Home Office Design Tips for Entreprenuers

My Top 5 Interior Design Tips for Your Home Office -Guest Post for Identité Collective

It's hard to believe but I've actually spent the majority of my Interior Design career as a self-employed creative entrepreneur. Not only have I learned a lot about business over the years, I have learned a lot about what it takes to efficiently and productively work from a home office.

Working from home and still getting the work done is a struggle for many entrepreneurs which is why I'm so excited to share the guest blog post I wrote for The Identité Collective, a full service creative studio serving boutique lifestyle brands. In this post I'll share my top five interior design tips for creating a productive and inspiring home office. 

You'll also get a a never-before-seen peek into The Indentité Collective founder's new home studio, including links to her favorite office furniture, decor and gadgets. If you like bright, white spaces you want to see this home office!

These tips work for everyone, no matter how much space you have in your home. Get my best home office design tips for entrepreneurs by clicking here

Designer Confessions: What I'm Really Thinking When You Invite Me Over

Let me in and I'll explain

A few bold friends in my life confess that having me over brings up the question "Is Desi judging my home?" These confessions come with justifications and apologies, all of which are unnecessary.  

When you invited me over did you worry that I'd arrive searching for all that could be improved in your home? That I would scan the surroundings, silently offering all of the design suggestions you should implement?

Photo by Desi Creswell

Photo by Desi Creswell

I get it. I'm an interior designer. I'm trained to re-imagine a room's potential and envision the best in a space. And, at the same time, trust that I'm not there to judge. 

The truth is...I'm not looking for the good or the bad. I'm there to see you, my friend.

The truth is...I have kids too and I know they make messes. It's ok if you didn't clean up.

The truth is....I worry about you coming to my house and judging me. I'm a designer so I must have a perfect home - or so I tell myself. 

The truth is...I have personal preferences - just like you. My likes and dislikes have everything to do with me and nothing to do with your home. 

The truth is...I appreciate the invitation and the opportunity for connection.

When you invite me over I'm not judging your home. And that's the truth.

Simplify Design Decisions - A Quick Tip I Learned From Tim Ferriss

Free up mental energy and create a space you love with an efficient decision making process I call "No 7's Allowed"

Did you know that, on average, you make approximately 35,000 decisions daily? If you're remodeling, building a home, or even just giving your living room a design refresh, the number of decisions you have to make becomes even greater, and it can be exhausting. If you've read my post on Design Decision Fatigue you know it is a real thing!

Now, think about if you let yourself get caught up in the time-suck of indecision. You repeatedly say "no" because there is the lingering thought "what if there is something better?" Or, you might find yourself saying "yes" to items simply because you don't want to look at one more thing. With so many decisions in a project, ranging from mundane to meaningful, how do you make informed, yet efficient, decisions? 

Decision Making Tip Tim Ferrriss

One approach I've encountered is to ask yourself "Is this a HELL YES or a HELL NO?" I can kind of get behind this, but not entirely. First, H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks isn't in my daily vocab - I just don't have that kind of edge. Second, there is a lot of middle ground between those two options. What if it is a Hell Maybe?? When Tim Ferriss shared his simple tip for decision making on The Good Life Project podcast it appealed to me immediately.

All you have to do is rank whatever it is you are considering on a scale of 1-10. The important part here is that there are no 7's allowed! Think about it, if you rate something a 6 it's barely passing and should be a no. If you rate something an 8 or above you know you're feeling petty good about it. Sevens lead to ambiguity and indecision. When you're working on a design project you want to decide if you love it or if you leave it, because eventually, you will live with it. Take the time to consciously consider your options, commit to making a decision, and find yourself a little closer to enjoying your dream space. 

Leave me a comment and let me know how "No 7's Allowed" brings clarity and efficiency to your design decision making. 

What is Perfect About Your Home? Nothing or Everything?

The power of a positive question

We are headed into winter here in Minnesota and that means it's time for the annual inventory of jackets, mittens and boots. So many layers. So many multiples to account for the lost items that will surely happen during the season. So little space to put it all. As I was sorting the things the kids had outgrown, bringing in the new, and rotating out the items that won't see the light of day until the spring thaw, I caught myself noticeably annoyed at our mudroom. Thoughts of "It's too small" and "The shelving and hooks are not laid out how I would have design them" filled my mind until I caught myself. This is our current set up so why am I focusing on the negative and causing myself unnecessary stress? Have you been in this position with your home?  It's so easy to focus on the negative and can feel challenging to search out the positive. A while ago I was introduced to the concept of a "positive question." Instead of leading us to negative answers, a positive question opens our thinking to new ideas, good thoughts, and invites positive feelings.

A window display from a recent trip to Montreal - "Small Things Are Done with Love"

A window display from a recent trip to Montreal - "Small Things Are Done with Love"

One of my favorite positive questions to ask is "What is perfect about this?" When I ask myself this question in relation to my mudroom I find it easy to come up with answers. For example, the most perfect thing I can think of is that I actually have a mudroom! When my husband and I lived in an apartment it was a dream of mine to have a mudroom (#designergoals?). The thought of a whole room, no matter the size, designated to store jackets and shoes felt like the ultimate luxury. Here is another one, because the space is small it motivates me to stay on top of organization and encourages me to donate items as soon as we no longer use them. When I take a moment to recognize the positives it puts me back in a state of appreciation and that is where I want to be. 

