DIY Clay Leaf Plates

 

Digital Makeover: 4 Great Styling Tips for Your Office

 

 

A Sky-Inspired Renovation

Virginia designer Sara Hillery set her creative sights on her own family home renovation, with an eye toward a light and airy space with a palette of blue, white, and neutral colors.

What is your background when it comes to design? I majored in art as an undergrad at the University of Virginia and worked for a local design firm in Richmond. I enjoyed the work that I did there enough to go back to school and get my master of fine arts in interior environments from Virginia Commonwealth University. I worked for Lucas/Eilers in Houston for seven years doing large-scale residential projects and then started my own business after having my first child.

Where did you grow up? How does that experience inform the way you design? I grew up largely in Richmond, but I spent time in Pennsylvania and Texas. The East Coast’s love of English and Early American history taught me to love brown furniture, especially antiques and classics, like Duncan Phyfe and Sheraton. Texas loves a little more French influence and a more casual environment, so I possess a deep appreciation for a crusty old paint finish and an atelier style. Texas doesn’t have the same history as the East Coast, and there’s a much more modern philosophy of building new history. I think this melting pot of locations forged my love of eclectic environments that aren’t all one style and that tell the story of the clients’ varied interests.

What is your earliest memory of looking at a room and wanting to redesign it? My mom always let me have input in my room; she even let me choose a cat theme at one point. She has always been crafty and enjoyed a love of homemaking, so design was encouraged in our house.

What traits make you well-suited to be a designer? What have you had to adjust about yourself in this business? I love being creative, and I look at design as a fun form of problem-solving. I like the challenge of taking a space and making it better. I also really enjoy getting to know people. I’ve had to learn how to be organized so that I can be creative and still run a business.

What types of design feed your creativity on a daily basis? I am definitely inspired by fashion. I also love seeing other designers’ work, especially designers who are working on projects that are very different than my own. There’s always something to learn from seeing how others design a space.

If you could have a design superpower, what would it be? The ability to read people’s minds about what they really would like their space to be and look like.

How would you describe your design style? No matter how modern, casual, or formal my designs are, I always incorporate an element of elegance. At the same time, my style is also practical and flexible.

Tell us about this project. What were you looking to accomplish? I wanted the design to be affordable and incorporate much of our existing furniture, be child-friendly for our three kids, and have open sight lines for windows and doors so that the house would feel more spacious and flowing and be a place where we could entertain both kids and adults formally and more casually.

What were your first steps in conceptualizing the design of the house? The first thing we did was line up all the sight lines for natural light. We let that determine the arrangement of the furniture and cabinetry.

Will you talk about the reorientation of the furniture in the family room? We wanted the cooking fireplace, which is such a unique piece, to serve as the nucleus of the room. We made it into a conversation area and gathering space that purposely doesn’t include a television. I wanted to encourage the art of conversation in this tech-obsessed age.

Where did the inspiration for your color palette originate? The whole house incorporates a lot of blue, white, and neutral colors so that the design flows from one room to the next. I was inspired by the Texas sky: big, blue, light, airy, and sunny.

What was the biggest challenge? Light is really important to me, so the low ceiling height, boxy architecture, and small windows were a challenge. We opened up walls to get more light in. I often tend toward light fixtures that incorporate a lot of height, but the ceilings aren’t high enough, so I had to get creative.

The original space had wood paneling in the family room and bedroom. Why did you decide to keep it? How do you feel about the trend of painting over it? Originally, I thought I was going to paint over it, but I realized that reversing it would be timely and costly. On top of that, the paneling is old heart pine—you can’t get that particular grain anymore, so I felt like there was no going back. I’ve found that stains are more forgiving than paint and are lower maintenance. The paneling is warm and inviting, plus it’s brown, so it acts as a neutral.

