Comfort Zone: Melissa Andersen



Just a few email-chats with Melissa Andersen is enough to make you feel like you’re best pals. Her way of making you feel at ease and welcome is a sentiment that also extends to her comfortable and inviting 1725 Dutch Colonial farmhouse in Cedar Grove, NJ.



Boasting a history of nearly 300 years, her home is all about memories – both of the families that have lived under the same roof and climbed the same stairs, as well as her own. Born into a large Italian family, get-togethers centered around the kitchen are a regular occurrence at the Andersen’s. As a self-employed writer, editor, and social media specialist living in the countryside suburbs, Melissa’s days can sometimes feel lonely and, admittedly, doubt has a way of creeping in. But having her husband, pets and extended family all gathered around the large dining table or clamoring around the kitchen island is all the comfort she needs.


Like many of us, she’s trekked through her fair share of struggles with finding her footing as an adult, and today, Melissa is opening up to share her thoughts on everything from embracing the constant process that is life, to the flour on her Nona’s wood bread board, to taking advantage of fear, and – last but not least – pizza. -Sabrina


Photography by David Ayllon




Tell us about yourself.



Hi! I’m Melissa Andersen and I’m a freelance writer, blogger, editor, and social media specialist in the home/interiors and handmade niches. I live in a circa 1725 historic home in Cedar Grove, New Jersey, with my filmmaker/film professor husband, a rescue dog, and two rescue cats (there’s a lot of fur flying around my house, but I wouldn’t have it any other way). We recently moved in after living in Jersey City for many years and it’s been a big adjustment. Going from a walkable city to the suburbs wasn’t always the plan – I actually wanted to move to the country – but when I saw this house I fell head-over-heels. I love that I’m surrounded by nature and wildlife, and that after years in small apartments, I finally have a human-sized space to decorate and make my own. The fact that this home existed before we were even a country, and that nearly 300 years of families have lived under this same roof, climbed the same stairs, walked the same floors – it all blows my mind. There’s so much history here, so many stories, and I feel honored to be the next in a long line of caretakers of this piece of Americana. I’m savoring the process of learning the history of my little Dutch Colonial farmhouse and slowly making it mine.


As far as my career, I’ve known for a long time that I wanted to do something with my love for the written word, but it wasn’t until much later in life that I realized I could combine it with my passion for interiors. My path took me to many different places before I ended [up] where I am now, and although I sometimes wish I had put my puzzle together sooner, I’m so grateful for all of the opportunities I’ve had. It’s crazy how so many seemingly unrelated skills or experiences have come into play now that I’m working for myself.


I’m also a living kidney donor, which is a big part of who I am. I donated to a stranger and my donation kicked off a chain that ultimately saved three lives. It’s certainly not the right decision for everyone, but for me personally, it was one of the best things I’ve ever done. It’s given me a whole new appreciation for health and wellness, and has taught me to live life how I want to, when I want to, because nothing is guaranteed.




What does home and this space mean to you? Describe it.


Home has always been important to me. It’s where I feel safe, comfortable in my own skin, cared for, loved, where I go to recharge my batteries, and the only place where I can truly be me. I’m intensely private and protective of my space, because I feel like it’s the most visible representation and extension of myself. To me, the most beautiful spaces are the ones that make you feel right at home from the moment you walk in, and I think that’s achieved through the slow and thoughtful collection of objects, art, and furnishings that are not only aesthetically pleasing, but also tell a story. My favorite homes blend the new with the old, and feel collected over time. I also believe that every room needs something that was crafted by human hands – that fingerprint of the artist or maker is what gives a space a heartbeat, a sense of being alive. I’m very particular about what finds a place in my home, which is why it takes me so long to feel like my house is “ready” to show to people – in my eyes, it’s never really done.


Coming from a big, tight-knit Italian family, the kitchen in particular has always been the most important space in my home. It’s all about gathering and sharing love and nourishing mind and body. It’s where we come together for big family meals, to celebrate life’s milestones, and to grieve over our losses. Just about a week after I moved into this house, my grandmother passed away suddenly. She was the matriarch of our family, and the absence she’s left behind is profound. My grandma was an incredible cook and baker, and when she passed, I was able to save a few of the things that reminded me of her the most – nearly all of them are from her kitchen and now live in mine. Her old bread board – where she used to make doughs for cookies and pizza – now lives on my kitchen island. When I brought it home, it still had some caked-on flour that I couldn’t bring myself to wash off. One of her handmade aprons that she often wore now hangs on the sweet Dutch door that leads from my kitchen to the back mud room. But of the many of things of hers that I have scattered throughout my home, my most prized are the handwritten recipe cards I now keep in a box on my kitchen counter. I feel such a strong connection to her every time I touch them, and I can’t wait to make those recipes with my kids and grandkids just like she did with me and my cousins.




What makes it so comfortable?


I don’t think most people would think of a kitchen as the most physically comfortable space in their home, but I do. My house is not very large, and the kitchen/dining area is one of the biggest rooms in the home. It has just enough space to move around, prepare food comfortably, and hang out with friends and family while still being intimate enough to feel cozy. I absolutely love the exposed beams in this space. You can still see the axe marks from where they were hand hewn nearly 300 years ago! Looking at those gives me such a deep appreciation for old structures and the intense manual labor and attention to detail that went into building them.


