I’ve made another fun mood board - the imaginary client here was an extremely elegant, fabulous mystic to the stars on the Upper West Side of New York City. Don't you just love her?
You can find purchase details for each item pictured here.
I’ve made another fun mood board - the imaginary client here was an extremely elegant, fabulous mystic to the stars on the Upper West Side of New York City. Don't you just love her?
You can find purchase details for each item pictured here.
Want virtual help creating a decorating plan for the holiday season? Check out my special new holiday decorating package here!
It's hard to believe, but we are officially IN the holiday season. Yes, Thanksgiving is NEXT WEEK (eek!)
What are your intentions for the holiday season this year? Do you want to entertain more? Do you want to create a relaxing space to festively enjoy the snow (if you get any - I don't!) and some spiked hot chocolate (maybe that last idea is just me)?
So often, we don't start with the WHY in our decorating projects, be they seasonal or otherwise? But it's so important. For example, if you want to entertain more this season, you'll need a festive look for your home that's ready to party - think a celebratory bar cart and a stocked fridge.
Likewise, if you want to get cozy, you'll want to load up on super soft blankets and excessive amounts of pillows.
Once you have your intention, you can think about ways to decorate for the holidays that truly reflect your personal style. For example, I don't do red or green or ANYTHING country-chic. That's just me. What that means, however, is that my pre-made decorating options are limited. I want a clean, modern holiday look. Luckily, it's easy to get creative and repurpose non-traditional items with a more festive flair.
Below are some of my favorite looks for modern holiday decorating.
I adore creating mood boards for imaginary characters, who are often inspired by my friends! This mood board, The Millennial Love Witch, was inspired in part by my friend Veronica Varlow - the original Love Witch.
I love the mix of warm colors, prints, and varying textures, all accented with pops of sharp black. What do you think - would you rock this look in your parlor?
To get links to purchase any of the items pictured, visit the mood board on Houzz here.
This is an excerpt from my ¨Be Your Own Decorator!¨ online home decorating course. To purchase the full one-month course, sign up here.
Congratulations! You have officially finished the hardest part of this course!
I'm not kidding. I’m fact, I’m going to let you in on a secret. Clarifying your desires, choosing a focus, and setting goals for your space are the biggest, most challenging aspects of the home design process.
Unfortunately, many decorators and designers (in my opinion) spend little or no time on these soul-searching questions with their clients.
However, if you don’t dive deep BEFORE decorating, you’ll end up with a home that’s beautiful - but that’s it. It may not light you up or serve the functions needed for your lifestyle.
Once you have your intentions in place, the remaining choices you make (things like color, furniture placement, and accessorizing) will be much easier. Not only that, but having clarity on your own personal “why” of decorating will ensure that the choices you make are in fact bringing you closer to your goals and intentions. This means a lot less frustration of “I bought this, and changed that, and it doesn't even work for me!”
Today we're going to focus on the final piece of your redecorating foundation - it’s D-day, my friends. Yes, THAT D-word...decluttering.
I'm sorry, but no - you can't skip this part! You simply must declutter before decorating. If you don't, you'll find yourself working around a mess - not to mention considering things in your final design that you don't even need to begin with.
You owe it to your dreams to create a blank slate.
Besides, want to know one of the secret reasons why those rooms in design magazines always look so amazing? Because they aren't cluttered! This is a secret that home stagers use first and foremost in preparing a home for viewing. They simply tell their clients to remove two thirds of the “stuff” in the home.
I know that decluttering is a stressful topic for many - actually, most! - people. Not only is it challenging to let things go, but it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the process.
This is why I have made decluttering a Friday project. You have all weekend to work through it. And remember; for now, we’re only focusing on that single space that you’ve decided to transform in this course.
Don’t worry about being “perfect.” In my opinion, the drive for perfection is always the enemy. Let’s focus on action, and on making sure that the items you keep as you declutter serve your intentions for the space.
There are so many approaches to decluttering, and none of them work for everybody. Below is my personal method - the method I use with all of my decorating clients - that I find works well.
Feel free to skip around, add or subtract steps - this is your process! If you're unsure, I suggest following the steps in order to limit overwhelm.
Pick one corner to start. We are going to be purging and decluttering the entire space, one item at a time.
