorites) out to her back lawn. She decided that she needed a fire pit so at 3pm, as she was setting up the party, she grabbed a shovel and carefully dug a hole in the turf. She set the circular turf piece aside to be filled back in later. She then circled it with rocks from the canal and then spread all kinds of beautiful ethnic rugs and pillows around it. It was gorgeous, and everyone gathered there as the sun went down.

Leaf lights

We’ve all seen the ubiquitous string lights for outdoor entertaining but wouldn’t these be really elegant around the perimeter of your dining area. While probably not durable enough to be left up all of the time they are quite unusual. Made of skeleton Bodhi Leaves, each set includes 20 white bulbs on an 8’ long white cord with 5 skeleton leaves around each light. Each leaf is 4.5” long and 2.25” wide. Lights last over 50,000 hours. You can find this item here, as well as the traditional string lights if you want to have some lights up all year long.


Another exterior lighting idea is to hang these grapevine balls in a tree. I have a small ornamental plum tree that stands as an accent tree at the entrance to our home and I have hung these orbs from the branches and they are a really great welcome to any event. You can find them here, or you could make them yourself if you happen to be handy and have grapevines that you need to prune.


Moroccan tea glasses are definitely one of my favorite summer entertaining items. I especially like these from Calypso St. Barth, beautifully etched with elegant designs and trimmed in metallic silver. But to make them complete you need a great summer cocktail in them like the one I found the other day on Quitokeeto.



Make a simple thyme syrup by bringing 2 cups water, 1 cup sugar, and 3 tablespoons fresh thyme to a simmer in a small saucepan. Let simmer for a few minutes then remove from heat and let infuse for another ten minutes. Strain into a jar.

For each drink combine 2 tablespoons of gin, 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, and 2 teaspoons thyme syrup in a small glass. Stir well, add 4-5 ice cubes & top off with about 3 tablespoons tonic or soda water.

Enough writing about entertaining….. its time for me to put my guest list together and set a date while the sun is shining.

Images courtesy of http://tournesol50.tumblr.com/post/34450908703, http://www.restorationhardware.com, http://www.remodelista.com, http://www.gardenista.com, http://www.lodgemfg.com,  Michele Lee Willson Photography, http://www.save-on-crafts.com, http://www.calypsostbarth.com, http://www.quitokeeto.com

If you would like your home to be warm, inviting, stylish, and reflect your personal style contact us here to discuss our design services.

Land and Sky


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Summer is quickly approaching and my mind starts to think about the next road trip. I have to say that the art of the American road trip seems to be a thing of the past.  I remember riding in the back of the station wagon or going on some cross country adventure that my parents had come up with that meant my three siblings and I would be subjected to long hours of self entertainment. There weren’t any iPads or iPhones, just the four of us coming up with games to pass the time.  We also had plenty of time to just watch the scenery go by and observe the remarkable American landscape. At the time we would complain but now I look back and those road trips were one of my fondest memories.

We built memories between us that we now share and laugh about. Like my brothers collecting bottle caps from every gas station soda machine we stopped at to win a car back at home. They had thousands of caps and were sure that they had won that shiny sports car but alas a gentleman who worked at Pepsi won. Grrr! They have rules about that now.


I learned that being still and observing fed all kinds of creativity. Observing the vast landscapes allowed my mind to wander and I would see things in those open plaines. Connections that I hadn’t necessarily thought of before and it seemed that the more I saw the more connections were made. I was hooked on the meditative nature of these trips and I try every year to take these cross country travels with my own kids.

Jacumba Calif

I came across an article the other day about a fellow road trip enthusiast. Victoria Sambunaris is a photographer who has been recording the great American landscape and has recently released her book Taxonomy of a Landcape.  All of the images that you will see on this post are hers. Each year, for the last 13 years, Victoria Sambunaris has set out from her home in New York to cross the United States by car, alone with her camera. Her photographs capture the expansive American landscape and the man-made and natural adaptations that intersect it.


Born in 1964, Sambunaris graduated from the Yale University MFA program in 1999. Her work is held in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the National Gallery of Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, as well as Lannan Foundation, Santa Fe.


