Thursday, July 31

Landing Makeover

I bribed my kids to go with me to Homegoods today after camp pickup and saw a great chest of drawers that I thought would look great on the landing at the top of the stairs. So presto changeo...a little landing makeover for you on a Thursday evening. Whatcha think? I kind of love it! It's the perfect mix of the wood that is in the hallway with the mirrors to keep it a little fancier (a word I don't really love) but you get the drift. I just threw a few things I found upstairs on it to decorate it for now but I am sure I'll change those at some point too.

It's sort of hard to tell because the mirrors are reflecting the dark wood floors, but the wood on the drawers is a really nice distressed look with the mirror background and these cute "crystal" like knobs. 

Here's how the landing looked after I first painted the stripes on it.  For more information on how I did that you can read my previous blog post on the subject here.  Below are a few shots of how it looked during the construction process. 

I am thinking I might get a nice runner for the long part of the hall which you can see below.  Not sure yet though - I really love the hardwoods and probably won't cover them up but ya never know!

So there's a quick little makeover! Cheap, quick and makes a big impact.  

Friday, July 25

Feeling Punchy Today!

The weather here in DC is so nice, and I had such a small amount of sleep last night because of a feverish daughter, that I am feeling a little punchy today. How punchy you say? Well, I've decided to revisit a post from the past from the blogger to end all bloggers, Pamela Sorensen on her blog called Pamela's Punch. I met Pamela about (gulp) 6 years ago as we started planning the first Ball on the Mall.  She was (is!) a force to behold. Smart, stylish, funny and has a following that any baby blogger like me would kill for.  Pamela really helped us take the Ball to a level that we didn't even know we could achieve and she and I have stayed in contact ever since. She has helped an untold number of charities raise money and awareness for their causes and I for one, am incredibly grateful for all that she's done for this city - and I know I am not alone.

A few summers ago, Pamela featured little old me in her Punch Profiles section. I was tickled pink to be included and grateful that she thought of me. Thought I'd share on this glorious summer Friday. Not to worry, I'll be back to my cynical self on Monday. Here's the link to the article and after you are done learning more about yours truly, peruse Pamela's site. It's the perfect way to spend a Friday!

Wednesday, July 23


I HATE DIY PROJECTS! I really, really do. And in this world of home & garden blogging saying that is likely to get me completely black listed before I even get started, but I don't care. I have to let it out.  I just cannot stand do it yourself projects.

All day long, I see these amazing posts of people turning seemingly useless things into miraculous pieces of delight. Each time, a before and after picture produces ooohhhs and ahhhs from admirers both near and far. Today a fantastic blogger I know made an outdoor sofa in less than 4 hours. She designed it, cut the wood, nailed it together, stained it and found cushions for it in less than 4 hours. How is that humanly possible???

Every once in a while, I start to think...I am creative. I am good at this design stuff. I am going to DO IT!!!  I buy every thing they tell me to get. I lay out each item carefully and take the directions step by step. And without fail, every single time, it ends up looking like crap. Take for instance my dining room chairs. I literally copied the exact directions I found on a blog down to buying the bizarre wrought iron acrylic low lustre paint she insisted I buy. I sanded, I painted, I sanded again. I even polyed. And you know what? They still look like crap close up and when you sit on them your clothes get a nice sand blasted look circa 1980s stone wash. Total debacle. What the hell?!

Or how about my brilliant idea today to wallpaper my basement bath with peel and stick wallpaper I saw at Target. Because we had some pipe issues after we moved back in, they tore up the walls in that bathroom and when they painted them again, they used the wrong color. So there are two shades of blue in that small bathroom and it's been driving me nuts. So while shopping today, I saw this peel and stick wallpaper and thought...well even I could do that.  I should have known better given the experience my mom and I went through earlier this year.  If you haven't read about that disaster, it may help give you some context for what happened today.  But I went for it anyway - I mean what idiot can't peel paper off a something and stick it on the wall right???

I kept trying to be zen and "let gravity be my guide" as the instructions said. But it kept bubbling and going on crooked and getting stuck to itself. I kept "gently removing and repositioning it" as I was told but it was a complete and utter mess. I finally got a piece on (on a full tilt) and found out that lining up the pattern was not as easy as they made it sound. Maybe if you have a 10x10 room with nothing but straight lines it would have worked, but how about a bathroom with wall sockets, and a sink and a toilet and even a soffit. How the hell is someone supposed to just let gravity be their guide around a freaking toilet? (Ok don't answer that). Anyway, after my son came down and stared at it without saying a word and left, I decided my time was up. I crumpled it up in a ball and stomped on it until it was dead. And this is why I hate DIY.

