2015 Detroit Home Awards

photo Special delivery!  We are beyond excited to receive 3 2015 Detroit Home Awards. The Detroit design community is bursting with creativity and I feel thrilled to be in the company of such thoughtful and inspiring designers. It was 2nd place across the board for "Traditional Dining Room", "Traditional Interior Design (More Than 1 Room) & "Window Treatments". Check out our award winning projects:

2nd Place Traditional Dining Room:

Dining Room 1

Dining Room 2

Dining Room 4

Dining Room 5

2nd Place Traditional Interior Design (More Than One Room):

Traditional 6

Living Room 3

Living Room 4

LIving Room 2

Traditional 9

Traditional 2

Traditional 4

Traditional 5

Traditional 3

Traditional 8

2nd Place Window Treatments:

Nursery 1

Nursery Drapery Detail 1

Design & Revelry

Atmosphere For a long while I have thought about having an event to bring together a couple of my favorite things: design & the super fun people in my life. On September 11th, this happened and I hosted "Design & Revelry" at the beautiful Merrill-Wood Building in downtown Birmingham. The name, of course, is a direct reflection of the evening. I staged vignettes filled with my custom designs, curious finds and pieces from various vendors. And, the revelry? Well, you all know what can happen when you get those super fun people all together in one space. I think it's safe to say the evening was a social celebration of design. I wouldn't have had it any other way.




Vintage Repro Safari Chairs | Quatrafoil side table | Visual Comfort Sconces | Trowbridge prints formally from a suite at the Plaza Hotel, NYC | Kravet Velvet Sofa | Schumacher Pillows | Vintage 1960's Bar Cart from NYC estate | Scoop Chairs in Pindler grey texture with Kravet "Bazaar" pillows | Custom PORT mfg. & design cocktail table | Vintage Pup | Gilt stools | Stark Carpet


Custom malachite Tray by PORT mfg. & design | Vintage obelisk & geode| Custom PORT mfg. & design cocktail table | Stark Carpet | Cire Trudon Candle



Custom PORT mfg. & design console | Visual Comfort Obelisk lamps | PORT mfg. & design orange lacquer tray | Vintage accessories



Vintage Henredon Bed Refinished in grey lacquer with gold accents


Custom PORT mfg. & design table | Custom backgammon tray by PORT mfg. & design | Vintage Turkish rug layered on seagrass


Vintage secretary refinished in lacquer light grey with gold interior. Interior lights and glass shelves added | Visual Comfort lamp | Curated antique accessories and books


NOIR Cabinet | Custom PORT mfg. & design tortoise tray | Visual Comfort Alabaster Lamp | Collection of vintage shagreen boxes | 1920s watercolor of Padung Woman| Cornelia Stuart Cassady Davis, Portrait of Indian Chief in Headdress



Custom PORT mfg. & design dining table | NOIR dining chairs | Vintage gourd lamps | Claude Bentley vintage abstract painting


Custom PORT mfg. & design demi lune table | Custom PORT mfg. & design malachite lamp | Vintage nude painting


Vintage photograph of my grandpa blown up and reprinted on gallery wrapped canvas by Detroit Wallpaper Co.





Bronze glazed votive holder from lovely Fleur Detroit





212_kgP_PORTmfg_140911__J4A5806 242_kgP_PORTmfg_140911__J4A5830


A big thanks to all my wonderful friends, family and clients… and especially to this handsome man & my main squeeze. Couldn't do it without you! xo.

There's a Baby in the House


As many people might presume, one of the first things I did when I found out we were expecting was begin to brainstorm the nursery. So many people said to me, "I cannot believe you aren't finding out! Don't you want to know for your nursery!?". Nah. To me, it was way more fun to design something gender neutral than dive face first into the specifics on pink and blue. Personally, I like the story you can create by designing a room that lends itself towards neutrality. This allows for the child to dictate their style without the preconceived pressure of what it means to be a boy or girl. I set out to create a whimsical haven for the imagination to soar.


I began the project by lacquering my old changing table (which had passed through a few of my cousins) and adding shiny new brass cup pulls with fox knobs from Anthropologie. The additional dresser in the room was in Scott's dad's room when he was growing up.  If you know me, you know I love things with a solid family provenance. The custom swivel glider and ottoman are upholstered in a soft beige woven with a cream cotton accent for the welting and button/tufting detail. The animal prints are from Berkley Illustration and there were so many adorable options it was hard to narrow the choices down to just 6!




The custom draperies were another opportunity to layer in an element of the unexpected. The tone on tone embroidered polka dot is relatively restrained, but the bright orange velvet and pom-pom trim punches up the look without detracting from all the other components in the room.The natural woven shades add texture but are also black out lined for nap time.



