Crunch Day come and gone…did you finish?

Well, for the first time since we started this test blog….we missed two days….hummmmm…..

Designer needs to take her own advice :)!

Our Holiday Crunch Day was December 15th.  What ever we had planned on doing, the goal was to finish on or before that date so the rest of December and New Years Eve was protected for friends and family.

Goal:  87% met.

As we planned for a simple celebration this year, with few but meaningful design elements, I felt fresh and cleansed.

Share with us about your decor this season.  Was it simple? Over the top? Just for the kids?….trust me, I remember well the days when a precocious 3-year-old thought it was fun to pull the tree over. Along about the 4th time, we anchored that puppy to the wall.

Merry Christmas & Happy Weekend :)!


Simple Tree with only 4 elements

Wide Shot of Front Porch Decoration

Holiday Crunch…part 2

As our wind down days approach, the crunch gets tighter. That 15th is looming for me…..

What is that one thing you think you MUST do?

Holiday Wish List

Is it for you or someone else?

Is it a baking project?

Holiday Cookies

A decorating project?

Holiday Lights and Decorating

Another group of friends you must get cards mailed to?

Let us suggest, take one thing you thought you HAD to do for yourself….and try these things instead:

1. Take a walk

Walking Shoes

2. Take an evening walk in a neighborhood that has pretty Christmas Lights

3. Go for a hike

4. Visit a Retirement Home or Convalescent Home where you don’t know anyone

Convalescent Home

5. Sit outside in the cool air and read a Good Book for an hour

See how your Holiday Crunch might seem less well….”crunchy”! And the energy you need to finish that one extra thing for a friend is now right at hand.

Holiday Crunch

Today is December 12th.  Three days left to my “Deadline” Day for All Things Holiday…


What do I mean by that?

I mean that as of December 15th, my focus changes from getting things done (shopping, baking, card writing) to enjoying the people around me.

Manger Scene

What ever isn’t done either gets done that day or shortly thereafter or it doesn’t get done at all.

We wind down so we can enjoy each other as a family.

We wind down so the 25th doesn’t descend upon us as an unplanned storm might.

Christmas Cookies

We wind down in our consumption of all things Holiday.

No more lights, no more shopping, just no more….

Christmas Lights somewhere in Boston

“Ann….that isn’t PRACTICAL…..”

OK, for some….next year will be the Season of planning….

For today, be brutal about your lists.

Santa’s your list longer than Santa’s?

Does it REALLY need to be bought? Does it REALLY need to be decorated?

Think about it.

Simple Christmas

And get back to me!

“Live a custom life. There is only one you.”™

xo Ann

Project Day Friday

Some of my favorite products used in projects:

Check out the Lacanche French Ranges:

I have two in my home, one used just for baking and the other used every day. They are a fabulous company and have a loyal fan base and following. We love our ranges.


Needlepoint Pillows:

Even in the most contemporary spaces, a fabulous down filled needlepoint pillow adds instant collected age and style. These are not inexpensive, but they get better with age and use. Softer with each nap or curled up pug.

Contemporary Needlepoint Pillow


New, old…it never goes out of style. Use sterling, silver plate or silver leaf products to add glamour and reflection, especially in smaller spaces.

Silver Pitcher

Gold and Brass:

Yup, brass is back. For me and my long time NYC clients….it never left. Brass is still the main stay in those Paris Salons and European Estates. I love how it presents age and stability with ease.  Check out these monogrammed door handles we used in our home. I absolutely love them. They are tempermental – they require constant polish and tightening but that is part of the process for me. Not for everyone, but for some…the peice de resistance!Monogrammed Crystal on Brass

Holiday Pressures, Part “2”

Use less, enjoy more.

Let’s be practical about the time and resources we have to make the most of this Holiday Season.

This time of year is compounded by Style Stress that invades the homes and minds of otherwise normal, well adjusted, successful, peaceful people.

Just check out the series of Target Commercials with the crazy lady in Red. I laughed out loud to the point of crying, because “she” exists in EVERY city I have ever lived and worked in. Every single one.

Sometimes, I am she. And I have never had a blond hair on my head. Does she exist in you?

Confessions of a Decorator from youth:

I saw a gingerbread christmas tree in a magazine and told my mother I wanted to make it. No problem. I gathered the ingredients and set about a week long process at the ripe old age of 12 to create this customized tree. It was 12″ tall and took me a week of working every single day. Does that tell you about the detail involved?

Project complete.

Enter God’s sense of humor at building idols…..

Duffy the family dog had lovingly been by my side at every step.

He knew it was a special treat for him.

How he managed to eat the entire tree that sat in the MIDDLE of the Dining Room Table is still beyond me, but he did.

A week’s work of work gone in an instant.

What did I do in my stubborn heart?

Made ANOTHER one! And this time, I added a VILLAGE…put it on plywood and set it up high. It lasted a year until the ants got it.

Moral of the story:  My time would have been better spent walking my beloved dog. My time would have been better spent making and baking cookies for those who needed some good cheer and visits. I am not saying that making gingerbread trees and villages is bad – for some it is a time of delight and gathering. For some it is a blessing of family traditions. For me it was not – it was a quest that stole time and energy from me.

I can laugh now, hard, at it. I could laugh hard then – but do take the time to examine what my heart’s desires are for the Holiday Season each year with a renewed sense of purpose.

