February 14, 2018

Introducing Holly Holden, Queen of Classic Design!

Fellow entertaining enthusiasts, you are in for a huge treat today! The author of one of my favorite design books, The Pretty and Proper Living Room, has kindly agreed to share some of her timeless entertaining tips and secrets with us in an exclusive interview! It is with great delight that I welcome interior designer, author, and television host Holly Holden to the blog! If you are not already familiar with her work, you will instantly become a fan. Holly is that rare designer who believes in “decorating once…for a lifetime.” She’s all about creating classic, old-school interiors that transcend time and trends, and has been doing so for over 25 years.  

photo by Dean Greenblatt

Growing up in old houses furnished primarily with antiques taught me to value classic design. I instinctively gravitate toward quality pieces that I know will never go out of style — pieces that actually get better with age. Still, classic design and styling is an elusive art, even for someone who grew up immersed in it. So imagine my delight when Holly introduced me to her fabulous (and eye-opening) book! 

"The Pretty and Proper Living Room is about the creation of timeless, tailored interiors rooted firmly in English tradition. The rules of this style are like a secret code that has been whispered from mother to daughter over generations. Those secrets have always been inherited—until now" 

What started as a list of helpful decorating hints for her daughter has turned into an indispensable and timeless resource on classic design. From furniture and rugs to accessories and lighting, The Pretty and Proper Living Room divulges the many nuggets of design wisdom that all together compose the perfect timeless space (think Official Preppy Handbook for interiors!). It is a book that 1.) educates—much attention is paid (and rightfully so!) to the distinguishing features of English Georgian furniture, 2.) entertains—I find Holly’s “Forbidden Faux Pas” sections both necessary and fun! and 3.) inspires — Holly's suggestions for styling silver trays, arranging flowers, and presenting collections of decorative objects are simply brilliant! Take my word for it: Holly’s book should be required reading for ANYONE interested in interiors.

And now for more inspiration from Holly!!!

One of your design philosophies is to “embrace elegant understatement.” How does this translate to the entertaining realm?

I would encourage people to use their best serving pieces every day. These are not decorations - they are meant to be used! Being comfortable using prized serving pieces every day is the essence of elegant understatement in entertaining. It is never too early to begin collecting - and using - elegant serving pieces. Remember a small chip or a ding is just patina, which is a sought after quality and not something to avoid.

photo by Dean Greenblatt

What are your essential elements for a well-appointed table?

Everyone needs a good set of linen napkins. Napkins should be placed discreetly ON the table... not on a plate or [shudders] in a wine glass! I think that both food and people look better in candlelight so, if I am entertaining in the evening, I always use candles... my mother taught me this. One caveat: candles on the dining room table are only for the evening and should not be lit during the day. White candles in candlesticks or candelabras are the most traditional choice.

photo by Dean Greenblatt

Easter is coming up; can you share a few ideas for elegant little touches our readers could add to their party decor or place settings that will make an impact?

Bunnies, Bunnies, Bunnies. As a young bride, I began collecting inexpensive porcelain bunnies and baskets. As I matured, so did my collection, and now I have a whole colony of Herend bunnies. I think they are the perfect Easter accessories. Each person also gets a tiny silver basket of jelly beans.

photo by Deb Key

What is your go-to recipe/dish for a dinner party or stylish soiree?

I find that roasting a beef tenderloin just before my guests arrive is a simple and delicious dinner party entree. It makes the entire house smell divine and allows me the freedom to enjoy my guests instead of laboring in the kitchen. I let the beef come to room temperature, season with Montreal steak seasoning, place on a foil lined baking sheet, and roast uncovered at 450 degrees for 40 minutes (for medium rare). This works for any size tenderloin! I let it come back to room temperature during cocktail hour and serve it with Bearnaise sauce and a rosemary garnish. Bon appetite!

Also, I just recorded two more YouTube videos in my "Easy Hors D'oeuvres" series on the Classic Design Channel. So stay tuned for those!

In addition to creating elegant interiors, you are known for bringing life to rooms with your impeccable floral arrangements! What are your favorite ways to display flowers in the dining room?

I adore using unusual or unexpected vessels for flowers such as foo dogs or even small silver mint julep cups, soup terrines, and rose medallion bowls. Here is some useful advice: never put a centerpiece on the dining room table that might obstruct one guest's view of another. Floral arrangements used as centerpieces need to be kept short. The conclusion of my floral arranging video has a humorous illustration of this as its conclusion.

Favorite flower combination?

Peonies and more Peonies...preferably pink.

photo by Dean Greenblatt

Do you have any advice for our readers on choosing the proper flowers for every occasion?

The most proper flowers are the ones that are in season in your garden! I plan my gardens so that during each season I will have fresh flowers to clip for arranging. In the dead of New England winter I keep things cheerful at Fox Hall by purchasing roses from the store and growing orchids, daffodils, hyacinths, and amaryllis indoors.

photo by Dean Greenblatt

What do you feel are the most important entertaining pieces to invest in?