What wasn’t working for you in the kitchen, and what were you able to salvage? We ended up gutting the kitchen: we ripped out all the cabinets, took down walls, and completely changed the layout. The original kitchen had an old, peninsula-style counter and didn’t really work—there was no circular flow. We designed the kitchen with the idea that multiple hands, including little ones, are often preparing meals these days. The modern island design with multizone cooking suits us much better and is more welcoming when we are entertaining. We did salvage the white dishwasher. And we put in pine floors to make the room match with the others and not appear disjointed from the rest of the house.

Is it easier or harder to design your own space versus someone else’s? Harder! When I work on someone else’s space, I am setting aside the time and really devoting myself to the design process because it’s my job. For my own space, it’s more of an experimental playground. I’m grabbing fifteen minutes here or there and trying to make the design come together.

What is your biggest design pet peeve that you see out in the world or in other people’s houses? Overscale furniture, because it messes up the balance of the space. There’s a certain zen quality when everything is well-proportioned in a room, even if the colors don’t match perfectly. Sometimes people will have me come and look at a space because it feels “off” and they can’t pinpoint why. It’s often an issue of scale. But I truly welcome and am inspired by all types of design.

What is your philosophy on design and life? You only have one life. Design (and life) should make you feel good, it should be livable, and it should inspire you to be your better self. That being said, be yourself!

What are some hobbies or passions you pursue other than design? I love to travel and explore new cultures. I’m also passionate about getting involved with and supporting local parks. And anytime I can support arts causes or other artisans, I’m in.

If you weren’t an interior designer, what would you be? I used to want to be a doctor, so I would have continued to pursue medicine to improve people’s health. Instead, I get to improve their environment.

Ultimate Pet Lovers’ Gift Baskets

Being the parent of a pet is a lot like being the parent of a human—there are a lot of things to buy. But if you’re ever out of gift ideas for your pet-loving friend, a gift basket stocked with everything they could need is a great option! They and their pet are sure to thank you.

Puppy Parent Basket
New puppies can be a handful, and knowing what necessities to buy can be a little overwhelming for new owners. Help them get a handle on it with this basket that has everything they could ever need.

  • Picture frame
  • Tennis ball/chew toys
  • Stuffed pillow
  • Bones

Feline-Friend Basket
Cats will go crazy for this fun basket made special for them. There’s yarn and catnip for playtime, not to mention homemade treats in their favorite flavors!

  • Yarn ball
  • Feather toys
  • Catnip/treats

Busy Birdy Basket
Bird owners, watchers, and their feathered friends will love the tasty DIY suet cakes and cozy new home in this basket.

  • Suet cakes
  • Feeder
  • Bird book
  • Seeds

Happy Horse Basket
Any horse-lover knows the way to a horse’s heart is through their stomach, so this basket with apples, sugar cubes, and other treats is guaranteed to put a big grin on their face. You can also add a fun printed scarf for your loved one to show their love for their pet!

  • Apples/carrots
  • Brush
  • Horse-printed scar

Good-Doggie Treat Jar
Homemade treats are a great option for any pup, but can be especially useful for owners who’s pet is on a restrictive diet. Fill a jar with cookie cutters, and the instructions for these treats so your loved one can make their dog’s day! PRINTABLE GIFT BASKET TAGS


Try making one of these baskets for your pet-loving friends and family, and snap a picture of your homemade gift to post on Facebook and Instagram with the hashtag #ALMcreate.

Your Shopping List for Hard-to-Kill Plants

Not the green thumb type of gardener? Does your foliage tend to droop and die? Then these rugged plants are for you!

So what makes these plants hard to kill? They are considered to be low maintenance because they just need to be in the right light and given the right amount of water once the soil is dry to thrive. Reference the list below to find out how much light each plant requires, and then match them to the appropriate rooms in your house.

Low Light:
Some plants thrive in little to no light, which means that they would be great for rooms with little natural lighting. Perhaps the most well-known of these plants are the Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum) and the tropical Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata). Others hard-to-kill plants in this category include the Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema) and the Golden Pothos (Epipremnum aureum).

Medium Light:
The second group of plants to consider are ones that are a bit more light flexible, as they work well in a fair amount of natural lighting. One example is the tried and true Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum). The intricately patterned Prayer Plant (Maranta leuconeura) also fits the bill, as does the Rubber Plant (Ficus elastica).

