Beach Shack to Cottage: Makeover Begins


Beach Shack

1940s Beach Shack Before

I have been blessed with a two-bedroom, 1940s cottage (a whopping 614-square feet), about four blocks from the beach. For the past two decades, this former rental property became rundown over the years from careless tenants and neglectful gardeners.

Before Cottage Living Room

Living Room Before

But beyond the dingy wall-to-wall carpeting…

Old Dining Nook Before

Dining Nook Before

and stained ceramic floor tiles and dated wood paneling in the kitchen…

1940s Cottage Kitchenette

Kitchenette before

you could see that this cottage has good bones and real design potential. Every room, including the petite garden in front, is going to be my personal design lab.

Master Bedroom Before

Master Bedroom Before

Guest Bedroom Before

Guest Bedroom Before

In the next few months, I’ll share my twist on chic, smart, portable decor ideas, storage solutions and garden design tips on a budget without sacrificing style.

I move into the house in a few weeks so I am painting the shutters Benjamin Moore Essex Green. It is a classic green-black. I can hardly wait for a tiny bit more curb appeal. Check back and see how the little shack becomes a cozy beach cottage, room by room!

Closet Case: Storing Folding Chairs


Folding Chair Storage

Maximize Closet Real Estate

Tired of jockeying for storage space in an already jam-packed closet? Serial small-space nesters (like me) stash away a few extra guest chairs in their petite abode. But with very little  storage space under the bed or in closets,  what’s a girl who likes to entertain to do?

Collapsed Chair Storage

Hang a Chair As Garment Rack

When not in use, hang a folding chair with the seat either open or closed onto over-the-door closet hooks (removable, of course) to double as a clothing rack. Add a few utility s-hooks or snap-on hooks to the stretcher bars of the chair for an added storage layer. Hang purses, scarves and hats on the hooks so you can see everything you have. There is also a seat-shelf to keep bulky folded sweaters and sweatshirts neatly stacked. If duty calls, chairs are ready to hit the floor and work the room at a moment’s notice!

Lucky Strike: DIY Match and Strike Holder

Mercury Glass Match and Strike Holder

Add Luxe Home Accessories to a Small Space

Trying to live “large” in tiny digs means surrendering a size-ist attitude toward my space. I live, work and entertain in a petite floor plan as if it were a grand, well-appointed home. It’s all in the luxe details like this mercury glass match and strike holder you can make with very humble materials.

DIY Green Sand Strike Pad

I love giving these votives as gifts to my lucky friends with fireplaces, and I keep one on a coffee table next to my candles. The strike pad on the bottom of the glass is made from white glue and craft sand. That’s it! Could not be easier or cheaper.

Easy-Peasy How-To

Use about a 1/2 cup of plain white glue from the dollar store mixed with 1/4 cup of colored decor sand available at online and at craft stores.  These are approximate measurements. The mixture needs to be the same thickness as thick cake or pancake batter. As a test it should hold its shape when you drop it onto a piece of paper.

Green Craft Sand

Green Craft Sand Mixed With Glue

Once you’ve got the right consistency, use a spoon to place a good dollop of glue-sand onto the bottom of the votive holder.

Spread it around with the back of a spoon so it covers the bottom evenly without dripping over the sides. The finished layer should be about 1/8” thick. It will take 24-48 hours to completely dry.

Photo 5 Strike Anywhere - Lucky Strike: DIY Match and Strike Holder

The trick is to use strike-anywhere matches that you can buy from places like Ace Hardware. Look for the ones with the green tip. The other kind of matches will only strike on the box and will not ignite on a sandy surface. The green match tip is the reason I chose to use moss green sand. I like tying those two elements together.

Remember, when you live in tight quarters, the small details speak volumes. A match and strike holder like this one is a petite accessory that will give your home a big style boost without taking up a lot of valuable real estate. Give it a whirl!!

Take a Seat! Turn a Chair Into a Storage Caddy

Chair Rack Small File

Multi-Tasking Chairs

Sigmund Freud once said that “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar,” but to me a chair can be so much more than just a chair. Chairs can be a coat rack, standing sculptural art, or a bookcase. My favorite way to  use a chair is as a chic storage caddy to display and organize your favorite shoes.