Those goals change with each season. Sometimes our families are young, sometimes old, sometimes gathered, sometimes scattered.

What is your heart’s desire for your Holiday this Season?

Be honest. And go about fulfilling that desire with purpose and blessing!

Holiday Pressures Part “1”

One of the best pieces of advice I received when putting together my Home for the Holidays, was to not bow to pressure.

Don’t bow to the pressure of creating a look that belongs to someone else.

Let me share an example.

We live in the US (& Canada for my dear relatives & friends) where we are abundantly blessed. Sometimes these blessings come with traditions and expectations that are neither beneficial to us or edifying to us. If our spaces are stressing us out because we aren’t conforming to a particular style or look, we need to clear our heads and reset to zero.

There is NO one way to live. Some of the most fabulous spaces and inspired people have come from nothing. STYLE has nothing to do with money, exclusivity or access. STYLE and comfort both in one’s person and space or life has to do with what is on the inside.

I always tell clients that if you aren’t clean on the inside, your house will never be clean or in order on the outside. How we live is a manifestation of what is going on inside.

We have often left spaces staged and complete only to come back months later for a visit and the client has introduced chaos. After some laughs, we get down to the serious business of TEACHING how to live from the inside out. It is a way of looking at your design as a reflection of WHO you are, not as a mirror of some glossy catalog or lifestyle magazine.

We will address some of these steps tomorrow.

First piece of practical advice on this:  take one box of unopened or unused holiday decorations and put it away. Don’t use it. Have a cup of tea and walk away. go for a walk (not shopping silly). Read an inspirational Holiday Book. Breathe in the cool crisp air.

More on this tomorrow. For today, you have a Decorators Permission to use less, and live more.

Design Inspiration in a Mocha

A Perfect Mocha

Spending a few days in Los Angeles is always great for new design ideas. I typically find them on the West Side, the tried and true Melrose Avenue or down near the Beach.

Exposed Industrial & Rope at Stairway

This time, I found inspiration at a Coffee House in Chino Hills!

LOVE the use of materials. It all works.

Three Adjacent Materials: Penny Tile, Wood and Wood Tile...can you find the wood tile pieces?

Loving the view from the Balcony

Go figure. Wasn’t looking for inspiration, just coffee and a place to sit and work. Found all three!

Friday is Project Day

Last week we shared some photos of a flooded out cabin. Ours. Yikes.

When the pipe burst and the cabin fell apart, my first reaction was, no problem. Got it. 2 weeks: my SUPPLIERS in the door, my TEAM will get it done. WRONG.

Truth is, unless we approach the PROJECT like a PROFESSIONAL, it just doesn’t happen.

No MATTER the size, scale, budget, location….every project – if it warrants any of our time, deserves the professional treatment.

We “reset to zero” (I reset to zero).

  • Inspiration Board was made

    Distressed Red Cabinets with new Floor Detail

    Nothing like a skiing moose to set the mood

  • Budget was addressed honestly
  • Floor Plans were re-drawn
  • Story Board was completed

    The only thing that wasn't damaged when the pipe burst!

    Hudson Bay Blanket

  • New ideas and goals for rooms addressed
  • Rooms were adjusted, some walls were moved
  • Seasonal Storage was dealt with
  • Recycled and Re Purposed Furniture was used everywhere we could
  • Electrical Issues Dealt With
  • Heating Issues Dealt With
  • Roofing Issues Dealt With
  • Budget issues

Here’s the truth. This takes TIME. This takes FOCUS. And we can’t do it alone. As much as we’d like to think we can, we can’t.

Think about a project that YOU have. It can be small or large, inexpensive or a real financial commitment. No matter which, it will be better executed and you will be more at peace if you follow the steps above.

Give yourself permission to take your time and do it right. Don’t apologize for this process. It takes a TEAM of PROFESSIONALS at least a year to get those jobs done in the magazines. Believe me, I know.

We will continue to update progress as we get some. Have a great weekend!

More Tips & Tricks

1. When you set about to prepare your home for the Holidays, set an “End Game”

What do I mean?

Mark the day on your calendar when you will NO longer purchase, add to, decorate, bake or do ANYTHING other than enjoy what you have prepared around you and the PEOPLE around you.


I learned this the hard way. There was always one more thing to decorate, buy, add to….one more ornament….one more card to send…

This is absolutely the best advice I have ever gotten as a mother, decorator, designer, Christmas and Holiday lover.

My date is December 15th.

It is marked in RED.

What is your date??

2. Keep the December “thank you list” in your kitchen’s “command central” where EVERYONE in the family can add to it each day.

Printable Thank You List Tracker

We get so many gifts, presents, thoughtful notes from friends and family throughout the Holidays that we’d often forget something in January that needed a Thank You Note

IT can be a simple chalk board, list….anything. Just train your children young and they will get in the habit of writing those gifts down so those notes don’t get forgotten and incur the wrath of a properly correct Grandmother & Grandfather :)!

3. Always have a box or bowl filled with wrapped hostess gifts for friends who stop by.

How to make wax dipped pine cones

I can’t remember how early I learned this….it was just one of those logical things.

They do not have to be expensive, one year, we made wax dipped scented pine cones and wrapped them in cellophane. With a lovely “From” tag from “Mac Mountain Lodge” our casual cabin, they had been gathered from the yard and lovingly made in Lake Tahoe.

Once the Holiday Season is over, if the gifts are not something you can donate, recycle them.