Another feature I love is the huge fireplace and the surrounding built-ins. Although it’s not currently in working condition, the fireplace still has its original swing-out cooking arm and a large brass pot that has been with the house since it was built (and I’ve been warned by previous owners that it stays with the house forever!). I often imagine the large family meals that must have been cooked over that fire and I love that I can continue feeding family in this space, albeit in a very different way. Hanging above the fireplace is a blown-up image of the first known photograph of the home – a beautiful reminder of all this home has seen over its lifetime.


The large, deep windows are another favorite feature of my kitchen, and perhaps the most physically comfortable one. The walls are made with 21-inch thick stone (insulated with horse hair!), which creates these really deep windowsills that are perfect for napping pets, storm-watching, and daydreaming. More often than not, if I’m on the phone, I’m perched right in one of these windows.


At the risk of sounding cliché, they don’t make them like they used to!




What makes you uncomfortable? What is your biggest fear?


Being in front of a camera is a big one, as is sharing my home before I feel that it’s ready, so needless to say, doing this interview definitely required a lot of self pep-talking. Because home is so important to me, and also because I work in the interiors world with a mom who is an interior designer, I think people expect a lot from me when it comes to my own home. And since we only moved in a few months ago, my house is definitely nowhere near “done” – whatever that means. Learning to embrace the process and not wait until everything is perfect before showing others has been hard for me, but I’m working on it every day (hi Design*Sponge readers!).


Another big fear of mine is giving up. Not failing, but choosing to walk away from something that I know is right for me. As someone who is self-employed, running my own one-woman show, there’s always that nagging voice that I’m not doing enough, accomplished or “successful” enough, busy enough. Especially with the Internet and social media, it’s easy to get caught up in comparing my life to the perfectly curated and staged lives of my peers. Even though I know that’s not reality, I find myself constantly questioning if I’m good enough to do what I do, if I really deserve to live this life that I love. My deepest, darkest fear is that one day I’ll let that little voice get the best of me and end up walking away from a really great thing just because it doesn’t look like someone else’s picture of success. It’s a constant battle with myself, mostly, but I like to think that every day that I wake up and chase my version of happiness is another step closer to winning the war.




Have you ever thrown caution to the wind and departed from your comfort zone? What happened as a result?


Absolutely – that’s when all the best things happen! I’m not a fearful person, but I definitely feel fear – sometimes intensely, almost cripplingly so. But I’ve learned to use fear to my advantage, to feel it fully, dissect it rationally, and then act on it.


The best example of this was when I quit my perfect-on-paper job over three years ago and set out on my own, with nothing more than a vague idea of what I wanted to do and the potential of one client. I was working in the tech world at this point, with brilliant, incredibly successful people who had already made huge names for themselves. The money and benefits were good, my future path was clearly laid out, and I was making invaluable connections. But I never felt like I was part of that world. The lingo and attitude didn’t come naturally to me, I wasn’t using my creativity in the ways that I wanted to (or much at all for that matter), and the cutthroat nature [of] my job was taking its toll on me, mentally and physically. The anxiety became unbearable – I came home either crying or too tired to feel anything at all, and I woke up dreading another day in the office.


Eventually it hit me that I was simply making a living, not creating a life. I was miserable, and for what? I decided right then and there that this was not how my life was going to be. The next day I quit. I wasn’t 100% certain about what would happen next, but for the first time ever, that was okay. I felt free. And then I went home and hustled my butt off and never looked back. I never in a million years thought I would work for myself, in an industry that I eat, sleep, and breathe, doing what I do best. Plus, I get to work from home which has been life-changing. It hasn’t always been easy, but it’s been worth it a million times over. It’s also made me redefine success. Yes, money is important, but it’s not my sole source of happiness. Happiness to me is loving what I do, even when I’m having a rough day. It’s being able to take an extra long walk with my dog in the middle of a beautiful afternoon. Happiness is making my own hours, my own schedule, my own terms, and deciding with whom I do and do not work. It’s making a career that also leaves room for making a life, however I envision it.




What would you do if you had a day, a week and a month all to yourself?


If I had a day completely to myself, I’d definitely start it with something outdoors – a hike, a swim if the weather was warm, or even just a stroll through a local park. The rest of the day would be filled with driving through the New Jersey countryside or Upstate New York searching for antique shops, boutiques, and other hidden gems. Then I’d cap it all off with a delicious dinner and maybe a movie on the couch.


A week to myself would be spent traveling somewhere to learn a new skill, whether it’s something physical like scuba diving or creative like woodworking. I have a little dream of being a Jill-of-all-trades, and I would love to spend this week working towards that.


A month would absolutely be spent traveling. I’ve been to Europe a few times now, but with every country I visit, my list of places I want to see gets longer. The travel bug is real! I’d love to pick one place and just linger – get to know what it’s like to really be a part of that local culture and experience the beauty of just existing there.


IMG_3501What have you learned as an adult that you wish you knew when you were younger?


It’s so important to find your tribe. I have so many incredible lifelong friendships and met so many wonderful people at college, but in addition to those relationships, I wish I had spent more time finding people who were the same kind of weird as I am. As you get older, it’s harder to find your people, to connect with the ease in which you did as a kid or a teenager or even young adult. And while I am slowly building more of those friendships, I definitely will encourage my kids to branch out as much as possible while they’re young.


