Category Archives: Design Basics

Photography to Add Modern, Beachy Feel

Sometimes I look around and lament the fact that almost all of my furnishings and accessories are comprised of other peoples old things. I do love vintage and shopping secondhand, but I also don’t want my home to look dated and dowdy. I’d like to just go out and buy a clean-lined sofa and coffee table and a few shiny new accessories, to impart a more modern aesthetic. However, my real life budget holds me back from those larger purchases. So, I’m always looking for small ways to add bits of modern appeal.

I’ve come up with a plan to do a beach inspired photo display in the dining room. I’m not sure if it will be a gallery wall or if I’ll spread them out around the room, since I don’t have tons of wall space. I’ve taken quite a few beach photos throughout the years, of the different coasts I’ve visited. I might also add a few Etsy finds into the mix. I’d frame them all in simple, white picture frames. I think that photos like these will mesh well with the dining nook fabrics I chose last week.

These are the fabrics I ordered last Friday, for the dining bench.
These are the fabrics I ordered last Friday, for the dining bench.
Digital download, $5.80, from Lilandlola on Etsy.
Digital download, $5.80, from Lilandlola on Etsy.
Circle ocean digital download, $5.00 from happybearprints on Etsy.
Circle ocean digital download, $5.00 from happybearprints on Etsy.
Ocean print 16 x 20 for $15.00 by hazytone on Etsy.
Ocean print 16 x 20 for $15.00 by hazytone on Etsy.


Honing My Dining Room Design Plan

I’ve been side-tracked with other home design and organizing projects and neglected my dream of a relaxed, global but beachy feeling dining room. There are several projects that need to be completed in order to fulfill this vision. The first was refinishing the dining table, which I described in a previous post.

The completed dining table.
The completed dining table.

The second project on the list was creating pillows and a dining bench cushion, for a cozier dining nook. I finally ordered some fabric, and the patterns are NOT what I was planning on. A while back I wrote a post on combining fabric patterns, and highlighted the prints that I intended to use. This is what I had pulled together:

My original plan for fabrics in the dining room.
My original plan for fabrics in the dining room.

These are the prints I ended up ordering today:

These are the fabrics I ordered today, to complete my dining room vision.
These are the fabrics I ordered today, to complete my dining room vision.

In the end, I wanted the colors to feel brighter and happier. I always gravitate towards pale aqua and soft apricot as a pairing, and it seemed I was forcing the other color pallete a bit. This is how I’ll use each fabric.

This will cover the dining bench cushion. Joyful Leaf Paisley in White/Teal, $6.64/yd on
This will cover the dining bench cushion. Joyful Leaf Paisley in White/Teal, $6.64/yd on
I'll make two pillows out of this. It brings all of the colors together. Olana by Waverly, $15.17 on
I’ll make two pillows out of this. It brings all of the colors together. Olana by Waverly, $15.17 on
I wanted to pull in navy blue for a bit of contrast. Jiri Stripe in Navy/Birch, $12.96/yd on
I wanted to pull in navy blue for a bit of contrast. Jiri Stripe in Navy/Birch, $12.96/yd on
The warm tones complement the cool aqua of the bench fabric. I'll make a pillow out of this one. Tullahoma Ikat in Copper, $9.48/yd on
The warm tones complement the cool aqua of the bench fabric. I’ll make a pillow out of this one. Tullahoma Ikat in Copper, $9.48/yd on

Truly, I’d like to somehow add a back to the bench, to make it more comfortable to sit on for longer periods of time. I’m thinking of finding a headboard  to re-purpose and attach to it. The other elements I’ll add to pull the design together include painting my bookcases white and adding in some more modern decor accessories. I’m going to start with the bench project and I’ll keep you updated.

Creating Useable Zones in the Basement

Our house is 95 years old. We live in a very modest 900 square feet upstairs, and need to use every square inch of our mostly unfinished basement. Previous owners had chopped up the space into small chunks, and until recently, we were using almost every area as just storage space. With our family of four seemingly outgrowing our house, and my husband and I each spending hours working from home, our basement must now function as additional living space.

I have made it my mission this year, to carve out little zones for our various activities. I also need to purge and organize each area and get it looking as good as an unfinished basement can, on a tiny budget. You can do this in your small home too. Just really consider the way you live and what you want to actually do in your space. These are the zones we need for our small house to really work well for us:

  1. Laundry area
  2. Storage for toys, off-season items, and momentos
  3. Music area for drums and piano
  4. Office for me
  5. Art studio for Thomas and Lucy
  6. Project space and tool storage
  7. Lawn care items and extra furniture storage
  8. Office for Chris

While I know where all of the areas will be, and some zones are already serving their purpose, there’s a lot of work to be done before I share more before and after photos with you. So for the time being, I’ll show you how the music area is shaping up.

The drum corner BEFORE. YIKES! We did a major purge of this area and then set up the drums. The next step was to paint the area white and add some decor. 

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The piano area BEFORE. I had already purged this area of clutter, and was using it as an art studio for Thomas. Then, on New Year’s Eve, my mother-in-law bought us a piano at Goodwill for $25!


