Friday, 29 March 2013

Client's Kitchen: Sneakity Peek

 I wanted to share a little sneakity peek of a kitchen project we're working on.  My client moved into the house with the kitchen as you see it here...  She was SO ready to get rid of the pink formica countertops and green wallpaper...  I wrote about this project and its inspiration a little while back here.

And here's how it's looking now:

The cabinets& counters are in and the blue bead board has been installed.  I snapped this pic on my phone this week as we were bringing in the furnishings for the house.  (Hence, the plastic-wrapped chairs ;) The pendants for above the island came in wrong so we're waiting for them to arrive along with the barstools and a few more details.   I have to be honest, that this week's installation was THE nuttiest we've ever had.  It entailed me running down the street to pick up trash and not realizing I'd run back up to the wrong house...  As I struggled to get the locked front door open, a car drive up in the driveway to see me trying to get into their house.  hahah SO not good.  :/    I tried to explain but probably just scared her instead.

Anyway, I'll keep you posted and be sure to share final pics!! Have a great weekend and a happy Easter!!!

If you'd like help creating a home you absolutely love, contact me about our design services.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Gmail's new compose now default

You are busy people, so it's no surprise that an overwhelming number of you opted to try out Gmail's faster, simpler compose experience after it launched last October. In addition to telling us what you love about the new compose experience (like how much easier it is to multitask!) you’ve also been sending us helpful suggestions for what features you'd like to see added. As a result of your input, we're now ready to introduce the new compose experience as the default for everyone. We're looking forward to hearing what you think!

If you're already using the the new compose experience, you've probably noticed it's gotten a lot of upgrades over the last few months, from a new way to send files with Google Drive to much-requested features like pop-out replies. We’ve also added support for originally missing features like starring and labeling when composing and the Canned Responses lab.

The new compose will be rolling out to everyone over the next few days. You can learn more in our help center, or follow us on Google+, where we'll be posting more tips for using the new compose.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Indic Languages in Gmail on your feature phone

Indian culture is diverse, with more than 100 languages and thousands of alphabets used every day. Depending on where you are, you might hear anything from Gujarati to Bengali and Tamil to Urdu. If you're a speaker of these languages and use a feature phone, communicating is about to get a little easier.

Starting today, we are rolling out support for 6 Indic languages in Gmail on the feature phone browser: Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Marathi, Tamil, and Telugu. Simply go to settings in Gmail and choose your language.

Some 500 million new users from around the world will join the Internet between now and 2015. Since most will experience the web for the first time on a mobile device, it’s important that people everywhere can communicate in the language they know best.

Swipe between messages in the Gmail app for iPhone

With today’s update to the Gmail app for iPhone and iPad, you can save even more time when you email on the go. Version 2.1 lets you swipe left or right to move between conversations on the iPhone without needing to return to the inbox. You'll be burning through those unread messages in a flash!
Additionally, it’s now easier for you to take action on multiple messages. Selecting a message in the inbox now enables edit mode. Once in edit mode, tap on messages to select them and then choose to archive, delete, or more, from the new actions bar at the top of the screen. You may select Cancel at any time to leave edit mode.

The latest version of Gmail is available in the App Store.

I need your help!

Ok., so here's my post on chickens and before I start, I want ask for your help!! Hear me out before you say no and feel free to laugh but we want to get CHICKENS!!! It's illegal to have them in Fairfax County unless you have two acres (and then you're allowed 64!!) (We have 1 acre) Anyway, we have a major tick problem in our yard (they have embedded their nasty selves in even the baby!!) so we've spoken with an expert because we don't want insecticides sprayed on our property and he suggested chickens. After my initial reaction of no WAY no HOW,  (that's not the way I actually speak but it's way more typable thatn what I rpobably said .)  I did some research (they will get rid of all of our ticks and mosquitoes and are actually great friendly pets!!) and spoke to some friends with them and am convinced that we need our new pet chickens!! (these are hens we want, not roosters so no noise issues for neighbors) .. So if you're still reading... PLEASE help!! It's up for review in Fairfax County TONIGHT so the law could be changed with your help!! I had NO IDEA how good for you pet chickens were until I did the research... They're not at all what you might think. We are SO BEHIND other areas!! So please, laugh and then sign this PETITION FO CHICKENS!!!

