Here we are friends. In our homes. Watching the news, scrolling through Facebook or your other chosen social media outlet. Trying to maintain some sanity. Trying to keep our kids happy and healthy. Clicking away on your laptop on the dining room table that is also covered with projects and junk. Living within our walls with all the stuff that’s piled up over the years. I bet you are feeling acutely overwhelmed. And also feeling guilty about that, because you might be acutely more privileged than others. You’re still employed, healthy, have ample food and TP, with a roof over your head. Let's start there.
In my circle, there is anxiety about our kids being off from school, and us adults also having work responsibilities. There is a lot of noise about both the benefits, and the righteousness, of creating a family schedule and the ambition of trying to continue an education for our children. For some, a schedule is a structural lifesaver, and for others, it can force feelings of failure trying to tick all the boxes of math, language, science, etc. There is no “right” way to do anything at the moment, and that is fine. We carry on at home.
My business is literally “Non Essential”. I wrestle with this a lot. I am a designer. Does what I do make a difference in people’s lives? I make things pretty. Hopefully, pretty and functional. Pretty, functional, and brings joy to clients’ lives. I suppose that is important. Certainly not important at the moment, but maybe soon, or in the future.
I’m writing this to keep myself busy, and sane, as several of my projects are on a brief hiatus while companies are unable to fabricate or ship items.
If you need a diversion from the current dual responsibilities of parenting and working, or something new to do at home over the weekend, here are some relatively simple projects you can do while self-isolating to increase the feeling of joy at home. Baby steps!
We will ALL have our hands full during the coming weeks, and I have no doubt it will be challenging to enter the weekend and feel trapped once again at home in isolation. I truly believe making a few small improvements around the house will feel empowering and refreshing. I also hear you saying “I have enough on my plate, this additional expectation is exactly what is stressing me out right now”. No problem! Stay in bed all day and order delivery. No judgment here.
Do you have any other ideas to share? What other small changes are you planning to tackle around the house? If inspiration hits again, I may share some larger ideas for refreshing your home while we all shelter in place.
Stay well, and Flatten the Curve,
Last Thursday I woke up at zero dark thirty to drive up to Petaluma. Normally I would not do this, but I could not decline the invitation of my friend and colleague, Howard Formby, to be a guest at his table for the Daily Acts fundraiser "Ripple the World". Daily Acts is an organization that promotes soil and water conservation through turf removal and replacement with sheet mulching, grey water, and other drought-resistant practices. They have workshops on creating edible gardens, and partner with homeowners and commercial builders to make our landscapes more sustainable for the earth.
The breakfast was just delicious, and to no one's surprise, served on non-disposable plates, glasses and silverware, compostable paper condiment trays, with locally sourced ingredients. I guzzled two cups of Petaluma Coffee with Strauss Creamery Half and Half as soon as I walked in the door! I enjoyed meeting Trathen Heckman, the Executive Director of Daily Acts, and listening to the speakers and recent projects the organization has completed.
After breakfast, Howard and I headed downtown to browse all the fabulous vintage and antique stores that Petaluma has to offer. Our first stop was Sienna Antiques on Petaluma Blvd. This place has it all, due to the collective nature of the huge space. While Howard drooled over an 18th century chest near the entrance (only $1600!!), I snapped photo after photo of unusual items to share with clients. We joked that Howard should open a shop called "Howard's Chairs, China, Books and Baskets!" I would totally shop there.
Our next stop - Vintage Bank Antiques, on the corner of Western Ave. I think we probably spent two hours here! This store, situated in - you guessed it - an old bank, has a wonderful selection of vintage jewelry on the main floor, quirky art, and lots of furniture. Don't miss the mezzanine, or the grand stairs down to their HUGE basement. I couldn't resist purchasing a crewelwork remnant ($45), an Imari plate for my collection ($12.50), a book on William Wurster, and a colorful print of a Humuhumunukunukuapua'a for my son's room ($48). I was tempted by a vintage Persian rug due to its unusual coloring, but decided against it. (Why? Why?) I should have bought it.
All this shopping had us starving, so we crossed the street to have lunch at the Water Street Bistro, a.k.a. "Stephanie's". Howard eats here almost exclusively, and for good reason. The ingredients are fresh, local and delicious. I ordered their Chicken Salad sandwich and Howard got the Trout salad special. Suuuuper yummy food. If you're hungry in downtown Petaluma, I highly recommend eating at Stephanie's, I mean, Water Street Bistro.
Our next destination was back on Petaluma Blvd, at a shop called Chelsea Antiques. Again, we discovered a trove of reasonably priced antiques and accessories. I loved the fretwork screens, and the needlepoint of animals, which would be just charming in a nursery hung behind a crib.
Our final stop was at a sophisticated boutique called Good Gray. Here you will find a well-edited selection of home accessories, gifts, stationery, clothing for women and babies, and linens. I could have bought one of everything! The store is calm and clean, with tall ceilings and white-washed tin wainscoting in a historic building.
