Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

I love Halloween.  It's one of those rare times when you just get to have fun; dressing up and getting candy on a school night, walking around the neighborhood with friends, shuffling through the leaves giddy on sugar and a little chilly on a fall night - all good.

When I was a kid, my mom made us the most incredible costumes by hand.  I was three in this picture and still have the clown suit in my kids' dress up bin, along with a bunny and a crayon box constructed out of felt.

In college, Halloween was a BIG deal.  Boulder put on the Mall Crawl, and thousands of people (kids and grown ups) dressed up and paraded from one end of Pearl Street to the other.  I remember one year, my brother (who also went to college with me) went as Merlin - Even at 21, he made his costume himself out of purple taffeta and silver foil.  It was the most magical night of the year.

Now, as a parent, I am not as crafty as I used to be.  I am only capable of semi-homemade.  Here is a picture of my daughter last year as a witch - we bought the dress, wig and the hat, but made the cape from scratch complete with pom pom fringe and iron-on spiders.

This year I was asked to join The Daily Basic's Pinterest group Halloween Decorating. The ideas that people pinned were so much fun, and I loved how many people pitched in!  Here is one of mine - hands down the best semi-homemade idea for Halloween thus far.  It's been repinned over 440 times!

Happy Halloween!!

Monday, October 28, 2013

My Wellesley feature

Yesterday I had the pleasure of seeing one of my projects featured in the Boston Globe Magazine entitled Wellesley Preppy.  This new construction carriage-style house is bright and fresh and a great example of why I am always preaching about "cohesive" design.  With a view to the back of the house from the front door, and a long hallway in between, it was important that the overall palette of the space be fluent throughout, and that the colors that greeted you when you stepped across the threshold drew you down the corridor into the beautiful kitchen and family room waiting for you at the other end.

When I was hired by the client, the walls throughout the space were already painted a very neutral flax, with the exception of the powder room's pink and green toile wallpaper and the dining room which was dressed in Benjamin Moore's Van Deusen Blue (HC156).  After learning that my client's favorite colors were classic navy and Kelly green, we decided to go preppy and infused saturated hues of pink, green and blue with new upholstery, draperies, artwork and accessories.  The warm wood tones found in the flooring and the library complemented the scheme and extended the invitation to come in and get cozy.  Lilly Pulitzer, Brunschwig & Fils, and Schumacher fabrics showed sophistication in their colorways but kept the space playful and family friendly.

Here is a tour from front to back...

All photos taken by Michael J. Lee Photography

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

It's pretty again!

It's fall!  And my house is finished!  And I have a great book of clients!  And all the experts are saying that they are looking for a "return to pretty"!  Yay!!

Good thing that I have lots of "pretty" up my sleeve....

And, thanks Michael J. Lee for all of the "pretty" photos!

And, thanks Michael J. Lee for all of the "pretty" photos!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Almost over

Hello.  It's me.  I've missed you.  All.  I've wanted to write.  I've wanted to chat.  It's been a long time.  As said, I've been knee deep in my own project.  And, self-admittedly, it was hard.  Living among construction and chaos is claustrophobic.  And exhausting.  And stifling.  And makes it hard to want to talk about it, or anything else.  But, here I am, 11.5 months away from the beginning, and weeks away from the end, almost done, and so unbelievably happy with the outcome, that I am actually having it photographed this week, just days before the year anniversary of breaking ground.  Somehow, taking photos, means closure...

I wrote last year that "I understand" what my clients go through, and though I do and will always now appreciate the process, I can't believe how badly the construction affected my life.  This is a life lesson.  This is a professional lesson.  I wonder if maybe my next step should be getting a license to GC ..... :)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

& Then, blogging again...

Guest blogging for & Then, New England School of Art & Design's online publication...

