Spring Blooms in the Garden: Reap the Rewards

Garden flowers

Every Fall, I make time to plant Spring bulbs. Whether it’s a beautiful fall day or a freezing November one, I make an effort to get them in. I do this because I know how satisfied I will feel come April and May the following Spring. We have lived in our house for 17 years. One of the reasons that makes it hard to consider leaving is the amount of love Brian and I have put into this garden. As I said in a previous post, for 6 years before we had kids I had dreams about this garden and all the things I could do. With a western exposure, the front bed is perfect for perennials and sunny annuals. But the spring bulbs are the best! Here are some tips from my efforts over the years.

Flowers and tool wall

Dawn’s Spring flower garden and a cool use of an old pallet

Daffodils come up every year and naturalize (spread). This is a good thing! I planted a ton many years ago and still see the results. Only words of wisdom, when the blooms fade do not cut back the leaves, tie-back the stems with a leaf, raffia, or rubber bands, and wait until the leaves brown out and die back, this feeds the bulb for the next year. The one time I did shear back the leaves in haste I got very little blooms the next Spring.

Tulips have to be planted fresh every Fall. Many people think tulips are perennials. Most are not. It’s a one show wonder for most. While there are a few varieties that will come back, I have never found them to be successful or all that pretty. The prettiest varieties last for one season. Dig them up when you plant your annuals and start over in the fall. And don’t forget the Bulb-Booster fertilizer, it makes a big difference.

Quantity equals loveliness. Yeah, yeah, yeah, it says to plant them 6 inches apart, 8 inches deep. Whatever. I dig a giant trough and put 50 into it. My kids are awesome bulb planters. They know the drill. Make sure the bulbs face the right direction, pointy part up. There is nothing worse than seeing 10 tulips a foot apart. You need to think en masse, its so worth it!

Timing is everything, spread out the season. Make an effort to read the labels that say “Early”, “Mid”, and “Late” Spring Blooms. It’s true! The minute one starts fading, the next come up. It’s such a great show over a 2-month timeframe. There is nothing more disappointing than an “all and done” garden.

Variety is key. There are so many other bulbs other than tulips and daffodils. Snowdrops, crocus, allium, hyacinth. Varying the height of the blooms makes a gorgeous picture. And remember not all these bulbs have scent. But some are just so powerful, like hyacinth, they shadow the rest. If you want to smell Spring, you have to plan for it correctly. It’s like painting a picture, layers are key.

Flowers in front yard

Flowers with house

A varied showing of Spring blooms in Dawn’s garden

I’m no expert, but I enjoy gardening quite a bit and feel that over the years I  have learned some lessons. And since the garden is part of the house, I make sure mine looks just as finished and decorative as the rest of our home. So as you enjoy the Spring, make some notes, and take some pictures of ideas to remember come Fall. It will be here soon enough.


Sophie and Esme Carroll in the garden

If you want more tips or inspiration, one of my favorite gardening blogs is Gardenista, check it out! Also, for authentic bulbs from the Netherlands, the best supplier is Van Engelen, a great catalog, and even more beautiful flowers.

Happy Gardening, Dawn


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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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 sparkle..it 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?


Pattern Play #3: Loop-Di-Loop


In closing out the summer, we spent the day at Cedar Point with the kids. Growing up in Cleveland we take this amusement park of some of the world’s fastest, tallest, and inverted roller coasters for granted. Not having been there for over 10 years, it was a real treat to share the thrills and chills with a 10-yr old daredevil, and the 48” 7-year old adrenaline junkie  – I call my children.

Throughout the day, Sophie was willing to try the Gemini, Magnum, etc… but had issues with going upside down. With all the new crazy rides like the “Top Thrill Dragster” and the “Power Tower”, we must have walked by the iconic “Corkscrew” a hundred times. This coaster is my memory of what Cedar Point is all about, those first few times of being inverted and spun around in a spiral pattern back in the day. Built in 1976 (would this classify as Mid-Century design?) the loading station still sports a seventies design, and the corkscrew name is still emblazed in red, white, and blue typography (Spirit of 76’ , I believe). While waiting in line, I began to ponder the spiral in design.

Knob and wallpaper


A few years ago, I took a continuing education class on Biomimicry – “this is the imitation of models, systems, and elements of nature for the purpose of solving complex human problems”  – Wikipedia. Simply said: why recreate the wheel, nature has a lot of our engineering and design problems worked out, so let’s learn and imitate nature.

It was a fascinating lecture, and one of their prime examples was a nautilus shell and the spirals and swirls that follow a complex algorithm. Hence, the success of  the corkscrew pattern.

Marbles and marker


Think about the rooms we live in: squares and rectangles, with rectilinear rugs, windows, and sofas. As a Designer, it always feels better to introduce some curve. It breaks up the room, softens the space. Introduces an organic quality. I love throwing in a spiral chandelier, or swirly wallpaper. Or amazing circular rug or cocktail table. It allows the space to breath….and feel well…more natural.

