Category: Decorating (page 2 of 6)

What Japan Taught Me About Design

Visiting Japan was a deeply rewarding experience that precipitated lessons in design (among other things) that I will carry with me forever.  If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve seen a sneak peak of what I’m referring to.  Either way, here are 4 aesthetic truths that the splendor of Japan has engrained in me.

There’s No Competing with Mother Nature

Design Lessons from Japan on Motley Decor... 1. There's no competing with Mother Nature

As a maximalist, walking into my room at a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn), I was struck by its simplicity.  The palette and materials were completely neutral and natural: warm wood finishes, woven tatami mats, and semi-transparent paper screens.  Adornments were limited to a singular tapestry accompanied by a lone vase.  However, as soon as my eyes beheld the view outside, it all made sense.  My room wasn’t the main event.  Rather, it was a frame for the lush, verdant, and utterly magical garden just beyond the floor-to-ceiling windows.

Design Lessons from Japan on Motley Decor... 1. There's no competing with Mother Nature

In fact, the few minutes that I spent strolling through that garden were among the most memorable of my trip.  Every shade of green was represented in every fathomable texture–from dark, smooth pine needles to velvety, chartreuse moss.  Black dragonflies danced about as glittering koi slithered downstream.  Only birds could be heard and the air was spiced with an earthy, faintly medicinal aroma thanks to some morning showers.

Having returned home, I’m definitely motivated to focus more attention on landscaping.  And, if I ever achieve an enchanting garden (like the one I visited in Kinosaki-Onsen) I’ll have to remember my time in Japan and tone down the room that overlooks it.  Because we mortals simply can’t compete with the wonders of Mother Nature.

Food Presentation Is Important

What I Learned in Japan via MotleyDecor... 2. Food presentation is important

Another extraordinary perk about staying in a ryokan is having an elaborate meal served in your room.  Low slung lacquer tables are set with the greatest of care and small course after small course delights every sense.

What I Learned in Japan via MotleyDecor... 2. Food presentation is important

Each petite portion is plated to impress.  Notice how the pumpkin is cut to resemble a gingko leaf and how the gingko berry is skewered on a pine needle.  This is just one example of many.  Each serving is as beautiful as it is delicious.  Despite the small portions, the sheer number of courses is enough satisfy nearly any appetite.  I was blown away and humbled to think about how much work had gone into preparing our meal.  I felt immensely grateful for the experience.

And now that I’m home, it’s time to up my food presentation game.  For real.

Have a Signature Color

What I learned about design from visiting Japan | Motley Decor | Have a Signature Color

Kyoto is home to over 2,000 temples and shrines.  Every few blocks, you stumble up on a new one–even in crowded markets.  More often than not, they make themselves known  by their vibrant, blood orange entrances.

What I learned about design from visiting Japan | Motley Decor | Have a Signature Color

After some quick googling, I learned that this color is meant to purify the patrons who pass beneath so that they are fit to meet the gods within.

Unfortunately for me, this koi fish orange color did not cure me of the tremendous sense of gluttony I felt while in Japan–home of sushi, ramen, tempura, udon, sukiyaki, and the best fried chicken I’ve ever had.  However, it did impress up on me the importance of a signature color.  I hereby call dibs on green!

Nothing Conveys Grandeur Quite Like Gold

Nothing Conveys Grandeur LIke Gold | Design Lessons from a Trip to Japan on Motley Decor

I’ve long been a fan of the yellow metal hoarded by nearly every civilization since the beginning of time.  But, there’s something about the way the Japanese employ gold and feels especially majestic.  I suppose the best example is the Kinakuji Temple, a structure sheathed entirely in gold, crowning a reflective pond and nestled among dense vegetation.

Nothing Conveys Grandeur LIke Gold | Design Lessons from a Trip to Japan on Motley Decor

But, even in smaller doses–whether it’s the embroidery on an obi sash or the paint on this wall mural–gold enhances Japanese art forms with synergistic results.

I will strive for this level of grandeur the next time I apply gold leaf.

Until next time, sayonara!

4 Ways to Decorate with Yellow Inspired by Emmy Gowns

Yellow gowns dazzled on the red carpet of the 2016 Emmy Awards.  Shades ranging from lemonade to dandelion compliment a variety of skin tones and are having a moment in fashion.  As always, fashion informs interior design–or perhaps the reverse is true.  In any case, here are 4 ways to decorate with yellow inspired by gowns worn to the 68th Emmy Awards.

