The Magic of Christmas Decor

Even as a generally forgetful person, I have these incandescent moments when it comes to decorating where I’ll see something that inspires me so much it’s unforgettable. These occasions impact me enough that I can usually remember them in such detail that reminiscing feels like I’m standing right there in awe all over again.

And it’s the simplest things, too. Like the time I came home from college at Christmas and my mom had white lights strung along the banister leading up to our front steps. She’s not the first person to string lights up a banister, but it was the first time I recognized how much I appreciated the effect; it felt so warm and magical. Years later, as soon as I had a home and a banister of my own, I couldn’t wait to wind white lights around it for the holidays–a December decorating tradition I’ve kept ever since. 

On the other hand, from the get-go, my husband made it pretty clear that he had no desire to go through the hassle of putting Christmas lights on our house. Growing up, my dad never did either, so it didn’t phase me much. And I don’t blame them; I certainly don’t want that job! So, while visiting a friend one winter, I paused with wonder when I instantly noticed she’d hung icicle lights from the insides of her windows. Because of this, her home looked all the more classy and enchanting from both the interior and the exterior, and it thrilled me to discover a way to illuminate our home without having to climb a ladder out in the cold! 

Thankfully, my friend’s even more elegant than her house and didn’t mind me copying her. And so, for many years, I used packaging tape to hang icicle lights in my windows like her. I can’t say this was her approach, but for many years it worked well enough, albeit a time-consuming experience trying to get them to hang evenly, and it always left a ruthless residue to clean. I was thrilled when a few years ago I thought to attach Command Hooks to the top corners of my window frames. (The hooks stay in place year-round and are hardly noticeable.) That way, all I have to do is snap the strands of lights into the hooks each year–so easy! I love it. 

It’s probably the many years I spent living in Europe, admiring the beauty of castles and palaces, that attracted me to the hint of grandeur our home lends. I instantly knew I wanted to hang wreaths from our four symmetrical windows. (Outdoor Command Hooks have made that task incredibly easy, too.) I was giddy when I found wreaths for 75% off right after the first Christmas we moved in. It felt like a dream hanging them the next December and every December since. 

With each sail around the sun, it seems like there’s a new charming idea dancing through my mind. Last year it was making paper stars like the outlandishly talented Linda Lomelino. This year, it’s handmade garlands made of dried oranges, evergreens foraged from our backyard, and mini star sugar cookies. Original ideas always feel extra special–I’m using a big plaid blanket scarf as a tree skirt and festive wrapping paper as a table runner for our fancier festivities.

Like the wonder of a simple string of lights does for me, I hope the layers of decor that seem to magically fall into place at Christmastime leave you standing in awe all over again as you bask in the glow of Christmas.

Moody Black Powder Bath

Plus How to Paint a Checkered Pattern on Ugly Tile Floors!

I finished my little powder bathroom makeover months ago, and to be honest with you, as much as I love how it turned out, the difficulty I had in taking photos of the transformation landed me in an award-winning funk. The terrible lighting and impossibly tight quarters in this itty-bitty bathroom have not been my friends. 

But today. Today is the day I push my foes aside and share it all with you anyway because I’m bone tired of letting perfectionism and uncertainty (I’m talking to you, crazy world we’re living in) cripple me. On the bright side, I have more perspective on this project now than when I finished it all those months ago, so maybe this belated blog post will be more valuable than it would have been delivered in a more punctual fashion. 

First things first, I was inspired by the stone checkerboard floors in Chris Loves Julia’s dining room. I’ve scrutinized and have considered painting (and perhaps stenciling a pattern) onto the large blah-brown tiles in our powder bath for many years, but it was our floor’s potential to look good in a diamond checkered pattern that gave me the push I needed to take the risk and paint them. And, of course, I took this risk to a whole new level when I disregarded any tutorials calling for a specialized type of tile paint. Instead, I used leftover black and white Benjamin Moore Advance paint I had laying around. I decided that if I was priming the tile anyway, it didn’t matter what type of paint I chose to use, and spoiler alert, it’s been four months since I finished this project, and I pretty much feel the same way!

