Month: October 2015 (page 1 of 2)

Halloween-Inspired Tabletop Finds You Can Enjoy All Year

These tabletop items and entertaining essentials are perfect for Halloween, but pretty enough to use year-round.

crystal skull decanter

This crystal skull decanter lends itself to the Day of the Dead or just adds some edge to your home bar every other day of the year.

Orange glasses

Used as drinking vessels or candle votives, Moroccan tea glasses add a bohemian flair to your decor or–in the case of these orange beauties–pull double duty on Halloween.

black feather placemat

These black iridescent, feathery placemats can feel either haunting or glamorous depending on the day.

spooky bar tools for Halloween

This clever bar tools set imparts a spooky, Halloween-appropriate vibe, but can also feel whimsical & fun in a different setting.

spidery centerpiece bowl

On October 31st, this centerpiece bowl from Crate & Barrel recalls a holiday-inspired spider web, but can also serve as an abstract focal point.

labra candle holder

The translucent arms of this candelabra can give the illusion of floating candles (perhaps held by ghosts) or offer an updated take on classic dining.

creepy hand vase

Creepy one day and Victorian the next, this milk glass hand vase is perfect for Halloween or any day of the year.

onyx cocktail glasses

Crystal cut onyx rocks glasses would be at home on a Halloween-themed tablescape or just plain chic at any cocktail party.


Happy (early) Halloween!

Storage Meets Style

Thanks to PopSugar for picking this picture of my guest room’s nightstand off of Instagram and featuring it as bedroom inspiration on their site.

Living in a small home means maximizing storage potential.  This nightstand by Sunpan affords a decent amount of room, especially in a vertical capacity.  (Thus, the stacks upon stacks.)  However, I didn’t want to just shove books in this open, clearly visible space.  So, I added decorative objects: a watercolor eye miniature by my sister (which I’ve since moved to my gallery wall)  and a smoky quartz specimen on a brass stand.  The goal was to achieve a styled look.

I guess PopSugar thinks I pulled it off.  This made my day!  Follow me on Instagram for more posts like this.

How to Choose the Right Paint Color

Choosing the right paint color can be tricky for a home decorator.  Selecting a color family isn’t always an easy task.  Settling on the perfect shade can be even more difficult.  Light is deceiving and paint samples are misleading.  It’s a terrible feeling when you look around a fully painted room and come to the realization that you got the paint color wrong.  It’s wasted time and money and just plain frustrating.  If you can’t tell, I’ve been there.

But I’ve also learned from my mistakes.  And now, I have a near fool-proof system for avoiding that cataclysm and choosing the perfect paint color every time–at least–it hasn’t failed me yet.

Step 1

Invest in a fan deck.  It usually costs about $30 and well worth the investment if you’re planning on choosing paint for more than one room in your home.  It’ll give you all the options available in your chosen colorway and allow you to easily compare similar shades.  Whatever you do, do NOT make any decisions in the paint store.  The florescent lighting you find there is as different as can be from the natural and artificial lighting in most homes.

Step 2

Use the fan deck to identify shades of interest in the room that is to be painted.  Make sure to consider all lighting situations: day and night, both in direct light and in the shadows.   In addition, examine how the contending colors look next to the room’s furniture and textiles.  This should help you narrow down your potential paint colors to 2-5 shades.

Step 3

Buy a sample of each of your finalist shades along with a canvas board and paintbrush for each paint color.  Paint each canvas board with its own color and brush, noting the color on the back of the board.  Allow them to dry and then  take them back into the room for consideration, repeating the same steps you went through with the fan deck.

By this point, the winner should rise to the top and allow you to confidently invest in your paint color…and maybe even a professional painter.  Hope these steps work as well for you as they have for me!


3 Ways to Pack a Punch with Paint

A little paint can go a long way in addressing decorating woes, adding an impactful dose of color–even in small quantities.  Here are 3 tips for painting projects that minimize time and expense, but pack a punch in the end.

1.  Remember: It’s What’s Inside that Counts

Painting the interior of a cabinet, bookshelf or built-in storage unit is a decorating device that never fails to impress.  Not only can it provide a pop of color, but it’s also an opportunity to offset the books, vases, and decorative objects therein.  Here are some stellar examples…

Gray built-ins with pink interiors

This wonderfully eclectic room in the Hôtel La Belle Juliette features chic gray built-ins with lovely pink interiors, as seen on Casa Vogue.

painted green shelf interior

Designer Mary McDonald used a citrusy green paint to line the hutch of this breakfast nook.

paint the interior of your shelves

Photographer Richard Powers captured this white dining room with bookshelves painted black inside, creating a dramatic backdrop for the collection of colorful books.