If you love Angela Bassett’s acid-dijon-yellow, batwinged frock…

…then consider taking an equally fearless approach to decor and slather your walls in a bold shade a la Kim Bachmann…

4 Ways to Decorate with Yellow Inspired by the 68th Emmy Awards

via OKL

If you prefer a more citrusy shade of yellow enhanced by ornate, feminine details much like Lianne La Havas’ dress…

4 Ways to Decorate with Yellow Inspired by Emmy Dresses

via Vogue

…then take a page out of Thom Filicia’s book and put citron paint to statement-making furniture…

Yellow Decor Inspired by the 2016 Emmys

via AD

Or, if you have a sunny disposition and a penchant for throwbacks like the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt aka Ellie Kemper who donned this patterned, retro number…

…then embrace vintage pattern in a subtle sulfur hue…

4 Ways to Decorate with Yellow Inspired by the 2016 Emmys Red Carpet

via OKL

However, if it was Mandy Moore’s ruffled marigold gown that caught your eye at the 2016 Emmys…

Inspired by the 68th Emmys: 4 Ways to Decorate with Yellow

via usmagazine

…then go goldenrod in an unexpected way like this beaded chandelier…

Inspired by Yellow Gowns on the Red Carpet of the 2016 Emmy Wards...4 Ways to Decorate with Yellow

Which approach do you prefer?

Kitchens with Character, vol. 3: Displaying Art

A few weeks ago, I started exploring kitchens with character–first admiring wallpapered kitchens and then discussing kitchen islands that break the mold.  Then I got distracted by other pretty rooms and…well, life.  In short, it’s been a while since I’ve posted, but I’m excited to pick back up where I left off and praise kitchens that prominently feature art today.

In my observations, there are 3 parts of a home that are typically under-decorated: kitchens, hallways, and bathrooms.  Still, of these 3 spaces, kitchens are usually the least likely to feature art.  Perhaps the flinging of food poses too great  threat.  Whatever the reason, there’s sometimes nothing more thrilling than breaking with convention.  Here are 8 kitchens that do just that…

Kitchens with Character, vol. 3: Art | Motley Decor

The bohemian thread that defines this home endures even in the kitchen.  Here, boldly patterned tile, a Kurdish rug, and a grandly framed painting impart character in spades.

Kitchens with Character, vol. 3: Art | Motley Decor

In this polished kitchen, cabinets are painted deep blue, walls are clad in marble, and a still life hangs above the sink–lit by a brass lamp.  Typically, we see a window above the sink, but art seems just as fitting.

Kitchens with Character, vol. 3: Art | Motley Decor

Miles Redd adorned the subway tiled walls of this kitchen with an oversize print depicting a white tiger.  The striking art is balanced by a burst of magenta, courtesy of the adjoining room.  Combined, the two bold statements set this kitchen apart.

Kitchens with Character, vol. 3: Art | Motley Decor

In this dramatic kitchen, two paintings preside over an accessorized shelf.  However, the backdrop on which they hang is actually chalkboard paint, allowing for impromptu works of art to accompany them.

Kitchens with Character, vol. 3: Art | Motley Decor

In Kris Jenner’s all-white kitchen, art imitates life and animates the far wall, where a cluster of white vessels echo those in the foreground.  The painted backdrop is solid green, providing a pop of color.

Kitchens with Character, vol. 3: Art | Motley Decor

Rustic and elegant, this space feels just as cozy as any living room with a roaring fire.  The brick accent wall is enhanced by an oil painting flanked by antique candle sconces, dripping with oversize crystals.  Pleated skirts and weathered wood contribute to the patina that envelopes and charms this kitchen.

Kitchens with Character, vol. 3: Art | Motley Decor

Although most of the examples of art in kitchens we’ve seen in this post feature one singular focal point, that’s not the only way to go.  Smaller pieces, displayed en masse can be just as appealing.  This the approach Michelle Adams took in her character filled kitchen.

Kitchens with Character, vol. 3: Art | Motley Decor

An art filled home deserves an art filled kitchen like this one.

Why create imaginary and unnecessary boundaries?  Why not extend your personal style to every inch of the house?  Go ahead: hang some art in your kitchen!


