Living Room

Wallpaper Unplugged

Photo 1 Final Wallpaper copy - Wallpaper Unplugged

The World of Wallpaper

The world of wallpaper is a glorious place to be. The patterns and colors of wallpaper expand the design possibilities of any space. But installation can get pricey. If you live in a rental, it’s hard to justify the cost or get permission from the landlord to permanently install papers to the wall.

Hanging Wallpaper Without Adhesives

Hanging wallpaper freestyle, draped down a wall, from a closet door or along the side of a bookcase, can feign the look of a wallpapered corner. The vivid designs and colors can hang as art on a wall.


Here’s a sneak peek of an easy-as-pie project you’ll find in my book, Living in a Nutshell.

7_faux wallpaper_detail2

• Hang two rolls of Cameo wallpaper from Anthropologie from two large bulldog clips (3″) found at any office supply store. Silver thumbtacks hold the clips in place without leaving a big hole.

Large Bulldog Clip

• Hang two pieces of contrasting French grosgrain ribbon down the front of the wallpaper roll.  One ribbon falls on the left and the other on the right side of the wallpaper front.

• Roll up the bottom of the wallpaper and use paper clips or clothespins to hold paper in place.

• Attach a shorter piece of ribbon to the wall with a small tack or gaffers tape behind the paper. Place ribbon about 12″ above the bottom of the rolled up paper.

• Tie front ribbons to the ribbons on the back of the wall to cradle the rolled up bottom of the paper. Remove paper clips and clothespins.

The wallpaper decorates a plain wall going up the stairs and can be taken with you onto your next house journey. Give it a whirl.

Look, There’s More

Click here for more unique and chic ways wallpaper can make your petite space live larger.

Books Without Borders: Creative Book Storage

Photo 1  Brisitsh Book Chair - Books Without Borders: Creative Book Storage

Embrace the Stack and Pile

I truly believe pets and books make a house feel like a home! In my current diminutive dwelling, I am still in search of bookshelves that can stylishly squeeze into my design scheme. Until then I have embraced the art of the “stack and pile.”

7 grey frames e1512788591999 - Books Without Borders: Creative Book Storage

My collection of vintage books sits neatly displayed on a pair of bedroom nightstands, and the TV armoire shows off hardcover books most people would reserve for the coffee table.

7 faux chair feet detail - Books Without Borders: Creative Book Storage

Stack Books Artfully on a Chair

A salvaged flea market chair with an extra-wide seat is the ideal landing for stacks of treasured design and art books.  A vintage metal tray below holds a spillover of books that are oddly shaped or in paperback.

Photo 2 Book Bins - Books Without Borders: Creative Book Storage

Covered metal bins line up in the foyer and hide all of the DIY and how-to books that have guided me through many paint and fabric projects. They are my reliable design friends, but their tattered covers have seen better days and need to stay undercover.

Think of your piles of books as movable displays.

Look There’s More

Click here for more ways to use chairs as clever storage solutions.

Custom Fit Paper Book Sleeves


Display Vintage Books

I have a few vintage book collections that beg for attention, especially this 1915 Funk and Wagnalls Mental Health Efficiency self-help series. I found them in my parent’s garage many years ago and for that one moment, I was happy about their pack rat tendencies. How can you resist a book that tells you how to overcome timidity and build personality? Yes, please.


Dress Up a Book Collection

The books looked a little drab on the bright yellow shelf, so I took a friend’s advice and wrapped them with colorful paper bands. Simply cut 3″-wide strips of wrapping paper and fold them around the book cover. No need to use glue or tape, which I wanted to avoid on vintage books.

book3 - Custom Fit Paper Book Sleeves

Wrap your books in the same color band, or use a mix of patterns and colors that evoke a certain era or mood. I like the vintage feel of the paper colors and patterns that adorn the books now.


For added personality, a squirrel nutcracker stands in as the bookend. I picked it up at one of my favorite New York City stores called Mxyplyzyk. A fake silver keeps the squirrel’s mouth and tail in the correct alignment. And yes, in case you’re wondering, I have a thing for squirrels!