Scott's "Curious George" playfully rests upon a giraffe rocker I received at one of my showers. Scott was a pretty naughty little boy, and I just love the fact that his favorite story book character growing up was the one and only, Curious George. The bookshelves are packed with some of my all time favorites as well as new classics. From Madeline and Corduroy to Anne of Green Gables, Peter Pan and all Ronald Dahl's extraordinary tales, we will be able to keep ourselves pretty busy.


I loved reading with my mom every night and it is a tradition I hope to carry forward with Corinne as she grows up. I saw this adorable sheep book shelf ages ago, when Corinne was a faint off glimmer in the imagination, and tucked it away for when the time would be relevant. I have this very fond memory of sitting in the lounge at the Goring Hotel in London when I was younger. Amongst the velvet upholstery, austere portraits and dark, carved furniture were these seemingly light hearted sheep foot rests. They were wool with wood faces and legs,  and while there was a roaring fire built in a large marble fireplace, I remember thinking they added a needed element of warmth to the traditional decor. I hope this sheep adds just the ounce of unexpected that impressed me so many years ago and the practicality of holding some of today's and future favorites.




I bought the hot air balloons online to originally use as her mobile, but ended up liking them as a visual element in the opposite corner of the room.



I ended up finding the adorable hand knit golden mobile… with Hogan in the house how could I pass it up!? With a love of the handmade, and the current stress to not use "bumpers" I felt this Oeuf knit garland would be a perfect accent to cozy up the crib.


The insect poster on the closet door is also from Oeuf and the bunny hook from Anthropologie. As this room was really an opportunity to have some fun, I didn't let any surface remain un touched. Prints hang on both the closet and bedroom door and the striped ceiling is an exceptionally fun element as it follows the curved ceiling of our Cape Cod style roof line.


The gallery of prints were finds from Etsy & Rifle Paper Co. The embroidered "Baby" fabric is an antique piece from my grandma that hung in my nursery.

Without the aesthetic pressure to be gender specific, art and accents came from around the globe to create a youthfully curated vibe.  Great care was taken into creating a curiously amusing room for Ms. Corinne to grow up and experience the creativity and exploration of childhood. Let's hope she enjoys it!


Big thanks to Kristin Greenwald Photography for taking these pictures!!

Corinne Elise

Birth Announcement In April, Scott and I welcomed our daughter, Corinne Elise Strickland into the world. So far, it has been a very fun and rewarding journey. We have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support from our network of family and friends. I never realized having a baby could immediately surround you with such an overpowering feeling of gratitude. We have been soaking this new chapter in for the last couple months, and while I never really stopped working, I definitely slowed down to appreciate these special moments. Corinne has proven to be a spirited and loyal companion on our adventures and I look forward to continuing to introduce her to the world of design, art and the inspired world in which we live.


Atlanta Market 2014

photo 1

Last week I was down in Atlanta starting off the New Year scouring antique markets, local shops and the Home and Gift Market at America's Mart. A dose of good ol' Southern Hospitality sure has a way of brightening the grey days that follow the holidays. Atlanta is truly a hub of design inspiration. Creativity and style abound and are embraced in a variety of applications. From product  to merchandising and graphic design there is an eye for detail at every turn. To me, consistency and quality might be the two most important factors in creating enticing and successful retail. It's a tough task to perfect the delicate balance between unique and useful with price and availability.  It was reassuring to see so many local independent retailers (both new & antique!) who really seem to have a knack for product desirability and selection.

photo 2

photo 1photo 3

We kept noticing the use of antique shutters to frame  artwork & add architectural detail.

photo 2-2

photo 3-2

photo 4-2

Not to mention, when you are a house guest, as opposed to a hotel guest, you get to wake up with these irresistible faces.

photo 4

photo 5

photo 1-1

photo 3-1

photo 4-1

Design is one of my favorite things about traveling. Every region owns its vibe. California is inherently laid back cool. New York distinctively perpetuates us towards new trends and modern ideas. Atlanta is rooted in the traditional, but with a modern day crispness. I like to think of Atlanta as well edited. Southern style has a fundamental flair and risks are embraced when there aren't competing elements. I like this rule. It forces good design to stand on it's own and prohibits eye catching details from getting lost in chaos. Materials might be antique in patina, but fresh in installation. You might look twice at a traditional English arm sofa because you're drawn a new way to apply trim. Antique prints are given a new life when appropriately framed and displayed in the right light. Leather might suddenly seem more appealing when woven and and you might realize an octagonal dining top is way cooler than the typical round top. Lastly, when in doubt, natural linen and sisal to freshen up any room.