First and foremost, invest in good friends... parties with good friends are the most memorable! Beyond friends here is a short and incomplete list:
Silver Platters: they do not break and everything tastes better when served from silver.
A Champagne Bucket: Whether it is Veuve Clicquot (preferably pink), wine, beer or even Perrier, drinks need to be kept cold! Take away the champagne and add a pair of tongs and a champagne bucket becomes ice bucket. A champagne bucket can even be used as an elegant vase for flowers.
A Soup Terrine: Whether silver or porcelain, these can be used for soup or as a centerpiece (with or without flowers)

Can you tell us a bit about how you greet and welcome your guests into your house and how you graciously wrap up an evening?

I have found that the best way to welcome guests is with a kiss kiss and a pre-poured glass of champagne. Nothing is worse than having to go find the host and hostess upon arriving at a party. I believe that as a hostess it is not my place to wrap up an evening. The party has a life of its own and will continue as long as the guests are enjoying themselves. My job is to keep pouring and keep the conversation going...to moonlight, midnight and beyond.

photo by Dean Greenblatt

Where do you find entertaining ideas and inspiration?
I have some favorite books:
At Home in The Garden by Carolyne Roehm http://amzn.to/2DIysI1
R.S.V.P by Nan Kempner http://amzn.to/2Em18aR
Park Avenue Potluck Celebrations by Florence Fabricant http://amzn.to/2EoPEni

Thank you so much for your time, Holly! I have one final question! If you had to narrow your collection of china down to one pattern, which would it be and why?

That is a challenging question to answer because different occasions require appropriate china. A formal dinner party and women having tea are going to require different patterns. I have always been partial to Herend's Queen Victoria. It has flowers and butterflies in green and pink hues.

Besides being an accomplished designer and author, Holly is the host of Classic Design Channel, where she shares entertaining tips, recipes, trade secrets, and glimpses into her stunning Connecticut estate, Fox Hall. In addition to running her own design channel, Holly is also hosting the new PBS series “You Are Cordially Invited,” where she takes us on intimate tours of some of the world’s most distinguished private estates. I was so excited when she gave me a sneak preview of the first two episodes! 

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In the first episode, Holly and Lady Fiona Carnarvon, the Eighth Countess of Carnarvon, explore the magnificent grounds of Highclere Castle (the filming location of Downtown Abbey!) on horseback.  

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In the second episode, she and Lady Henrietta Spencer-Churchill tour the gorgeous English Baroque interiors of Bleinheim Palace. I am just blown away by her attention to the fine architectural details of the grand estates she visits! She has such an inquiring eye! 
Please keep checking this link to see when the series airs in your area. 

December 8, 2017

Cozy Winter Days With Malabar Bay

I admit, I love a good pajama day, especially this time of year. Is there anything better than curling up on the sofa in your pjs with a giant mug of hot cocoa and a Christmas movie? A wood burning fire would be nice too (just sayin!), but I’m perfectly happy with a big furry blanket, festive pjs, and Amazon Prime. Yep, I live for cozy winter days at home where I can just throw my hair up in a bun and be me (but still look good, of course). 

So…it’s with great excitement that I introduce you to my new favorite loungewear brand, Malabar Bay. A few weeks ago, they sent me two GORGEOUS matching pajama sets to review here. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect because I’m actually in the process of cleaning out my loungewear drawer (finally!) and replacing my ratty, non-matching pjs with cute matching sets. Maybe it’s just me, but if I’m going stay in my pjs all day, I have to look and feel amazing doing it. Let’s be honest, it’s hard to feel pretty and polished in pjs but you will in these—pinky swear! I couldn’t be more delighted with their look, feel, and quality! 

This blue and white striped set is a preppy pajama day-lover’s dream come true. If you’re trying to build a pj wardrobe, a classic striped set like this one is an absolute essential. I’m in love with these oversized ticking stripes. Is there anything more classic and beautiful than ticking stripes? I mean… just give me a few yards of this fabric for matching pillows! Swoon! Oh and, all the best details are there; hot pink piping, a front pocket, and a drawstring waistband. I’d say that they run true-to-size and the fit is slightly roomy, which I love. This set couldn’t be more perfect if it tried!

As much as I love my plaid Christmas pajamas from years past, I’m ready for something different this year. Preferably something that matches my pink and green decor….like this pink and green Christmas tree pj set! Ok. Let’s just pause for a minute and soak up the cuteness. How adorable are these little trees?! Can I just stay in these all month? 

I’m also beyond thrilled with their luxe cotton fabric! It’s different from any cotton fabric I’ve ever felt. It’s soft, luxurious, and thick (but not too thick), which makes me feel put together and beautiful. Plus, they’re super super comfortable, which is kinda the whole point of pajama days, right?! 

