Month: June 2016

An Exercise in Tolerance: 5 Design Choices I Had to Learn to Like

Every now and then, I get it into my head that I don’t like something–some element commonly found in interior design.  It’s a mild, dispassionate dislike, but a prejudice just the same.  So, when that list of “things I don’t like” gets too long, I challenge myself to change my own mind.  Thus, in the spirit of tolerance, here are some design choices that I used to dislike and have recently learned appreciate…

Parsons Tables

I know that they are classics in design, but they are exceedingly minimalist for my taste.  Why would I buy something so plain when I could buy something…exciting?  I’m generally drawn to tables with pedestal bases and sculptural qualities.  But then…I came across this image…

This blue Parsons table energizes this otherwise neutral, traditional-leaning dining room.  It’s bright coat of paint and severe right angles are the perfect foil to the curvy, carved Portuguese dining chairs.  Clearly, I was wrong about Parsons style tables.


Damask patterns are ubiquitous in “old world” interiors.  However, in contemporary interiors, they often seem contrived and out of place to my eye.  I often cringe when I see them in modern settings.  But again, I was able to prove myself wrong…

Admittedly, I have a hard time articulating why I love this dining room so much, but I do.  I love the chunky crystal pieces and ruby red chairs.  I also can’t help but admire the subtle ombre effect and moody hues of the–well what do you know?–damask wallpaper.  Wrong again!


Perhaps I’m extra judgmental when it comes to patterns, because plaid is another print that often turns me off.  It feels very specific to me–very reminiscent of either Christmas or Rob Roy or lumberjacks.

But this room recalls none  of those things.  It feels fresh, chic, and just quirky enough to be interesting.  The plaid backdrop is actually quite lovely.  I’ve changed my attitude towards plaid so drastically, in fact, that I started a Pinterest board around the theme called Clash of the Tartans.  (I love a good pun!)

The Color Pink

I know that, in 2016 (the year that Pantone hailed rose quartz as one of the colors of the year), it’s ridiculous to still dislike pink, but I’ve avoided it since the ’90s.  I’m not sure why.  So, you can imagine my disbelief when I found myself swept up in the blush craze.

An Exercise in Tolerance | 5 Design Choices I Had to Learn to Like | Pink

via Lonny

Could these ballet-slipper-pink chinoiserie panels and stools be any prettier?  But it’s not just the barely-pink blush I’ve been admiring…

I’m completely smitten with this super-saturated, hot pink foyer as well.  Again, this new-found love inspired another Pinterest board.

Upholstered Ottomans Used as Coffee Tables

If you ask me: contrast is key.  And, since coffee table are usually placed in front of upholstered sofas, doesn’t it make more sense to have a table with a distinct textural contrast?  Metal, glass, lucite, and wood are far more common (likely because they are better) alternatives.  But not always…not always…

How cool is the zebra ottoman?  It’s like an elevated rug.  With its unique shape and striking pattern, it makes a fantastic focal point, upon which, books and bowls are right at home.  You probably saw this one coming, but I also now have an Upholstered Ottomans board on Pinterest.

Maybe you should just follow me on Pinterest?  I promise to always keep an open mind and heart, pinning beautiful images in spite of any preconceived notions I may have errantly picked up along the way.  I leave you with that thought for the day.  Make it a great one!


A Twist on the Negroni

As a devoted fan of the citrusy, slightly bitter taste of Campari, I’m naturally a proponent of the Negroni cocktail as well.  One part Campari, one part gin (another spirit I’ve grown particularly fond of lately), and one part vermouth; the Negroni is fairly simple to make.  I had the pleasure of sipping a cedar infused version of this cocktail recently, which only augmented my admiration for the drink.  Then, as luck would have it, Negroni Week came along (sponsored both by  Campari and Imbibe Magazine to raise funds for charitable organizations).  At first, I was over the moon.  This enthusiasm quickly turned to mania in an effort to create my own twist on a Negroni that–I hoped–would be every bit as clever and delicious as that cedar-scented incarnation.     twist on a negroni 1

As I mentioned, I’ve been a big fan of gin lately and, to that end, I had already set about infusing gin with bay leaves and peppercorns.  It seemed I was fated to use this concoction in my Negroni.  I was pleased with the results of the infusion.  It took that herbaceous quality of the gin and enhanced with a certain earthiness and spice.