Here’s How to Paint Ugly Tile Floors in a Checkered Pattern:

  1. Clean the area really well by sanding the dirt off and wiping it all down with Krud Kutter.  
  2. Tape off the baseboards, toilet and sink area and put several coats of 1-2-3 Bull’s Eye Zinnser Primer on the the tile and grout. I applied the paint with a roller for most of it and used a paintbrush around the edges of the room and the tiles themselves. 
  3. Let the primer dry and cure for several days, maybe even a week. Nobody should walk on it during this time.
  4. Place painters tape inside all of the the grout lines. (I used ¼ inch tape.)  
  5. Paint your base color (I used Benjamin Moore Advance paint in Chantilly Lace) over both the primer and the painter’s tape in the grout lines. I can’t recommend this step enough because it will leave your lines extra crisp and clean when you pull the tape off!
  6. Next, put the second color of paint on every other tile. I used Benjamin Moore’s Advance paint in Black Ink. 
  7. Paint several more coats of both the white and black paint onto your tiles and let it dry/cure for several days. 
  8. Pull off all of the grout tape and admire how crisp your lines are! 
  9. Lastly, touch up any places that need it! Besides the acrobatics required to paint in such a tight space, this part probably took the most patience and precision. 
  10. Put some sort of sealant on your floors. (I still need to do this final step–oops.)

I seriously considered putting a polyeurethane finish on the floors to protect them, but I’m always slow to put any permanent finish on painting projects because I want to make sure that I both really love it and that it looks perfect. However, I’m notorious for never getting around to final measures such as these. The good news is that I’m thinking about going in and touching everything up one last time and putting that final finishing coat on the floors because all these months later, I’m still very much in love with them and think they’re holding up just fine. I do have a chip or two, but I think touching up the chips and sealing off the floors will prevent me from running into that problem again in the future. The checkers are here to stay!

Also, the transformation on the floors inspired me so much, I couldn’t stop there. I went on to paint the walls of the entire bathroom that same Black Ink color by Benjamin Moore. I also dug up some old floating shelves from Ikea that I had stored away for a moment like this and painted them that same black, too. I hung them over the toilet for a floating shelf look. I also took down the light fixtures and toilet paper holder and spray-painted them with “Rust-oleum Metallic Paint and Primer in One” in the Satin Bronze color. The gold accents against all the black elevated the look of the bathroom even more. 

Next, I enjoyed decorating the shelves. Again, I tried to do this with things I already had. This step proved harder for me than I expected, but after weeks of tinkering with different decor, I finally landed on a look I’m really happy with! 

There was only one problem. From the outside of the bathroom peering in, the room looked like a big black hole, so I hung and oversized floral painting right in the middle of the open wall. The light oak wood framing the floral print really broke up all the black and warmed things up in there. 

To wrap things up; was this project easy? Definitely. Was it more time consuming than I thought it would be? Absolutely, and in that sense, it was harder than I expected it to be. Would I do it again? Yes, I’m over-the-moon happy with my moody black powder bath! I’m glad I did it and would most definitely do it again. 

Links to Supplies I Used:

Krud Kutter

1-2-3 Bull’s Eye Zinnser Primer

1/4-inch Painters Tape

Rust-oleum Metallic Paint and Primer in One in Satin Bronze

Benjamin Moore Advance Paint (This is what I used, but isn’t really recommended for tile; If you’re wanting paint meant for tile, I hear Rust-Oleum Home Floor Coating is a great option!)

In Tandem

I love to deep dive into creative projects, especially with my family. My sister Lissie has been in town all summer and we’ve stolen as many creative sister dates as we can get it. She’s a singer/songwriter (Salem Swing is her band), and one of our favorite things to do together is write songs!

The other night, we dug up a song we wrote together a decade ago, the same summer we took pictures with an old bike on a back road of the sweet German village we grew up in.

Circa 2010

It’s a song about my kids when they were really little… it’s called Pixie Dust and it takes me straight back to my years as a young mom. It’s hard to let go of those years. I’m so grateful for pictures and songs and the little things that take us back in time, if only for a minute.