11 Art Deco Inspired Contemporary Interiors

This weekend I had the immense pleasure of attending the 2016 Art Deco Festival on the Queen Mary.  A devoted fan of all things 1920s and a card carrying ADSLA member, I look forward to this event all year.  2016 did not disappoint.  I left the ship dreaming about what I would wear to next year’s festival, Gatsby style parties, and–of course–Prohibition Era interior design.  Spurred by my thrilling weekend, here are 11 of my favorite Art Deco inspired contemporary interiors.

11 Art Deco Inspired Contemporary Interiors

This is one of my all-time favorite spaces, The Viceroy Miami, designed by Kelly Wearstler.  As in many Wearstler-designed interiors, the floor is composed of different colored marble, evoking a strong sense of geometry–one of the hallmarks of Art Deco design.  The table too recalls the era of bootleggers with it’s scalloped, fan-shaped composition.  Many of the sculptures in the vignette are neoclassical, which is one of the design styles from which Art Deco draws.  Finally, the mammoth cranes of the wallpaper suggest the kind of Asian exoticism that flappers were mad for.

Library by Kelly Wearster + 10 Other Contemporary Art Deco Inspired Interiors

And while I’m at it, I will just go ahead and knock out the other Kelly Wearstler room on this list.  In this Mercer Island library, we again see dominating geometric motifs.  Luxe materials–like marble inset with brass–also impart a sense of Art Deco.  The graceful Murano glass chandelier further channels the kind of grandeur that Daisy Buchanan would live amidst.

A Madrid Living Room with Art Deco Influences + 10 Other Updated Art Deco Rooms

This Madrid living room boasts an Art Deco vibe thanks to an octagonal mirror and shapely, urn-like vases.  Symmetry is another distinguishing characteristic of Art Deco design and the pillars flanking the fireplace reinforce its influence in this space.

A Spanish Home Filled with Art Deco Furniture + 10 Other Contemporary Spaces with Art Deco Influences

Filled with furniture from the 1920s, 30s, and 40s; this stunning living room is also located in Spain.  The wall to wall patterned carpet of stripes, right angles and scales compliments the sensuous curves and quirky angles of the eclectic furnishings.  The resulting atmosphere is polished, contemporary, and faintly Machine Age.

Lorenzo Castillo's Dining Room + 10 Other Contemporary, Art Deco Inspired Interiors

Mirrored walls and glittering chandeliers adorn Lorenzo Castillo’s Madrid dining room, lending an air of opulence and more than a whisper of Art Deco goodness.

Art Deco Inspired, Contemporary Interiors on Motley Decor

One final example from the country of Matadors and Flamenco is this Art Deco inspired space.  Symmetry plays a crucial role in this room as well.  Geometric shapes, exotic pattern, and luxurious materials contribute to the overall effect.  The enveloping barrel chairs also feel like the sort of place where F. Scott Fitzgerald might sit while sipping a Sidecar.

Marc Jacobs' Home + 10 Other Updated Art Deco Interiors

In the entryway of fashion designer, Marc Jacobs’ home sits a collection of Art Deco vessels.  Combined with yet another eight-sided mirror, the impression is decidedly Deco.

Contemporary Art Deco Inspired Spaces on Motley Decor

Three pieces are all that is needed to impart the magic of Art Deco to this luxe bathroom.  A Chinese rug and two corresponding ginger jars are far flung accessories that Jordan Baker might have picked up on her travels.

1 of 11 Contemporary but Art Deco Inspired Interiors

Stripes emphasize the geometric architecture of this entry hall by Pierce & Ward.  An art deco pendant dangles above a burl wood table that may very well have come from the same period.

11 Art Deco Inspirations on

This Paris apartment is an eclectic mix of treasures.  My eye immediately goes to the two Art Deco inspired torchiere floor lamps that frame the room.  A 1930s console table echoes their origins.

11 Art Deco Inspired Spaces on

And last, but far from least is this glorious room by Jean Louis Deniot (another of my all-time favorites).  With gilded geometric panels, near-perfect symmetry, neoclassical references, and a stylized chandelier; this New Delhi home oozes opulence, sophistication, and Art Deco-worthy glamour.

On a side note, I also sat in on a Prohibition Era mixology class while on the Queen Mary and I promise to share those cocktail recipes in upcoming posts.  Cheers!

