As I contemplated what to write this week in honor of Mother’s Day, I spent a lot of time filtering through old pictures. Pictures of my Mom and me, me with the kids when they were babies, family pictures, my Grandmothers. Linda and Sadie did the same to. It’s funny to see the different eras our lives span. Linda’s classic photo with her Mom in her mid-century Easter dress, Me with my Mom and my brother with our Kmart special photo shoot (because that’s what they used to do!), and Sadie with her super cute pics that have that ‘90’s look going. It made me quite nostalgic, and really hearing everyone say “kids grow up in a blink of an eye”, its so true.


Dawn with her Mom and brother, Sophie, & Cooper at various ages

As I think about those different generations, things were so different. Kids didn’t have the activities they have now, the sports, and sports and more sports. I think I didn’t live that kind of schedule until high school and college. Even now, Sadie and Cooper can talk the same lingo about soccer and ski club because their lives overlap! When I was young, I was a latch key kid at 9 years old, and came home everyday to a few hours of TV. I feel like I may have played one sport, in the summer, maybe.

Now, I can’t stand the Month of May. Trying to manage the schedule between games, practices, rehearsals, performances, try-outs, band concerts, first communions, and graduations is mind-boggling. The phrase, “It Takes a Village” is epic – and certainly true, thank you former first lady and first mom, Hilary Clinton. I wouldn’t be able to survive my crazy work schedule, and the kid schedule without Brian’s help and all the carpools we have going.


Linda with her Mom, and daughters, Cori and Taylor

But truly, Mother’s Day is everyday. Our kids need to remember that, and so do we. A therapist once said to me, “You truly can’t understand a situation until you have experienced it yourself.” You can try to be compassionate, empathetic, but to truly live it, that is understanding. Friends that have lost Mothers understand this; I see the look that passes between two people who share this sadness. Just like I can know someone who has had a major health scare, we get each other. As Moms, we all know where our Mothers were, either doing a good job, or failing miserably, we all get it. We are both of those mothers now occasionally.


Sadie at various stages of young cuteness with her Mom and sisters

If anything, thank your Mom for her good taste or her best effort, or that she has helped you set your own compass forward with your parenting style. Most importantly, honor yourself this Mother’s Day. Whether you are a mom of kids, pets, “husbands”, friends. or even your own parents,  we all do our best and truly, isn’t that all that matters?

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there! From our team, Dawn, Linda & Sadie


RED: Go Red For Women & Another Year

hear and wear red

I’m seeing Red. Because it’s February, and my favorite month. February is American Heart Health Month. On February 7th, it’s “Wear Red Day” to support the organization Go Red For Women and Heart Health Awareness. Let’s all wear a bit of red to support this important cause! More women die of heart disease than any other cause. And truly, I could have been one of them.

red pants and hearts1 | 2

Tomorrow February 6th is my birthday, I turn 45! Good! How appropriate that it’s heart health month! Because I have a newly repaired “bionic” heart. Yes, I am old (ish). But I get to see another year. Another year with my kids and family, of health and happiness, of drama and woes. It’s ALL GOOD, because I am here. Yes I dread the wrinkles, and the grey hair, and someone calling me “middle age” (and they did), because I guess I am. It’s ALL GOOD because I am here.

Fashion collage

 Kaftan | Bra | Heels | Necklace | Sunglasses | Bag

On February 21st, I will be honored as a Heart Survivor at the annual Go Red For Women Luncheon and Expo. 1100 women, heavy corporate sponsors. I get to tell my story to the masses about how everything came to be. I can’t believe the company I am keeping. My story sounds “boring” compared to some of the other ladies experiences. But the American Heart Association assures me it is quite moving and important, and people will want to listen. Again, I am here to tell it, with a new and improved heart, when the situation could have been much different. I am truly honored and excited for this experience.

paris and lips1 | 2

Did you know that the American Heart Association funds over 9 million dollars in heart health research in CLE alone? Wow, go Cleveland! What a great place to live when you need heart care.

So I Go Red, for doctor’s to find cures for early heart disease; for my kids to understand the causes and protect their futures; so every woman understands their body and takes pause to listen.