Anyway, the other night we put our heads together again and made the song even better. I can’t wait for her to record it, and we’re hoping to make a music video for it around Christmastime. I’m doing a lot of hard work daydreaming about how it will unfold. Truly, I’m giddy with excitement about it.

But today I want to tell you about a different music video that I just finished filming for her called “Pretty Pity Party,” part of which takes place in my freshly painted kitchen! She will be releasing it very soon, and I will definitely let my little corner of the world know when she does! In the meantime, here is a sneak peek of potential album cover photos that I took of her!

Ok, so by now you’re probably wondering why I’m blogging about songwriting and music videos! Well, like I said before, it’s something I’ve been up to creatively lately and also because it reminded me of a letter I saw floating around on Instagram recently. It resonated with me so much, I wanted to share it on here:

 In 2006, a high school English teacher asked students to write a famous author and ask for advice. Kurt Vonnegut was the only one to respond – and his response is magnificent:

“Dear Xavier High School, and Ms. Lockwood, and Messrs Perin, McFeely, Batten, Maurer and Congiusta:

I thank you for your friendly letters. You sure know how to cheer up a really old geezer (84) in his sunset years. I don’t make public appearances any more because I now resemble nothing so much as an iguana.

What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit: Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.

Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art, and do it for the rest of your lives. Draw a funny or nice picture of Ms. Lockwood, and give it to her. Dance home after school, and sing in the shower and on and on. Make a face in your mashed potatoes. Pretend you’re Count Dracula.

Here’s an assignment for tonight, and I hope Ms. Lockwood will flunk you if you don’t do it: Write a six line poem, about anything, but rhymed. No fair tennis without a net. Make it as good as you possibly can. But don’t tell anybody what you’re doing. Don’t show it or recite it to anybody, not even your girlfriend or parents or whatever, or Ms. Lockwood. OK?

Tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces, and discard them into widely separated trash receptacles. You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what’s inside you, and you have made your soul grow.

God bless you all!

Kurt Vonnegut

Found on Upworthy

I can completely vouch for these sentiments! And what I want to add to this inspiring letter, is to collaborate and help others in their creative pursuits as much as you can. It’ll fill your bucket that much more and immensely elevate what any of us might accomplished on our own. Keep at it, even if nobody else appreciates it, because the reward is in how good it feels to try. Like Mr. Vonnegut said, my soul truly grows, becoming happens, and even if I rip it up in a million pieces when I’m finished, I’m gloriously rewarded for my efforts nonetheless. I spend many a Sunday afternoon playing the piano, just because it fills me up. I’ve written a handful of children’s books that the world will probably never see or appreciate, but I cherish that process. (I especially loved collaborating with my kids as I wrote the children’s books!) The growth that happened from simply trying is profound!

So, between that letter, and also doing a lot of reflecting about how much I absolutely LOVE collaborating with others creatively, I just really wanted to share those thoughts today.

Ten years later, Lissie and I decided we wanted to take a sisters picture with a bike again… a tradition we’ll hopefully keep up on a decade basis ’til we’re frail old ladies. This time we posed with a tandem bike. Seemed fitting!

Thanks for always letting me into your creative world, Lissie, and for being such a special part of mine.<3

Edit: Salem Swing released Pretty Pity Party! Here it is:

Should you Paint your Cabinets?

YES, you can and should paint your ugly cabinets! Below is what our kitchen looked like when we bought it.

And before this house, we owned our very first house (brand-new), and I remember my father-in-law offering to paint some accent walls for us. I didn’t even think to offer to help him back then because it was so far from my element! Come to think of it, to that point, I don’t think I’d painted anything outside of art class in grade school. I’d certainly never painted walls or furniture. But when we moved into our current home (built in 2000), the whole shebang needed painted; how could I not jump in?

Now, after four years of painting everything under the sun in this house–walls, furniture, doors, banisters, cabinets, dining room chairs (to include the cushions!), and filing cabinets, my paintbrushes are my most-valued makeover tool. Paint is the easiest and most affordable way to update your home, and I’m here to encourage you to just do it! Even if you have plans to gut your entire kitchen (or bathroom, for that matter) in a year, I still think it’d be worth it to paint the cabinets in the meantime.