2.  Show Off Your Shape

Covering a shapely or intricate piece of furniture in color is another great use of paint.  The new hue will accentuate the beauty of the piece–especially if the rest of the space is streamlined and/or more subdued in color.  Just look at what a little paint did for the furnishings in these rooms…

Louis Vuitton turquoise planters

Louis Vuitton’s historic home–now La Galerie–boasts a pair of exquisite seahorse planters coated in vibrant turquoise.

red lacquer paint

This Victorian hat rack radiates character in red lacquer, pictured in House Beautiful.

Abigail Ahern's teal table

Interior Designer Abigail Ahern is noted for her moody interiors, but this ornately carved teal table demonstrates her more playful side. From PopSugar

3.  Don’t Forget “All the Trimmings”

White and ivory are pretty much the standard when it comes to trim in home interiors.  It’s so common that we expect to see floors and doors outlined in “default” white.  On the flip side, when a decorator deviates from the norm and paints trim in virtually any other shade, the results catch us off guard and leave a lasting impression.  Admittedly, painting trim is a larger endeavor than the previous two recommendation in this post, but it’s so worth it.  (I painted my trim black a couple of years and am glad of it everyday.)  But see for yourself…

turquoise trim

This snazzy kitchen, featured by AD Russia, is largely neutral with jolts of turquoise in the banquet and cabinetry that is echoed in the trim.

black trim by Kelly Wearstler

Kelly Wearstler outlined this bar with black trim, lending it a more sophisticated and moody vibe. via MyDomaine

blush trim instead of white or ivory

Incredible wallpaper by Timorous Beasties is shown here with on-trend, blush-colored trim.

Happy painting if you’re so inclined!


Halloween Party Playlist

Halloween is my absolute favorite holiday and, corny as it is, I usually spend the morning listening to “The Monster Mash” on repeat.  However, even I can only listen to it so many times before going crazy.  To that end, I keep a list year-round of Halloween-appropriate songs.  Here’s my 2016 Halloween Party Playlist, from the most obvious to the (perhaps) most unexpected…

The Monster Mash by Bobby (Boris) Pickett and the Crypt-Kickers

Thriller by Michael Jackson

Original Ghost Busters Theme Song by Ray Parker, Jr.

Paint It Black by The Rolling Stones

Enter Sandman by Metallica

Dragula by Rob Zombie

Dark Lady by Cher (not me, the other one)

Ava Adore by Smashing Pumpkins

Werewolves of London by Warren Zevon

Howl and Shake It Out both by Florence + the Machine

Hotel California by The Eagles

Back in Black by AC/DC

Disturbia by Rihanna

Hungry Like the Wolf by Duran Duran

Back to Black by Amy Winehouse

Demons by Imagine Dragons

Le Freak (Freak Out) by Chic

Like a Stone by Audioslave

You Can Do Magic by America

Jump in the Line and Banana Boat Song (Day O) both by Harry Belafonte (from the Beetlejuice soundtrack)

What songs will you play at your Halloween party?

Twist on a Moscow Mule

I’m a sucker for any ginger-flavored cocktail.  So, naturally, a Moscow Mule is high on my list of favorites.  The problem is: I almost never have vodka in the house.  (I know…I know…)  True to my roots, however (I’m half Puerto Rican), what I do keep stocked is rum!  This inventory issue, coupled with my love of ginger (and my cute new copper mugs with brass knuckles for handles), resulted in a happy accident–or twist, rather–on the classic cocktail.  I call it the Manatí  Mule.  Here’s how you make it…

Spiced rum (instead of vodka)
Ginger beer
Fresh Basil (instead of mint)

Fill a copper mug halfway with ice and add 2 ounces (instead of 1) of spiced rum.  Fill with ginger beer and add a squeeze of lime.  Garnish with another lime wedge and a sprig of fresh basil.  Enjoy!

On a side note, my other half is Mexican, which means that I also maintain an ample of supply of tequila.  So keep an eye out for a Mazatlan Mule recipe in a future post.  Cheers!


3 Chic & Easy Ways to Style Your Dining Table

Styling your dining room table for every day lends your home an extra bit of polish.  Here are 3 of the easiest ways to get the job done.

3-Pronged Approach

Choose three decorative objects at graduated heights: one tall, one medium, and one short.  Cluster the three objects either in the center of your table or off to the side.  For instance, try a tall vase with a pair of candlesticks and a low-slung bowl.  Here are some examples…

Veere Grenney Dining Room

In a Veere Grenney-designed dining room featured in Architectural Digest, three empty vessels adorn the tabletop.

styled dining table

This whimsical dining room (via AD France) displays a trio of objects of varying heights on a round dining table.

