Tuesday, December 30, 2014

New Year's design resolutions!

Resolutions...we all have them. Mine are aplenty, trust me! If one of your happens to be to finally get your home looking fabulous, here are some simple tips and tools that can help you reach your goal!

1. Create a Pinterest Board: Not that long ago, I would tell my clients to cut out pictures from magazines of rooms they liked or elements they wanted to incorporate into their room design. That way I could have a visual understanding of what they liked and envisioned in their home. Then, along came Pinterest! If you haven't joined Pinterest yet, I highly recommend that you do, especially if you are planning on starting a new project at home. Create a board specific to your project and pin away! You can share your board or keep it private. Either way, it's an incredible visual tool that will help you hone in on your design wants and needs. Here are a few of my favorite boards: 


2. Check out Houzz: Similar to Pinterest, Houzz is a visual playground. You can spend hours perusing 100's of thousands of beautiful photos. If you are looking to redo your kitchen or bath Houzz is especially helpful. You can search by your design style and then create your own "Ideabook". Bam! Once again you have a great visual library of what you see your own project looking like!


3. Get organized: Everyone knows this is the first thing you should do to start a new project, but often times it's the last! I suggest making a wish list and prioritizing your projects. List them in order of importance to you. It might not be the biggest, most expensive project that is most important to you, but you won't really know until you put it on paper, and really think about it!

4. Focus on one room at a time: We all want our whole house to look great, but that can sometimes be overwhelming to think about when you are redesigning. And aren't we all a little guilty of not finishing our projects completely?!  That was the old Renee, now I focus on one room, start to finish, before I move on to the next. Of course, I always have a plan in mind for my next room, but I love the feeling of a finished room.

5. Hire a professional: It's truly helpful to have another set of eyes look at your room and talk to you about what your needs are; does the room need to be kid friendly? do you need lots of storage? what about the furry pets in your life? An interior designer has an eye for all of these things and they have an abundance of resources at their fingertips that are not necessarily available to you. So if you want your home to be a bit more special to you, and to look just like the house next door, call in an designer! You'll be happy you did!

Hopefully these tips get you started in the right direction for the new year. If you are still struggling a bit to get on track, give me a call! Together we can resolve to create a stunning home for you and your family!

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

What's your holiday tradition?

While holiday design trends may come and go, there are still some traditions that even the trendiest of designers hold onto. For me, there is something so special about holding on to some of my long-standing family traditions this time of year. It gives me a feeling of comfort, love and family.

My kids are all grown...even my "baby" is taller than I. Yet every year on Christmas Eve, we all join together and go out for a nice dinner on the town to celebrate all that we have. And every year, Santa magically leaves a new book for us to read together by the fireside (ironically, every year I also "forget" something and have to quickly run back into the house before we leave! shhh, don't tell the kids!). To this day, we still sit together with full bellies and take turns reading from the book. 

More often than not, the book has a deeper message than Santa coming down the chimney tree. One of our family favorites happens to be The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado. It's a sweet story that has inspired many, I hope, as it tells the tale of a little lamb who has a crippled leg and therefore couldn't do what the other lamb's could do. But in the end, Joshua the lamb realizes that God has a very special plan for him. And despite his disability, he feels his true worth when he is called upon to help keep the baby Jesus warm. It's touching and reminds me and my family that there is always hope.

Of course, sometimes Santa needs to infuse a little laughter into the evening and has been know to leave such books as The Nightmare Before Christmas by Tim Burton. It's such a cute story about Jack Skellington (aka the Pumpkin King), who presides over Halloweenland, yet is bored with his job and feels that life in Halloweenland lacks meaning. Then he stumbles upon Christmastown and promptly decides to make the Yuletide his own. A really fun story for the whole family!