When we think about things that we want, in our home or other areas of our life, the default is to think of things that we want and still don't have, but what if you spent some of this time thinking about the things that we want that we already have?

What area of your home or life can you apply the concept of a positive question? Today I encourage you to take one scenario or space that you find less than ideal and come up with five reasons its positively perfect. I'd love to hear how it goes!

Can I Be a Minimalist and Still Own Tchotchkes?

Use these three simple questions to live a more minimalist lifestyle (and still own a few tchotchkes)

What comes to mind when you hear the word "minimalism"? A stark white interior? Only owning a prescribed number of items? To me, minimalism represents a pared down home and lifestyle. And at the same time, I own a few tchotchkes.

Even thought these items are decorative and not functional, they are items brought into my home, and kept in my home with careful consideration. 

This little sheep sits on my desk simply because he makes me smile. 

This little sheep sits on my desk simply because he makes me smile. 

Instead of looking at living a minimalist lifestyle as trying to avoid purchases or eliminate items in our life to the bare bones, I prefer to keep or acquire items based on the three simple questions below. If you're looking to live a minimalist lifestyle (and maybe own a few tchotchkes) you can use these questions too!

1.  Is this item useful? If so, is it actually used or will I actually use it? 

2. Why do I want to keep or purchase this item? Do I like my reason? You get to decide. 
What do I mean by "Do I like my reason?" Here is an example: I may simply find something beautiful and want to purchase it. There is a special spot in my office where I know it will fit perfectly. I like this reason - it feels fun to treat myself. Alternately, I may receive a gift that doesn't fit into my lifestyle. I feel guilt around giving it away so it sits in the closet. I don't like this reason - it feels heavy and burdensome. 

3. Would I invite this item into my life or buy it if I was purchasing it today? 

Asking these questions allows you to move away from an external vision of minimalism towards a minimalist lifestyle that rings true for you. Your answers provides a framework within which you can eliminate the distractions and clutter that build over time. They also allow you to focus on the items you feel are most important and hold the greatest value for you and your family.  

Every minimalist lifestyle and home will look different, and that's ok. The key is that we ask ourselves, on on regular basis, what objects add or subtract value from our lives. We answer honestly, act accordingly, and give ourselves the freedom to live with possessions that are meaningful to us in the present moment.  

Have you tried applying these questions to your belongings? Let me know how it goes? 

DIY Guide to Jump Start Your Design Project - Free Download!

Feeling stuck and don't know where to start your design project? Download this DIY guide today!

When it comes to a new design project the dreaming stage is fun, but when it's time to actually make a plan it's easy to get stuck in overwhelm. And we have all experienced what can happen when we feel overwhelmed - nothing. So how do you taking your design project from dream to reality? Subscribe to my newsletter and get instant access to to five easy steps you can use to jump start your design project, take action, and finally enjoy your new space!

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Gratitude for Our Home After Vacation

There really is no place like home.

Rocky Mountain National Park - Colorado

Rocky Mountain National Park - Colorado

After returning from vacation I always feel so much gratitude for our own home. We are just back from a nine day retreat in the Colorado mountains, and my appreciation for home is high. When we travel as a family my husband takes great care to find accommodations through Airbnb or VRBO. The homes we rent are beautiful, often larger and grander than our home in Minneapolis. Yet nothing beats coming home to our own beds, a kitchen stocked and organized just the way I like it, and living spaces designed with our family's needs in mind. I even see this appreciation through the eyes of our 4 year old as he is reunited with the toys and stuffies that didn't make the packing cut. 

We make gratitude a daily part of our family life, each sharing something we are grateful for at the dinner table. After a vacation I am always grateful for the experiences we shared as a family on the trip. But most of all, I feel grateful that we have a home and a life that that we look forward to stepping back into after time away. 

We did a little shopping in town while on vacation and came across a sign with a quote from The Wizard of Oz,  one of my favorite childhood movies. The storyline piqued our son's interest as soon as I mentioned the Wizard. As I retold the tale many times, as one does with kids this age, I couldn't help but think that Dorothy had it right. There really is no place like home. 

5 Tips for Designing a Room or Home with Your Significant Other

Create a space you both love and enjoy the process!

For the most part my husband and I are on the same page when it comes to our design aesthetic. But sometimes he proclaims his love for a particular piece or style and I find myself going "uhhh" in hopes that he forgets about it and we can move on. Anyone else experience this? It might be the occasional difference of opinion or you may fall on drastically different endpoints of the design spectrum, but there is no question that designing a space with a significant other can be a challenge. So, what do you do? How do you reconcile two people's different tastes into one, cohesive whole? Today I'm sharing five tips on how to successfully design a space with your significant other and keep everyone (mostly) happy. 

Fabric: Susan Connor New York - Artemis - Lake

Fabric: Susan Connor New York - Artemis - Lake

1. Create Separate Mood Boards
Begin the process by creating separate mood boards. This allows each of you to independently narrow in on what you love and provides visuals so that everyone is on the same page. What you might refer to as "modern" might mean something totally different to someone else. In a full room image make note of the specific elements you're drawn to. You might love the sofa pictured but your S.O. could be totally distracted by the flooring. If you'd like tips on how to best create a mood board check out this previous post, How to Create and Use a Mood Board

2. Consider Your Priorities and Areas of Compromise.
I guarantee there will be things you will disagree about during the design process. Decide which priorities or specific items are non-negotiable and also consider where you are willing to compromise.  Share these with each other and respect where your partner takes a strong stand. No one likes to feel forced into a decision. 

