Thursday Spotlight: Module 1, Round 2

Thursday Spotlight: Our First Module, Round 2

Yesterday, I recorded part of our First Module in Webinar Form

This morning, more recording & some edits

This First Webinar will end up between 6 – 8 Modules, each lasting an hour + Q/A

This is a ton of work, but am feeling good about getting the information out of my head + heart

We are recording several Modules & making them available in:

PDF + MP3 + MP4 + Live Video

Whew. Ton of work. So worth it. So excited to make this information accessible outside these walls.

This is where my heart is: Design + Training + Equipping Others to…well, you know…live their custom lives 😉

A breakthrough approach to decorating like a pro using retail product. I reserved the domain “decoratewithretail” today for just this downloadable product. Very fun. We will of course offer how to customize just for you as part of this Webinar!

Spotlight. Module 1.

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

xo Ann

Wednesday Style Points: Ooh! Webinar Recording Today

Style Points: Ooh! Webinar Recording Today, I think…

Oh, a headset!

I can honestly say I NEVER thought you’d find me in a gaming headset. But apparently that is what a professional uses to record webinars. My hair isn’t cooperating, there is no stylist on board today ;)…just my slightly cantecerous pugs…but I am having some silly fun

Oh, a power point! That records!

This is about what I look like. Add cute shoes though. Recording Module 1.

It’s amazing what happens when we hire professionals in areas we are over our head in. I should know this of course, it’s how my Clients share their excitement with us when we come in, crew & team, to Decorate.

Today I am on the other side.

It’s not until the afternoon, I don’t do much well in the morning…

But today, it’s all about style points for the techno nerd inside of me

I actually thought I should put some cool glasses on just for fun! Don’t wear them, but…some readers in red could look great with my heels! These from Rubell’s Antiques. Image linked.

(I had no idea she existed!)

A Techno Nerd can still wear fabulous shoes however…

Today is a Tod’s Beige Pump day…


So today, working on ensemble style points while recording. Navy pants with black satin side stripe…navy cashmere sweater & Tods. Simple + Hardworking Classic, yes?

The WORK part: All about those Decorating Systems, Decorating Principles & especially ‘How To’ with Retail Product.

Actual Systems designed to make life easier. Can I say that again? Make. Life. Easier.

Universal + Customizable

Style Points. What are your wardrobe & work & life ones today?!

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

xo Ann

Tuesday Tidbit: Biggest Fear In Decorating & What It Looks Like

 Tuesday Tidbit: Biggest Fear In Decorating & What It Looks Like

Today I wanted to share something I come across consistently

Especially as we are readying to re-record our last Seminar

No matter the budget, no matter the access, no matter HOW polished someone comes across (trust me on this), no matter how important or famous…we each bring small snippets of fear to our decorating decisions

Some have spent years developing highly effective ways of projecting they don’t carry fear

I call them my “Three S’s”:

1. Snob

I love how YSL puts this. Someone who is a snob is never elegant ;).

2. Snuff

When we snuff people, especially when it comes to our decorating or design decisions it just makes us look small!

3. Snide

I love how silly and yet how TRUE this is.


Tuesday Tidbit = No being a Snob, Snuffing someone or making a Snide comment about someone’s decor choices today 😉

It’s freeing! It let’s us love those in front of us for who they are!

Then, as time & access permits, we can graciously teach them or better yet learn…

One never knows which side one is REALLY on until we drop the pretense & show up with our genuine self…

May Tuesday, your most productive day so far this week, be FREE from the “Three S’s”!

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

xo Ann

Monday Matters: A New Week, Fresh Starts At Home & In Design Office

Monday Matters: A New Week, Fresh Starts At Home & In Design Office

I love Monday mornings. I get a new start at home and in the office.

This week we are re-recording Part 1 of our Seminar (professionally) so I am supposed to practice, practice, practice

I love this quote, but I need to LEARN it. One of my “fresh starts” for 2013 is to get back in the pool. 4 years ago I broke my foot badly, surgery…the whole 9 yards. I couldn’t swim, but now I can and I am not…but I NEED to…This reminds me the broken foot was a COMMA not a PERIOD. Just like our Seminar, when the recording of the Live Day didn’t translate I wondered…was that a comma or a period? Without practice I MAKE it a period. By stepping out of fear (remember 2013 = Fearlessness) and trying…I MAKE it a comma…..

