Living Room

Light Bulb Moment: Revamping an Old Lamp

Vintage Light Sconce Wrapped With String Lights

Every small space benefits from a layer of sparkle and shine. Here’s a way to do it on a dime with simple patio string lights!

Old Sconce Lights On

Dress-Up Lighting

Once you get the practical task and fill lights set in your space, it’s time layer in dress-up lighting that can come from candles or string lights; their sole purpose is to sprinkle a space with a little glow and a hint of glamour.

Vintage Sconce Before


Shopping the Family Vault

Gathering dust in my mother’s garage was a box full of vintage lighting that she had collected from the 40s, 50s and 60s.  My eye went right to a well-worn wall sconce that was missing a hanging lantern. I didn’t want to spend the time or money to rewire it, so I wrapped a string of lights from Target and gave it a new home.

Target String Light bulbs


• Since the sconce was gold, spray paint the light cord the same color gold (without the light bulbs screwed in) to keep it camouflaged. Place a painter’s tape over the socket opening to keep paint from seeping in. Each bulb socket includes a clip, which makes it easy to attach the lights to the branches of the sconce.

• To magnify the shine from the lights, consider hanging the sconce in front of a large mirror in a foyer or living room.

• Plug the string lights into a plug-in dimmer for extra control over mood lighting.


SPF Layer (Super-Plush-Floor): Layer Smaller Rugs

Wide Rug Layering_3

Moving to the West Coast from NYC, where the sun is always shining, created a major design shift. The new wood floors in my beach cottage were too beautiful to cover up unlike the floors of my NYC apartment. Covering up and camouflage were often the first decorating impulses in my tiny city rentals.

Layer Smaller Rugs to Make a Larger One

I wanted to repurpose the shearling rug my mother gifted me many years ago, but it was not large enough to properly anchor the living room. In tight quarters, try and find a rug that is large enough to touch or run underneath the legs of the sofa and chairs. The eye follows the line of the rug, which hints at a more generous floor plan.  In an attempt to keep the slim budget on point, I layered the long-haired shearling over a shaved shearling rug I found for only a few hundred dollars.

Challenge Decorating Rules

The mix of two textured rugs layered together add interest and depth in a small living room. And as a duo, they visually enlarge the living room paired as one large area rug. I realize many professional decorators consider layering rugs a faux-pas, but I was never a rules girl. Evaluate your decorating approach on a room by room basis. Sit with it and don’t be afraid to move things around and to change your mind.  Sometimes we feel defeated if we don’t hit the decorating plan out of the park the first time around but realize it’s an organic process. You’ll know when you get it right because the design will feel like it should have always been this way from the beginning.


Always ask if you can return a rug before purchasing so you can give it a test run in your space. Designers do this all of the time.

Enjoy the decorating journey!



Peek-a-Boo Privacy: Front Door Camouflage

Final Color Correct Door

Every tiny space I have ever lived in came with privacy issues ranging from Peeping Tom neighbors,  being too close street side or wanting to hide a hideous view.

Privacy Window That Lets The Light In

In my current cottage, the glass front door needed a clever cover-up without blocking out morning rays. I opted out of hanging a curtain on the door. The room needed  a streamlined look and I didn’t want to worry about keeping fabric clean.

Removable privacy film on the entire glass door blocked out too much light for my taste.  After removing the window film from one pane of glass,  I decided to paint a design on the pane with white chalk paint and frosted window paint.

Chalk Painted Frosted Privacy Glass



Use painter’s tape and block off a geometric design. Paint 2 layers of white chalk paint on the untaped, negative space of the design. Let dry and remove tape.

Reposition painter’s tape to reveal and border the unpainted or positive space of the design. Paint two layers of Martha Stewart’s Frost Etching Effect paint. If you make a mistake, the frosted paint  cleans up easily with soap and water as long as it is still wet. You have about a 10-minute window. Two layers of the frosted paint gave the window the right amount of coverage while letting all of the glorious sunlight in.


To remove the frosted paint effect permanently, use glass cleaner and a razor to scrape off  stubborn spots.

