A Story to Tell

I haven’t been designing for clients for the past nine months as I’ve taken time off from my business to schlep after my three littles. However, I’ve felt desperate lately to keep that joy that decorating brought me alive and so I’ve been listening to James Swan’s podcasts, where he interviews many of my design heros, while I clean.

One thing that comes up time and again are how designers are storytellers. Our home has such an interesting and unique story as we are the third generation in my family living in it.  So, I want to be intentional with the decor telling our story.
Take for instance this small vestibule at the top of a few stairs before you enter the hallway to the children’s bedrooms.
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Growing up, this nook held a gorgeous bookcase filled with fantastical chapter books that I would devour. I had planned on keeping the bookcase for this next year until my mom uses it in her future home. However, it occurred to me that this was telling the story of my childhood not my kids.
This past Saturday, while Graham was out golfing and Rowan slept, the girls and I set out to reset the little nook to our own family.
I took an antique side table which I absolutely love that was growing cobwebs in our garage. The chic tortoise table was found on the streets of our Pacific Heights SF neighborhood. I snatched it right off the street (it had a “free” sign on it), knowing some socialites trash was my treasure.
I then took a blue and white cache pot and a very sweet gold mirror that I found at an estate sale. I was going to put a faux shrub in the cache pot and call it a day on the little area. But then I thought again how this wasn’t telling our story and so I wandered around the home to see how I could personalize it and I ended up on this final look.
The lamb has hung over the crib of all three of my babies. I see it as the silent, sweet soft mama lamb who watches over them while I get the most needed sleep of my life!
The blue and white lamp is a lamp I bought years ago because I loved it but I never could find the right spot for it in our old home. The shade was a plain white one and so I recovered it myself with fabric that my sweet in laws brought back to me from India. I have absolutely loved the fabric and how special it is so I’ve waited years before cutting into it and using it.
The staffordshire dogs came from an estate sale in woodside I went to a few months ago. Estate sales are my absolute favorite place to go but it’s extremely rare that I have the time to pop in. I found myself with just Rowan and I treated myself to an estate sale visit and these were the treasures that I came home with.  I also like how the pink in the dog’s nose match the pink in the shade fabric.
The books all have meaning to me. Anna Spiro – my number one design love.  Apartment Therapy – the blog that helped me heal after my dad’s death – I read it for hours as my escape from the pain. And Design Sponge who  rejected me for a house tour years ago and so I put the tour on my own blog and it was then picked up by My Domaine and Pop Sugar and many other huge blogs which taught me to keep at it even after rejection.
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I’m really pleased with the collected, whimsical and storied nook. One that expresses us and let’s you know you are entering the kid zone with the three little wild animals that occupy it.

May 22, 2017 at 4:34 PM 12 comments

Design Update

Before we leave our beloved Hillsborough home, I have big hopes of blogging about each room, what we did do and what we were planning to do and how it looked when we moved in here.

But for now, some design on our new home which is an authentic spanish style home built out of adobe.  Imagine a California Mission (on a smaller scale, of course).   The home has a real deal breakfast room right off the kitchen (photos will come when we move in).  Off of the breakfast room is a formal dining room where I plan to entertain people.  Whereas, the breakfast room is meant for every day family eating, arts and crafts, cups of tea, blogging and generally the hub and bub of every day.  In fact, it will probably become the heart of the home but more strictly for us five than for guests.

There is a bar in the breakfast room (because clearly vodka for breakfast) and the bar cabinets are painted a fabulous green.  So I’ve worked to pick up that green in these two potential breakfast room designs…

Scheme A:


My idea is this fabulous farmhouse table that I found on Chairish and then poppy serena and lily chairs, the Anna Spiro wallpaper in blue and white, a tole lantern and finally Schumacher’s Citrus garden as the roman shades to tie all of the colors together.  The green grass at the base of the trees in the fabric is the exact green of the bar cabinets.

Citrus Garden was my jumping off point and I love how it looks in this kitchen…


So fresh, fun and lively.

I would likely forgo the wallpaper altogether but for now it stays as we play with options.  Here is the paper in a bedroom Anna Spiro designed…


Scheme B:


Scheme B is very different that Scheme A in color and overall mood but I have to say that I like them both equally at this point.  I’m waiting until we live in the space to actually pull any trigger.  The farmhouse table has been purchased but the buck stops there until we move in.

