Summer Solstice Entertaining: Linda Style


As the summer solstice approaches, it’s time to plan out your entertaining opportunities before summer slips away. The kids are just out of school last week, yet 4th of July is right around the corner. To truly enjoy the moment, the best celebrations of summer are the impromptu kind, where the neighbors stop over for a cocktail, or you have a quick margarita night with girlfriends.

One thing I know my gal Linda (Linda Smith, Blulens Design) is good at is throwing together a quick fete. Me on the other hand, I have to think about, straighten my house, plan a menu, set the stage. Linda can make fun out of thin air, so I asked her what are her best tips for summer style this season.


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1. Set the Mood, Lights Out! Commercial Lights are all the rage, make sure they are black cords, not green or you will end up with a Christmas look. Candles, candles, candles. Real or flameless, sometimes that’s all you need. 

2. Old Fashioned Lawn Games are not just for children, have fun and bring out the Jarts! 

3. Choose your Summer Shoes Wisely – Wedges are great, they don’t sink in the grass or dirt depending on the weather. And it’s an easy way to dress up a pair of shorts, sundress, or even your bathing suit! 

4. Sunglasses are a Statement, You Better Believe It – don’t wear sunglasses on your head. But it’s OK to wear them at night for a coolness factor. Linda’s words: ”On your face, or in the case!” Save that expensive pair of Ray-Bans from the obstacles in your purse. 

5. Summer Music Must Be Portable. A Jambox is a quick and affordable way to port your favorite I-tunes playlist. 


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6. Be Ready for Drop In Guests: Make Disposables Look Chic. These Bamboo disposable are very cool, and sustainable. 

7. Check Out your Outdoor Furniture – Refresh! Cushions and wood furniture fades with the elements. Sun, rain, and humidity can damage even the most durable outdoor fabrics. Take a good look every season and update, refinish, or repair as necessary.

8. Spoil Yourself, cut flowers from your garden everyday

9. Be Out Front, Don’t Hide In the Backyard: “If You Start A Party, They Will Come”

10. Have a Signature Summer Cocktail – Linda and I both have our vices. Anything with bourbon is always on Linda’s list. I prefer refreshing and cool for summer. Pinterest can be a great place to source a new cocktail. Keep ingredients readily available and learn how to make one drink really well. If you don’t live close enough to walk home, always be ready to hit the “Uber” or “Lyft” app to gracefully, and safely, leave any party!  It’s cool to have a driver!

11. Quirky Garden Accessories Add Character – All those flea markets you are going to, pick up something unexpected to set the stage in your garden. It makes all the difference!

So happy entertaining. Enjoy the summer and try and stay in the moment. We all need a little summer fun right now!


 Here is Linda’s summer ride, her Vespa, if you see her about town, beep or say hi! 

Opening Image Source: Sweet Thing 


Front doorWhen was the last time you entered your front door? See what your guests see? Probably a long time ago given the long, long winter we just recovered from. But now that we are all set for summer entertaining, here are some ideas for a quick freshen to this important space. I see a lot of front doors going to visit potential clients. And yes, I check out your entry. Lots of times I see birds nests, cobwebs, and peeling paint.  And mind you my front entry looks the same way right now: my doorbell is broken, my steps need to be tuck-pointed, the whole Georgian façade needs to be rebuilt. These Cleveland winters take their toll. Go outside and take a look at your own entry. Your front entry is the first thing friends and family see upon visiting, so why not take the time to modernize this summer. It’s more than just planting the flowers and hanging the wreath.

Front entryvia 

Dawn’s Tips for a Front Door Freshen…… House Numbers: As someone who is always looking for an address, make sure you have BIG and BRIGHT house numbers. A good place to place them is under the light. Trying to find a house number in the dark is pretty treacherous at times. Bigger is always better when it comes to this design element. Things always look smaller from the street. There are some really cool websites for more modern house numbers, West on Letters, has many different styles, finishes, and fonts available. House Numbers

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Light Fixtures: Again, give up those wimpy little lights, exterior sconces have come a long way, and there are styles from vintage, to modern, to traditional latern. One of my favorites is the phantom sconce from Boyd Lighting. Such a great look, because the light glows from within, no bulb glaring in your guest’s face. It’s always important to match the style of the light to the architecture of the home, but updating the look helps freshen. And lighting has definitely got bigger over the years. So go for it. Exterior lighting

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Hardware: Door Knobs, Lock-Sets, Knockers, Door Bells. I am the first to admit, I hate doorware. Seriously consult an expert if replacing your exterior hardware. As beautiful as it is, especially on any vintage or original doors, getting the right fit, right lock-set, absolute right size can challenge anyone’s knowledge so consult an expert. Beautiful hardware fixtures add class and style to your front door. Websites like Rejuvenation and architecture salvage places have excellent collections of these pieces – Happy Picking! Exterior hardware

