Naturally Neutral

For several months now, there has been a distinct trend towards a neutral design esthetic. At first I wasn’t too crazy about it but over time the clean minimalism started to appeal to me. The palette is white, cream, gray and black with textural and natural elements playing very important roles. Here’s how to achieve the look in your own home, room by room (see above for examples).

Living Room: (1) Cream Slipcovered Sofa; (2) Leather Chair and Ottoman; (3) Jute Rug with a Smaller Rug Layered on Top; (4) Live Plants and Flowers.

Office: (1) Wood and Metal Desk; (2) Gray Upholstered Desk Chair; (3) Black Framed Bulletin Board; (4) Shelves and Baskets for Books and Magazines.

Kitchen: (1) Gray Cabinets with White Subway Tile Backsplash; (2) Butcher Block Counters; (3) White Ironstone Dishes; (4) Pots of Fresh Herbs.

Bedroom: (1) Luxurious White Bedding; (2) Rattan Blinds; (3) Sheepskin Rug; (4) Soft Lighting and Scented Candles.

Bathroom: (1) Cream Walls with White Wainscoting; (2) Fluffy White Towels; (3) Baskets and Glass Containers for Storage; (4) Gallery Wall with Mirrors.

This neutral color scheme creates a soothing, hygge-like environment and the wicker, wood and greenery bring in the textural, natural elements. Lighting becomes very important in this scheme. Every room should have lights that can be dimmed or brightened depending on the time of day and your activities. We like Phillips Hue lights which can mimic standard, halogen or fluorescent bulbs or be set to passing clouds, skylights or antique lighting.

While this combination may only appeal to a specific audience, color can easily be added through pillows, rugs, art, flowers, candles and tchotchkes. This is also an easy scheme to change out seasonally with a pop of color – yellow for Spring, turquoise for Summer, coral for Fall and crimson for Winter. Now is the perfect time to re-group and re-decorate or just lie on the couch and dream about it!

Resources: Jute rugs, baskets, white dishes and candles (Hollyhocks on Main); Phillips Hue Lighting System (Amazon or Lowe’s); colorful art, pillows, rugs and Tchotchkes (Hollyhocks on Main).




Bohoho Holiday

This season’s Inspiration Board took a bright turn into pink, red and vivid green. It is driven by my love of bohemian decor which I hope, never goes out of style. The more interesting and eclectic your space, the better! It should reflect what you love… from your travels, family mementos, collections and artwork all mixed up together to create your very own personal story.

Imagine taking all of that and then layering in Christmas decorations… it’s a feast for the eyes! Christmas ornaments displayed in a bird cage or metal urn, garlands strung on mirrors (and bar carts), a forest of lit trees, a tray filled with Mercury glass and greenery, a vignette of miniature trees and reindeer on a cake stand… every room in your house can have a dash of holiday spirit.

And, of course, I love the blending of vintage finds with traditional holiday decor. From colorful glass ornaments and bottlebrush trees to Santa figurines and Christmas cards… the combination of old and new is a delightful surprise. During our local Homes for the Holidays Tour, one of the homeowners hung a wreath on a vintage sled propped up by their turquoise front door. Wow!

Christmas decorations are the ultimate journey into our past… opening boxes of ornaments and gently placing them on the tree, unwrapping the decorations from eras gone by brings a sense of continuity and hope into our homes. I know the holidays can be stressful but try to relax and enjoy the ritual and then take a moment to look around in amazement at the wonderland you have created…

Peace and love from your Hollyhocks family!

Resources: Mercury glass candle holders, cake stands, Santa figurines, vintage holiday postcards, faux greenery and LED string lights (Hollyhocks on Main).

#Me Shed

Besides house love, part of the philosophy behind our home decor shop, Hollyhocks, is the celebration of women artists. We feature several women artisans, from a local fiber artist and jewelry maker to a trained welder making unique luminaries to free trade artists from around the globe.

Each one has a unique and creative way of looking at the world and all their voices speak as one in my shop… which features music from female folk singers to blues vocalists. From our inspiration board to the wares we carry, hopefully, we have created a safe environment to explore and dream about whatever your heart desires.