The Many Forms of Inspiration

Elizabeth Benedict (Certificate, 2006) joins & Then as a guest blogger. If you are interested in being our next guest blogger please drop me a line at 
SONY DSCI had just had my first kid when I went back to school for design. My husband could see that I was so used to corporate life, that while I loved being a mother, I certainly wasn’t ready to be a homemaker. He enrolled me in the Intro class at NESAD before my son was a year old and said that my path was up to me. I took the advice and ran with it – finished the then Certificate program and hung my own shingle in 2005. Happily still in business, I now have my own assistant. It makes me regret never being an intern.
Interior Design is so much more than what you learn in school. It is so much more than the confidence you have in your own style or the desire that you have to design for someone else. It’s time management, and people management, and math, and science, and scheduling, and billing, and dealing with so many outside forces that you have no control over (like shippers and receivers and dye lots and backorders and custom finishes that require more than one strike off). For me, I love the beginning phase of this cycle – the hellos and the dreams. I love putting together a space (or many spaces within a space). I love the collaboration between the client and the architect and the contractor and me. And then, there’s the middle, and a lot of junk. Junk that I never knew about, since I was never an intern; which, if you do intern, you will know about. And then, most importantly, I love the end, where it’s back to being a collaboration, that’s beautiful and exactly as you imagined it would all work out.
Recently, actually, within the past week, I had two people tell me that they wanted to go back to school for ID – both middle-aged women, with kids. I never thought that I would be one of the designers who would preach – GO BACK TO SCHOOL, WORK IN A FIRM, LEARN FROM SOMEONE IN THE FIELD – but suddenly, it was coming out of my mouth. And I was making sure that I fed them the intern speech – Real life is so much about what happens outside the classroom. Don’t get me wrong, I learned so much in those classes (especially rendering from Tommy Yamamoto), but most of what I learned came from what I experienced as an active participant in design. Over the years, that participation has meant traveling (both personally & professionally), being part of trade shows and keeping up with new products, working with showrooms and peers, social media, keeping up with CEUs, learning new technology, and interacting with current students. It’s a big world, inspiration comes in many forms. Concepts grow from ideas that turn into conversations; conversations that you have in the field; experiences that influence you to take the next step.

Friday, May 31, 2013


Today hit 96 degrees in Boston.  Coming off of a weekend where I needed a wool hat, I'm welcoming the heat.  It's finally time to break out the shorts and plant the garden.  BUT, it's almost too hot to do so.  So, instead I'm thinking about porch swings and sitting still, maybe rocking a bit, in my shorts looking at my garden that needs to be tended to, on a cooler day...

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Recommended reading

Yesterday I had the pleasure of sitting in on an intimate Q&A between Kravet's media maven Jennifer Powell and interior designer Thom Filicia (remember from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy).  Anyway, long before he became a TV personality, he was a designer and continues to not only run a successful practice in NYC but create a licensed line for Kravet.  He has just come out with a great book entitled American Beauty in which he chronicles his own home renovation in the Finger Lakes region of New York.  His chat was charming and candid and filled with lots of laughs.  The best thing that came from it though was his advice to all of Kravets' VIPs in the room.  When talking about his philosophy on design, he said (and I'll paraphrase what I remember);

Let me put it to you this way - if your best friend won't let you drive his new car then he probably shouldn't be driving that car either.  Possessions shouldn't be so precious that you can't enjoy them, and if you can't enjoy what you have or the spaces that surround you, then you're missing the whole point...  

His new book describes the casual elegance that he refers to as Americana, where his dogs (Taco and Foxy) are just as free to roam the house as his guests in wet swimsuits and sandy feet.  He is very grounded about creating spaces that can be lived in instead of just looked at (though he is really good at achieving a balance of both).  It's his real life, and I really love his message...

note the forward by Tina Fey :)

Monday, May 13, 2013

Pinterest crazy

Lately I've been spending a lot of time revamping my brand, coming up with an identity that suits my style and the type of clients that I am trying to attract.  My logo has gotten a makeover and I am working on updating my portfolio with photos of more recently completed projects to help bring my website into the next decade (it hasn't been updated since 2009).  

I've also been pinning.  Pinning like crazy.  For those of you not familiar with Pinterest, Wikipedia defines it as pinboard-style photo-sharing website that allows users to create and manage theme-based image collections such as events, interests, and hobbies. Users can browse other pinboards for images, 're-pin' images to their own pinboards, or 'like' photos.  It's also the third largest social network in the US.

Last year when I started my account, I was convinced that I didn't want to use images that weren't mine.  When looking at random boards, it all just seemed like recycled content to me, and I felt that pulling ideas from others would take away from my authenticity.  There is a big debate in my industry about the use of imagery, protecting your images and whether or not using others' imagery, without credit, is ethical.  I didn't want to be one of those people who crossed the line, so instead, I looked at it as a tool for work, a mood board of sorts.  I kept trying to create presentation boards for clients, pinning ideas of products (mostly from catalog), imagery of inspiration (like a destination), and ideas for fabrics and wall coverings.  I had boards labeled by the job and tried to get my clients to add their ideas to the mix.  It didn't work very well out of context, and I found it easier to just walk my clients through the material in person.  

