DAY 11 Update, Don't Renovate Challenge: Let There Be Life

I’m just going to keep writing about all the things that fire me up about houses, ok? Because this is my blog and I can rage if I want to. Ok I’m not really upset by it….just really passionate. Let’s say that. Day 11 is about that missing thing in homes. That thing that people don’t have because they are afraid of it dying.

When I look into a room and something feels a little off, it’s usually because there is a lack of life in it. A real live thing, I mean. PLANTS. I’m not suggesting you become a plant lady/man. But, if it feels a little sterile in your home without a little life other than your slobbering dog, then time to bring in some plants.

Here is where all of the people who kill plants complain, “But it’s just going to die!” and you may be right. But, what’s the harm in that? So do flowers but we still buy those at times for a little pick me up….if just for a week or so. A few dollars it will cost you. That’s the worst that can happen. Then you chuck it and try again. HOWEVER, I’m here to help you be a little more successful. If you’re a pro at this already then carry on about your business or add another plant. If you’re not, then read below about how to get just ONE plant to live under your care.

Choose An Easy Plant

The first thing to do is choose just ONE plant that you can practice on. One that is virtually murder proof. I’ll give you some options of the ones i have had good experiences with and you can go from there. My favorites are:

Snake Plant

I have these outside in pots at my house. I live in the desert with extreme temps. They survived through not enough watering in 120 degree summer heat…in a pot. I don’t know how. They are also good inside plants because they are natural air purifiers. They have a cool shape, too so winning all around. I expect this snake plant to do pretty well here at my Rattan Ranch Airbnb despite it not getting watered very often.


I love these plants because they just love to grow and climb and have a mind of their own. I had this pothos in my house, but took it to The Shack to give the house some life. I’ve been very careful what plants go into my Airbnbs because ain’t nobody watering those unless one of my cleaning people get a wild hair. This one has not only survived, it’s thrived! It loves it here in this bathroom with all of that light by the tub. When I took it over there 4 months ago, the longest “tail” on it was not long enough to touch the tub yet. Now look at it. In my experience, the pothos needs a cup of water ever week but maybe in this situation it’s thriving off of steamy showers and baths. Who knows. When the tail gets a little too cray cray, you can give it something to follow like a string or simply give it a hook to hang from.

Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree

I bought this tree at Home Depot about 2.5 years ago. It was half as tall. This photo was taken about 6 months ago. It is just about to touch the ceiling now. I’ll let it. I think that is badass. People say this tree is difficult to care for but I don’t find that to be the case. It’s in the middle of the room (the kitchen is to the left), but it gets sunlight from four glass patio doors to the right. Those curtains are ALWAYS open during the day - REFER TO YESTERDAY’S WINDOW CHALLENGE ON HOW TO LET LIGHT IN SO YOU CAN LIVE LIKE A HUMAN, NOT A HERMIT. If you don’t open your curtains, yes your plants will die. Simple logic. For any of the fiddle leafs I have, my watering schedule is this: when I have a bit of drinking water left over in my glass, I pitch it in. Seems to like that schedule.


These little mofos are more interesting than expected. One good thing about cactus is that they can pretty much take the worst beating and still continue on in life. I once asked a cactus nursery owner what I should do about a cactus I have that is outside and dying, he said, “Well, it’s 120 degrees out and it’s getting a little scorched. It’ll be fine. It’ll grow a callus of sorts and then carry on stronger than ever because of it.” And sure enough that little mofo sprouted a baby. So, yeah I don’t get it.

My cactus that are inside need watering about once a month but not much. They also need sun, so somewhere near a window. See the little planter with two cactus in the photo above. Those cactus were in my Larkspur flip and never got watered. Then I brought them home (see them in the photo with the fiddle leaf), watered them once a month. Then I took them to The Shack. Very little watering there. Still going strong.


These are supposed to be so easy, but I found them to be tricky until I learned a thing or two. The petal thingies would always fall off by the masses and I couldn’t figure out why. It’s because I was watering them too often. They too like very little water. And whatever you do, don’t water into the floret. They hate that apparently. If you water them too often, they turn translucent-ish because they are drowning.

I also had the problem where they start getting real leggy where the stem is growing long and the petal thingies (I don’t know the real names, leaves? whatever) start to get small and spaced out. That is a telltale sign that they aren’t getting enough light. Move them to a window ledge or hang them in front of one.

Buy One, Learn One

This brings me to this month’s book club book because whatever plant you choose, you’re going to want to know what to do with it if you don’t want to murder it. Don’t just wing it. Learn about it. Succeed. Then, try a new one. I find if I binge shop on plants and just wing it they just die. If I bring in a new one, one at a time and learn its intricacies, then I .am more successful.

This month’s Design Book Club book is Urban Jungle: Living and Styling with Plants by Igor Josifovic and Judith de Graaff. Talk about a beautiful and super helpful book.

This book gave me that AH-HAH moment with the succulents and helped reverse all the murdering I was doing. Add to that the countless beautiful and genius ways they display their plants and I was totally sold on becoming a total plant lady. Try this book out to help you stop murdering all your plant life.