I’m also intrigued with the idea of a “she shed” (and there’s the commercial of course!) — a place where you can kick off your shoes, take off your bra and indulge yourself. This year the Chincoteague Homes for the Holidays tour which I run on behalf of the Historic Main Street Merchants has not one, but two, “she sheds” or better yet “zen dens” where you can craft or just chill in your own private space.

So while the #metoo movement has empowered women to speak out about injustice and more women than ever before are running for office and winning, anything we can do to nurture the seeds of change has meaning and motive. I am grateful to do my small part in this very big movement and I’m even more delighted that my brand new representative in Congress is a woman!

Autumn Hues

We’ve had a long, hot summer here on the island. It has finally started to cool down and it’s the perfect weather for long walks on the beach and candlelit evenings on the front porch. In the shop we are highlighting the color orange though, for some reason, I prefer white pumpkins so they are also sprinkled around here and there as a cool contrast to the more intense autumn hues.

My inspiration board this season is about the interplay of green with yellow, orange and red… just like the turning leaves. These colors can easily be incorporated into your home with fruits, vegetables and herbs… from wood bowls piled high with apples and oranges to platters of acorn and butternut squash and vases filled with fresh snipped thyme, rosemary and parsley.

This is how Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa) decorates her kitchen and sets the table which has had a big  influence on my entertaining style. Because we love to cook Italian or French country food, we like to use white stoneware dishes, plain cotton napkins and sturdy juice glasses to create our own little bistro or trattoria. Just add music and lots of votive candles to set the mood.

Now is a great time to have guests over for dinner. For the appetizer, steam a large artichoke and set out with a bowl of lemon butter. Roast a chicken (stuffed with lemons and rosemary) on top of seasonal root vegetables and serve with salad greens drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and fresh Parmesan. For dessert, set out a platter of cookies or biscotti, chocolates and Clementines.

The connection between the elements of decorating and entertaining should, hopefully, now be apparent. Tell your Autumn color story by observing the natural world around you going from bright green to vivid oranges, reds and yellows and bring those colors into your home and your food. It’s a full circle.

Resources: wood bowls, platters, vases, cotton napkins, votives and French Bee glasses (Hollyhocks on Main).

A Nook and a Book

There is nothing more soothing than a special place to read and reflect. In my experience being creative requires lots of time and space and a little reading nook helps get you half way there. And the beauty of designing a reading nook is that it’s an exercise in surrounding yourself with the things you love most.

Find a cozy corner in a quiet place… a porch, bedroom or den and gather your most comfortable chair, a good reading lamp and a basket or shelf to hold books and magazines. A side table to hold a cup of coffee or tea and an ottoman are great additions. For even more Hygge (see Hygge Your Home) layer in a fluffy pillow, a pretty throw and a few personal mementos.

I found the perfect spot on my front porch that featured most of the key elements. It just needed a shelf to fit the space and I finally settled on two stacked crates to create an adorable bookshelf which I topped with an orchid, a luminary candle and an inspiration stone. I also pulled up a footstool so I could kick back and put up my feet. Plus it gives my cat, Gee Bee, a place to curl up.

The second half of the equation is taking the time to nurture yourself… I wake up early when the house and island are still sleeping, get my coffee and sit in my little nook reading and thinking to my hearts content. In day to day life there are so many external forces competing for your attention and by taking a half hour or so every day to get lost in a book, you are giving yourself a great gift.

So take a rainy afternoon and create a small haven within your home that is your own personal sanctuary and you will see how wonderful it can be… or to quote Winnie the Pooh, “doing nothing often leads to the very best something.”

Resources: rattan chair (Pottery Barn); cushion, pillow and ottoman (Pier 1); crates, baskets, throws, candles, luminaries and inspiration stones (Hollyhocks on Main); The Tao of Pooh (Amazon).




Sage Cleansing

As important as it is to take care of your home and tend to it with care, you should also pay attention to its soul. We are into Feng shui and spirit guides and believe in regular sage cleansings. I’ve been doing it for years, creating my own rituals along the way and have even branched out to cleansing friends homes. P.S. a great house warming gift is a sage cleansing kit (see below).

