Enjoying the Outdoors

Our backyard has become a much needed refuge while sheltering in place this Spring. So I thought this would be a good time to give an update on our wildlife habitat… which now includes our two orange tabbies, Ziggy D and Ollie Rockit. No worries, we keep a very close eye on them when they are in the backyard!

Last year we started planting micro-clover in our weed filled lawn. We found that it stays green all winter and spreads pretty slowly. So we planted several more rounds of seed this Spring, adding two pound bags of clover seed to five pounds of Miracle Gro garden soil. Mixing it with the soil added extra fertilizer plus made it easier to see where we planted those teeny tiny clover seeds!

Clover is eco-friendly because it needs less water and self-fertilizes by adding nitrogen to the soil. Once the clover was planted, we started to work on our various habitats. We carefully tidied up the insect condo where lots of bugs were happily nesting away. We created a bee bath by filling a shallow saucer with colorful pebbles and put a pottery butterfly puddler in the herb garden.

We cleaned and hung the butterfly and mason bee houses and hummingbird feeder. We also planted flowers to attract butterflies and hummingbirds to our outdoor haven. My favorite wildlife are the plentiful toads and we placed toad abodes all around the yard. It is simply an upside down pot propped up on two rocks with a saucer filled with water nearby to serve as their own private pond.

I’ve noticed lots of birds this year and maybe it’s just the lack of other noises but there is a cacophony of sounds. While we are living in these scary uncertain times, it is comforting to have fresh air and nature to enjoy. I would love to live in my backyard and plan to do just that when the weather gets a bit warmer!

Resources: Scott’s Turf Builder Clover Lawn (Amazon), Garden Soil, Saucers and Pots (Thomas Gardens), Butterfly Puddler and Mason Bee Houses (Etsy), Butterfly House and Hummingbird Feeder (Gardeners Supply), Inspiration Rocks, Scatter Garden Kits and Garden Sprinkles (Hollyhocks on Main).


The Art of Organizing: Part 2

For that full circle moment, it’s not enough to purge — you need to create a system that works now as well as going forward. Each room has its own unique challenges. The key is to have the right thing in the right place at the right time.

Below are some of the ways we organize our house:

Home Office: the desk drawer stores stationary, return labels and stamps, file cabinets hold paperwork all labeled and organized alphabetically. A washstand has extra office supplies and an armoire stores computer and printer supplies. Plastic bins filled with memorabilia are stowed under the futon in the office.

Bedroom: dressers and a closet hold clothes and shoes, tables on each side of the bed have drawers for tissues and personal items with a shelf below for books and magazines. A platform bed with baskets hide extra linens, blankets and off season clothes/shoes. A wicker trunk stores luggage and canvas bags.

Bathroom: an over the toilet cabinet stores cosmetics and toiletries on the bottom shelf and tissues and toilet paper on the top shelf. The medicine cabinet contains vitamins, first aid supplies, toothpaste, etc. An open linen closet has baskets with cleaning supplies, towels and toiletries and a laundry hamper.

Kitchen: a pantry cabinet organized by spices, baking supplies, cooking supplies (oils, vinegars, stock) and cooks tools. Crocks hold wood and metal utensils and the drawers store additional cooks tools, utensils and knives. Open shelving holds plates, bowls, glasses, mugs and cookbooks. A tray next to the stove corrals cutting boards, olive oil, salt and pepper. Trivets and strainers are hung up for easy access. A rolling cart stores dishtowels, baskets and serving pieces.

Every Room: cupboards, cabinets, trunks and tables with drawers and shelves are crucial for multiple storage solutions. Each room has a variety of them. Collectibles and books are arranged on bookshelves and a bar is set up inside a small cupboard. A stack of vintage trunks contain seasonal decor (except Christmas decor which is stored in plastic bins in the shed). Most of our artwork is out and hung, displayed on gallery walls or leaning on ledges.

Resources: The key is finding unique pieces for storage. Many of our painted cupboards and shelves came from Banana Tree, an import shop in Old Town Alexandria. They are long gone but Nadeau is a good resource for similar items.





The Art of Organizing: Part 1

From the Netflix show, Tidying Up, to shelter magazines and Pinterest, it’s apparent that managing your stuff is a hot topic. In my own home and in my shop, Hollyhocks, I have put into practice Marie Kondo’s “the life-changing magic of tidying up” so you could say that I am an aficionado of organization.

