Nature-Inspired Color Schemes

Hot Pink Hawaii

Sometimes the inspiration for a color scheme is just outside the door. Mother Nature has a way of knowing what colors just work together, doesn’t she?

Recently I had the chance to visit the botanical gardens at the Kaua’i Marriott Resort at Kalapaki Bay on Kauai, Hawaii. The gardens are the largest on the island and include a massive koi pond—also the largest on Kauai. In between rain showers I wandered along its paths and although not everything was in bloom (I missed the fragrant tirare flowers by a few days) I was stuck by the vivid hot pink and green color scheme of many of the flowers and plants.

From a tropical variety of geranium (top left) to the fuchsia-into-purple leaves of the ti plant (bottom right), the vibrant color is set off by lush greens. A pink ornamental banana plant (top right) offered a change from the usual yellow variety. An interesting variegated leafy plant (whose name was not identified, lower left) showed that pink and green are a natural and effortless combination.

I could see this combination in a fun powder room or a teen girl’s bedroom. Mixed with warm gold and black accents, it could also be the basis of an eclectic living room!


Hawaii koi 2

As I was leaving the gardens, I had to stop and marvel at the variety of color in the koi pond, from creamy ivory to golden yellow and striking fiery orange, all set on a backdrop of deep blue. It’s a very rich palette, perfect for an elegant dining room or even a bedroom as it combines the calming qualities of blue with the cheeriness of orange.

So the next time you’re stuck on a color scheme for your home, get out of the house and see what nature might inspire in you!


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5 Tips to Clean Off Your Desk


The second Monday of January is “Clean Off Your Desk Day” and although its exact origins are unknown, it’s not hard to guess why we need to designate a day to clearing the clutter from our workspaces. Most of us feel unorganized and tell ourselves we need to make an effort to “get organized”—a perennial and popular New Year’s resolution.

The start of a new year, just getting back into the swing of things at the office, is the perfect time to begin again with our good intentions towards keeping a clean and organized desk.

And yet, setting aside one day for what can feel like an insurmountable task feels somehow unrealistic. So here are 5 tips to use Clean Off Your Desk Day as a starting point to a more clutter-free, organized and efficient work space.

1. Schedule time to work on your desk. One of the most common excuses for keeping a cluttered work space is not having enough time. Ironically, the busier we are the more important it is to be organized. An Office Max Work Space Organization Survey (2011) revealed that 90 percent of Americans feel that being unorganized has a negative impact on their productivity, state of mind, motivation, happiness and even their professional image.

Therefore, make an appointment with yourself to clear some clutter from your desk. Put your phone on “do not disturb” and give yourself that time. It can be as little as 15 minutes or all day. The amount of time doesn’t matter as much as the activity. Just getting started can help motivate you to keep going. Then make a reoccurring appointment every week to stay on top of clutter before it’s back to feeling insurmountable.

2. Use a system to sort the contents of your desktop. Many years ago when I was fresh out of college I purchased a Franklin planner to use for my daily schedule, and I signed up for a seminar on how to get the most from the planner. During that course, I learned a simple but effective system for cleaning off my desk that I’ve used ever since. It’s TAF – Trash, Action, or File.

Before getting started, it’s a good idea to create areas for each of these categories. It could be a space on the floor or an empty bin or box. Nearly everything will fit into one of the three categories.

TRASH – The no-brainers here are things that no longer work, are broken, or expired. Where it gets more complicated is knowing what to keep and what to toss. This is the #1 challenge to work space organization cited in the Office Max survey.

For work papers, always consult your company’s recordkeeping policies and any applicable state or local laws and professional rules on document retention. For home and personal papers, use this handy chart to help determine what needs to stay and what can go.

Anything that you no longer need but is still in working order can be allocated to a separate “donate” bin or pile rather than trashing it.

ACTION – Lost in the sea of papers on your desk might be time-sensitive documents that require a response or some other action. If you need to remind yourself what action needs to be taken, put a sticky note on the document (I put it in the upper right corner) with the action and date, if applicable. Current projects go in the action pile.

And what about all those newsletters, reports and articles you’ve been meaning to read? One system that might work for you is to create a separate “TO READ” file and write a “read by” date on the article. Then schedule time each week (or each day) to read something from that file. The next time you’re doing a clean out, if the article is past its read by date, then chances are it’s really not that interesting or important to you and it can go in the trash.