Now don't get me wrong. I am incredibly impressed by people who can do this stuff. I am the first one to Like their pictures and I stare at their project with a mixture of awe and envy. And I am not totally without talent. In fact, I am a painting fool. I have painted more rooms than I can count - I even painted stripes up my stairs remember? I am like the freaking Yoda of painting walls. See?

But that is where my DIY talents end and I know this. Please, please don't ask me to build you anything. Or transform a settee into a modern day masterpiece. Or create a coffee table from an old tire. Oh and don't even get me started on crafts....if I ever go to prison and they really want to punish me, they will give me the task of making Thanksgiving turkeys out of Oreos and candy corn (Google it).

Ok. I have confessed. I feel better. Now off to call my wallpaper guy and see if he'll do peel and stick.

Saturday, July 19

Ask Allie: Lindsay's Office

Last month (yes, it has taken me that long to do this post) an old friend of mine from college emailed me to ask for my advice on how to decorate her office. Lindsay is a television exec in Los Angeles and has a large office that could use some love - but she is not able to change the furniture or paint the walls. As always, I am up for a challenge! This is what it looks like now.

And here is the inspiration board I created for this space.

Here's the skinny....

1. Since Lindsay told me she likes warm autumn colors and because her office already had a lot of orange in it, I decided to embrace it and go for an orange theme but with a lot of white, green, gold and brown to keep it from becoming too overwhelming. Picture number one is my inspiration picture from Houzz. The first thing that needs to be addressed is the brown carpet. Because that cannot be changed, I suggest Lindsay add a large area rug to the space under the couch, chairs and table. You'll see later on in #9 below that my first choice is this Horchow rug.  But there are a million options. Here's one that I found on Overstock that is much less expensive and still would be a good base and is a steal at $240!

I picked this as my inspiration room because of the neutral colored walls and the basic couch - both of which Lindsay has in her office. Consider it a blank canvas and because the large space, the orange in the picture, and in the office, won't be obnoxious.  

I am in love love love with the artwork behind the couch and I think this would be perfect in Lindsay's office above her couch. The bright colored flowers with a simple white matte and frame would be to die for.  Here's one I found on that is a little more abstract but could work nicely as well.

2. Ok so this was really just for inspiration but can we talk about an orange vintage Louis Vuitton trunk?  LOVE this!  Wish I could live inside it.

3. This great fabric is from Schumacher and is their Huntington Gardens pattern in Coral. I would have two really large pillows made in this fabric for either side of the couch. This one from Etsy is the same pattern but with more pink tones. I like the brown piping on it and would love to see a different pattern on the back.

4. The wall you see in the first picture of Lindsay's office definitely needs something.  I suggest adding a great leaning mirror like this one.  It will not only pretty up that wall...but also bring in more light. And of course, a power woman needs a spot to check out her outfit before she dashes off to a meeting right? Pretty AND practical.  (And somewhat sexist I know but I'd use it!)

5. Since there's no way we could actually find or add the Louis trunk, I like these as a fun alternative. These are sold by Maze Home and retail for $230.

6.  I am a big, big fan of topiaries like these from Restoration Hardware. They are clean, simple and add color without need much (ok..ANY) care. I suggest a group of three of these on the coffee table.

7. I love these taupe and white zebra print pillows. I would add one to each of the orange and black chairs to lighten them up and make them comfy.

8. As you can see in the pictures of the office,  Lindsay already has some healthy looking plants in the office.  I would add a few orchids like this one to balance out the black furniture and the orange.  We all know these can be temperamental but they are well worth the effort.

9. So this is the rug I mentioned above from Horchow. The size that Lindsay would need in that space runs about $2,500 which I think would be totally worth it given how much time we all spend in our offices. But again, you do NOT need to spend that much money and can easily find something just as nice and cheaper.

10. I really like the look of the coffee table in Lindsay's office - it goes well with all of the elements above.  Styling it should be fun. Lots of coffee table books for people to peruse while waiting for meetings. Here is a great article from Style Me Pretty on coffee table styling - yep, it's a thing.

