A Fresh Cut New Year

This time last year, I was beginning a tough but rewarding journey of obtaining my design license.  Actually, I was already on the journey – stumbled – stood up, and decided to press on.  One of my “dust myself off” tactics was creating a blog dedicated to my feat of passing the Practicum portion of the NCIDQ .  I had already passed my 2 multiple choice sections almost a year prior, but the Practicum got the best of me!  If you want to read about egress, space planning, and HVAC duct placement, it’s called The NCIDQ Diaries.  I sprinkled it with love most days and before I knew it, I had a bunch of great followers and comments, not to mention support. I also sprinkled it with raw truth, the ugly stuff, and calculations you don’t get to see between commercial breaks on HGTV.

As many of my readers, friends, and family know, I passed.  In addition to working hard and practicing, my determination and ability to open up about my prior failure, my insecurities, and my fears ended up paying off big time.  I received this great news just days after finding out my husband and I were expecting our first baby.  I guess one could say 2013 was an incredible year.  So, how do I top it in 2014?

Baby to be

The obvious improvement is having said baby! (I’m due tomorrow!!).  But I’m hoping to become a double-threat.  A mama AND a designer.

I’ve seen a few friends declaring their “word” of 2014.  It got me thinking what my word for 2013 was and what my word for 2014 would be.

2013: Pieces.  (noun) As in, pieces of my life falling into place.  Little pieces and big pieces, pieces I can see and some I can only feel. Growth, baby kicks, love, dancing at weddings, starting and finishing renovations, applying myself at work, and living in each moment.  Each person in my life offered a piece of inspiration and support whether they knew it or not.  I found myself recognizing my blessings more clearly – they are all around me and are often unexpected.  Here’s to using these pieces in this new year to embrace my new roll as a mommy, to reignite my spirit as a dreamer and do-er, and to share my talents with the world through design.

2014: Leap.  (verb) This year, I want to take more chances.  I want to water this blog and revive my design business.  First some questions… Why have I stopped blogging?  Why have I not poured my heart and talents into my design business? Why have I not pushed myself beyond my comfort zone?  Read on, I think I’ve got it…

I recently came across a great blog called The Blissful Bee, written by a fellow design[lov]er named Amy who lives in Texas.  I am always interested to learn how and why gals just like me decided to blog and how they stuck with it (after all, it can become a full-time job!), so I read her “About” page.  What I saw when I reached line #7 stopped me in my tracks.

I was terrified to start a blog out of fear of failure. I use to be scared to try new things because of other people being better than me. I quickly realized there will ALWAYS be someone better or more talented out there, so that doesn’t have to stop me from achieving my own version of success.”

Amy’s words resonated with me instantly and really motivated me… With my toolbox stocked with inspiration, confidence, some finished rooms to share with ya, my license, and a shiny new baby on the way, I’m ready to take a good leap.  Look for new posts, a new look, and a new me.  In the meantime:  My blog’s under construction design-wise, so excuse the appearance as I re-vamp! It’s going to be oh so pretty.

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My Pendant Picks for the Kitchen!

As promised, here are a few pendant fixtures I’m considering to hang over our corner kitchen table.  I love modern fixtures as well as industrial style and glass.  I also love a good shade.  Decisions, Decisions.  Below the pictures, I share my considerations and criteria.

light style 1

PB Teen

PB Teen

Ballard Designs

Ballard Designs

Love this, not sure of the source, but would like in dark bronze!

Love this, not sure of the source, but would like in dark bronze!

West Elm

West Elm

West Elm 3-Jar Light

West Elm 3-Jar Light

 Some things to consider in the space when choosing our fixture:

  • The window-pane mirror on the wall.  I’m not sure yet if this will be white or stained to match the door beside it.  Either way, a light will reflect in it and might be better if it’s on the simple side.
  • Hardware is dark bronze, trim is white, and door is stained – could coordinate with any of these.
  • If a color, I’m avoiding green, grey, and yellow.
  • Wood door is stained – so we could choose a wood globe.
  • Hanging height; we have bench seating around the table so it can’t be too low.
  • Scale: is it substantial enough?  I’m thinking 12-16″ diameter is appropriate for our space.
  • I don’t know if I want to see the light bulb (like some of the options below), so a shade might be nice.
  • Amount of light? Is there enough? Is it warm? We know it will be on a dimmer, but at it’s brightest, we should see well!

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Kitchen Renovation: Our finishes!