FILE – In my office, this is always the biggest pile! For purposes of cleaning off the desktop, anything that is not part of a current project or doesn’t require action goes in the file pile. This includes reference materials and notes that can be stored. If you have someone helping with you filing, make a note in pencil in the upper right corner of the document where it goes.

The bigger task here is usually creating a filing and storage system that makes sense for your home or office and then creating a time to actually file things away and maintain the system. For now, we’re just getting these things off your desk.

One final tip while using TAF: stand up when sorting your desktop. It’s an active position, whereas sitting down you’re more apt to open that magazine and start reading or reminisce about the event where that photo was taken. When you’re standing, you’re in action mode.

3. Dust and clean your desk. I’m always amazed at where dust can collect! Even if you don’t have time to sort through all of the piles and stuff on your desk today, take a moment to dust, clean and polish your desk. (Move the piles if you have to and clean under them.) Microfiber cloths and Swiffer® dusters are perfect for this. If your desk is wood, apply an appropriate oil or polish. I make a ritual of cleaning off and oiling my teak desk twice a year and it always gives me a lift to know I’m prolonging the life and beauty of one of my favorite pieces.

4. Think of your desk like the cockpit of a plane. The top of your desk and the top drawer are the most precious pieces of real estate in your office. Be mindful when arranging your desktop. Think about HOW and HOW OFTEN you use an item. Does it really need to be in easy reach?

The only items that should permanently live on your desktop are those things that are essential to your daily tasks as well as a few items to inspire you such as flowers or family photos. Your desktop is for working, creating and inspiring—not storage. Any non-essential items such as old notebooks, files, that box of 2,000 staples and the like should be stored elsewhere.

Of course while you’re working on a project, things will collect on your desk like files, papers, samples and what not. One of the most important steps in keeping your desk clutter-free is to remove those things when the project is complete, or better yet, when you’re done working with them for the day. Consider open boxes or trays to keep project-specific paraphernalia contained and place it on a credenza or bookcase when not in active use. I used this trick when I worked as an attorney, lining one wall of my office with active files.

5. Give yourself permission to take more than a day. As they say, Rome wasn’t made in a day, and chances are your desk won’t be clutter free and pristine in a day. Particularly if you’re fitting in some organizing time into your workday calendar. Take the pressure off yourself to “get it done” and realize that organizing isn’t an event, it’s a process. It can take time to find a system and a flow that works for you, your work style and your life.

Congratulations! You’ve taken a huge step towards a more clutter-free and productive workspace. For more tips on creating an inspiring and enjoyable office, grab my free resource “5 Essentials for Home Office” success here.



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How to Apply Window Film

Here’s a great idea to hide unwanted messiness in any cabinet with glass doors.

Windo film

I’m using Gila Window Film in bronze to coordinate with the brown tone of a media unit that I re-purposed into more of a display area for my client. The former home of media components is now used for storage, and we wanted to mask that. Here’s the before photo:

Cabinet 1

A frosted window film would work great, too! See what’s available in your local hardware store or home improvement center.

Click on the video for a quick how-to:

For about $25 for both the film and the application kit, it gives a whole new look to the cabinet, and there’s plenty of leftover supplies to work on other pieces.

Here are the after photos:

cabinet 2

cabinet 3

My client is really happy with the new display area and is using the now-opaque glass doors for more storage. This was an easy process and a great way to re-purpose a display cabinet.

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The $100 Decorating Challenge: Guest Bath

Guest bath before

Recently I was collecting towels from the guest bathroom to launder them, and I looked around the room. The tub was still sporting its Valentine’s Day shower curtain and valance (shock! horror!) and it just seemed … jumbled with accessories. Cheerful colors, but it felt disjointed.

Ah ha! It was suffering an identity crisis.

The guest bathroom has evolved over the years culminating with new Italian porcelain flooring that I had installed last November. But I hadn’t updated other elements of the room to flow with the feel of the more sophisticated, spa-like floor.

I’ve known for a while that I’ve wanted to update the shower curtain. The “everyday” ensemble that is usually in place from March to October is one I made nearly 20 years ago. But it never really fit this tub and shower enclosure which is a foot taller than the standard 72-inch shower curtain. So I was determined to find drapery panels that I could use as a shower curtain, since they would be longer and would still conceal the basic vinyl shower liner.

On a recent trip to Target I found “the one” – a design and color that inspired a more tranquil, spa-like feel. Done and done. I gave myself $100 out of the house kitty and embarked on a “$100 Decorating Challenge.” The drapes took nearly half the budget, but their style (and importance in the room) was well worth it.