As I was googling different chicken coops, I came across some really special ones & wanted to share with you...

Loooove this one:

{Gorgeous chicken coop built by Karen at The Art of Doing Stuff - whose blog I just discovered today.  She seems like so much fun & definitely brilliant. I want to be friends!!}

I dream of one day calling my "Girls!!!" to come running to me!! hahaha

This Youtube video is hysterical.  

To be honest, once the County makes a decision and rules one way or the other, we'll make our chicken decision then.  But either way, I believe in the right to be able to own these pets.  (Fresh eggs?!! mm)   Dave is even more into getting the chickens than I am.  (He did the research on the insecticides and wasn't happy with what he found.  Definitely carcinogens.  not good.  And with all of the deer we have, Lyme Disease is a serious concern.)  My biggest worry with the hens would be the "mess" ;) 

The image above & the next couple of images are from Southern Living.  Sooo beautiful... 

I love all of the gravel paths...

I love the modern look of this one...

{Modern chicken coop from Stephmodo-- omgosh she's amazing!!! The coop belongs to her sister}

I'm not sure what type of coop we'd end up with.  We were only thinking of getting around 4 "sisters" for our dog, Ashby, so we would probably have a fairly small coop.  I visited my friend Brooke Giannetti and loved her cute little white hens..

{ Brooke's (of Velvet & LInen)  coop at their previous house...  Dying to see what their new coop will look like!!}

Brooke stressed the importance of getting a friendly breed of chicken.  Safety with my kids is first.  (Doesn't make sense to bring in crazy chickens that could hurt them if the whole point was protecting them from harmful ticks.  We've been doing a little breed research but got stopped when we found out that our lots size was too small for hens.)

I love this gorgeous coop built by Heather Bullard:

She sells the plans to build this coop online.  I love the little fenced in area..  So pretty & we might have to do something like that to protect our garden from the chickies...

And finally, my friend Seleta recently adopted a little chicken named Lucky:

I've loved following her on Instagram and watching Lucky grow.

Anyway, if you're still reading and don't think I'm AWOL, and are in Fairfax Country, will you please consider signing  here??
love ya

If you'd like help creating a home you absolutely love, contact me about our design services.

So I accidentally...

...Posted a half-written post!! Sorry about that to everyone who received it in an email & was totally confused.  It's been one of those mornings.  I must have hit "publish" instead of "save" when I left for my meeting. ;) ;)

{adorable baby chicky photograph by Julie Persons}

Anyway, my post was about chickens & it will go up when I actually write it!  We're thinking about getting some.  Our main impetus for thinking chickens was the tick problem we have at our new house.  They were CRAZY this past Fall and were all over us & our kids.  (The poor baby had one embedded in his ear and it took 20 mins of screaming & crying for me to get the thing's head out of his ear.)  After speaking with an expert, we learned that chickens are amazing with pest control.  (We're not too excited about using insecticides on our property where we are planning a veggie garden and drink well water.)

BUT-- Sadly. right now in Fairfax Country, where I live, the law states that you can only own chickens if you have 2+ acres.  (You can have 64 chickens on 2 acres... crazy) But you can't have any chickens if you have less than 2 acres.  There's a group of us who are working to have the law changed so that home owners can have pet HENS (not roosters) on their property if they have less than 2 acres.  (And not a crazy number like 64!!;)  We have an acre, btw.  So... tonight, there is a meeting at the Fairfax Government Center to meet and plead the chicken case.  We're collecting signatures for a petition and today's the day, so pretty pretty PLEASE sign this if you're in Fairfax County!!


Thank you so much!!

Pretty pics and an actual post to follow!

If you'd like help creating a home you absolutely love, contact me about our design services.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Pear Spinach Salad

Like I've mentioned before, eating is one of my absolute favorite things to do.  I feel a lot better about it when I'm eating fairly healthy and I love making easy things at home with my family.  I threw together a salad last week that I'm still thinking about, so I thought I'd share it with you:

I start out with the empty salad bowl & mixed in my family's oil & vinegar recipe for the dressing (Plain Olive Oil -Filippo Berio- and balsamic vinegar... More olive oil than vinegar.  Slice up onions (I used red this time) thinly & let sit in the dressing for a bit with a little salt & pepper.)