It is sooo hard to find beautiful matching pj sets for a reasonable price, so hurry and grab a few pairs of your own! I can’t wait to wear mine Christmas Eve and Christmas morning. Oh and, how perfect would one of these sets be for a "Girls Night In" gift basket? Champagne, a candle, pjs, and a throwback movie…now that’s my kind of gift basket! 

Malabar Bay is celebrating the launch of their new site, so for the next two days, you can get 60% off your ENTIRE order with code “PARTY60” 

October 25, 2017

Jewelry Designer Interview: Meet Laurel Gregory of Designs by Laurel Leigh

I’m super excited to introduce you to one of my favorite jewelry designers, Laurel Gregory of Designs by Laurel Leigh (@designsbylaurelleigh). When I stumbled across her shop on Etsy, my first thought was, “Wow —this is SO me! I could literally buy every single piece of jewelry in this line I love it that much!” It’s no secret that I’m drawn to obsessed with anything chinoiserie chic... and when I found her amazing trove of blue and white beaded jewelry, I just didn’t know what to do with myself! I had to learn more about the creative mind behind these designs! So, I invited Laurel to share her story on the blog and she happily agreed—thank you Laurel!

Also, I styled some of her creations to go along with this post so you see how gorgeous her pieces look ON!!


When I opened my first box of earrings I gasped—they’re even more beautiful in person! They're also lightweight, which I love because I can wear them all day and my ears *never* tire. 

I couldn’t stop with the earrings, so I bought this stunning bracelet (similar) and this necklace (similar) to match! I love that I can wear all three simultaneously. 

Her earrings, bracelets, and necklaces are my new everyday go-tos and wow—let me tell you—I’m getting so many compliments!

If you’re anything like me, your favorite part of getting ready is picking out jewelry. I just love opening my jewelry drawer every morning and seeing this gorgeous flat lay. The decorator in me loves to display her jewelry just as much as she loves wearing it. 😆

How and when did you come to realize your talent for jewelry making?
 I have always loved creative projects and have taught myself how to sew and paint, but I truly had no idea that I had "an eye" for jewelry design until last summer (2016). I have worked as a Human Resources Consultant on a part time basis for the last few years and had some free time on my hands while we were planning to remodel the home we moved into last year. I purchased a pretty strand of vintage blue and white beads that sat around for months until I decided what to do with them. Once I started making necklaces with them, I was hooked.


You work with an impressive range of materials; brass, fur, porcelain, wood, acrylic, shell, and the list goes on! What draws you to a particular material? Do you have any favorites?

  I only make items that I would wear myself, so I am drawn to materials that reflect my own taste and style. I began designing jewelry with the goal to make mostly one-of-a-kind, or what I refer to as "small batch" designs. I work very hard to give my customers special and unique, original designs that that they will not see everywhere. I am always on the hunt and I look for high quality and affordable materials with happy colors, rich textures or fun patterns that are both classic and trendy, but also unexpected. My favorite components are: vintage porcelain beads, animal print leather, bamboo, semi-precious gemstones, gold plated beads and pearls.

Chinese characters and motifs can be found throughout your collections—what do these illustrations mean to you/why are you attracted to them?

 My mother-in-law, Marilyn, loved Chinoiserie porcelain and because of her, I fell in love with it too. We lost Marilyn to cancer five years ago, so I feel like I make pieces that are inspired by that connection. I am also an abstract painting artist (self-taught), so I am drawn to interesting shapes.


You have a true knack for creating beautiful designs from unexpected pairings (pink chalcedony with Thai embroidery, silky tassels with bone beads, Chinese porcelain with crochet lace, to name a few). What inspired these intriguing combinations? How will you go about finding your next source of inspiration?

 Oh my goodness, thank you! I decorate and design rooms around fabric, so I suppose I design jewelry the same way, but with different types of components. I try to use a good mix of trendy and classic materials in my designs and I am always searching for new materials that stand out and speak to me. At some point, I would love to plan a trip outside of the country for inspiration and to source materials.

Who is the “Designs by Laurel Leigh” girl? What might her story be?

    The "Designs by Laurel Leigh" woman has impeccable taste and a great sense of style. She is “on trend,” but she loves classic designs that will stand the test of time. She strives to be unique and different and loves to find special pieces that make that statement.

What do you like to do in your free time? Favorite way to indulge?

I love to read, but rarely make time for it unless I am on vacation. My free time is spent playing tennis, painting, designing jewelry, shopping and working on decorating projects. My favorite indulgence is sharing a bottle of wine with my husband while binge-watching shows on Netflix.


If you could adorn any celebrity or style icon, past or present, with your jewelry, who would it be and why?