Am supposed to have the right equipment at the ready, my seminar notes, my make up on & the white board clean

I love my white boards, pin boards & mirrors, but they are NEVER tidy. Today, I wipe & tidy so we can move forward with recording this week.


Anyone who knows me, knows my white boards are NEVER clean. Ideas, drawings, clients…all over ALL the boards.

I love to talk & teach, but practice? Not my strongest gift…;)…so I am learning

What is it that you need to practice this week?

I know this….but I still fight against the rush of the “new”…so I learn this every day. This week, I practice the Seminar so I can teach it via video & webinar. I LOVE teaching a live small group in person. The interaction, the insight, the live “aha moments” = pure delight. But I know in my heart we need to get this outside the ordered safe walls of my Studio. And so I practice for you & set aside my fear of “what if” and failure. What do you need to set aside this week?

Monday Matters

& so do you!

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

xo Ann

Sunday Stewardship: Wrap Up Our Mini Version “The Beautiful Issue”

Sunday Stewardship: Wrap Up On Our Mini Version “The Beautiful Issue”

When a project is over and it’s time for us to leave, my deepest desire is for Clients to live more beautifully than the cameras record

It’s a funny thing to create a decorated space

We find a place for everything, set it just so…the stylists are brought in for the camera, the flowers are fresh the photographs are snapped

and then we leave

Does the client sit on the sofa?

Does the teen plop on their new comforter?

Vicuna Wool. Seriously Expensive Fabric…image linked.

Does the red wine & champagne flow?

I hope so

Decorated spaces, in my world, are meant to be lived in

Yesterday, I shared a quote I wrote for someone earlier this year:

“If I decorate or design a beautiful space and the Client is not FREE to enjoy it, it’s like going to the symphony and not being able to HEAR.”

Can you imagine going to the Symphony and saying “Oh, no thank you, it’s too beautiful for me to hear…I will put in my ear plugs and just look…”


The systems we create, the principles we decorate by are designed to make it easier when we leave. I literally designed these systems SO THAT when we leave the client really lives.

Systems & Principles, by nature, are designed to “catch” us when we falter

We build our homes as a place to live our life. I believe you are beautiful and should live that way. It isn’t a perfect process, we get messy, we forget to make the bed…stewardship is a gracious process.

I think it’s why I like designing these systems, because they live practical….they are made for actual people!

They remind me within my own heart to live beautiful

Stewarding “The Beautiful Issue”

It’s this weird place in the process of VALUING yourself enough to take care of your proverbial custom nest, “making your bed” while at the same time not worshiping the “stuff” because it cost so much. It’s letting the teen plop on the comforter when they need to talk and not yelling “noooooo”…..

THAT is the stewardship training that we are after

Decorating for LIVING life. It’s about way more than just making it magazine worthy.

It also circles back to one of my Decorating Principles: A great decorator equips

My job is not to just make it look pretty

My job is to help you live pretty

But in a way that I am “in – and then out” so you CAN




“The Beautiful Issue”

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

xo Ann

Saturday Stuff: More On “The Beautiful Issue” In Decor

Saturday Stuff: More On “The Beautiful Issue” In Decor

Yesterday I shared one of the modules we work through when I am teaching my Decorating Systems Program. This is a collection of Systems I share with:

1. DIY

2. Clients

3. Design Enthusiasts

4. Professional Decorators & Designers

I tailor the program (customize, is that a surprise ;)?!, to the person or group I am teaching by age & stage, but some (not all) of the BASICS are the same

“The Beautiful Issue” is one of my basics

Developed this System because I noticed there were things I learned around “the kitchen table” or “the dining room table” or at “my parents cocktail parties” that were Foundational Truths to “custom living” & “living well” in a decorated home – that seemed to be missing in the hearts & minds of my  dear Clients

I kept encountering a gap between where I wanted to start with clients and where they NEEDED to start

Hence my solution brain 🙂 my Matrix Brain….my Systems Brain!

My Comfort Area

This issue became LIGHTENING when I put together the first “My Catalog Life” Seminar which teaches How To Decorate Like The Pro’s From Ready Made Retail Product and Avoid The “Nice Pottery Barn” House Comment….