It's wonderful to leave a trip and feel so inspired by people's creativity and excited about design. I left the week with a notebook full of concepts, a folder full of business cards and tons of new ideas to keep the wheels turning through 2014.



DSC_0537 Santa Barbara was our last leg of the journey before heading down to LA and then back to Michigan. It was wildly inspirational. These pictures pretty much speak for themselves.

photo 3

Our lovely accommodations at my Aunt Betsy's house were a wonderful example of how West Coast living can so seamlessly blend outdoor and indoor living. The courtyard, centered around the fountain, is almost treated like an exterior foyer.

photo 1

photo 5

photo 3

photo 4

Color inspiration can be found in the most unexpected places!


We visited Casa del Herrero (otherwise know as "House of the Blacksmith") which is an amazingly authentic example of Spanish Colonial Architecture. The details in the house remain virtually intact and the attention paid to them is outstanding. From the grounds, to the tile work, custom furniture and architectural elements, I was energized at every turn.







photo 4


photo 3

When traveling it is obvious field research can be most inspirational through retail design establishments. We were not disapointed at William Laman where we found many treasures to bring home with us!

photo 1

We had lunch at the Santa Barbara Biltmore. Sometimes it feel like the epitome of vacation is the ability to have a leisurely lunch, outside with ocean views. We noshed on a seafood salad, had freshly grown mint in our iced teas and then.. as if we had ordered it up ourselves... a family of dolphins started swimming by, sometimes arching their whole bodies out of the water!

photo 2

photo 4

photo 5


The interior of the hotel was gorgeous. The style reminded me of the Everglades Club down in Palm Beach. The dark interior doesn't feel heavy when it's combined with plastered walls, wicker, linens, Spanish inspired tiles, palms, orchids and ambient lighting.

photo 5

Lotusland is a pretty ridiculous private garden, situation on a once private estate. For 40 years, Madame Walska cultivated exotic plants and a variety of themed gardens. Notoriously a character (they said she used to walk around with parrots on her shoulder) the gardens is horticulture at it's most whimsical, and unexpectedly dramatic.

















photo 3

photo 4 photo 5

photo 1

For our last meal before heading down to LA, we ate at San Ysidro Ranch, situation in the Montecito foothills. As I have noted in most California design, the hotel, gardens and dining facility are another example of classic, easy luxury. It is effortlessly natural, romantic and comfortable... which can be a difficult harmony to achieve. From the dining and lobby facilities that had a personal, homey touch to the cook's garden and flower gardens it was a perfect place to wind down a fabulous trip.

photo 3

photo 1

photo 2

photo 2

photo 1





photo 1

photo 2

Needless to say, we headed back to Michigan refreshed and inspired. Vacation success!

Highway 1


Our morning started at Lovey's tea shoppe on Highway 1 in Pacifica. It was really the only middle ground location and it proved to be a winner. Very cozy, many delicious food options and the perfect atmosphere to catch up with old friends before my mom and I started on our adventure.

photo 1 copy 2

As we drove started our journey, it was so fun to see all the pumpkin patches, artichoke farms and general local scenery. There were a few spots I would like to pop in next time, the first on the list being Sam's Chowder House, which had about 75 cars  parked outside at 11 am.


Our journey continued on to 17 mile drive from Monterey to Carmel. Being from passionate golfing lineage, we had to stop in Pebble Beach. It was bustling with activity, just as I remembered. I played back in 2003 with my Dad and while I was having an epic round, I completely collapsed on 18 tee. Having been shielded by some of the most gorgeous terrain in America, I never suspected walking up the fairway I would be reintroduced to hundreds of golf loving spectators soaking in the scenery. They might be enjoying the view, but it is hard to think they aren't also noticing the 4 shots it is taking you to get out of an unsuspecting sand trap.

photo 2 copy 3




Carmel is the best place to spend a couple hours. We walked up and down the charming streets, popping in shops and worked on our... field research. Isn't that what trips like this are all about? A little break away to be re inspired. This is re inspiration in real time, right here. By the way, I grow succulents because generally I cannot kill them. They are all over California, looking beautiful. I'm going full throttle with the succulents next year.