Once the onions had time to soak in the dressing (5 mins or so)  I tossed in:
~Baby Spinach Leaves (& a few leftover Boston Bibb leaves)
~Crushed Walnuts
~A Cut up Pear
~ Feta Cheese
~More Salt & Pepper

It was Heaven and so easy.

Now that the baby's a bit older, we're able to be a bit more organized about our meals again, which makes me so happy.  We've been making tentative weekly menus before grocery shopping & have been putting together some yummy meals.  There aren't many things I love more than making food at our big island and feeding my family.  (including feeding myself-- I'm no martyr ;) ;)

If I can get a tad more organized, I'll try to start sharing some of the recipes!  Have a great week!!
To check out some other easy recipes I've mentioned on the blog in the past, click here  (or under categories at the top, Click "Food")

ps- Thank you so much for all of the encouragement about the last project I shared!!

If you'd like help creating a home you absolutely love, contact me about our design services.

Friday, 22 March 2013

My Clients' Family Room Before & After

I'm so excited to share some of my professionally photographed work with you today!!  There is such a difference between photos I've taken myself to photos that have been shot by a talented professional.  (I love my photographer, Helen Norman!!!)  The past year has been crazy for me with the birth of my third son, moving and a busy life in general so I've been really behind on having my finished projects photographed.  As you can see from the "before" photo below, I first met with my clients over a year ago around Christmas time:

{unflattering pregnant photo of me with my sweet little friend}

Their family room is just off of their kitchen and is a beautifully sunlit, large, happy-feeling space.  My clients wanted a room that felt both relaxed & elegant.  They needed the kids to be able to flop on the sofa and play, read or watch TV in the room, but they also wanted it to feel like an adult space too, where they could entertain and relax.  My client's style is warm and classic, she loves blues and soft colors, and wanted to get away from the reds and golds she'd had previously.  When I presented my client with the design, I realized how receptive she was.  (I'm not positive, but I don't think we changed even a single element besides a discontinued lamp pair!)  Here's how the finished family room looks:

We replaced the wall-to-wall carpet with hardwood to match the rest of the home and added built-ins around the fireplace.  (Work by CarrMichael Construction)  The TV is mounted in a large cubby.  My clients have a formal living room and since one of the main functions in the family room is TV-watching, we decided to keep it exposed.  We had a seagrass rug custom cut to fit the room and layered it with a striped wool dhurrie.  We had the built-ins lined in a blue grass cloth which really warmed up the room and is probably one of my favorite elements:

Like usual, we used a mix of metals to keep the family room feeling more collected and casual vs. perfectly matched.  

Here's a close-up of the built-ins:

Below is the view of the family room into the kitchen:

We couldn't resist taking one of the photos with my client and one of her (completely adorable!!) daughters in the background.  They'd gone into the kitchen for a cup of milk and it was too perfect.  As you've probably noticed, one of the biggest changes was replacing the ceiling fan with an oversized lantern over the coffee table.  When large pieces like a massive lantern go in, it can often be a bit of a shock to clients but they took it in stride.  

Believe it or not, one of the most "off" elements in the room's plan - which you'd never know now- is one of the pillows on the sofa.  It's a blockprint by Michael Smith with mustard-colored flowers.  When you look at the fabric palette, it stands out as very "dirty" and orangey-yellow compared to everything else, but I felt we needed it to relax things a little and wander a bit off the palette.  My client of course was surprised by it's left-fieldedness but I asked her to "trust me" on this one, and I'm so glad she did because it's one of her favorite fabrics in the room.

Here's a view of the prints we hung, which feature oak leaves and are special to my clients because our area is  filled with oak trees. The massive chair-and-a-half is one of the only good-looking chair-and-a-halves I've ever found because it looks a bit more like a settee and has slim elegant English arms.  My client absolutely loves it.  She's commandeered the chair-and-a-half while the kids wrestle for the pair of ikat chairs in front of the windows.  (above)

I hope you enjoyed getting a peek into my clients' home and I'm so thankful to them for allowing me to help them.  Here's one last pic:

(Little House on the Prairie  is playing on the TV,  I've always wanted to have a picture taken of a project room with the TV on.  ;) ;)