High Light:
Do you have rooms in your house that just pour in the natural lighting? Then load up on these beauties! A great example of a hardy high-light plant is the Aloe Vera plant (Aloe barbadensis), which you can grow and then use the gel from its leaves to sooth burns. Another is the Norfolk Island Pine (Araucaria heterophylla), which adds a touch of outdoor living into your indoor space. The Jade Plant (Crassula ovata), the Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamina), and the Zebra Haworthia (Haworthia attenuata) also fall into this group of plants that soak up the sun.

Maintaining beautiful, vibrant plants in your home can be easier than you think, regardless of your gardening skill level. Simply matching the right type of plant with the amount of lighting in your house is a great first step.

Paying Hope Forward

Jeanine Patten-Coble enjoyed vacationing at a North Carolina beach with her husband and son each year, and 2009 was no different—at first. However, the day before their trip, her doctor shared a shocking diagnosis: Patten-Coble had breast cancer.

Devastated but undaunted, she went on their scheduled family beach trip the next day. While running on the beach, mulling over how to tell her son about her cancer, she came across a compound of abandoned houses and found her new calling: creating vacation retreats for breast cancer patients and their families. The seeds for what would become the nonprofit organization Little Pink Houses of Hope were planted.

Patten-Coble spent the next year receiving treatment and having surgeries while laying the groundwork for Little Pink. From the beginning, she admittedly felt doubtful and eventually felt overwhelmed—especially since she had a full-time job in education and was devoting all her time to planning. Nonetheless, she soldiered on, and, in 2011, the first five Little Pink retreats were held, and she left her full-time job in education to focus on her true vocation two years later.

breast cancer survivors group

© Little Pink Houses of Hope

Since its inception, the organization has provided free weeklong getaways, from Costa Rica to California, to over 800 breast cancer patients and their families. In 2019, it has twenty retreats scheduled, each at a different location, and will serve over 200 families overall. Morning activities are offered, such as a beach day, a boat cruise, or riding ATVs, as are nighttime activities, from a family game night to a bonfire on the beach to stargazing, depending on the location. The families eat meals together as well for further bonding.

“People are desperately looking for similarity,” Patten-Coble explains. “They want others who empathize, who they don’t have to explain everything to. It’s a different story when you’re with people who get it. You can really talk about the experience in terms of how it’s impacting you instead of trying to make other people feel better that you’re sick, which is exhausting for a cancer patient. Our whole model is based on the idea of creating these organic environments of support. People at the retreats become friends, which leads to a much larger, deeper support network that’s meaningful long after the retreat. You come as strangers, and, at the end of the week, you leave as family. The commonality of cancer and shared experiences bonds people and strips differences away.”

It takes about nine months to plan a retreat. Each location, chosen not only for its locale but also for its community feel, has a local retreat coordinator, a retreat director, and a one-to-one ratio of volunteers and participant families. Houses are obtained in two ways: through word of mouth and, more often, by partnering with local property management companies, which can reach out directly to individuals who might be inclined to donate—simply because, as Patten-Coble says, they understand the difference they’re making in the lives of others. As a sign of gratitude, Little Pink requests off-peak weeks to minimize income loss, plus each homeowner gets a handwritten letter and photo from the family who stayed in his or her house.

breast cancer survivor paddleboarding

© Little Pink Houses of Hope

Ultimately, Patten-Coble says, Little Pink retreats are about empowerment. “We use the word empowering a lot because, for a lot of families, their experience with this disease has been anything but,” she shares. “Their week truly empowers them to get back to who they are as a family unit because they experience brand-new fun things every day. We want cancer survivors and cancer patients to see themselves as thrivers and as people who, despite their diagnosis, have this new chapter that they’re in control of writing. They might not be in control of the ultimate progression of their disease, but they control how they live every day.”