The highway 1 drive through Big Sur is pretty unpopulated and undeveloped- as one would hope it to be. We were obsessed with the picturesque Carmel Highlands General Store right as our tour started... great place to pit stop and stock up on snacks for the ride! We also loved all the little vintage "motor lodges" which had both a vintage 60's vibe and current day cool- like Glen Oaks. I felt like we were back in the days when it was cool to hitch-hike, a VW bus would be THE travel vehicle of choice and family memories were made in motor homes.  All those sightseers needed were some Pendleton blankets, a warm thermos, a camp fire and Jenga. It might be 2013, but we saw plenty of VW busses. Engulfed by the nostalgia of the simplicity of an open road and shaded by a canopy of trees, we felt light years away from wifi (er, well except for trusty Google maps) and it barely even phased us that we hardly had enough cell reception to tune into our latest Pandora station. I guess it's true, inspiration can be found in simplifying.

photo 3 copy 2

As the sun started setting, we pulled into the Post Ranch Inn. Nondescript from the road, we almost blew by it, until in a moment of unusual clarity and the trusty iphone informed us we were, in fact, at our destination. It was the perfect time of day. The sun was casting an orangey glow, the haze was rolling in over the ocean and it looked like we were floating above the clouds. This might be the closet thing to reality heaven.

photo 5 copy

The beautiful evening lead to an equally amazing morning, which made me realize that it's not just the time of day, but more the ability to experience these transitions so seamlessly when you shut out the chaotic noise of everyday life.




We were some of the first people at the Elephant Seal Beach. They are some crazy animals! They were stretched out as far as the eye could see.

DSC_0422Our day was spent touring Hearst Castle. We did all three tours- that's right- three tours. It a pretty amazing example of the over the top, exuberant wealth of the founders of American industry. Nothing was off limits. It is truly a museum. The entire interior is dark and almost reminiscent of 17th century European churches. There are a lot of gothic influences as much of the art was collected after WWI, when Europe was sending ships full of antiquities to American's to help pay their debts. What I enjoyed most was walking around the grounds. The views are stunning. The landscaping beautiful. The guest houses that surround the main house seemed livable on an almost more relatable scale, albeit still one of undeniable glitz and glamor.












Our last stop, Santa Barbara!

The West Coast Inspiration Tour

DSC_0296 It has been about a week since I returned from a road trip down Highway 1 with my Mom. It was a trip we had talked about for a while, and one we actually did back when I was 18, but it felt really nice to spend some time, together, cruising at our own pace... a leisure that is not achievable in our daily routines. We started our weekends separately, my Mom with her friends at a beach house and me with my friends in Berkeley. Our adventure together began Sunday morning. But, first things first. While spending the weekend with my long time friends, we ventured on a road trip of our own. One to a little place called Napa Valley. As my week was filled with a multitude of rejuvenating inspiration, I think I am going to have to divide by California posts into a couple different segments. Let's start in bountiful wine country.

photo 1 copy

Our morning started at Gregoire Restaurant in Berkeley. This was something so simple and delicious that I immediately wondered why they don't have this in Birmingham. Located in a small building, filled with big scents, we ordered our breakfast sandwiches and parked it at a nearby picnic table. I love the idea of a small little kitchen, tucked on a side street, serving up delicious grub for unsuspecting customers. This was right on.


photo 3

We kicked off Napa at Hall Winery which hosts tastings in the lovely court yard pictured above. There is something just so inherently lovely about a California setting. The gravel patio and teak furniture aren't necessarily something awe inspiring, but there is still such a sense of serenity. It also probably helped that the day was perfect. Not too hot, not too cold. And we were sitting slightly shaded under a canopy of trees.


We followed Hall with a nice, leisurely walk around St. Helena. I am bummed I didn't take too many photos, but their tourist website had this shot that captures the main street. One of my favorite things about traveling is popping in unique shops to check out displays and diversity in goods and services offered.

photo 3 copy

Jan de Luz offers a beautiful array of custom monograms. You can monogram any item from their store.... napkins, placemats, table runners, blankets, robes... a really wonderful selection of products. The monograms all are very unique, with a slightly hand crafted, artistic flair. My mom and I popped into the same shop, later on our trip, while in Carmel and they actually were able to monogram items by the end of the day!


We had already made lunch plans, but next time I return to St. Helena I would love to dine at French Blue. It looked like the perfect combination of California chic and tasty.


Blue Bottle Brooklyn

For a late morning pick me up we snagged an iced coffee made with Blue Bottle Coffee. Believe me when I say- I drink a lot of coffee. My Napa travel companions and friends probably drink even more coffee that I do- and that's really saying something. Let me tell you, this might have been the best ice coffee that has ever touched my lips.



