interior design

August Design Book Club: Bohemian Modern

I chose this month's book because of the new house I just bought that will be an Airbnb. As with all rentals there is an upfront cost you put into the project, such as repairs and furnishings, that you won't get back immediately like you do in a flip. So, I wanted to choose a book that would help me think outside the box with the decor and on a budget. I think this month's book will do just that.

Bohemian Modern: Imaginative and Affordable Ideas for a Creative and Beautiful Home by Emily Hensen.

It's "easy" to binge purchase a bunch of new furnishings to fill the space for an immediate put together look. However, the cost will be enormous and the result will feel like a showroom rather than an inspired home. I find myself binge window shopping in preparation for furnishing my place, so to combat that I'll shove ALL the creativity from this book into my brain. Amazon will be delivering it in a couple of days and I can't wait to dig in.

If you're joining me in this boho design immersion, I'd love to hear what you think about this book in the comments! And, as usual, I'm open to suggestion for next month's book.

Happy boho obsessing!

July Design Book Club: Surf Shack

It's no secret that I like to devour design books on the regular. I have piles of them. So, I thought I'd share this obsession here since it is an email full of obsessions already. Here is the plan:

  1. I'll announce the book in my Secret Saturday Six Newsletter every month.
  2. The book will be design, architecture or decor related. (Suggestions always welcome!)
  3. You can read along or not. If you don't feel like this month's book is speaking to you, no problem (see below).

When choosing whether you'd like to read the book or not, click through to the book, then click on the photo and scan through some of the pages. Sometimes it's not necessarily the style of the home I'm vibing with, but what I can learn from it such as styling, floorplan and outside the box ideas. The goal for me is to learn and be inspired. So, with that said, I'd suggest to keep an open mind when deciding if you'll be joining or not that month.

I also thought it might be interesting to time the book with the month and season. I'm working on an upcoming project and need a little inspiration for it which is why I chose this book. I've read it but will be rereading it I loved it so much the first time. And so.....

July's book is:

Join me in devouring Surf Shack: Laid Back Living By The Water by Nina Freudenberger! When you're finished, like any good book club, feel free to tell us how you felt about it in the comments below! Happy reading!

Schoolhouse Kitchen Design



The wonderful thing about them is that there's hardly any room to spend a lot of money. So, the challenge becomes geometry more than anything. What's even better is starting from scratch. Tear it all out, put the water and electric where you want it and make an entirely reconfigured space. This kitchen started from this:

Luckily the slate was wiped clean. Almost everything was torn out including that door to the right. There was already another exit to the back deck so we didn't need the one in the kitchen. Fewer obstructions like windows and doors = so much room for activities! Here's the blank slate floor plan in which you can see the other doorway to the back deck (and basement) on the right. The original kitchen exit door was in the top wall on the rendering.

I went to work first on the layout.  This was one of the trickiest floor plans. The most obvious and frankly, the best possible scenario would have been to have a peninsula parallel the dining room (which is at the bottom of the rendering, out of the picture). However, this would mean either jamming the range and fridge together on the back wall (top of the rendering), or having the range in the peninsula.

Me no likey.

Putting the range in the peninsula would mean having a hood smack dab in the middle. I don't like that either. It blocks the view and clutters things up. Clutter is dumb. What to do!?!? I had to stop myself and demand that I think outside the box. Think of a different shape. Think of a different way. And then the clouds parted and the new layout was born. 

Like I said, it's not the ideal. The ideal would've been a nice bar area alongside the dining room, but that wasn't happening. In this new plan we get bar seating and space between all of the appliances. In order to have the bar next to the basement stairs and not feel like you were blocking the pathway, we used 12" wall cabinets that the contractor built up onto a base instead of using standard 24" base cabinets. Now the stools could slide under and out of the way. If you are sitting at the peninsula, you are 12" closer to the kitchen (further from the basement stairwell) than if you used standard base cabinets. 