If you want to add another "sweet" surprise for your family, here's one of my all time favorite recipes!  I will take any excuse to make chocolate souffle, so the addition of peppermint allows this one to pop in for Christmas, although one never needs an excuse for a souffle :)
This is my favorite from the Moustache Café:
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. sugar
6 oz. dark sweet chocolate
1 c. sugar, divided
3 oz. milk
4 egg yolks
6 egg whites
Powdered sugar
Whipped cream for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter 6 individual souffle dishes and sprinkle with sugar.In a saucepan combine chocolate, 2/3 cup sugar and milk. Cook until chocolate is melted. Pour into a mixing bowl and add egg yolks. Mix well and set aside.In another mixing bowl beat egg whites until foamy. Gradually add sugar and beat until stiff. Fold half of meringue into chocolate mixture until well blended. Repeat with remaining half.Pour into souffle dishes and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve by itself or with whipped cream on the side. 6 servings.
Just sprinkle crushed peppermint candy canes on the top and a drop of peppermint into the whipped cream.
Cue the angels!

As you gather together with friends and family, I hope you celebrate many traditions. Take the time to enjoy the loved ones around you.

I will be enjoying having my family all together under one roof, and taking a break from the long list of "to-do's" in my everyday life. But don't fret! 2015 holds lots of excitement.

Warm wishes for a happy and healthy holiday season!



Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Let's cut the rug!

Rugs are often viewed as the foundation of your décor and are frequently the springboard for the color scheme you choose for your room. But they also need to serve a purpose; comfortable under your feet, maybe soft enough that you can lay down on it to watch a movie, or it may just be the final piece you need to pull a room together. Because of this, it can be very tricky to find the right rug. 

I have a tendency to choose vibrant rugs  with lots of colors to choose from. This way we can mix and match colors for the walls, the furniture and the accessories and still keep the grounding element the same. 
Take a look at the design board below. Here, I wanted to play up the geometric designs and let the mandala's be our inspiration so I added some soft circles in the chair, table and the lamp. To balance the feminine, I offered a rectangular pattern in the console. Soft window treatments offer a timeless feel and repeat back to the colors in the rug. Go bold with a hit of orange on the walls or play it down with a soft gray on the brown side. As you can see, this rug gives you endless possibilities!

*rug is from Anthropologie.

So what style rugs do I see trending right now? Well, going along with the trend of organic with a side of bohemia, natural materials such as jute and hemp are popular. I am also seeing a lot of patterns with Mandalas and world patterns such as Moroccan tile.

I also love using indoor/outdoor rugs in high traffic areas like in front of kitchen sinks and under dining room tables. Everyone loves the idea of a rug under the dining room table, but they don't realize the maintenance involved during the messy eating years (0-99). There are some really great colors and patterns out now that look fabulous and can even pop right into a commercial washer. Dash and Albert, GrandinRoad, and Company C have some great choices.

I'm using this pretty rug from Company C under a table in a beach house. It will keep up with surf, sand, and cereal :)
Rug from Company C

I also absolutely love anything from Angela Adams because not only are her rugs sumptuous and warm, but they tell a story. I can just imagine as a child playing on one of these rugs and carrying those memories through a lifetime. She has a knack for involving the senses.

Angela Adams Cumulus Rug
Pappelina rugs available at Amy Dutton Home
If you are local, be sure to check out some of the beautiful Pappelina rugs offered for sale at Amy Dutton Home in Kittery, ME.  These are super easy to care for, so they are great for the kitchen or eating area.

For more rug ideas and inspiration, be sure to check out my Pinterest board, Rugs with Tactile Style!

Warm wishes,

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Christmas on the farm

This year I had the distinct pleasure of decorating a stunning farmhouse for the holidays as part of the Exeter Area Holiday House tour to benefit Womenade of Greater Squamscott. Thankfully, I had lots of talented helpers alongside to help me create a magical holiday setting. The tour was a HUGE success to say the least and my heart is filled, knowing that we raised a significant amount of money for people in need.

The original farm sign
The home itself is a beauty, sitting up on a hill, overlooking the Exeter river. It's wrapped in history, from once serving as an Angus farm, then as a Montessori school. Now it's been restored back it's original purpose, a warm and friendly family home.

A chalkboard coffee table is perfect for storytelling
I decided to treat the home to a little bit of what I call "rustic glamour". Using lots of natural elements and recycled products and then adding a touch of bling! 
A touch of sparkle!