And that includes teaching guests to celebrate every day and to grab every second possible out of life. Though she has countless stories of participants doing this, Patten-Coble says one still stands out from Little Pink’s first retreat. A woman named Shari was nervous about the group activity, paddleboarding, so they went out on the water together. To ease her worries, Patten-Coble told Shari that she didn’t even have to get up, but she insisted. Immediately, Shari’s two boys, eight and ten years old, started screaming from the shore at the top of their lungs, cheering on their mom.

“They were so full of joy and full of excitement. In that moment, Shari wasn’t a cancer patient. She was a rock star mom,” she remembers. “Shari turned to me and said, ‘This is why I had to do it. This is how I want my boys to remember me—it doesn’t matter what happens in your life; you still get up and try every single day. They’re going to need that lesson when I’m gone.’ Thinking of this still makes me cry, but it encompasses the joy we’re able to create, even when it’s mixed with pain. We have a chance to impact people. It’s about touching one heart and one life at a time.”

Understandably, choosing the families for the retreats can be a painstaking task, so the organization uses an assignment committee that reads through every application, first word to last; the members pored over 3,000 applications for 210 spots in 2018. People who are currently in treatment are top priority, and those selected choose the retreats they’d like to be considered for, which is often based on their treatment schedule, their kids’ school schedules, or proximity. Patten-Coble notes that Little Pink is especially mindful of geography, having started on the East Coast and expanding all the way to the West Coast: “Most of our expansion in 2019 is in the Midwest and the West, which is to help meet a need—lengthy travel is often very difficult for cancer patients, so the more locations we have spread across the country, the less time people have to travel.”

mother and son on beach

© Little Pink Houses of Hope

For her efforts, Patten-Coble was named a CNN Hero in 2017. The network raised money in her name, which allowed Little Pink to start a scholarship program for the children of families who have attended a past retreat. “I am a firm believer that family is for life,” she states. “We maintain relationships with our families long after their retreats. The scholarship is a way to remain a part of these kids’ lives long after their retreat and say, ‘You’re loved’ and to encourage them to always be the difference in the life of somebody else. Our hope is that they take it, get a great education, and, one day, pay it forward in some other way.”

Paying hope forward is what Jeanine Patten-Coble has been doing ever since taking a beach run the day after her breast cancer diagnosis. She has continued doing so by offering more retreat locations and penning her memoir, Struck by Hope. In the future, she plans to replicate the Little Pink Houses of Hope model for people with other types of cancers, such as ovarian, uterine, and lung cancers. “We’ve clearly seen how much people are willing to get involved, if given the chance,” she says. “We’ve become a great vehicle for people to use their gifts and talents in a way that’s truly meaningful. I have a front-row seat to the goodness in the world, and it’s why this model works. It’s simply about embracing people with a humongous hug during one of the worst times of their lives and bringing other people onboard to hug them. We’ll keep developing ways to give time, happiness, and hope to as many people as we possibly can.”

Spooky and Sustainable Halloween Decorations

Halloween is one of the most festive holidays of the year, but there are plenty of reasons to rethink traditional decorations. Making your own decorations cuts back on plastic and other materials that can harm the earth. Get your home Halloween ready with these eco-friendly crafts and accents!

A few tips on sourcing your supplies 

Forgo expensive Halloween pop-ups this season and shop local. Farmers markets usually sell gourds, mums, and pumpkins for cheap. Thrifting is a fun way to find unique accents and fabrics. Antique shops are another resource for old picture frames, bottles, candle holders, and lamps to recycle into eerie Halloween decor.

10 craft and accent ideas for a green Halloween 

1. Before you recycle your old black trash bags, check out this adorable spider web craft. Unlike fake spider webs, trash bag webs don’t pose a threat to owls, bees, and other wildlife. Love to knit? Repurpose extra thread into webs on bushes and trees.

2. If you’re hosting a Halloween party, give your guests a cute and creepy pour with jack-‘o-lantern wine bottles. Make the table even more festive by repurposing small pumpkins into sparkly place cards. For an understated look, find supplies to make this eerie centerpiece at the Dollar Store.