Looking for the Perfect Chair

I fell in love with the frame of this wonderful vintage chair from Le Home Brooklyn. It displays up to a dozen pairs of shoes in about one-square foot of space. When you shop look out for flea market chairs that have the stretcher bars on the bottom for an additional shoe storage layer.  In a petite bedroom or cramped foyer,  this is a skinny storage solution that is easy to keep neat and tidy.


Add clear rubber chair pads along the seat frame to keep shorter kitten heels from slipping.

Skinny Storage: Rubber Boating Strap Organizer

Boating Rubber Strap Wall Storage

Search for Vertical Storage

Do the math. A small home plus a cramped foyer equals a desperate need for vertical storage. When there is very little floor space to work with, you have to look up. In my own personal search for storage solutions, three things I know for sure. One, they have to be easy to maintain. Two, they have to have unique style. Adding a polyurethane molding appliqué in orange to the top of frame makes me smile. Three, they have to be flexible and portable enough to take to the next abode. If it’s an ugly box or a generic coat rack, I won’t be motivated to use it in the long run. I don’t know about you, but I have to trick myself into staying organized.

Close Up Rubber Strap Wall Caddy

Putting Rubber Boating Straps to Work

Repurpose inexpensive rubber boating straps stretched across the wall to become a vertical catchall space for keys, cameras, sunglasses even sneakers. Stretch and attach the straps horizontally  to screws spaced apart equally. The rubber ball on one end is hollow and securely slips over and onto the head of a screw. The straps come in red, blue, yellow and white and are sold at boating supply stores around the country and better hardware stores. Try them in every room in the house, including the bathroom.


Use Wall-Dog™ drywall screws, which are screws and an anchor all in one. These screws leave small holes behind that are easy to patch when you to take the rubber straps on the road to the next house gig. No need to deal with messy, wall-marring anchors.

Give it a whirl.

Mock-nifique! Layer In Faux Crocodile Paper

Photo 1 Croc Tray - Mock-nifique! Layer In Faux Crocodile Paper

Faux Croc Adds Instant Chic

A little mock “croc” goes a long way to enhance your petite home décor, especially when it comes in the form of very affordable embossed paper. Layering in textures adds a sense of depth and interest to a plain, boxy space. Expect to spend about $4.00 for one 18×27” sheet that comes in a variety of colors. My favorites are the orange and glossy white. Find them at

Photo 2 Close Up - Mock-nifique! Layer In Faux Crocodile Paper

The embossed “croc” papers add a touch of glamour lining the tops of ho-hum trays and tabletops. A little double-sided tape under the paper will keep it from shifting and removable. The moc-croc paper also looks sleek as book covers for those resource books that have to be accessible and out on a desk.

Photo 3 Books - Mock-nifique! Layer In Faux Crocodile Paper

Look, There’s More

Old, tired lamp shades look fresh and modern wrapped in glossy white mock croc paper sheets. Plain Jane bookcases look designer with backs lined with white croc. And, dress up an ugly wastebasket in fabulous faux croc. No need to hide it under a desk. Enjoy!

Color Spot: Feign the Look of Molding with Paint

Green Paint Chair Rail Border

White is Not Always Right

Most people ask me how to introduce color into their small space. When you live in a limited floorpan, the popular belief is that white is the most expansive color to use. I beg to differ.

White Hallway Before

White Hallway Before

This formerly all-white, 400-square foot studio in NYC needed a foyer that commanded attention to prevent what I call shoebox syndrome. Character and depth trumps white and boxy any day of the week.

Green Paint Front Door Border

Faux Chair Railing and Molding

Add splashes of a bold color by painting only parts of the wall. My design approach is to tape off and paint a 36-tall border,  a little less than midpoint up the wall. I think of it as my “faux” chair rail molding and in this tiny hallway, it provides just the right amount of verdant green without overpowering the tiny niche.


Don’t forget doorways. I carried the painted border over the kitchen entryway and onto the top and bottom of the front door,  giving the foyer a grander opening.

A Not-So-Standard Poodle: Decoupage Sculpture

Yellow Decoupage Ceramic Poodle

A Handmade Home Is a Happy Home

The other day I got a Facebook message from a woman complaining that my blog is “just another craft” site. I thought about it and she was right. But what’s wrong with that? After I laid out my furniture scheme and accessorized with pillows and curtains,  DIY “craft” is the way to put a personal stamp on the little nooks and crannies in a space. It is also therapy where I can get my hands dirty and forget about the stresses of the day. Putting a handmade touch on a nutshell also makes any small space feel like a truly lived-in home. So there you go.