3. Compare Notes and Create a Design Framework
Gather up your top inspiration images and share them with your partner. Start to look for common and complementary threads such as color palettes, materials, and the overall feel of the space (ex. casual vs formal, calming vs energetic, etc). These don't need to be exact matches, mixing styles can actually add interest to the overall design. For example, a sleek, modern chair can add an unexpected twist to a traditional interior. After you've honed in on your joint style, take time to create a design framework from which you can work. 

4. Make New Purchases Together
Commit to making major purchases together. You can shop together or put one person in charge of gathering options for joint consideration. That way no one feels like they are "stuck" with something the other person purchased. 

5. Consult Each Other When Discarding Old Items
When dealing with items that you already own, remember to be empathetic to the sentimental value material items can hold. If your S.O. really wants to keep something and it's not your taste, try to find a middle ground. Perhaps the piece could go somewhere in the home you seldom use. If you or your S.O. struggle to part with sentimental objects, check out this past post, Why We Have Too Much "Stuff" - Part 3 - Sentimental Objects, for ideas on how to enjoy the object without actually keeping it. 

It's easy to get caught up in wanting to get your own way, but remember, what's most important is that both of you feel at home for years to come. Blending styles adds interest to a room, and if done with care, collaborating with your significant other on a design project can actually be fun!

What's the biggest challenge you face when designing a home or room with a spouse or significant other? 

Designer Confessions: I Have No End Tables (and I'm OK with It)

You want to put your glass down somewhere? Well, I'm sorry, I don't have a place to do that.

When people hear that I am an interior designer they often exclaim "Your home must be sooooo beautiful!" It's such a complement, but in my head I worry that you all envision one Pinterest-worthy room after another. The rooms would feel "done," everything would be in its place, and the bookshelves would be perfectly styled instead of overflowing with an ever-expanding collection of Curious George

Fabric: Schumacher - Bermuda Blossoms - Slate

Fabric: Schumacher - Bermuda Blossoms - Slate

I'm embarrassed to admit it, but we have no tables in our living room. As soon as our oldest became mobile they had to go. No matter what I brought home there was always an issue. Corners too pointy. Too lightweight and the table would be knocked down. Too heavy and, if knocked down, it would hurt him. No one will get hurt but the style/color/shape doesn't work. We now have another baby and are back at square one. I decided to let it go. 

I'd love to say my house looks like a page out of a magazine, but it simply doesn't. We are in the thick of this season of life. Our home is beautiful to me, and, it's also set up to allow ourselves a lot of grace when it comes to living with two small children.

So there you have it. The cobbler's children have no shoes and I have no end tables. This intentional design, however incomplete, works for our little family of four. I wouldn't have it any other way.

In what ways have you let go of the way your home "should" look? 

How to Create a Personalized Design Framework for Easy Decision Making

Putting constraints on design decisions can actually allow you freedom and focus

Between Instagram, Pinterest, and design blogs there is an infinite amount of inspiration from which you can draw. While this is amazing in so many ways, it can leave you feeling overwhelmed and lacking focus when it comes to designing your own space. Even as an interior designer I can fall into the trap of loving everything and having a hard time committing to anything. Today I'd like to offer a design approach that puts constraints on your design decisions. While this might sound limiting, creating a set of personalized design rules provides you freedom and focus within the framework you create.

Fabric: Shumacher - Abstract Leaf - Indigo

Fabric: Shumacher - Abstract Leaf - Indigo

Create your design "rules" or framework using these two easy steps:

1. Identify Key Words to Describe the Predominate Style
What is the design style that you are continually drawn towards? Examples of interior design styles include modern, contemporary, classic, traditional, transitional, eclectic, industrial, vintage, minimalist, mid-century modern. Choose one or two words (ex. modern-vintage) that resonate with you and use these as your guide as you make decisions. If you need guidance on defining your design style a mood board is a great tool. Read my post on how to use a mood board to define your style here. 

2. Select a Core Color Palette
Limiting your color palette to three core colors is an easy way to create a cohesive look. Select one neutral, one main color, and one accent color. Feel free to vary the tints and shades within the palette to create interest. For example if your main color is navy you can include other shades of blue such as a blue-gray or a bright robin's egg blue. If you need some inspiration for your core color palette, Color Snap by Sherwin Williams is a great place to start. Simply upload an image you like and the tool with turn the image into a color palette using Sherwin Williams paint. 

Some of you might be concerned that these constraints will make your space boring. However, I assure you that within this framework there are many ways to add interest to your space. Consider design elements such as scale, balance, texture, and line to create an aesthetically pleasing mix. While there is freedom to express your style, the framework keeps you focused. This makes design decisions much easier saving yourself from design decision fatigue and a paralyzed state of indecision. Your result will be a cohesive design scheme for you to enjoy. 

Give it a try and let me know what you think. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below and I'll send you a response!

How to Create a Floor Plan and Furniture Layout That Works for You!