3. Evoke the chilling atmosphere of haunted hayrides by decorating stacked hay bales with gourds, mini-pumpkins, and corn stalks. Cut up old autumn-colored flannels and drape them over single hay bales. After the season ends, you can recycle your hay into compost.

4. Bright orange, green, and purple might not mesh with your home. Hang up a black twig wreath to keep it chic and make it spooky. Collect branches in your neighborhood to make this no-fuss craft, or buy this beautiful hand wrapped wreath by GNVDesigns.

5. Save your old sweaters from the donation pile – cable knit pumpkins are chic, eco-friendly accents for the patio and the dining room.

6. Transform old tin cans into spooky luminaries by following this easy DIY tutorial. This craft is a great alternative to paper bag luminaries, which are more likely to fly away and turn into litter.

7. Black cats are a Halloween staple. This black cat carved from recycled wood by SoAddictDecor will charm trick or treaters and guests alike.

8. Ring in the season of the witch by hanging witch hat luminaries around the front door. The tutorial recommends buying cheap hats, but making your own out of cardboard is even more Earth conscious.

9. Set out soybean skull candles by StoryofTheScent to create a chilling atmosphere. Halloween stores sell candles made from paraffin wax, which emit chemicals that pollute the air. (If you don’t like skulls, decorate your end tables with sweet pumpkin head candles by Hickoryhillcandle.)

10. Mason jars are so multifunctional — you can even use them to make a ghoulish apothecary in your kitchen. Simply fill your mason jars with a combination of moss, glycerin or vinegar mixed with food coloring, and throw in creepy items like doll parts and old toys. To go the extra mile, decorate your mason jars with authentic looking labels.

Upgrade Your Home for Little Money

For many, the thought of home improvements can bring about worry. Between costly and lengthy projects, updates can often seem like they’re not worth the hassle. But not to fear! These cost-effective home upgrades can easily be done by yourself and can also increase the overall value of your home—a definite win-win!

Paint the kitchen cabinets.
New cabinets are costly. But a few coats of paint can transform both your cabinets and the kitchen itself for less than half of the cost. Simply remove the doors and hardware, sand, and paint a color of your choice.

Replace hardware.
Weathered cabinet handles can drastically age your home. Swap out the hardware in the kitchen and bathroom for modern knobs and handles. Your local hardware store will have a variety to select from.

Update light switch plates.
Did you know that you can replace a light switch plate for less than one dollar? You can even take it one step further by painting them the same color as your walls.

Add moldings to walls.
As long as you have the proper tools, DIY molding is relatively simple. You can choose from two popular types—crown molding and panel molding—each will give your house an elegant ambience.

Give the outside of your home a facelift and increase curb appeal.
A pop of color can take the outside of your house from drab to fab. Easy do-it-yourself projects like repainting your front door, adding new shutters, and planting bright flowers in window boxes can add a welcoming effect. Updates like adding trim to flower beds, modernizing outdoor light fixtures, and repainting your mailbox will not only be easy on the eyes, but will also increase the overall curb appeal.

Revamp indoor light fixtures.
Instead of spending your money on a brand new fixture, consider giving your current one a makeover. Transform the fixture cover either by adding a fresh layer of high-heat paint or replacing the glass.

Repaint walls with neutral colors.
Although bright colors are fun, a neutral palette can make your home feel more clean and act as a blank canvas. Try to stick to timeless colors—cream, gray, and tan.

Frame your bathroom mirror.
Does your bathroom have a plain plate-glass mirror? Adding decorative baseboard trim around it can make a world of difference.

Hang curtains high and wide.
Help a small window out! Hanging drapes high and wide will give the illusion of a larger window, along with making the room more spacious.

Add visible storage.
Is there anything better than extra storage without having to open either a door or cabinet? Floating shelves are both a simple and aesthetically pleasing solution.

Give your air grilles a fresh look.
Since a return air vent is a necessity, why not make it look its best? With just a quick trip to your hardware store for a can of paint, you’re able to transform an eyesore into something that’s worth looking at.