Also, talk to your elders! When you’re young, you never think about what it means to age, and so you don’t really value the wisdom and knowledge of those who have. Your grandparents are treasure troves of insight, information, and advice – they’ve lived through wars and economic depression, they’ve loved and lost, failed and succeeded, laughed and learned. They know how to do things with their hands instead of technology! Ask them questions, listen to them closely, and cherish them. They might be gone before you get to hear their answers.


IMG_3507How do you unplug, recharge and unwind?


Unplugging is hard for me, especially since part of what I do for a living is social media, which never turns off. But I quickly learned that unless I do, things get ugly, fast. So for me, unplugging means physically stepping away from all technology – reading a great book, making something by hand, getting outside and doing something physical, or enjoying a great meal. Ideally, recharging involves doing something that makes me feel small, yet powerful, like hiking a mountain and taking in the breathtaking views from the top.


Have you ever experienced burnout? How do you get back on your feet and stay inspired?


Regularly! Thankfully, though, I experience it a lot less now than I did when I first started freelancing. Working for yourself is a constant hustle, and the expression “time is money” takes on a whole new meaning. It’s hard to turn off, especially when you’re doing well. But no matter how many times I think I’m superhuman and won’t burn out, I do. The key is not getting too down on myself and realizing that I have my limits and they need to be respected. I’ve learned that when I feel like I’m on the brink of burning out, I can’t push through it. I have to accept it, step away from whatever I have going on, and give myself the time to recover. During these times I give myself permission to take a short mental vacation – a few days where I avoid tackling anything too intense. And usually that little break is exactly the thing that inspires me to get back at it and do it better than before.


IMG_3559What do you think the world could use less of, and more of?


Less quantity, more quality – in everything.


What’s one question you wish you had the answer to?


In the end, what will have mattered the most, and what will not have mattered at all? (Also, if you are what you eat, how come I’m not pizza?)



Unhooking from Praise and Criticism with Tara Mohr



Whether by nature or nurture, many of us grow up trying to break and/or fit into various molds and roles – and as a result, we can sometimes become our own worst enemies. We stop ourselves from everything as big as chasing our true dreams, to simply writing down our thoughts in a journal. After what Tara Mohr describes as a “decade-long sabbatical from writing, sponsored by [her] inner critic,” she decided to make a change: to write for her own pleasure, without the intention of sharing it; but something unexpected happened. Only once she unhinged from the fear of feedback – good or bad – and realized that criticism wasn’t necessarily personal, she was able to see her potential, pursue her real passion, and even write a book.



Today, Tara is joining us to share an essay (including plenty of bite-sized takeaways) on her experience of unhooking from praise and criticism, what happened as a result, and how you can do the same. -Sabrina


Photography: Portrait photo by Margot Duane |  Lifestyle photos by Hi5 Studio, taken at The Hivery Coworking Space & Inspiration Lab




There’s a particular moment from the early days of my business that I still remember vividly: It was 2009. I was working my full-time job in a large nonprofit organization, but I was feeling the pull to move in a new direction. That new direction didn’t have a clear definition yet, but I knew it would be all about writing, creativity, supporting women, and starting my own business.


I was sitting at my laptop, staring at a blank screen, trying to write a blog post – one of my very first. The words were not flowing, to say the least.




My mind was full of imagined reactions to the post I was trying to write: my English professor friend saying the writing wasn’t very good; my MBA classmates thinking my blog was too woo-woo and irrational; my family members being upset that I was sharing personal reflections on the Internet.


Then, I had one of those miraculous moments where a still, small voice inside says something helpful. I heard a quiet little thought that said, “Tara, if you are going to write, you have to write for you. Not to get anyone’s approval or praise. The reason to write is because you are a woman who loves to write.”


That day, I decided I’d write the blog post just for me – for the joy of the creative process. The words came. The next day I again reassured myself: this is just for you Tara, not to earn anyone else’s praise or approval. Day after day, then week after week, I wrote with that thought: “this is your joy, Tara, that’s all.”




That was what allowed me to start writing consistently, after what I affectionately refer to [as] my “decade-long sabbatical from writing, sponsored by my inner critic.” Writing consistently for myself, over the months that followed, allowed me to find my voice, discover which topics I gravitated toward, and then develop a sense of what my blog, courses, and eventual book would be about. I still appreciated praise, comments, new subscribers and all that – but those things had become nice cherries on the top of the sundae – not the sundae itself. And paradoxically, it was when I was writing for myself that my work started to draw a reading audience.


I noticed as I started working with other women that this wasn’t just my issue: many of us had to go through a process of unhooking from praise and criticism in order to create the careers we wanted for ourselves and do our bravest work. We’ve been socialized to be good girls, to be likable, to not rock the boat. And if we’ve been good student types or high achievers or people-pleasers, we just want lots of embracing reactions to what we put out into the world. This topic – of changing our relationship to praise and criticism – became part of what I wrote about, coached women around, and taught about in my courses.