Have you ever made a furniture purchase only to realize it doesn't fit in the room or the scale is completely off? Not only is this a waste of time, it can be a waste of money. There could be a significant return shipping or restocking cost, or you may not even be able to return the piece! Whether you're designing a living room, bedroom, or office it's important to plan out the space before making purchases. To do this I recommend creating a scaled floor plan to guide your decision making process. A scaled floor plan allows you to focus your efforts on finding the right size, shape, and type of furniture. This doesn't need to be a fancy furniture plan completed on the computer. It can be as simple as using graph paper (one square equals one foot) to draw out the space and potential furniture options. You can even use painters tape or cardboard cutouts to mark the furniture dimensions and layout on your floor. 

Below are my top 6 designer tips for creating a floor plan and furniture layout that is both aesthetically pleasing and functions well for your daily life. 

How to Create a Floor Plan and Furniture Layout Designer Tips

1. Measure the Room
Start with the general perimeter measurements, ceiling height, doors, and windows. If doors or windows open into the space mark the direction of their swing. Lastly, note the width and height of any doorway opening the furniture will need to pass through in order to get to its final space. 

2. Measure Furniture You Plan to Keep
You probably have a general sense of how your existing pieces fit into your current setup, but you need to know how they will mix with new items. When measuring existing furniture, don't forget about arm and seat height. For example, you don't want to find out your existing sofa seat height is much too low for resting your feet up on the new ottoman. 

3. Identify the Types and Quantity of Furniture
Questions you should ask yourself include how many people will use the room, how much storage do I need, do I need an area rug to soften a hard surface floor? If you need help thinking through this step, read my post on the Five Function Questions to Ask Before Starting a Design or Remodeling Project.

4. Consider Traffic Patterns and Clearance
How are people going to enter into, move through, and settle into the space? Utilize furniture placement to invite people in at certain points or direct them around an area. Allow for enough clearance around the furniture. I prefer at least three feet of clearance going around major areas of circulation. Remember to be mindful of fixed items such as kitchen countertops, built-ins, or pillars. 

5. Create Activity Zones
Identify what activities you want to take place in the space and think how the furniture types and placement can facilitate these activities. Will this be a space for entertaining, intimate conversations, or a cozy nook to curl up with a new book and a cup of coffee? Each scenario requires different furniture pieces and layouts. 

6. Play with Scale and Shape to Create Balance
As you start to layout the various pieces take note of the visual weight. If the furniture feels cramped there may be a disproportionate number of large-scaled items. Alternately, if the pieces appear to be floating in the space they may be too small and need to be anchored by a more substantially sized item. You can also play with mixing linear and organic shapes to add interest and variety.

Once complete, a scaled floor plan can act as a road map providing clear direction as you complete the room. Keep this furniture floor plan on hand while shopping so it's easy to reference the size, quantity, and shapes you need. You'll stay focused on the task at hand and save yourself from the frustration of purchases that simply don't work in the space.

What are the biggest challenges you face with floor plans and furniture layouts? 

5 Function Questions to Ask Before Starting a Design or Remodeling Project

Consider these five function questions before diving into your design or remodel project to make a lasting impact on the longevity and impact of your new space. 

When designing a space, whether you are remodeling a kitchen, or getting some new furniture for the living room it's easy to jump to the pretty picture, inspiration-gathering part of the process. But in order to get the most out of your new space you must consider function. As an interior designer I not only uncover my clients' aesthetic, I am also a detective. I ask probing questions to get to know my client's preferences and needs so that a space not only looks good on install day, it functions for everyday life in the long run. Today I'm sharing my top 5 questions used to uncover the functional requirements of a space. Consider your answers to these questions when working with a design professional or when working on your project solo. 

Fabric: Marble in Smoke by  Rebecca Atwood  

Fabric: Marble in Smoke by Rebecca Atwood 

1. How many people will use the space (both on a regular and occasional basis) and who are the main users? For example, you are a family of four that likes to watch movies in the living room on Friday nights. You'll want to have enough comfortable seating that faces the television to accommodate all four of you. On occasion, the kids will have friends over for movies. This means you'll also need some less permanent seating to pull in as needed. Potential solutions include chairs from an adjacent space that are easily moved or a big pile of floor pillows that are brought out for this occasion. Aside from quantity of people, the type of people is also important. The way a toddler utilizes a space will be very different than an empty-nester. 

2. How is the space used and what are the main tasks done in the space? Are there secondary tasks to consider? In a kitchen the main ask is usually cooking. However, within this general task there can be variation. For example, if you are a passionate cook you'll place priority on certain features over others and may want additional work surfaces. Secondary activities that need to be addressed may include space for nightly homework or working from home. 

3. What level of durability does the space require? Are food and drink likely to be spilled on the dining room chairs (hello children!) or is it a more refined dining environment for adults only? Also ask yourself how much upkeep are you willing to do? Be honest :) In an ideal world you might be committed to resealing that showstopping stone yearly, but in the hustle and bustle of everyday life will it actually happen? There are many beautiful, low maintenance items to select from if that's what you need. It's simply a matter of planning for minimal upkeep rather than realizing you need it after the fact.  

4. What currently does NOT work in the space? What DO you like about the existing space? Use these answers to inform decisions during your design project planning. It's easy to get bogged down in what you don't like or doesn't function well, but there may be elements that do work well. You'll want to take note of these too so they can be incorporated. 

5. Are there any special needs that should be considered? Perhaps you are petite and would benefit from a smaller scale chair with less depth. Or maybe your home office would benefit from a particular set up that is unique to your job. Consider how you would ideally function and move about in the space and work backwards to find the right solutions. 

