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Before & After: Cozy Breakfast Nook

Once upon a time we saw a breakfast nook that didn’t look very inviting, but we loved the gorgeous big windows looking out at the backyard and we knew it had to brought back to life.  So, this is what happened:

Before & After: Cozy Breakfast Nook

Like the rest of the house, the breakfast nook was taken down to the studs, but the bones of it are essentially the same.  We replaced the windows and swapped out the vinyl floor so that it would flow continously from living room through to the kitchen and on to the breakfast nook.  To get a sense of how the spaces flow together see here.    But this is essentially a decorating story, with two main players: the antique French table from the late 1800s and the gallery wall.

Before & After: Cozy Breakfast Nook

Before & After: Cozy Breakfast Nook

The table has been in my family for as long as I can remember.  It has traveled with us to various cities and continents, and along the way has played many parts including dressing table, study desk and kitchen prep area.  If you look at the wood top you can see the table has lived, a few wine stains here, a coffee cup ring there. I love this table. I have so many memories associated with this table that I am glad it has found an central place in our new home.

Before & After: Cozy Breakfast Nook

The second important feature of the space is the gallery wall. It has been up for a while and really came into existence because I wanted to minimize the presence of the small TV. I love looking at this wall as each piece was collected in a different place: a flea market in London, a vide grenier in the Périgord, an estate sale in Berkeley, a flea market in Paris, and one print by my artistic brother (the nude in the top right).  The pieces are all so different in style and medium, but happily coexist on one wall.  So much history packed into one little space!

But the banquette is really what made this area of the house come to life.  Hubby looked at various designs online and built the two banquettes in one weekend. Ultimately he decided that it was best to keep the design simple and use a piano hinge to lift the top lid. We also had to create an internal box to vent the heating out of the the banquette.  The banquettes fit the space and suit our needs perfectly.

diy breakfast banquette

We envisioned that banquettes would enable the space to function like this, and we were right.  The perfect place for the kids and their friends to gather.

Breakfast Nook _23 copy

Notice something missing?  A seat cushion.  It wasn’t until a month ago that I got reacquainted with sewing and was finally able to sew two custom box cushions.  For how to make a box cushion see here. I chose a Japanese oilcloth.  I wanted something that would be easy to wipe down so oilcloth seemed like a good choice, but traditional oilcloth was not the look I was going for. Luckily I found some Japanese fabric in neutral gray with a subtle pattern. Perfect. I haven’t sewn in 25 years, so I’m quite pleased with the result.

Before & After: Cozy Breakfast NookBefore & After: Cozy Breakfast Nook

I wanted to juxtapose the vintage pieces with a touch of industrial.  I knew I had a winner with the Victory Pendant Lamp.  The chairs are reproduction of the Emeco navy chairs. The bookshelf is similar to this and is the perfect place for our vast cookbook collection.

Breakfast Nook _19 copy

Since this space is adjacent to the kitchen, I decided that regular bookends wouldn’t do and instead used an old Le Creuset pot, and a large, heavy yellow mixing bowl.

Breakfast Nook _17 copy

The last finishing touch was the bamboo roman shades (mine are Singapore Oak). The blinds took forever to get made, but they do fit perfectly in the space.

They say the kitchen is the heart of the home, for us, our breakfast nook is the heart of our home.


Jackie - I hadn’t seen the before picture before. Wow. What a visionary you toe are. It’s a beautiful sanctuary just like the rest of your home.

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Celebrate: Cool, Modern Thanksgiving Placecards

Thanksgiving is just around the corner.  If you’re still looking for an easy, DIY way to personalize your Holiday table, I’ve rounded up my top 5 favorite ideas for cool, modern Thanksgiving Placecards.  That’s in addition my super easy 5 minute DIY placecards I wrote about a couple of weeks ago.

Cool Modern Thanksgiving Placecards

Clockwise: Gold Dipped Pear Placecards; Rosemary Sprig Placecards; Gold Leaf Placecard; Wheat Placecards; Pumpkin Placecard.

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In The Mood: Modern Casual Coastal Living Room

I’m helping a friend redesign/rethink the use of space in her house.  She’s planning a major kitchen remodel in the next few months, but also wants to freshen up her bathrooms and give the other rooms a breath of fresh air. I’ve put together a mood board for their living room.  Like most living rooms it has to serve multiple purposes, in their case it needs to be: 1) a space for adult entertaining, 2) a kid friendly space, 3) a place for overnight guests, 4) a place to watch TV, and also 5) an office space.

The space is a good size and gets great light but is shy on storage and with so many uses for the space, I feel that every piece needs to do double duty.  So, here are my ideas for a Modern Casual Coastal Living Room.

