Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Finding your Design Style

Today I was asked in person and online if hiring an interior designer is a good idea. The answer is it depends.

But do you really want my full opinion on the matter? Really? Because what is seen cannot be unseen. Once you enter my world of paint color obsession and texture, style, proportion, and lighting you might never be the same.

I'm telling you, if you just wrapped up a remodel or already spent your hard-earned money on style advice turn back now.

OK, you can't say I didn't warn you...

The above pictures, do you like them? If you think they're great then, really, stop reading. But if you find them lackluster, or even soul-crushing (as I do) then we have something to discuss. 

As I see it, there are three groups of people (in the non-trade world): 
  1. Those who have no strong feelings about design whatsoever. They want to buy their furniture in sets and have it done with. Paint color? Whatever the builder recommends. They don't really need an interior designer. In fact, one would be wasted on them. 
  2. Those who love HGTV and gush over the design tips in their Real Simple magazine. They can tell good design from bad design, but they have no idea how to implement this into their own home. They should really consider getting an interior designer. 
  3. Those who are well-versed in design. They speak of color undertones, gush over Farrow & Ball, follow design blogs religiously, and scour E-bay & Etsy for the best deals on Hamedan rugs. They know so much they might try to do it all themselves, or they know enough to realize they could benefit from expert consultation. It can go either way. 
If you're a #2, can you become #3? Absolutely! It will take some time, of course. I recommend the following "homework." 





These are the go-to books for design-enthusiasts. I should have also thrown in some Nate Berkus because, hey, we all love him. Something I really appreciate about the Domino book is that from the start it recommends that you define your own style, really pay attention to the sorts of things that tickle your fancy. I advise getting a Pinterest account, if you don't already have one, and take a pin first, think later approach. With time you'll start to see your tastes emerge. You might be shocked to find a love for, say, dalmatian print wallpaper. Who knows?! Go ahead and surprise yourself. I sure did with my own board. The other two books are meant to get your creative juices flowing with DIY projects and ideas. 


Start your day with a post from your favorite design blog. Really, give this a try. This is hard to make recommendations about because people vary so much when it comes to taste, but here's a sampling that might help get you started.

Finally, I do believe that anyone who gives a darn about what their surroundings look like should follow Apartment Therapy --I mean, just look at today's post: The Four Commandments of Decorating More Confidently-- and purchase Maria Killam's E-books. The latter should be required reading for anyone who is making costly decisions about their home like tile and counter-top selections. I really do mean that. I can personally attest that after learning a bit about color theory and clashing undertones, I was able to save us from making a mistake that would have cost us thousands of dollars. 

At this point, someone might say, oh forget it, I'll just ask for an in-home consultation from my favorite furniture store. With that there are many parallels to the fashion world. If you were to hire a chain-store wardrobe stylist, what s/he'd give you is actually not style. It would be the current fashion trends. That is what other people think looks cool right now. Style, on the other hand, is a combination of confident, personal choices that result in visual art. Likewise, if you want your home to look exactly like the current Pottery Barn catalog, then go right ahead, but realize that it will shortly become outdated and fail to inspire. In contrast, those who actively choose their decor, and layer on piece after piece, create something that tells a story about themselves. The result tends to be beautiful and timeless.

See for yourself, and contrast the following images to the ones with which I started this post. Cleanse your palates, and be true to yourself. Even if that means enlisting help from the pros. After all, there's no shame in asking for help... unless you actually want pink beige in your home. :)








Monday, March 2, 2015

Schoolin' These Homies

Don't mind me, just making a crazy OCD list of concepts and activities I want to be sure to teach my kids this year. This is definitely a work in progress!