Why do a sage cleansing? It’s a way to clear your space of evil spirits and negative energy. In today’s world full of constant turmoil and 24/7 technology, it’s extremely important to keep your own personal space as positive and uplifting as possible.

When should you do a sage cleansing? Whenever you move into a new home and whenever negative energy moves into your space. Negative energy can enter in various ways, either through others entering your home or when you interact with negative people or situations or both. Let’s just say, you should do them regularly!

What is a sage cleansing kit? You can make your own by starting with a sage smudge stick, a ceramic or pottery dish* to hold under the sage while it is smoking, sand or stones (optional) to put in the dish and a hanging bell. Also print out your cleansing chant and keep it with the kit. I found mine on Pinterest but the chants are personal and should be chosen by the individual getting the cleansing.

How do you do a sage cleansing? First, light the sage stick until it starts smoking and beginning at the entry of your home walk clockwise around each room fanning the smoke as you go. I have someone alongside me ringing the bell and chanting a cleansing prayer. Work your way through every room in your home, re-lighting the sage stick as needed, until you are back where you started. Also, cleanse any people and pets who live in the home. Hopefully, once you are done, you will feel a sense of peace and serenity in your space.

Finally, hang the bell on the inside of your front door to attract money into your home and keep away evil spirits.

*Ceramic or pottery dishes are flame proof which is why they are the best. You can also use a wood bowl but put sand or stones in the bottom.

Resources: Sage smudge stick, ceramic dish and hanging bell (Hollyhocks on Main).


Spring Fever

It has been a cooler Spring than normal here on Chincoteague Island and we’ve had several weeks of daffodils and tulips wafting in the wind (blowing sideways sometimes) while hellebores, forsythia and red buds bloom in tandem. It’s been quite the color show… and now peonies are beginning their star turn right in time for Mothers Day weekend.

The Hollyhocks inspiration board for Spring 2018 features vivid colors in the form of painted furniture, art work, fabrics and lots of flowers. I love the color combination of hot pink, coral and yellow juxtaposed with chartreuse green. And, as you can see, adding in pops of turquoise really makes a statement. The overall message is that if you fill your home with enough flowers (whether real or in the form of images) you will be transported to a magic garden.

This is also the time for a good Spring cleaning and cleansing of your home after being cooped up all winter long (see Feng Shui Journey) and if it’s still too chilly to garden, bring a few pots of geraniums or begonias home from the nursery and set them around until it’s warm enough to plant outside.

Spring has sprung and I am ready!


Go Bold!

Pantone’s 2018 color of the year is Ultra Violet, a deep, dark purple. Think Beaujolais, velvet drapes and ripe figs. Coincidentally, I’ve been trying to introduce a little purple into my life. I got lavender eye glasses to spark up my minimalist wardrobe of white, black and gray. I even bought purple and gray tennis shoes to tie it altogether. It’s funny, I want to spend all my time obsessing about home decor, not clothes. If they made adult giranimals or PJ’s in durable, outdoor fabrics, I’d be all in… but I digress.

So how do we incorporate this rich, vibrant color into our lives? I mean, we don’t have to, I just thought it would be fun to try.

The obvious way is through flowers. Orchids, cyclamen and African Violets come to mind. Beautiful house plants that bloom year round make winter a little better! We have 8″ of snow and temperatures are bitter cold, so a hot house atmosphere is greatly appreciated. I have them on our enclosed porch, supplemented by a space heater and an aromatherapy diffuser adding much needed humidity.

There are other subtle ways to bring ultra violet into your life from blackberries to cut flowers to crystals to pretty lanterns… think of it as a way to bring joy into your environment. Ultra violet also goes well with fuchsia, tangerine and bright green. All bold colors that will spark liveliness and creativity in your day to day life whether you incorporate them in little ways or in big splashes.

This year, find your inner bohemian and let her/him out in a million ways… from your home to your garden and yes, even your wardrobe. Happy 2018!