Have fun and remember it’s the little details that don’t cost a lot of money that make your house feel like a home and reflect your true personality—refer to Funk and Wagnalls Volume lV page 106!

Look, There’s More

For more chic and creative ways to dress up a bookshelf, click here.

Burlap is the New Linen

French Burlap Stools

Add Texture with Burlap

Burlap may be a humble fabric, but there are so many ways to kick it up to couture. Adding textures like burlap creates a feeling of depth in a shoebox of a space. Use it to cover ottomans or even as curtains.

Burlap Curtain Room Divider

A DIY burlap curtain trimmed with black grosgrain ribbon striping became the perfect room divider for my friend’s studio.

Vintage French Grain Sacks

Check out your local flea markets and auction sites like eBay for vintage French grain sacks in burlap. They range from $40-90 depending on how old they are. Some of the burlap sacks have a duplicate design on the reverse side so you get two for one.

Vintage French Grain Sack

French Burlap Sack Ottoman

I decided to use two different French burlap sacks to cover inexpensive ottoman stools and finished them off with green grosgrain ribbon and antique brass upholstery tacks. Absolutely no sewing was involved and they look terrific.


Make sure and pre-wash your burlap before you cut, tuck or sew because there will be some shrinkage.

Look, There’s More

For more creative ways to add depth and texture to a petite space, click here.

Don’t be Tardy for the Party!

Tardy Photo 1 Cocktail Party Couple - Don't be Tardy for the Party!

So what if your home feels like it’s no bigger than a postage stamp. Summer is the perfect time to pull out all of the stops and host your own mini-cocktail party—even if it’s standing room only. Make “small” the big theme of your party from the invites to the size of the cocktails. That way everyone will get a kick out of the cramped quarters, and you’ll feel less pressure or embarrassment when guests mistake your bedroom for the coat closet.

Here are some “tried-and-true” party tips that have helped SUPER-SIZE the fun factorat my petite parties in the past:

Tardy Photo 2  Chair - Don't be Tardy for the Party! 1. If you’re worried about seating, you can ask guests to BYOC—Bring Your Own Chair! It can add an unexpected surge of energy to the entire evening. You can ask guests to keep the chairs little, portable and challenge them to get creative. Love cardboard ones like this one from
Tardy Photo 3 mini martini glasses details - Don't be Tardy for the Party! 2. Create a signature cocktail for the evening, which always makes guests feel special. Be sure to serve it up in miniature martini glasses. I get mine from Ikea because they are so affordable.
Tardy Photo 4 Mirror  - Don't be Tardy for the Party! 3. Use mirror magic all around your diminutive digs. Buy a few inexpensive glass tiles from home improvement stores and place them under candles, plates and platters to reflect light and add sparkle to the evening.
Tardy Photo 5 Butlers Table - Don't be Tardy for the Party! 4. Roll out your bar in any corner of the room. Just invest in an inexpensive folding butler’s tray table like this one from CB2. When the party’s over, you can fold it up and hide it under your bed. Folding luggage racks also do the trick. Just place a large sturdy tray on top to hold ice and drinks.
Tardy Photo 6 Fingerplates - Don't be Tardy for the Party! 5. Serve mini-appetizers that you can balance on these delightful fingerplates from CB2.
Tardy Photo 7 Lazy Susan - Don't be Tardy for the Party! 6. Put a lazy Susan to work and display cheese and crackers on marble platters that can spin to serve guests even in tight corners.

This Little Light of Mine

Chandelier Lightbox

Good lighting can make or break a small space and can help trick the eye into “seeing and believing” that your place is a little bigger, a little warmer and a little more glamorous than it really is.

CU Chandelier

My favorite project is to take a cool photo of a chandelier, enlarge it and print it out onto Duratrans photo paper with the help of my local digital printing shop. Depending on the size of your image, it can cost you between 50-80 dollars. Plain white battery operated LED Christmas lights (the ones with the flat head bulbs) hidden from behind the photo turn it into an instant illuminated piece of art.

lom Lightbox Demo revised - This Little Light of Mine

Make sure and use LED lights because they keep cool and will not melt the Duratrans.