 What a fun question! I think it would be amazing to see either Emma Stone or Reese Witherspoon wearing my jewelry. They are both darling and down to earth and I love their classic styles and "girl next door" personalities.

What are your five must-have pieces of jewelry (from your own collections and/or elsewhere)?

 My must-have pieces are my wedding rings, a bezel set diamond necklace I received from my mother for my 30th birthday, a gold bracelet my mother gave me 20+ years ago, my mother-in-law's gold, ruby and diamond ring set and a set of chinoiserie bracelets from my own collection that I wear on repeat.

I’m always looking for ways to make life more luxurious without spending a fortune and, to me, there’s nothing more luxurious than a fabulous pair of swingy tassel earrings!

If you’re looking for an easy way to punch up your outfits—this is it! Her jewelry is a cinch to style because it goes with just about every color and pattern. Yep, I’m hooked!

October 23, 2017

Favorite Etsy Shops & Recent Etsy Scores

The other day, I started thinking about how much time I spend shopping online. It’s unreal, you guys! First, let me say that I’m not a shopaholic (at least I don't think I am), I just know what I like and I’m very picky about what I buy so I tend to fall down the inevitable rabbit hole of trying to find super specific/unique/one-of-a-kind items. I spend many —probably too many!—hours each week trawling through Etsy, my go-to site for unique gifts, holiday decor, and vintage treasures. 

And, I often get sidetracked. Etsy is like Wonderland to me—I never know what I’m going to stumble across nextwhich is quite thrilling! A few weeks ago, my fantasies about scoring a set of vintage Rose Medallion dinner plates somehow led me to discover these swoon-worthy agate lamp finials and these fabulous retro-style white tinsel Christmas treesI've also stumbled into some awesome new stores during these little sideways journeys, and I'm just dying to share them with you. So for today's post, I’m giving you a rundown of my new favorite Etsy shops as well as a glimpse inside my “Purchases and Reviews” file. 

We have a LOT of fun shopping to do…are you all ready? Let’s go! 

TopFinials— Finally! An entire shop dedicated to finials! This shop has literally every type of finial you could dream up, from golden oysters to Asian dragons that are hand carved from stone. Unbelievably gorgeous! I haven’t bought anything yet—I stumbled into this shop last night while on a quest for lamp accessories— but any minute now, one of these finials will be mine! 

AffordablyChicArt—I discovered this darling little antique shop while on a hunt for a flawless pair of vintage double happiness jars for under $300 (I’m obsessed with double happiness jars but $300 is a little insane). I was shocked by how reasonable Sarah's prices are! She sells a little bit of everything I love, from blue willow to tobacco leaf, and she also paints her own chinoiserie ornaments and pumpkins! I definitely recommend adding her shop to your favorites! 

Redux121DesignStudio— When I came across this shop, I was instantly reminded of the quote, “It’s the little details that are vital. Little details make big things happen.” I’ve become more and more detail-obsessed over the years, and especially since I started doing 80% of my holiday shopping on Etsy. A few years ago, I never would’ve thought of attaching personalized gift tags and ornaments to a wrapped gift. Now, they’re an absolute must-have! Well, this shop has you covered. I mean, where else can you find personalized Staffordshire dog gift tags?! Or mini tobacco leaf plate ornaments? 


Sweetapolita— I LOVE making and sipping fancy teas, coffees, cocoas, and cocktails—especially when pretty sprinkles are involved. And this shop sells the prettiest sprinkle mixes I’ve ever seen! These are not your run-of-the-mill rainbow sprinkles—these are what fancy hostess dreams are made of! 

SoHospitalityCo— This shop has everything going for it—fun and sophisticated monograms; fabulous barware, mugs and melamine in all the bright colors and classic patterns; and wonderfully personal customer service! I recently ordered two orange gingham—gingham!—mugs and they came gift-wrapped with the sweetest hand-written note attached. The mugs are nice and tall—and bright!

DesignsbyLaurelLeigh—I buy almost all of my jewelry from here now! Take one look and you’ll see why. I love that Laurel stays on-trend while also creating pieces are totally unique and timeless. And, she uses all my favorite materials—blue and white porcelain, bright colors, tassels, pom poms, embroidery, pearls, bamboo, and lots of shiny gold! I recently had the pleasure of meeting Laurel over email and she is just the sweetest! Stay tuned for her interview this week—you guys are going LOVE it! 😆

DragonflyGypsySoul—If you’re looking for unique curiosity objects, look no further! This shop has a killer collection of midcentury brass (obsessed with these pineapple candlesticks!), baskets from around the world, and tons of other cool vintage items. 