Early on in talking to women about this, something really surprised me. When I’d talk to women about doing some brave thing they wanted to do, but that they feared might bring criticism or controversy, their voices would often tremble with fear. Why was this so scary for so many of us, I wondered, myself included? What I realized was that for most of the past few thousand years, women couldn’t ensure our safety by political, legal or financial rights – we simply didn’t have those protections. Likability, fitting in, social influence – these were women’s primary available survival strategies. For many of us, doing work or expressing ideas that might rock the boat, cause controversy, or bring others’ disapproval can feel very dangerous because, for millenia, it was. Today, we’ve got some serious unlearning to do.




For me, the key to incorporating feedback – which of course is an important part of growing a business and living a life – is this idea: Feedback doesn’t tell you about yourself. It tells you about the person giving the feedback. In other words, if someone says your work is gorgeous, that just tells you about their taste. If you put out a new product and it doesn’t sell at all, that tells you something about what your audience does and doesn’t want. When we look at praise and criticism as information about the people giving it, we tend to get really curious about the feedback, rather than dejected or defensive. When I write something and it gets a huge response, I don’t view that writing as “better” than the writing that got no response. I simply look at what the huge response tells me about my reading audience, and sometimes, I then choose to incorporate that information into what I write about in the future. I know it’s not personal and I know it’s not a verdict on my artistic talent. That’s something I didn’t always know.




With that in mind, here are some practical tips for unhooking from praise and criticism as a creative entrepreneur:

    1. Remember that all distinctive work is going to bring both praise and criticism. Your boldest (and best) work is likely going to be adored by some people and strongly disliked by others. Period. No need to fix or change that – you have your audience, and it’s not everyone.
    1. To reinforce that idea for yourself, I recommend this quick little exercise: look up one of your favorite books on Read a five-star review. Then read a one-star review. Toggle back and forth between the negative and positive reviews. Notice the diversity of reactions. This is a great way to see that even incredible work doesn’t earn universal praise.
    1. Always look at feedback as giving you information about the person or people giving the feedback, rather than information about yourself. The next time you get negative or positive feedback (praise, criticism, an award, lots of sales, a lack of sales), ask yourself, “what information does this give me, not about me, but about the person or people giving the feedback?” What does it tell me about their preferences, desires, or needs?”
    1. Look for “the match-up.” Typically, when there’s a type of criticism we are really afraid of, the real issue is that deep down we believe that negative thing about ourselves. In other words, we worry about being told we aren’t talented when we doubt our own talent. We’re thrown into an emotional whirlwind if someone implies our work isn’t worth the price – if we ourselves believe maybe our work isn’t worth the price. If you notice there’s a particular past experience criticism you are feeling very wounded by, or if you spend a lot of energy trying to make sure you never get some particular criticism, look inward. Check if you believe that criticism yourself – that’s the real issue. If so, think about when you first developed that negative belief about yourself. Then rigorously question whether that belief about yourself is really true, and update it with a more compassionate and true one. (More resources about changing your beliefs, here.)

In Arizona, a Lesson in Reinvigorating Without Reinventing

In Arizona, a Lesson in Reinvigorating Without Reinventing

When they decided to move in together, Celine Rille of Rille & Co. and her husband Kevin scrolled through an endless number of online listings. One day, amidst all the clutter, a mid-century home with the most divine, hand-painted mural in its dining room popped up. The painting simply couldn’t be ignored, so the couple scheduled a showing. Unfortunately, the rest of the home didn’t quite live up to the grandeur of the dining room. The Phoenix, AZ property hadn’t been updated in 60 years, and its stained carpet, outdated appliances and all-pink bathroom were absolutely less than ideal. Luckily for the sellers, the more Celine and Kevin saw of the mural, the more it overshadowed all of the property’s downsides. Without hesitation, the couple moved right in, ready to reinvigorate the home they’d unexpectedly fallen for.


It took three months, but after working under the watchful eye of contractor Mack Ketchum, Celine and Kevin have amplified the fixer-upper’s mid-century vibe and given a nod to bohemian and Southwestern styles. The first step was all new IKEA cabinetry for the kitchen – where the majority of the home’s renovations took place. Once cabinets were installed, Celine and Kevin added fun touches like homemade open shelving and a rustic breakfast bar to spice up the look. The latter is even made from a tree found in a nearby wood. Some parts of a local forest were cleared to prevent fires, so when they heard the news, the couple drove over, snagged one of the fallen tree trunks and had it repurposed for their home.


With the kitchen’s construction underway, the couple began focusing on the bathroom. Celine says it was by far the most challenging part of the renovation because of her specific vision for the room’s floating concrete sink. Achieving the look kept her, Kevin and contractor Mack up many nights. Much to Mack’s chagrin, shoddy construction work kept preventing the sink from draining. Cracks also continually crept up the unit’s cement base. After many failed attempts at tweaking the design, concrete tiling ended up being the only way to go. While a financial setback, and not exactly what Celine had in mind, she’s happy with the final look.