Happy Herringbone: DIY Fireplace Liner

Final WIde Herriingbone Fireplace

One of the perks of this petite 1940s beach cottage, besides a prime location, is that it comes with architectural details like a fireplace mantel. A fireplace, working or not, provides a small space with a large focal point that can distract the eye from the room’s slim proportions.  But this white mantel set up on a white wall seemed to disappear.  It was calling out for a custom design touch that would add depth and texture to a plain, shrunken living room. The challenge: create a fireplace liner that could be easily installed and removed.

Before Plain White Mantel

Before Plain White Mantel

Add Cozy Wood Elements

Craft Sticks

A stark space truly benefits from natural elements like wood. A wood herringbone pattern was the design goal for the fireplace mantel, but it had to be done on a shoestring.  Inexpensive jumbo wood craft sticks were the perfect answer. You get 300 sticks in a box for around $6, and they are easily stained and cut with craft scissors to fit. I chose a Classic Gray stain from Minwax.

Cleaned Up Med Fireplace

Color Stain Tips

You will want to create varying levels of color and saturation from the stain. You can achieve this by rubbing on heavier or lighter amounts of stain onto the wood. Leave the stain on the wood longer before you wipe it off to get a deeper shade. If you want to introduce an additional color to the mix without having to buy a full can of stain, use wood finish stain markers from Minwax. Let dry.

Herringbone Layout

Measure and cut a piece of foam board so it fits snugly into the back of the fireplace. Remove and use this board to glue the craft wood tiles you stained. Measure and mark the center line of the board and cut and glue the wood sticks at a 45-degree angle from the center on out. This Youtube video explains the process the best.  It is easier to see it than read about it.

When you are finished, the foam board should hold in place. If you want to be extra secure, you can add a few strips of carpet tape to hold it it firmly to the back of the fireplace.

Give it a whirl!

A New Lease On Leather…With Paint

Medium Painted Leather Chair

East Vs.West

Moving from the East Coast to the West shined a different light on all of my furniture and accessories. The heavier fabrics and dark, saturated colors that worked so well in NYC seemed out of place in my beach cottage.  But the design budget did not allow for a complete overhaul.

1_grey living room_ZZwide

Original Green Leather Chairs

The Holy Grail of Chalk Paint

There was a sizable shift in my decorating life when I discovered Annie Sloan Chalk Paints. I had no idea this world-acclaimed artist-designer had amassed a cult following.  After applying her paints to a headboard and a vintage chaise, I was an instant convert. The paints are easy to manipulate, have no odor and clean up with water. When dry, they have a flat, matte finish giving it the name Chalk Paint.

Chalk Paint on Leather

It was time to take things to the next level. Annie Sloan paints work on fabric and believe it or not, leather! My fear was that the paint would chip, rub off and stain clothes and crack. None of this was true. In fact, my painted leather chairs are soft to the touch and don’t have a stiff texture.

Wide 2 Shot Leather Chairs

Check out this tutorial online that gave me the courage to paint my chairs. Here is a short list of how-to’s for this particular striped and stenciled leather chair project:

Half-Painted Leather Chair

1. Use 3-4 coats of Annie Sloan’s Paris Grey chalk paint as the base.  Pour the paint into a separate container and add water to thin out the paint. The paint consistency should be a little runny. Otherwise, the paint will dry too thick and will crack and chip. I have made this mistake. Not fun.

Let dry between coats. Do not panic. At first the paint will look streaky and patchy but after three coats, the base coat will even out.

2. Border off stripes with paint tape and use Annie Sloan Old White for contrast stripes. Remove tape as soon as the paint is dry to the touch to prevent it from pulling up the base coat.

3. Use fine sandpaper and lightly sand the entire surface of the leather chairs. This will help maintain that supple leather texture. Wipe dust with a soft cloth.

4.  I used a stencil from Royal Design Studio to add a French flourish to the front of the chairs.  Use a dry brush technique to apply paint onto the stencil. Let dry. Lightly sand. Wipe clean.

Stencilled Chair

Close Up Painted Leather Chairs

5. To protect the painted finish, use Annie Sloan Clear Wax with a flat head brush. Wax small areas at a time and wipe off until the leather area is no longer tacky. Apply only a little bit of wax at a time. Think a dime’s worth per square foot. Continue until the entire chair has been waxed and buffed. Wax on, wipe off. That is your new mantra. Don’t skip this step. It keeps the leather soft and supple and prevents major cracking.