ThereseMarieDesigns—This shop has totally changed my pillow shopping ways! I was having all my throw pillows custom-made with fabric I picked out from various fabric stores and outlets. But that was getting quite pricey and time consuming so I set out to find some shops that *specialize* in throw pillows. Where would I find shops like that? Etsy—duh! When I came across Therese’s shop, I just didn’t know what to do with myself. I couldn’t believe that I’d finally found greek key and geometric appliqué pillows that didn’t cost a fortune! Her pillows are so versatile and classic, plus they’re made with the highest-quality materials. 

annechovie—Where do I begin? I love this shop! It’s not exactly a new favorite, but just in case you aren’t familiar with Anne Harwell’s art—now is the time to get acquainted! She puts prints of her paintings on just about everything—matchboxes, pillows, trays, coffee mugs, rugs, you name it! I can't get enough of her aesthetic!! 

Now for a peak inside my “Purchases and Reviews” file! I’m always quite curious about what people buy, especially decorators, bloggers, and anyone who loves to shop as much as I do! So, I figured I’d just show you what I’ve been shopping for these past few months on Etsy. This is the actual file! 

Those tassels! They are going to look so pretty hanging from my lamps! By the way, I did end up finding my dream Rose Medallion set....

I simply could not pass up this fabulous pair of antique Staffordshire dogs from the 19th- century. The price was right and the condition is excellent! I’ve been dreaming of a pair this good for too long and I’m just over the moon about them. They’re sitting on my dining room table right now, surrounded by colorful fall swag. And how cute is that pup pitcher? His ears are blue! 😆

I bought this turban for a Halloween post and I like it so much, I think I may start wearing it on the reg! Teggy French would be proud. 👳🏻‍♀️ Also, I recently started collecting vintage lettuce ware and soon as I saw these stunning plates, the tablescape ideas began flowing! 
Of course, no holiday tablescape of mine is complete without a gorgeous set of vintage gold bamboo flatware. The price was so reasonable! 

More jewelry from @DesignsbyLaurelLeigh! Yep, I'm hooked!!

This retro-style white tinsel Christmas tree is everything! I love its spindly branches and subtle sparkle! I bought two—one for my dining table and one for my new lime green lacquered cabinet! I am SO excited about the holidays this year. I have some fabulous decor inspiration for you guys. 

Hope you all enjoyed this post! Stayed tuned for Laurel’s interview this week and have fun shopping my favorite stores!!  💕

October 2, 2017

House Tour and Interview with @homestyledreams!

Hello, lovely readers! I’m so glad you stopped by on this gorgeous fall day! There’s nothing like the start of a new season to put you in the decorating mood. So allow me to crank up the decorating spirit with a home and beach house tour that will blow your mind and have you rushing to your nearest design store for more brightly-colored accents! 

I’m super excited to introduce you to my incredibly talented Insta friend and fellow design enthusiast, Sheila Casey (@homestyledreams). You might know her for her vibrant, exquisitely put together rooms and strong sense of symmetry. Sheila lives in Connecticut with her husband, Dave, and cocker spaniel, Manny. It didn’t take long to figure out that she's a kindred spirit (by now you all probably know that I’m a bright color kind of girl)...and Sheila's house is brimming with an array of colorful accents, many of which you will find linked up throughout this post! When we “met” over Instagram a few months ago, we instantly connected over our love of decorating...with LOTS of color (as I knew we would!).  In addition to filling my blog with tons of bright imagery today, Sheila will be sharing with us some cherished moments from her decorating journey in this interview and tour…

First, tell me three things about you! 
1. I never, ever wear flats. You’ll either find me in sneakers or stilettos.
2. I drink an excessive amount of Diet Coke. I love it!!! There is nothing better, in my mind, than an ice cold Diet Coke. I know it is unhealthy but I rationalize my enormous aspartame consumption by otherwise ingesting healthy food and exercising regularly. I have never had a cup of coffee so Diet Coke is also my necessary caffeine source. 
3. I adore animals – especially dogs. I absolutely LOVE our sweet, furry cocker spaniel, Manny! He’s the best little boy in all  the world!!!
What inspired you to start @homestyledreams?
Good question! By profession, I am a behavioral psychologist. For twenty-five years I have primarily worked with children in hospital, school, or home settings. Although rewarding at times, working with children presenting with challenging and dangerous behaviors is often physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting. 
On the other side of that same coin is the creative me. I have always been interested in fashion, home décor, color, patterns, architecture, photography, travel, and music. Quite honestly, in the past, I have often dismissed this side of me as frivolous. When I was in college, and especially in graduate school, I felt such pressure to be serious. As a woman I felt an additional burden to constantly prove myself academically. My creative pursuits that had brought me so much joy were put on the back burner. In hindsight that was a mistake. Art, creative expression, just being silly is so very important to me – it’s my passion. I would quietly tinker around my house painting, designing, and decorating to escape the enormity of responsibilities associated with my career. Friends and family would always give me wonderful feedback when they visited our home here in Connecticut or at our little cottage at the beach. I decided to let the cat out of the bag so to speak and start @homestyledreams less than one year ago. I sent an email to a few friends and family members explaining @homestyledreams and requesting their support. I wanted @homestyledreams to be a creative outlet. Initially my profile picture was a couple of colorful pillows. I wanted to maintain a level of anonymity while I navigated the Instagram waters. I was nervous and exhilarated at the same time. I have over 1900 followers now from all over the world. I’ve changed my profile picture to a photograph of me and I am growing increasingly more comfortable sharing a bit of my creative expression and design. I absolutely cherish the people, such as yourself, that I have met through @homestyledreams. Fellow Instagrammers from around the world have inspired me and taught me so much in such a short period of time. Lesson learned to my younger self; don’t suppress your creativity or your passion, let it flourish and good things will come to you!