Faux Life

But, let’s say you still want some faux plants for of one reason or another. There are reasons to go fake, but don’t just take the easy way out and buy all fake. Buy them when it makes sense. Here are reasons to go fake, though:

1. Can’t Give It Enough Attention: Some plants have awesome shapes and color but are too much work to keep around in a live version. For instance, I have a faux banana tree from Target in my Rattan Ranch Airbnb. I know that a real one may not be in the cards for a vacation home because it just won’t get watered enough. It still makes the space feel alive, despite that fact that it isn’t. I still add real plants, like the pothos up on the kitchen shelf to balance out the real to fake ratio. Side note: this fiddle leaf is a good looking fake version.

2. Not enough light: Some places aren’t going to get enough light no matter what. For instance, this bathroom in The Rattan Ranch Airbnb doesn’t have a window at all. Ain’t nothing going to grow in there. I put this faux Target plant in there to brighten the place up. I can’t for the life of me find a link to this plant, but Target has all the good looking faux plants right now. Get after it.

3. Safety: If you have little ones in your home, whether in canine or human form, you may not want a real cactus stabbing them. Opt for a faux version. This one at Target is good looking.

Below are all of the resources from this post (affiliate links):

It’s time to go get started. Go bring life into your house. Or at least the illusion of life. Show me the results by tagging #updatedontrenovatechallenge!

All of the challenges can be found here.

Wanna stay at one of my Airbnbs while you’re in Phoenix or Cincinnati? Check out the options by clicking here.

Before & After: The Cozy Cactus Gets a Facelift

If you didn't know, I have a little condo here in Phoenix that serves as a vacation rental on Airbnb. This condo got a renovation late last year when I bought it and has had two tweaks since. For some reason it just wasn't showing well in the photos. Nothing to do with the photos either. Those were as good as they could get. The problem was I tend to have a mental block when designing my "own" spaces so in the end it just felt like a hodge podge of things. Just like my own home. Blah. 

So, I decided to do what I always do when I get in the way. I pretend I'm not me. I treat my own project as if it is not. I pretend I'm working for a client home or one of my flip homes (Those don't seem like mine for some reason. Maybe because I know they are mine only temporarily). Instead of thinking about what I want, which is everything, I think about how I could make it look great for a magazine or for a client. I narrowed the plan and stayed on track rather than just saying hey I love this turquoise sofa let's put it in here.

First task was to tackle the biggest issue, the coloring. The condo has Saltillo tiles and a brick wall, so the room is saturated in an orange-y pink. The brick wall I like, the floors, eh. Phoenicians are so over Saltillo, but those from outside the area like it. It feels authentic I guess. I don't have the money or time to take out the tile so I did what I could to soften it up with ALL the rugs. Rugs everywhere! So much cozier.

Next I decided to up how many this condo can sleep by adding a sleeper sofa. Before it slept 4 but now it sleeps 6. I decided to go with a gray IKEA sofa to cool down the warm tones and lighten things up a bit. I think it worked. I also removed the brown coffee table and side tables to eliminate that brown/orange-y tone. I added a Jenny Komenda print to bring in some cooler colors while sticking to the cactus - desert vibe. I'd like to add some white curtains to this room as soon as I figure out how to hang them. The ceiling and the windows meet at an awkward angle right next to a ceiling beam so some creativity is needed. I'd also like to add more desert feeling pillows and more greenery, but I need to pace myself with the spending. There's time. Below are the before photo when I bought the condo, two versions of the living room and then followed by the current version. I think I'm finally getting it right.

Another change to the space was in the kitchen. Not a major overhaul, but adding that shelf really helped balance the room. I already completely renovated this room and added plenty of cabinetry back in the fall, so the shelf really wasn't needed. However, without it the room just felt really unbalanced with all the storage on one side. The crazy cactus wallpaper still shines through behind the shelves. I'd love to do some window treatments to spruce up that area but for now this will do. BABY STEPS! Below is the kitchen before i renovated it, then the first version of it after renovation and then now. And yes now there is a rug in there, too!

Next was the master bedroom. This is such a cozy bed and room but again the Saltillo tile and brick wall made it very orange-y pink and cold feeling. Black curtains weren't helping. What was I thinking? They're great curtains, just not for this room. So, I softened up the room by swapping them out for gray versions, throwing not one but two rugs under the bed, adding vibrant throw pillows and another lovely Jenny Komenda print. Below is the space when I bought it, then version one and then the current deal-io. Funny how pillows, curtains, rugs and art can completely change a space.

Speaking of, I did the same thing in the second bedroom. Despite this room being all white walls with just the tile to deal with, it still felt dark and heavy. What is wrong with me? I quickly got to work changing out the rug, curtains and throw pillows. I also removed the basket (hello another dark thing) and hung a FringeFortyFour tapestry

Cozy Cactus Second bedroom before facelift with basket on wall and dark accents

Finally, out on the back patio I added a little more of what I wanted this Cozy Cactus Retreat to feel like...a relaxing place to unwind after hiking, working or spending the day at a Spring Training game. I found THE CUTEST hammock chair on the entire planet. And guys no joke it was only $62. I swear. Will people drink their coffee in it while reading in the morning or pass out in it after hitting the Scottsdale clubs? Don't know. Don't care. Just don't fall out. The thing was finding this Husky velcro strap that easily hangs the chair from the tree. The strap goes on so easily, being that it's velcro, and doesn't damage the tree.  It even holds up to 300 lbs. If you want to get a hanging chair of your own, you can throw it up on a tree while you're camping and easily remove it to take it home. Cool, right?

So there, now I have a much cozier Cozy Cactus Condo for guests to relax in. If you'd like to book a stay while you're in Phoenix, click the button below to check availability! We hope you'll enjoy your stay!