I will return!
I left Petaluma pretty exhausted, but energized by all the amazing things I experienced during the day. If you're near the area, don't miss stopping downtown to shop and eat! xo LD
I've just ordered three large-format repro giclees that should be here in mid-May. Hit me up in the comments if you have questions or if you'd like to purchase any of these. I'll take some detail photos after they arrive.
-- Details in the captions --
Well, it's both actually.
Our house has a pretty small footprint, and everything passes through our narrow entryway. Jackets, backpacks, leashes, diaper bags, reusable grocery bags, you name it. For the first few years in our home, I did my Best Decorater attempt at a proper Foyer with a console table, symmetrical chairs and a decorative mirror. It looked good for about two minutes before something landed there, and then it looked like crap.
Here are some BEFORE pics:
It just wasn't working.
And I had to be honest, with two littles and a dog, we needed something that could handle all the stuff.
I looked high and low for the perfect storage bench, but nothing on the retail market matched what I wanted -
a long bench with storage drawers. I wanted a place to put grocery bags, the diaper bag, and dog toys.
I designed a bench and had a local cabinetmaker build it. It is the perfect length and has three large drawers for all the junk. For the wall, the same cabinetmaker used reclaimed wood to make a coat rack, and the circular knobs came from CB2. I wanted a way to display photos, so the coat rack got a ledge for layering frames.
Here is the AFTER pic:
Do you need help refreshing the Entry to your home? Give me a call!
Happy New Year!
2014 was a big year for me, opening up my own design business. I have to say, it has been a good decision so far. I've had the pleasure of working on several homes in Alameda and beyond in the last six months. Hopefully I will have some new pictures to share with you very soon!
One project many homeowners want to tackle in the new year is a Bathroom remodel. Let's face it, older, dated bathrooms are no joy to live with day-in and day-out. Chipped tile, dirty grout, pitted metal or plastic faucet handles and (gulp) carpet in the bathroom are the most frequently sited problems with an older bathroom.
But how much should one budget for a bathroom remodel? The costs can vary greatly.
First, you need several contractors to bid from real plans - your rough sketches, or better, from an architect or designer who works in AutoCAD. Show them your list of materials and plumbing (see next paragraph) you wish to use. Labor is usually the largest cost involved in a remodel. Inquire whether your project will require a permit, and let them handle the legwork. Permits are typically a percentage of the labor cost, and can range from a few hundred dollars to $1k.
Secondly, when it comes to materials and plumbing fixtures, educate yourself. Spend some time browsing online retailers or Google fixtures you find on Pinterest. If you have time, visit some tile, stone and plumbing showrooms. Faucets can range from $50 (Ensen Ikea) to $2,000 (KV1 Vola), and there are hundreds of options in between. Toilets can be $300. or $4,000. Bathtubs can be very basic or super hydrotherapy chakra-aligning spas. Go try some down at Tubz to find your favorite. Cheap ceramic tile, on backed sheets, can be found for as little as $2.50 a square foot. Porcelain tile is typically less than $10. a square foot. Stone and mosaics can be in the $20.+ square foot range. With a little research and math you can probably figure out your plumbing and materials comfort zone without too much trouble.
Last year we did a modest remodel on our circa 1986 bathroom. It did not start out modest. I wanted to gut the whole thing, move the shower, buy a new tub, fabricate a new custom vanity, update the lighting and fans and put in all new tile and stone. Our budget was $25,000. with a tiny bit of wiggle room. As a designer, I drew up my own plans in AutoCAD and invited two contractors over to give me some bids.
Turns out, our budget wouldn't even cover the labor! We had to seriously rethink the scope of work and focus on more cosmetic upgrades, rather than replace everything.
So we went back to the drawing board. We left the shower alone for now (sadly), painted the old vanity, and kept the old tub, toilet, and counters. Anything that would have triggered a permit was deleted from the scope. Instead, we replaced the flooring with new porcelain tile, replaced the faucets, mirrors and sconces, repainted, and added a new window shutter. We hired a handyman and his crew for the tile work and painting, and a local plumber to switch out the faucets.
And you know what, it looks a million times better now even though we only spent $5k instead of $50k. It won't be featured in Architectural Digest, but it feels fresh and renewed. We still have some money in the piggybank, so we might do the shower this year - fingers crossed!
What did it cost? (Vendor in parentheses) Costs are approximates/rounded.
Tile for floor (Dicks Carpet One) $900.
x2 Faucets (Overstock.com) $375.
x2 Sconces (Restoration Hardware) $450.
x2 Mirrors (Room and Board) $1000.
Paint (Pagano's) $300.
Shutter (Slats Blinds Alameda) $300.
x7 Knobs (Anthropologie) $100.
Plexi replacement for ceiling light (TAP Plastics) $100.
Painting and Tilework labor (Handyman Miguel Gonzalez) $1,200.
Plumber (AT Weber) $300.
New towels and accessories (Target, Creative Growth, World Market) $275.