Next was putting together a look. That was not so difficult. The schoolhouse-industrial vibe is big in Cincinnati, so I went with what the people (and I) like. I also wanted to make sure the small kitchen felt clean and spacious. So, I kept the color palette to black and white. Once you have a direction in your mind, it's a matter of plucking all the pieces that will make it happen.

Side note:

I knew Nicole at Revival Designs was going to be staging the home. I knew her stuff would look excellent in this space. Keep the appropriate decor and furnishings in mind! All kitchen designs can feel sterile if you don't consider the decor. I usually include items such as plants, kitchen gadgets and artwork in my designs so people can see how it will come together. Had I left out the cutting board, stool and the photo with the styled countertop, my client might not have been impressed. Design is not just tile and cabinets. You must be able to see the big picture.

The design turned out exactly as I had hoped. 

The floors under the layers of grossness were actually salvageable! I love how they run diagonally and much more interest than any tile could have provided.

This layout provides easy access to the kitchen from the dining room without having to walk around a peninsula. It also provides seating for three. Another bar stool can be added there on the end. Another perk of this design is the cost of the materials. You just can't get any less expensive than subway tile and black granite. Ok, you can, that's a lie. But, seriously these materials are both good quality AND classic design. There's always the allure of fancy tiles and higher end slabs, but usually it is unnecessary. 

And the ever popular before and after photo...

I love the simplicity of this design. Every detail from top to bottom was considered. It must've worked because this house, a house flip in Cincinnati, was under contract in 2 days! Did I mention I live in Phoenix? Long distance design is a thing. Design services for your space, wherever you may be, are available starting at $250. Click here for more info. More details about this kitchen are in the design board below. Click through to get info on each item.

Renovation Design Capsule 2: Spring 2016

Last time I wrote about a design capsule, I wasn't sure I'd ever do so again. After all, it was supposed to be a tried and true template. It was meant to be classic. It was meant to never need changing. This theory lives on, the Renovation Design Capsule of Winter 2016 is still tried and true.  It works! However, I did consider in the back of my head that I would someday want to change it. I do that sort of thing. Often. And so, it's true I wanted more. Let's not call this a change. Let's call it the second capsule in a series . After all, just because one exists doesn't mean another can't as well. I'm convinced that design styles change simply because designers get bored. Plus, variety is the spice of life, amiright? 

So, RDS 2 was born. Winter is over. Spring and almost summer is in the air. Let's punch this up a notch. 

Renovation Design Capsule 2: Spring 2016

Renovation Design Capsule 2: Spring 2016

What's new about this one is the brighter colors added. I just love the colors of nature, so we have some deep blue and bright green to brighten up the place. Here's a recent design for an investor client's flip using that delicious green color. 


The finishes are the same, but check out some of the new fixture styles I'm loving. I'm also digging some plays on the classic patterns. Sure we've got the hex and subway tile in there but these versions are elongated. Planks are still going strong and I threw some penny rounds in there for shits and gigs. The part I really want to implement going forward is some geometric pattern whether it's like this modern wainscoting or tossing around some X's in barn doors or capping off island ends. This could really get fun and ridiculous. 

Finally, the material section. I'm still loving the ceramic tile, marble and natural wood obvs. Guys, I still dig me some granite. It is just so random and delicious. The variations are wonderful. It's a natural product. I love it.

Now, let's talk about the quartz. People are all over this stuff here in Phoenix. Did I mention I moved? I say people are obsessed with it from the perspective of a person that has been looking for and talking houses here for 1 week...K. Clearly I don't have that much research under my belt. I'm not sold on quartz. It's a natural material-ish. Supposedly, in my 5.3 seconds of Googling, quartz counters are 96% crushed quartz jammed together with a resin. Scientifically speaking. Resin ain't real, people. Sometimes they throw glass in there. I don't like sparkly specks. I don't like glass in my counters. I like real. Maybe I'm just a quartz newb and don't know what I'm talking about. They say it's easier to maintain and more durable. I've had granite for YEARS and have never had an issue. It's not like it's going to melt away. Or, maybe like me, people just got bored with the same thing. That's possible. My answer to that is to stop using Uba freakin' Tuba. Unless it's leathered Uba Tuba. That's cool. 