Major Labels sometimes show up at Home Goods. KNOW what to look for & you can find some deals.

I am not anti-catalog. I am anti-home-uniform…

This is the Seminar we are working to bring to market for you in downloadable form

This is the Seminar I hired a Professional to take care of those “labels, formatting…”

Oh sure…they make it look so easy ;). I hired a pro to handle all the formatting because I know where my gifts are, and they are NOT in this area!! In the interest of getting this to YOU before I am 80, I relinquished control of the download format process….

This Seminar resonated deeply, there were many “aha moments” but not for the reasons I had anticipated

People (we) are AFRAID to go outside of “The Pottery Barn House” (Designer Label)

People (we) are AFRAID to NOT get the comment “Nice Pottery Barn House” (Designer House)


Need I say more? Image linked.

I like Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware…I am not “anti-catalog” but I am “anti-home-uniform”

A home uniform = death

I am not “anti-track home”

I am “anti-home-uniform”

When I went back to Berkeley to take a Graduate Course in Design, this was required reading. My professor was brilliant. He reminded me WHY I was doing what I was doing…….and that it wasn’t fluff. It mattered.

There is a DIFFERENCE. That difference is a “heart-set”. A custom “heart-set”. Begins in the heart and mind…travels through the soul, the bones…your life…

It’s the realization that you are custom. Therefore your life should be custom. Because it matters that you are custom. And beautiful is an outcrop of custom.

Home is where your story begins. You are NOT the same as everyone else. You have value. You are unique. You were made different for a reason.

Image linked.

I grew up with the aesthetic teaching that to be the same as someone else was to not be you. Was to not be what you were supposed to be.

House Beautiful. These things are beautiful. But once the cameras leave & the staging is removed, how does the owner live? My hearts deepest desire is for my Clients to live MORE beautifully even than the camera captures…..

Why in the Saturday Stuff Post? Because we all have this personal baggage “stuff”.

Sometimes this “stuff” keeps us from decorating the way we want…we go to The Catalog which looks safe + approved….but somewhere deep down, there is a silent scream because deep down you and I weren’t made to be safe + approved by The Catalog.

I am going to say that again: we silently scream because we know deep down we were not made to be safe + approved by The Catalog. The Grocery Store. The Cool This or The Cool That…it’s a visceral scream we spend years dampening & I see it most expressed in “The Beautiful Issue”…& my heart breaks…

You & I were made to be Safe + Approved just because we exist

We have a saying in our home: “Just Because”

It’s not what you think. It’s a gracious “Just Because”. It means “Just Because You Are”

It means you are SAFE + APPROVED Just Because You Are

I want you to decorate beautiful because you ARE

I want you to live beautiful because you ARE

Foundational Ann McDonald’s Decorating Systems Truth: This is NOT about buying beautiful stuff. This is about uncovering the beautiful in you, where you are, in the house you are in, with the furniture you have, with the budget you have FIRST so that you learn to live beautiful at any time, at any price, at any stage, in any location.

Trust me, just because you can buy a $1,200/yard fabric, doesn’t mean you live beautiful with it

Remember, I developed this System for real people, SMART people, SUCCESSFUL people, NICE people, GOOD people…people just like you are and just like I am, to move INTO the daily process of living beautiful. Just Because We Are.

It changes lives. It frees. It lightens the load.

I love the quote above. My take: “If I design + decorate the most beautiful space for someone but they are not FREE to enjoy it, it’s like going to the symphony and not being able to HEAR….” Ann McDonald, 2013

Living beautiful is also a stewardship issue…are you sensing tomorrow’s post?

I hope so

I am crazy passionate about teaching Why & How to Decorate for a Custom Life

It’s not fluff. It matters.

Birds build custom nests. They don’t copy exactly. And if someone moves in after they move out, they tweak just for them…

If you are interested in this, please let me know!

Private?; Public? Comment below. I would be grateful.

I want so much for these Systems to make a difference, to strike a chord, to bless, change, edify, equip…..

Remember, even people who “have it all” struggle against what I call the “Catalog Culture” or “You Can’t Culture” when it comes to their homes & living in their homes

Neither of which I like

I happen to believe “You Can” and you should live “OUT side of a Catalog”

“The Beautiful Issue” ran deep, runs deep

It can cripple us without even knowing it

I want you to live a custom life 😉

but you know that already….because I value you….