*The professional photos in this post were by Helen Norman and the others/ close-ups were taken by me on my iphone.  (I'm mentioning this because I want you to know Helen took the perfect pictures and I took the bad ones. hahah)

If you'd like help creating a home you absolutely love, contact me about our design services.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Visit Me Over at La Dolce Vita & The Roses

Today I'm over at La Dolce Vita blogging about my favorite room in our old home (none are finished here yet!!) and if you have the chance, I'd love it if you visited!!  Paloma was one of my fist "blog" friends and she's just as kind & gorgeous in person as she is on her blog.  Click here to read about my favorite room: La Dolce Vita 

Also- we've finished with our crazy 2 days of photo shoots and it's time to exhale... until three weeks from now when we have more.  For right now, though, I'm getting back to a "normal" pace of life/ work and am trying to kick it back into gear.  (I.e. I'm fried!!! ;) ;)  I thought you'd enjoy this picture I snapped on my phone of my nightstand right now though...

...These beauties smell like pure Heaven and do remind me to slow down because there's no way to walk by them without smelling them. Enjoy your day!!

If you'd like help creating a home you absolutely love, contact me about our design services.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Photo shoot: A special project & the Truth Behind Photoshoots

One of my favorite aspects of decorating houses is photographing them.  Something about taking photos makes the project feel fully realized.  Bringing flowers in and primping a house for photos so that it looks its best = so much fun... and a TON of work.

 {Living Room Pic}

During photo shoots, things often get rearranged and I often bring in flowers, plants, furnishings and props.  It's a bit like an install day except the client is the camera and anyone who will see the photos (like you all and any potential clients! ;)  I have some clients' whose homes I fully accessorize and style on installation day so on photoshoot days, we come in a pretty much just shoot (with flowers) and I have other homes where we're really making some changes.  (When Better Homes & Gardens photographed my house, they hid light fixtures, took out rugs, brought in rugs, lots of accessories and even furniture!!  I remember being shocked but I've adopted a similar method in certain projects of mine so that I can show my work in its best light.  I realized that magazines have a "look" that they can bring to any home they photograph, just as I have  "look" that I can bring to any home I have photographed and that if I want to bring in the type of clients who love my style, I need to show my style.)  

{The foyer chandy!!}

Having photos of your work taken is a big investment and so I make sure when I do it that I am photographing my clients' homes as I envision them.  My job is about about designing homes for my clients to love, not about designing homes that embody my personal style.  So...  often when I photograph projects, I'll put a little bit more "me" in the styling of the rooms so that potential clients can really  a feel for how I design rooms when I am the final decision maker. 

I would say my clients' styles are -for the most part- very different, but their projects all have a similar look that comes from me.   As I've been in business longer, I have more and more clients coming to me for my "look."  

{Taking pics!!}

I think this comes in part from seeing photographs of my finished work and trusting that they'll love what I can do for them. I have clients who have me fully accessorize their homes by playing with all of their existing accessories & artwork and adding in some new ones, and I have clients who - once the furnishings are in place- take their time and accessorize over time.  Both methods can yield beautiful results and I'll often  help clients with "tweaking" to get it all right.

{living room cocktail tables} 

The project we shot yesterday (and that I'm going to in less than an hour!!) is a really special one to me.  I've been working with my client for over three years now and I love her & her family.  She has been with me during my major learning curve years (haha maybe they all have!! ;) ;) and is still here now!! She's influenced the way I run my business and we've learned a lot together.  She has amazing taste, is super-involved in the design process and has a true passion for design and homes.

{the bedroom ottoman}

I can't even really describe how good it felt yesterday to take photos of this project that I've eat, slept and breathed for so long.  I am so incredibly thankful to my client who's taught me so much and who has trusted me over the years to help her create something so pretty.  (And honestly, it would have been beautiful with or without me, so I'm thankful I got to come along.)  Working with my client on her home for so long was really one of the most influential projects I've taken on, and my client's always going to be in my heart.  

wow.. Did you know you could get so emotional about a decorating project??! hahah  My husband will make fun of me later. ;)

I'm off for another day of shooting, so fingers crossed the clouds go away sometime!!