Photo 2 BEFORE CERAMIC - A Not-So-Standard Poodle: Decoupage Sculpture

Craft and Kitsch

That brings me to my latest find. I have a fascination with 50s kitsch, and this ceramic poodle from TJ Maxx spoke to me–woof! To give it a more custom look that would coordinate with my bedroom, I knew I wanted to embellish the poodle poufs on the paws, neck, ears and head.

Photo 3 Paper - A Not-So-Standard Poodle: Decoupage Sculpture

Decoupage a Custom Finish

Decoupage has always been my favorite craft technique, and this yellow citron,  cherry blossom paper from  Snow and Graham caught my eye. Brush a layer of decoupage medium onto the ceramic dog and rip pieces of paper and layer them onto the sculpture. Smooth out the bubbles. Let dry and wet sand using a fine sandpaper. Apply a 2nd layer of glue, dry and repeat with sanding for a smooth finish.  Paint a layer of polyurethane to seal it and voilà.

I am house proud… and craft proud. Have a great day!

Pretty Palette: My Picks for Better Homes and Gardens

Better Homes and Gardens Color Picks

Courtesy of

Custom Color Palette for

A few weeks ago Better Homes and Gardens asked me to suggest a fresh color palette and create a design board complete with accessories that would help make a room pop for spring. Citron yellow and a gray-pink were my inspiration. Check out the full list of resources and tips from

Photo 2 Color Ratio - Pretty Palette: My Picks for Better Homes and Gardens

Primary vs. Accent Colors

Better Homes and Gardens offers a simple way to balance the amount of the primary color used in a room as well as accent colors. Here’s what they suggest:

“Choose one main color to serve as 40-60 percent of your color palette, then one to two supporting colors to comprise 30-40 percent of your color palette, and fill the remainder with one to two accents.”

This is a truly useful guide, but I never subscribe strictly to decorating rules. As you gain more confidence in your design sense, feel free to play around with these color ratios.

Photo 3 Accessories - Pretty Palette: My Picks for Better Homes and Gardens


If you are afraid of intense colors, try using a wall stencil, which lets you accent the wall with color without overwhelming the room.

Scintillating Citron For Small Spaces

Citron Sweater and Mauve Dress Color Inspiration

Color Inspiration From Your Closet

A pop of color adds instant life to a small, featureless room. I think I’m more adventurous with color in my home décor choices than I am with my wardrobe. But when I was asked to create a color palette for an upcoming Better Homes and Garden issue, I got inspiration from an outfit I wore for a media appearance: a citron yellow sweater with a mauve pink dress. The contrast between an acid, yellow-green with a softer pastel is unexpected and felt modern.

Photo 2 Palette - Scintillating Citron For Small Spaces

Finding the Right Shade

Finding the right shade of yellow and mauve took a lot of homework before I even ventured to the paint store. I didn’t want a mauve that was too red or a citron shade that was too green. I looked at different palettes online and read what other bloggers and designers were recommending. I always buy paint samples and bring them home to test in sunlight and in artificial light before committing. It  is bewildering when I see so many people at the paint store buying gallons of paint based on a paint chip they just examined in a poorly lit paint store.

Photo 3 Mauve - Scintillating Citron For Small Spaces

Mad About This Mauve

For the perfect mauve-gray color I finally decided on Martha Stewart’s paint line at Home Depot. The color is Gloaming-MSL#170, a nice balance between pink and gray;  pale enough not to overwhelm a space but intense enough not to look too pastel-sweet.

Benjamin Moore Citron Paint Color

My New Favorite Yellow

Finding the right shade of yellow was more baffling.  Under different light, the paint samples were skewing too much on the neon, green acid side. Finally, I hit the jackpot with none other than Benjamin Moore’s Citron #2024-30. I know I should have guessed by the paint name that it was the one. This is my new favorite yellow.  It looks the same during the day and night.

Silver Peacock Wall Stencil

The upcoming Better Homes and Gardens issue will feature a wide range of accessories and furniture that play off of the citron-mauve color duo, but one thing I can share now is this modern peacock wall stencil that I adore. I would use it with the mauve paint on a bedroom wall with a silver or bronze accent color. It’s a way to use the mauve without being overtaken by it in a shrunken room.

Enjoy and give it a whirl!