“Live a custom life. There in only one you.”

xo Ann

Frugal Friday: Number 1 Roadblock to Understanding What A Frugal Decor Really Is

Frugal Friday: Number 1 Roadblock To Understanding What Frugal Decor Really is

You know I love value

You know I love finding a bargain

You KNOW I love beautiful things…yesterday I shared a Couture Gown for heaven’s sake…not exactly Frugal Friday material there…

James Galanos. A legendary Designer. The construction of his clothing was nothing short of incredible. From the outside they looked effortless. From the inside, the quality of stitch, seam, construction…impeccable.


In the genuine pursuit of living an intentional (sometimes literally frugal) decorated life, I want to share the single biggest roadblock I come up against when Clients try to get a handle on spending serious money for things their heart delights in.

From Forbes. One of the most expensive hotel suites. If you had paid to stay here, would you use the space or just look at it & not “muss” anything…

I call it “The Beautiful Issue”

It’s actually part of my Decorating Systems Program…and YES, “The Beautiful Issue” is in fact the title of the module…

What about this hotel room? Another in the “most expensive” column via Forbes…

It goes something like this:

One of the things we come up against is the “Beautiful Issue”

“Oh, that’s a beautiful room…I could never throw a casual party in it”

Ok, you might get a pass from me on this one but only because it’s considered an artifact. It sold for over 4M. Foundational Truth? YOU are still worth more than this could ever be. If it was in  your home I would counsel you to live with it, not worship it. Silk Isfahan Rug. Image linked via Christies.

“Oh, that’s a beautiful room…I could never drink red wine in it”

I was blown away the first time I went to a home and “no red wine” was served because of the decor. I nearly broke out into laughter, until I realized they were serious! Religious reasons? No problem! But “the decor”?! If you can drink red wine in Windsor Castle, you may drink wine in my home…….YOU are worth more than my sofa or flooring material. You just are.

“Oh, that’s a beautiful sofa, I could never take a nap on it”

“Oh, that’s beautiful fabric, I could never let my grandchildren sit on it”

Oh, that’s a beautiful (insert any item here), I could never (insert any item here) on it, in it, around it….

You get the picture

What is my Frugal Friday contribution to “The Beautiful Issue”?


I was trained, much as I suspect many of you were, to LIVE with beautiful things and to use them

It is FRUGAL to use things

It is WASTEFUL to worship things

Big difference

So if there is one take a way for this weekend, it’s this…

Use the beautiful you thought you couldn’t

Use the beautiful you forgot you had (I am guilty of this…)

If you perceive it is too valuable to use, then you have assigned a THING more value than a PERSON, not ok

And this coming from a gal who has fabrics in her arsenal that cost more per yard than her first car…

THIS is designed to make you smile…can you guess what the first car I drove was? A very old hand me down many miles on it Ford Pinto. I would just like to go on record as Thanking the Lord I am still alive ;). If you are too young to know about the Pinto, it was the cosmic joke of the 80’s via the 70’s. And I thought I was the bomb cause I had access to wheels….

I also have fabrics in my arsenal that are $7/yard.

Frugal depends on usage. Real life living. If I am not using the $7/yard fabric, no matter the cost it is still not frugal

What is your Frugal Luxe item you live with and love each day?

Is it a fabulous sherry glass?

A magnificent chair you sit in?

A Royal Crown Derby Place Setting you enjoy daily?

Frugal = Cost/Usage

Cost DIVIDED by usage…therefore, the more expensive the item…you get the picture….

What is that inexpensive thing, your proverbial “$7/Yard Fabric” that goes unused?

Not frugal

You are the most expensive thing in your home (in a good way;). You have the most value. Your beautiful things are there to work for you, not the other way around.

“The Beautiful Issue”

What’s yours?

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

xo Ann


Thursday Spotlight: Decorating Detail I Am Dreaming About Right Now

Thursday Spotlight: Decorating Detail I Am Dreaming About Right Now

Yesterday I showcased something light and fun, simple vignettes I am being moved by right now, TODAY

Today I want to spotlight details.

Details from the world of Couture. Swoon. Oh, that I could wear dresses like this to work!