In her words about this last journey that led to the making of this book. ” My first journey began on the Texas border in 2000 and ended on the Texas border in December 2013. Everything comes full circle! But through the experiences you gain over time, perceptions change and you begin to  see the world through different filters. When returning to a place over and over, there is a new discovery and that keeps me coming back.”



Leaving Seattle and heading East I can expect to see the dense forests of the Northwest give way to the wide expanses of rolling hills and wheat crops of the central part of our state. The striking contrast of these two regions of our state surprises me every time I pass through it so I fully understand what Victoria is saying. Every time I pass through it I have changed as well and so this journey though so familiar is always new.



I can’t wait to get on the road and observe the vast beauty of the landscapes we pass through. To let my mind wander and dream and connect the dots of that which was unseen before.

Images courtesy of http://www.mocp.org ,http://www.lannan.org, http://victoriasambunaris.tumblr.com

If you would like your home to be warm, inviting, stylish, and reflect your personal style contact us here to discuss our design services.

Behind the Veil


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“Just how much do you charge for your services?” a question that is always asked and is sometimes quite difficult to answer. Why? Because it depends on the level of service that a client wants. Once that is defined then the answer becomes quite clear. I came across an article the other day by another designer on this very subject and it was so good that I thought I would repost it here. Forgive me if this is a bit of a business related post but I’ll add in my take on it as well at the end. It was written by Linda Merrill who is the founder of the interior design company, Decorative Surroundings in Boston, MA.

Several years ago, at an architecture trade show in Boston, I attended a panel discussion on how to price design services. I was new in business and assumed that most of the other attendees would also be business “newbies”. I was surprised, shocked even, when the audience was asked by a show of hands how long they’d been in business. While at least half the attendees were new business owners, the rest had been in business over five years and some had been around for over twenty years. It was a real eye-opener and I realized that no matter how long one has been in business, pricing one’s services is complex and always in need of evaluation. Given the complexity of the issue for professional architects and designers, it’s no wonder that those seeking design services are nearly always confused about the issue. Let’s face it, we don’t know what we don’t know and we all make assumptions based on limited knowledge.


The single most asked question made to a designer is: “What will this cost me?” And most designers will put off the answer until they know more about the entire scope of the project, the clients and what is involved. It’s no wonder there is confusion and, at times, suspicion about the process.

There are some basic ways that the majority of interior designers and decorators charge for their services:

-Hourly rate for each and every moment spent working on the project: This includes all meetings, telephone calls, emails, shopping, designing/drafting, buying, installations and logistics. The hourly rate itself varies by geographic region and experience/professional standing of the designer, but roughly it’s between $75-$250 per hour. Larger firms will have tiered structures based on who in the firm is working on the project (assistant designers vs. the owner, for instance) and one-person shops will generally have a single established hourly rate. Clients pay direct to retail stores and hire their own contractors: Clients can control the total dollars spent to the extent that they are responsive to the designer’s queries and quick to make decisions, and do the legwork of ordering retail products and receiving shipments themselves.

-Hourly PLUS markup on goods: Includes all of the above, plus a markup on custom and trade-only merchandise, and a percentage on any retail purchases made by the designer on the client’s behalf. This additional markup covers the design firm’s time and expenses of managing all the ordering, logistics, trouble-shooting, delivery and installation of the merchandise. If the client wishes for a turn-key level of service where their only job is to approve and pay for the design, this is the type of plan they will be looking at.

-Flat fee rate: For obvious reasons, a flat fee has both positive and negative aspects to it. For the clients, they sign the contract knowing exactly what they will be paying their designer and there should be no surprises. For the designer, they can establish a specific payment structure to cover costs and provide income at regular intervals. The downside for both client and designer is that the entire plan needs to be clearly understood at the outset. Any changes or additions to the original plan may require a renegotiation of the contract. Designer’s fear that a flat rate means the client will lose respect for their time and waste it because they aren’t paying by the hour. A project estimated to take 100 hours that suddenly takes nearly 200 means a big financial loss for a designer. On the other hand, clients fear the designer will pad their time in order to charge more.

-Percentage of the entire budget: This means that every dollar spent on a project is tallied up at the end and the designer receives a percentage, which is usually in the 15-30% range. A budget is established from the start and payments are made based on the estimated total budget and then by the end of the project, the total expenditures are added up to be sure the designer has received the agreed upon percentage. For the most part, the flat fee rate (#3 above) is calculated using this same equation, but is capped, whereas the percentage system is not capped.