Now for the fun part.  I don’t much love the before pictures, but these finish photos make me super happy. Here’s a refresher of what’s in the kitchen now:


  • Paint: Persimmon, Pumpkin Orange (changing, minty sage)
  • Floor: Black & White Vinyl Checkerboard (changing, midnight copper tile)
  • Cabinets: Snowbound White (keeping, improving)
  • Counter: Brown Granite-look Laminate (changing, Black-granite look)
  • Sink+Fixtures: Stainless Steel, chrome (changing faucet and adding disposal!!)
  • Hardware: Dark Bronze (keeping)
  • Lighting: Brushed nickel/laminate (changing to white can lights and dark bronze pendant to match hardware)
  • Large Appliances: White (love white, keeping)
  • Small Appliances: Black (microwave oven was a gift, coffee maker to match)
  • Other accent colors and tools to consider: Red Mixer, Wooden Bowls, colorful dish towels and a fun rug
  • Decor: paint-dipped spoons like these, I’d love to make!; a DIY similar to this mirror; hanging lodge skillets, and some herb water colors like these, perhaps!

This photo shows our paint color, trim color, new flooring, counter laminate, and back-splash tile.



We considered two others, which I’ll show next, but chose this one because it keeps the room feeling light, adds richness and shimmer, and once installed/grouted, the mint of the glass tiles really comes to life and coordinates with the wall color.  The linear direction also helps add length to our only cabinet wall.  I can’t wait to see it illuminated with the halogen undercabinet lighting.

Our other considerations:


Pretty, right?  Though, not quite perfect for this room.  The darker one appears too dark and too busy.  The installed example at Lowe’s is even darker, so we ruled this one out, however it coordinates nicely with the floor.  The Carrara marble-y tile also works, but when held below our while cabinets, it was just too much white for us.  Andrew uses the word: “bathroomy” sometimes with tile.  We both agreed this could be considered “bathroomy” or it could work well in a kitchen, but just not ours sadly.

And just for fun, this is the mosaic tile that we installed in the powder room and were planning to use.  What changed our mind?  When we realized we needed new counters, together the laminate and tile were much too busy.  Alas, I LOVE our final selection!


Now onto lighting… I’ve collected some great images of lighting I’m considering.  Will share soon!

PS.  Our dining room rug which I mentioned in this post, looks just like the rug in these pictures but a little more sage green!  Fun fact?

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Kitchen Reno: Demo, Drywall, and Our Plans

We’re (eee! finally!) diving into our kitchen renovation.  It involves the usual dust, drywall, and a fair amount of Gatorade and Landshark.  When we bought our house, the paint color was not my favorite and it hasn’t grown on me.  It’s dark, seasonal (pumpkin!), and too dark for the size of the space.

We get a ton of compliments on the floor.  Like a weird amount for how much I don’t like it.  As we’ve lived with it for 3.5 years, t’s hard to miss that its worn vinyl tile (not shiny porcelain) and the white squares are discolored.  While many of our family and friends are sad that we’re changing it –meanwhile we’re jumping for joy!– we promise the new floor will be pretty(er).  Below I’m sharing photos, progress, and our plans.

Here’s what our kitchen looked like when we bought our house in 2009:

Kitchen BEFORE

And here she is today… We really got far, huh?  But really, look closely and you’ll see we’ve done some things: painted the unfinished cabinet doors, painted shelving, added a “built-in” looking bench, replaced the window, and painted baseboard.  This is one of the last rooms we’re tackling.  So far we’ve renovated the living room, dining room, mudroom, basement, our bedroom, one of the guest rooms, and of course (our biggest projects) the exterior of our house and the yard.  Now… for our most anticipated renovation!


Ha.. notice our naked dining room floor yonder?  I removed the area rug as we have a new one in the mail. 😉


This was once a window looking into the former mudroom.  Now it’s a dry-wall and spackle art feature.


These were once framed with trim which was a little poorly installed – all touching and smushed in place, had odd cuts, and 31 coats of paint.  Now there will be new doors and smaller-profile trim with painted wall in between.


Our only window – again with the trim.  Yes, that drywall was once all trim.  Way overkill!  This kitchen was previously renovated with drywall applied over plaster walls and CUT AROUND THE TRIM.  Gasp. This might have been a quick fix for whoever did it, but it was done poorly and has left us with extra work.