Celine and rug1 | 2

Perfectly, Red is the color of Dawn Cook Design, so you all know I love this color. It’s fiery, and bold, and dramatic, and strong, and I guess it sounds a lot like someone you all know.

So Go Red and enjoy some of these lovely Red images that inspire and move me as we celebrate February!

(See….”Be Still my Beating Heart” for more inspiration)

Cheers, Dawn

Opening Image Sources: 1st image-Five Alive Friday 2nd Image – Atlantic-Pacific



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


Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas and Happy 2014

Cook christmas 2013

The Cook Family at the Gorge of Doan Brook in Shaker Heights, Ohio 2013

As we look forward to next year, we are excited to start the year off with a plethora of wonderful clients, tons of momentum from a successful 2013, and lots of great ideas to grow and expand the Blog.

All of our clients this year gave us great joy from artists to art collectors, whether big or small projects,  we loved clients willing to take a risk and knock down a wall or just paint the fireplace a cool color. We got the pleasure to design master suites, teenager rooms, glamour kitchens, and swanky living spaces. Thank you for inviting us into your homes.

It’s a joy to do this job and always fun in the process. Even though our clients entrust their money in our vision, we always want the design to reflect back to the Homeowners heart and soul.

Gingerbread houses

Gingerbread Houses, Mom and Daughter Holiday Event, 2013

A few days ago, Sophie and I made gingerbread houses with friends, and it was great fun and right up my alley to “build a house made of cookies”. So whether it’s a house made of brick and mortar, house of cards, or house of candy, this is my passion and I enjoy sharing it with each and every one of you.

Cheers to you and yours in 2014. May your days be Beautiful and Bright in 2014!

Dawn, Linda, and Sadie


Opening Image Photography: Linda Smith of Blulens

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The Hostess With the Mostest….Cocktail Hour!

Linda's Bar

Clink. Clink. Clink. It’s Cocktail Hour. And it’s time to get your drink on, whatever that may be. Parties are rolling, and the booze is flowing, and for some of us, that’s what gets us through this crazy season. Setting up the perfect bar is pretty fun and easy, but most importantly must be styled to perfection. Another design opportunity!

Drink and bar1 | 2

And there is no better entertaining maven than my design partner, Linda Smith, of Blulens Design. She’s got some tips this Holiday season on setting up your festive holiday bar.

1) Always Have 5 Basic Liquors on Hand, they don’t need to be top shelf for mixing:

Vodka, rum, gin, whiskey, tequila are staples. Although interesting bottles help the décor. These are always nice host/hostess gifts.


1 | 2 | 3 | 4

2) Mixers are a Must: cranberry juice, tonic, soda are the basic mixers, lemons/limes should be on hand. 

3) Use a Decanter – It presents beautifully, and according to the Riedel website, it is appropriate for young and old red wines to open up the bouquet of flavors. Plus it looks darn cool, don’t you agree?  

3) Have a Signature Drink For a Party. Why not explore those mixology books? Pinterest is a great place to find new cocktail recipes. Try something new!

BooksVegas Seven

4) It’s All About the Glassware. Use the right glass for the drink.  In Belgium, every type of beer is served in specific glasses. Plus, unique glasses make a statement, either for serving or displaying. Also, an iconic ice bucket. Thrift Shops and antique stores are great places to pick up a set. 

5) Keep Nuts and Chocolate at the Bar – to nibble on while mixing, for you and your guests. Always need food readily available for that neighbor or uncle who has one too many! 

6) Always Have Makers Mark, sip as needed! Or required! 

7) Lastly, Never Forget the Aftermath….a good Bloody Mary does the trick, or according to this website….Sprite…who knew? 

It’s important for the bar to be displayed in a lovely setting, mixed with art, objects, and of course on an interesting piece of furniture or bar cart. Even if you don’t have a dedicated bar set-up, you can create one with a few thoughtful pieces. Having this festive watering hole set-up and ready to go, makes for impromptu entertaining and get-togethers. It’s always a party if you are ready!

Bars1 | 2

For our followers with small children and teenagers, we know this may not be ideal, so when hosting a party, have the bar items together so you can pull out and lock away with ease, it will encourage you to entertain more often!