Our afternoon lunch plans were to visit V. Sattui and have a picnic. They have an awesome market with a vast assortment of meats, cheeses, dips, salads and basically any other culinary delight you might want to savor on a grassy lawn shaded by some lovely trees. In the court yard they are cook BBQ and pizzas. The buildings were quite extensive and buzzing with activity. We didn't wine taste here, but instead picked up a few bottles to enjoy with our enormous cheese spread.

photo 4

photo 2

photo 5

After the picnic and lounging at V.Sattui we headed to Sequoia Grove to cap off the day. 6 o'clock in the evening is usually my favorite time of day. Especially in Napa. The sunlight was perfect. It was one of those late afternoons where you want to soak in every drop of natural beauty. That perfect time of day always seems to pass so quickly.


photo 1 copy


photo 2 copy

As luck would have it, we were stuck in bumper to bumper traffic leaving Napa. This gave us just enough time to hook up with some friends at the Bardessono in Yountville on our way out of town. As if the perfect dusk wasn't enough, the round of loaded potato chips and onion rings proved to be the perfect way to end our Napa road trip. The Bardessono is a LEED certified building that seems to seamlessly combine understated elegance with a warm, contemporary aesthetic. The building and the grounds blend into the landscape and, as I keep noting is so inherent in California design, the atmosphere is one of tasteful restraint and easy style.


Next... Carmel & Hearst Castle!

DIFFA in Detroit


Last week I had the pleasure of being apart of the DIFFA "Dining By Design" event held at the Federal Reserve building in Detroit. Doodle Home brought PORT on board to design their table. As Doodle Home is delving into the unchartered waters of digital assistance for designers, we decided to explore the idea of the "New Frontier". I use Doodle as a way to request quotes and place orders. They provide quick responses and will track your order up until the time it's delivered- an amazing time saver for a small business owner, like myself!

During our brainstorming the "New Frontier" took on a couple different meanings. First and foremost, Doodle is trying to change the efficiency of the interior design business for the first time, well, ever.  They are also a technology based company based in Detroit. This means that Doodle is joining the technology revolution that is paving the way to the future not only of Detroit, but also Michigan. For decades this region has been heavily dependent manufacturing and recently it became crystal clear that diversified industries and companies are crucial for both future growth and prosperity.  It's a new territory, a new time and it's all pretty exciting.


The guys from Detroit Wallpaper Company installing our unreal floor. This was one giant adhesive that almost looked like it was painted on the concrete. We liked to call this installation "gritzy"... ya know, for glitzy on grit.


photo copy

photo 3-3

Check out some of the other amazing and creative installations!

photo 1-2

photo 1-1

photo 1

photo 2-1

photo 2-2

photo 2

photo 3-1

photo 3-2

photo 3

photo 4-1

photo 4-2

photo 4

photo 5-1

photo 5-2

photo 5


photo 1-6

photo 2-3

photo 4-3

And, the last one as a shout out to my amazingly supportive husband, Scott. He doesn't always know what he is getting himself in to with these events, but he manages to put on a smile and have (I think!) a genuinely good time!

American Dream

I meant to post these photos back in August, right after the Woodward Dream Cruise wrapped up, but I seemed to have taken a breath and we are now in the middle of September. If you are from Detroit, or have a love of classic cars, chances are you have heard of the Dream Cruise- the world's largest classic car rally. Many locals complain that the bevy of cars clog our streets & add extended time to our commutes, that the exhaust pollutes our lungs and the basic action of sitting along an otherwise commercial 4 lane road is simply ludicrous. Personally, I am not going to hate on an event that pumped somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 million dollars into our local economy. I am also not going to knock someone else's passion. I have said it before, and I will say it again, it is very cool to be from a town that created history and is sustained by passion. People think cars are cool. As someone who has collected stamps, coins, marbles, poker chips and numbers other items that an average onlooker might collectively call "junk" (!), I am most definitely not going to question someone's love and interest in American muscle. Not to mention that it is pretty cool to be a city defined by makers. It's how American was built and it is the entrepreneurial spirit that should continue to challenge us to set new boundaries, drive new roads and push us to create exciting design that will last for decades and generations to come.

Now, I could really care less what kind of car I drive. But walking around and admiring all the classics, I found myself bitten by the bug. At the end of the day it's all about design. It's about art. Cars embody both design and art- in conjunction with speed, horse power and a lot of other technicalities which I cannot even begin to understand. I couldn't help but feel inspired. By the colors, the craftsmanship, the sustainable design vision and most importantly the spirit of the makers, the passion of the collectors and, as always, the inspiration that stems from the past. Designs speaks to those who listen and if you listen closely it is everywhere.



















Screen Shot 2013-08-27 at 8.43.37 PM








Power of Print

  This weekend, in between a visit to the farmer's market and a string of family functions centered around food, I took some time to read a backlog of magazines. I am one who thrives off a daily dose of inspiration, but typically I take the convenient avenue and check a bookmarked blog, or read a few excerpts from an online magazine. All this can be done as a 5 minute refresher "break" from the monotony of computer work, accounting work and paper work. So, when I decided to pour myself a lemonade and take in Sunday's gorgeous weather on my deck, I actually felt refreshed.