Shade to Go

Cropped Yellow Pendant LampEven in if you live in a postage stamp-sized nutshell, good lighting is essential. The first layer of light I like to create is a soft fill light—basically any light source you direct from above to bounce off the ceiling to lighten the dark areas of your space.

My challenge has always been to invest in lighting that I can take with me and that won’t require a heavy installation of any kind. I recently had a custom shade made by Studio Jota at that fit the bill on all counts.

Studio Jota has the colors and fabric patterns that I think are modern and fresh and the prices were incredibly reasonable for a shade made just for my space. I chose to go with the double-shade with yellow Ikat dots fabric. They can make a pendant lamp into a plug-in light so it can easily hang it from a ceiling hook. Just unplug it from the outlet and take it with you when you move on to greener pastures.

Photo 2 Hook - Shade to Go

I inserted a self-drilling drywall anchor into the ceiling and then screwed in a white cup hook available at any hardware store. Don’t think you can skip this step. The hook alone without an anchor will quickly loosen its grip from the ceiling. I wasn’t worried about the lamp cord showing and plugged it into a dimmer switch so I could control the mood of the space at my fingertips.

The pendant lamp sets the right ambiance for this little reading corner and it gives me a piece of mind knowing that it can travel wherever my next nutshell will be.

In the Spotlight

5_adapter recess lighting

I never knew I could do anything about the ugly recessed light in my hallway, especially being a renter. I’ve read a lot about the new recessed light conversion kits that are available out there so I put them to the test. They all promise that the conversion is as easy as changing a light bulb, requires no tools or rewiring. Kind of sounded too good to be true.

5_adapter recess lighting_how to

The kits range from as low as $25.99 to as high as $45.00. I ordered one from Lowe’s for around $35.00  and I was very disappointed. The metal was very cheap looking and the screw that lets you adjust the length of the electric cord was assembled too tightly. I could never get the light plate to sit flush to the ceiling. I returned the kit right away and ordered a slightly more expensive model from Ballard Designs, which I just love.

All you do is wrap the cord around an adaptor, adjust to the exact length that you need, and then it screws into a light socket. I used a wool felt lampshade that ties around the pendant lamp, which I embellished with cutout butterflies that were glued on (used Magna Tac glue for fabric). Make sure and use a shade that is specific to a pendant lamp so that it hangs correctly. I have to say it was easy and so satisfying…and even more of a bonus that I can take it with me to my next petite pied-à-terre.

In the Best Light

Photo 1 Picture Light - In the Best Light

Even the smallest amount of light can define a space or nook. I’ve always been envious of elegant libraries and galleries that spotlight framed art and photos with picture lights. The simple act of viewing is elevated to an event.

Battery-operated picture lights are lightweight and affordable and radiate the right amount of glow to a dark corner or to illuminate a humble piece of art. I bought these from

Photo 2 Light on Pictutre frame - In the Best Light

These lights clip onto any cabinet door or picture frame without leaving a mark. Move them around and use them over a mirror when you get bored.

Peacock Alley

Cropped Fireplace

One way to create unity in a small space is to sprinkle in accessories that are connected by theme, color or texture. Throughout my friend Beth’s studio apartment, I helped add to her growing collection of peacock-inspired home décor. It all started with this romantic embroidered peacock lampshade, which beautifully “crowns” her glass floor lamp in the living room. I love that this shade matches everything.

Cropped Mirror

If you glance to the back of her apartment to a newly decorated dressing area, I hung two plates from Anthropologie. I like the pairing of the peacock’s face with a second plate revealing its feathery tail.

peacock Photo 3 Peacock Plates on Table - Peacock Alley

Next time  take inventory of your space by snapping a few wide shots and see what themes have developed organically on their own. I find that reviewing photos can reveal a space in a fresh way. Look for unexpected places to add one or two accessories that will add style power to your collection or theme.

Happy decorating!