Decorgasm: Scott Maddux’s Masterful Command of Color

When Scott Maddux was hired by a London couple to breathe new life into their newly acquired 6 bedroom home, the creative brief called for “exuberant color”.  Knowing this, one might expect the outcome to contain super saturated walls, jewel-toned upholstery, and neon accessories.  However, the actual result was much more subtle.  Even so, exuberance was not sacrificed.

The Living Room

Decorgasm: Scott Maddux's Masterful Command of Color

At this end of the living room, color starts brewing in the custom kilim rug of grapefruit pink, lime green, and oceanic turquoise.  Having established the color palette, the rug then informs the upholstery, sending color upward to the vibrantly patterned Otto Schultz chairs and dusty blue Ico Parisi sofa.  The abundance of pink in the room casts a rosy glow onto the faux parchment walls.  The drapes react similary, assuming a shade somewhere between beige and blush.  Thus, the room’s color becomes increasingly less intense as the eye travels upward–right up to the white ceiling and glass Vilhelm Lauritzen  chandelier.

This Is How To Use Color In Your Home | Decorgasm: Scott Maddux's Masterful Command of Color | Motley Decor

At the other end of the living room, Maddux employs a similar formula.  He anchors the space with the aforementioned rug’s twin and again includes colorful seating options.  What looks to be an Egyptian revival settee recalls the denim blue of the sofa from the previous picture.  And, once again, we see a lively patterned chair.

Still, this end encompasses some bolder strokes.  A two-sided, kidney-shaped sofa is dressed in lustrous key-lime green silk and tufted all over for extra light-reflecting opportunities.  In addition, two Peter Lanyon abstract paintings flank the fireplace, injecting the room with moodier hues like navy blue.  The blackened metal frame of the Marianna Kennedy mirror reinforces those darker shades.  Even the cast-terrazzo stools (from Maddux Creative) contain bits that echo the pinks and blues of the room.

In short, Scott Maddux has clearly lavished great care on the application of color.  The palette is restricted to three color families that dance around the room and create rhythm.  Bright hues are balanced by shadowy counterparts and easily influenced neutrals provide the stage on which all these hues perform.

The Dining Room

This is How to Decorate with Color! | Decorgasm: Scott Maddux's Masterful Command of Color | Motley Decor

The dining room’s color strategy turns that of the living on its head.  Here, color originates from above.  Inspired by the art of Ben Nicholson, color pervades the dining room in the form of floating rectangles, starting with the ceiling painted by artist Isabelle Day.  From there, the theme trickles downward in the colored glass panels of the sliding door that separates the dining room from the kitchen.  A pendant light by Johanna Grawunder consists of transparent, overlapping boxes that perfectly mimic the motif in three, increasingly intense colors.

Right angles dominate not only the color blocks, but also the furnishings.  Wall sculptures and a Paul Evans dining table repeat the rectangular shapes from above, but in stunning  neutrals of chrome, brass, and burl wood.  Scott Maddux uses these familiar silhouettes relate the neutral ground level of the room to its more colorful stratosphere.

The Entrance Hall

This is How to Decorate with Color! | Decorgasm: Scott Maddux's Masterful Command of Color | Motley Decor

The entry hall is home to some unexpected color combinations and nuanced details.  At first glance, the olive in the silk stair runner and cotton candy-colored fur of the bench surprise the eye.  However, the blue marble floor insets and similarly painted edges of the wall somehow reconcile the two opposing shades.  The green marble in the floor marries the runner to the artwork above the bench.  Gilded moldings, sconces, and the banister converse with the mustard touches in the runner.  Although the walls are white, color is carefully layered and peppered throughout the space in such a way that keeps the eye moving–uncovering those discreet details along the way.

What can I say?  Scott Maddux knows how to use color.  He doesn’t slap you in the face with it.  Rather, his command of the rainbow is marked by finesse.  Although this home is dominated by light neutrals, color is still the focus.  It is, perhaps, easier to appreciate in the presence of benign, non-competing hues.  Still, there’s enough diversity in the shades here to allow for chemical reactions between them.  Indeed, the request for “exuberant color” was executed with mastery.

These are just a few of the rooms pictured in Elle Decor’s coverage of this beautiful and eclectic home.  There are even a couple of rooms that are completely neutral (but no less impressive).  I encourage to check out the rest.