Scrolling through Instagram might be more fun, but considering these function questions before diving into your design project can make a lasting impact on the longevity and impact of your new space. Are there areas of functionality in your space you struggle with? Let me know in the comments section and I'll help you uncover potential solutions!

Designer Secrets to Selecting a Paint Color You Love

Based on years of experience as an interior designer, I share my paint selection tips that will decrease overwhelm and ensure that you select a color you love! 

Painting is a relatively easy and inexpensive way to update a room. However, selecting the perfect paint color and finish can be challenging. Last week I wrote about the emotional resistance that can arise when selecting paint, which I tie to our internal fear of getting a major life change "wrong."  Today I'm going to give you some practical tips, based on years of experience as an interior designer, that will help make this selection feel less overwhelming and ensure you end up with a color you love. Below are my top five designer tips for selecting paint colors. 

Designer Tips Paint Color Selection

1. Start with a reference point
If you aren't sure which color direction to go in a room look to the colors you are drawn to in the items you already own. This could be a piece of art, an area rug, throw pillows or other accessories. Pull your favorite color from these items and start to consider the options within that color family. If you are redecorating an entire space, leave the paint selection until other major elements are selected.  There are an infinite number of paint colors to select from, while items such as area rugs or upholstered furniture pieces might be more limited. Save yourself some trouble and wait until the end of your selections to select the paint.

2. Consider how you want the room to feel
Color plays a big role in how a space feels. For example, do you want your room to feel light and airy? Go light.  Or do you want the room to feel intimate and warm? If you are going for the later, consider a deep, saturated hue.

3. Get samples
This is the fun part, but have some restraint. Just because you can take home all of the samples doesn't mean that you should. The more you take with you the greater the chance you will feel overwhelmed when you get back home. Start by pulling lots of options but see if you can narrow things down before leaving the store. If you can, bring your reference point (or a photo) to the store so you can easily eliminate options that are clearly not going to work. 

3. Hang samples on the wall to narrow down your choices
Once you have a few front-runners, tape the samples to the wall. It's important to hang the samples on the wall because that's how you will actually experience the color - not looking from above if they are spread out on a table. Remember, adjacent colors can change your perception of a hue. Isolate the particular swatch in consideration and hang something neutral, such as a blank piece of paper, behind the swatch if necessary. 

4. Consider finish
Finish is both a practical and aesthetic consideration. From a practical standpoint, a matte finish is not as durable as an eggshell finish but it is easier to touch up. A finish with a higher sheen wipes clean easily but it will emphasize imperfections on the wall. With that said, paint technology continues to improve and the matte finishes are getting more durable. Showrooms such as Hirshfields are a great resource on the latest paint types. From an aesthetic standpoint using multiple finishes can create interest and variety in the design. 

5. Test the color(s) and leave up for at least one day
Do a test sample on all four walls in the room you are going to paint. I recommend doing all four walls as the color can actually look different depending on its orientation in the room. Look at the samples throughout the day to see what the color looks like with different light sources (natural vs artificial) and at different times of day. Certain color undertones may be highlighted or be less noticeable depending on these factors. You'll want to make sure the color appeals to you at all times. 

A last piece of advice is to not over analyze. There are so many colors available it's easy to drive yourself crazy. Remember, you can always repaint! Do you plan to repaint any rooms in your home? What are the biggest challenges you face when committing to something new for your home? 

PS - If paint selection or other home decisions are stressing you out I share my tips to prevent design and remodeling decision burnout in a past article which can be found here.

A Can of Paint and New Beginnings

Sealed within a can of paint is a sense of revitalization, possibility, and new beginnings. 

Painting a room seems to be one of everyone's favorite ways to transform a room. This makes sense. Color can dramatically alter the look and feel of a space, the materials are relatively inexpensive, and, if so inclined, most of us have enough skill to complete the job ourselves. But what about the less tangible allure of a fresh coat of paint? I'd argue that sealed within that metal can is a sense of revitalization, possibility, and a new beginning. 

A Can of Paint and New Beginnings

Consider when fresh paint is often applied. Often it is because a room is about to serve a new purpose. There is change in your own life. You move into your first home and want to put your mark on the space. Perhaps a room is converted into a home office where you will begin your entrepreneurial adventure. Or, the former guestroom will become a nursery where you'll spend sleepless nights, experience moments of joy as you hear a first giggle, and realize with utter frustration this tiny human does, in fact, have a mind of their own. 

When I look at selecting paint with my designer eyes I see the technical aspects explaining why it can be so difficult. Extrapolating how a tiny sample will appear when the color is applied to all four walls or understanding the nuances of color undertones can be tricky, but what about the emotional aspects of choosing a paint color? When there is little certainty around life changes, as there rarely is, we can cling to things we can have control over. Could it be that the pressure we put on ourselves to get our new beginning "right" transfers to a concrete decision we can make right now - like a can of paint? 

Does this idea resonate with you? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

PS - Advice on how to select paint colors is one of the most common requests I receive. Next week I'll share my designer secrets to selecting a paint color you love. Stay tuned. 