After a few months of laying dormant, I decided to give it another try and started to use Pinterest as a search engine for visual concepts.  Similar to HOUZZ, you can search for general topics or specific products - Design, Architecture, Outdoor Fireplaces, English Arm Sofas, Persian Rugs - though Pinterest definitely wins on the detailed scope - vintage Hermes, striped painted flooring, metallic herringbone wallpaper, Persian turquoise rings, etc.  And, aside from searching their huge database of imagery (remember #3 in social networking), you can also pin images from outside sources, such as websites, your own personal files, friends' photo books, Facebook, and so on.  I found that I started pinning from everywhere and every site that I found something interesting to pin from.  I also found that when searching on Pinterest for certain items, I came across other interesting pinners; interesting people who had similar interests to me.  I also started reading their blogs - and those who's pins they pinned from...  And soon enough, I realized that my boards were starting to become my own personal idea book; only instead of ripping out pages of design/fashion magazines and putting them into an idea book, I was pinning them and actually categorizing why I liked them.  And, and funny enough, after looking at my nearly 2000 pins-to-date, I'm realizing that my boards are beginning to support my brand.  They have become a collage that not only supports my design aesthetic, but a tool that helps my clients, potential clients (or the network) see what I mean when I'm talking about layering stripes.

So in the end, I have become addicted to Pinterest, and though I will never give up my hard copy design mags, my idea books have gone digital.  

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The hobbit hole

Spring has sprung, and I'm feeling myself beginning to come out of hiding, like my crocuses coming up in the front yard.  The drama of my home-reno-gone-awry has finally subsided, and Ned and the new crew are making up for lost days.  Even with the snow in March, my Memorial Day deadline actually looks like a possibility, and with that in mind, I have finally started to think about how we are going to utilize the new space outdoors.

Living on the edge of Boston, we do not have a big piece of property.  In fact, what we do have for land is actually an inverted hill sloping towards the house, with another house behind us but only 20 feet higher.  For years we contemplated whether to remove the hill and make it a big yard, or instead to dig into the hillside and create a hobbit hole.  

I haven't had a big backyard since I was a kid.  I've lived in a city for the past 20 years, and balconies and courtyards are part of the charm of urban living.  The engineering alone to remove the hill was a ridiculous expense that involved lots of retaining walls, drainage concerns and safety issues.  In the end, knowing that our kids would spend more time playing soccer on a soccer field than in the confined space at home, we decided to turn what little yard that we do have into usable, livable space, and go for the hobbit hole.  Or even better, The Cabana.

This has been a consistent theme for me.  Back in June 2011, I wrote a post entitled Rooms Without Walls (  And last year, I told you of how we captured the space off our bedroom as shown in My Urban Oasis post dated 6/22/12  This latest phase (and hopefully last phase) will add a much-needed mudroom onto the house, another deck with the same details found in My Urban Oasis, a patio, and a 4-season outdoor kitchen/mancave.  There will also be a raised vegetable garden, a small grassy area for the kids to juggle the ball, and a play structure.

Stay tuned for the details as we get closer.  We are definitely playing the hi-low game here with an Ikea kitchen, butcher block countertops, and furniture from One Kings Lane, Overstock and Wayfair mixed in with sophisticated lighting, bluestone, glass tiles, custom millwork, and natural stone walls (though they will be capped with Techo Bloc slabs).  The tongue-and-groove siding goes up next week, so I'll scout some shots and begin to show you the pieces as we put them together - Definitely a more modern take than what's inside...


Thursday, January 31, 2013

It's a wrap

Today was the perfect conclusion to a crazy month.  This morning I spent my time wrapping up the transition from one contractor to the next.  This meant notifying the town and its inspectors that we had terminated one relationship and were taking up another, and it meant making sure that we had the proper documents in place, including collecting Statements of Completed Work (which documents what someone did before they left the job).  The subs have been very cooperative, and hopefully it means that February, even with Groundhog's Day just days away (remember, over and over), will be another month of moving forward.

BUT, just as the crazy month was wrapping up, the 31st threw me one last jab.  Last weekend I cracked my iPhone screen.  I took it to AT&T knowing that I had insurance and was sure that it would be a simple repair.  They wanted $200 to fix the screen.  I am due for an upgrade in April, so I said, "FORGET IT", and figured I could live with in for another 2 months (though that night I had to put Neosporin on my ear because the glass shards had already left a mark).  When I came home complaining about it, my painter (a loyal sub) had told me about a place in Everett that could fix it in an hour for $80 (cash).  He gave me the number and told me to call ahead of time.

I knew that I would be headed to Everett today to meet a client at Cumar (stone fabricator,, so I figured that I could kill 2 birds with one stone while I was there.  As I was driving up Broadway, I was a little hesitant to to actually drop it off at the place called RED LIGHT COMMUNICATIONS.  I quickly logged off every app, installed a password, and shut down the phone.  When I told them that I would be back and asked for a receipt, they gave me a red Staples raffle ticket in exchange.  I was certain that it was a scam. 

Before I turned the phone in, I quickly glanced at its map of how to get from there to Cumar - it was less than a mile away with 3 turns.  I turned the wrong way immediately, and because I was now 3 minutes late, I pulled a U-turn.  I felt a bump and heard a hissing.  I had assumed that I hit the curb, but was almost thankful when I looked out the window and some guy was laughing, pointing at my car and shaking his head - when I rolled down my window to ask what he was laughing at, he said "girl, you just ran over a hubcap - hear that? that's you - get to the nearest gas station!"