In this scenario that beautiful Raphael wallpaper by Sandberg would be the jumping off point, if it is the correct green – need to see sample in person.  That chandelier is a vintage vine chandelier that we already own that has brown ikat shades.  I love how the shades pair with the paper.  And then navy Serena and Lily chairs with the farmhouse table.  I would then either do cream roman shades or no window treatments at all.

This paper has been a favorite for quite a while so I know it’s one I’d be happy to see every day.  Here it is in a dining room so you get an idea, photo by Amy Bartlam…

Amy Bartlam Photography

As my mom has pointed out, it is an elegant home so I need to treat it as such.  I’ve felt the need to temper my use of color a bit, while staying true to my style.  I keep coming back to the “It’s Complicated” set because nobody can ever beat a Nancy Myer’s movie.


I have loads of time before making any real decisions so for now I play design on my computer.

January 24, 2017 at 5:00 AM 2 comments

Back Home Again


I have remained quiet about a major move coming up in our lives because in so many ways it has felt too good to be true.  However, the movers are called, the title company meeting is set, and our kids now know what’s happening so I think it’s time to let the cat out of the bag.

We are moving to my childhood home.  It’s an incredibly special home; not only did I grow up there but my mom did as well.  Her parents purchased the home when she was only eight years old.  When my mom was 32 years old, her parents died suddenly in a plane crash.  As the oldest child, she inherited the home.  I was born three years later.

It’s amazing to think that Josie, Grace and Rowan will be the fourth generation in my family living in the home, especially in California where multi-generational homes are few and far between.

The home itself is a peaceful oasis and an ideal place to grow up.

I’m confident that in no time Graham will pick a large oak tree to construct a treehouse for the kids.  We had one growing up that my dad built for us.  Sadly, the oak that held our childhood treehouse became sick and was cut down last year.  It felt a bit devastating to see just the stump of the tree that provided so many memories.  But in a way, it’s perfect timing because that allows the opportunity for us to find our own tree for our own family and thereby making the home ours. Perhaps it was a gift from one son-in-law who took over the house to the next.

Over Thanksgiving, my mom’s brother told Graham and I how when my parents moved into the home, my dad was adamant to make changes in order to create a home that was truly his and my mom’s, not my grandparents.  In writing this, I can see the stump of the oak as a symbolic passing from my childhood to my children’s.  They get to pick their own tree, find their own special places and create their own memories independent of mine.  And so often, we live life through the eyes of our children.

While some things from my childhood will go, others will always remain to keep the stories and traditions that are vital to me, the house and my family history alive.

Last weekend, Graham and his mom pruned the roses in the rose garden out in the rain.  And while that is a memory they will cherish, it reminded me of my dad who put so much care and energy into those roses.  On Sundays when the family worked in the yard, he would take us kids around the roses and teach us how to care for them in a meticulous and delicate way.  They were clearly his babies.  He would also share with us, how much my mom’s dad loved the roses.  It was a tidbit of information about grandparents (whom I never knew) that I held onto.  It’s beautiful to think of Graham picking up the shears not only in honor of my father but my grandfather as well.

Thinking of roses brings to mind our wedding day which was held at home; the tables and my bouquet were all filled to the absolute brim with austin roses.  The home was in some of the best shape of its life as my parents carefully worked with our landscape designer, scrutinizing every last flower.

Graham and I had an epic first dance on our wedding day, if I do say so myself, to INXS “Never Tear Us Apart.”  We boogied as free as can be on the badminton court.  The very spot that I used to go lay my shivering body against after a dip in the cold pool growing up, as the court would heat up dramatically by the sun.  The very spot my mom and her siblings would challenge each other to game after game.  And the very spot where our girls love to drive their bikes round and round.

My personal family’s memories will be made there as the others will begin to fade for me but what’s so beautiful is the entanglement of all of them.  If these walls could talk, the stories they would tell. And with any luck, Graham and I will proudly pass the house down to the next generation when the time comes for a new chapter.

