Living Room

Swell on Dwell On Design 2017: Brand Ambassador Invite

Dwell on Design 2017

Who, What, Where

Mark your calendars! I’ve been asked by Dwell on Design to be one of their design blog ambassadors in Los Angeles, June 23-25, 2017. Dwell on Design is the largest modern design fair on the west coast presented in partnership with Dwell Magazine, which brings together the brightest people, latest design materials, furniture, technology, garden and accessories under one roof.

You don’t have to be in the biz to enjoy the many design fair lectures, tours and shops. Here are some of the events I am putting on my must-see list:

Kim Lewis' Tiny Home

Kim Lewis Tiny Homes, the former Lead Designer behind ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Kim Lewis, is launching her own line of Tiny Homes at Dwell on Design. She’ll be there in person to give us a tour and to share her tips on maximizing space and style.


The Home Tours allow design-seekers to fully immerse themselves in “Dwell-like” domestic spaces. These unique homes located all over Los Angeles are specially selected by Dwell to reflect the rich diversity of livable, innovative modern architecture and design found in the city.

A Little One-On-One Design Time

One-On-One Consultations are back by demand at Dwell on Design. Now is your chance to talk to real, live architects, designers, and tile experts in a series of free, no-commitment consultations. Make an appointment online via the link for your free, private design session.

Hope to see you there June 23-25 at #DODLA17! Grab your passes at and use promo code NUTSHELL to save on your pass.

Set in Cement: Cool DIY Planters

Cool DIY Cement Planter

DIY Cement Planters For Less

Cement planters give any petite garden or terrace a touch of cool modern,  but the $100 and up price tag motivated me to take design matters into my own hands.

Dollar Store Plastic Planter

Dollar Store Plastic Planter Parts

On a recent visit to my favorite Japanese dollar store, Daiso, I bought a plastic planter urn. I drilled a few extra drainage holes to prevent soggy plant roots later on. Now, for the fun part!

This Just In: Mold-able Concrete

I had a little bit of Shapecrete left over from a previous project, which is a mold-able concrete mix that works like clay. You just add water. It comes in a large 20-lb size, but you will be surprised how many projects you can create with it.  Make sure and use gloves. I do not have allergy-sensitive skin, but working with this clay with my bare hands made them feel itchy for a few hours.  Check out Shapecrete’s how-to video here.

Shapecrete DIY Moldable Cement

Drape and shape the clay over the outside of the urn and just over the top lip, leaving the inside of the urn uncovered.

DIY Cement Planter Close Up

According to Shapecrete’s website, their product will alter the pH of the soil which may or may not affect some plants.  Being a card-carrying brown thumb gardener, I didn’t want to risk it. Instead, I lined the inside with a coco liner and added the soil on top.

Extra Close Up Succulents in Cement Planter


Living in sunny California, succulents have truly become my friend. They’re drought-friendly and so easy to grow in almost any container even an old postal box. My succulents look happy and are thriving in their new home.  Be sure not to overwater.

A few of My Favorite Things: Decorate With What You Love

Dad's Framed Art

Decorate With What You Love: Large and Small

When I first approach designing a small space, I think of all of the grand gestures I can make in key spots, from a large glass desk to voluminous layered curtains installed up to the ceiling, to combat that cluttered, compact look. Lots of little collections and junior-sized chairs can actually shrink the appearance of a room. But once the larger anchor pieces are in place,  it is the small design gestures that make a house  feel like a home.

Layer With Mementos

Here are some of my favorite things. Most of them are tiny, found objects or gifted treasures from people I love. Above I framed one of the art drawings that my physician father was famous for. This one is called “Rat Orchestra,” an homage to the critters he worked with in the research lab.  Since he recently passed away, his art truly brings me joy and a sense of connection to him.

Dog Door Stop

Vintage Finds Add Warmth to a Small Space

Shopping in vintage shops is an outing I really enjoy with my mother. We always marvel at how in sync our tastes are and for my birthday, she bought me this little cast-iron Boston terrier door stop that faithfully greets me in the foyer.

Green Mason Jar

Green Mason jars make me happy. I found them at Walmart and use them for mixing salad dressings or drinking lemonade, and if I am short on party cocktail shakers, they stand in quite well working a self-serve martini station.

Jonathan Adler Vase

My first Jonathan Adler pottery was a gift from my sweet sister.  After a day of shopping in San Francisco, she knew I had to have this piece.  It has been featured in my last book and again, in my second. It’s a keeper. Thank you, D!

Love Paper Weight

What home doesn’t need a little extra love? Paperweights are a home office must-have. They make sense of the paper piles on top of a desk, organizing stacks of odds and ends to look intentional. This one also stands upright on a bookshelf.

Open Book-Decorate This, Not That! Coming in 2018

Book Promo Table

Decorate This, Not That! Coming in 2018

Hold the phone! This just in.  After a year of road testing chic and smart small-space design ideas on my petite beach shack turned cottage, I am thrilled to share personal tips and style breakthroughs that will help you live LARGE in your tiny dwelling in a new upcoming book, Decorate This, Not That!