Starting from that corner and working clockwise, pick up one item at a time. It is very important to touch each and every item - no matter how small! This, I've found, is the only way to ensure that you truly cover everything without cheating and skipping over things.
For each item, you're going to determine which of four piles it will go into - definite keep, definite trash, donate, or action item/fix. Yes, this means you are removing everything from its original place and putting it into a pile. This may feel like a waste of time. However, I really encourage you to do it anyway - you want to fully clear the space before adding items back in. Read on for more specifics about how to decide which pile things will go into...
Definite keep - items you are certain you need and are truly functional for their purpose. Truly ask yourself, “Do I need this?” Not “everyone needs one of these” (when in reality you have never used the item in question). You may find multiples of the same item - keep them together so that when you're done, you can get rid of the duplicates if you have more than you need. Not sure if you need the item? Then guess what?You definitely don't need it (important documents exempt)!
Definite trash - think junk and broken items. Dried out markers, broken pieces of anything, little scraps of paper, things like that. If it's a piece of paper with sensitive information, feel free to shred it and recycle.
Donate - anything that can be reused, assuming you will take it to a donation center THIS WEEKEND! Duplicate yet perfectly good items, items that never quite worked for what you bought them for, clothing that doesn't fit, etc. If you know you are the type of person who does not take those bags to the donation center (no judgement!), then I suggest putting them visibly on your curb or next to your dumpster for the neighbors to pick through immediately. Give yourself a deadline of the end of the weekend to get rid of the items. Otherwise, the clutter in your bedroom (for example) will become the clutter in a bag in the corner - just as bad.
Action items - anything that has to be given back to its original owner, repaired, etc. Keep in mind that every item in this pile adds a line item onto your to-do list! When I go through this process with my in-person clients, I actually make a giant to-do list containing all of these action items. It really puts into perspective how many unfinished projects we have - and whether or not it may be time to let some go. If you have more things in this pile than you can handle in a weekend, you're better off just getting rid of them into another pile (like trash or donate!) Be honest with yourself!
Once every single item is in a pile, thoroughly clean - dust, vacuum, etc. - the area. If the area has furniture, pull it out from the wall and clean behind it. Be sure to fully take advantage of this opportunity. It’s likely you’ll come across some spots that haven’t been cleaned in quite some time!
Place the “definite keep” items back into your space. If you now realize the need for some kind of specific storage solution, take measurements and make a note of what you need. I won’t be covering specific storage ideas in this course, but if you have any questions after completing your decluttering, feel free to reply to this email and ask.
Donate the “donate” items - today or tomorrow!
Make your “action item” to-do list (include any shopping for specific storage solutions needed) and commit to completing it this weekend. Anything that doesn't get finished by the end-of-weekend deadline gets donated or goes in the trash. Period.
Another note on storage - it can be a seductive prospect. Container Store bender, anyone? But be careful - IT’S A TRAP!! The more storage you have, the more stuff you can hide that you don't even need to begin with. You're much better off reducing the stuff you have to as little as possible, and only then determining if you need added storage. If you decide that you truly need additional storage, take measurements of the size you need and/or the space you have, and take note of exactly what will go in that new storage container. This way, you are sure to buy the ONE container you need, rather than several containers that are pretty but just don't serve the purpose at hand.
Whew! This lesson is a big one. The process I have designated above is largely the general steps to follow - as always, if you have any questions, just hit “reply” and ask! I'm here for you.
By the end of the weekend, the space you're focusing on should be clean and less cluttered. On Monday we'll be starting on the fun parts - making it look good.
See you then!
Have you ever thought, “I wish a natural disaster would strike my house so I could get rid of all my stuff and start over!”? It’s a little morbid, but throughout my life I’ve heard many people utter this wish (be careful what you wish for!)
Of course, no one actually wishes for a disaster to strike their home. Instead, this dramatic dream is the result of feeling surrounded by – stifled by – possessions that hold little meaning for us.
It’s a first-world problem, for sure. However, I do not believe this is a problem only for the privileged. Even in my poorest days, I always took pride in creating a beautiful space that supported me, no matter how much I was struggling and how little time and money I had to devote to the endeavor.
