Cozy & Comfortable: Creating Personal Spaces

Opening Image

Yes it’s snowing and freezing again. But as a variation on last week’s theme, I still love the peace of January. Often we get called to decorate or design grand common spaces such as living rooms, foyers, and glamorous kitchens. While they represent form and function, these areas are for gatherings – presenting your home, making an impression. Everyone is different, we love to accommodate every person’s design desires when it comes to these spaces.

But what is really inspiring for us and helps us to get to know our clients is designing their personal spaces.  The places where you show your true self, where you want to be alone.  Nooks, dens, window benches, reading niches, bedrooms, desks, alcoves, and outdoor spaces. These are somehow more intimate, and are really a peak inside of….well you. It’s the place you go to rejuvenate, recalibrate, or just breathe if you need to. Organize your personal space, organize…well, your life.

Room and window1 | 2

These little  “get-aways” inside your daily routine have some commonalities to consider:

1. Carve out your niche – it doesn’t have to be big, just a place that is all for you. No kids, no work, no bills (visible), no PTO reminders. Make it a place where you enjoy hanging out and being you. I would go so far as to say, limit electronics. But let’s be real here.

window seat and desk1 | 2

2. Make it your own  – as Designers, we often have to “clean-up” a space. Sometimes personal items impede a house sale, or too much of it is overwhelming and puts too much out there in those common areas. For your personal retreat surround yourself in items meaningful for you: Photos, books, cards, mementos, found objects, anything that makes you happy or joyful.

Desk and window seat1 | 2

3. Create beauty – This is a place for a little luxury. A pretty fabric on a chair, a comfy settee, a shearling or sheepskin throw, a gorgeous lamp. Add artwork that again resonates within you, and add some personal items to comfort the soul.

Bath and chair1 | 2

4. Organize – Now this one is a hard one for me too. But find beautiful containers, bins and baskets to hide away the clutter. More stuff creates chaos. And this is the place you want the opposite of that. This may be the place you “get it done” but keep it in check and you will feel more accomplished.

Chair and hammock1 | 2

In our efforts to keep life, families, and work under control, we need to reflect upon ourselves and create a little personal “get-away” at home (and remember to  take the time to go there!). We will all be much happier and productive in the end! If we can’t take a true break (ala the image by the pool), let’s all give ourselves one at home!



Opening Image: Domaine Home


Cat and Shamrock

It’s not the luck of the Irish we need. It’s a greener lifestyle. We are constantly bombarded with options for greener living today. The color green has been popular in Design for many years now, influenced by the movement toward a healthier way of life, a purer existence, a cleaner way of living.  It can all be very confusing, but we do the best we can!

Green design has exploded over the years with products with low VOC paints and wallcoverings, energy saving appliances and lighting, and zero carbon footprint carpets. There’s up-cycled, recycled, and repurposed as design options. Many great sustainable and beautiful products with more and more options exist. It’s almost becoming a requirement to be LEED certified as a Designer in some markets. I continually tell clients that these products are usually more than the less environmentally friendly products. It’s more work, and more expensive to bring these exciting products to market, but worth it in the end.

LR and Fashion1 | 2

Emerald Green was all the rage last year, as the Pantone color of the year, (see “Follow the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City -Part I“). We were flooded with images of green used in new and exciting ways in the home. Where green was always considered taboo in the kitchen, associated with rotting food, it’s now a fresh alternative and linked to the healthiest food options with power packing kale, spinach, and other “farm to table” selections that are so good for us.

Green and LR1 | 2

Green is associated with nature and the color of Spring which we all so crave at this point in the year, When we use green inside, it brings the outdoors in, and we all love and need some organic qualities in our homes.  Green brings us piece of mind, peace in our hearts (the color of the heart chakra), and a quite place to regroup and find our happy (and lucky!) place in our homes.

For more thoughts on the color green, see blog posts: Follow the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City -Part IFeeling Lucky?…Don’t Take a Chance on Design, Emerald Green Part II: Celebrating Earth Day and Green Design and my Pinterest Boards Color of the Year-Green, and Greener Living


Opening Image Source: 1 | 2


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What’s Your Angle? Balance for Design & Life

Carrie-Angle Pose

With the time change, we are all thrown off. Out of whack, out of balance. It’s funny how one hour can set you back, or forward in this case.

Staircase + chair

Angles are everywhere in design and in our lives. They help us with balance and structure, setting a strong foundation to grow and build upon. There is something about the geometry of design that either makes an object or space feel right or feel a little off. While we enjoy a little “imbalance” in our lives to shake things up a bit, setting a strong base, will keep us on track when the world is ever changing around us, or even simply when the time changes.