It's about taking the time to let your mind think. Flip the pages. Read articles on something other than a glaring, highly-pixalated screen. With almost every mag I picked up I felt overwhelmingly excited about the information flow to follow.  I would speedily flip through, just to give myself a hint of what lay ahead.  Then, I would take a step back, slow down, go through and actually read the articles. With so much visual stimulation it can seem that the pounce of excitement, felt only by something out of the ordinary, becomes harder and harder to come by. We see so much. We have access to a variety of information through a multitude of media outlets. I might read an inspiring article online, but I will have checked my email four times and taken three 5 minutes phone calls before I'm finished. Sure, I'm excited by it. But did I really study it? Do I have an in depth take away? Nope. What does this all mean? Am I turning into a hyper-franatic, information guzzling, skimmer, flipper, late twenty-something? A person who, at the end of the day, will have read news and design blogs but with such a distracted mindset that I will hardly be able to hold a thought provoking conversation on any of the subjects!? While I seem to have this frenetic self awareness, I cannot seem to fight off the mobs of media assaulting me at my every move.


When I was about 11 or 12 we traveled to Florida for spring break. We did the typical candy & magazine stop at an airport kiosk before boarding the plane. This is the first time I can remember actually perusing the magazine stand with interest. It might be a coming of age thing, the fact that you start to take notice of what's around you. It's the age where you begin to gain independence and start to realize how people actually function in this world. My purchase for that day was an InStyle. I realize this might not paint the picture of a budding interior designer and definitely not a female scholar, but I was enthralled with the party pictures and, most importantly, the center spread highlighting past Oscar fashion winners and loosers. While at this stage in my life I was far from the interior designer you see today, I can promise you I was even farther from being a budding fashionista.  I had a pallete expander and most likely was donning a waffle shirt, jean overall shorts and my baby blue nubucks from the Bass outlet. This InStyle was like a Bible- in terms of thickness and revelations. I can't say that my wardrobe choices were at all affected, but I did haul that magazine around with me on our entire two week vacation. I probably read it backwards and forwards a dozen times. The pages were fading from my sticky, sunscreened fingers. And, when the Oscar red-carpet coverage began later in the vacation, you best believe I tuned in to get my dose of the Hollywood glitz & glamour. Also, you have to imagine my excitement that while in Florida, I found my grandma's stack of Architectural Digest's covering about a decade of Hollywood homes.  It was as if my pre teen, cultural awareness stars were aligning and I was in the midst of two weeks of enlightenment that could never be learned in school. Laying on her pale pink bedroom carpet, I flipped through pages filled with homes of actors from the golden years to the current day celebs I would recognize from my InStyle educational immersion. My world exploded with a new found knowledge and appreciation for mountain views and taffeta.

It's through print we can experience excitement of something new. In grade school it was the book catalogues where you could pick out crafts and paperbacks that you would never see on the library shelves. It was catalogue subscriptions in high school that made clothing accessible from beyond the walls of the local suburban mall (I'm not really talking about anything mind boggling- more so my pre mature foray into bootleg yoga pants). It's the way we can open our eyes to the possibilities, stimulate our imagination and realize what is possible. I sometimes feel scared I won't be able to experience the excitement of truly realizing something for the first time. I worry that I am growing out of the ability to be amazed by the previously unknown. I'm also concerned that as I am constantly ambushed with media and news the extraordinary might be categorized with the mundane, making finding daily inspiration more difficult as time goes by. This might all be true if I keep trying to find myself inspired on a stop watch. What I realized last Sunday was that, while that heart-pounting inspiration abounds, I can truly only feel it when I take the time to appreciate it. In design, a passion for creativity is at the core. What I'm learning is that, if even for a moment, I can turn off all the static and focus on what I love I will never loose that gut-wrenching excitement for the depth of imagination that keeps this world an extraordinarily interesting place to survive.

As now noted in my task reminder: Take time to breathe, create & be inspired.

Hopefully it's something I can check off every once in a while.

Design Sensory

The way we feel in an environment is typically more than just the paint color, the layout or the furniture arrangement. While these are all significant contributors, your connection with a space is truly a collection of senses and impressions. It's the rich softness of a mohair upholstered settee, the way the sun beams shine through the window, a dramatically lit piece of artwork or an artfully arranged cocktail table. In an outside environment it might be a crisp breeze combined with the perfect melody of tinkling wind chimes and far off laughter. Life is in the details. I think I might be the most receptive to the sense of scent. It is pretty notorious that a wood burning fire on a chilly winter's evening gives you that homey-cozy feeling that only winter can provide. The smell of your neighbor bbq-ing confirms that long summer's nights are in full swing.  The slight rustle of musty fall leaves and you know kids are back in school and football season is well underway.