The problem is this – no matter how carefully you curate your décor and edit your belongings, things sneak in.
There’s the typical unwanted clutter. Hand-me-downs or inherited “treasures” from well-meaning (and well-loved) relatives. Books lent to you that you don’t really want to read. Magazines that you intend to flip through or think you’ll reference again. Junk mail. Napkins and sauce packets and extra chopsticks from takeout.
Even trickier are the things we’ve brought into our homes on our own accord. Sometimes it’s a piece of furniture we purchase as a placeholder until we find (or feel we can afford) the piece we really want. Other times it’s a work of art or an element of décor we feel we have grown out of.
It can be much harder to let go of these belongings.
When it comes to the “placeholders”, we often feel that we NEED to keep them, even though they infuriate us on a daily basis. I once had a set of dining room chairs like this. They were old, creaky, and they gave me splinters (truly). Ever on the verge of breaking, they frequently required wood glue repairs and were too large for the table they provide seating for.
I had been looking for the perfect replacements but had struggled to find ones that were the proper size for the oddly-sized table, that were the style I envisioned, and that fit into my budget.
Of course, I wasn't really trying – after all, I had chairs to sit in! As someone who believes in the powers of intention and manifestation (even for something as seemingly mundane as the perfect set of chairs), I recognized that I was sending mixed messages to the universe.
So I got rid of them. I was confident (at least, I managed to feign confidence!) I would find the right ones the same week. Sure enough, I found a set of perfect condition chairs on Craigslist (yes, even decorators shop on Craigslist!) that were exactly what I had been looking for. The fact that I paid $100 for a set of chairs that sell for close to $1000 new made the victory all the sweeter.
When it comes to things we have outgrown, we are equally challenged. Several months ago I redid the art arrangement in my apartment. I consolidated most of the pieces into a single gallery wall in the dining room. I liked it, but deep down, I felt it was a bit much for the small room.
It looked fine, and I had been happy with my own ingenuity – rather than buying new art, I had rearranged what I already had!
One weekend I was talking to my husband and we both realized we were ambivalent (or worse) about many of the pictures hanging on the wall. Some were images I had framed as “like-them-well-enough” art and some had not-so-positive connotations. Some of the frames themselves were vestiges of a decorating concept long since passed. Some were original pieces I had created that I just didn’t connect to anymore.
The next day I started taking down pictures I felt “eh” about, just to see what happened. Before I knew it, the entire wall was empty. I had a huge pile to sell on Craigslist, a pile of photos to put in albums, and two framed pieces to keep.
It seems silly to describe the empty space as liberating, but in some small way, it really was. I realized that I hadn’t consciously chosen art in quite some time.
So I started over. It’s so freeing to have a clean slate. It’s easy to be afraid of that empty space, but if you learn to love it, you will realize that the possibilities really are endless. You will gain the clarity and intention needed to start in a new direction. Before you know it, you will fill the space with pieces you truly love.
Let’s face it – we ALL feel like we could use more money! In reality, however, cash flow is just one small part of living a truly prosperous and abundant life. I like to view prosperity in a more holistic way – it’s not just the money in your bank account but how you treat the cash in your wallet as well. It’s also so much more.
Prosperity is having close friends over for dinner and sharing what you have. It is cooking an amazing meal in your kitchen and serving it with love. It is taking care of what you own and having pride in what you do have, realizing it is more than enough. It is having a clean, comfortable home – no matter how sparse or how glamorous. Prosperity is always doing your best, and having the freedom to take time to enjoy life with your loved ones.
The study of the use of feng shui for prosperity often focuses on the prosperity area of the bagua system. According to the bagua system of feng shui, the home can be divided into nine areas that correspond with different areas of the life. Each area, or gua, has certain “cures” (elements, colors, and the like) that can be utilized to encourage growth in that area.
The prosperity gua is the far left corner of your home, from the perspective of your front door. Of course, prosperity really does relate to each part of your life, so it isn’t enough to just spruce up your prosperity gua with purple and green, as recommended. For example, the “helpful people and travel”, “fame and reputation”, “health” and well, just about every other area influence or are influenced by your sense of prosperity!