How to style your dining table

A pair of very different vases and a stack of books complete the scene in this chic dining room from Architectural Digest.

Island of Misfits

Another chic and easy option is to round up a diverse collection of a particular object (like candlesticks or bud vases) and group them together on your dining table.  Let the shape of your table influence the form that the collection takes.  For round and square tables, keep the grouping  within a certain radius.  However, if your table is rectangular or oval, allow the objects to follow a more elongated path.  Again, here are some examples to inspire you…

How to style your dining table

Cinda Boomershine gathered a collection of milk glass bud vases, each holding a single bloom to decorate the tabletop in her colorful dining room.  Found on Apartment Therapy.

Candlestick collection

A collection of silver candlesticks, inherited from the homeowner’s grandmother make a stunning focal point on this dining table pictured in Elle Decor.

styled dining table

Roughly tumbled decorative fragments are a surprising but attractive choice for gracing the table of this otherwise feminine-feeling dining room.

One & Done

And, of course, the easiest way to style your dining table is to make a singular statement.  Try placing one, generously sized piece on your tabletop (slightly off-center) and let it do the talking.  Draw inspiration from these fantastic dining rooms…

3 Easy Ways to Style Your Dining Room Table

Kelly Wearstler only needed to place a marble urn on the table in the dining room she designed for Cameron Diaz, Elle Decor.

Dining room styling

A tall, slender, red vase holds its own in this gorgeous Italian dining room photographed by Elle Decor.

Dining room with sculpture

In this impeccably decorated dining room by Brendan Wong, a metallic abstract sculpture sits at the center of the table, creating an interesting centerpiece that doesn’t distract too much from the room’s other fabulous features.

Hutton Wilkinson’s Coral Dining Chairs

Few designers embrace maximalism and exoticism with the zeal of Hutton Wilkinson.  His interiors are luxurious, over-the-top, and downright exciting to behold.  The coral, cobalt, and gold dining room of his Beverly Hills home is a stunning example of his aesthetic.

Hutton Wilkinson's coral dining room and chairs.

Hutton Wilkinson’s dining room featured in Harper’s Bazaar boasts a set of stunning coral dining chairs.

If you’re looking for inspiration to refinish or reupholster your own dining chairs, why not take a page out of Wilkinson’s book and go coral-on-coral?  No doubt about it: it’s a bold choice, but as they say “fortune favors the bold” and this approach to design has certainly worked for Hutton Wilkinson.

Coral is an alluring color that can’t be categorized as red, pink, or orange.  Rather, it lives at the borders of those colors, occupying a space on the color wheel that is uniquely “coral”.  I have a personal attachment to this hue, because it always reminds me of a trip to Venice, Italy.  In that port, derivatives of coral can be found everywhere: earthy terracotta buildings, delicately carved peach cameos, blood orange Aperol cocktails, platters of blushing crustaceans, and–of course–the fiery sunsets reflected in the waters.  But I digress…[sigh]…

Look for chairs with intricate carvings or scrollwork or that boast a lovely, sculptural shape.  A saturated shade like coral with enhance the silhouette.   Benjamin Moore offers a plethora of paint shades in the coral family.  Try: Picante (006), Fan Coral (013), or Bird of Paradise (1305).

For seat cushions and upholstery there are also plenty of options.  Some of my favorites follow.

coral fabric

Beacon Hill’s Silk Lantern Coral Fabric is a close match to Wilkinson’s chairs…

Fortuny Corone in bittersweet & gold

Or splurge on Fortuny’s Corone

Pamilla Coral

Pamilla is an inexpensive alternative appropriate for outdoor use…

If I’ve managed to convince you to channel your inner Hutton Wilkinson and DIY a set of coral dining chairs (or even tempted you enough to consider it), I’d love to hear from you!  Please leave a comment.

The Easiest DIY Chair Makeover Ever

One foggy Sunday morning, I was doing the only thing I can drag myself out of bed early on a Sunday to do: prowl the Rose Bowl Flea Market. It was still early when I spotted a trio of interesting, outdoor, iron chairs and motioned to my shopping companion.  Unimpressed, she made a face.  Still, I stopped to take a second look and, obligingly, she stopped too.

The design was almost primitive, with skinny, stick-like legs that flared out in contrast to the tall, narrow backs.  The thing that really caught my eye were two brass knobs at the top.

After a moment my friend whispered, “I don’t think they are going anywhere.  We can always come back.”