Trending: Mismatched Stools

Lately, I’ve been noticing a trend: mismatched stools.  Grouped together in pairs or clusters, a variety of different stools can be quite striking.  As an added bonus, they are incredibly versatile.  Stools can be used as drinks tables or even extra seating.  In other words, they’re perfect for entertaining.  Here are 5 rooms with mismatched stools that shine.

Trending: Mismatched Stools

The cocktail tables in Lauren Santo Domingo’s living room are surrounded by an eclectic selection of stools–including one irresistibly quirky, hot pink, faux bois number.

Trending: Mismatched Stools

This super chic office offers a trio of stools–each different in style and material–for visiting collaborators to pop a squat on.

Trending: Mismatched Stools

Tucked beneath an hallway’s console table are two disparate stools, piled with accessories.  This stylish scene is the work of Joslyn Taylor.

Trending: Mismatched Stools

A pair of nesting tables mingle with metal and wood stools on a plush carpet in Domino’s Instagram, making for a richly textured vignette.

Trending: Mismatched Stools

The line between seat and table is blurred when the two assume the height in Pamela Makin’s living room.

If you are as into this trend as I am, check out these stools to start curating your own collection.

Kitchens with Character, vol 2: Surprising Islands

Welcome to vol. 2 of Kitchens with Character.  In my last post, we examined 6 kitchens made extraordinary with wallpaper.  Today, let’s take a look at delightfully surprising kitchen islands.  Since the island is a large mass that sits in the middle of this formerly utilitarian space, it only makes sense that, as home decorators start to turn their attentions kitchenward, the island becomes a breeding ground for bold experimentation.  Following are 8 kitchens, in which, the island is the focal point.

Kitchens with Character vol. 2 | Surprising Islands | Motley Decor

Jean-Louis Deniot composed designed this unexpected kitchen island with stainless steel, blackened, and mirrored panels.  The result is a chic patchwork of lustrous surfaces that simultaneously blend in and stand out in this neutral-hued kitchen of grays and metallics.

Kitchens with Character vol. 2 | Surprising Islands | Motley Decor

In this kitchen, the island echoes the backsplash and totally steals the show.  Gold, silver, and gunmetal mosaic tiles compose and up-to-date, oversize floral pattern.  Stunning!

Kitchens with Character vol. 2 | Surprising Islands | Motley Decor

Meghan McCain’s favorite piece in her apartment is her kitchen island.  I can see why.  Instead of an ordinary boxy island, she had a custom table from Phillips Collection built to appropriate portions.  The free-form piece is Brutalist-inspired but with a lustrous, mother of pearl-like finish.  It utterly breaks the mold.

Kitchens with Character vol. 2 | Surprising Islands | Motley Decor

What happens when two designers decide to spend their lives together and share a home?  That home becomes impossibly cool and stylish.  And, in the case of Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent, their kitchen is no exception.  In particular, their kitchen island is clad in perfectly patinaed brass, radiating warmth in the largely black and white space.

Kitchens with Character vol. 2 | Surprising Islands | Motley Decor

Here’s an easy hack (and one I might soon employ): just paint it!  Peach may be an unexpected color choice for this kitchen bar, but it certainly draws the eye.  As an added bonus, it also makes those barstools pop.

Kitchens with Character vol. 2 | Surprising Islands | Motley Decor

This kitchen island may be a more traditional choice, but still makes a statement.  Painted black, pinstriped in white, and adorned with glamorous brass hardware; one can’t help but be drawn in.

Kitchens with Character vol. 2 | Surprising Islands | Motley Decor

Industrial, Brutalist, organic…  It’s difficult to nail down this kitchen island, the handiwork of Jeffrey Alan Marks.  Regardless, it’s undisputedly the focal point of this Sonoma kitchen and beautifully crafted to boot.

Kitchens with Character vol. 2 | Surprising Islands | Motley Decor

The mirrored island in this kitchen reflects light and adds a dose of panache.  It’s an unexpected by welcome compliment to the blue cabinetry.

If you’re in the process of trying to infuse your kitchen with a bit of your sparkling personality, I hope this post inspired you to take a second look at your kitchen island.  If not, I’ve got more kitchen design ideas coming your way.  So, don’t be shy…subscribe!