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Color: Putting together an exterior paint scheme is not as easy as it looks. Colors have to look right at different times of day, different seasons, against different plantings, stone detailing.  I often find whites looking dirty in the winter against all the snow. Even if you have a good painter, depending how much Western sun your house gets, painting and staining needs to be kept up with. And as much as  everyone loves a red door, there are so many other colors to chose from. A super glossy black, aubergine, brilliant lemon yellow can all look fabulous mixed with the right field color on the house or trim. It’s worth the expense to pay a professional for a paint consult. Front door

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As you get outside and plant those urns, and spruce up the yard, take a good look at your front door and you’ll be all set to welcome summer guests in no time! Opening Image Photo Credit


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


Pink outdoor

Thank God it’s here. Spring. Time to get outside. Celebrate Earth Day. Clean up those yards, ready the porch for summer entertaining. Every season, the outdoor space becomes more like an indoor room, complete with rugs, lighting, plush fabrics, and accessories. This season is no exception with even more exquisite options for you to choose from. I handpicked some of my favorites from this year’s offerings. Take another look at your furnishings as you pull them out and set up the patio, and freshen things up  with my picks for  this year.

Dawn's Outdoor Living Picks


Furniture: Furniture is all about conversation, circulating, and comfort. Of course I love the high-end McGuire pieces like this back-to-back bench (#5).  McGuire is the epitome of well-made durable furnishings that work indoor or out. Made of rattan, and other natural materials, McGuire is not your Mother’s wicker. McGuire has hip artisan Designers that have created some stellar designs. On the more reasonable side, this West Elm sofa (#7) is a great mid-century design and can garner the same look for less.

Accent Pieces: Outdoor spaces need to be decked out just like the living room so side tables and funky cocktail tables are just as important. You need a place to put those drinks down right? Check out this super cool cement resin garden stool (#2) that has natural leaf imprints in it. It looks heavy but is easily moved around and lifted. Perfect for a pool party, or late night fete.

Lighting: There is more to lighting than candles when it comes to outdoor décor. And you don’t need those big palm frond ceiling fans either. When it comes to outdoor lighting, as long as the fixture is rated for a wet location, anything goes. Especially in a covered area. Pick something you like, but be cognizant of natural material like silk, cotton, or wool, those will not survive the elements. There is really cool lighting out there now, love these fixture from Dwell Studio (#3). Elegant or reclaimed materials make a statement!

Fabrics, Panels, and Rugs: Solution-dyed acrylics are the core to good outdoor fabrics. They will survive the elements. You can bleach them and hose them down. Available in an array of colors and prints  you can step away from the limited stripes and solids on cushions. We saw a beautiful presentation from Perennials this week (#8 & #9). Loved the soft outdoor rugs, gorgeous prints, and chenilles and velvets. Who would have thought we could have this luxury outside?

Accessories: I’ve always been a gardener. Before I had kids I would dream about planting flowers and sprucing up the garden in the Spring. So I am partial to these lovely accessories from Anthropologie Terrain, and La Crosse.  Love the colorful wind chimes, the leather planter, rain measure, mid-century terrarium, and alphabet birdhouses (#1,#4, #6, #11, & #12).  Adding a little whimsy adds comfort and chic to your outdoor design. Stylish throws and fire pits, like this one from Restoration Hardware (#10), help keep us warm so get outside now and enjoy some fresh air even with the cooler nights.

Patio Living has come a long way. Try some of my picks to freshen your space, I know I will, then you will be fit for Spring in no time!

Cozy corner

1- Tea Flower Wind Chimes from Anthropologie $68.00

2- Concrete Side Table from McGuire $1,440.00

3- Indoor/Outdoor chandelier from Dwell Studio $1,920.00

4- Birdhouse from Anthropologie $98.00

5- Back to Back Bench from McGuire $2,399.00

6- Picture Frame Terrarium Terrain $198.00

7- Huron Sofa from West Elm $1,399.00

8- Outdoor Rug Crescendo Grey Matter from Perennials

9- Outdoor Fabric Odyssey/Melon from Perennials

10- Concrete Firepit from Restoration Hardware $1,795.00

11- Rain Gauge La Crosse $8.95

12- Leather Latched Wall Lantern Anthropolgie $58.00


1st Image via, 3rd image via


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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Dazzling Dahlias…. Autumn’s Delight

 dahlias fieldBrian and I love to travel to the Pacific Northwest. We have friends in Portland and Seattle. We always try to go in the fall because the weather is gorgeous, sunny, and with perfect, crisp blue skies.