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The piano bench desperately needed to be recovered. I used upholstery tacks and some fabric I already had on hand.

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Removing the odd shelving and painting the mismatched walls white totally transformed the drum nook.I still need to paint the wall by the piano, change the light fixture above the drums and hang some pegboard near the drums, for storage of other instruments and drum hardware.I’ll surely be posting more photos as I complete each area.

Five Incredible 8’x10′ Area Rugs Under $200

A couple hundred bucks can go along way to update the decor in your living space, and not much makes more of a design statement than an amazing area rug. Here are five 8′ x 10′ finds, all under $200.

Assembly Home Plus Sign Printed Rug, $199, on
Assembly Home Plus Sign Printed Rug, $199, on
nuloom chinky loop jute beige
Chunky Jute Rug in Beige, $170.58 on
Traditional Vintage Inspired Overdyed Rug in Blue, $150.74 on
Traditional Vintage Inspired Overdyed Rug in Blue, $150.74 on
Brianna Area Rug in Yellow, $160.49 on
Brianna Area Rug in Yellow, $160.49 on
Selina White Easy Shag Rug, $ 198.03 on
Selina White Easy Shag Rug, $ 198.03 on

How to Hang a Gallery Style Wall

This blank wall was just screaming for some art!
This blank wall was just screaming for some art!

Many of you might love the look of a salon-style gallery wall, with a cozy mash up of art and family photos, but may feel intimidated by how to get the right look. My friend Kim was in the same boat. She had all of the pieces she wanted, but needed help coming up with the right configuration, so that the wall would feel balanced. Here is the process we went through to get it right.


Lay out all of the pieces on the floor in front of the wall they will hang on. Play with the configuration until you achieve a sense of balance. Consider the largest pieces first, they will naturally be your anchors. If you have just one larger piece, it might look best in the center, with the smaller pieces surrounding it. Kim had two larger pieces, so we split them up, essentially dividing the wall into three equal zones.  Also scrutinize the use of color in the pieces. Kim had dashes of red that we wanted to sprinkle through-out.


Now use a roll of butcher or art paper and trace around each piece, then cut it out. Make marks on the front of the paper that indicate where the hooks or hangers are located. Using painter’s tape, adhere these to the wall in roughly the same configuration you had on the floor.


Move them around until they look and feel right. You want to consider the negative space between just as much as the pieces themselves. Keep the spacing as equal as you can. Use a ruler if you need to, or just eyeball it. Step back and look at it from a distance.

Allow for the furniture that will be under the pieces. Kim’s sofa was 36″ high. We left nine inches of space between the top of the sofa and the bottom of the art work. You need a bit of breathing room so you won’t knock a piece down, but you don’t want your art so far above that the furniture, that it feels disconnected and un-grounded.


Once you have the paper exactly where you want it, check that your marks for the hangers are level and centered before driving in any nails. Use picture hooks or regular nails for smaller things, and larger picture hooks or drywall anchors and screws for heavy pieces. Hang a couple of the larger pieces as you go to make sure you like where the grouping is headed. Remove the paper once you have the nails or hooks in place.

Hang your art!


While making the paper mock-ups is a bit laborious, I think it saves time in the end. It also saves you from making too many errant holes in the wall. We ended up only needing to move one piece up a few inches from where our first hole was, due to its weight once hanging. The red “R” though, was another story.  The hanging holes were in odd spots, and it was extremely difficult to get that letter level! Lots of holes for that one, in fact, I lost count. Good thing Kim was already planning on giving that room a new coat of paint, after our hanging day! She can patch the holes then.


The salon-style wall is such a good looking way to fill a big blank wall with character and to display a collection of art or photos. You can match all of the frame and mat styles, or go rogue and make it an artful mix. I just love the way a wall like this adds a layer of coziness and personality to a room.


Hanging Onto That Dream (Kitchen)

cottage cover

Almost exactly seven years ago, I found the kitchen of my dreams in this Cottage Living magazine. This space, it seemed, was a literal interpretation of the kitchen remodel I’d been concocting inside my head since we’d moved in. The reuse of existing cabinetry, the space planning, the color pallette and solid surface choices. All of it. Seven years later, Cottage Living is no longer in existence, in fact this kitchen was featured in their last issue, but I still have the same vision for the kitchen, and sadly, still no budget to revamp it.

cottage kitchen 1

I’d like to share why I love this kitchen so much.

1. It’s not a totally white kitchen. This issue of the magazine was published when the all- white kitchen trend was beginning, and as that look is becoming less and less of-the-moment, this kitchen’s color scheme would have aged gracefully. The olive green of the lower cabinets has a hint of grey so they feel contemporary, and it’s nice to have a bit of contrast to the white uppers.