There are many Annie Sloan paint experts online who are generous in sharing their tips and triumphs. Give it a whirl and enjoy!

Nutshell Sample Sale


Hey, Nutshell Fans! Props, pillows, furniture, vintage accessories, paintings and one-of-a kind handmade decor featured in my book, magazines and on television will be on sale this Saturday, November 15 from 8-1.

Please “like” my Facebook page and send me an FB message for the exact address.  Hope to see you there.

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!

Design Abracadabra: Affordable Wall Removal

Before Cottage Living Room - Design Abracadabra: Affordable Wall Removal

Old Living Room With Wall Partition

Tear Down This Wall

A small 25-foot-wide wall partition between the living room and the dining nook blocked dreams of total sun-filled cottage bliss. My 1940s beach shack was typical of homes built in that era where there was no concept of an open floor plan. Every room was compartmentalized and walled off. It was time this cramped 187-square-foot relic gets a modern makeover.

Old Wall partition between living rom and kitchen

Wide petite living room wall partition intact

Wall Removal Doesn’t Have to Break the Bank

Staying on budget means limiting the amount of contractor work needed in the space. For only $350 the wall partition was removed, and it opened up the living room and dining nook to allow the sun to shine and fill the entire space. Now a full-sized sofa and dining room chairs can fit without hitting the wall. The amount of usable square footage has doubled.

Wall removal between living room and dining nook

Wall Removal Between Living Room and Dining Nook

Bye-Bye Ugly Carpet

All of the carpeting was taken up (the best day ever!), and new wood floors will be laid down. All of the walls are painted Benjamin Moore Decorator’s White, a perennial favorite of interior designers. I’ll be bringing in color on the walls later on, but white is the base I want to work with for now.

The petite cottage makeover continues. More space-maximizing ideas to come.

Custom Inkblot Upholstery

Korla Blue Inkat Duvet Cover

Korla Home Inkat Fabric

Inkblot Couture

From coffee cups to baby bibs, the Rorschach-inspired inkblot is saturating the design landscape. I was slow to jump on the inkblot design bandwagon until I fell in love with a silk paint-splattered skirt designed by Tibi. Look to the runway for a preview of home decor trends to come.

Tibi Paint Splatter Skirt

Inkblot Home Decor

My mother handed down a vintage gold chaise lounge, which needed a modern update to fit into my beach cottage decor. I decided to create a custom, modern inkblot pattern to contrast with the traditional lines of the chaise.

Side Angle Chaise - Custom Inkblot Upholstery

Fabric Inkblot Do’s and Don’ts

• Measure and cut fabric to fit your furniture piece. Prewash and dry a medium-weight cotton or silk fabric. It is important to get rid of the chemicals that are in new fabric, and you want to pre-shrink it.

• Iron new fabric.

• Mix 2 parts acrylic paint, 1 part water, 2 parts fabric medium into a large condiment squeeze bottle (find them at a dollar store). You  want the paint mixture to be very thin and runny.

• For this project, I used Martha Stewart acrylic paint in Meyer Lemon and fabric medium. Fabric medium will keep the paint finish flexible and soft, not brittle or flaky.

Folded Foam Core

• Lay down a large tarp to protect your working surface. Tape 2 pieces of foam core board together down the center so it can easily fold onto itself. Cover the front of the board with a plastic garbage bag that is stretched and taped down to eliminate any wrinkles. The plastic prevents the drying paint to stick to the top paper layer of the board.

• Stretch fabric over the front of the board securing the salvaged edges onto the back with masking tape. It is important that the fabric be as smooth and tight as possible.

Ink Blot DIY Board 2

• On only one half of the fabric front, pour random splatters, squiggle, dots and drips from the paint-filled squeeze bottle. Pour paint close to but not over the  center fold.

• Carefully fold the board so the unpainted half meets the painted half.  Press firmly and make sure the paint is completely smoothed out and is evenly transferred to the other half of the fabric.

Close Up Ink Blot

• Here is the fun part. Carefully open up the foam core board to reveal your inkblot masterpiece. Let completely dry. To permanently set the fabric, most paint companies suggest putting it in the dryer or ironing it on the reverse side.  I think I will tackle painting a set of curtains next…enjoy!

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!!