Days & Months
Rhymes and sayings
Opposites, Synonyms

Eric Carle Letters
Alliteration games
Recognition and sound BINGO
Sight recognition in MS Word
Paint chips
Library trips -- Local and Harold Washington

Writing & Typing
Tactile writing
Keyboard Zoo

Number recognition

Skip, hop, jump
Catch and swing

Coloring, cutting, gluing

Animal factoids
Body Parts

Articles of Faith (hit next)


Library trips -- Local and Harold Washington

Writing & Typing
Name and address
Tracing and writing practice
Publish your own book

Count by 2s, 5s, 10s
Number line (negative and positive)
Introduce simple fractions
Money, pretend business transactions
Math games
Dice games
Telling Time

Light Bot
Daisy the Dinosaur
Hop Scotch
Little Bits

Science (lab)
Body Parts
Static electricity
Plants (photosynthesis)
Pre-historic fossils: Wheaton Woolly Mammoth, Oriental Institute
Earth layers
Weight and volume
Atoms and molecules
Phases of matter
Basic physics: Gravity, friction, mass,velocity
Levers, pulleys
Food chain
Cells / Tissues/ Systems

History & Geography
US Presidents (George Washington, Abraham Lincoln)
Structure of Democracy
Ancient Egypt
Aztecs and Vikings
Famous Inventors


Bike riding at the Arboretum
Shooting hoops
Kicking soccer ball
Batting and pitching

Recognizing painters and style
Famous art coloring pages

Articles of Faith (hit next)
Picture recognition


Friday, February 6, 2015

Stuck in the Middle with You, Remodel

Ugh. I have a strong love/hate relationship with remodels.

I love the potential. I usually love the outcomes. But I hate the craziness it causes in day-to-day life as we try to work around construction and have people come in and out of the house. Conveying our wishes to the contractors and electricians is always tricky, too, because sometimes we speak different languages. They're all like 'that's not to code,' and I'm like, 'but my design!'

I told you we were going to tackle the mudroom, and here we are doin' it. The floor tile has been laid. The side closets have been stripped down to make room for bench seating. Some of the walls are painted before moving the washing machine and dryer back into place. There's a new light fixture.

The ugly brown door and yellow blinds remain in place for now, mocking me.

I think it's going to turn out well, but admittedly the middle is the point in remodels at which I get major doubts and unease. And you know, one of the major reasons why we chose this ol' home is because it had a mudroom we could work with. So, no pressure or anything. . . Eek!

Snow Day!

If you ask me, this winter has been GREAT. Sure, we had a week of deep freeze, but you kind of need that or else you'll end up bug-ridden in the summer. More often we've had a lot of 30-something degrees and sunshine, which I much prefer to 40+ and grey, drizzly.

And the snow.

The white powder has come down just a few times, but when it rains it pours drops it creates a shimmery blanket over everything. Enough to close down the school for a day or two.

We totally took advantage, and I'm not sure who was more excited, me or the kids!

We're fortunate to live near a decent sledding hill. It was already a beautiful scene with the sound of kids yelling "weeee!" and then a family of gorgeous red cardinals played around us, making it picture perfect. We returned home to have hot cocoa, of course. Followed by getting all cozy again while reading Keat's The Snowy Day.

I think the Danes have a name for this, it's hygge.

p.s. I've received some questions about the mug. You're right. That's not my family. I purchased this over a decade ago at a Salvation Army in Chicago. Ten cents! I'm pondering now if I should try to find these people...

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Salmon and Brass (and Chartreuse)


You didn't know you needed these colors (with this finish) in your life. But you do, you totally do.

OK, so maybe that's a pep talk for myself as I take some design risks in my office. I tried to live with what I threw together as seen in earlier posts, but it's just not me. It's not working to get my creative juices flowing. Part of the problem is that I painted the bookcases a color that was recommended to me by a friend, and the hue is a much more earthy shade than what I'm used to working with (it's Puddle by Behr).

Want it? Buy it here from J.Crew.

I was at a loss for what to do about my current situation (I refuse to repaint), but then inspiration comes from unlikely sources. I got the 2015 J.Crew Winter/Spring catalog and boom. Check out those shoes. I want to build my whole office color scheme around them.


I went on to search for more examples of using salmon in home design (you need to specify this otherwise you'll get dinner recipes) and found the above bedroom that has me swooning. The brass is so hot and relates to the fixtures on my bookcases. I also started having strong feelings for the faux-fur throw.

Come to mama, you fake snow leopard.

So imagine my delight when I saw this on SUPER sale at PB Teen. Yoink. I picked up that top throw really quick for less than $30. I intend to drape it over my office chair and wear it like a cape as I work at my desk.