At the end of construction, the results of their renovation had Celine and Kevin giddy. So giddy, in fact, the home even served as the backdrop for their wedding. “We cleared out all the furniture… and managed to seat 50 people in the space. We wrapped the [living room’s] pillars in flowers and used the mural as the backdrop for our vows,” they tell us. That isn’t the only exciting development since the couple moved in. Just as the mural served as the backdrop for the wedding, it’ll be right there in the background of more fond memories now that the pair has welcomed home a new baby. Get to know the newbie, Otis — and the gorgeous home his parents have lovingly brought back to life — after the jump. Enjoy! —Garrett


Photography by Jill Richards


Win a Trip to The Richmond Street Art Festival + Best of the Web



Almost 35 years ago, I was born in Richmond, Virginia. My parents both worked for the newspaper and loved living in a town with so much history and a vibrant art and educational community. But after two years they decided to pack up and move to Virginia Beach. As much as I loved the beach, something about Richmond always pulled me back. I spent summers there playing field hockey and I always loved the creative scene that flourished in no small part because of VCU, a local university with a great art program. Now when I go back home to see my family, I always want to hop in the car and drive northwest to see the incredible new generation of shops, galleries, restaurants and music spots that have popped up in recent years. But thanks to the team at Visit Richmond, one of YOU will get the chance to visit for this year’s Richmond Street Art Festival!





The Richmond Street Art Festival is taking place the weekend of April 22, 2016. The festival will bring together local and national muralists to paint industrial sites in the city. Artists this year will be painting the Southern States Silo. In addition to a weekend of art, music, food trucks, beer and parades, the festival benefits a community print shop, Studio Two Three, and a nonprofit group that runs programs for at-risk youth, Art 180. Visit Richmond reached out and asked if we’d like to do a giveaway to send one of our readers (and a friend!) to Richmond to experience the festival. So of course, I said yes.





RMP2015 MIGRATE (1 of 1)


So, want to enter for a chance to win? First, CLICK HERE for full contest details and rules (there are location and age restrictions). Then, leave a comment below telling us what you’d like to do and see in Richmond. The winner will have their airfare, hotel and food covered and will get special tours and experiences with amazing independent artists at the festival! I’m so excited to see who wins! Thanks to everyone at Visit Richmond for sharing this trip with our community! xo, grace



Richmond photographs by Mike Ritchie, Quirk Hotel photo by Kip Dawkins, Shop photos by Betsy Seymour



    • We’re on Snapchat now! I’m using this feed to share very personal updates from my day-to-day life and around my home in upstate NY. Follow us at “designsponge” if you’re on Snapchat!
    • This announcement made my day. I’m so happy NoVo is investing in young women of color.



Our Most Beloved Instagram Photos Ever

Our Most Beloved Instagram Photos Ever

In the beginning, blogs felt like the ultimate community connector. When I first moved to NYC, blogs were the platform through which I met all of the most important people in my life, from friends to cherished colleagues. But as time goes on, social media is becoming the world where I’m discovering new people, places and ideas at a rapid and exhilarating pace. I just hopped on Snapchat (“Designsponge” if you want to follow me, it’s the most personal updating I’m doing online), but my first love will always be Instagram. It was the platform that reignited my passion for art, design and makers, and it constantly reminds me that there is NO end to inspiration online. So today I wanted to celebrate that community and the amazing images that you’ve all been sharing with us over the years.


I’m sharing our 15 most beloved Instagram photos of all time. The majority of these are the results of our hashtag challenges and highlight just how incredibly talented, motivating and inspiring our creative community is. I have always been impressed by the people in our world, and this little highlight reel is just another reminder that each and every member of this online creative neighborhood is endlessly talented. Enjoy! xo, grace


Fine Art Focus: Tanya Aguiñiga



I met Tanya Aguiñiga for the first time when she joined me for the first-ever Biz Ladies West Coast meetup in Los Angeles in 2008. In addition to being completely and totally enamored of her work (I still have such a crush on her felted folding chairs), getting to know her in person started a lifelong appreciation for her generosity of spirit and all-around openminded creativity. I have quite simply never met anyone as creative as Tanya.





What I love most about Tanya’s artwork is the message and mission behind it. While the colorful, texture-filled aspects of her aesthetic are of course beautiful, what strikes me most about her work is the way she combines art and activism. Tanya cares deeply about social justice, appreciating (and supporting) native cultures, and recognizing and fairly paying all of those involved in traditional crafts and artwork. Her “craft happenings” are a sort of arts-based sit-in that draw attention to the injustice and inequality in both the art world and the world at large. I couldn’t love and admire Tanya any more if I tried, and I was so honored to include her in our upcoming book, In The Company of Women (that’s her on the cover!). Read on to learn more about Tanya and her amazing work. xo, grace



Artist: Tanya Aguiñiga


About: Tanya was born in 1978 in Tijuana, Mexico. She received her BA in Applied Design from San Diego State University and her MFA in furniture design from the Rhode Island School of Design.


Work: Tanya’s work has been shown in galleries and museums across the world and Tanya was featured on the PBS series Craft in America. Her work combines art, craft and traditional techniques with activism and social justice. Felting and fiber work play a big role in her process, as do traditional crafting and artistic techniques from various cultures across the globe.


More: You can read more about Tanya here, here, here and here and follow her on Instagram here, Twitter here and Facebook here.