I replaced nearly every decorative element in the room. After a thorough cleaning and decluttering (most of the accessories went bye-bye), I purchased the new drapes/shower curtain, plus a shower rod, accent paint, bath products, wastebasket, wash cloths, tub mat and rug. I ended up spending $109—a $10 clearance rug was the perfect texture and color and I just couldn’t pass it up, even though it put me over budget. (The tax deduction for the items I donated to Goodwill as part of the decluttering will more than cover the overage.)

Other items such as the towels, artwork, candles and accessories were brought in from other rooms. Here’s the after photo!

Guest bath after

I love it and I hope my guests will, too. Here’s a tour of the room ….

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In addition to the drapery panels ($24.99 each, Target), the shower curtain rod was updated to a brushed nickel finish ($12.99 Home Goods) to coordinate with the grommets in the panels. I also hung the rod just outside the tiled enclosure and found it gives a more polished look to the tub area. The wall color stayed the same, although I will probably update it within the year.

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The vinyl liner remained, but a fluffy new tub mat ($9.99, Bed Bath and Beyond) will feel cushy stepping out of the shower.

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Guests will enjoy new luxe body wash (and a basket of amenities I stashed under the sink).

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The area over the toilet was a confused mess of decorative shelves and knick-knacks. I removed the small shelves, painted the shelf a shade called “Twig” ($4.99, Target) and added simple white tealights from my inventory. Then I hung a poster I found in France in 1993, that had been hanging in the garage. The artwork adds just the right drama and color.

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Across the room, I re-used the existing brushed nickel frames (and hung them more securely and straight!), replacing the images with pages from an old Paris calendar with dramatic black mats from another room. The white bath towels I already had on hand, while the hand towels are borrowed from the master bath.

Guest bath new 0814 023

The tired orange rug (that didn’t wash well the last time I laundered it) has been replaced by a super soft rug ($10, Home Goods) in a shade I’d call “Malted.” It’s not white, it’s not tan – it’s like the lightest whisper of the hue in the shower curtain.

Vanity top: before

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One of my favorite transformations is the vanity top.

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The colors for the accessories were chosen from the Paris calendar prints. Alstromeria in tall, slender vases frame the sink and are a lovely addition when I have overnight guests.

Guest bath new 0814 043

When I was cleaning out the linen closet, I found a bunch of fancy soaps that I’ve received as gifts or picked up over the years. Unwrapped and piled into an apothecary jar, they are the perfect accessory for a spa-like bath. The jar also brings much needed height, whereas in the “before” photo, there was no variety in the height of the vanity accessories.

With the jar, I’ve grouped a Himalayan salt candle and whimsical porcelain dish to use a jewelry tray.

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New, fluffy white wash cloths ($2.00 each, Home Goods) sit in a pretty silver and mother-of-pearl bowl from the kitchen, while a silver-framed greeting directs guests to bath necessities.

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I’m glad this art glass soap dispenser fits with the new decor. It’s possibly my favorite thing from the “old” guest bath.

Guest bath new 0814 014

One thing absent: tissues! I could not find a suitable tissue box cover, so I’m keeping the tissues under the sink. (Anyone who visits my house is now on notice!) If I find the right box cover at a good price, I’ll add it later. But for now, I like the look of the candles on the shelf!

My goal for this room was to create a tranquil yet functional space for overnight guests to feel like they’re in a hotel. I think I achieved that. This is the new “everyday” look, although I’m already thinking how to add a bit of holiday color for the Christmas season. What can I say? I’m incorrigible on that count.

So how about you?? Is there a room in your house that could use a $100 makeover? I hope these changes will inspire you to create a look that is uniquely you, reusing what you can and shopping smart! Please post your challenge room and results on the Facebook page!

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Decorating for the Senses: Sight

This is part of a series on Decorating for the Senses. Previously we went in-depth on the sense of smell with aromatherapy.

When we think of interior design, the sense that is probably first to mind is sight. How a room looks plays an enormous part in the human experience of the room. (Duh, right?) That’s what we spend the most time on, isn’t it? Putting together furniture, fixtures and finishes so it’s pleasing to the eye.

One of the most important aspect of that overall design plan that can greatly impact the look and feel of a room is color. Color is light, and light is energy that is received by the eye and transmitted to the brain and translated into what we perceive as red, blue, or lavender. Every color has a distinct frequency that has both a psychological effect and a physiological effect on the body.