Our tastes are remarkably similar! She too gravitates toward tropical accents, animal prints, and playful accessories. As she recently mentioned, how awesome would it be if our living rooms were melded into one big yummy space?! 😆

Chairs: Target // Similar x bench // Similar rug // Artichoke tulipiere: Wayfair 

Pillows: The Blush LabelOliphant DesignDana Gibson // Chairs: Target 

I love that you are unafraid of bright colors (me too!). What are your favorite ways of introducing color into a space?
Pillows, pillows, and more pillows!  I love pillows and they are such an easy way to instantly incorporate color, pattern, and texture into a room. Additionally, I infuse color into our home with various home accents. I have invested in quite a few ginger jars and trays by Dana Gibson. Her work is beautifully rich with color and pattern! I style the rooms in my home with vases, picture frames, area rugs ,throws, prints, artwork, flower/greens (even artificial ones as back up) and I love my colorful coffee table books!
Blossom lamp: Houzz // Books: Amazon 

How would you define your decorating style?
Wow, I never thought about defining my style. I usually make decisions regarding clothing, home décor, design simply based on my mood and feeling. If my choices feel good then they usually look good. I gravitate towards bright colors, clean lines, patterns, texture, fresh, nature inspired design.  It is so freeing to have an aspect of your life where there are no rules or restrictions. 

Doesn’t Sheila’s living room remind you of one of those gorgeous birthday cakes with layers of pastel frosting and brightly-colored sprinkles? YUM!
Trays and jars: Dana Gibson // Console: Society Social // Dog print: Willa Heart // Similar Greek Key stools

Five things you would never leave out of your house
1. Manny’s ramp. In January 2013, we learned, Manny, our beloved cocker spaniel, suffers from spine disease and needed neurosurgery to remedy a herniated disk. He was only five. Although the surgery was successful, we were told that to prevent future herniation Manny would no longer be allowed to jump or go up and down stairs. There are stairs everywhere in and outside our home. While my husband carries Manny up and down stairs in the morning and at night, we had to come up with a plan for taking him outside throughout the day, While Manny was recuperating from his surgery I sketched some designs for a paver ramp. We took down two sections of spindles from our veranda and pulled out seven large shrubs along the driveway and built a beautiful paver ramp from the front porch wrapping around the side of the house down the length of the driveway. Out the front door, down the ramp, and Manny is good to go! Manny’s ramp was probably the most significant and best investment for our house to date! I can’t imagine our home without it and Manny is afforded the independence and freedom of movement he deserves.
2. Our Dunes and Duchess custom made Yachtsman Pendant chandelier hoisted twenty-four feet over the stairway in our foyer. It took me 10 years to find the perfect light fixture to welcome our guests into our home and this pendant couldn’t be more perfect. The story behind its acquisition warms my heart. I posted a picture of the standard size Yachtsman Pendant on @homestyledreams and tagged Dunes and Duchess noting how the fixture was number one on my Christmas wish list. Well, Dunes and Duchess responded, we talked, I measured, and, voila, it was made!!! The chandelier is extraordinarily beautiful and fills our home with joy. Obviously, if we were ever to move the chandelier is coming with us, always!!! 
3. My white Society Social Console table. This is the most versatile piece of furniture we own. I have styled this console table in numerous ways, reflecting my current mood, seasonal changes, functionality, etc. Everything works on this table and it is home to all my little treasured accents! It is so much fun to change up and style!
4. Pillow Inserts! As mentioned, I love my pillows and I have to fill them with only the best, plump down inserts. The right insert can turn an inexpensive pillow into a luxury item. I have a small closet stocked with pillow inserts.
5. Flowers! I love the outdoors and I have to have fresh flowers in my house! Seeing and smelling flowers or plants in my home instantly enhance my mood. I am not averse, however, to decorating here and there with artificial flowers as long as there is a vase filled with fresh cut flowers nearby.