This is why I want to draw the focus away from the bagua system and towards holistic practices that will promote prosperity in your home and your life. You will probably notice that many of these practices operate on both a practical and spiritual/mindset level.
1. In Chinese (and Western) tradition, as well as in feng shui, the kitchen is said to be the center of the house. Make sure it is clean and organized (which will reduce waste and save money as well)! In particular, keep your refrigerator clean and tidy, stocked with food, and free of anything rotting. Even if the fridge looks a little empty, give it a cleaning and organize its contents. Take pride in what you do have and express thanks.
2. While you’re in the kitchen, take special note of the state of your stove. In the tradition of feng shui, a stove with many burners is thought to be lucky and a sign of prosperity, since it shows you are wealthy and generous enough to cook for a crowd. No matter how many burners you have, make sure they are all clean and work properly. Make a point to rotate which ones you use so they all get some love.
3. Make sure your wallet is neat and organized. If your wallet itself is ancient and beat up, it might be a good time to invest in a new one, if you have the funds. Otherwise, give it a good cleaning! Remove any old receipts, business cards, or other trash (including dirt). Organize your paper money so that it isn’t crumpled up or facing different directions. Treat coins with respect (have a spot for them in your wallet, and use them). Trying to cut down on your credit card spending? Then it’s a great time to cut up your credit cards, or at least take them out of your wallet!
4. Invite friends over on a regular basis, no matter how small your home is. It can be for a formal dinner, a potluck, cocktails, dessert and coffee, snacks and board games – it’s up to you! The idea is to fill your home with warm, loving energy and lots of laughter. Besides, nothing makes me feel more prosperous than sharing my home with friends and treating them to delicious food and drinks!
5. Don’t be afraid to have children over (particularly if you don’t have children of your own). In feng shui, children are thought to have auspicious energy and are lucky to have around. Even if you have no desire to have children, occasionally allowing your friends to bring their children over to visit can fill a home with happy, anything-is-possible energy.
6. Keep your home clean! I’ll admit it – I frequently use #3 as an excuse to do so, and that’s perfectly okay. Of course, it is important to keep your home clean for yourself as well. When possible, go the extra mile in your cleaning – the fun stuff like vacuuming behind furniture and cleaning baseboards or hard-to-reach places. Regularly going the extra mile in private will encourage you to do so in public, which will be a boon to your professional life!
7. When you clean, make a conscious effort to infuse your home with good, prosperous intentions. Try an affirmation (spoken aloud or in your head!) as you clean, such as “My home and life are full or prosperity and abundance. I am grateful to have more than enough.” Skeptical? If you don’t feel amazing by the end of your cleaning session, I’ll be shocked!
8. If you want to get a little witchy, try this folk charm for prosperity someone taught me once. Stuff a jar with a green leafy vegetable, like spinach or kale. Fill the jar with bourbon whisky (bonus points if it’s the good stuff!) and put the lidded jar on a windowsill. Any time you feel you need a little financial boost (or every morning) shake up the jar and focus on money coming towards you. Really feel how excited you would be to receive it – no matter how small the amounts. Think about all of the places it might come from. This really helps me remember that opportunities are always around every corner.
9. Go through your home and (permanently) remove reminders of any broke or bad times in your life. This might include picture, books, clothing, anything! If you find items that are literally broken, get rid of them or fix them right away.
10. Conversely, fill your home with reminders of prosperity. This can be as simple as an inspiration board full of images that illustrate your idea of abundance, wealth, and luxury. If you have now-empty picture frames from #7, fill them with any particularly powerful images you find! You can also arrange your finest jewelry, foreign money from travel, or any other little reminders of prosperity on a little altar or tableau. Get creative – there are no right or wrong ways to do this; you’ll know what feels right.
Which of these practices are you going to use to bring prosperity and abundance into your home and life? Do you have any success stories – or prosperity practices of your own?
It is said that unnecessary clutter drags us down, fills up our lives, prevents new opportunities and relationships from forming, and encourages a lack of confidence in the possibilities of the future. I happen to agree with these points, with the addition of one – aesthetically, clutter is just ugly!
I have been more or less obsessed with decluttering ever since I read Karen Kingston’s Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui: Free Yourself from Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual Clutter Forever when I was a young teenager (yes, I was a strange kid).