Why We Have Too Much "Stuff" - Part 3 - Sentimental Objects

Objects that evoke strong emotions or memories are complicated. Below are 6 ways to honor sentimental objects without their physical presence

We all have excess items in our lives which is why I began to discuss why we hold on to these objects. I've concluded that most excess items in our lives fall into three categories. In part one of this post I discussed aspirational items, or objects that represent the person we want to be. In part two, I discussed the objects in our lives that represent the person you used to be. Today, in the third and final part of this post I will discuss the most complicated of excess items - sentimental objects, or objects that evoke strong memories.

Fabric by Christopher Farr Cloth

Fabric by Christopher Farr Cloth

Objects that evoke strong memories or emotions
Sometimes sentimental objects are items that bring you pleasure, such as a platter passed down from generations that is always brought out for special occasions, but sometimes sentimental items can feel weighty. Perhaps an item was a gift from a close family member or friend. The gesture was appreciated but the item does not suit your lifestyle or aesthetic. Or perhaps it was a favorite reading chair passed down from your father. You can picture him sitting in it reading the paper every night. But you haven't looked at it or used it in a long time because it's in a storage unit or it's not practical in your home. Emotions tied to our belongings are complicated so it's often easier to simply hold tight to these items. Today I challenge you to consider the possibility that the emotional ties and corresponding memories can live on without physical possession of the item. 

Below are ways to cherish and honor sentimental objects in your life when you are ready to move on from their physical presence.

1. Take a photo
This can be especially helpful if you have a lot of large items taking up space. Photos can be placed in an album for future viewing and sharing. If it's a unique collection you might consider having select favorites professionally photographed. Create a gallery of these images on the wall as a way to experience the objects as art. 

2. Select one item from the collection
My grandma had an extensive collection of Hummel figurines. As a little girl I loved to look at each one as she carefully brought them down from her display. When she passed I knew I did not have the space (or the desire) to keep the entire collection. However, I did decide to hold onto one figurine in particular, the "Little Pharmacist." Of all of the figurines I remember delighting in his dripping medicine bottle. One piece of her collection is able to revive those memories while not requiring me to keep the entire collection. 

"Little Pharmacist" Hummel from my Grandma

"Little Pharmacist" Hummel from my Grandma

3. Imagine the joy the object will bring to someone else
This item may not suit you, but it could be the perfect addition to someone else's life. When you pass on an item think of how someone else will incorporate the object into their own life. It could become a cherished piece of someone else's family.

4. Consider how you could replace the object with something you would actually use
If you didn't have this item taking up space, how would you feel? Would you feel relief at having the extra space or maybe there is another item you actually would use that could take its physical space? If you are selling the item for cash or using it as a trade you can think of the gifted as having helped you bring this new item into your life.

5. Repurpose the item
Does your grandmother's buffet not fit in with your décor? Consider painting it or changing out the hardware. Or maybe you don't have a formal dining room where you feel it ought to be place. What if you reimagined the purpose of the buffet? Could it become a TV console or dresser that you would be able to use?  

6. Journal or write a story about the item, a specific memory, or its effect on your life
If looking at or touching the item brings a rush of memories take some time to sit with those emotions. Pull out your favorite writing tools or create a voice recording to capture the place this item once held in your life. Attach a snapshot so when you share your story with others they have a visual.

This is not to say you need to get rid of everything, but it does mean that you should be selective. If you decide to keep something for sentimental reasons, how can you incorporate the object into your everyday life or at the very least, find a way to incorporate the item(s) on a regular basis?

What is the biggest challenge you face when deciding what items to part with? What are the items that are so special they remain in your life? 

How to Create an Inviting Guestroom

This Holiday Season Make Your Guests Feel at Home

The holidays are upon us which means your guestroom is about to get some heavy usage. Why not give your guests a five-start experience? Below are my top five tips for creating an inviting and comfortable guestroom (warning – they’ll want to come back!).

Design by Desi Creswell (Desi Interior Design)

Design by Desi Creswell (Desi Interior Design)

1. Get Creative
Guestrooms are an excellent opportunity to play with unique or bold design elements. Delight your guests and create a memorable experience with playful patterns, an unexpected color combination, or a curated collection you’ve developed over the years.

2. Stock the Basics
No one wants to feel like a burden. Set out plenty of fresh towels, a basket of travel-sized toiletries, and keep a stash of toilet paper in the guest bath so your guests never have to ask. Other useful items to make available are the WI-FI password and a spare key.

3. Clear the Closet
If you use the guestroom closet or dresser to store your overflow clothing, now is the time to de-clutter. Leave at least two free drawers, ample hanging space, and an extra set of hangers to store belongings.

4. Room-Darkening Drapery & Luxe Linens
Yours guest are on vacation – help them sleep in with room-darkening drapery and a “don’t-want-to-leave-this bed” comfortable set of linens. Guests will appreciate these touches (and it might give you a little extra time to yourself in the morning!).

5. Reading Material
Encourage relaxation by providing bedside reading materials. Out-of-towners may enjoy a local interest magazine or a book on the history of your area. For an extra special guest, pick up a book on one of their favorite topics or hobbies. Write a note on the inside cover to thank them for their visit and to encourage them to take the book with them when they depart.

What are some of the special ways you make your guests feel at home? 

Why We Have Too Much "Stuff" - Part 2 - Objects From a Past Self

Do you hold on to objects that represent the person you used to be rather than owning objects that represent who you are today?

In part one of this series I started a discussion around why we have too much stuff by addressing aspirational belongings, objects that represent the person we want to be. Today, in part two, I will discuss objects from a past self, objects that represent the person you used to be.