Aside from seasonal scent signals (say that 5 times fast!) the slightest trigger can jig an moment or a memory. I walk into a garage filled with gardening supplies and fertilizer and instantly I am reminded of my grandparent's garage in North Carolina. On the other hand, give me a hot day, a warm breeze, the beach and someone striking up a Marlboro Light and I am back to being 8 years old playing in the sand with my other grandma, Bebe. Surprisingly for someone who doesn't smoke, this scent, in this instance, isn't repulsive but almost comforting. She also had those miniature French lavender soaps in her powder room. I don't encounter a miniature soap that I don't think of her.

Speaking of soap.  You know that cheap industrial pink soap that fills almost every gas station, school or medical office's soap dispenser? Yeah. You know it. It has that kind of squirmy iridescence (or, should I say iridescent!?) to it. One squeeze of that soap and I am taken back to my sophomore year of high school, feverishly washing my hands after completing yet another day of our "fruit fly experiment". Gross. Talk about making someone weary of fruit aisles for life. Another high school trigger? Gucci Rush perfume. I didn't wear this scent, but one whiff and I am dancing at Sadie Hawkins or on my way to the Euro Disco dance. There are a few other strong scents that remind me of this short, but impressionable chapter in my life, but discussing them here might make you question the image that I was ever anything but a poster child for exemplary behavior.

Votivo's Red Currant will forever remind me of my college dorm room. As I tried to make my first real space have an air of sophistication (the futon covered in a batik print sarong, christmas lights and disc chair counteracted this effort) I would lightly spritz some Red Currant before by guests arrived. This, I thought, was way better than those Glade Plug-Ins.

I might be walking the streets of my small town in suburbia, but one sewer line goes awry and I am instantly transported to my time in Chicago, walking to work with the El rumbling under my feet (conjuring up a squalid scent potion all on its own!) and the cold wind whipping around the buildings. Oh, and chocolate. For some reason Chicago always smells like chocolate.


1. 2. 3. 4.5. 6. 

Where might I be taking you but a quick trip down memory lane? Well, to tell you that while I have come to the realization that I am keenly aware of scents I also am attentive to how they contribute to the overall atmosphere of a space. Like I said in the beginning, it's the details that create the ambiance. Smells activate memories. The good, the bad, the gross and the beautiful. It is my sincere hope that from now on every time I smell lilacs I will think of a perfect day biking in Innsbruck- hopefully such a memory will be as easily obtainable as a fruit fly experiment. I always try to have candles lit throughout my home while I am entertaining, but also as I sit at home by myself. It's a small indulgence that can make any moment seem a little more special. When having guests over I like to mix in one scented with non scented candles to get the overall glow of candle light without smelling like a potpourri shop. When sitting at my desk (as I am right now!) I have a scented candle lit to ease some of the mundane. I change my candles by the season- keeping a diverse mixture in a convenient chest drawer in my living room. That drawer has a smell of fall spice mixed with spring tulips sprinkled with white pine and the bold notes of a currant rose musk. It's a fun drawer to open. Making these little extra efforts are not only inviting, but elevating. It's the way you utilize a space, make it a home and help create something a little more special.


7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 

At the end of the day I'm not sure if people will associate my scent with white pine or white tulips, but I know it won't be Marlboro Lights, industrial pink soap and most likely not fertilizer. There might be a hint of Red Currant somewhere in there- that's a habit I'm still trying to kick.



Alright, I realize it might be time to switch up the topic from travel, but this is my last post on our trip. Bern, Switzerland was our last stop before flying out of Stuttgart and I loved it. It was small, manageable and did not feel at all touristy. I loved walking along the river, through the arcades, eating in the calm squares and meandering up to the rose garden for a late afternoon espresso. As we had just come from our "outdoorsy" part of the trip, I splurged and booked us to stay at the Bellevue Palace. We really soaked it up by taking some down time and reading in the lobby, enjoying pre dinner cocktails in the bar and an after dinner gin rummy game in the lounge where they had a live pianist singing some Frank Sinatra classics. We wandered the farmer's market for breakfast, but enjoyed coffee from the terrace of the hotel that looked over the river. Bern was the perfectly calming ending to a busy trip. We could let down, but by doing so around such beauty we did not feel as though we were missing a beat. All that, and I finally got to indulge in some seriously authentic Swiss fondue- a true cheese lovers dream.DSC_0014-001 DSC_0015-001





DSC_0023 DSC_0030































Next, we will be back to our regular scheduled programming.