When thinking about the functionality of a space –how it’s used by the person living or working there – it’s important to match the color effect to the function. For example, red literally raises one’s blood pressure and increases energy. It’s also the color of love and passion, so it’s little wonder why a lot of people think, hey, this is great for the bedroom!

But ask yourself – is raising blood pressure and generating excitement conducive to getting a peaceful night’s sleep? (The “other” primary purpose of a bedroom after all.) Not really. That’s why I say, “no red in the bed” and use red very sparingly as an accent color. I would recommend against painting all four bedroom walls red or having red sheets.

With the sense of sight in mind, here’s a handy chart of colors, their effect on the mind and the bod, as well as optimal uses in your room design plans.

Color Cues rev

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How to Style a Bookcase

“A home without books is a body without soul,” or so said Roman philosopher Cicero more than two millennia ago. For me, the same holds true today. I love books. I can’t help it. I “wrote” my first book when I was in nursery school (okay, so it was a scratch pad with squiggly lines and stick figures) and was a typical bookworm in school.

I have a lot of books. And the bookcases in my home office were looking a bit, well, crowded, to say the least. So in an effort to make the bookshelves more functional and a bit more stylish, I started to thin out the collection a bit last year and added a few accessories to the shelves. This is how one of the bookcases looked in April 2013:

Yard and office 0413 054

And after my first try of at a bit fewer books and photos, and a little more style:

Bookcase and lavender 0614 008

Still, it looked dark and lifeless.

Last week I showed you how I lightened up the back of the bookcase with Devine Color® wallcovering from Target. This week it’s all about putting the books back on the shelves and adding some personal touches to keep it interesting. Here are the 5 steps to styling a bookcase:


Take all the books off the shelves, setting aside any books that you’d like to purge. (Tip: Donate your unwanted books to your local library or charity.) Then, scan the titles to see what categories naturally emerge. Categories might include general reading, biographies, literature and any special interests you might have. Anything with five or more books is its own category. Here are my categories, to give you an idea.

Classics & Poetry
General reading (trade paperbacks)
Gift Giving
Health & Healing
Personal finance
Politics & Economics
Spiritual growth

That might seem like a lot of categories, but that’s the level of breakdown that makes sense to me. You may have more or less categories, or you may sort your books alphabetically by title or author. Do what makes sense to you.


Once you have your categories established, you’ll have a sense of how much shelf space each category will need. Then simply designate shelf space for each category. Put the most frequently used books at eye level; that’s the most valuable shelf space. Think about how the most popular brands are front and center on grocery store shelves and more generic brands are towards the bottom. Same principle applies here.

Here’s where personal preference comes in: how to stack the books. Now, library purists will advocate the straight row approach with little or no accessories “in the way.”

If you’d like a more interesting looking bookcase, then vary the way the books are stacked on the shelves. Here’s a pin from one of my Pinterest boards with seven ways to stack books. Be creative! By mixing up the look, it will give the bookcase a more dynamic, inviting appearance.


Let’s face it: all books are NOT created equal. What I noticed with my book collection is that the foreign language dictionaries and some travel guides were small and kind of busy looking on the shelf. So I stashed them all in this pretty box that I found at Home Goods for $8. I also have some sheet music and music books that I used a magazine file to keep them together, and two more decorative boxes for notebooks and odds and ends. It just gives the shelves a neater appearance.

Bookcase and lavender 0614 010


If a row of books stops anywhere but the other side of the bookcase, you’ll need a bookend to keep the books upright. Of course you can purchase bookends at many retail stores, but think outside the box on this one. Anything that is hefty enough and tall enough can be a bookend.

Bookcases 027

On my bookcase, I’ve used a Chinese statue (above), a short stack of books turned sideways and a mercury glass vase. The point is, it doesn’t have to be a traditional bookend. Be creative here; this is a great place to let your personality and interests shine.


Yay! The fun part! Select a few accessories to display on the shelves with your books. Don’t let it get too cluttered looking, or place accessories in front of frequently used tomes. Otherwise you’ll have to move the pieces every time you need the book. I have just a few meaningful photos and figurines, along with a few pieces of mercury glass for a little sparkle and shine. This is the finished product:

Bookcases 018

I hope you find these tips and the video useful! Please post photos of your bookcase re-dos on the Facebook page.

© 2014 By Dsign Omnimedia, LLC. All rights reserved.

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