What we’re planning:

  • Above the range Adding (1) tall 12″ wide cabinet on left + (1) 30″ wide short cabinet w/ microwave/range hood below centered + 8″ wide custom spice pull-out cabinet (built by Andrew!) on the right
  • New 15-pane (glorious light!) door stained dark to match our front door between kitchen and mudroom
  • Adding 4 down lights, 1 chandelier over the table, and undercabinet lighting
  • Re-trim and paint entire room to match adjacent minty mudroom/powder/laundry room
  • New counters (we were resistant at first, but we can’t avoid destroying it with other fixes)
  • New flooring also to match our midnight slate copper mudroom tile
  • Added tile back-splash (see next post sharing what we chose!) not matching the mosaic tile in the powder room, which was the original plan to create uniformity
  • New pedestal base table/chairs and a window-mirror above the “built-in-look” bench to make the space feel bigger
  • New pendant light over the table
  • Shift pantry/fridge about 2′ to the left making more room for trash can and basement door to open (sounds easy, but we need to move HVAC to accomplish this. Boo.)
  • Making a useful tech/mail/storage hub out of the awkward little triangle closet (this includes a phone charging station, a tack-board, and a light! Whoa!)

Stay tuned for progress photos and updates!

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Quick Paper Art: A DIY

Hello design friends,

Today I found some leftover  scrapbook paper from a bunting flag project I did about a month ago for a coworker’s (and friend!) bridal shower.  I grabbed 3 white Ikea frames holding 4×6 photos (I’ll find them new homes!) and got to work… Below you’ll see my supplies, finished product, and some suggestions for hanging or displaying frames, one of which includes my hand with dirty finger nails and a sad little blister from gardening.

My suppies (A 5x7 is shown, but I used 4x6; you can use any size you like so long as your scrapbook paper fits!)

My supplies (A 5×7 frame is shown, but I used 4×6; you can use any size you like so long as your scrapbook paper fits!)

This project is not only simple, it’s mega budget-friendly. 4×6 Ribba frames at Ikea are $5 each and include a mat.  Scrapbook paper at a craft store like Michael’s is typically $1 per sheet for patterns and 50 cents for solids.


Voila! 3 Pretty new pieces of art!

To dress up the more simple patterns, I’d recommend stenciling the letter of your first or last name!  Or a heart with your state’s initials below.  We heart PA!


Shhh.. I already have hooks here, but here’s how they’d look on a wall.


A little better on the brick wall, but maybe best on a darker grey-brown or even grey wall.


A little display on a console table (Oh, yes, there are some of my corks!)


Displayed in a grouping of 3.


And rounding up my post with a happy detail shot!

Happy Framing!

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West Elm, KOP Grand Opening!

If you know me, you know I’m obsessed with the following: my husband, avocados, champagne, my cats, Nashville, the beach, buying baskets, and West Elm.  Of course, you also know this is a seriously pared down list.  Alas, West Elm.  Just opened.  3 minutes from my work in King of Prussia mall!  Queue happy dance!  I won’t be too chatty as the following images speak for themselves, but this event was super fun and it included both baskets and champagne.  *Please note: I will share links to items as I find them provided on the website, however, not all are there just yet.

West Elm Finds_Montage 3

The wall behind the cash-wrap is made of reclaimed wood from an old warehouse in Camden (I believe!) and is complimented by West Elm’s signature rustic furniture as well as soft, hand-made-looking duvets and hand towels.  I’m a major advocate of  “variety” so this bottom left juxtaposition of yellow glass, wood, and soft, stripey fabric makes my designer heart go pitter-patter!


Yellow/Chartreuse Stripe Duvet paired with grey. Rhyme! *Click Image for Link

West Elm Finds_Montage 1One of the reasons I’m personally drawn to West Elm (which falls under the William-Sonoma brand along with Pottery Barn) is it’s youth, clean lines, eco-friendly construction & materials, freshness, and accents with a cultural vibe.  These hurricanes, candles, and seemingly hand-made containers above are definitely on my wish list!


Pretty, reclaimed, texture-rich Stria Collection *Click for link

Oh my, these lights are gorgeous, but not on the site yet!

Oh my, these pendants are gorgeous, but not on the site yet!

A variety of soft, rustic, and hand-made accessories!

A variety of soft, rustic, and hand-made accessories!

While I was milling around to hip beats with a champagne cocktail in one hand and my camera in the other, I was discovering fun treasures like the Dune vases and drift-wood-esque candle holders (sorry, no link!).  I brought home pretty letter-hand towels and the pretty minty bowls shown bottom right.  The bowls match my powder room paint perfectly and with a feature post coming soon, I promise you’ll see for yourself!