Everyone always thinks of a spiral as a staircase. Well, see above – a solution to a tricky stair problem, solved by the Nautilus shell. But spirals and swirls are everpresent in our homes: knobs in the kitchen, carpet patterns, fabric on bedding. Take a chance and add a little curve to your life.

mirror and stair


So in the end…she did it, road the Corkscrew, and said “That was Epic!” Yep, it is Soph, and that is what you will be saying about your design, when you utilize this classic pattern from nature!

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Lavender Dream: Our Visit to the Farm

Lavender Lust-Colleen Cleveland Photography

Many years ago, Brian and I took a trip to the Olympic Peninsula in the state of Washington. We visited a little town called Sequim. A perfect place in the shadow of the mountains that was ideal for lavender growing. Purple Haze Lavender Farm was the most peaceful place in the world. While I have never visited the lavender fields in Provence (although Rachel brought me home some), I have to believe it was a similar experience. Waves of lavender bloom, buzzing bees, and the most magnificent fragrance assaulting the senses. It was a relaxing and complete zen experience! Some of these images are from a photographer, Colleen Cleveland, whom we met among the blooms.

Lavender Lust-Colleen Cleveland PhotographyPhotography by: Colleen Cleveland Photography

Every Saturday at the North Union Farmers Market here in Shaker Heights, Daybreak Lavender Farm hocks their homemade concoctions of lavender scrubs, oils, lotions and potions. This farm is just down the street in Streetsboro, Ohio. So today the Cooks decided to take a visit. And it was just as memorable as my first visit to a lavender farm all those years ago. The kids ran around the grids of lavender bushes, we picked blossoms, and then we laid in the field and just…. breathed. It was lovely. We trekked around the fields, pond, and paths on the property and just enjoyed the moment. There were even exotic chickens hanging out in the adjacent yard. We smelled all the candles, crèmes, and culinary delectables and then we were on our way.

With the blooms only lasting a few more days in this part of the world, it was great to fit it in this summer for a mini moment.

SophieSophie Cook at DayBreak Farms, Summer 2013

I’ve had a passion for lavender my whole life.  My Mom and I used to always make floral arrangements for fun, and visited the The Village Herb Shop in Chagrin Falls to stock up on it. I always drag Brian to herb farms to seek it out. Despite the medicinal and relaxation qualities, it just works for me, soothing, calming…it must be a natural ying to my crazy Type A yang.

Sophie 2Sophie Cook at DayBreak Farms, Summer 2013

So how does this romantic herb and sedate purple fit into our decor? Calmly, casually, and with many shades of grey mixed in. You can’t overdo it, or it gets to be too much. Muddied down with tones of grey, it is sophisticated beyond belief. I designed a great room for a family with twin boys: Greys, Lavender, Chocolate, and Walnut. It was masculine indeed. Another client has a super elegant modern living room with lavender grey sectionals. Hot! Too much of a good thing can throw you back into the Victorian age, so don’t over do it though. It looks great mixed with persimmon, or cerulean blue, or even citrine. But definitely in moderation.

Room ShotDesigned by: Traci Connell Interiors

As far as displaying the herb, it’s always going to have a Country French effect, but if you love it like I do, put it out and let this magical herb do its trick. Here are the efforts of our day displayed on my dresser. I know I will go to bed a lot happier tonight.

NightstandMy dresser filled with Sunday’s treasures

Visit Daybreak Lavender Farm at www.daybreak. Time is running out!

Bundled Lavender Bundled lavender and other flowers we found on our visit

Opening Image Photography by: Colleen Cleveland Photography, specializing in modern and vintage ambient light portraiture


How Do You Get Your Sparkle On? Happy 4th!

Sparkle Restaurant DecorationIn ancient mythology, dragons are attracted to sparkly things, like gems and diamonds. It’s often lauded as their Achilles heel – a point of weakness. And like a moth to a flame, I have had women clients who get a little glassy-eyed over a shiny light fixture, a mirrored console table or a Lucite chair. Why are we attracted to things that glitter and shine?

My little Sophie has always had an eye for the shine, she recently came home from camp with this little piece of art.

Sophie Cat ArtSophie Cook, Summer 2013

Reflective surfaces are expected in a shiny kitchen, or gleaming bath. All that glass, polished nickel and stainless steel are big sparklers. But there are many ways to get your shine on. I call it the jewelry in the room, the hardware, lighting and accents, even wall covering as shown below.  It’s the final stuff that we bejewel ourselves with as we walk out the door, and finish up our room décor.

Mirrored ConsoleImage Source: Phillip Jeffries

LuciteImage Source: The Stir

A lot of clients cut this final step. They are done after they have bought the furniture, rugs, and lights. But wouldn’t you feel naked if you went to the ball without a little glamour on?  It’s the last little push that gives a room the wow factor.

Sparkling lightsImage Source: The Stir

So like the magic of a firefly or the sizzle of a sparkler on a warm summer night – big or small, get a little sparkle on and finish your design!

Cooper with SparklerCooper Cook, Summer 2011

Opening Image Source: This Architecture

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