Here’s why:

  1. Anyone can do this. I don’t know about you, and I try to do this from a place of creativity, gratitude and contentment😬, but I often dream about “somedays” for my house. “Someday, we’re going to get new countertops; someday we’ll add backsplash, wall treatments, wallpaper, rugs…” etc. But many of those somedays, for one reason or another, seem to be stuck in the “someday” category and might be forever! And perhaps painting cabinetry legitimately sits in that category for you, and that’s ok! But if the reason is because you don’t think you’re capable, I beg to differ! I truly believe anyone with a pair of hands and eyeballs can do this. Take it off your someday list. This is an update you probably don’t need to dream about any longer.
  2. It’s incredibly affordable. I painted our kitchen for less than $100. Depending on what you have on hand, you may only need to buy paint, in which case, it would put this project under $75, and that’s using top-of-the-line paint! By the way, the paint I’m obsessing over right now is Benjamin Moore’s Scuff X line. It costs about $60/gallon and worth every penny because it’s incredibly durable, adheres beautifully, and there’s hardly any wait time between coats.
  3. It’ll force you to organize all your kitchen cabinets. Cleaning out cupboards is rarely at the top of my list, so this was the perfect opportunity to get rid of unnecessary clutter. Not only did this project leave me with a freshly painted kitchen, it left me with a more organized one, too.
  4. Believe it or not, this can be a relatively quick project. If you use BM’s Scuff X paint, not only is it incredibly durable paint (made in particular for cabinets!), it dries so fast. By the time you’ve finished putting the first coat of paint on all of your cabinets, it’ll be time for the second coat! Also, it doesn’t take much prep work. I used to think you had to sand everything to death before you could paint it. Not true. With the right paint, all you need to do is clean the surface really well, and wipe it down with a liquid deglosser. Sometimes, if what I’m working with is in really bad shape, I’ll lightly sand it first, but that process just feels like I’m wiping the cabinet down with sandpaper–no big deal!
  5. You probably already have most of the supplies needed! Here’s what to gather: paint (obvi!), good quality paintbrush, roller, something to prop your cabinet doors up on (paper or plastic cups or bowls), liquid deglosser, and painter’s tape. Optional: sandpaper, Krud Kutter, tack cloth

Here’s How:

  1. Before I pull drawers out or take cabinets doors off, I label everything so I know exactly where it goes when it’s time to put things back together. For example, I’d jot “island top center” on a piece of masking tape and stick it inside the drawer before pulling them of their drawer slides. For the doors, I’d put the little label inside the space where the door hinge was, since it won’t need painted.
  2. After everything’s labeled, I give it all a deep clean. I take a sponge and dish soap and give them a good scrub over the sink. If it’s super dirty, then Krud Kutter to the rescue. Then, after I’ve dried everything off, and if I’m feeling like it, I rough up the wood with sandpaper. I wipe off all the dust from that (tack cloth is great for this!) and finally go over everything with liquid deglosser. This is a very thorough way to prep, but honestly, the more clean your surface, the better your final product. Oh, and don’t forget to tape off any areas you don’t want painted.
  3. Next, find an open area in your house that’s out of the way and preferably not on carpet. You could do this in your garage. Lately, I’ve been doing it upstairs in our family room where we have a big area with laminate flooring. Don’t do this project outside in the open. The wind will blow dust into your paint. Set up your cabinet doors on top of old plastic cups/bowls to get them off the floor. Make sure you’re painting the insides of your doors first, so backsides should be face up. I prop the drawers so they’re standing up, that way I can easily paint the face of them. I usually don’t paint the insides of the drawers (except the inside face), but you can if you want to.
  4. Now it’s time to paint! I started painting the base frame of the cabinets first. I did the big areas with a roller and then went in with an angled paint brush to get in the nooks and crannies and smaller areas. The main idea is to paint in the direction of the wood’s grain and to make sure there are no drips! After that, I paint my drawers and cabinets. Remember, avoiding globs and drips is the most important thing. Depending on the paint you’re using, two coats should do the trick. Sometimes I do three for good measure.
  5. Lastly, after everything’s dry, it’s time to put the kitchen back together! It’s really as easy as that. Let me know if you go for it!