All artwork and images (c) Tanya Aguiñiga




Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 10.24.50 AM





A Creative Twosome’s Tidy & Soothing British Victorian

A Creative Twosome’s Tidy & Soothing British Victorian

When video game designer Philip Mehr and his partner Lucie Eleanor, a food and lifestyle photographer, first moved into this West London Victorian, it didn’t have a front door or a floor. The pair even had to step over pipes just to get around the house! Living in a construction site for a year and a half didn’t bother this creative pair in the least, though. Their past apartments have helped them realize how much they actually prefer starting from scratch when decorating a space. This is a team that truly revels in the steady process of curating a look bit by bit and piece by piece.


When Lucie and Philip began decorating their Victorian, they were sure to make decisions that would help keep the space organized and tidy. They work from home on occasion, and between Lucie’s many styling props and Philip’s various tech accessories, the home can easily slip into disarray at any moment. Carefully planning how they utilize every inch of cabinet space holds off chaos and has allowed them to maintain the “… minimalistic [but not] empty” look they love. Even if they’re on their organizational A-game, however, it’s not realistic for the family to never use additional storage. Vintage trunks have proven to be a stylish way to add storage space without having to accomodate bulky wardrobes or furniture that would detract from their pared-down taste.


Speaking of furniture, in typical Lucie and Philip fashion, snagging the home’s larger pieces wasn’t a cut-and-dry experience. “I didn’t just want to buy all of my furniture at once and have it all matching,” Lucie shares. “I wanted to have different-looking pieces [I could] tie together to create a style.” Clearly this strategy has worked, as the couple’s years of collecting has awarded them a trove of great pieces they truly adore.


The more I think about how thoughtful each of these decorating decisions are, the more memorable the two-bedroom home’s moody color scheme becomes. Why? Well, during any design project, color influences everything, and it’s arguably the most important decision. That being said, you’d think planners like Lucie and Philip would ponder their home’s final palette for weeks. Nope. This time around, it came together, strangely enough, quite organically. “We like quiet, muted colors… it wasn’t really a conscious decision, we were both just drawn to those types of colors,” the couple tells us. Follow the jump to see exactly what hues the family landed on, and meet the pair and their foster cat, Enzo. Enjoy! —Garrett


Photography by Lucie Eleanor


Before & After: A Colorful Guest Bedroom Makeover in the Midwest

Before & After: A Colorful Guest Bedroom Makeover in the Midwest

During their house hunt, Samantha McClelland and her husband Cody had three things on their must-have list – white trim, hardwood floors and character. The couple had been searching in the city of Des Moines, IA without much luck. Samantha, a blogger and project manager for a commercial interior design company, and Cody, an HR recruiter, both work and socialize in the city and weren’t interested in moving to a suburb. Their realtor encouraged them to look at a house in the town of Ankeny, just north of Des Moines. The trim was a yellowy-almond hue, the floors were carpeted, and they would be the first owners — but when the couple walked into the house that wasn’t even on their list, they fell in love.


Compromising on their list of must-haves was well worth it. Samantha and Cody love their home, even though it is nothing like they imagined it would be. Samantha has since been hard at work making this new-build feel cozy and charming. Her latest project was turning the small, empty fourth bedroom into a vibrant, inviting guest room. “We moved from a two-bedroom townhome to a four-bedroom house. The fourth bedroom, the smallest of the four, sat empty for months. It had become a catchall of miscellaneous items that we hadn’t unpacked, didn’t know where or how to store,” Samantha says. “We were starting from scratch. The taupe walls [covered] our entire house and were simply not my style. They were the first to go. Once I settled on the paint color and the headboard fabric, everything else slowly fell into place. For the additional pieces I was able to pull from other areas around our house. An extra ghost chair and floor lamp create a small reading nook or a place for someone to sit to take off their shoes, etc. I was able to repurpose my childhood furniture (it once belonged to my dad growing up) and splurged on some modern sconces to flank each side of the bed.”


The bold green walls and the patterned headboard give the guest bedroom the personality that Samantha and Cody had originally craved during their home search. The process took Samantha about a month to pull everything together from start to finish. The once forgotten spare bedroom is now a room that the McClellands both love. “Sometimes you have a vision of how a room turns out and it doesn’t meet your expectations. I can say this is not the case. Every time I walk past this room I just want to crawl into bed and take a nap. It’s a cozy retreat, and I am kicking myself for not doing this for our master bedroom. I love that we can finally host our out-of-town guests properly, instead of just offering a blow-up mattress,” Samantha shares. “It feels good to create a space where you can entertain and host your close friends and family.” The couple’s bright and cheery guest bedroom proves to them that no matter the age, style or size of a home, a little bit of well-executed DIY work can make all the difference. –Lauren


Photography by Austin Day




Paint: Simply Green 130-7DB by Dutch Boy Paint


Bedding: Target


Pillows: Home Goods and CB2


Lighting: Urban Outfitters


Cart: IKEA


Decor: Target


Print: Kate Spade



Paper Daffodil Tutorial



The daffodil is a sunny, easygoing flower, so it seems fitting that it comes together quickly with little stress and a lot of bang for your flower-making buck. A mixed bouquet suits its cheery, informal charm, so have fun experimenting with colors and shapes. I can never pick favorites, but having spent the last two weeks developing this tutorial, I would have to say that cultivating my little garden of daffodils (or “dappadoes” as my 2.5 year old daughter calls them) has been the most fun I’ve had making flowers in quite a while. Maybe it helped that, while I drafted templates, my daughter dragged around her little blue watering can, happily tending to the little pots of daffodils we bought as models. Hopefully her springtime enthusiasm found its way into this project. —Kate Alarcón



*Check out Kate’s Paper Hellebore tutorial here!