If you'd like help creating a home you absolutely love, contact me about our design services.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Reply and search faster with the Gmail app for Android

With today's launch of the new Gmail Android app, you can save time on the actions you use most often: reply, archive, and search. If you're using Gmail on an Android 4.1+ device, the updated app lets you reply and archive messages right from notifications with one quick tap.
You can combine this with existing notification features like the ability to customize which messages you receive notifications for and set up different sounds for individual labels. So if you filter and label all the messages from your mom, you could set a ringtone to let you know you received a new mail from her and then quickly reply (because we know what can happen when you ignore your mother!).

The new app also introduces faster search and better search suggestions so you can find your messages quickly online and offline. You can get the latest version of Gmail on Google Play.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Organic Edible Gardens!!

This will be our first Spring in our new house & we're so excited to get to gardening!!  We've decided to do a pretty big vegetable garden... one that we can eat from, but -most importantly to me- one that we can enjoy being in.  It'll be a mix of flowers and vegetables and even fun structures like a living tee pee for the boys to play in.  To help me with the design and to actually create the garden, I've called one of my oldest childhood friends- Danylo Kosovych- who owns Organic Edible Gardens to help me with my 27' x 18' large plot.  

Danylo came over yesterday to take a look at everything and we started brainstorming together.  I was blown away by his imaginative ideas and willingness to make the garden a fun place for our boys.  You can take a look at the -not scaled- general idea we're thinking about right now.  The centers of the bed where the circles are will be potted fruit trees (lemon I hope!!) and the left side of the plan is my house.  The top of the plan shows my fence to the front yard, which opens as wide as the pathway.  We're planning on edging the gardens in chartreuse oregano.  (That's what I call it anyway ;) for a structured look that's full of mayhem and wildness inside the beds.

I'll share more as Danylo & his design team plan out the details (and create the actual design plans which are much prettier than mine ;)  and I'll be sure to share progress and after pics!!  

If you're in the DC area and are looking to get started planning an organic edible garden & need help getting started, check out Organic Edible Gardens.  (They're booking up quickly because it's Spring but it's so worth it!!!)  Danylo & his team are A-mazing!!

ps- I will be sure to show you our kindergarten pics next week!! haha

If you'd like help creating a home you absolutely love, contact me about our design services.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

More Photo Shoots and some flower love

So...  we're doing a few last-minute photo shoots for our portfolio of some of my favorite projects.  I've been working with one of my clients for about three years now and she's got a really beautiful style so I cannot WAIT to take these photos!  The other project is a newer one (with progress shots shared a couple of months ago on Instagram) and this family also has really great style.  I think in this industry we give a lot of credit to designers., but the truth is that homeowner's personal styles and tastes are what really make a home special or a project "great."  A decorator may be able to create an amazing design, but without an open-minded client who has her or his own amazing sense of style and "gets it" the designer might never get the chance to actually implement that vision.

So... onto photo shoot details:  I am truly running around like a madwoman right now.  One of the most important elements of good photos are flowers and plants.  And I'm seriously behind on it.  So, I called my go-to flower guru, Holly Heider Chapple, who has bailed me out more than once.      

Holly owns Holly Heider Chapple Flowers, an amazingly successful boutique flower studio in Leesburg, Virginia.  As I called Heidi this morning, she was preparing for a booked-up seminar and workshop she's hosting in NYC, where she and other flower experts (including a Martha Stewart Living editor) will be speaking and teaching, getting ready for multiple weddings this weekend, welcoming a new employee on board today... yet she still agreed to help me. (!!)    The woman is a true whirlwind.  In a good way.  My hero.

Her floral designs are so good!!!  Going to her website and blog just makes me want to have a party.  

Holly & I went over what I was thinking about doing for flowers in my clients' homes, and of course she had even better ideas.   She gets that I like a loose, casual, relaxed arrangements that look as if they were just picked from a home garden.  (She also knows my favorites are green and white and that I like my own flowers a little wild. ;) ;)

If you're a decorator, when you style your clients' homes for photo shoots- what's your flower philosophy and do you have a go-to flower stylist??

ps- Holly's company also does floral arrangements for homes on a weekly basis if you're into something like that.  (Sounds like an awesome gift to someone you love- hint hint maybe your spouse if you are reading this and your name starts with a 'D'??- ;) ;) 

If you'd like help creating a home you absolutely love, contact me about our design services.