I couldn’t argue with her logic.  The chairs were hardly the sort of in-demand item that get scooped up right away and there was still so much ground to cover before the flea market started to get crowded.  Somewhat reluctantly, I continued on.

Later that morning, those quirky chairs were still nagging me, summoning me back for another look.  By the time we made our way back to them, I already knew that I would buy one of them and exactly how I would refinish it.  Luckily, the vendor agreed to sell me just one of the chairs (breaking up the set)–and for a steal–only $25!  I handed over the cash, threw that sucker over my shoulder, and we headed towards the parking lot.  I could tell that my comrade still had doubts about my judgement, but my doubts were gone.  I had a plan.

Kelly Wearstler seating

Kelly Wearstler’s Sonnet Chair

Drawing inspiration from Kelly Wearstler’s Sonnet chair (above), I gathered the necessary materials for my easy DIY chair makeover: foam, batting, faux  Mongolian fur in black (with the longest pile I could find), sandpaper, a scouring pad, and black spray paint.  Prepping the chair was easy.  I unscrewed the seat from the base of the chair and and removed the decades-old vinyl covering and padding beneath.  Sandpaper smoothed away the chipping paint and prepped the iron for a new coat.  And knobs I had admired shined again after being scuffed with a scouring pad.

chair seat

The seat turned out to be a piece of circular plywood.  I opted for a much thicker foam than the chair had originally been given and cut the foam to be congruent with the seat.  Then, I stapled the batting around the two and trimmed the excess.  The faux fur fabric went over the batting, following the same method.  Lastly, I screwed the seat back on to the newly painted frame.

And this is how the easiest DIY chair makeover turned out:

Before & After: Easy DIY Chair Makeover

This chair now serves as my vanity stool 95% of the time and pulls double duty as a spare dining chair when I host a dinner.  (I’m a proponent of mismatched dining chairs and made a conscious effort to curate distinctly different styles, but more on that in a future post…)  In any case, I absolutely love my quirky little chair!  Is it exactly like Kelly Wearstler’s Sonnet Chair?  Well, no.  However, it does recall the same slender bars, furry seat, and even has similar brass knobs.

To close, here are a few lessons I learned from this experience…

Listen to my gut–and those nagging feelings.

Don’t let someone’s doubt cloud my judgement.

There’s noting easier than reupholstering a chair with a pop off seat.

Beloved items don’t need to cost a lot.

Embrace the quirky.

How to Build a Cheese Plate

Cheese plates are always a crowd pleaser and so easy to assemble.  Here are some tips for creating a great cheese plate every time.

Selecting Your Cheese

You can compose an exceptional cheese plate with as little as one cheese or as many as you like.  I usually aim for three different cheeses.  If you decide to feature more than one, make sure that you have distinct flavor profiles so that your guests can appreciate the differences between them.  It’s also a good idea to vary the texture and firmness.  I almost always throw in a goat cheese or a brie.  It’s my theory that softer cheeses are more approachable, because guests are often hesitant to cut into a block of hard cheese.  With that in mind, try cutting the first few slices off the block of those firmer cheeses and then leaving the knife on your cheese board.

Choose One or More Vessels

Next, determine what the vehicle will be.  Crackers and toasts are popular choices.  For a gluten-free option, try rice crackers or even almond crackers.  If you’re looking for a low carb alternative, endive leaves do the trick.

Throw in Something Sweet

I hate to throw around words like “rule” , but I firmly believe that every cheese board needs at least one sweet on it.  Almost any fruit (grapes, apples, nectarines, plums, etc.) will do.  Dried fruits (apricots are a favorite) are also excellent choices.  Jellies, jams, and preserves (especially fig) are a lovely addition as well.  In a pinch, you can even use honey or agave nectar, but look to your cheese(s) to determine your sweet(s).  A mild cheese (like goat) deserves a mildly sweet companion (like pear).  On the other hand, something with intense flavor like a bleu cheese is balanced by an equally intense dried cherry.

Add a Dash of Brininess 

Again, I don’t care for rules, but I strongly advise including a briny component.  I usually opt for pickled vegetables or a whole grain mustard.  Both work with just about any cheese or sweet.

Bonus Treats

Palette cleansers are always a nice addition.  Nuts work well in this role–particularly Marcona almonds.  And, who doesn’t love a little cured meat?  Add some prosciutto or thinly sliced salami and you’ve just upgraded to a charcuterie plate!

Supply the Right Tools

Last, but not least, ensure that you’ve given your guests the proper tools.  The knife should be sharp enough to slice the hardest cheese.  A little spoon is helpful in scooping up jam or mustard.  Complete the spread with napkins and–if you can–little plates.

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