Photo credit: Jaye Carr
We decked the halls using lots of greens and loads of twinkle lights. It smelled and looked delicious!

Photo credit: Jaye Carr

For a little out of the ordinary, recycled and rustic charm, we built a Christmas tree out of books. The stunning wall décor you see behind the book tree are paper mandala's and are handmade by Victoria of Open Book Studio. She repurposes broken books into works of art....very, cool! Click here to find her on Facebook.

Photo credit: Jaye Carr
To embellished a lonely corner under the stairs we created this one-of-a-kind piece, and filled it with holiday sparkle.
And of course, nothing brings the warmth of the holiday season to your home like a beautifully decorated tree!
For more photos from our festive farmhouse, and holiday décor inspiration, hop on over to my Pinterest page!




Tuesday, December 2, 2014

These are a few of my favorite things!!

One of the things I love most about this time of year is that it's the perfect opportunity to show the people who mean the most in our lives how much we love and care about them. And, since I am a girl who loves to shop, but also loves our planet, I always try to show my love with some eco-friendly, thoughtful gifts. Here are some of my favorite, green gift giving ideas for you and yours!

Of course, my #1 favorite place to shop is LOCAL! Wherever you are, please consider shopping at your local businesses. These "mom and pop" shops are struggling in this day and age of online shopping and big box stores. However, you can't beat their service and unique gift ideas.

If you can't find what you're looking for in town, hHow about a pair of fleece lined shoes from TOMS to warm your toes! For every purchase TOMS will help a person in need. Check out their website for their 12 days of giving offers.

If shoes aren't your thing, I always find unique gifts from Uncommon Goods. They have a great selection of recycled gifts. From a frame made out of bike chains or a belt from a fire hose, you are sure to find something to please even the pickiest person on your list!

I stumbled upon this site and couldn't resist..."It's not regifted, it's recycled" Click here for some fantastic gift ideas made from recycled products. Just because it ended up in the landfill, doesn't mean it's trash! No, really, check it out!

If you aren't convinced that doing a little "green" shopping this season is for you, check out this article from Huffington Post. While the article may be a few years old, the statistics it points out are staggering. According to Huffington, between Thanksgiving and Christmas our waste per household increases by 25%...WOW!

So no matter who you are shopping for, consider doing some good along your merry way!

Good tidings until next week,


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Ready or not, here come the holidays!

Believe it or not, as an interior designer, it's not very often that I get to design a home for the holidays! This time of year, my time is mostly spent renovating kitchens and baths, or redesigning living spaces and bedrooms. My clients are generally in a full blown panic to get their homes spiffed up for a house full of guests during the holidays. Sound familiar?

While I love my usual projects, this year I set out to do something a little different during the holiday season. I wanted to use my interior design skills to some how give back to our community. To make a difference. So, my assistant (who is likeminded and felt the same urge to give back) and I spent one morning, many, many months ago, brainstorming ideas over cups of coffee. The idea that resonated to both of us was to put together a Holiday House tour where all the proceeds would benefit a local charity - we chose Womenade of Greater Squamscott.

After several months of planning, loads of hours of shopping, endless amounts of time designing we are now only two and a half weeks away from our event!

The 1st Annual Exeter Area Holiday House tour is set for Sunday, December 7th, 1-4:00pm in Exeter, NH!

Here's how it works. We have paired five of Exeter's finest homes with local interior designers and local florists to design and decorate for the holidays. This is not your usual holiday décor! Prepare yourself to be wowed by the beautiful and creative ideas that these designers and homeowners have come up with - I'm not talking your typical twinkle lights and a few holiday pillows on the couch - we're talkin' WOW FACTOR!

So get your tickets now before we sell out. This is an event you won't want to miss! Tickets are $18 in advance or $20 on the day of the tour. You may purchase your tickets at any of the following locations: Churchills Garden Centers, Cymbidium Floral, Trends, The Willow and G & N Flooring.