Modern Casual Coastal

Clockwise: Rustic Modular Media Console from West Elm; Rattan Chair from Ikea;  Carved Coffee Table from World Market: Karnes Queen Sofa Sleeper from Crate & Barrel; Mercury Glass Table Lamp from Target; Rustic Storage Desk from West Elm;  Blue Diamond Ikat Storage Ottoman from Target; Havana Pillow Cover from Serena & Lily; Indigo Lumbar Pillow from Dara Artisans; Denley Floor Lamp from Crate & Barrel.

Why I did I choose these pieces? What I like about the Rustic Console is that it offers both open and closed storage, that way you can display some nice books, but put away the kids’ toys. The Sleeper Sofa is narrow at just 71″ but it has a queen mattress; the arms are slim and modern, but the back is high enough so that you can really sink into it. The Rattan Chair is light both in terms of weight so it can easily be moved around to accommodate overnight guests in the sofa bed, but also light in that they don’t take up a lot of visual space; this is important as you want to be able to easily see past them to the adjoining dining room and retain a sense of openness. The Rustic Desk serves as a console/sofa table, but has enough surface to act as a desk along with invisible storage for pens and papers.  What’s also great about the desk is that there is no shelf or support bar going horizontally across the bottom, that way these storage ottomans can easily tuck in. The ottomans then serve not only as additional storage for toys or blankets, but work as seating for the desk.  The coffee table is not so multifunctional, but I like the additional texture it lends to the room. Also, while I wanted to room to be modern, I felt it needed to be warm and approachable which I achieved by mixing materials, patterns and texture, while also balancing harder straight lines with curves.

I’m pretty happy with what I came up with.  What do you think?

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Out and About: Distillery Tasting

St. George Distillery

A couple of weeks ago, Hubby and I went to a distillery tasting. This wasn’t on the original agenda for our Year of Dates, but when opportunities arise, you have to improvise. Neither of us are big drinkers, but it’s always interesting to see how things are made, especially when they are made with thought and attention to detail.

St. George Spirits is a small batch, craft distillery, located right here in the Bay Area.  Hubby and I laugh at current buzzwords like “craft”, “artisanal”, “curated” as they reek of hipster-dom and sure enough we saw plenty of plaid shirts and intricate facial hair.  But, moving beyond the hipster element, we got to enjoy and learn about a cool process and brand, from fruit to bottle.

St. George DistillerySt. George DistillerySt. George DistillerySt. George Distillery

We were lucky to be visiting at a time when thousands of pounds of organic Bartlett pears were waiting to be transformed into spirits, so the whole warehouse smelled of sweets pears.  The tasting was lead but some very personable and  informative Spirits Masters.  The tasting included two gins, one rum, two liqueurs and… absinthe.  Never been much of a gin person myself so I’m not a good judge of it, but I really liked the liqueurs we tasted.

It was a fun way to spend time together, exploring a less expected part of what the Bay Area has to offer. I would definitely go back with out of town guests because of top of a fine product, they have a sense of humor and a killer view of the whole Bay.

St. George Distillery

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DIY: 5 Minute Modern Thanksgiving Placecards

Modern DIY 5 min placecards

I didn’t grow up celebrating Thanksgiving, but I LOVE Thanksgiving.  What’s not to love when you spend your day eating good food with people you care about?  But Thanksgiving can be stressful.  There are so many dishes to prepare, a Turkey to keep a watchful eye on, all while making sure that everyone is enjoying themselves.  So, when it comes to setting the table for Thanksgiving, I feel that it’s best to keep it simple and minimize any additional stress.  Last year I did my impression of calligraphy on some fallen leaves and used them as place cards.  Simple.  Effective. The floral arrangement was a beautiful decorative cabbage in a deep shades of emerald and fuschia.  This year I want my vintage plates to take center stage but I want to complement them with a cool, modern DIY placecards.

5 min DIY modern placecards


How To:

1) Go to your local nursery (or hardware store with a good succulent selection) and select an assortment of plants.  My plant pots are about 3″.  I decided to choose a variety of succulents with different colors, textures and leaf formations. But you could also choose just one variety for consistency, or two varieties and alternate them on the table. I think your final decision should be driven by the plants that are available, because you want them to be healthy and plump.

2) Remove all labels from the plastic pots.  I thought this step was going to be more of a pain, but in fact the labels were the slightly plastic kind, so they peeled off very easily.

3) Remove your succulents from their pots and set aside.

4) Take your clean/dry mini pots outside (or to a well ventilated space).  Invert them on to some scrap cardboard and spray paint them evenly.  Don’t spray too fast, or to close or you could get drips.  Check you spray paint for best use directions.  I used a champagne mist colored metallic paint from Rustoleum, but your color selection should be

5) Let dry.  Once dry, put the succulents back in their pots, and water them.  They are succulents so don’t need to get watered often, but it is best to get them watered before you actually need them.  Last watering should be 1-2 days before you use them on the table so that you don’t get any water dripping from the bottom.

6) Place namecards among the leaves.  I printed my name cards using this font, on simple kraft paper for a rustic look.

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