And so, I ended up at Quik-Stop.  The nicest people.  Remember, I had no phone.  I was in Everett.  I was meeting a client.  I had to ask someone who was getting a car inspection to use their smartphone to look up Cumar's number to page my client to come pick me up.  She got lost.  They couldn't find my jack.  Or the tool to unlock the tire.  I left it in their hands to go back to Cumar to keep my appointment.

The client's husband took a cab to meet us a Cumar after flying in from a trip to Dubai flying through a very delayed flight through London fighting serious tailwinds on "their longest trip on record" across the pond.  When we got there, he was already feeling the lag.  We were looking for a 125" white slab that didn't look like Gorgonzola cheese (my client's description of the latest round of Carrera).  We found an incredible lot of White Rhino.   And though we had to move all six slabs to find that the last one was actually the perfect one, it really made the day worth every step to get there...

And, just another reason I love my job...

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Bold and bright

January has been a busy month.  I finally took a stand and fired the contractor.  I decided that it is better to stall the project to move forward in the right direction than to continue forward on the wrong path.  Separately, I have taken on a few new clients and am in love with their love of bold colors.  Preppy palettes are clearly visible all over Spring fashion, and my clients are paralleling them at home.  Here's one that makes me smile and reminds me that bright days are ahead :)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Music made easy

When we moved into our house nearly 7 years ago, we did our first round of renovations.  We turned a formal living room into a more casual family room and put a flatscreen TV over the fireplace (yes, this was cutting edge at the time).  My electrician Steve had asked us about surround sound and if we wanted to add speakers in the ceiling while he was already up there adding recessed and picture lighting.  We realized that we weren't as cutting edge as we thought and opted out.

During this latest round of updates, we've had a change of heart and realized that we'd love to have music throughout the house, especially with XM, Pandora, and iTunes making good playlists available just by touching an icon on your phone.  One of my friends had a low-cost, super flexible system installed in her newly remodeled kitchen, and I was sold simply by how simple it was to operate.

Sonos - The Wireless HiFi System - is amazing.  You can connect to it from any ipod, ipad, itouch, android, MAC or PC; all you have to do is download the app to your device and sync it to the receiver.  Once you have control, you really are in control.  From your device you can control the station, the zone, and whether or not you want to take it to 11.  You can choose local radio stations, playlists from your music library, their version of XM, or even stream music from Pandora.  And, if you decide that you want to add on after the fact, you can buy another receiver (for about $350 on Amazon) and add more speakers to another zone.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Still here...

So I haven't put up a post since December 1st.  And though I did scrooge it and have a fabulously decorated Christmas in my 1/2 finished construction site of a house, I really didn't enjoy it.  In fact, I'm still not enjoying the renovation and finally understand the angst of what my clients go through in the process of giving up control and leaving their most personal possession in the hands of someone else.

I haven't written because I didn't want to own up to what was going wrong on my own personal project.  I didn't want to write because of how would it look from a marketing perspective if I couldn't keep my own project in check.  But, here I am, 4 months into it, and I am finally ready to scream and own up to making a bad choice in contractors.  For the first time on my own project, I decided to hire a GC instead of running the job myself; someone who would own the project, oversee the construction, organize the timeline, manage the subcontractors, and make a fee to do so.  It was my intention to actually BE the client and watch the work get done from the sidelines, trust the team, and let them run with it.  Alright, I admit, that that was an impossible sentence to write.  Even though I said it (and just now wrote it), we all know that I could never really give up the reigns, but I really, really tried my best not to be the boss...

I should have realized that it was going south when they took out the wrong window in my kitchen the very first week of the job.  It has been a series of bloopers just as bad ever since, and since then, I have had to patrol the project checking in on every aspect at the end of everyday.  And, everyday, after taking note of what has (or hasn't) happened, I take a deep breath and say it will get better.  It will be great.  I know it will be exactly as I had hoped.  It's just a hard journey that I didn't expect; one that has humbled me and made me appreciate the anxiety that my clients go through when they take on a project, inexperienced and without any clue of what really to expect.  Even knowing what to expect, knowing the right way that things need to be done, knowing the way you want it to look upon completion, IT IS HARD to be the client.

Here are a few pictures of where we are now.  I am anticipating another 4 months until we are ready for a rager in the backyard.  Now that I have fessed up, I will be posting more often.  After all, I have lots of other AMAZING projects in the works, including a Brookline townhouse, West Newton Victorian, new construction in Wellesley, a Tahoe mancave and a Marin family room.  My photographer is scheduled to take some naked before pics, so stay tuned !