Here are a few of my tried and true techniques based on: 1) necessity because I have always lived in small spaces, and 2) family history because I inherited the neatnik gene from my dad. Just remember, it’s the hidden things that add up.

To begin, go room by room or category by category and dig through the nooks, drawers, cupboards and closets. Then, sort into piles: 1) what you use or need; 2) what you can let go of; and 3) what you “want to keep” — the trickiest pile of all. This whole process should not be rushed, it can take weeks or even months.

The things you use or need go into the spot or place where it is most convenient and you can easily find them. Get rid of items that you no longer want, need or use. Give away to friends and family members, donate to charity or toss in the trash. You will feel so much lighter when you move them along their journey.

The treasures you want to keep tend to be sentimental and there are strategies for those items. Anything that you want to pass down at a later date, put in a box or bin with the name clearly marked on it. Items that have a special meaning store in a trunk somewhere accessible so you can add to it as time goes along.

If you aren’t sure about something, set it aside for a few days and think about it. This should be a natural, organic process so give yourself lots of time and space.

Part 2 is about putting it all back together in a new and fresh way. Stay tuned.


Home Decor Trends 2020

In creating an Inspiration Board, which drives the buying decisions and displays for my shop, I research design trends on Pinterest; read current home decor magazines (Better Homes & Gardens, Domino, Cottages & Bungalows, Country Living UK); peruse catalogs (Pottery Barn, West Elm, Ballard Designs) and watch HGTV shows (Love It or List It, Propery Brothers, Windy City Rehab).

Below are some of the decor trends I see emerging for the coming year:

Rustic Nordic: white, cream, gray with wicker and wood. A sheepskin rug on a gray sofa with a driftwood colored coffee table and a wicker basket piled with chunky knit throws in shades of cream. Think serene, organic and handmade.

Global Artisan: red, turquoise, indigo with copper and natural fibers. A Kantha covered bed with brightly colored pillows on top of a jute rug with a rain drum side table and lots of leafy plants. Think fair trade crafts and eco-consciousness.

Wabi Sabi: black, terra cotta, greige with iron and pottery. A Japanese aesthetic that combines the simplicity of nature with the beauty of aged materials. A dark wood table with a hyacinth runner and a terra cotta bowl filled with ripe plums.

Farmhouse Minimalism: gray, black, white with metal and rustic barnwood. An all white kitchen with black metal open shelves, brass fixtures and glass pendants over a marble topped island. Think Fixer Upper meets Marie Kondo.

Art Studio/Creative Space: full of color, texture and art/craft supplies arranged in everything from bins, boxes and baskets to vintage suitcases and toolboxes. Carve out a nook, convert a home office… make it your own personal zen den.

The common threads among all of the trends are: 1) black as a unifying color; 2) texture through natural materials; 3) hand dyed and stitched fabrics; 4) brass or gold accents and 5) clever organizational ideas.

From our home to yours, Happy New Year!

Resources: Wicker basket, ivory pom pom throw, Kantha bedspread, colorful linen pillows, jute rug, copper bells, hyacinth runner, storage pieces from brick mold shelves and cabinets to cubbies, crates and bins (Hollyhocks on Main).

P.S. I snuck a picture of our new kitty, Ollie Rockit, into the photo montage.








Au Naturele Christmas

The inspiration for this year’s holiday scheme – au naturele* is based on the latest design trends. To determine what’s hot right now, browse through current magazines and catalogs, tearing out the pages that you like. Then sort through them, keeping only the ones with similar elements. Finally, pin them up on a bulletin board, moving them around until they come together to tell a story. Voila! Themes emerge and designs are distilled down to key elements.

This season it’s all about green and white paired with natural elements… evergreen trees, twinkle lights and birch logs. Add in metallic elements such as tin or mercury glass for brightness. Gold, bronze or silver also work well with this color scheme. For a rustic element, use wood slabs to create groupings and add height. For texture sprinkle in pine cones and acorns. Incorporate your own collections, from bottlebrush trees to vintage clocks, to personalize the look.

The beauty of this decor is that it is relatively simple to achieve. A grapevine wreath or two, a few undecorated pre-lit trees, pots of paperwhites and bowls of clementine oranges, pine cones and cinnamon sticks. Lanterns and lots of votive candles bring the sparkle. Set out your coziest blankets and a basket of your warmest socks (see Hygge Your Holiday).  Light a fire (or a candle) and have a cup of hot tea (or glass of port) and enjoy some well earned “me time.”