11. Behind Lindsay's desk you can see a big open wall and I suggest a large scale piece like this four panel fabric. When I put together the inspiration board, I found the fabric in the #11 picture on the Schumacher website. It's called the Chinois Palais in Tangerine and I had this vision of someone (not me…and probably not Lindsay herself) buying the fabric and then covering three or four canvases to make a giant art type thing without spending fortune. BUT then I was peruse the inter webs and found this on the Horchow site for $750 and I say why DIY when someone else can do it better?  It comes in a pretty coral color but actually I love the turquoise one below. I think it may be even better and will still go really nicely with the overall color scheme of the room.

12. I've said this before and I will say it again, there is nothing more important in ANY room than lighting.  It makes or breaks any decor, sets the mood and makes the space. I love these lamps from Ethan Allen called the Owen Ringed Floor Lamp which they sell for $879 - another expensive piece especially for an office. I found a less expensive version on Overstock (where else?!) called their Gold Leaf Moroccan Floor Lamp for $198. 

So that is my suggestion for Linday's office. It will be light and bright and a gorgeous place to spend the days.  If you have a room that needs help and you want my advice, email me at

Wednesday, July 16

Patio Reveal

A few months ago, we decided to put a patio in the backyard. And of course, it had to happen IMMEDIATELY because we had some big parties planned. I luckily found a neighbor/landscape designer named Andy Shelton of Andy's Lawn and Landscape who understands my crazy and took the project on anyway.  And it was no easy feat - in addition to my unrealistic demands on the timing, our backyard is a steep hill and needed a lot more work than it first appeared. But it was all worth it (and I am sure Andy would agree). Here is the final product!!!

Here is the view coming in through the gate on the right side of the house. There is a new stepping path of about 8 stones between the patio and the gate - which eliminates killing of poor innocent grass blades every time we go in and out of the gate. 

Because of the aforementioned hill, we needed to dig down (and by we I mean some very hard working gentlemen...not me) which created this lovely little retaining wall.  We (and this time I do mean me and my husband) landscaped behind the wall all by ourselves. You are impressed...I can tell. 

We had most of this furniture set from Target on our deck before the renovation began but I ordered new cushions for it. Navy blue seemed like a good idea until the cushions sit out in the hot DC sun all day eventually becoming human skillets. We are going to get one of those big cantilever umbrellas to add some shade to this area to keep from becoming grilled cheese.

In the picture above you can see the little fire pit/table that I got - also at Target.  We have used this several times since the beginning of the summer and it is awesome. It really makes you feel like you are on vacation. The only thing I worry about is a spark catching one of the trees on fire and burning down the entire yard...but what can you do? Also in that picture is a pretty red wind chime we just picked up on our recent trip to the Outer Banks. It sounds exactly like a buoy bell you hear out in the ocean and reminds me of my grandparent's house in Gloucester. Below is the view from the patio back to the house. As I mentioned in my last post, yes, we had the stone color and all the furniture match the house. I am THAT obnoxious. But I own it.

Honestly, it came out so much better than I thought it would. My husband really pushed to make it as big as it is and I was skeptical because our yard is the size of a postage stamp to begin with. But I am glad he didn't back down because it is incredibly useful to have several areas on the patio - including the table, the grill and the seating area.  The umbrella I got from Pottery Barn and the table and chairs from Home Depot.

After the patio was done, our ugly metal shed looked extra awful. I ordered a new one from Home Depot which came when my husband was out of town for work.  So I went ahead and assembled the whole thing myself and then painted. it.  Nahhhh...just kidding. I just painted it - which by itself was a pretty Herculean task if you ask me. Just don't look at it too close or you will see all my mistakes. Shhhh.... And yes, it does perfectly match the house.

I spent a lot of time picking out all the plantings trying to find ones that won't die in the oppressive, soon to be August heat. So far so good (but I'll keep you posted on that one).  I love this bright red one. I have no idea what it is but it's pretty. My mom is like a master gardener. Her entire property is perfect and every time my kids go there (especially my son) they come back saying how they wished our yard looked like hers. This was my best effort. If they want more, they are just going to have to get their MomMom to get out here and fix it!