As you can see, “What will this cost me?” is not an easy question to answer! In fact, it’s not THE question to be asking. The actual question should be “How do you bill for your services?” allowing the designer to describe their scope of services and how they bill for them. The client needs to provide specific details with regards to their budget and exactly what type of service they are looking for. Unless a designer charges a simple flat fee to provide a design plan for a space, with no added procurement services offered and little alterations to the plan, they will simply not be able to give a price without knowing the budget and scope of the project because the ranges are too varied.

A furnished living room can be $10,000 or $100,000 and more – depending on what the client wants. The budget is always in the client’s control and ultimately the designer can either accept the job within the stated budget, or will choose not to. Contrary to popular belief, designers are not looking to simply spend as much of the client’s money as we can. We want to provide the right services for the clients needs and to be fairly compensated for our efforts and experience.


When contemplating the potential cost and value of design services, consider the way you want to work with the designer:

1) You want a designer to create a vision and design plan only: You will be doing all the legwork, hiring and managing contractors, ordering furniture and dealing with all the logistics and trouble shooting as needed. You are willing to put in the work involved so that as many of your dollars as possible go towards the actual decoration of your space.

2) In addition to a design plan, you want a full-scale, turn-key project where you only want to have to speak with the design firm and they will deal with all other parties involved: Additionally, the majority of the purchases are delivered and installed on a single installation day (aka “the reveal”) versus piece-by-piece deliveries. This level of service includes additional charges for insured warehousing, and two sets of delivery charges – one to deliver and inspect furnishings at the warehouse and another to then re-deliver to the home.

3) Some negotiated combination of the above.

As with everything else, we pay for things with time or money and this is certainly true when it comes to interior design services. -Linda Merrill

happy sad face

It all comes down to understanding what expectation the client has and clearly defining for them how to achieve that and what that will cost. Sometimes it can mean re-defining their expectations. Doing this can mean all the difference in the world between having a happy client and one that is displeased.  People in this business are usually “PLEASERS”. Most of us want nothing more than at the end of the project for the client to be really excited about their home and pleased with all of the work that we have done to make their dreams a reality.

In my own business I have found that what works best is to work on a scaled hourly wage.  There is design time, drafting and meeting time, and administrative time (where project purchasing and management occurs). I then have a mark up on goods but it will always be below what the consumer would pay if they were to source it at retail. So it usually benefits the client to use my expertise and resources to purchase for them. It also allows me to have control over delivery times and thus timelines on a job.

To get an idea of some budget numbers on what a typical room can cost I’ve added a link here to an article that addresses this in a clear way.

I’ve heard of other designers who are also offering design services in a type of “design in a box” format. This is where the client pays a scaled flat fee for a type of room in their home and then they are responsible for sending the designer a measured plan and elevations of the room with pictures of the furniture they would like to keep and a few images of rooms that they like. The designer then puts together a concept board and shopping list for the client to handle on their own.  I haven’t tried this yet and I feel a bit hesitant about offering it because this is such a personal business. I like to get to know my clients and find out what interests they have and what would really make their home special. Finding out that they have an amazing collection of photographs or that they have strong familial tie to a certain country or place, for example can mean all the difference in the design of a room that really speaks to them. Remember what I said about “Pleasers”.  I want their home to be a reflection of who they are and what they do or have strong ties to, as well as it being really beautiful.

I need to ponder this a bit more because it can offer design services in a way that makes it more financially available and it would allow me to offer services for those who don’t necessarily live in the Seattle area. Let me know what you think?? Has anyone used this type of service before and what was your experience with it?  I always try to keep an open mind especially as I’m growing my business.

So as you can see the veil is transparent as long as I am asking the client all of the right questions to begin with and I’ve given them the answer that addresses all of their needs.

Images courtesy of dphotograper.co,uk, Vangelis Thomaidis/sxc.hu, fiumaf.com, cococozy.com, subversivecopyeditor.com

If you would like your home to be warm, inviting, stylish, and reflect your personal style contact us here to discuss our design services.