I am forever thankful to my mom, a hero of mine, and to my brothers, who I will always look up to, for giving us the opportunity to live in this house.  We will honor the home’s past but also forge our own path to make it new to us.  And I will continue to document the stories, when the need to write overcomes me, here on this little, intentionally tiny, corner of the internet.  Thank you for reading!



January 17, 2017 at 5:45 AM 7 comments

Tablescapes of 2016

I have a confession, as I write this, our Christmas tree is still up.  It’s not as if we can’t let go of Christmas, it is very much as if we can’t get our acts together.  I swear it’s coming down today.  Shouldn’t there be an ap to do the work for me?

Point being, since the tree is still up, I felt I could do a look back at the tablescapes of last year and it not seem terribly late.

2016’s blogging resolution was for me to do a tablescape a month.  Three weeks after I made that resolution, I found out I was pregnant with Rowan.  And he was completely worth every broken resolution because he is the cutest, sweetest love bug.

I did not pull off twelve tablescapes but I did pull off five. Here they are.

Ode to our new arts and crafts table with an all paper tablescape


All girl cousins Easter tablescape


One Room Challenge Reveal 


Bora Bora Bridal Bash 


East Coast New Year’s dinner 



It’s hard to tell but the tablecloth was sequined.


And one week into 2017, I did my first tablescape.  Hoping to pull off more tables this year but I’m not holding myself to any numbers this time around.

Rainy Night Family Dinner Boredom Stuck Inside Tablescape


January 9, 2017 at 5:30 AM 3 comments

Be The Change

I have sat silent since the election desperately wanting the words to come to me for a blog post. But they have not.  However, I can not bear to let another day pass in silence.

Because I know a 14 year old girl who had to stick up for a Muslim classmate as kids taunted “deport her.”

Because a friend from college who is an extremely talented and fair reporter has received  hateful threats.

Because my brother, a second grade teacher, walked into a classroom of crying, scared seven year olds the day after the election.

Because our beloved nanny who is like family to us feels she may have to walk around with papers proving she is a US citizen.

Because while out walking yesterday, I struck up a conversation with a black woman, also walking with her baby. She told me that right after she posted something about the rise in hate crimes on Facebook, she received a phone call. Before she saw who the phone call was from (it was a friend), her first thought was that it was the KKK coming after her.

Because I have three children that I have devoted my life to, in order to teach them to love and respect others, and I refuse to let this world of hate become the norm.

No one deserves to live in fear.

I beg of you to give to the American Civil Liberties Union and know you are working to do your part for the innocent little girl in Texas, for the woman who is a brilliant writer, for the woman who pours her love into my little girls, for the man who has dedicated his life to educating the underserved, for the woman who is a preschool teacher, a mother and a caring wife, for my three kids who see the best in everyone.

Silence doesn’t work. No matter who you voted for speak out for social justice with your voice, with your time or with your wallet.  Please donate to an organization that fights for the rights of everyone, contact your senator and express your concerns, volunteer at an organization that means something to you.  Talk, listen and be the change.

November 17, 2016 at 12:35 PM 7 comments

Where I am

Designers whiz past me with their perfectly put together rooms. They spark in me a desire to create, a delight of the visual senses and a tinge of jealousy.


But then I look down at my sleeping baby, feeling safest in my arms. His tiny fingers, his fluffy spiked brown hair, his slightly open mouth, his button nose and I remember why my fabric boxes have sat unopened, why the design center remains shut to me, why the look books head straight to the recycling bins.


Because holding a baby is what I dreamt of since I was a little girl.  Because putting his skin against mine heals my heart. Because that little baby face and those tiny baby toes. Because the moment already feels fleeting as I mourn the passing of infancy.  Because just as I protect Rowan, Rowan protects me.


The girls flit around the kitchen, bouncing with delight as their Halloween costumes have arrived. Their imaginations take flight and make believe worlds are created within mere minutes. Cheers and giggles, flutters and hops. Happiness abounds in the moment. And I already feel nostalgic as I live it.



My whole family is here. Graham and I steal glances at each other and give smiles as we both revel in the love. It can’t possibly get cuter and then it does with a sweet “this is the best day ever” from Josie or an “oh my goodness” from Gracie. Simultaneous bum bum dances from the girls while Rowan feeds and Graham arranges dinner to the tune of the Oh Hellos.  This is living.