Lauterbrunnen, Murren & Gimmelwald

While the cities we had visited had all been smaller, seemingly manageable and very clean, our stop in the Swiss Alps reminded all of us how stunning and spectacular the world can be. While I always tend to lean towards architecturally and design inspiration, there is no doubt that a couple days taking in fresh mountain air, a more laid back life style and a couple of winding, hilly hikes, can be good for the soul. DSC_1412

Scott had previously visited these small towns, back in 2005 when he was here on a study abroad program, and while I was in the midst of planning he requested we make a stop. I chose for us to stay in Murren as it sits at 1,700 meters above sea level and is only accessible by cable car. I thought this would be remote enough to fill his apparently increasing need for the outdoors, a alter-ego we jokingly coined "Extreme Scott". That it did. Scott's extremeness in the Alps was like my extremeness on my first trip to Paris, back when I was 15. It's a type of excitement that you can't believe this exists in the world and you are just finding out about it. I mean the guy even walked backwards on one of our hikes as to not interrupt the best angle for the mountain views. When he wasn't walking backwards, he was jogging ahead. When we weren't sleeping with the windows open to truly experience that fresh mountain air (keep in mind it was a brisk 30 degrees during the night) he was pausing and soaking it all in. He climbed into waterfalls (to test the temp) and would wander off on his own, getting distracted by the powerful scale of our surroundings. It's fun to travel with someone who has so much energy about a destination that excitement is basically coming out of their pores. Now, I just need to work on channeling that excitement in museums and larger cities!DSC_1427
















After spending a couple glorious days reminding ourselves how beautiful the world can be, we hopped on a train and headed to Bern for our last stop before returning to Stuttgart for an early morning flight. Final Stop: Bern!


We woke up early to head from Innsbruck to Lucerne. Along the way we stopped in the ski towns of St. Anton & St. Christoph to grab a coffee and catch some views. photo-026



When we got to Lucerne it was pretty rainy, but it didn't stop us from walking around the town and catching some of the sites. It also helped that there were numerous cafes and wine bars to pop into to shield ourselves from the elements. While the Chapel bridge, old city walls and historic buildings exude an old world European elegance, there also seems to be a current and thriving art scene. All the restaurants were busy, the new convention center was jumping and I enjoyed surveying all the information on upcoming art exhibits at one of the local coffee shops where we grabbed lunch. It was cool to see amongst a quaint, lakeside European town that there seemed to be a youthful and alternative underlying pulse.








DSC_1394 DSC_1396




We enjoyed some appetizers on the river at Opus, and then headed to old town for a delicious pizza dinner. Our next stop... Murren!

Salzburg to Innsbruck

DSC_1160 We took the A-10 to Innsbruck and it was such a gorgeous drive. I have about 35 more photos that Scott took out of the window of our speeding vehicle, but I'm sure as you can imagine you can't truly capture the beauty of your surroundings when traveling at 100 mph. It was so fun to drive through many small towns as it was May 1st, or May Day. People were all gathering (lederhosen and all!!) and May poles were set up with a large evergreen tree attached to the top. Also, given the fact that we were surrounded by traditional Austrian architecture and fields brimming with dandelions, the whole thing felt like it was out of a movie.



I had read that a "must-see" stop along the A-10 is the Werfen Ice Caves. I did not realize what a production it was to check them out.  It was all well worth it. You walk for 30 minutes up the mountain, take a cable car (cue me realizing I need to get over my fear of heights. Stat.), walk up another 30 minutes and then you are about to enter an hour tour through the cavernous dark and chilly ice caves. Cameras are not allowed, but the caves are pretty ridiculous. Each group is given a lantern and you climb stairs and boardwalks throughout the super dark and spooky caves. Very cool, Mother Nature.





One 30 minute hike and cable car ride down and you can eat lunch at this pit stop. As it was May Day the restaurant was busy with tourists, locals, bikers, hikers and families just hanging out.



Obviously all that hiking and walking made us hungry for this hot dog soup.


We also stopped in Kitzbuhel for a snack. Very cool ski town, I can only imagine how bumpin' it must be during the season.




We finally made it to Innsbruck and spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the town.





The next morning we got up early and rented bikes. We took the cable car up the mountain and followed the mountain trails to Hall in Tirol where we grabbed lunch. The whole day was perfect. It was so nice to remove ourselves from the city center and see the countryside. We felt very removed from the hustle and bustle and felt like we got to see a more authentic view of everyday life.





DSC_1313 DSC_1323


Hall in Tirol



A well deserved dinner after our long bike trip!


We grabbed drinks at Bar 360, which is all glass and provides awesome views of Innsbruck and beyond.

Next, we're on to Lucerne.