Table + chandelier + bedroom1 | 2 | 3

Last year, one of our best posts, was about the “chair” pose in yoga and the chairs that inspire us (See “Have a Chair Pose“). I went again to my lovey friend and knowledgeable yogi, Carrie Green, who teaches at the Kohler Spa in Wisconsin. Here are her thoughts on angle poses.

Carrie +StoolArchilenta

Yoga is about balance. What starts as a practice in physically finding balance in different poses can ultimately lead to finding increased balance in one’s life. Each asana or yoga pose is created and built from the ground up. Energetically, a foundation is established, rooting into the earth. Moving through the body, physics is critical to balance.

The human body naturally creates these geometric shapes and angles. It is these foundational structures of the body that offer strength or sthira in poses. It’s complement is softness or sukha. The balance between sthira and sukha, strength and softness brings beauty to each pose. A weightlessness can be found when these two elements are combined through breath and awareness. 

chair + coffee table1 | 2

Design is the same. A strong foundation and then mixing angles (hard), with curvilinear (soft) forms, structures, and objects. This just feels right to our eyes, our brains, and our hearts.

Carrie +chair + Linda1 | 2 |3

So take a breath, and be aware of the geometry and architecture of the world around you. You will be surprised what you discover, even in your own home. And embrace this transition into Spring, this transition in time, flow through it, you will find your balance, no matter what your angle.

 Poses are Carrie Green at home in Sheboygan, WI. Final image is Linda Smith of Blulens Design and Photography

2nd Image Sources: Staircase here and chair here.


Time After Time: Taking Pause in 2014


It’s here. My favorite time of year. A new year, a fresh start. Whether it’s a New Year’s Resolution or a new beginning. It’s a wonderful time to reset, replenish, and regroup. Give your soul a break, or a jumpstart, whichever is needed.

This is the time of year that the entire holiday bustle comes down and we reflect on the blank canvas of our lives. Our walls? Or our beings? It’s time to reset the clock and take pause in who we want to be. Is it healthier, wealthier, or wiser? Or none of these? Can you look around the blank walls and just appreciate the now. The empty canvas. The who you are today, not who you want to be tomorrow.

kitchen and scale w/clocks1 | 2

Sometimes when the resolutions fall short, we look in the mirror and feel regret. But why? We do the best we can. We can stay the course, or try a new direction, but if we stop trying to test time, move time, or recreate time….sometimes the beauty is in the present. In being present, in living in the moment. That’s something I’ve learned along the way.

Clocks and table1 | 2

So embrace the clock. It’s going to keep ticking into the future. It can’t move backwards, only forward. Reflected in our face, or in our homes, let’s turn to 2014 with an open mind and open heart.

Happy New Year, Best Dawn

happy new year




Opening Image Source:Little Helsinki


Appreciating Second Chances: A Reflection

Cook family

This week is full of anniversaries. Our 17th wedding anniversary on the 12th. On Thursday the 17th, it will be the two-year anniversary of my heart surgery. Sophie has the same teacher in 3rd grade that Cooper had two years ago. Today is her birthday. All these anniversaries give me pause for reflection.

Coopers class

Dawn with Cooper’s 3rd grade class – Fernway School, Fall 2011

Consequently, this time of year makes me happy, and sad, and melancholy, and….grateful. I have been filled with emotion in October as I recall all the good and bad things that have happened during the beauty of Fall here in Northeast Ohio.

Last weekend, I spent time with college friends. My lovely friend in Lexington, KY is celebrating her one-year wedding anniversary this month as well. As I got caught up with her on how she and her 13yr old are doing, I also got to see the gorgeous wedding photography she had taken at a beautiful Southern estate. She certainly is celebrating a second chance at wedded bliss.

Wedding shotsSecond chances sometimes aren’t as big as what I’ve described above. Sometimes it’s about recycling your grandmother’s favorite chair. Or clearing out the clutter and starting over in the same space. Or just packing up, and moving to a new and different home.

We’ve had empty nesters sell their homes and move into condos downtown. We’ve had people downsize and upsize, and we’ve have clients redecorate the same space many times. We’ve even had clients argue over furnishings in a divorce, and then argue who got to keep the Designer. (For the record, we were able to continue to help everyone!)

There’s so much emotional content attached to our things, our homes, our spaces. But although they are beautiful, (and sometimes heirloom quality!) In the end, they are just objects with a lot of memories, good or bad attached to them.