*All images in this post are Holly's*

Monday, 11 March 2013

Open Up & The Chicago Tribune

A couple of months ago, during our renovation whirlwind, I was contacted by a writer, Elaine Markoutsas, who wanted to interview me about the choice to do open shelving in my kitchen and living with it.  We had a good chat about open shelves in the kitchen and about why I love it...  Things have been so busy that it totally slipped my mind & I was so surprised to see an email from my friend Debra this morning congratulating me on being mentioned in an article in the Chicago Tribune yesterday!

{The photo used in the Chicago Tribune of the kitchen in our last house... That's Christian, who's now 5!!}

I'm originally from the suburbs of Chicago (I moved to Virginia with my mom when I was four) and I have lots of family and friends there (most importantly, my Dad!! :) so it's really cool to have an article mentioning me in Chicago.

Open shelving in the kitchen is a concept I feel strongly about (not a joke, though it should be ;) and I feel like it really changed my view and outlook on other rooms in a home too.  The notion of functional beauty is one that I've now taken all over my home (and clients' homes) and just seems so natural to me.  There are things I'm okay hiding and things I like displaying, and I sort of draw the line here: 
1)When things functionally make sense in a room and 
2) When things have some aspect of beauty to them or can be displayed in a way that makes them beautiful

...that they may as well be exposed for me and others to see.   

In our new (old) house, I've opened things up pretty much everywhere I can.  In a small hallway leading from the garage to the house, we're in the process of creating a mini-mudroom out of a 4 foot wide coat closet.  We've removed the doors and taken down the closet rod.  We're adding hooks for coats and bags, a shelf up top for baskets, and a storage bench.  We now see our "junk" every time we walk in the house, but it's displayed in a way that looks as good as it can and it makes life more functional...  Now, my 3 year-old can hang his coat up by himself instead of needing us to hang it for him.  I COVET a mudroom like this:

{I looove these cubbies...  we don't have enough space for any in our house.  Image from here.}

Ours will look more like this:

{Except without the pretty sunshine streaming in ;) ;)  Image from here. }

The same goes for our loft family room...  We're in the process of lining the entire room with shelving for books, toys and randoms stuff.  I'll leave the books exposed and then do baskets for the not-so-pretty stuff like toys and games.  Here's the loft before we moved in:

Right now, the loft is a MESS...  It's half-pinkish-beige from when we moved in and partly primed and exposed studs from where we tore out the paneling and desk you see in the pic.  I have BIG plans for this room and will be sharing soon. BUT the biggest feature in the room will be its open shelving.  I'm so excited to be able to be surrounded by our books (We've been living with them in the garage this whole time and I can't even tell you how many times a week I want to grab a book to reference it or read it to the boys or whatever and I just can't.  I am so excited to be able to have any book we need at our fingertips.)  Most of my books aren't very pretty so I'll be working on some creative ways of displaying them to make them look better.  (wish me luck ;)  I love a mix of vertical and horizontal stacks like in this picture:

{image from here}

In our dining room, I follow the same line of thinking and have more open shelving for serving ware and our nature finds.  I love the simple utilitarian stacks of dishes in this dining room below:

{image from here}

In my office, I display my fabrics, magazines and client binders on large open shelving.  Don't get me wrong, I love cabinetry and hidden storage too- but- I reserve the cabinets and drawers in our house for the ugly stuff, trying to minimize it as much as possible,  and use open shelving for the useful pretties.

The concept of opening up and surrounding myself & my family in the things we use on a daily basis is one that fits the way we live.  We're very casual people, and in this new house, my main goal- besides making it something I love to look at & be in- is making is incredibly functional and easy to live in.  Opening up our storage and seeing the stuff we have is so freeing.  It forces us to ditch the stuff we don't love or use all the time and keeps us disciplined.  (And now I just need an empty room in my house to hide all the other stuff ;)

Anyway, I know it's not for everyone...  what are your thoughts on opening up and exposing your stuff?

To read more about my thoughts and readers' comments & experiences on open shelving, go HERE.

To read the Chicago Tribune article, Full Exposure, by Elaine Markoutsas, go HERE.

If you'd like help creating a home you absolutely love, contact me about our design services.