Ten years ago, while visiting the Pike Place Market in Seattle, I was blown away by the huge bouquets of Dahlias in amazing colors for give-away prices. Later that trip, we visited the Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island. As a garden lover, I will tell you, that is one place – You. Must. Visit. Nothing can compare. The gardens are breathtaking, but the display of dinner plate sized dahlias, bed after bed, in saturated and vibrant color was stunning. Something about the climate, makes these flowers grow there like they belong in a Jurassic Park set.

Dawn in PortlandNorthwest flower market, Portland, Oregon  Fall 2010

DahliasImage Source: Deb Reny

Dahlias are actually rhizomes that you plant close to the surface in the Spring, and they grow tall and with stalks thick as a trees by August. In this planting zone, they need to be stacked and require a little tender loving care. But once they start blooming, they keep producing until it frosts later in October, the more you cut them, the more they produce. They need their own home in the garden, and I usually dig them up every Fall,  let them winter overnight in the garage and replant them the following Spring. Gorgeous!

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In colors of deep plum, bright pink, persimmon, and glowing blush, how can you not appreciate their dazzling display? So while it’s too late to plant them this Fall, pick some up (I just bought some gorgeous ones at Heinens!), and enjoy the beauty of Fall. And mark you calendar alert to plant some in your garden next May, it’s well worth it!

Coopers 1st halloweenMy son Cooper’s first halloween in the dahlia garden, Fall 2003

Bundle of dahlias/tablescape


 Opening Image Source: Portland Monthly




Pattern Play #4: Sweet As Honey: Hexagons


I know I have blogged about patterns a lot lately, I can’t help it, the geometric pattern play is hot for the moment in design. Right now, it’s all about the hexagon, or honeycomb pattern. After the lavender farm visit see “Lavender Dream: Our Visit to the Farm”, and talking to some of my beekeeper friends, the sweetness of the honeycomb pattern is more complex and yet engaging than ever before. Represented with six even sides, the hexagon is a symbol for efficiency and community.


As traditional as can be, many of our classic 1920’s style homes in the neighborhood have hexagon tile patterns in halls and bathrooms. Yet now, the shape is rendered on carpets, rugs, and fabric patterns. Every room needs some geometry, and a geometric pattern is evident in the hexagon. Recently, I shopped for a hexagon shaped table lamp for my client, the hexagon was just the shape we needed. We didn’t want any sharp corners and we needed to get around it easily, but have some visual interest.

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Traditional, Classic, or Modern, everyone can make this shape work in their design. Take a little tip from the bees, it will be sweet as honey!

Hex floor in kitchenImage Source: Flourish Design + Style

To learn more about beekeeping, read this quirky post from Gardenista: The Beekeeper Diaries: Rob Keller Does Not Get Stung (Today)


Opening Image Source: Gardenista

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Sunflowers and bikers

I have always loved everything French. French décor, French wine, French living. This week I was with a road biking-obsessed friend who spent some time explaining the Tour de France to me. While it all looked so intriguing and athletic, I was gripped by the gorgeous French countryside, scenery, and choreography of the event. (For you biker aficionados we were watching the team time trials in Nice). Oh and of course, the yellow jersey…while that color and role has been tainted by all the rhetoric around the famous Lance, it is still so powerful and quite an honor to obtain.

French Shot 3Image Source: Cote de Texas

I have a yellow living room. With some country french décor – that I still like – a lot. But I always think of how I can take it to the next level of design and modernize the color and décor a bit. So Linda and I played around with it and omphed it up a bit this week. Hung some modern art, changed some of the accessories.

Great Room

Designed by: PPDS Design + Interiors

But the ideal would be to execute one of these amazing yellow designs! Still a little fussy French, still a little mellow yellow. Mixed with stark white, shades of grey, charcoal or black. More modern lines would change the flavor significantly. Someday!

Chair in DRDesigned by: Abode Interiors

What makes French Design so appealing?…the intrigue of Versaille and the Hall of Mirrors, the classic Fauteuil chair, the Rococo silks and damasks that remind us of Marie Antoinette. (An amazing movie of rich French eye candy of scenery and fashion, a must see) Even this fancy, overdecorated look can be executed with a modern flair. And yellow will always be in fashion for French style. Even today, fashion forward design still dominates in this cosmopolitan city of glamour and culture. A continual influence on our interior design aesthetic. Just recently we saw the Christian LaCroix collection for Designers Guild..magnifique!



Designed by: Christan Lacroix Image Source: Fiercer than you

“The Tour” as bikers call it, will be on for a few more weeks, so make sure you check it out, eve just to appreciate the sheer athletic prowess of these riders, but also to catch some amazing shots of the French countryside and a little yellow power along the way.

Biking ShotImage Source: Bike Radar

C’est La Vie!

Dedicated to Scott Smith’s bike no more, may a new one be in your future soon!