Photos and styling by Grace Kim






About Kate: Kate Alarcón makes paper flora and teaches workshops in the Seattle area. This month, she will begin offering regular, small releases of single blooms and tiny arrangements via her website You can see her most recent work on Instagram @cobralilyshop.


About Grace: Grace Kim is dedicated to capturing and creating beauty and helping people live life to the fullest. You can find her work at GH Kim Photography and Carpe Diem Collective. Follow her on Instagram @graceperdiem.







• daffodil templates (download here)


• Aleene’s Original Tacky Glue


• Florist-weight, fine, or doublette crepe paper in white, cream, yellow, peach, or orange, plus olive green doublette for the stem


• Tissue paper in beige or gold. My favorite is a slightly shimmery tissue paper from Papyrus called “champagne.”


• 18 inch lengths of 18 and 20 gauge, cloth-covered stem wire


• paper scissors


• Yellow or orange millinery stamens


• An assortment of cylindrical objects to shape the trumpets. Pencils, markers, makeup brush handles, nail polish bottles, chapstick tubes, and even my trusty bottle of Aleene’s have all been pressed into service at my worktable.


• Optional: markers to add detail to the trumpets


A note about crepe paper weight and grain:



Heavy crepe is extremely stretchy, has a lot of body, and holds shaping well. It’s fantastic for making sturdy, frilled trumpets. Its crinkles are very pronounced, and can look less realistic for soft petals, unless it’s stretched all the way out. Doublette crepe is a medium-weight crepe with a different color on each side. It doesn’t frill as dramatically as heavy crepe, but it does have enough structure to produce a rigid trumpet, and some of the color combinations (yellow/orange, gold/peach, orange/deep orange, cream/yellow) make especially pretty trumpets. Like fine crepe, its crinkles are very subtle and almost resemble the tiny veins in a fresh flower petal. Fine crepe makes beautiful, semi-translucent petals, but doesn’t have much body. It can be tough to make a fine crepe trumpet that doesn’t flop around, though you might try it for the very tiny narcissus trumpets.


The grain of the crepe paper runs parallel to the roll or fold. Crepe paper stretches horizontally, but not vertically, so you will almost always cut petals with the grain, placing the template so that the tiny wrinkles in the paper run up and down the template, not across. Cutting with the grain means that you cut in the same direction the crinkles are running; cutting across the grain means that you cut perpendicular to these crinkles.


Using the templates:


The template sheets include 5 sets of petals and trumpets in different sizes. These are labeled A-E. AP means set A, petal template; AT means set A, trumpet template. Each petal template makes all six petals for a single flower. Feel free to mix and match: a large set of petals with a small trumpet or vise versa will add charm and interest to your bouquet.


At the end of these instructions, I’ve included the object I used to form each trumpet, and its diameter. Don’t worry about matching this exactly. If you find that your trumpet rectangle is a little too narrow to wrap all the way around the cylinder you have on hand, just cut a slightly wider one. If, as you’re wrapping, you notice a lot of overlap, just trim a little bit.


Creating the center




For this step, you’ll need 4-6 stamens, your stem wire, and a ¼” x 2” strip of crepe paper in the color you’ve chosen for your daffodil trumpet. It should be cut across the grain. If your stamens are double sided, bend them in half so that all the heads are the same height.




Apply very small dots of glue about ¼” apart down the length of the strip on one side. Holding the stamens in a little bundle, place the stem wire so that the stamens extend beyond the tip of the wire by between ¼” and ¾” (they should be longer for larger daffodils and shorter for smaller ones). Starting just above the top of the wire, wrap your strip of crepe around the bottoms of the stamens and the top of the stem wire.




Choose a pair of templates from the template sheet. Using the trumpet template, cut a rectangle from the crepe you’ve chosen for your trumpet.


If you’d like to frill the top edge of your trumpet, stretch it in small sections. Start on the upper left corner. With your hands close together, pinch the paper between the thumb and index finger of each hand. Pull away from yourself with your right hand and toward yourself with your left hand. Then shift slightly to the right. Make these little stretches all along the upper edge.




If you’d like the frill to flare outward, bend the top half inch of the trumpet around a pencil or knitting needle before frilling it. This works much better using heavy crepe:






You can expect a much more dramatic frill on a heavy crepe trumpet than on a doublette trumpet.




The doublette rectangle on top versus the heavy crepe rectangle on the bottom.


At the end of these instructions, I’ve listed the diameter of the object I used to form each trumpet. There’s no need to be exact, but try to find something in the same ballpark. You’ll also notice that each trumpet template has a dotted line. This line indicates where the bottom of the trumpet will be. You can draw this line on your trumpet rectangle very lightly with pencil, or you can just use the line on the template as a reference and eyeball it.




Using your marker/lipstick tube/ pill bottle, etc., align the bottom of this cylinder with the dotted line and wrap the rectangle around the cylinder. The grain should run parallel to the cylinder, and the frilled edge should be wrapped around the cylinder, while the opposite end is sticking off the back. Holding the rectangle in place around the cylinder, firmly twist the area below the dotted line.