Tip #1: if you opt for faux trees, mix in fresh green swags from your backyard or local nursery and burn a balsam fir candle.

Tip #2: for an easy potpourri, slice oranges and add cinnamon sticks and cloves to a pot of water and bring to a simmer on the stove.

*Au na-tu-rel: with no elaborate treatment, dressing or preparation; being in a natural style or condition.

Resources: Evergreen trees, tin trees and candle holders, faux paper whites, mercury glass and ivory pom pom throws (Hollyhocks on Main), grapevine wreaths, pine cones, birch logs, paper white bulbs and fresh greens (local nursery), cinnamon sticks and oranges (grocery store).




After a long, hot Summer we are slowly turning towards Fall. The Hollyhocks late Summer Inspiration Board features indigo and turquoise with pops of red… soothing, cool hues with a hint of heat. Below is a breakdown of the various elements that inspired this decor scheme.

Indigo can be introduced through fabrics, such as shibori pillows and napkins. Shibori is the Japanese technique of binding and dyeing cloth indigo. It creates intricate tie dye patterns that are very popular in boho chic decor especially when mixed with other colorful textiles. The basket filled with skeins of indigo yarn is gorgeous!

Turquoise painted furniture and pottery and bright red cushions, books and artwork are the accent colors and pull the eye around the room. Wood, wicker baskets and rattan furniture are the natural elements that add texture. Plants, flowers and bowls of fruit bring life to every room.

Collections from match boxes and pear prints to butterflies under glass are the little touches that show your personality. Display treasures picked up on nature walks (sea shells, lichen, acorns) in Mason jars and mementos from your travels together on a bookshelf. Include books that relate to the collected objects for an interesting vignette.

This design scheme is the perfect bridge to Autumn with all of its vivid hues. To transition, set out miniature pumpkins, lots of candles and bowls of seasonal produce and you are done! Indigo will fade into the background and serve as a grounding color similar to black or dark gray.

Resources: Shibori pillows and napkins (Etsy); painted furniture (Nadeau); pottery (Etsy); wood bowls, wicker baskets and candles (Hollyhocks on Main).



Summer Entertaining

When you live in a resort town with lots of summer activities, it’s nice to take time out to relax with friends. The garden has been planted (see Backyard Habitat), the furniture arranged (see Backyard Retreat) and now it’s time to have a party! Or not… I’d rather have friends over a few at a time but here are some of our go to tips for easy and enjoyable summer gatherings.

  1. Keep it simple. Prepare a few dishes, buy a few pre-made items. That is the Ina Garten rule. For example, make a seafood risotto and an antipasto platter and for dessert, serve store bought cookies and sorbet.
  2. Cocktails outdoors (weather permitting) and dinner indoors makes life easier. One of our favorite summer drinks is a lemon spritzer… one third Prosecco, limoncello and lemon San Pelligrino over ice. Delicious!
  3. A cantaloupe wedge wrapped in prosciutto with a squeeze of lime juice and a big bowl of steamed clams in garlic, basil butter sauce can be a first course or a meal. Serve with crusty bread to soak up the aromatic sauce.
  4. A cold soup is a refreshing meal on a hot summer day. Gazpacho served chilled  along with a pound or two of steamed spiced shrimp is a perfect light supper. Or chilled vichyssoise garnished with spring onions.
  5. This is the time to take advantage of in season produce. Roast chicken on the grill and serve with corn on the cob and a platter of sliced tomatoes dressed with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and fresh basil from the garden.
  6. Grill tip: make up a foil packet of new potatoes, green beans and sliced onions, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Put it on the top rack of your grill and cook for 20-25minutes, Serve with rib eye steaks.
  7. Support your local shops and order a cheese plate to serve as the dessert course along with fresh peaches or plums from a nearby farmers market.
  8. Clean up as you go… best tip of all. Lots of preparing ahead and staying on top of the dishes makes for a relaxing end to an enjoyable evening.

For our favorite summer recipes, check out our blog, Blueberries & Tootsie Rolls. From Farmers Market Gazpacho to Basil Butter Clams to Miss Ione’s Crab Cakes we have summer covered. Enjoy!