So in reflection this week of the many anniversaries, and in honor of my lovely friend Natalie, give something a second chance – either in your heart or your home. You’ll appreciate it in the end.

Wedding shoe shot



Opening Image Photography: Linda Smith of Blulens



Paying It Forward…. Random Acts of Kindness

Princess Diana Quote

When I started this blog, I wanted to discuss more than just Design. I needed to speak about what is important to me. After being where I have been, see (Be Still My Beating Heart….), it’s hard not to be continually floored by how kind and generous people can be. Random people. Everyday people. Yes, we all complain about “those people”, the ones who bother us, drive us crazy, or even those we are just a little bit jealous of. But in reality, there are so many just great people out there. When do we celebrate them? If your life is touched  by a few of them, you are blessed.

And I don’t come at this from a religious or spiritual position. It’s just life. Think about it.

The other day Brian was in the grocery store with the kids, he overheard a woman behind him getting some unexpected bad news on a call. After the call, he asked her ‘How is your day?” When she replied “Horrible!”, he gave the cashier extra money and paid for her groceries, and left, never waiting for an acknowledgment or thanks. How did I hear about it? Sophie told me. So happy she watched, and learned this lesson.

Big or small, you remember these moments. When in the Cardiac ICU, I will never forget the nurse Nancy, who mothered me, and let me grip her hand until it was white, who looked after my parents, calmed my fears.  Now this wasn’t a random act of kindness, you many say it was her job, but she truly cared about me and my family’s well-being. It was much more.

Last night at the Blossom Music Center for the Pixar Concert by the Cleveland Orchestra (which was fabulous by the way…) we had lawn seats and a picnic to celebrate Sophie’s 8th Birthday. While we chatted with the couples wining and dining next to us, the sky opened up and thunder and lighting ensued. Sophie, who still has fear of storms, was not pleased. The couple handed us their four pavilion tickets and said “Happy Birthday” and continued on with their party in the elements, while we enjoyed the sounds of the orchestra in the comfort of the amphitheater.

Friends, and teachers, and mentors, and work associates all influence us with kindness. We all have people we respect in our circles. But think of the randomness. Think of the souls that we are all connected too in some way. I do believe that things all happen for a reason. Good or bad, large or small. Just think about it this week, and take the time to do something a little uncomfortable, a little unexpected, a little kind. But most importantly, remember to be kind to yourself….that’s the hardest part!

What unexpected acts of kindness have you experienced in your life?


Diet Confusion or Design Confusion?

Reflecting girl

I started a new wellness program last week. It’s called the Fast Metabolism Diet, by Hayley Pomroy. It’s essentially a 28 day cleanse. No caffeine, alcohol, dairy, wheat, soy, sugar…so yeah, I’m a joy to be around right now! But I had to do something.

After the heart surgery, nearly 2 years ago now, I had such diet confusion. I had no risk factors. No high cholesterol, no high blood pressure, no anything! Afterwards, I did the required cardiac rehab program and learned about the good fats, bad fats, trans fats, etc. Stuff I already knew. I met with the nutritionist who said, great job keep eating the way you are. Well, where did that get me?

I really didn’t know whether to be vegan, or just eat, drink, and be merry because really, I was alive! The most ironic part of this whole scenario is after I had Sophia seven years ago; I worked out like a manic and lost a ton of weight. I was in the best physical shape of my life BEFORE this all happened. So part of me just needed to get through the mad, the why me, and just be happy to be here. Instead of being the mega-healthy restrictive dieter, I went the other way and said – “Just Live!”

Well, now I need to do what’s right and get it all back under control. So I am detoxing, de-everything, and trying to clear out, and figure out what really works for me. It’s a process, but I know it’s the right thing to do.

So how does this relate to design? Maybe it doesn’t but I see “Design Confusion” every day in my job. Am I Modern or Contemporary? Do I like stark Gustavian Swedish, or Mid-Century eclectic? Do I like bright colors or warm neutrals? And the dreaded “Transitional” style, a catch all for “Just Update my Décor!”?

Most clients I believe are a mix of everything, and truly that is what appeals to most of us. We like our creature comforts, icons that we grew up with, but also the styles from pop culture that draws us today. I rarely see the true style loyalist. The only design style we need to worry about, is the one that most reflects who we want to be in our homes. And what works for us. Isn’t that the same as the diet? It has to work with our lifestyle, it has to be functional and get results, and most of all we have to look good when we are done! That’s exactly the same objectives of a design project.