With all these parties, bar essentials make wonderful and interesting hostess gifts. A cool bottle opener, agate coasters and trays are hot right now, a bloody mary gift basket complete with seasoned pepper, Tabasco, and olives, or a unique smaller cutting board.  These are things you never would buy yourself, so help your friend out and stock the bar with decorative items.

Bar gifts1 | 2 | 3 | 4

So party on! Linda and I wish you a festive and sparkling, and of course safe Holiday Season. Follow our advice and you will be the Hostess with the Mostest for sure!

 Bloody Mary Cocktail


Opening Image- Linda Smith’s holiday bar set up.

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Oh, Christmas Tree…Tradition + Trend

Merry + Happy

Yep it’s up. And we didn’t have the annual Christmas tree argument. I think after 17 years of marriage we have perfected the process. Every year either between the selection, transportation, or installation, someone loses it. But now that the children are older, it helps buffer the angst. Cooper essentially manages the procurement and installation process, and Sophie and I handle the decorating. And let me tell you, that little kid is magic at untangling lights!

Lit up christmas treeInstagram @jaywily

Every year I have friends that go to the Sugargrove Tree Farm, harvest the ideal tree, make a lovely family event out of it. My other friend has collected numerous perfect family photos from “the event” while at the nursery making the selection….OK, whatever. I know you are all having family arguments too behind the scenes. At this point in the year, with two Sagittarius birthdays in the mix, I am all about efficiency!

Christmas tree farmInstagram @fuke88

Let’s face it this time of year is stressful, between Black Friday, Small Business Saturday  Cyber Monday, Xmas cards, that damn Elf on a Shelf, gifts, donations, and all the entertaining and décor, how can one come out the other side unscathed? It’s almost impossible.

Large christmas treeInstagram @halloweencarols

I think it’s a little magic. One, it’s focusing on as Linda says “The One Thing” to do well. Have the best Xmas card, or the stellar cookie recipe, or the cutest wrapped presents. But seriously, even the best of us can’t do it all. And take pause to focus on “The Little Thing” too. Brian and I commented how into Christmas Sophie is this year. More than ever! At 8, you would think her suspect would be up, but she was talking about going for a ride on the Polar Express just yesterday. I will remember this because this moment will be gone in the blink of an eye.

X-mas tree covered in snowInstagram @kristen_lissette

So back to the tree. Over the years, my Mom has gifted me with many beautiful ornaments. Over the years, the cats have run up the trees and crashed them down and broke many of those beautiful ornaments. But seriously, these ornaments collected over the years hold much significance and memory. But being the Designer, I am always interested in shaking it up a bit…quite literally.

Tree on wallInstagram @theperthian

But moving against tradition is hard. When I announced that I wanted to put a different garland on the tree, Sophie stomped off in a huff. Recently, at the Entertaining by Design Event, one woman told me, every two years she donates her tree décor and does a new concept! Wow, that is a fun idea.

Christmas Tree

Cook Family Tree, 2013

This year, I added in more organic elements, burlap ribbon, natural plaid ribbon (see Mad for Plaid), and ornaments that had a nature theme, like owls and birds. To top it off, I added dried hydrangea from my yard this summer throughout. Top tips for making it work in your home –Reflect it back to the Room Décor in color or texture, I use a lot of roses and golds, because those colors are in my Living Room. Keep it Simple, there is nothing like an overly decorated tree. This is a prime example of less is more. Not all the ornaments have to go on every year, rotate them to keep things fresh.

Christmas tree

Cook Family Tree, 2013

So relish your traditions, but freshen up that tree, we need a little Christmas, right now!

Christmas tree

Cook Family Tree, 2013


Opening image: Instagram @hsimmons09


A Reflection: Thanksgiving

Today I am thankful

The last few weeks have been strange around here. Crazy workdays, my kids hitting a few emotional snags, a few shocking unexpected deaths of a young friend and extended family member.

So it’s hard to gather around the table and give Thanks sometimes. It’s often easy to feel scared or sorry, or just plain upset. Which can be immobilizing. Debilitating. Very challenging to move forward or through.

But for this year, it’s not me. The one “it” happens too a lot. One time in a therapy session (yes, I’ve been…I’m not to too proud to say its necessary occasionally to keep my brain from exploding) . The therapist said. “You’re a warrior”. Which sounds trite, but accurate when referring to a few traumatic medical events in my life. And then Brian’s everlasting comment that “Things usually happen when I put my mind to it.”