Book Promo Bed Final

The book will be published in early 2018 by Glitterati Incorporated,  and I am still in the process of writing the last chapters gearing up for a very fun photo session in the next month or so.

Updates and Behind-the-Scenes Sneak Peeks

I’ll be posting lots of behind-the-scenes photos on Instagram and Facebook so please follow me there for the latest. Special thanks to my friends and fans who have been with me every step of the way.




Window Dressing: Repurpose Mannequins as Vertical Storage

Matisse Mannequin as Vertical Storage Solution

Vertical Storage for a Narrow Living Room

A well-styled mannequin catches your attention in a store window, and also stands out as stylish vertical storage for hats, scarves and jewelry. They are perfectly sized for a narrow nest. A few years ago, I found this used mannequin at a retail display supply outlet, and I embellished it with a papier-mâché skirt made with wire, covered with silk poppy flowers. Papier-mâché is one of my favorite mediums to work with, and this project inspired a DIY Rococo styled picture frame for the living room as well.

From the skirt on up, the overall theme is Matisse’s poppy fields.  The bodice is decoupaged with laser-printed images from a local printing shop. Unfortunately, ink-jet images from a home computer will bleed when it touches the decoupage glue and won’t work for this project. My dutiful friend, nicknamed “Moulin Rouge,” performs double-duty in this compact living room. It displays as a sculptural art piece and is a catchall for hats and other accessories. The mannequin keeps clutter at bay while taking up very little floor space.

Through the years I have found old and damaged mannequins or dress forms at store display closeouts, fashion design schools and on Ebay. Check out and your local Craigslist for some real bargains.

Skinny Kitchen Sculpture

Mannequin Sculpture for a Small Kitchen

Faux Cake Topper

faux birthday cake made from two Styrofoam rounds tops the mannequin that lives in my kitchen. Use a polymer air-dry clay by Paperclip to create these pretty madeleine lookalikes. Just press the clay into a madeleine cookie mold, let dry and paint to look like threat thing. Since I have an open kitchen layout in my New York City apartment, the mannequin anchors the dining nook and separates it from the living room. Establish different zones in a small space to give the eye a variety of places to roam, which eases the feeling of a confined home.

Customize your mannequins by stripping off all of the outside muslin fabric and padding and work with the raw frame. Most frames are made out of plastic and are easy to paint, decoupage and glue adornments on.


Because mannequins are tall and lean, they shimmy into tight corners and cast the illusion of height in any tiny niche.

DIY Gifts for Dad Under $20

Father’s Day Gifts On a Dime

San Diego Living asked me to come up with handmade Father’s Day Gifts for an upcoming television segment. I took it as a real challenge to keep gifts under $20 and to include projects you can easily do with your children. Here you go.  Enjoy!

keep-calm-daddy-gets-it-done poster print

1. For the handy dad in your life, customize a carpenter’s apron from Ace Hardware with clip art you can find online. Just make sure it is for personal use only. Download and print out the image onto t-shirt transfer paper and make sure it is the mirror image of the original art work if you are dealing with text. Press with an iron to transfer image onto the apron.

DIY Personalized Silhouette Clock

2. Personalize a clock for dad with Victorian silhouettes of each member of the family, even your four-legged pals. Have the kids snap profile photos of each other and print out in black and white onto card stock. Cut out the silhouette shape and use it as a template and draw around it onto black construction paper. Glue your new silhouette onto the clock face with decoupage medium. Install a simple clock kit onto a birch wood base, all conveniently located on the same aisle at the local craft store.

Fun Gifts for Kids to Make


3. Confetti dot monogram mugs dad will use every day. They are all the rage on Pinterest and an easy craft for the younger kids to do.  Use Sharpie paint pens, large letter stickers and ceramic mugs from the dollar store. Place stickers on the mug and cover the outline of the letters with lots of ink dots. Remove stickers and place mugs in a cold oven and turn heat up to 450 degrees for 30 minutes. Turn off heat but allow mugs to cool down inside the oven before removing.

Loupe Frames

4. Jewelry Loupe Picture Frames are a unique way of sharing a precious photo with dad.  Screw in a jewelry loupe, which magnifies an image, into the side or top of a wooden picture frame for an interactive viewing experience your father will cherish.

Photo Board

5. Give dad an original work of art. Transfer any photo onto a wood artist panel for that chic gallery look. Make a laser copy print of your favorite photo (an inkjet copy will bleed). Brush a layer of gesso or paint primer onto the wood and let dry. This step will prevent bubbles and wrinkles later in the process.  Next, apply a generous layer of acrylic gel medium onto the top of the wood panel. Do the same to the front of the photo print and then place photo print face down onto the panel. Gently rub out air bubbles, wrinkles and excess gel medium with the back of a spoon, an old credit card or a brayer.

Let dry for a minimum of 3 hours or overnight. Spray entire surface with water and rub off the top layers of paper pulp with a damp sponge or cloth, which will start to reveal the transferred print underneath. This will take 4-5 passes with water to remove all of the paper pulp. Let dry for ten minutes in between and keep on rubbing. Finish and protect the photo transfer with acrylic sealer.