2. The arched opening. I would love to do this with my kitchen, to allow more light into the space, as it is north-facing and in the center of our home. An opening there, would allow me create peninsula for the stove and perhaps an eat-up counter on the living room side. Doing an arched opening, versus a rectangular one, would be in keeping with the architectural character of homes built in the 1920’s, like ours.

cottage kitchen 4

3. The use of wood on the floor and counters. Wood adds instant warmth to a space. I know there is hardwood under the many layers of ugly linoleum flooring in my kitchen. I’d totally rip that up myself, but the older layers most likely contain asbestos and that needs to be removed by professionals, which is costly.  Someday, I’d also love to replace our outdated Formica counter tops with either walnut butcher block or soap stone or both.

cottage kitchen 2

4. Sensible budget choices. This designer, Anne Turner Carroll, saved her cabinets, but re-hung the uppers flush with the ceiling, to allow room for an open shelf underneath. She painted them and put on new hardware. The subway tile backsplash is a classic look, but easy on the budget. I would lay mine in a herringbone pattern, and use a light grey grout.

cottage kitchen 3


It can be frustrating, having this vision and not being able to put it into action. I know that my kitchen has so much potential to function better and look stunning. While I have painted the cabinets and walls, that is about it, and that was years ago. The paint is wearing off the edges of the cabinets, and its time for a refresh. I’d love to add hardware to the doors and drawers too. Maybe that will be the next project I tackle. Here is a glimpse of kitchen as it is now; hover over each photo to read descriptions of my vision.

I guess the upside is that my dream kitchen is yet to come, and that the ideas I’ve cemented in my brain have a timeless appeal. All this means, is that it will look fabulous whenever I get around to making it happen!

Layering in the Authenticity Through Vintage

Photo taken at Found, in Poulsbo.
Photo taken at Found, in Poulsbo.

Hey there! Here is a link to my column this month, all about how vintage furnishings and collections add soul to your home. I hope that you enjoy it and feel inspired to search for pieces that speak to your personality too. You’ll also find a list of some of my favorite local shops to hit up for vintage treasure, here.

A vintage metal tool chest at Uptown Mercantile in Bremerton.
A vintage metal tool chest at Uptown Mercantile in Bremerton.

Vintage Adds Soul to Your Home

Some vintage accessories at Found, in Poulsbo.

What are the differences between a “decorated” home and an authentic one? How can I make my home feel more like a reflection of who I am, who my family is, and be less concerned with it just looking pretty? These are the types of soul-searching questions I have been pondering lately. Don’t be fooled, I also want my home to look beautiful, but I want it to feel real, lived-in, and happy. Not contrived. One of the ways I personalize my home is through vintage furnishings.

This Sunday, in the Life section of the Sun, I’ll touch on the idea of adding vintage soul to your home; how mixing furnishings from different time periods give a home character and how collections of vintage accessories speak to your personality. Even refinishing an old piece creates a story and can imbue your environment with authenticity. How does vintage inspire your life at home?

How to Mix Fabric Patterns Like a Pro

A collection of fabric patterns that will work together to create a cohesive, but cozy dining nook.
A collection of fabric patterns that will work together to create a cohesive, but cozy dining nook.

Love that eclectic, but pulled together look of a room that has multiple fabric patterns on various surfaces? Me too. I like how multiple prints in a room lends a layered, welcoming vibe. Truly, I just love fabric, pattern and color in general, and over the years I’ve hit on how to balance it all, without making it feel like a visual assault.

I have plans to cover my dining bench in cushions and pillows to create a spot for reading, working and lingering over dinner. The color pallet is three parts indigo blue, one part poppy and one part golden pumpkin. My goal is for the nook to have a global-bohemian appeal, and to feel casual and cozy. Here are the fabrics I am choosing and how they work together.

1.Choose a print that incorporates most of the colors you intend to use in the space. This fabric or pattern will lead you through choosing all of the others. For me, this is a fabric by Robert Allen, with a medium-scale ikat pattern, that I will use for a pillow or two for the dining bench.

Robert Allen Ikat Bands Indigo. $20.99/yd.

2. Play with scale. This next fabric has a very large-scale paisley pattern, which I love. It will also be on pillows for the dining bench. A pattern like this would also look amazing on drapery panels. Conversely, I plan to use a small-scale dot print for the bench cushion, which will help in hiding crumbs and the inevitable spills.

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Lacefield Designs, Sultan Batik Indigo, $38/yd.
Golding Ikat Spots Blue. $12.99/yd.
Golding Ikat Spots Blue. $12.99/yd.

3. Pull out accents from your main fabric. The first fabric has little hits of poppy red and golden apricot. I’ll use these next two fabrics to warm and brighten up the room. They will provide a happy foil to the all of the cool blues.

Tizia Ikat Poppy
Tizia Ikat Poppy, $21.98/yd.

4. Provide a place for your eye to rest. Bring in a solid with texture, to balance all of the pattern. I like this linen blend for its softness and warm hue. I’ll use it on a lumbar pillow for the bench.

Waverly Orissa Blend, Pumpkin. $18.98 yd.
Waverly Orissa Blend, Pumpkin. $18.98 yd.

Mixing patterns is all about balancing scale and color. Repetition of the same hue in several fabrics weaves a common thread, while introducing pops of complementary colors provides warmth. Using patterns of varying scale, but with a similar theme (ikat), creates visual variation, but not discord. I hope that you’re now inspired, not intimidated, to combine different fabrics to add charm and cheer to your home.