Rugs USA Ottoman Vintage

The next step is to find a complimentary rug. I've got to be careful with the pattern play since the animal print throw is going to be so close to it. I fell in love with this one, but it's out of my price range. Still on the hunt.

Looking back at the gym shoes (that's what we call them in Chicago), I decided I'll throw in little touches of chartreuse, as well. In a funny turn of events, I wanted to reassure myself that bold colors would help me become more productive and daring so I looked up what Jenna Lyon's office looks like. See for yourself. That lady is influential.

Addendum: In the print version of the J.Crew catalog, the accent color appears to be salmon. Online it's reading as coral. I prefer the former.

Valentine's Gift for the Cardiologist in Your Life

Cupid's Arrow Brooch by Les Mirettes

Monday, February 2, 2015

Life-Hacks from Med Mommas

OK, I recently joined an online discussion forum for physician mothers and it's like being in a virtual sorority! I LOVE it. We chat about everything from complex medical cases at work to the best dry shampoos on the market. I really can't get enough.

There have been some fantastic threads formed and I'm looking to compile the best contributions so as to have an easy-access reference moving forward. I will start out with the "life-hacks" that have proven to be invaluable. -- And that should say a lot seeing as how most of these women are working way over 40hrs a week and have a family.


Without further ado, I present the can't-live-without life-hacks for medical mommas:

  1. Wemo. A gadget that allows you to control your electronics from anywhere. 
  2. Shutterfly iPhone app 
  3. Wunderlist "to do" app
  4. Audible.com for listening to books while doing other tasks
  5. Roku (consolidates TV viewing)
  6. Xfinity
  7. Amazon Prime (BIG winner)
  8. Out of Milk app (for groceries)
  9. Baby Monitor app
  10. Personal Cap app for budgeting
  11. Teamup.com calendar
  12. Mint.com for personal finances
  13. Google calendars
  14. Apple TV
  1. Hamilton Beach 6qt. slow cooker
  2. Stash of nuts at the work desk to avoid binging
  3. Jura coffee maker
  4. Blendtek
  5. Vitamix
  6. Immersion blender
  7. Le Creuset (another big winner)
  8. Ina Garten cookbook 
  9. Sancerre wine
  10. Hello Fresh
  11. Cuisinart food processor
  12. Henckels professional knives
  13. Tiger rice cooker
  14. Caphalon grill pan
  15. Hamilton mini-personal blender
  16. Breville espresso maker
  17. Parchment paper
  18. Cooks Illustrated
  19. The Science of Good Cooking
  20. Farmfreshtoyou.com
  1. Dyson cordless vacuum
  2. Roomba (including industrial strength for pet hair)
  3. Laundry sorter
  4. Braava hardwood floor robot
  5. Clorox bleach tablets for toilet bowl
Beauty, Fitness, & Hygiene
  1. Microplane foot file
  2. 30min or less Beach Body workouts
  3. Living Proof shampoo and conditioner
  4. Bikram yoga
  5. Argan oil 
  6. Shiseido eyelash curler
  7. Yogaglo.com quick workouts
  8. Dry shampoo
  9. Clarisonic face brush
  10. L'Occitane almond shower oil
  11. Armani face cream
  12. Gel manicure
  13. T25/P90X3/Piyo
  14. Deva Curl products
  15. Skinceuticals
  16. ReTress
  17. Bath and Body Works Stress Relief 
  18. Lasik eye surgery
  19. Laser hair removal
  20. Neutrogena healthy lengths mascara
  21. Eyelash extensions
  22. Microfiber hair towel
  23. Origins On the Spot Relief
  24. Pure Barre Workouts
  25. TNS essential serum
  1. Baby Bjorn plastic bib to contain mess
  2. Clip-on highchair
  3. Pump adapters for milk to go directly into bottle
  4. Lotus travel crib
  5. Go-go-babyz for travel
  6. Snap N Go Stroller
  7. InchBug juice box holder
  8. Puddle jumper floaties for the pool
  9. Mommy hook attachment for stroller
Organization and Other
  1. Label maker
  2. Container Store Elfa system
  3. 3 basket hamper, each piece removable
  4. Retailmenot.com for coupons
  5. Merchandise tags for organization & simple gift cards