So many books and blogs talk about the importance of removing excess clutter from your life; but fewer address the problem of just not being able to. This challenge has come up in multiple conversations lately, and to be honest, initially I couldn’t relate. I’ve always been a purger in my home – even when my home was just a room in a house.
However, once I started thinking about it, I realized that for my whole life, my space felt cluttered. No matter how much I purged, I always felt stifled by clutter.
It was when I read the Marie Kondo’s much-applauded book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, everything changed. In her book, she states her decluttering philosophy simply as follows – get rid of anything that doesn’t bring you joy.
In fact, she goes further to say that rather than just getting rid of things that don’t bring you joy, you should instead choose only to keep things that bring you joy. It’s a semantic difference, but a powerful one. Rather than choosing what to get rid of, you are choosing what to keep.
Kondo even states that if you don’t follow this philosophy, and go through everything “all in one go” (which, she concedes, might take a few months) you will continuously find yourself decluttering and getting rid of things for the wrong reasons. As a result, you will eventually fill that hole with other things, and will thus always have clutter.
This was the missing piece for me! I always had clutter because I had followed conventional decluttering advice of just getting rid of things I didn’t use anymore or didn’t need. I had never considered what brought me joy – or didn’t.
However, my true takeaway was that there are many more decluttering philosophies out there than I had realized. Perhaps the secret was just to find the one philosophy that really “clicked” in your brain. After all, you can understand something on an intellectual level, but if you can’t feel its importance, you won’t put that advice into action.
Even though Marie Kondo would not approve, I have listed out a number of decluttering philosophies below in the form of questions to ask yourself about why you do or don’t want to get rid of your clutter.
Do any of these questions trigger you into action? Try asking each question on different items in your home and see what happens. If you realize the question speaks to something that deeply matters to you (the most important part of this!) – and the answer to the question is no – get rid of the item!
1. Does this item bring me joy?
2. Do I use this item?
3. Do I already have another of this item?
4. Do I have another item I love that serves the same purpose of this item?
5. Does this item work?
6. Does this item bring up happy memories?
7. Does this item remind me of my goals for the future?
8. Do I feel positively about this item?
9. Do I feel positively about the person who gave me this item?
10. Do I find this item beautiful?
11. Does this item have a place in my life, as I live it, today?
12. Does this item blend into my current visual aesthetic?
13. Does this item make my life easier?
14. Does this item make me smile?
15. Do I hope to pass down this item to younger members of my family?
16. Do I truly believe the younger members of my family will want and use this item?
17. Does this item serve a memory in a better or stronger way than the memory itself?
18. Do I feel happy when I use this item?
19. Does this item serve a purpose that cannot be replaced by a free resource like the library, internet, or borrowing from a friend?
20. Does this item encourage me to be the best version of myself imaginable?
To anyone who has every stepped inside my apartment, it’s no secret that I am obsessed with old (or old-sounding) music.
When I’m at home during the day working in solitude, the voices of Ella (Fitzgerald), Billie (Holiday), and Dinah (Washington) make my space feel full of life and far less lonely. In fact, I often catch myself referring to said ladies on a first-name basis or simply as my “jazz friends.”
Sometimes, I want to be transported to a 1930s Parisian café, in which case I put on some Edith Piaf. For years, I have espoused a bottle of wine or a pot of black tea and an Edith Piaf album on repeat as the best imaginable, most effective cure for depression or a breakup.
Perhaps I want to fast-forward in time yet continue to stay in Paris, stepping into a more modern, beatniky café, in which case my Gotan Project Pandora station is the ticket. When I want to embrace the summer heat and remember traveling adventures, I play Buena Vista Social Club.
More so than new furniture or a fresh coat of paint (not to mention cheaper and less labor-intensive), a change in soundtrack is the ultimate way to redecorate your reality. Music is not only capable of transporting us to a different time and place. It allows us to actually become someone else – whenever it serves us.
When I was working as a professional entertainer and I need inspiration for a show I was developing, I changed the music. I became a Prohibition-era starlet or a Vegas showgirl from the 1950s. I always found the inspiration I needed.