Kitchens with Character, vol. 1: Wallpaper

Even in the most beautiful homes, kitchens have (historically had) a tendency to feel sterile.  Expensive countertops and elaborate backsplashes can only go so far in imparting personality to a space.  Happily, this is changing.  More and more, I’m seeing kitchens with character.  After all, more and more entertaining is taking place the kitchen.  Thus, art, accessories, unconventional furniture, and textiles are creeping in.  Notably, wallpaper seems to be an emerging trend in kitchens.  Here are 6 reasons why…

Kitchens with Character | Wallpaper | Motley Decor

This kitchen in Sydney looks both tropical and inviting thanks to vibrant, palm-printed wallpaper hung on one wall.  With the white bar and cabinetry, the punch of color and pattern is a welcome addition.  Mai Tais, anyone?

Kitchens with Character | Wallpaper | Motley Decor

William Morris wallpaper gracefully envelopes this Scandinavian style kitchen, offsetting warm wood finishes, mixed metallics, and white subway tile.  Both fresh-feeling and traditional-leaning, this kitchen feels like the kind of space outputs raw kale salads and grandma’s famous cookies in equal quantities.  Yes, I got all of that from one wall display.

Kitchens with Character, vol. 1: Wallpaper on Motley Decor

Who can resist a little Fornasetti?  Not I.  Doesn’t it make the perfect backdrop for open shelving in this neutral-yet-uber-cool kitchen?

Kitchens with Character | Making a Statement with Wallpaper | Motley Decor

This is the kitchen of two artists living in Paris.  Not surprising–is it?  The gorgeous and elaborate wallpaper was hand printed by the couple and conveys a sense of soul.

Wallpaper in Kitchens with Character on Motley Decor

A beacon of malachite is visible through a cutout that reveals the kitchen of Juan Carretero’s apartment.  The green wallpaper calls to one in a way that makes one understand where Jay Gatsby was coming from when he gazed across the bay at the Buchanan’s dock each night.

Kitchens with Statement Wallpaper on Motley Decor

Channeling a Moroccan vibe, this wallpaper is easier to install than tile.  It also makes ordinary kitchen utensils look like an artistic still life.

Clearly wallpaper is one way to lavish style on your kitchen.  This blog post is titled “vol. 1”, because it’s not the only way.  I have a few more to share with you over the coming weeks.  So please stay tuned.




How Personal Touches Improve a Home

If you follow me on Instagram (and if you don’t, I wish you would), you may have seen that I’ve been visiting other people’s homes a lot lately.  I snap pictures of objects and decor that catch my eye and inspire me.  More times than not, it’s the personal touches that steal the show.  Those intimate artifacts that aren’t likely to be found in anyone else’s house (or apartment) are what make it a home.  Here are some highlights from my visits and the web…

How Personal Touches Improve a Home | Travel Souvenirs

This is a little shrine my mom erected to showcase the souvenirs she and my dad picked up on their trip to China a few years ago.  For them, it serves as a reminder of a thrilling and enchanting vacation.  For visitors, it’s an attention-stealing focal point in a Southwestern style home (think Native American drums, Mexican textiles, and rustic pottery).  Rather than feeling out of place, this Asian-inspired vignette functions as a conversation starter and a testament to the kind of people my parents are: adventurous, curious,  and appreciative of other cultures.

How Personal Touches Improve a Home | Repurposed Antiques

I wasn’t able to find the original source for this photo, but it’s all over Pinterest.  Here, an antique church pew is repurposed as a dining bench.  Think of how much history is ingrained in that wood.  Isn’t it a much more interesting choice than something that came off an assembly line earlier this year?  One wonders: is it a family heirloom?  Did the church it came from have special significance to the homeowner’s family?  How did he or she come to own the pew?  (Coincidentally, my parents also have an antique church pew–placed in their foyer where we sit to put on and remove our shoes.  So, naturally, this image struck a chord with me.)

How Personal Touches Improve a Home | Seashell Wall Hanging

Those crimson shells against that dusty turquoise wall instantly drew my eye.  Wall hangings are definitely having a moment and this nautical-themed one is a fresh take on the trend.  However, it was only when I thought about its owner that I truly appreciated how perfectly this piece fit into her home.  She’s an environmental scientist who spends her working days commuting around on a seaplane to sample and test the waters of Washington state.  She and her husband were married on a boat and–most weekends–that’s where you can still find them.  To put it plainly: she loves the water.  She’s built her life around it.  And so, in her home, seashells aren’t just pretty little curios.  They bear witness to a life spent seaside.