Certainly motherhood is a full time eb and flow. Three little ones depending on me is a massive undertaking. The ebs are painfully difficult. Running from child to child as one has an accident, the other pulls off her own poopy diaper and the infant blows out all over his pajamas – perfectly timed in unison, to test my stamina. These moments have happened. Gray hairs have instantly appeared.


But then the flow comes shortly after. All kids cleaned up, accidents wiped away.  I walk in on the scene of Grace “reading” to Rowan while Josie gently strokes his feet. It’s a moment I alone witness. One that any description will never give away the full beauty of what I saw. A moment that I remind myself makes every eb worth it.


I’ve got my brood and I couldn’t be more grateful for who they are and where they’ve brought me too. So happy I get to be exactly where I am.


All photos taken by the ridiculously talented Liz Perryman.

October 25, 2016 at 5:19 AM 4 comments

Introducing Rowan Donald

Today, I’m so pleased to write this post. Our son, Rowan Donald is here!!  Rowan arrived on Sept. 9 through a planned c-section that went very smoothly.  He came bursting into the world with a head full of dark hair and a beautiful wail, utterly full of life.


With the c-section, we were blessed with five days in the hospital with around the clock care from nurses and a little “cave time” just me, Graham and Rowan.  We’re now home and we are in hustle and bustle mode.


Life is full.  Full on that is.  Trying to juggle all three kids is a massive challenge.  But one that I’m also reaping the rewards of.  The other night, I was feeding Rowan while the girls danced to Paul Simon while Graham cooked dinner and I couldn’t help but feel that was one of the happiest, most content moments of my life.  I have my complete family.


I’ve had lots of people ask how we came up with Rowan’s name and so I thought I would share.


Ever since my dad passed away (his name was Donald), I’ve wanted a son to pass my dad’s name onto.  Graham lovingly agreed and so we had our son’s middle name picked out to be Donald.  However, my favorite boy’s name since I was young has always been Miles.  But I have a brother named Miles and a brother named Donald so the name Miles Donald was a bit too much.  I had to pick between a first name and a middle name.

Graham and I were out to dinner discussing our options when I said that I couldn’t bear holding my son and not passing on my father’s name.  That it would mean so much to me to explain to Rowan who he was named after and it would fill a piece of my heart that aches when my dad is not there at the hospital to welcome another grandchild.  So Graham replied, “than it’s no question.  Donald is the middle name.”  At that very moment, “American Pie” the song that is absolutely my dad’s and my song came on at the restaurant.  I cried happy tears knowing that my dad was sending down his thanks and approval on the middle name.

We then began discussing the first name and it was between a couple of names, Rowan being on the list.  We went through the list and we both decided that we liked the name Rowan the best.  Right as we decided that, “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong came on at the restaurant.  That was the song that my dad and I danced to on my wedding day.  I cried again.  It felt like such a strong sign that dad was there, watching over us and his grandson.

We were pretty sure we had the first name set at Rowan but we continued to play with other names as we came across them.  Then I was hit with a huge pregnancy scare.  At about 25 weeks, they thought that my placenta had potentially attached to scar tissue on my uterus from previous c-sections.  If this was the case, they were going to have to remove my entire uterus in order to save my life.  We had to go to some specialists and run through some tests to see if things were attached.  This became one of the scariest times of my life.  During this anxious time, I read that in ancient times people thought the Rowan tree had protective powers.  I hung on to that thought and I decided that Rowan would protect me and I would protect him and that we would be in this together.  That got me through the testing period when they thankfully found that nothing was attached and I could keep my uterus and have a routine c-section.

The final moment that really sealed the name was telling Graham’s cousin, Rowan, that we were going to name our son, Rowan.  Graham’s cousin has always been like a brother to Graham and he is one of my favorite people as well.  He lives in South Africa but happened to be in town the weekend before I gave birth.  It was a beautiful moment letting him know and seeing how touched and moved he was.


So there you have it, how the name came to be.  And now our handsome son is here and he has our hearts bursting.  We all love him so much, including his massively doting sisters who are very good at petting him.


Life is full but also grand.







September 20, 2016 at 5:17 AM 7 comments

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