And most importantly, like a good nutritional plan, there’s no end (so much for my 28 days)…. It’s an ongoing evolution and process that changes with the demands of our lifestyles. In design, our tastes change, and so does our palette of decor.

No more deliberating, or confusion, let’s pick a plan and get some results!

QuoteImage Source: Nancy Ray Photography 

Opening Image Source: Image Source: Unicorn/Dream Magazine


Follow My Own Advice: Take A Breathe

Black and White Blowing

When I started this blog, I planned to use it as a means to release through words. Yes, I want to pass on insightful design knowledge and foster my business. But I truly gain great joy from writing…and sharing. So once in awhile, you may just get something a bit different.

With all the craziness of the Communion, Mother’s Day, the month of May events, end of school activities, work, and everything else, I often forget to breathe. We all do, literally, and figuratively. My poor Cooper can’t breathe from seasonal allergies, I can’t breathe from stress.

Yet I am thankful for every breathe. After my surgery, I literally could not breathe. It hurt to take… A. breathe. Just one breathe. My lovely yogi friend Carrie taught me how to breathe again.

PausePhoto Source: Valued Based Leader

I need to continue to remember this.  Yet despite all the years of yoga practice, I still have locked up issues that keep me from mastering many poses. But most importantly during each session, I remember how to breathe during that hour of bliss. Remember, just breathe…in…out…it sounds cliché, but so true.

During all the commotion this past week, Brian (the hubby)  told me I should become a Buddhist. You know “accept for what you cannot change”. According to the Buddhist Centre…”An enlightened being sees the nature of reality absolutely clearly, just as it is, and lives fully and naturally in accordance with that vision”. This does have its possibilities. Especially given that I come from a long line of hyperactive, OCD, Type-A personalities.

 Relaxing in chair

Photo Source: MP Greek

Continuing on that note, yesterday for Mother’s Day, we took the Moms for a visit to the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the visited the new Focus Gallery which has an amazing Tantra in Buddhist Art exhibit. Sophie proceeded to tell me what the eight limbs represent, Cooper tells me the fundamentals of the culture….enlightening! This gives new meaning to being “mindful in the moment”. I realize I need to listen a little better. Be accepting. Start mediating….breathe.

MeditatingPhoto Source: Clean Cuisine

So, take my advice. And I will to. Take a breathe. Every single one counts. Good or bad. The next one will be better. Enjoy the house in disarray, the leaking faucet (really??), the ugly curtains (well, those I would pull down), But most importantly, take a breathe and enjoy the moment, you won’t get it back again, but if your lucky, you will get another one.



Opening Image Photography: Katies Kustom Photography


Moss Chair

Happy Earth Day!

Today we think about our carbon footprint, sustainable living, and a greener planet. It’s a wonderful day to celebrate the earth and focus on a healthier and more responsible lifestyle.

In our continued efforts to “think green”, what are small changes we can make to incorporate some of these aspects into our own homes? And still come up with beautiful design? Even Designers struggle with how to do this on some levels. When I think of green design, I think of LEED certified commercial spaces that are clean and modern and have the coolest sustainable technology.

Roof top green space

Designed by: Frits de Vries Architect Photography by: Lucas Finlay

A few years ago, a group of designer got to tour the Adam Joseph Lewis Center at Oberlin College for Environmental Sustainable studies. It is one of the most amazing things I have ever seen in the green design world. With a living “Green Machine” that recycles wastewater, and a climate controlled system that continually regulates the balance of “energy used to energy produced”, this is the pinnacle of green living. A building that supports its own functionally and leaves no impact on the environment. If you are in the Cleveland area…worth the visit…a must!

But reality wise – how do we add a little “emerald” to our lives on a daily basis?

1) Walls: Zero VOC paints – this past week was “National Paint Week”, a good opportunity to try the new Sherwin-Williams paint – Emerald, or Benjamin Moore – Aura. Both high quality, good for your home choices. Be smart about what you put on the walls in your home, its good for the environment and your family.

Green walls and furnitureDesigned by: Kishani Perera

2) Lights: LED and CFL bulbs – We are all trying to save on energy-efficiency and switch to better lighting options. CFLs are a good alternative for closets, garages, basements, and storage areas. CFLs are not a good choice for table lamps, foyers, ceiling lights, bathrooms and kitchens. They turn our skin, paint colors, and food green…not something we want. LEDs are still directional in their light output. So they are a good choice for recessed lights, under cabinet lights, outdoor lighting, and art lights. Still not a good choice for table lamps. But this technology is truly something that is developing at an incredible pace. stay tuned…

3) Water: Plumbing fixtures– We all need to replace a toilet or faucet occasionally. Even when we aren’t in the mist of a major renovation. I spend a lot of time thinking about toilets believe it or not. And the world is switching to duel-flush options…yes this means what it says…you figure it out. But seriously, between that and faucets and showerhead with flow restrictors, you can majorly cut down on your water usage. I’ve been to Kohler, WI. Some amazing options there. Even one change here can drastically reduce your water bills.