PS. Below are some visuals taken from my phone to help you visualize my set up. People tell me all the time that they’re thinking about painting their cabinetry, but they’re nervous they’ll mess it up. I promise you can do this!

Happy Painting!

Barn Love

We started our little barn demo/makeover two years ago. Two years! I definitely saw its potential from the moment I saw it (four years ago), which is kind of funny to me, because when I look at the before pictures from when we bought this place, I cringe a little. But yes, I was confident that that barn–ugly as it was– would unlock so much of our property’s character and charm. It just needed a little love and a pinch of patience (big pinch). As much as I love a quick turn around, I’m learning that time is my friend. It’s nice to have lived in our home long enough to really get a feel for how I want things to unfold.

Our property used to be a turkey farm, and there was a large coop attached to the barn that I felt stumped about for months. Did we want chickens? Many of my friends have chickens, and the old-world romantic country girl in me definitely loved the idea of gathering beautiful eggs each morning, but the realist in me knew to remind myself that I have a strong aversion to even touching animals. Plus, our barn sits so close to our house; I just knew there’d be chicken poo on our porch. No, thanks! It shouldn’t have taken me months, but slow-poke me finally decided the chicken coop wouldn’t be getting a makeover with the rest of the barn.

So, with that decided, my mom and I braved snakes, cobwebs, bees nests and the like to tear out the coop! Check out my story highlights on Instagram for a throw back to that! It was yucky, yucky! But it made us feel all the girl power! I think that day was the first time I’d used a drill! After demo day, I went back into designer mode, and my sweetheart Will did the brunt of all the work at making my barn dreams come true. He had to fix the roof line where the coop had been, cut out more windows, as well as add trim to them, build and hang three flower boxes, annnnd he pretty much cleaned and painted the whole thing, too! To match our house, we chose Sherwin Williams Alabaster White for the barn, and Benjamin Moore Black Ink for the trim. Here’s a bit of the progression.

GIRL POWER! Bye, bye, chicken coop!
GUY POWER! (I LOOOOVE THEM.)
Flower boxes are hung and the barn is pressure washed!
Painting has begun!
Almost there!
Painting the trim!

This spring everything came together when I finally was able to plant flowers in my new boxes! I chose three plants… geraniums, which I planted towards the back of the boxes, dusty miller, which I planted in the middle, and vinca in the front. The dusty miller is trying to take over so I may need to thin it out a little, but I love how full and happy these flowers are. They bring a smile to my face on the daily!

AFTER

To me, this project and all of our home projects are part of a love story but especially this one. Thank you, Will, for loving me so much. Every time I look at our beautiful barn in all its flowering glory, I’m all heart eyes for you.

The Oops in Art

The Oops in Art

I don’t know about you guys, but one of the things I love about art, and creativity in general, is how the magic unfolds! I rarely come out of any project–writing, photography, interior design– and think, that turned out exactly how I envisioned it. I usually have a loose direction going in and a lot of spontaneous trial and error going out. For example, after we finished painting SEVEN coats of Benjamin Moore’s Advance paint in Chantilly Lace on my office bookshelves (whew!), it was finally time to decorate. Hurray!

With the hunkering down that has come with COVID-19, I knew I couldn’t go out and about shopping for decor. Instead, I enjoyed pulling trinkets I already had from around the house. Baskets were a must, and I decided to try using the picnic basket I keep stored away on one of the tippity-top shelves of my pantry for one of them. While in the pantry, I noticed a few other pretty things… a kitchen scale, a florally crystal dish, and decided to give those a go, too. Loved them!

Also, my mom recently gave me a coat rack that I was going to eventually spray paint and put in our guest bedroom, but I thought to grab it from the garage and give it a whirl in my office for added interest and depth. As it turns out, I ended up loving the look of that, too! But I think the biggest “oops-turned-art” experience I had while decorating was when I haphazardly placed a stack of paperbacks, that I wasn’t quite sure where to put yet, backwards on one of the shelves. It was a messy and unintentional move that I ended up leaving and again, loving! Of course, in between these little wins, there was lots of tweaking and “nopes,” but I genuinely love the process of fixing what’s not working and doing a little dance inside to celebrate all the little surprise victories and “oopses” along the way.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes peek at just how far these shelves have come!