Alas, behold my dream collection: Bliss

Alas, behold my dream collection: Bliss *Click for Link

Now, the highlight of my visit: the opportunity to sit in the Bliss sofa and chair & a half.  I’ve been dreaming of this collection for weeks and scheming ways to get it into my living room.

I hope you’re as excited as I am about this not-so-far-as-center-city-or-princeton store opening!  Maybe I’ll see you there!  …sadly, without the champagne, photographers, tuna tartare spring rolls, and awesome DJ.  Thanks for a great night West Elm KOP!

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Pretty Food Art

My friend, Jen, posted a super healthy and appealing status last night after a day at her local farmer’s market (hi, Jenny!).  She counted over 20 fruits and veggies in her fridge and then proceeded to describe what she planned to make with them when asked.  The list was not only mouth-watering, the pictures in my mind were so pretty and colorful!  Can I come visit for the week!?

farmers market by karen wise

photo by Karen Wise

In a separate moment, I stumbled across a talented artist on Etsy this morning in search of a small piece for my dining room picture wall (I’m re-doing the whole thing!).  As I enjoyed each watercolor – a radish, a halved avocado, pears, spring onions, and blood oranges – I thought again of Jen’s new food loot.  And I thought, “She should have art for her new apartment’s kitchen.” …  And I should have a print for the empty frame in my picture wall!  And my kitchen’s under renovation… And my mom would love these..

So I’m featuring my favorite vegetable art today.  I haven’t decided which pieces I’m ordering just yet, but narrowing them down to share with you is a good start!

Figs by Yael Berger | The Joy of Color

the joy of color _ green avocado

Avocadoes by Yael Berger | The Joy of Color

the joy of color _ tangerine tango

Tangerine Tango by Yael Berger | The Joy of Color

Tomatoes in Mint Bowl by Yael Berger | The Joy of C olor

Tomatoes in Mint Bowl by Yael Berger | The Joy of Color

the joy of color _ utensils

Kitchen Utensils by Yael Berger | The Joy of Color

joy of color mint and lemon verbena

Mint in Tin Pot and Lemon Verbena by Yael Berger | The Joy of Color

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Chapter Two: Everygirl’s Office

As I press on in my organizational journey and venture into Chapter 2: The Everygirl Office of Maria’s book (this one in case you just jumped in, also here), I’m already feeling happier and more efficient. About six months after we moved in, I invested in two lined baskets for our mail. One: Inbox. One: File. Read: (1) Pile and (1) Misc Mess.

Since my initial effort proved difficult to maintain, I’ve adapted my version of The Blackbook outlined in Chapter 2.

From left to right: My version of the Blackbook, my planner, and The Everygirl’s Guide to Life

My goal was to create a go-to reference book for those phone numbers, documents, and bills I need to keep in close reach. I outline how I organized my black book below. It’s actually a white book… Should I change the name?!

An excerpt… What should I put in my book?

I left out “passwords” and “social security cards” as these items are either password protected or in a safe deposit box/safe. I made this book useful without making it valuable to a potential intruder.

My “Coupon/Offers” Sleeve..

A handy tip for maintaining my book: No garbage in,… so no garbage out! I sort my mail daily now so it doesn’t pile up and immediately put bills into the “Bills Due” sleeve, while tossing catalogs and junk mail if I don’t think I’ll find time to read them. That way, I can no longer accumulate a “for later” pile.

Greeting cards in the back pocket.

The back pocket of my binder holds black cards I’ve picked up for Weddings and Birthdays. I buy these ahead of time so I’m not rushing when we’re on the way to a wedding. However, it’s easy to misplace them with so much time to spare! Now I will know exactly where they are!

The **empty** mail bins!

Now, what to do with those mail bins? (Liners are in the wash!)

How My Blackbook Works:

  • Front inside pocket: Outbox (signed, sealed, ready to deliver)
  • Sleeve 1: Inbox
  • Sleeve 2: Bills Due
  • Sleeve 3: File (Paystubs, bills paid, Insurance Docs, etc.)
  • Sleeve 4: Pending (For active claims, requiring a phone call, etc.)
  • Sleeve 5: Checks/Stamps/Return Address Labels
  • Sleeve 6: Coupons/Offers (We don’t use them since we can’t see them!)
  • Sleeve 7: Invitations (2 days before every wedding, we’re asking ourselves “What time does it start again?” and begin digging through the dreaded mail bins)
  • Sleeve 8: Important phone numbers & Addresses
  • Sleeve 9: Receipts to file
  • Back inside pocket: Greeting Cards

It sounds like one chunky binder, but it’s pretty skinny and I’d like it to stay that way!