Happy Father’s Day!

Chic Coastal Cottage Touches For a Little Nest

Blue Wave Pillow

Wild Wave Pillow from

Cottage chic means different things to different people, and now with over a year of coastal cottage “nesting” under my belt, I can share my short list of petite décor touches for under $100 that can make any shack feel like a cozy, warm cottage without breaking the budget:

Layer In Natural Elements

Pastel Driftwood

Save on Crafts

Adding a few natural wood elements instantly adds warmth to any cottage interior. Drape this Pastel Painted Driftwood Garland on a shelf or a mantle. Only $19.99.

String Lights

A Birch Branch wrapped with string lights combines the best of two worlds: twinkling lights with the natural beauty of birch.  A six-foot battery-operated strand is only $17.99

Go Large Scale With Accessories

I am convinced throw pillows can make or break the look and feel of a cottage, and is a stylish source for those featured pillows (like the blue Wild Waves pillow above) that demand star billing on a plain sofa or chair.


Cottage and Bungalow

A large clam shell looks splendid dressing up a table top or holding candle votives inside a fireplace. The Imperial Clam Shell is $72 but for a limited offer just for Living in a Nutshell readers, you can redeem an additional 15% off. Just use this unique discount code at checkout: LIVINGNUTSHELL15.

Basket Pendant Lamp

World Market

The natural woven texture and color of baskets are scattered everywhere in my cottage for storage and lighting solutions. For the money, this Basket Weave Bamboo Pendant Lamp is a steal at $59.99.

Entertaining in a Petite Cottage

Lobster Plates

Burlington Coat Factory

Cooking and entertaining is part of the cottage lifestyle I love and what better than serving dinner for family and friends on a set of four lobster plates designed by the fabulously talented Nanette Lepore for only $9.99 at Burlington Coat Factory online. 

Red Bucket

Hobby Lobby

My last visit to Hobby Lobby took me by surprise. Aside from their vast array of craft supplies, the home decor and accessories department is enormous and well-priced, especially with their online coupons. This Large Red Tub with Rope Handles is festive as an ice cooler or a planter for gerber daisies. $9.90


Artsy-Fartsy Home

7_weather stripping frame

Get Original With Art

Real, original art in any of its forms makes any small home live large. This oversized watercolor painting is by artist, Emily Redd. I was immediately drawn to the rich, dark colors in the painting and for many years it hung proudly in my NYC foyer. Its large scale tricks the eye into seeing the foyer as larger than it really is. It makes a grand statement right when you come in the door. For extra-large DIY art frames to match, that won’t break the bank, check out this project.

Fireplace Painting copy

A second Emily Redd painting, a self-portrait, is displayed over the fireplace in my beach cottage in Souther California. Moving back to California after living in New York for over 20 years made me feel a bit topsy-turvy,  but once I starting unpacking and hung this painting, I felt at home once again. It is like being reunited with an old, faithful friend.

Where to Find Art Bargains

I learned quickly that acquiring original art does not have to be the price of a mortgage or car loan. Original photography and paintings can be the same price as poster art and prints found at big box stores. Plus, I love the idea of supporting an independent artist around the world. You can find a large selection of art at  and Give it a whirl!

It’s a Color Match


 Wide Green Ikea Patio Furniture

Going Kelly Green

Blessed with a small garden, I saw this as a great opportunity to go bold with color. This spring I was at Ikea at just the right time to snag the last pair of Nipprig rattan patio chairs on sale in Kelly green. The only hitch was that all of the matching side tables were sold out except in black rattan. At the moment, I have three different paint projects going on.  I was trying to avoid a fourth. But the entire Ikea set was so gently priced, I stopped my whining and drove to the local Sherwin Williams paint store for a color match.

Sherwin Williams Custom Kelly Green Paint

Swipe Right for a Perfect Match

The paint store only needs a small color sample (as small as a quarter they tell me), and they can make a match. The clerk was able to scan the back leg of one of the chairs for a computer color code and he purposefully made the first paint batch a little less green so we could adjust. It is easier to add color than subtract. I’ve included the code here if you’d like to replicate it on your own furnishings.

I’ve become fast friends with my local paint store, and I have learned a great deal about custom matching and custom blends.

I am thrilled with my new outdoor space outfitted with a fresh green patio set. Bring on the margaritas!

Made the Best-Of-List: ForRent.Com


I Heart Renters

From day one of launching this blog, renters and apartment dwellers remain near and dear to my heart.  I’ve personally rented over a dozen nutshell-sized spaces (not measuring more than 800-square feet), and each home du jour became a design lab for portable design; decor that would not hurt walls, windows or floors and that you can take with you. Every small space came with a unique set of design challenges that inspires smart and chic solutions for storage, lighting and privacy.

The Votes Are In

Thanks to for including us on their Best-Of-List. Checkout their blog where you’ll find creative and practical decor and storage tips specifically for renters in mind.