Chandelier: Dunes and Duchess

You have mastered the art of decorating with throw pillows! What are your tips for creating a stunning pillow arrangement?
Thank you so much Summer! One of my quirky, guilty pleasures is pairing men’s ties with shirts. I thoroughly enjoy shopping for my husband and can spend hours browsing in the tie department. In many ways I liken ties to pillows and the same process that goes into the pattern play with ties can be applied to layering pillows. First, pillow selection is a lot easier when you have a neutral sofa or chair, especially white or ivory. It’s a blank canvas affording you more options. I also suggest investing in neutral pillows such as white linen, animal print, and palm print pillows. When styling a sofa I usually start at the arms of the sofa with a pair of large (22” or 24”) neutral pillows. Working toward the center I choose a pair of slightly smaller pillows with a large subtle print in 2, maybe 3 colors, but not too busy. Those pillows then flank a pair of even smaller (18” or 20”) pillows with a completely different contrasting and more colorful pattern. For example, a small spotted pillow beside a larger ombre shaded pillow or a floral pillow beside a palm print pillow. At the center of the sofa I look for a special lumbar size pillow that mixes all the shades of color in the larger pillows; perhaps even with a hint of new color or added details such as tassels, piping, texture, etc. To further showcase the lumbar pillow I may frame it from behind with a larger, white linen or a soft velvet pillow. Always buy larger pillows in pairs for symmetry and framing the overall look of the sofa. Most importantly, have fun, have a pillow party! Expert pillow layering takes practice, trial and error, and a vision. 

Pillows: Ballard Designs, Willa HeartPiper Collection // Tray: Dana Gibson // Sofa: Bernhardt Furniture

Where do you tend to shop for home décor?
Unlike clothing, I rarely make impulsive purchases for my home. I do my research and I learn from the personal interactions I have with staff at the small businesses I frequent. My go to, local, brick and mortar home décor store is Vivid Hue Home in Farmington, CT. I have probably purchased 90% of all my Dana Gibson pieces there, as well as Society Social merchandise, World’s Away furniture, Cotton and Quill pillows, and so much more. The personal touch of the local independent business owner far outweighs any small discount I may find at a big box store. Additionally, I will get online and purchase home décor items and furniture directly from independent makers such as; Dunes and Dutchess, Emily McCarthy, Piper Collection, WillaHeart, Paige Gemmel, Mari Robeson, Annechovie, and many more. And when I am in the mood to seek out a “find”, well of course, I go to HomeGoods!

Sheila and Dave also own a gorgeous Nantucket-style beach cottage on the Cape (major #goals, right?!) and THIS is the living room!! I love how both houses consistently reflect her love of color. SO much energy and joy emanating from this space...
Tell us about your house on the Cape!
It’s magical! When we were first looking to buy an affordable second home on the Cape we had to decide whether we wanted a great location or a larger, updated home further from the shore. True to form, when choosing any of our homes, we sacrificed space for location. From our front patio you can see a glimpse of the ocean and you can hear the soft trickle of the gentle surf. Our cottage is cozy, with wide plank knotty pine floors throughout each room. The walls in the main living area are white shiplap from the floor to the top of the vaulted ceiling. The kitchen and bathroom walls are covered with white bead board. I love the large semicircle window where the ceiling peaks in the living room and the floor to ceiling windows that wrap around our eating area. With a southern exposure we have an enormous amount of gorgeous, seaside, natural light. With all the structural character, our cottage was very easy to decorate. I didn’t want the décor to overshadow the rooms so I kept my furnishings clean, fresh, and smaller in scale. I found this beautiful, ivory, floor sample sofa at a local furniture store. I chose pillows with a predominately ivory background to reduce fading effects and a few printed pillows of fuchsia and navy. I flanked the sofa with two wicker side tables and a pair of beautiful white pagoda lamps with navy linen shades. We have a simple sisal rug for the floor with a smaller fuchsia and ivory indoor/outdoor area rug cordoning off the seating area. I found this adorable rattan bar cart and stocked it with Emily McCarthy flamingo cups, anchor glassware, a polka dotted ice bucket, and an assortment of vases for fresh cut hydrangeas. I have a wide array of large baskets filled with beach towels and blankets. All my linens are simply white. The exterior of our beach home is classic Nantucket style with gray shingles, a navy blue door, and white flower boxes filled with pink geraniums. Despite all that charm it’s the beach, steps away, that takes are breath away with each visit. Our place is high up on a bluff and the quickest access to the beach is via an old driftwood stairway. On most days you can see clear over to Martha’s Vineyard. I long for the day we don’t have to work so much and we can spend more time at our little beach cottage. Some day.
Favorite cocktail?
Tanqueray and tonic! Hands down, any time of the year!