And since it's the season of giving thanks, I can't help but thank Womenade of Greater Squamscott for their support as well as all of our designers and volunteers. This event wouldn't have happened with out your time, creativity, energy and support!

Stephanie Morrison of Morr Interiors
Carla Green of Carla Green Designs
Ethan Allan of Portsmouth, NH
Claire Abbott of Pattern No. 3
Mandeville Canyon Designs

Florists and Garden Centers:
Cymbidium Floral
The Exeter Flower Shop
Drinkwater Flowers & Design
Churchill's Garden Center
Yankee Clipper
Scamman's Home & Garden

I hope to see all of you on the tour in just a few weeks!

Enjoy the togetherness that comes with the holidays!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Winter Design Trends

I was preparing for an interview last week on Winter Trends and it got me thinking about the changing of the seasons, snuggling in and the whole concept of Trending.

For those of you that know me, you will know I am not the trendy type and neither are my clients.
While our politics might not reflect it, when it comes to design, New Englanders are a pretty temperate bunch. There are no, "just becauses". Each decision comes with a platter full of practicality. 

So, I was pleasantly surprised to find that when I started researching the most recent trends in design for this fall and winter, that I was indeed on trend, merely by virtue of my natural design style.

Go figure!

A natural mixture of organic materials and ethnic inspiration photo credit: trendy.com

It stands to reason that organic, natural, and sustainable materials are always trendy.

Rich, nature inspired colors, heavy in texture and weight will always be in style, but this year don't forget to balance them with a bit of the whimsical, ethereal, and lighter weight. 

photo credit: justbesplendid.tumblr.com
Balance never goes out of style either.
Winter naturally brings about more layering. Heavier weight materials and faux furs (always faux!). 

photo credit: punktse.tunblr.com

Winter whites with undertones of brown and gray work any time of year, but as the sun struggles to muster up the energy to rise overhead, these lighter tones will invite the rays to stay just a little longer before retreating.

This parquet wood tile is from ADKO's Mansion Porcelain Library 

Barn elements continue to be popular with "wood" tiles and sliding barn doors leading the fashion pack. 

I find myself suggesting tile flooring that mimics wood to many clients looking for a great textured element but with the ease of water clean up and no refinishing. Add some radiant heating and big faux fur pillow and you might find me curled up on your kitchen floor. 

photo credit: bluebergitt.wordpress.com
The fashion world has promised us more distressed denim. You know, the kind your mom said, "Why should I pay good money on something that looks it just went through the chipper?!"

photo credit: writeontrend.com

Fabrics and tiles seem to be trekking the globe from Tribal to Ethnic with influences spanning from the middle east to Europe.

A recent bathroom we did incorporating Moroccan and Italian tile

And a the juxtaposition of color is always a personal favorite of mine. Pairing of unassuming colors is like that great couple that people can't figure out, but they just click. 
Think ballet slipper pink with cobalt or a whisper of gray with the rich aplomb of eggplant.


Finally, mix well with the loose and blousy look of Bohemia. This style is forgiving in both fashion and design. It says, "Come as you are. Bring me your grandmothers couch, your favorite scarf from beloved travels and no worries about the cheesecake you ate last night, we can make that work too."
Who doesn't love that!

photo credit: ecosalon.com

So, welcome this wintery season with open and forgiving arms. Embrace contrast, change, and even purple. 

Take a chance!



For more inspiration check out our Winter Trends
pinterest board 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Table of Contents

This time two years ago I was eye ball deep in Cheshire Cat's, Raven's, Mandrakes, and Dan Brown (ok well at least some items he so kindly let me borrow!). And books. Lots and lots of books.

tabletop, table settings, tablescapes
Photography courtesy of David Murray
Designers from around the region were charged with creating a tabletop that was simply  "Something over the top,  a fanciful table setting either real or imagined, but make it memorable."

Because I live by the motto, "Have just enough information at your fingertips to say, Yes", making a table out of books and inviting (theoretically) four famous authors to the table, seemed like a good idea.

tabletop, table settings, tablescapes

Hundred's of hours later, several saw blades, nails, glue and a review of my physics class and we (and by that I mean a dedicated group of selfless volunteers and myself)  came up with, "Table of Contents" Tablescapes People's Choice Award for 2012.