What Bulbs to Plant in the Fall

Preparing for spring can never start too soon! These are the best bulbs to plant this autumn to make sure your spring garden blooms in full.

Daffodils

One of the first signs of spring comes in the form of these familiar yellow and green-stemmed flowers. Plant bulbs of the Carlton or Sunlight Sensation variety to make your yard the brightest shade of yellow on the block come spring.

Hyacinth

Few things bring you back to spring like the fragrant of hyacinth—too strong for some, but reminiscent of the season nonetheless. Popular bulbs are delft blue: a periwinkle color that stands out from the crowd, or Carnegie, which is a bright white staple.

Snowdrop

Consider planting snowdrop bulbs, which are one of the earlier spring bloomers. These white and green flowers do best when they’re not fully exposed to the sun. Plant the giant bulb type for these lovely flowers to bloom in full this spring.

Tulips

Who can forget these colorful and bold flowers? Darwina is a bulb you’ll want to plant if you want the biggest reward, i.e. a garden that will make any neighbor envious. If you’re worried about the rodents, try planting a smaller type, like whittallii.

Dwarf Iris

These flowers bloom in early spring, and give the perfect elegant look to your exterior. Pauline is the most familiar variety—with the classic purple and white color combination. Pixie and rhapsody are other types that when planted now, will make spring that much brighter.

Prepare Your Home for Holiday Guests Galore

The holidays revolve mainly around three things: food, giving, and guests. Whether you have family and friends staying over for the duration of the holidays or simply for a long weekend, being a host can be a fundamental part of this time of year.

However, hosting parties on top of accommodating overnight family and friends can quickly turn from enjoyable to overwhelming.

Ease your worries and turn your home into a five-star hotel with our tips to get you prepped and de-stressed for the upcoming season. Worry about those cookies burning in the oven, not whether grandma has clean bath towels.

Freshen up your space.
You may be used to the pet smell, but your guests are not. And no matter how much they love you, no one wants to be the bearer of bad-smelling news. Lighting a candle or adding fresh winter flowers as a kitchen table centerpiece can instantly add a cozy, fresh feel to your home. But make sure to clean, vacuum, and bathe your animals thoroughly, because masking a scent will only prolong the inevitable.

be-mindful-of-personal-preferences

Give them the necessities.
Necessities mean different things to different people, but everyone wants the Wi-Fi password and clean towels at the ready. Don’t forget to have those tricky internet and Netflix passwords written down (or framed if you want to go all out). Make sure to also put out extra toiletries, reading material, spare hangers, and other necessities that guests may need. Water bottles and an assortment of snacks go a long way too, especially if you want to leave a good impression and make your home bed & breakfast worthy.

keep-the-bar-cart-stocked

Keep the bar cart stocked.
Having drinks ready to be shaken, not stirred, is a holiday essential. Plus, this is the perfect time to try out all of those fancy bookmarked cocktails with ingredients no one can pronounce. Guests will appreciate the extra touch to their meal, and it will instantly make your home feel like the most Instagram-worthy holiday destination.

declutter-inside-and-outside

Declutter inside and outside.
You remembered to clean the inside of your home, but don’t forget about the front porch and walkway. As it starts getting darker and colder this time of year, you want to make sure you add an inviting feel to your home, so guests can clearly tell you’re ready for them. Adding luminary bags along the walkway, a holiday wreath to the door, and sweeping the area free of cobwebs and leaves will instantly make your family and friends feel like they’re entering a holiday weekend haven.

Make room in your coat closet or entryway.
Avoid the awkward situation of cramming your guest’s coats into your closet as they stand and watch, and clear out that space ahead of time. This doesn’t need to be an extreme reorganization ordeal, but rather taking a few of those bulky winter coats and putting them in your personal closet instead for the duration of their stay. PRINTABLE HOME PASSWORDS SHEET

The holiday season is an exciting time surrounded by people you love, but it can easily become overwhelming with the amount of responsibilities on your list. The above reminders are simple ways to make you feel more prepared for overnight guests. Make sure being the host of the season is all of the fun and none of the stress.