Basket: Pottery Barn // Ice Bucket: Emily McCarthy Shoppe // Print: Willa Heart 
Favorite space you’ve decorated and why.
My studio apartment in Washington, DC that I rented straight out of graduate school and after landing my first real job! It was 640 square feet with a galley kitchen and a “walk-through” closet to the bathroom. The rest of the apartment was one large square space, with white walls, two picture windows on one side and parquet floors. My parents bought me a dining table with six chairs, a coffee table, and bookshelves all from Pottery Barn for a housewarming gift. I bought a black sofa from Ikea, an antique dresser from a flea market, and I had a queen mattress on a solid oak platform. To separate my bed from the living space I positioned it up against the far wall and hung three curtain rods around the three exposed sides of the bed. I used a thin, transparent cord to hang the rods which made them look as if they were levitating and weightless. I chose six, white sailcloth panels to hang from the rods. When guests came over I simply closed the curtains and it really worked out well. I used two rugs to cordon off the seating and dining areas. I remember primarily having animal print and emerald green throw pillows. On the walls I hung all my travel photographs in a planned pattern. I loved that apartment and after 14 wonderful years living in DC it was very difficult saying good-bye. Despite its small size it was the place where all my friends gathered together before heading out for a night on the town. My landlord rented out the apartment to the very first person who saw it and the new tenant liked what I had done with it so much that she bought the rods, curtains and rugs from me. My first design success!

I could stare at your vignettes for hours! How did you go about styling this one?

Cabinet: Vivid Hue Home (local boutique) // Gold and white jars: Dana Gibson // Similar gold jars // Pillows: West Elm, Piper Collection 

Thank you Summer! I was so excited when this glossy, white lacquered World’s Away cabinet arrived and completed our foyer! As you can see there is a lot of symmetry going on to bring order to a colorful look. The pair of chairs flanking the cabinet, each with the same pillows, and the pair of marble and gold lamps on the cabinet provide balance to the vignette and a pleasant aesthetic. Also, the symmetry allows for a great backdrop to put a fun mix of accents on the cabinet. I started with the large, textured, gold ginger jar in the center to draw your eye to the gold cabinet hardware as well as the jar. The cabinet is so white that I wanted to continue with the same theme by using a shorter, hammered gold jar. The overall look is enhanced by how nicely each of these jars reflects the natural light. The white and gold mesh Dana Gibson ginger jar finishes the trio beautifully. I purposely chose the varying heights so the jars would appear interlocked with one another and fluid. To balance out the corners I added catchall trays for keys or change. When using fresh cut flowers in the Dana Gibson gold and white mesh pen holder, I fill a toothbrush holder with water and insert it into the pencil holder to protect the painted finish.  I chose the mix of pillows on the chairs to tie in the colors of the painting. From back to front I chose a larger, green velvet pillow, followed by a neutral palm print, and then a small, gold threaded linen pillow with an orange velvet zigzag applique in front. Buttressing the pillows together I used white lacquer Dunes and Duchess door stops. When I need to leave open the French doors on the opposite wall I utilize the door stops for their intended purpose. It’s fun to improvise and create a unique look.

Pillows: Vivid Hue Home (local boutique), Society Social, Ballard Designs // Blush headboard: Target 

Ginger jar rug // Pillows: Well Made Home // Print: Willa Heart 

One of the many things I love about your house is that it’s always evolving! If you had to choose just one decorative component of a room to update what would it be and why?
Such a good question and very timely! We need lighting! I recently put a list together for a new dining room chandelier, first floor powder room ceiling light, a master bedroom chandelier, and a new outdoor light for our front porch. For me, I can instantly update a room with pillows in the afternoon and change it up again at night. But for a dramatic update I love lighting! It took ten years to know, without a doubt, our foyer needed the Dunes and Duchess Yachtsman Pendant! Ten years!!! Sometimes I can get bogged down searching for the perfect look. And that, my friend, is why my home is always evolving; it’s a process that never ends which defines passion, right?! 
Thank you so much for this opportunity, Summer! I feel so honored that you selected me for this interview. I absolutely love your style, your fearless use of color, and I find myself continually inspired by your gorgeous home décor and @girlsinmadras vignettes!!!

Three things I’ve learned from following Sheila… 

#1: There’s NO such thing as owning too many throw pillows! After seeing Sheila’s gorgeous #pillowscapes, I felt a small sense of relief that I was not alone in my pillow obsession (and non-minimalist pillow arranging tendencies). And I LOVE that Sheila fills her sofas and chairs to the brim with pillows. Three to a chair? YES, please!

#2: Don’t be afraid to mix pastels and brights. One question my color-shy friends often ask me is, “can I mix pastels with brights?” Of course you can! Pastels are neutrals as far as I’m concerned. 

#3: Symmetry is always beautiful. 

One of my favorite things about blogging/Instagramming is meeting wonderfully talented, like-minded people who would happily talk fabric and paint colors all day. I adore every single thing about Sheila, from her decorating to her warm spirit that transcends the digital medium. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to interview this intelligent, creative, inspiring woman! Thank you for sharing your story, Sheila!!