When I’m having trouble writing in my apartment and don’t want to go out in the rain to a coffee chain, I brew a cup in the French press and get back to that Parisian café, where I am surrounded by intellectual artists. Their creativity flows through my laptop as if through osmosis.
When friends come over at the last minute, instead of worrying about the mess, I dim the lights and play gypsy jazz legend Django Reinhardt. Suddenly the meal tastes so much better – and my friends are left wondering if I have ulterior motives.
If you’re not inspired by your own tunes, it’s time for a music do-over. Try exploring some of the suggestions I’ve gushed about. When you visit a friend, ask for their favorite music of the moment (and put it directly on your iPod, as I do!). I’m busy, so I don’t like to spend a lot of time looking for new music – I like it to find me. Online “jukeboxes” are lovely for this.
This week, invite a few of your own “jazz (or other genre) friends” over. Who do you want to bring into your living room tonight – and what will they teach you?
The psychology of color exists – but not in the way you might think.
Indeed, color affects the way we feel. This might sound like utter new-age nonsense, but marketers, advertising executives, and commercial interior designers (amongst many others) been taking advantage of this knowledge for ages.
Restaurants have long used the color red in their interiors, which has been allegedly been found to increase appetite. Combined with the color yellow which is associated with happiness, the world’s largest restaurant chain has a recognizable and effective color palette to serve their business desires.
Ever wonder why blue is so prevalent in the color branding of banks? The color has been associated with trust in a number of psychological studies.
All that said, the psychology of color is a lot more complicated than these trite and expected examples make it seem. It is true that the concept is exalted in marketing and branding. It is also true that psychological studies have demonstrated that people are affected emotionally by the colors they are surrounded by.
However, the reality is that individual associations with different colors is completely informed by personal experience. One person’s upbringing and culture will result in a completely different view of certain colors than another person’s. Most importantly, personal preference deeply affects how color is viewed.
Even if you have not given thought to your favorite color since elementary school, there are undoubtedly colors you love and colors you loathe – as well as colors that fit certain moods and colors that fit others.
I’ll use myself as an example. Personally, I do consider red to be a color of excitement (whether it excites my appetite or another aspect of my life). Yellow certainly makes me happy, and cooler colors like blues and purples calm me.
On the other hand, I’m not a huge fan of green (particularly in decorating) – while it works in other people’s colors palettes, I don’t usually choose it for my own. So no matter how much I hear that it symbolizes prosperity and a healthy family, I’m probably not going to frequently consider adding it to my decorating scheme.
Or I might. Once I moved into a stark white apartment, and accents of black and green just…worked.
I may choose other colors in rooms that are not usually associated with the typical moods they evoke. For example, at different times in my life I had both a deep red bedroom and a black bedroom. Rather than being too loud or depressing (as typical interpretations of each color might suggest), both rooms were in fact quite cozy.
Sometimes the colors dominating my preferred palettes change over time. For quite a while I was drawn to warm colors – reds, deep oranges, reddish pinks and purples. Like my previous experiences with the color green, there may come times when you too suddenly find yourself drawn to certain colors inexplicably. Recently I began decorating with more blue (cobalt is my preferred shade) than ever before.
Call me superstitious, but I do think that these changes in taste reflect changes in your life – both changes you are already going through as well as changes you aspire to make. When I changed my mind about green, I choose it without thinking, and was surprised with my choices after the fact.
It just so happened that I was in the middle of a period of extreme life changes at that moment. I really believe the necessity of my being open to the many changes I was facing pushed me to get out of my comfort zone in another, more subtle way at the time – experimenting with a new color.
I began choosing blue as I entered my 30s and found myself yearning for a bit more calmness and space for introspection. Despite my use of a bold cobalt blue color, the newly decorated areas of my apartment are slowly feeling more relaxed and sophisticated – to me.
When you choose colors to surround yourself with, it can be helpful to use traditional associations with color as a jumping-off point in your explorations of various palettes. Yet it is important to pay even close attention to how certain colors make you feel.
Are you drawn to certain colors? Ask yourself why. Your own associations with certain colors may be different from those that have supposedly been established.
Focus on how you feel when you are surrounded by various colors in different situations. Once you have an idea of how color affects you, turn the gaze to your home. How do you want to feel at home? Are the colors in your decorating palette creating the moods you desire?