Fabric by Robert Allen

Fabric by Robert Allen

Objects That Represents the Person You Used To Be
Whether we are aware of it or not, our possessions play a large role in shaping our sense of self. In my own life I see this most prominently in the closet. When I started my career as an Interior Designer I worked at a prestigious design firm in downtown Chicago. I wore a sharp-looking suit to the interview and had a clear picture of how a "working professional" was supposed to appear. Fast forward to 2016 and I'm so much more than what I had originally defined myself to be. Yes, I'm still a professional. And now I choose to show up in a way that reflects the current me. I'm also a mom of two and have to be prepared to have a gooey hand smeared on my clothing at any moment. So tell me, why do I still have that interview suit hanging in my closet? That suit represents an important part of my life - a first job, becoming financially independent, and professional accomplishments as an emerging designer.  But on the flip side, it also reminds me of how much I have changed, and how the vision I had for myself 10 years ago is not the vision I have for myself today. I have different goals, different priorities, and a different lens through which I view life. 

Items we cling to can often feel like a safety net. It will be there if we need it, if we decide we want to be that person some day in the future. But the truth is, you'll never be that exact version of yourself. As you evolve,  you can bring items into your life that truly serve who you are in this moment. 

In order to evaluate whether or not to keep these types of objects I encourage you to consider the three questions below. 

1. Have you used the item in the past year? If not, it's time to let go. A year can seem to go by quickly, but in reality you twelve whole months to make use of something. If you haven't used the item within this time frame it's highly unlikely it will be used in the future. 

2. Are you holding on to something in hopes that it will motivate you to be the person you used to be? We are ever-evolving and will never again be the same person we were in a particular moment. Keeping something with the hopes that it will motivate you to be that old version of your self is not a good use of physical or mental space. Instead, ask yourself what, at the core, do you want to incorporate into your life as it stands today. Make a plan to choose behaviors that create the change.

3. Are you clinging to an item from a mindset of scarcity? Are you keeping something simply because maybe, some day in the very far of future, you may decide you want to use it again and if you don't save it you will never be able to get another one? Does that sound dramatic? It's supposed to. Share your abundance and trust that there will be more if the need arises. 

Having items in your home that no longer serve a purpose or uplift you can make your environment feel heavy. It might be time to clear some of this emotional clutter. Create the opportunity for an expansive life while contracting your belongings.

Stay tuned for the third and final part of this series where I will discuss objects that evoke strong emotions, which can be the most difficult to sort through.

Do you have an item in your life that represents a strong tie to the person you used to be? How do you feel when you look at that item? What would it take to let it, and the former version of yourself, go?

Why We Have Too Much "Stuff" - Part 1 - Aspirational Objects

Do you own or purchase items that represent the person you want to be rather than honoring your current position? 

Lately the idea of excess belongings has been on my mind. What's the how and why behind the objects we tend to accumulate? As I have thought about this topic I've come to the conclusion that excess items in our lives most often fall into three categories - (1) objects that represent the person you want to be, (2) the person you used to be, or (3) objects that have a strong emotional pull. In part one of this post I'm sharing my thoughts on aspirational belongings - objects that represent the person you want to be.

Aspirational Belongings - Objects that Represent the Person You Want to Be
Do you aspire to be a person that entertains, one that makes exercise a consistent routine, or one that cooks dinner every night? New habits are hard to implement so we find ourselves looking for a quick fix to fulfill these lifestyle aspirations. We might purchase a set of fancy barware or the latest kitchen gadget. These items provide an instant ping of excitement that you are headed in the right direction. And for some, they are a good sign. The desire to use these items may actually spur you to invite friends over or work on your culinary genius, but if you don't have the solid intention of performing this activity, and most importantly, a plan as to how you are going to implement, these items often sit gathering dust in the home.

If you find yourself acquiring aspirational objects, here are some tips to consider before the purchase to ensure that they are actually used.

Fabric by Lee Jofa

Fabric by Lee Jofa

1. Consider how you currently live and get super specific on what you want and why. For example, if you want to cook dinner every night - what are you after? A healthy meal, a chance to slow down at the end of a hectic day, time to reconnect with your spouse or family? What are some behaviors you could work toward? You could aim to prep one or two healthy meals on Sunday so prep is minimal during the week or you could agree that all family members are home one night a week to do an activity together, even if it is quick. Do you really need to purchase something? Or is there a behavioral shift you could make to achieve the same feeling or outcome through different routes?

2. If you do decide to purchase something new, get specific on how you are going to use the item.  For example, once you purchase new tableware for entertaining, set a date with friends for a gathering. Make it a goal to invite friends or family over once a month. Do whatever works best for you, but make a plan.

3. Set the routine to achieve the desired results and then treat yourself once you get in the flow. This is the dangling carrot theory. You don't need the latest gear to get going on an exercise plan. Allow yourself a treat such as a stylish workout ensemble after making it to the gym for a certain number of days. You'll find yourself buying less and using more of what you have.

So what do you do if you find yourself with a pile of aspiration purchases? I always like to remind myself that awareness is the first step in making a change. If you don't acknowledge that you are either buying or holding on to items that don't actually serve your lifestyle you won't be able to start to make the changes necessary to discontinue the cycle. Stay tuned for part two where I will discuss items that represent the person you used to be, another source of excess "stuff" in our lives.