What was I talking about again?

Let's end this post right here. Shall we?


More Is Stupid: How To Not Design A Kitchen Like An Idiot

I have a problem. Well, I think it's more that other peopIe have a problem, of course. It's not me it's you. I guess it depends on how you look at it. The thing is, I can't stand things. I walk into other people's houses and immediately want to begin purging the things they just don't need. People have too much. I feel like I have too much even though I do massive purges of things quarterly. Ask my friends. It's like a constant sale on my Facebook page. 

Enter the fact that I am a design consultant, as well as an interior and renovation designer for client's homes. This gets really tricky (aka fun). I get to go in and design new spaces for people, all the while trying to throw out some of their things that they just don't need (45 old ratty towels). Fine line. Not sure I'm good at doing it tactfully, but I try. My mother-in-law gets no tact from me, poor sweet lady. I go on autopilot removing the "unneeded" things from her house. I have a problem, which I choose to view as a solution, obviously. You should've seen me during my sister-in-law's recent move to Phoenix. Everything had to go. It was so much fun. For me. I think she almost had a heart attack. 

What's this got to do with designing shit, Wendy? Listen! I've talked about how to design a kitchen to make it functional and beautiful, but I forgot to really hit these words of wisdom that must be heard. 

Consider what you actually need instead of what people expect.

Have a couple of good things instead of many crappy things.

Stop adding things. 

Don't be normal. 

Stop doing what other people are doing.
Think outside the box.  

That means you won't be hearing me say more cabinets! More storage! More, more, more! How about less? How about approaching your new kitchen differently? WARNING: Some of what you find below may not be what you normally hear on the subject of kitchen design. I'm guessing you've already gathered that much. I'm not the follow the current trends and do what everyone expects type. My hope is that it helps you feel confident enough to break the mold in your mind. Shock and awe, that's how we'll do this. Do things differently. Be cool.

Let's design something different...

Kitchen Takeover

No doubt you (hopefully) spend some time in your kitchen making some meals. You'll definitely need to store tools, food and serving wear in this area as well. However, I'm seeing a trend in kitchens where they are actually becoming larger than the living space. Should we be devoting more space to preparing food than an area in which to enjoy it and other daily activities? Hell no. Soon we'll walk into a home and it will just be one giant kitchen with cabinets lining every wall. No wonder people are spending $70,000 on a kitchen remodel. Some kitchens have so many cabinets these days that people feel the need to collect more things to store. Stop this. When designing a new kitchen, keep the size balanced with the rest of the rooms. Leave room for a sofa to sit on and maybe a dining area. Balance, people. Balance.

Standard Is Crap

Let's stop it with the "standard" everything. Appliances are no doubt important, but if the kitchen is small to begin with, then putting in standard sized appliances will overwhelm the space. For example, a tiny kitchen should not have a side-by-side refrigerator. NO. These fill a large foot print and feel like a giant is taking over the room. How much food are you trying to store in there anyway? Look in your fridge. Do it. Is most of the stuff in there actually food? Real food? Mustard and mayo is not food. Don't fight me on this. How about throwing out some of those half empty ketchup bottles? Are you trying to live more healthfully, yet most of the space in your fridge is devoted to boxed items? Fix this. Throw it out. Stop buying those things. Get ahold of yourself. 

Buy appropriately sized appliances for your tiny kitchen. Consider a 24" range or fridge instead of a standard 30" version. 



Or, break the mold completely and go for refrigerator drawers. I have a college friend who texted me asking if I think refrigerator drawers were a good idea. I had no idea! I'd never even considered them before, but of course I was already poo-pooing the idea. Buyers won't like that I heard myself saying. Her dilemma was that she wanted to completely open up her kitchen, but having a standard vertical refrigerator would totally break the open, spacious vibe. I thought surely I'd find a place for it, so I looked at her floor plan. She was right. There was really nowhere to put one without it feeling like a total eyesore. Let's face it, fridges are ugly (unless it's a Smeg). So, fridge and freezer drawers is what she did. It turned out awesome. After a year of usage, she isn't missing the standard fridge one bit. See them below in the cabinet run on the right.