Remove the trumpet from the cylinder and gently untwist the trumpet base. Dot glue along the right edge of the trumpet and inside the crumpled bottom section. Place your stem wire with stamens inside the trumpet so that the section of the wire that you’ve wrapped lies just below the top of the section of the trumpet that you twisted. Close up the trumpet, overlapping the left side with the right side and pressing together. Then retwist the bottom of the trumpet around the wire. Hold for ten seconds to allow the glue to set.


For the petals:




Use your petal template to cut out six identical petals for each daffodil. To shape, gently stretch along the upper edge of each petal to add a slight frill.




Then pinch the bottom of the petal to gather it. (The dotted line on the petal template shows where you should pinch.) While still holding the base area that you’ve pinched, bend it back so that it forms a 45-degree angle with the top of the petal.




Apply a few small dots of glue to the base of the petal (the area that you’ve pinched and bent back.) Press this bent area onto your stem, butted right up against the bottom of your trumpet. It might help to imagine matching up the dotted lines of the trumpet template and the petal template.




Add two more petals, making sure to space them evenly around the trumpet. Add the remaining three petals in the gaps between the first three.


For the stem:


The daffodil stem has three parts. The pedicel is a small section of stem between the flower head and the stalk or peduncle, the thick, slightly flattened section that makes up most of the stem. At the point where the pedicel meets the peduncle, you’ll find a papery, leafy, translucent beige piece called the spathe.


Wrapping the pedicel:




Cut a six-inch-long, 1/4” wide strip of olive green fine, doublette, or heavy crepe across the grain. Apply very small dots of glue along the length of this strip and attach it to the part of the wire that is covered by the base of your petals. With your left hand, hold the strip at a 45 degree angle to the wire and gently stretch as you twirl the wire with your right hand. Wrap the six inches below your flower.


Attaching the spathe:




Using template F, cut a spathe out of your tissue paper. Fold each bottom corner toward the middle, overlapping them. Unfold and dot glue along the bottom edge. Lay your daffodil over the spathe piece so that the bottom of the spathe is even with the point on the stem where you stopped wrapping with your green strip. Refold the spathe around the stem and then scrunch the bottom to secure it.



Making the peduncle or stalk:




Use template H to cut a stalk from your olive doublette crepe. Make sure that the grain of the paper runs up and down the long side of the template. Fold over the very top edge of the stalk. I use my scissor blades as a straight edge, holding the blades just below the edge and then using my thumb to push the edge over the blade to make a nice crease. The section that is folded over should be extremely narrow — it may be easiest to fold over a slightly larger section and then trim.


Using the dotted lines on the template as a guide, fold each side toward the middle. (The sides should be folded in the opposite direction as the top edge. In other words, the top edge will fold back, and the sides will fold forward.) Open up your stalk and dot glue along the back of the folded section on the right. Refold your stalk, bringing the sides back toward the middle. Press the front of the folded section on the left onto the back of the folded section on the right to make a long, flat tube. Allow a few minutes to dry.




Add one or two small dots of glue to the bottom of your spathe on the back side of your stem. Slip the stalk tube over the stem and push it up until it meets the bottom of the spathe. It should be a little bit higher than the scrunched section of the spathe that’s glued to the stem. Pinch the stalk to secure it to the back of the spathe where you’ve applied your glue.


Finishing your flower:


About halfway between the back of your flower and the point where the spathe meets the stalk, bend your pedicel or stem at a 45 degree angle.




Coloring the trumpets:


To add color to the rim of the daffodil trumpet, gently scrape the rim edge with a marker. I’ve used Copic markers, but just about any marker should be fine — though you’ll want to test it first on a piece of scrap crepe.




For a wider band, apply marker to the upper ¼” of the trumpet. This may be easier to do right after you’ve cut your trumpet rectangle and before you’ve stretched the top edge.




You can also color the whole trumpet, shading it using multiple colors.





For this flower, I colored the bottom quarter in a light green, the middle half in gold, and the top quarter in orange and used the Copic colorless blender marker to blend the colors together.






To make narcissus, use the smallest template set to make multiple tiny daffodils. I prefer a lighter 20 gauge wire for these. For each flower, wrap the stems or pedicels to about 6 inches down. Bend each stem at a right angle and position each flower at your preferred height. Then bundle the stems together and wrap from about three inches below the lowest flower head to the base of the stem bundle.




Attach a single spathe to the bundle just above the point where you began wrapping the bundle, and use the wider template G to add a peduncle or stalk just as you would for the daffodil.


Primping your flowers:


It’s worth taking a few minutes to adjust any parts of your finished flower that may have been mussed during the final steps. Straighten any cock-eyed trumpets. Gently push back any petals that are leaning in toward the center too much. Straighten your spathe. Adjust the arrangement of your narcissus heads if necessary.






Objects used to form trumpets:


Template AT: Gelly-Roll gel pen lid, 3/8” diameter


Template BT: Copic Ciao marker, 7/8” diameter


Templates CT, DT, and ET: Aleene’s Tacky Glue bottle in the .66 oz “try me” size, 7/8” diameter.