In the meantime, I'd love to know, are you an aspirational purchaser? What have you've purchased? Do you use these items?  If not, how does that make you feel to have them sitting around the house? If you don't fall into this category what keeps you from accumulating aspirational items?

"Seasons" of Decorating

Designing for this "Season" or Stage of Life

I've never been much of a seasonal decorator in the traditional sense, and that is not the topic of today's post. The seasons I'm referencing are the seasons of life that we pass through as time progresses. From being single to being married, and from welcoming your first born to becoming an empty-nester, the seasons of our lives affect everything from lifestyle to relationships. These seasons of life can also dramatically affect the way we live in our homes and the requirements we place on a physical space. Since having our children I now understand, and have come to embrace, what it means to design for this season or stage of life.

Photo by Lemon Drop Photography

Photo by Lemon Drop Photography

This concept hit me on my first project back from maternity leave. I was in a pinch and had to bring my three month old son to a client's install. As my son became fussy I took him out of his carrier and held him while the client and I walked around the loft to discuss art placement. As most infants are prone to doing, my son abruptly spit up - splat - onto the new area rug I had just delivered. Oops. As I panicked to find something to clean the mess, my client, in a mater of fact way, said "it probably won't be the last time someone throws up on that rug." This man was single and was referencing a future party that would likely have a start time that is way past my bedtime. We were in different seasons of life.  

Now that our son is a toddler spitting up is the least of my concerns. His ability to run, jump, and do it all in a mater of seconds means the season we are in right now involves making sure nothing is too precious or pointy - goodbye glass coffee table. Everything is stain protected, nothing is easily tipped over or breakable, and I look forward to the day I can put our side tables back in the living room where they belong (side tables are not meant to be used as a climbing apparatus!). Does my home look Pinterest perfect? No it does not, and I'm ok with that.  I choose to embrace the way this season of life looks, for it is just that, a season. Some day my son won't want to dump his trucks all over the living room. I'll be happy to have that space back but I'll also miss this period where imaginative play is at its peak. I also recognize that as he grows there will be new design requirements. Before I know it I'll be incorporating a homework station into the kitchen and we will have a mudroom full of gear for his favorite extracurricular activities.

While your home is a reflection of yourself and your tastes, it is also very much a reflection of your season in life. And, just like anything in life, the current stage is ever-evolving. As you evolve, as your seasons change, so must the spaces in which you live.

What season of life are you in these days?

Do You Suffer from Design Decision Fatigue?

Interior Design and Remodeling Projects Require You to Make So Many Decisions - Prevent Design Decision Fatique (DDF) with these Designer Tips

When my husband and I purchased our first home we moved from a one bedroom apartment to a five bedroom house. I didn't fill our entire house at once, but I did have to make a substantial number of purchases in order to at least fill some spaces so we could have people over and offer them a comfortable place to stay. Did I mention we were planning to host Thanksgiving and a holiday party just a month or so after moving in? No pressure there.

With so many decisions, from backsplashes and cabinet hardware to headboards and bedding, I found myself, someone very accustomed to making these decisions daily, becoming overwhelmed by my own project. Between filling the spaces in our own home I was pouring myself into my interior design business, bringing the very best of my skills to my clients. By the end of the day I didn't have any bandwidth left for my own home. I found myself stalling on some decisions and making other decisions simply because it was the easiest choice in the short term. I was suffering from Design Decision Fatigue (DDF).

Designer Tips Prevent Burnout During the Design and Remodeling Process

Even though furnishing a home is not a life or death decision, it's a lot of decisions and decisions require mental effort. The unfortunate news is that we all have a limited amount of mental energy to expend in a day. I'm guessing you have a few other things on your plate. With this in mind, here are my top tips for avoiding Design Decision Fatigue and preventing burnout during your next project.

1. Create a Mood Board or Inspiration File
This little bit of extra effort up front will pay off big time in the long run. Start to collect images (from magazines, Pinterest, Instgram, etc) to bring awareness to your personal aesthetic. As you proceed, patterns will emerge reflecting your tastes and what you are naturally drawn to. Throughout the design process, refer back to the Mood Board. Do your selections fit with your vision? If yes, move forward. If not, consider an alternate. Need more convincing? Check out my article Why You Need a Mood Board for your Next Design Project.

2. Stop Second Guessing Yourself
Once you make a decision stick to it. It can be hard enough to make the decision for the first time so why torture yourself with revisiting the topic over and over again.

3. And Stop Polling the Audience
Once you have a better understanding of what you like, trust your instincts. Ask a friend if you are really torn between two items, but remember, you don't need anyone's permission to love what you love.

4. Give Yourself a Deadline
Set a reasonable amount of time to make decisions and work towards that date. This can be a day you put on the calendar for your knowledge only or you could set a more public goal of inviting friends over for dinner. Having a deadline ensures that you can't keep looking for something that might be incrementally better. At some point you just have to make a decision.

5. You Don't Have to Do It All at Once
It's not the end of the world if your space is not 100% complete before you share it with the world. If you have the major pieces in place and the thought of accessorizing is causing you stress, take a step away and gradually pull together finishing touches as you're inclined. This can be more fun anyways as it allows you to collect items when traveling or are out and about and find something especially striking.

Are you suffering from a case of Design Decision Fatigue? If so, I'd love to hear your challenges, questions, and antidotes!