How Personal Touches Improve a Home | Not Your Average Floral Arrangement

This is designer and celebrated entertainer Windsor Smith’s entrance hall.  A monochromatic palette of cool grays, sparkling silver, and white give way to the warm, gold raffia-clad great room beyond.  Flanking that beacon are two zinc, peacock-shaped planters perched on tall etageres with tails of cascading greenery that welcome guests.  Talk about making a first impression!  This scene sets the tone for a night at the Smiths’, where everyone is greeted with a cocktail, served appetizers straight from the oven, and summoned to the dining room by the ringing of sleigh bells.  Smith compares entertaining to choreography and goes to great lengths to ensure that her parties are luxurious but relaxed affairs.  So, it makes sense.  A hostess of this caliber doesn’t just buy a large flower arrangement and set it on a table in the foyer.  She creates a unique, dramatic floral statement that echoes her whimsical entertaining style.  Besides, table space is better used for mixing cocktails.

How Personal Touches Improve a Home | Collections

Collections also tell volumes about a home’s inhabitants.  Here, a collection of framed, antique spectacles sits on the mantel.  This may seem like odd way to decorate what is perhaps the home’s utmost place of prominence.  However, when you consider that the home decorator is a retired ophthalmologist, the choice seems appropriate.  But it goes deeper than that.  This collection previously belonged to a relative who worked in a similar field, long before these objects of apparatus were considered antiques.  This a deeply personal and sentimental collection that befits the stage on which it sits.

How Personal Touches Improve a Home | Guest Graffiti

At this end of this hallway–studded with museum-worthy art and costly furnishings–is a fireplace covered in graffiti.  Why?  While renovating the space, Manolo March simply could not resist the urge to throw a party and wasn’t going to let a little thing like unsightly construction stand in his way.  So, he erected (what was supposed to be) a temporary wall in the spot reserved for a mirror-surrounded fireplace.  Next to it, he placed a basket full of spray paint and encouraged party-goers to let loose on the “canvas”.  Well, maybe it was a particularly good party, because–in the end–he couldn’t bring himself to tear down the wall and proceed with his original plans.  Instead, he just cut a hole in the wall and let the impromptu art serve as the fireplace surround.  And that is quite possibly my favorite decorating story EVER.

How Personal Touches Improve a Home | Waste Not Want Not

Visiting my sister earlier this year, I was very impressed with how she topped her mirrored nightstands with faux fur runners.  It provided for great, textural contrast and a heavy dose of glam.  When I asked her how she got the idea, she admitted that it was not exactly premeditated.  She had purchased a length of faux fur fabric for another DIY project (to create an animal-shaped rug).  However, the fabric had cost her much more than she had hoped to spend as a full-time student and she had significant portions leftover after completing the rug.  Still salty about the expenditure, she was determined to use every last piece of fabric and get her money’s worth.  She took the smallest of a trio of nesting tables and turned it into a an upholstered, furry stool.  Then, with the final remaining pieces of fur, she casually tossed them on her nightstands and voila!  She’s not only stylish, but clever too and her apartment is a reflection of that.

How Personal Touches Improve a Home | Motley Decor | DIY Seashell Bed a la Marian McEvoy

Another DIY gone right, glue gun wielding Marian McEvoy took all of our DIY goals to a new level when she went wild with hot glue and thousands of seashells.  Above is a bed in her guest room, painted black and adorned with white seashells arranged in striking, symmetrical patterns.  Think about the hours of work that went into completing that bed.  And think of how honored her guests must feel to sleep in it.  It’s an understatement to say that there’s a little piece of Marian in that room.

How Personal Touches Improve a Home | Framed Family Recipe | Motley Decor

And one final example of adding a personal touch…here is a wall in my kitchen.  Above my knife display is a handwritten recipe that I framed.  The recipe is from my Tata (grandfather) and explains how he makes his famous pickled jalapeños, which are so good that people in my family actually fight over jars of them.  I am constantly referring to this recipe and adapting it to pickle various other vegetables.  So, having it on the wall is both convenient and sentimental.  Having trouble reading it?  That’s intentional.  This recipe is a family heirloom and top secret!

So, frame your own family recipe!  Or put something else deeply personal on display in your home, because it’s those touches that will make your space exceptional.



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!


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