Coat #1!
Cleared out and ready for a makeover!

Book Review// Five Takeaways from Home Body by Joanna Gaines

Like most of America, we are huge Chip and Joanna Gaines fans. We’ve read their book The Magnolia Story multiple times–even my boys enjoyed hearing me read it aloud to them (twice!). Can “Chip” stories be any funnier!? And us girls love the beautiful house transformations this down-to-earth couple works on together. But best of all, as business owners ourselves, we love the Gaines’ humble entrepreneurial spirit and grit! And did you hear about how, after having to cancel their “Spring in the Silos” event due to Coronavirus, they’re reimbursing up to $1K in travel and hotel expenses to their vendors and reimbursing all ticket-holders full refunds? My kind of people.

Needless to say, I’ve wanted to make time to read Joanna Gaines’ relatively new book Home Body for some time now, and I’m so glad I finally did. I loved getting a peek into the way she’s designed their family’s farmhouse, along with the other interior design projects she features in the book—total eye candy!

Let’s dig in, shall we?

She begins by helping you identify your design style. The styles she mentions are farmhouse, modern, rustic, industrial, traditional and boho, and how most people are drawn to a mix. I seem to gravitate to a timeless yet eclectic style, so if I had to choose, I’d put myself in the traditional/boho category, but I hate to decide, because I loved elements in each category, hence the eclectic in me.

She also features mock ups of different homes. For fun, I decided our Blackberry Cottage is a blend of The Charming Manor, The Stately Traditional and The Homespun Cottage. So yes, the beginning sections of the book lend themselves well to analyzing your own style preferences and deciphering what you’re working with in your current home. And then she walks you through everything from entryways to utility rooms, giving practical advise all along the way.

As I devoured, word-for-word, all she had to say, I jotted down some quotes and takeaways that left a big impression on me and I, of course, had to share!

Takeaway #1: Everything has potential if you’re optimistic and creative.

“If you can begin to examine your own home through the lens of untapped potential, I think you’ll be surprised by what you find.”

Joanna Gaines, Home Body

The creative process has always felt a bit magical to me, and I have to agree, untapped potential is full of wonder! It’s like you set yourself on a journey with preconceived notions and ideas, and as the process unfolds, you find yourself somewhere even better than your initial imaginings.

Takeaway #2: Function and beauty can and should collide!

“I had this long wooden candle holder, into which, in past homes, I’d place tall votives in each of its twelve holes. This time I filled it with colorful crayons and placed it as the centerpiece of the kids’ craft table. All of a sudden, it became this design element that I loved, and it was providing something functional for my kids.”

Joanna Gaines, Home Body

Gaines talks a lot about how functionality plays into her design. It made me want to organize my pantry and a slew of other things, so that I’m not just working towards a beautiful home, but a functional home that supports each member of our family and the season of life we’re in, too. And how much more exciting to get artsy as you organize?

Takeway #3: Balance, balance, balance.

“I typically try to strike a nice balance between masculine and feminine elements in every room.”

Joanna Gaines, Home Body

I really appreciated this professional perspective because I’ve come to that same loose conclusion through trial and error in my home. I naturally veer a little more feminine, but if everything is too feminine it starts to feel ridiculous and less inviting. I’m sure the same could be said if a room were overly masculine. Unless it’s a boy or girl’s bedroom, it’ll feel a little off-kilter. And it doesn’t just go for contrasting masculine and feminine elements. Throughout her book, she’s constantly pointing out where she sought to strike a balance– for example, quirky lines with symmetry; bold with understated; light with dark.

Takeaway #4: In every room, add plants and do something unexpected!

“Adding plants to a room is the easiest and quickest way to bring life into a room.”