Total cost: $5,300. give or take.
You can find all our selections on my Pinterest board Modern Cottage Master Bath.
Peace to you in the new year,
Want to find out more? Here are some great resources for bathrooms:
Tile/Stone: Dicks Carpet One, Import Tile Co., Cal-Tile Alameda, Dal-Tile, Heath Ceramics
Plumbing: Jack London Kitchen & Bath, Tubz, Amazon.com, Overstock.co, Wayfair, Home Depot, Lowe's
Paint: Benjamin Moore through Pagano's Alameda
Lighting: Restoration Hardware, Circa Lighting, Lumens.com
Hardware and Accessories: Anthropologie, Target, World Market, Creative Growth, Ikea, Schoolhouse Electric
Mirrors: Room & Board
Window Treatments: Slats Blinds Alameda
Didn't you get the memo? You have to put a giant giraffe in your baby's nursery. It's like, crib, check, changing table, check, dresser, check, giraffe... crap I HAVE TO GET A GIRAFFE FOR MY BABY!!! It's like the nursery equivalent of a Fiddle-leaf Fig Tree in your living room.
All kidding aside, I think they are popular for several reasons - they have great vertical scale, a small footprint, and they're baby safe, as far as giant toys go. This one made by Melissa & Doug isn't even crazy expensive.
If you are feeling a bit more spendy, there is also this more realistic option from Hansa. If it's good enough for Nina Garcia, it's good enough for you!
If you need any further proof, look no further than this Pinterest board I curated: Spot the Giraffe. I think there's over 30 images of various kiddo rooms with this guy making an appearance.
This got me thinking - giraffes have had their day. What would be a good alternative? Dinosaurs! Fortunately, Hansa has that covered, too. Check out these awesome nearly life-size creations. Next time I design a nursery, I might have to beg, borrow and steal for one of these bad boys.
Y'all have a great weekend. RAWR!
My awesome clients in Alameda sent me this picture of the working palette for their Master Bath.
Seriously, I love their creativity and sense of humor!
We are using a combination of teak planking (floor), porcelain tile (wainscot and shower), Caesarstone (countertops and backsplash) and porcelain mosaic tile (shower floor). As you can see, our lovely client is luxuriating in a freestanding soaking tub! I think she looks pretty comfortable.
Yesterday I wrapped up a consulting job in Alameda with a client who has a classic Craftsman style home. When I got her initial email, I was thrilled to be invited over to see the house. It is always so fascinating to see what people do with older houses - whether they totally renovate and modernize, or keep thing very true to the original style. This house had a modern kitchen, but for the most part, much of the interior (built-ins, moldings) were intact.
The client approached me with the goal of freshening up two main public rooms, the Living Room and the Den. She had some existing furniture that had been through several moves, as well as some "finds" from Craig's List, including a pair of black Barcelona Chairs. She asked me first, "What could be done to make these rooms more inviting?" After that she added, "I'm really cheap, by the way." Ha! I love a good challenge. So I said no problem, I would be limiting my research to items that were very, VERY reasonably priced. Online, we go!
My first thought: You need Rugs!
Rugs are instrumental in bringing a room together. Start with that, and you can build a whole room around them. Decorators say this kind of thing all the time; I didn't make it up. Rugs can be wildly expensive, but you can also find them for super cheap if you do your research. After shopping different sources online (major retailers, Ebay, Craig's List, and consignment stores), I found a cotton dhurrie from World Market for like zero dollars. Well, more like $199. for a 6'x6'. I knew we could build a scheme around it with the black Barcelona Chairs and some additional, more colorful accessories. I pinned it on her board, and low and behold, with a Sale and a loyalty coupon from the store, she scored it for less than half price! Talk about a good deal.
With the rug purchased, I selected items for the Den that I thought would be on budget and easy to purchase. The Living Room came together in much the same way. Colorful, Chic and Cheap!
You can see the different options I researched for this project by going to my Pinterest page and clicking on Encinal|Den and Encinal|Living Room. I truly enjoyed the challenge of "working cheap" but finding stylish home furnishings for this client.
Contact me if you need some fresh ideas for your house!
All the cool people I know started blogging about a decade ago, so I'm a bit behind on the whole concept.
But now that I have my new gig here as a designer-for-hire, hopefully I can share some fun tidbits with everyone about the world of interior design. Some say that interior design must be so Fabulous! Like with a capital "F". Sure, it can be that, sometimes. Other times, you just want the sofa to fit through the door. Over the last dozen years I have seen so many amazing homes, and it always astounds me how much work really goes into creating these environments. Emails, phonecalls, paperwork, budgets, contracts, lead times, discontinued items, etc. So glamorous! Not!
With this blog I hope to share some things I've learned over the years, for example:
- the best vendors in the Bay Area
- where to spend, where to skimp
- how to work with subcontractors
- common mistakes to avoid
- how to avoid trends but stay cool and timeless
- where to find unique items locally
Join me, as we explore the crazy world of interiors!