I’ve put my mind to being peaceful, hopeful, and of course thankful. Thankful for wonderful friends, loving family, and a very successful business. Thankful for the lovely designers and wonderful, hardworking tradespeople I get to work with everyday. And thank you for the clients that trust me, I am grateful to make their houses feel like home.

Thanksgiving table

Happy Thanksgiving to you from my home to yours.

Best, Dawn


Entertaining By Design II: Setting the Perfect Table

Dawn Cook-Wide Shot

The Entertaining By Design Event at the Ohio Design Centre was a huge success! We were in very good company with designs by 30 different Designers all putting their unique spin on setting the perfect table. With very different themes, we all pulled out the stops and excelled at what we do best: being creative! I was so impressed with the inspiring and original energy my fellow Designers represented.

Dawn Cook Design was honored to win the Best Over the Top Award for our Bohemian Chic wedding design and our Intimate Wedding Affair theme in the Baker Showroom. Three awards were presented for Best of Show, Best Over the Top, and Best Execution of a Theme.  Three different tables won Peoples Choice awards. With over 800 people attending the 2-day event, the turn out of friends, clients, and the public was spectacular. We were honored so many of you joined us for this terrific event.

Dawn Cook-Detail shotTuxedo napkins with vintage hotel keys and rosemary boutonniere inspired by Alexander McQueen and a Birdcage centerpiece accented with floral, Dawn Cook Design

Monarch Interiors

Sizzling Havana Nights in the Jacque Garcia room at Baker, Monarch Interiors

Creating the perfect table, requires some thought. I noticed many of the Designers worked off of basic Design fundamentals, and then added their special zing to their table scape. Here are the three most common trends among all the creations. Follow these principles and you are on your way to Holiday Entertaining.

1) Be Unique: Pick a different Color Palette or Item to Highlight 

I chose plum, navy, blush, coral, and chocolate as my pallete for the wedding. Everyone commented on how “warm and fallish” the design looked. We mixed in moody lighting, lots of was a big hit. Those are not necessarily “fall colors”, but it worked well with the Design. Fellow Designer, Jennifer Monachino, of Monarch Interiors had to work around a shocking yellow room for her Havana Nights theme. Electrified candles added the necessary glow to reflect this color amist the man’s world of cigars, vintage leather luggage, zebra print rug, and barware, pulling it all together with a touch a moustache panache.

Weave Ideas-Wide Shot

 Polynesian dining at this organic feast with woven linens, rugs, and asian elegance, Weave Ideas

2) Represent Organic: Materials Matter

Sandy Varelmann of Weave Ideas, won Best Interpretation of a Theme based on her authentic table from Bali from  the movie “Eat, Pray, Love”. With the bamboo structure, natural linen floor pillows and placemats, gauzy panels, the natural materials pulled off this theme perfectly. Reflections had a gorgeously decorated Enchanted Forest theme. Their organic moss, wood chargers, and even water ball hanging accents, made you feel like you were in the middle of a Mid-Summer’s Night Eve. This table appealed to the masses, winning the Peoples Choice Award. Natural materials will add the authenticity to your table, the natural texture adds design interest.

Reflections-Detail Shots

 Evening in the Enchanted Forest, Reflections Interiors


Barrie Spang

Bubbles and La Boheme, Barrie Spang, Lee Meier Interiors 

Have a Focus: What’s your Wow?

Whether it’s the centerpiece, the buffet, or the artwork behind the table, have something truly be the masterpiece of your table design. My table had fabric ribbons dressing up a traditional chandelier and a birdcage as the centerpiece. Barrie Spang, of Lee Meier Interiors, had a gorgeous original artwork mural behind her buffet, and then place settings with hand painted mini canvases of each of the guests at her La Boehme table. And sometimes it can be understated and still be a wow. Her attention to detail won her the Best of Show Award.

Overall, great ideas were shared by all, so try something a little different with your table design this Holiday Season. Learn from the experts, you will be gathering in style!


Opening and 2nd Image Photography: Linda Smith of Blulens


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?