We added these great solar lights we got at BJs around the permitter of the yard. They give off a nice glow at night - even if they don't light up the whole backyard. 

And of course, the grill gets a place of honor on the patio. It is a giant hunk of shiny metal but it somehow doesn't ruin the view entirely. And we use it almost every night so it needed to be close to the house...and close to our hearts. (Just heard you gag). 

They did a great job of incorporating the existing stairwell into the design. 

We were even able to use the side of the house to create a veggie garden.  Not that any of those tomatoes will turn red since I just can't help but pick the green ones and fry them!

Here are a few shots of the yard during construction. It was quite a job!

And here is the yard exactly one year ago today. What a difference! BEFORE...

Here is the back of the house as it looked in July 2013.

Here is the addition framed out in late August 2013. 

With the Zip Lock system and roof on in September 2013. 


Below are some pics of the house when we first bought it - 9 years ago this month. Crazy how time flies and how different it is now.  I really loved this deck because it felt like an extension of our house. I don't love it more than that actual new part of the house which replaced it, but I did love it.  We even put a tent over it once and had my son's baptism/Thanksgiving out there. 

Notice the old ugly shed which actually didn't look that bad way back when...until Snowmeggedon pushed the roof in. 

And now back to the way it looks today. We love it...hope you do to! 

Thursday, July 10

I Am Lost In The Bermuda Triangle (And Other Excuses for Not Writing)

I am not even going to apologize for going AWOL again because let's face it, at this point my excuses are hollow. Take for instance if I told you that I haven't been able to write because I've had a crazy busy time at work. Or that my kids are home ALL THE TIME and need to be fed and entertained constantly. Or the fact that last week we were on vacation and had to leave the Outer Banks because of impending Hurricane Arthur. You just wouldn't buy I'll save my breath.  In the words of my college friend and fellow blogger, it turns out writing isn't hugely compatible with working/parenting/breathing. If, ok let's face it...when, I fall off the internet again, and you want some good laughs, read her stuff at Mother Fickle. Just try to ignore that she is not only hilarious, but gorgeous if you can.

Anyway my non-fiction early end to our beach trip last week has me in full sunshine planning mode. This is (gulp) the year of our 40th birthdays and our 15th wedding anniversary and we've been looking for ways to celebrate (besides the big party planned in December and a girls trip for me in the Fall which are just not enough). Since my parents more than generously offered to take the kids for the week and wear them out at the Wisconsin Dells, the self-proclaimed "water park capital of the world", we pulled the trigger and booked a week long trip to Bermuda!  I cannot wait.  I mean I literally cannot wait. I LOVE Bermuda for many reasons. First, it's where my parents went on their honeymoon and where they took us as little kids. It is a totally gorgeous tropical paradise that is less than 3 hours from our house AND you get to zip all over the island on scooters. there a better place on earth?

After hours and hours reading the 12,000 reviews of Bermuda hotels on TripAdvisor and getting all important advice from friends on Facebook, we settled on the Rosewood Tucker's Point. Highly recommended by my friend I lovingly call Fancy Pants (behind her back of course) who never steers me wrong. And I am sure she'd have a similar and funnier name for me.  I don't want to make you too too jelly, but here are the pics of the hotel (all from their website).

Part of the reason I fell in love with this hotel in particular was the quintessential "Bermuda" style of it's decor. Lots of muted foundation tones with tons of bright accent colors. It is a theme in my own house and one that I think is good for people who are easily bored with their decor and want to change it regularly. If you keep the main palette simple, you can accent with great (hate to use this term) pops of color.

This House Beautiful article on a Bermuda style home built in Naples, FL really illustrates the concept of using bold colors without having your house look like a Crayola box exploded. There's white in every room (or other neutral color) that anchors the brighter hues.

Now, not many (if any) of us have gorgeous Bermuda-like ocean front homes to decorate, but I've seen this style recreated in such exotic places as Nebraska. One of my favorite designers who has mastered this technique is Martha O'Hara.  Here are a few of my favorite rooms she's done - all pics from Houzz. 

And how about these gorgeous shots that I also found on Houzz that use neutrals with bright colors layered on top. It's so refreshing and fun but not forever. You could easily switch out pillows or lampshades or even a rug or two and change the entire look of these rooms.

I will do my very very best not to get lost in the Bermuda triangle...but hey, that would be one hell of an excuse for not writing right?