Joanna Gaines, Home Body

Bring it on! I love, love the idea of challenging myself to do something unexpected in every room. It feels like a realistic and measurable goal… just one thing that’s “outside the box.” For instance, the old-world art in the kitchen above!? Definitely unexpected, and the greenery in the pitcher (instead of in a traditional vase) really does bring the room to life… and easy! Adding a plant to each room is definitely straightforward and achievable. We can do this!

Takeaway #5: Tell a Story.

This is a mere skimming of all the goodness in this 300-plus book filled with gorgeous room after gorgeous room… after gorgeous room! But beauty and design aside, to me, this was Joanna Gaines’ overarching message:

“My hope is that wherever you are, you find a way to love the home you’re in. Create a space where everyone who lives there feels at home. Again, more than anything, I hope that when you put this book down you feel encouraged and emboldened to thoughtfully design a home that tells a story without regard for perfection. It’s a story worth telling because it’s yours. That is how you create spaces you never want to leave.”

Joanna Gaines, Home Body

Six Ways to Breathe Extra Life into Bouquets!

As florists, we’re so thankful for Valentine’s Day and also happy when it’s behind us. Will and I own seven flower shops (Williams Flower and Gift) here in the Puget Sound that were originally started up by his parents when he was just a little boy, so his idea of Valentine’s Day (and Mother’s Day, for that matter), have never been typical! These holidays were always intense work weeks for him and his family. 

When we were newly married, though, it was all very foreign to me! I remember on a particularly busy Valentine’s Day, before we purchased the shops from his parents, being recruited on Valentine’s Eve to help put together dozen-rose bouquets. It felt like Santa’s workshop in the design center as us “flower elves” worked through the night to ensure everyone got their arrangements the next day. It honestly felt a little magical! (And stressful and tiring, to be honest!)

All that background aside, one of my favorite things about Valentine’s Day is how after a long work week, Will brings home a bouquet arranged by one of our incredibly talented floral designers. Isn’t this year’s bouquet gorgeous? I had to get in some pictures with it, I loved it so much.

Anyway, having just come off of Valentine’s Day week, I thought I’d share some tips on how to best care for any beautiful bouquets you might be admiring this time of year. 

  1. Check the water every day. If the water looks dirty, or if any of the stems aren’t completely submerged, give your bouquet some fresh water. It seems obvious, but I can’t stress how important this is. If your arrangement is secured in a grid of tape or if the stems are inserted into foam, you can carefully turn the bouquet upside down and it should stay secure, making it easy to change the water. If the stems aren’t secured in tape or foam, you can simply lift your flower bundle out of the vase while holding everything in place and then change out the water. Room temperature water is best. 
  2. Speaking of temperature, it plays the biggest role in keeping flowers alive and vibrant. Don’t put your bouquet in a drafty place or near a vent or stovetop. Also, don’t place it near a window that gets a lot of harsh sunlight. If you’re wanting to preserve your flowers so that you can display them at a special event, find a cool place to store them (at about 40 degrees) and then bring them out for the big party. 
  3. There is no need to add flower food to the bouquet if the water still looks good that you received from the florist (they already added it).
  4. If there are browning petals that are wilting, simply pick them off; there’s probably a beautiful bloom beneath these guard petals and pulling them off will actually help the flower to open. In that same vain, if there’s a flower that’s really not doing well in your bouquet that no amount of petal peeling can fix, remove the flower from the bouquet. Don’t let one dying flower ruin the rest of the bundle. 
  5. Spritz your bouquet with a spray bottle. Hydrangeas, in particular, really benefit from a little misting. 
  6. If you’ve purchased a bouquet, then the stems have likely already been cut. But you can cut them again if the bouquet (or a particular flower in the bouquet) isn’t doing well. Cut 1-2 inches off the stems at an angle, as needed. Sometimes bacteria grows in the water and it can clog up the stems, so cutting the stems can breath new life into the flowers. 

That’s it for now! Hope these tips help you love on your Valentine’s bouquets a little longer! 

PS. After this cutie snapped a few pictures of me with my bouquet, I made her take some pictures with the heart garland we made for Valentine’s decor last year. Love this girl! Happy Belated Valentine’s Day, everyone!