Can you imagine? Hauled off to some island I would be….;)

That said,

You know I love these dressmaker details

Elie Saab Spring 2013. I love this look. When I see gowns like this on the runway I am always thinking about how to take details and translate them into home

I love translating moments from couture into furnishings & fixtures…

I love these ice blue lamps. Contemporary take on a classic color. This is a translated detail for me when I look at the dress from the runway above. Image linked. Its the TRANSLUCENT.

What is a detail you find yourself going back to over and over?

The translucent from the Couture Gown above is one I repeat over and over in design

Lucite, glass, sheer fabric overlays…

I love this chair. Charles Hollis Jones circa 1970. Even in Traditional spaces I always try to work in something translucent. Image linked.

Caprea Sheer. Image linked.

Take a moment & look around your home

Now look in your closet.

Do you see anything that repeats itself? A detail?

Maybe it’s scale. Maybe it’s something like my fav above.

If not, is there a detail you swoon over? Is there something you wish you could use?

Spotlight. Bringing all those “gut” feelings we have about what we love in Design into focus.

Look for details today. And be blessed.

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

xo Ann

Wednesday Style Points: Decorating For Your Life Today

Wednesday Style Points: Decorating For Your Life Today

We have been diving deep lately with all our Decorating Principles & Systems

Lots of chatter with Safety + Order + Beauty…our Top 10…all that stuff

Today I wanted to share some of the things that are inspiring my decorating TODAY

I am loving the inspiration from Classic Damask patterns. As we work on some custom designs for Clients, these are fantastic jumping off points. I love taking these and breaking them apart to form unexpected repeats…sweet…STYLE POINTS!

These are beautiful vignettes to me

I am loving the stark contrasts here….just am.

I hope they bless you

If you are a faithful blog person, you may have seen this already but I absolutely love the combinations here. The power pack punch of Red & White…throw in some black and = love. Style points. From Belle Maison 2009. Yes, I know it’s “old” in Design Speak, but I am still in love. Image Linked.

From Apartment Therapy. I love the high gloss floors. When we remodeled our home, I thought long and hard about using this vignette. I knew however with 2 boys and several dogs it wouldn’t work. So I admire these from afar…

One of the reasons I shared the photos above is that they each have a style.

Just like you. Even if you think you don’t…you do…

May today be a day you embrace it.

With style…embrace them with style!! When we get to that place where we realize no interior will ever be perfect…we are free to take risk with design.

What will your Design Risk be today?

How many Style Points will it total?

Tally those personal design risks that are good + authentic…the ones that bless those around you…it’s your fingerprint. Your style.

I’m playing too….will keep you posted!

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

xo Ann

Tuesday Tidbit: My Lake Tahoe Habit

Tuesday Tidbit: My Lake Tahoe Habit

Each Tuesday I try to give a window into my habits or bite size design nuggets.

Tuesday should be an easy take a way day, remember, it’s the Most Productive Day of the week, so I want you to get out there and change the world with your custom gifts somehow!!

Today I am working in Lake Tahoe

Fabulous Coral Lamp from Pier One. If you look closely at the Beach House on ABC's  Revenge, you'll see it there too! At $125 a complete steal.

Do you remember one of my FAV Lamps? Coral Lamp from Pier One. If you look closely at the Beach House on ABC’s Revenge, you’ll see it there too! At $125 a complete steal. We are customizing this Lamp with a patterned shade & using it in a room with deep red shell mirrors for a project in the Basin.

Meeting some contractors, saying hello to some clients, checking on some jobs in progress and bidding out some new full service design possibilities. Meeting some Couture Chat & VIP Day people.

Very fun. I LOVE working in Lake Tahoe!!

One of the things we do a bunch of are second or rental homes for our Clients who live in the Bay Area

If you have one, give us a call! Our VIP Days are the go to resource and many Realtors in Lake Tahoe give these as Housewarming Gifts. Our favorite Contractors also recommend these. At $1,500, they are high value. Quick turn around inside of 2 weeks.

We will help them pick out furnishings that look great but don’t break the bank. We add a quick custom detail here and there to make SURE it feels like a Couture Chateau project.

Are you working on your own home?

Do YOU have a favorite lake? A favorite Mountain Hideaway?

Let me know! I know we have some friends in Northern Michigan…and Maine…and Texas…where are you?

Maybe we could share YOUR Couture Chateau on the blog!

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

xo Ann