That's not to say that everyone in every house should have small or different fridges. If you have a family of 6, you're gonna need ample food storage! Go for 2 fridges. Maybe two sitting next to each other or a beverage fridge nearby. But be honest with yourself. Don't just throw in a beverage fridge to be fancy. Consider if you will use such a thing. The condo we are living in came with a beverage fridge. We don't drink soda. We drink water, coffee, beer and wine. Great, a place for the booze! Not so fast. We typically pick up a bottle of wine when we want one. No booze gets stored in our house. That beverage fridge sits empty. If we had a wine rack, it too would be sitting empty. Wastes of space for us. If you're trying to cut out soda or sugary drinks from your life, don't make a place to store them. You'll feel obligated to buy that crap. 


But, WAHHH I need more storage! Maybe you don't. First of all, sell some of that crap you aren't using. How long has it been since you used that stand mixer or panini press? Are you trying to cut sugar and bread from your diet, yet continue to have baking items at hand? I know it hurts, but get rid of that shit. Sell some things. Use the proceeds to buy better appliances. You've got a lot of crap. I know it. 

A well planned out kitchen will have ample storage to hold all of the tools a homeowner might use making the most of every inch of the room. However, let's not plan a kitchen that will hold every tool known to man. Do you really need 2 blenders, a food processor, 50 dishes and 18 skillets? I think not. Get rid of the crappy stuff. You know, the 15 melted and broken spatulas? Keep or buy ONE good one. JUST ONE. You'll be astonished at how often we think we need more of something, but then realize you just keep using your favorite decent spatula over and over. Do you need more drinking glasses because there aren't ever clean ones? WELL, CLEAN THEM. Use it, then clean it. Does it feel good to have a pile of dishes to do? Of course not. 

What are you keeping that someone else thinks you should have? Are you saving that one giant mug that doesn't stack on top of anything conveniently because your mom says it is great for soup? Whose kitchen is this anyway? Use a bowl. Don't be an idiot.

Open Up

Now let's say you've eliminated some things, let's keep going. How about those upper cabinets? Maybe you don't like open shelving. You're afraid you'll be looking at a bunch of chaos and you like being able to close it up and not look at it. But, hold up. You just threw a bunch of stuff out, right? Only the necessary and beautiful remains! If you have floating or open shelves, you'll be able to reach it all so easily! No more open cabinet door dents in your head. You know what I'm talking about don't you? I know you're worried about the dust. If you're using these things regularly, because you only kept the necessary, then you're golden. Not enough time to get dust on it anyway. 

What about just having an open space? Not every inch of this new kitchen has to be utilitarian. Allow some room for art, decor and plants. Now you're designing a room that blends in better with the rest of the house instead of the warehouse, workspace area next to the relaxing cozy area. This kitchen below is a screaming example of this concept. I love it. This kitchen may not be functional enough for you, but take the idea and morph it. Stop being so literal. (I'm sorry i don't know whose kitchen this is. I hate not giving credit so if you know, please inform!)

Now, Make It Last

A good kitchen is one you actually want to be in! If it is too dark or ugly, you simply won't want to spend be there. We can debate what colors to use all day long, but for me there is no substitution for a light and bright kitchen. Plus, they feel cleaner. 

You know that outfit you still wear or piece of furniture you still have because you liked it once and spent a lot of money on it, but that style has moved on without you. That's your kitchen. Those accent tiles are going to become old pretty quickly. Pretty easy to fix this, though. Stick to classic, simple design and natural materials. Natural materials don't go out of style, usually. They've been around forever and will continue to be. Trendy tiles or colors will quickly become tired and dated. Worse yet, you won't even know it because you've looked at it for so many days in a row. You'll be that person that says, "We just spent $20,000 on this kitchen! It's not outdated!" Um, lady that was 10 years ago and that style didn't travel very well. Marble is always in. Says me. 

Ok, end rant. Sorry to go all hardcore on you but I tire of trying to conform. Why do I even bother? Time to go throw some things out.