BathroomImage Source: Linen and Lavender

4) Glass: Window Treatments – This isn’t just about how your windows are constructed; it’s how you cover them. Many clients don’twant window treatments to cover their pretty windows. But controlling the sun exposure into your home, helps nature save on your heating/cooling bills. Major coverage such as black-out roman shades, can significantly block drafts and sun. But even gauzy casement panels absorb a lot of heat transfer. Plus they add a decorative element that softens up the room. Window treatments aren’t just pretty they are functional. Window films also add a huge benefit in cutting heat transfer, and protecting your lovely fabric investments; in today’s world they are clear and pack a huge technological punch in greening up our homes.

michaelabramsDesigned by: Michael Abrams Limited

5) Décor: Furniture, fabrics and flooring – So many to choose from. It’s not just about bamboo flooring anymore. Some of my favorite green residential companies are Hartmann and Forbes for natural woven shades, Interface Flor for carpet tiles, Cambria for quartz countertops, Pollack textiles for fabric, and Lee Furniture Industries. All these companies have green philosophies that are integral to their design aesthetic. Something we can truly appreciate to save our planet!

lee industries furniture shot

Designed by: Allison Jaffe Photography by: Brio Photography

6) Bring the Outdoors In – simply said, outdoor organic elements in the home will add to indoor air quality, improve our stress levels, and help us commune with nature, its good feng shui! Bring it rocks, water, branches, or plants, natural green materials add life and wellness to our homes.

A lot of this is nothing new, but real design. It’s conversations I have on a daily basis with clients, vendors, and other Designers. Today we may not be able to incorporate “the green machine” but we can all try on a little “Emerald Green” and make our homes a better place.



Have a Seat….in Chair Pose


Carrie Green, friend and yoga instructor, at home in her mid-century designed lake house in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

Every great Designer is enthralled with chairs. From French Fauteuil to classic Barcelona. There’s something about the silhouette, the architecture, the sheer beauty of the design that fascinates us and also challenges us. I love picking really different chairs as accents for my client. And this isn’t about form over function, they have to work within their beauty – is the client tall or short, like a cushy or firm seat, need back support, or prefer to sink in? These are all factors when picking the perfect chair.

Upon a recent visit to the recently reveled interactive Gallery One at the Cleveland Museum of Art, screens pulled up a “Chair tour” through the museum. I can’t wait to go back when I am “kidless” and explore such an appropriate topic! Such amazing technology and a wonderful collection of chair design through the Ages in our own backyard.

But what is it about the chair? Last week in yoga I struggled with the classic chair pose. The whole time I’m in it, I want to be out of it. Yet there is a marriage of design and yoga, (yes I am getting cerebral on you) that makes a house a home.

I asked my friend and yoga expert, Carrie Green, to elaborate on this idea:

“Chair pose (Utkatasana) translates as “powerful or fierce.”  This yoga asana, or posture, maintains the function of strengthening the leg muscles, massaging the abdominal organs including the heart, and toning the back.  Through proper alignment, one’s body constructs a “chair.”  While practicing this deeply challenging pose, an internal heat builds to help detoxify the body while challenging one’s mental focus and strength.  

Yoga means to join together mind, body and spirit.  The asanas in yoga, while lengthening and strengthening our bodies give us a window into our mental states.  Oftentimes we approach a physical challenge unaware of the tension we hold.  The art of yoga is to practice movement while using our breath to begin to let go.  Chair pose is practicing for those moments in life that hold their greatest challenge.  When we learn to find a steady, calm focus and as we pair it with deep breath, we begin to let go, moving out of our legs and into a steady mental space.  

Yoga is a moving meditation and when we come to sit at the end of our practice in either a fabulous, functional chair or find that we are without one, but our own strength to support us, allow your space to be about letting go and surrendering into the moment you are in.  It is in the present that we have our greatest power and in seeing what is right in front of us, we find the beauty and openness to begin to live every moment and breath with strength and grace.”

So take a look at these fabulous chairs I love. All different shapes and sizes, which style do you prefer? Take a breathe and have a seat!