However, when I added the Campari and vermouth to my new and improved gin, the bay leaves got a little lost due to the strong flavors of the other players in the trio.  Instead, the mixture became medicinal and perhaps too intense.  I decided it needed some sweetness to balance the other forces.

motley negroni 5

After a great deal of contemplation and experimentation, I finally developed a plan, using these…


  • 1 oz Campari
  • 1 oz bay leaf, peppercorn infused gin
  • 1 oz dry vermouth
  • 5 grapes, cut in half and charred with a culinary blow torch
  • Ice


Muddle 4 of the 5 grapes with the Campari, gin, and vermouth in a cocktail shaker.  Add ice and shake.  Drain into a short glass.  Slide the 2 charred grape halves onto a cocktail pick for garnish.  Enjoy!

negroni cocktail for negroni week 4

As noted earlier, my dilemma was how to add sweetness to this drink.  Some kind of citrus would have been the obvious answer to play off of the Campari’s notes.  Instead, I looked to grapes, the fruit from which vermouth is distilled.  To make it a little more interesting and marry with the more intense, savory flavors of the spirits, I decided to char the grapes, imparting a subtle taste of charcoal into the mix.

The end result had the balance I was hoping to achieve.  Citrus and sweetness are balanced by bitter herbs and a peppery, cinder finish.  It’s a little more complex than the classic Negroni.  Was it as good as the cedar Negroni?  That’s tough to say.  I guess I’ll have to revisit that one.

negroni on motley decor 3

Happy (end of) Negroni Week!  Cheers!

My Small Space Entryway Solution

Small Space Entryway Challenges

Small spaces can pose certain challenges.  For me, this is most true in my entryway, which is scarcely big enough to open the door and allow guests in without encroaching on their path.  I have to immediately wave them up the stairs so I can close the door behind them.  Needless to say, there is little space to store jackets, bags, and my dog’s leash–all of the things that are ideally stored close to the exit.

Mercifully, the builders did allow for a small, recessed space behind that door that–if I was strategic–would allow for a little bit of storage.  I also longed for a small seat where I could put my shoes on.  However, I only had about a foot of depth to work with.

My Small Space Entry Solution on

Small Space Entryway Solution

Step one was to find a small perch that was only about a foot deep.  As you can see from the pictures, I ultimately went with a furry, three-legged stool, which you can read about in the previous post.  And step two was simply to hang a coat rack.  I chose a classic mid century design that has more hooks than I will probably ever need.  All in all, it was pretty easy.  I’m not sure why it took me so long to check this project off my “to do” list.

MotleyDecor: My Small Space Entryway Solution

The other advantage of this set up was creating a visually pleasing last impression.  My guests might not initially see where I hang their coats and bags.  Still, on their way out, as they’re climbing down the stairs, that wall behind the door is in plain view.  And shouldn’t the last image they see of my house be pretty?  With that in mind, I added that glazed ceramic floor vase to add balance to the scene and double as an umbrella stand.  (You know–in case it ever rains here in Southern California.  A girl can hope…)

So, what do you think?  Functionally, it’s worked out well so far.  However, I welcome comments and other ideas.

Furry Stool Makeover

$25 Craigslist Score | Shopping with Gwen | Motley Decor

I take great pride in finding a good deal and Craig’s list has always been good to me in that respect.  Case in point–my latest acquisition–a $25, three-legged, triangular stool with gold, cabriole legs that hit the ground and then spiral like pumpkin stems.

Although, I can’t say this find was exactly what I was looking for, a few things drew me towards it.  First, it was only $25.  Secondly, the dimensions worked in my favor.  I was in search of something small enough to fit behind my front door that I could sit on to put on my shoes before leaving the house.  And finally, I had never seen anything like it before.  This a particular weakness of mine.  I spend hours each week scouring the internet for various pieces of furniture and vintage items.  So, it’s not often that I come across the unfamiliar.  However, when I do, my hunter-gatherer instincts surface and I feel compelled to add it to my collection.  So, one sunny Sunday morning, Gwen (pictured above) and I set out to collect our new stool with cash in hand.

Furry Stool Makeover on

For aesthetics and hygiene reasons, I always like to reupholster anything I buy second-hand.  Luckily, I still had some long, black, faux fur leftover from my Kelly Wearstler-inspired chair makeover that I thought would suit my new stool well.  Recovering a pop off seat is pretty simple and I’ve discussed it a couple of times already on this blog–both in the previously linked post and on my Fortuny-inspired footstool post.  So, I won’t bore you with it here once again.

In any case, I was pleased with the results.  The stool now feels a bit edgier and, although the faux fur may be a little trendy, I didn’t spend any additional funds on the fabric.  So, I can recover it in the future with no remorse if (or when) this whole faux fur/sheepskin trend gets played out.  Please check out my next post to see how the stool looks in my entryway.


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