S-Andy: The Aftermath at Our House

A kind disclaimerThis post is in no way intended to mock this tragic storm which affected many neighbors, friends, and families along the east coast, but share progress inside our home that was made during our time spent off the roads. We were very lucky to have power throughout the storm. We have, however, been seeing pictures of Brigantine, where my parents have a shore house just one block from the ocean on the North End. They are shocking photos of the sea wall and transition to the fishing beaches where we often walk Gracie. A little rattling, but we’re hoping our neighbors and home are well despite. We are also moved by the effects of the storm in Cape May, a beach Andrew and I are fond of and have visited often since our engagement in 2008. Bless everyone.

A few things got upturned and relocated from the kitchen to the powder room walls yesterday afternoon… paint, tile, razorblades, and 2x4s were flying everywhere. Here are some shocking photos.. (Sorry they’re a wee bit blurry. It was windy, ok?!)

Before it got really windy..

Andrew trying to hold things together in the height of the storm..

The next morning.. Investigating the damages..

The mess left in Sandy’s path..

Whoa.. Tile. And paint.

We really shouldn’t leave windows open during a hurricane.

We’re expecting more high winds tonight and this weekend.. maybe the room will be finished!


Chapter One: Everygirl Organizes

I wasn’t kidding when I opened this book. From the moment I walked into Barnes and Noble and laid eyes on it, I meant business. I’m not even 3 sentences into this post and already, I have a side note: If you want to jump-start a life change, visit Barnes and Noble. I found about 4 amazing books about being a business owner and aspiring manager/leader but decided to take my eagerness to succeed one step at a time, starting in my home.

Last week, Maria was one of my favorite contestants on Dancing with the Stars and the girl on E News (or Entertainment Tonight or Access Hollywood…?). This week, she’s one of my closest girlfriends and my imaginary mentor. Judge all you want, but I maintain this is much healthier than talking about Jessica Simpson, Jen Aniston, or Teresa Giudice as thought they were my actual friends.

These are a few of my real girlfriends.. The one on the left is getting marrieeed this weekend!

Chapter One:

(I actually read the Introduction first which I almost NEVER do. But I made a rule that I must read this book in order if I want to get my life in order.)

Organize your home. Here’s the opening blurb:

So far, I’ve become incredibly talented at “putting things away RIGHT AWAY” and successfully tackled the following:

  • My closet –  I now know how many and how few clothes I have. I have a lot of “clothes” but very few “outfits” and even fewer “statement pieces” and still fewer basics. *List Time!*
  • The kitchen drawers – ok, so I cheated a little here because they are normally meticulously organized, but I did have a junk-ish drawer (where we keep our Saran wrap, foil, and baggies) which is now immaculate, functional, stocked, and simplified. Oh yes.
  • The Dining Room console table junk drawer from hell – Now I would consider opening this drawer in front of others to grab a pen.
  • My book shelves in the living room – paired down, refreshed, re-arranged. ZEN.
  • The drawer in our side table in the living room
  • My nightstand drawer
  • The DVD baskets
  • My brand new linen closet!

In progress:

  • Our mail bins and filing
  • Shredder purchase (for papers from before we were married, like .. why? that was so over 3 years ago!)
  • Steamer purchase (for clothing)
  • Finding the perfect shoe rack (Ikea, you failed me on this one!)
  • Finding matching, flocked hangers so my silky, drape-y shirts and dresses don’t slip off (Ikea, once again…thanks for nothing!)

What I still need to work on:

  • Under the bed – This is where we keep collapsible duffel bags, rogue socks, bobby pins, and our family of dust bunnies. I want it to be where we keep nothing at all.
  • My dresser – This is cleaned out monthly and is so orderly it has bins in the drawers, but I’m also focusing on re-stocking it.
  • The kitchen cabinets
  • Our 3rd floor closet – I paired it down last winter, but until I can name 75% of its contents, it’s clutter.
  • My office/studio
  • My sewing supplies/fabric
  • The pile o’ give away stuff by the front door – Scheduled for pick-up October 30th! Yay!
  • The medicine cabinet – this, like the kitchen gets outta hand!
  • The basement <faints>
  • The “attic” <re-faints>

I must say, accomplishing this has been amazing. I feel more energized, motivated, responsive, responsible, aware, and clean. Everything is becoming simplified (not that it was ridiculous). It was both odd and freeing to completely empty my junk drawer last month. I wanted to superglue it shut so I couldn’t stash things, but then I wouldn’t be able to open it and see nothing but air.