WineImage Source: Kimber Lane

  Opening Image Source: Clipzine


Summer Solstice: Celebrating In Outdoor Spaces

I love the longest day of the year, it’s such a great time to entertain outside and enjoy that special magic that is in the air when the seasons cross. Vamp up your outdoor living with some suggestions from my friend Mari at Acadian Home. Enjoy!

Hi, all! I’m so excited to be here with you at Dawn Cook Design with a guest post from Arcadian Home blog. It’s a wonderful place to find interior design inspiration including great decorating ideas for everything from cool Contemporary Floor Lamps to colorful decorative accessories that work beautifully indoors and out.

Today, we’re going to explore summery outdoor spaces that are both beautiful and comfortable. Please enjoy! Thanks Dawn for letting me stop by to visit.

~ Mari

Rustic Patio with Mountain View Nothing says summer outdoors quite like white slip-covered furniture. Here, four comfy armchairs are dressed up in white cotton. Set under rustic beams and with a lovely view, it’s a perfect summery outdoor space.

Chic outdoor space with green accentsMasses of hydrangea blooms and lunch by the pool—it must be summertime. I love the blue and green color scheme and the capiz shell Modern Pendant Light.

Modern Small Seating Area How pretty is this simple outdoor space shaded by a dark painted pergola? Surrounded by green foliage, it’s a cool spot for reading and relaxing.

Dual Conversation seating areaDual conversation areas in this open air living space are made for pampering guests. Complete with delicate wrought iron chandeliers and ornate hanging lanterns, this outdoor living room works as beautifully after dark as it does for daytime entertaining.

Clean Lined Roof Top DeckA summery outdoor retreat doesn’t get any better than this. Furnishings are stylish but also comfortable and inviting.

Pool Patio and FireplaceWith plenty of light from recessed Outdoor Lighting Fixtures overhead, this outdoor dining space offers the perfect place for enjoying a leisurely weekend dinner with family or friends.

Covered patio with modern furniture This long pavilion offers all the comforts of indoor living in an open air setting. With lots of comfortable seating for dining and conversation, this simply beautiful space also includes a fully equipped outdoor kitchen.

Garden with seatingAnd so we leave you with this dreamy outdoor space—summer at its best. Here’s hoping we’ve inspired you to create your very own summery outdoor space in your favorite style. Images 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8

What do you think of these outdoor spaces? Leave us your comments below and visit our blog for more home decor and lighting inspirations!


A Little Obsession…Peonies in the Garden

Peony Bouquet

Here’s a fact. I’m a Garden nerd. I haven’t blogged about gardening this season yet, I was waiting for the right inspiration. Well I found it. Many years ago, (pre-kids), I spent a lot of time going to garden shows, garden expos, and community garden lectures.  I would go to meetings at the Perennial Society at the Cleveland Botanical Gardens with all the lovely Senior ladies with their gardening hats and vast resource of gardening knowledge. At the ripe old age of 22, I knew more about soil, deadheading, ph levels, sun exposure, and planting zones, than one newbie gardener could absorb!

So, on to my inspiration. When I started gardening, I had visions of rambling old-fashioned cottage gardens in my head. While attending a local garden show closing, you could snap up all the gorgeous plants for a steal. One of the displays had the most beautiful array of peonies. Now if you know anything about these showstoppers, you know they are persnickety to their environment – as far as sun and moisture, and take a VERY LONG TIME to establish and start producing blooms. So I deciding to give it a try and planted them in our front yard.

Peonies in yard

Many years later, this is my late May/early June display every season!

Some are full, some are double, some are single, some look like an old-fashioned rose, and others smell like heaven. But all are magical, and have been around as a strong design motif in Western cultures since the 17th century, and date back to the Ming Dynasty.

All types of peoniesImage Source: Crushed Me

As they come alive in the Spring, the ants scurry over the buds, forcing them to open, it’s a cool process. We always stake them with a grid when the shoots first appear, otherwise the heavy blooms droop and don’t last long. And for one week out of the year we get sheer bliss. An added perk living in this house 16 years this week!

Peonies Image Source: All Things Shabby and Beautiful

Clients often ask me for garden design and landscape architects, its an extension of our interior spaces, and “our summer living room” . So choose wisely and just like anything other investment it makes sense to start with a plan. You can reap the benefits for years to come!

So whether indoors our out, real or just on some great wallpaper, add some beauty into your lives with peonies.

 Peonies on deskImage Source: Habitually Chic

To check out some amazing displays of peonies in the Cleveland Area, Stan Hywet Hall  and Garden has fields of them, as does the Holden Arboretum in Kirtland. Hurry or the pretty peonies will be pretty over soon!

 So what’s your favorite garden flower??


First two photos are from my garden, 2013.

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