The Art of Nesting

Winter, just after Christmas, is the perfect time for nesting. It’s cold outside and we are chilling inside, super happy there are no outdoor chores left to do! I am particular about putting away the holiday decorations. I have an assortment of pretty boxes and carefully wrap up my precious bits and bobs and tuck them away, all ready to be opened and admired next year.

Then it’s time for some dusting and vacuuming and putting things back to normal. For me, it’s pretty easy because I don’t like to move the furniture around to accommodate trees and such. But isn’t it grand when everything is put back in its place and the house looks really big and sort of… empty? Hmmmm. Time to fix that.

Like a busy little squirrel, I start moving the small table top objects all around, adding in the ones that were given to me as gifts. Upstairs, downstairs, in the living room, on the porch… I like to have candles sprinkled around so they provide a pretty glow at night, so I place a few in every room, at different heights. Sprinkle, sprinkle I go. Now, the big picture. What do I need to add, subtract or move to give the room a fresh, new look?

Always shop your house first and try to use what you have in new, creative ways. Especially family heirlooms and mementos. It’s such a joy to be surrounded by the things you love. I like to hang a variety of items from art to photography to cigar box guitars up the stairwell, it’s your own personal gallery as you climb the stairs each day. And place something interesting at the top and bottom of the stairs. A console and a mirror or a painting that has special meaning. A bowl full of seashells or rocks you have collected on trips. Vintage postcards or black and white photos tucked into an old shutter sitting or hanging nearby. The variations are endless and exciting!

This is a also good time to arrange your plants in a bright, sunny window near a comfortable chair so you can admire them. I like to place them in a grouping so you have the effect of a mini forest. Set an inspiration stone or sharing shell among them. Now it’s time to sit and daydream about the coming year… but wait, I have another idea!

Resources: candles, console table, mirror, picture frames, vintage postcards and inspiration stones (Hollyhocks on Main).

Hygge Your Holiday

We recently had our cottage on the Chincoteague Island Homes for the Holidays Tour and we decorated it for the season following simple Hygge principles. Here are some of the guidelines we followed to easily and inexpensively decorate our house for the holidays.

1. Place the decorations in and around your existing footprint. In other words, don’t re-arrange your whole house to accommodate Christmas trees, Santas, reindeers, etc. I have a small spot at the base of our stairs and found a super narrow pre-lit tree that fits perfectly and holds my collection of sun, moon and star ornaments. We wrapped greenery around the bannister and hung a few stockings, pine cones and wood ornaments to complete the look.

2. Sprinkle fairy lights, candles and Mercury glass all over the house. It draws your eye around the room and creates a pretty, twinkling glow at night. We hung a string of lights over our bed, put a few LED, battery operated light strings on tables and clustered Mercury glass votives on a mirrored tray. We also tied vintage ornaments to our kitchen light fixture and hung copper bells from the chandelier on the front porch.

3. Add in a few pops of color with fresh flowers. We have a vivid purple orchid on our porch and an amaryllis bulb in our kitchen window. The waxed amaryllis bulbs are fairly inexpensive, don’t need to be potted or watered and make great hostess gifts over the holidays. A table covered with plants by a sunny window with a bowl of colored glass ornaments makes a gorgeous display. And don’t forget lots of apples, oranges and lemons in the kitchen.

4. Mulled wine or cider simmering away in the crockpot or on the stove, helps create the smells of the season. For mulled wine, mix together a bottle of red wine, 2 cups of apple cider, the zest and juice of an orange, 1/4 cup of honey, some cinnamon sticks and whole cloves and 1/4 cup of brandy. Serve warm with ginger snap cookies. If you don’t have a live tree, burn a pine scented candle for an hour or two every evening.

5. Finally, get out the Christmas music or put Christmas Jazz on Pandora, light a fire and your favorite scented candle, put on your comfy cozies and snuggle in with your loved ones and furry friends. Time to relax and take a deep breath!

Resources: Christmas trees (H&H Furniture), string lights (World Market), Amaryllis bulbs (Lowe’s), LED lights, Mercury glass votives, Rainbow twist bells, Balsam Fir and Cinnamon Spice candles (Hollyhocks).