We set the stage for Edgar Allen Poe with a hand made feather chair (I can not recall how many feathers were sewn into that seat!), a stunning bespoke hand painted collection of books by Mike Stilkey and masks depicting my favorite Poe story, Hop Frog.

Lewis Carol made an appearance with the queen's chair and Cheshire Cat, a charming teapot lamp and handcrafted tea set complete with hedgehog croquet ball (the flamingo rests lightly beside the queen's chair).

A cryptex piqued visitors curiosity as well as a
host of paraphernalia from Dan Brown's famed Angels and Demons and the DaVinci Code  both which occupied the third corner, while a precariously tall collection of chairs topped by a sorting hat rounded out JK Rowlings seat of honor. The troublesome Mandrakes found their way into trouble by combing through the guests belongings.


And all for a good cause.

Tablescapes was created to benefit the Arts and Reach program in Portsmouth, NH. This wonderful organization seeks to empower young women through the arts. Classes are offered in dance, theater, songwriting, singing, visual arts and creative writing. Building valuable skills in leadership, confidence, and lasting relationships with both peers and professionals. AIR also provide a nurturing atmosphere that fosters good choices and safe alternatives.

This years collection of tables looks to be the best yet and I am honored to be part of the judging staff.

The gala opening night celebration starts at 6pm on Friday November 7th and runs all weekend. In addition to the stunning tables there are workshops being held throughout as well (highly recommending anything wine and cheese tasting related).

For more information, be sure to check out their website and facebook page.

And take a peek at our own pinterest page for more Tablescapes inspiration.

Hope to see you there!



Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Adding layers, creating warmth

On Saturday it's time to adjust our clocks and "fall back". By now the trees are done showing us their beautiful array of colors and have lost their leaves.

Part of me dreads this time of year because it's dark when I wake in the morning and it gets dark so early in the afternoon. For a girl from California who craves warm sunshine, this can very difficult. However, there is a part of me that loves the "snuggie-ness" of this time of year. Curling up under a soft blanket by the fire with a good book (or more realistically, my computer!) can't be beat!

So what does an interior designer like me do to get her house ready for shorter days and long, chilly nights? Well, first I begin with a bit of a fall clean-up! And I don't mean just the leaves outside. Take a look around your home and decide what your are done using for the season. By now you no longer need the lightweight jackets and flip-flops. Maybe it's even your outdoor furniture (unless you can still use it to sit by your fire pit for a few more weeks). Sweep out the garage. Make room for shovels, boots and perhaps some sleds! Stack some wood, and if you live around me, get your generator ready for winter.

Inside, I like to change things up a bit with the onset of a new season. Simple ideas like changing out the photographs of my kids from summertime fun to pictures of them jumping in the leaves. I even like to change up my artwork around the house to something more fitting for the season. This way I don't get bored with my décor, because it's changing every season!

I bring out lots of soft, warm blankets to throw on the couches and chairs in fall hues like orange and red. Or, toss a fake-fur throw on the couch. On a chilly day, just the sight of a thick, plush fake-fur blanket is enough to warm the heart — and cuddling under it will certainly warm your toes! Faux-fur is classic and will never go out of style...just like snuggling!

Since orange is one of my favorite colors, I love to add pops of it all over my home. Right about now, I would love to be sharing a cup of coffee in this kitchen I recently completed with PK Surroundings in Exeter, NH.

Check out some more inspiring fall decorating ideas and photos from The Inspired Room blog.

And for that extra touch of fall, homemade potpourri that I found on Express-O.

Here is what you will need: - the peel of one orange
- one cut up apple
- 2 large cinnamon sticks
- 1 tablespoon of cloves
- 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon of almond extract
- 1.5 cups of water plus plenty more for refill

Place all ingredients in a cooking pot and simmer throughout the day while adding a bit of water from time to time. Also, you can reuse this mix for three days and store it in the fridge overnight.
Ta dah!