Pillow Talk

It may be obvious, but I think it’s worth mentioning that I don’t have any interior design qualifications. That’s what I love about this modern DIY internet age, though! I (you! we!) can learn anything! I’m a fresh student of this art, and I hope that all the love I pour into my home projects will always make me feel like just a little girl playing house. My imagination soars and my soul is fed when I make time in my life to create! Even if that just means rearranging the pillows now and then!

With that in mind, today I’m going to share what I’ve learned first-hand about styling pillows, and I’d be lying if I said it’s all come easily to me. Pillows can be hard! I have had all too much fun in stores, piecing together the perfect pillow combinations, only to come home and be sorely disappointed with the new spread on my sofa.

So, here are some things that have helped me delight in straightening the pillows each day, sometimes multiple times a day, because this little chore is much more fun with pretty pillows!

1.       Bookend larger/matching pillows on the sofa.

I tend to like an eclectic mix of pillows, but I’m happier with the artsy look if I have them framed in with a little order. It’s almost like making a sandwich. You can put all sorts of ingredients in the middle, but the slices of bread should match, or at least be very similar, to better hold all the artsy goodness together.

2.       When you’re getting creative in the middle of your pillow sandwich, make sure your colors/hues complement one another.

There’s a little bit of personal preference that plays into this, but also some technique involved. You can go study the color wheel, or go with your gut like I do. Just make sure that the pillows you have share either a similar tint, tone or shade. Tints are when white is added to a color; tones are when grey is added to a color; and shades are when black is added to a color. Maybe a little more information than you wanted, but basically, they should convey the same mood. You don’t want a loud obnoxious pillow next to a serene pastel.

3.       Decide on a color scheme and then find pillows within that pallet that have different textures, patterns and sizes. Using a variety of textures is my favorite way to mix things up! Florals mixed with ruffles and stripes is always a winner in my book. My cute girl hopping on the bed for an impromptu photoshoot is always a winner in my book, too!

4.       Perhaps my favorite tip: break the rules.

If you like the way it looks, then you’ve succeeded! Like anything, pillows can be a form of artistic expression, so definitely have fun with it. Something I recently have done (and I’m sure I’m not the one to come up with this), is put king-sized pillows at the heads of my girls’ twin beds. And then I put twin-sized pillows in front of the kings. It’s nice when you can layer different pillow sizes. Different shapes are always a plus, too. I eventually want to put a round pillow in place of that square one.

5.       Double Stuff!

For decorative pillows, It’s a good idea to purchase a pillow insert that is a size bigger than the pillow case itself. And for your everyday pillows that you lay your head down to sleep on, feel free to put two pillows inside the pillow case if it’s feeling a little frumpy. People (ahem, my children) may not want to lay their heads down to sleep on a double-stuffed pillow, but it’s definitely great for styling! I always get frustrated when I can’t pull the “pillows-for-sleeping” out of their slump.

6.       Mix-match your bedding sets.

Okay, this has been so fun for me! I love taking the pillow cases from a sheet set in one room (especially if it’s patterned) and pairing it with a different bedding set in another room. For example, I got a really cute striped duvet set from Ikea last summer. The duvet is still on our guest bed, but the king shams that came with that set are the ones on my girls’ beds, and the pink pillow cases that came with my girls’ sheet set, are in the guest bedroom. I suggest having some continuity in style and color throughout your home, so why not swap pillowcases and patterns from one room to the other to easily mix things up and yet still provide that continuity.

7.       Consider taking off the cookie-cutter end-pillows that came with your couch set.

I don’t know about your couches, but mine came with some extra pillows. I say ditch what isn’t necessary to the set. This will give you more room to put fun and unique pillows on your couch that reflect your style. Your sofa will look much more sophisticated! In fact, I took the end pillows off my sofa and inserted them into the floral sham above! It filled it out beautifully!

Bottom line, have fun as you try to think outside the box! I seriously mess with the pillows in my house all. the. time. There are so many possibilities for combinations, and it’s an easy way to make my home feel fresh and alive! Alright, that’s enough pillow talk for tonight! I’m off to bed!