Kitchen Tile Decisions

The most common question I get asked as a designer is what tile should be put in a kitchen?  There are two questions to ask yourself when choosing tile.  First, will the tile I choose stand the test of time in a well-used kitchen?  And, will your family’s lifestyle match the finish you choose?    Here’s the low-down on the most popular tiles, and their pros and cons:


Pro: The most common and least expensive option is ceramic tile.  It is durable and will hold up to heat from hot pots, and is easy to clean and maintain.

Con: Ceramic tile can be uneven and it can easily crack or chip.


Pro:  Looks beautiful and adds a luxurious look.  It stands up to heat from pots and dishes, and is waterproof.

Con:  Marble is a pricier option.  It is porous, so stains easily and can scratch and may requiring re-sealing periodically making which can be costly to maintain.  But, likely the biggest complaint I have with this material is that it is not resistant to acid.  So, it will stain if it comes in contact with any acid fruit or vegetable, even soft drinks!


Pro:  Granite is less costly now that it has become more widespread. Granite adds an elegant look to a kitchen, and it holds up to heat well.  It comes in a large range of colors too!

Con: Some granite stones can absorb stains if not sealed.


Pro: Wood countertops offer a beautiful warm look, and are available in a wide range of colors and finishes.  Wood is easy to clean and smooth.

Con: Wood requires maintenance with sanding and re-sealing, as needed.  Wood can be damaged by water and stains over time.  Requires regular oiling depending on wood type, and manufacturers recommendations.


Pro:  Comes in a wide range of colors and creates a luxurious look.  Quartz is slightly harder and heavier and so has a non-porous surface that resists scratches and takes to heat well.  It’s easy to maintain and doesn’t require regular re-sealing, and is resistant to stain and acid.  So go ahead and slice that lemon or lime, or spill a soft drink on this stone, it won’t change a thing!  Our favorite is

Con: Quartz can be costly.


5 cheap and easy ways to update your kitchen

For most, when it comes to home remodels, the kitchen is at the top of the list.  Weather you’ve lived in your home for years or just got pick up the keys, here are few easy and simple ways to get the refresh you desire without having to sacrifice your style or your budget.




The easiest and least expensive way to give a tired kitchen an instant refresh is to paint the cabinet doors.  White is clean and classic, but you can add a punch of your favorite color to add drama and interest.

Handles and knobs

Changing out the hardware will give your kitchen an instant makeover.  Update the look by selecting a simple style and finish that is newer and more up-to-date.  We opted for a brushed bronze finish.


Lighting and accessories

Lighting is an important element in any room, and this one change can completely transform your entire space.  We like, and for their styles, selection and affordability.  The personal touches you add will bring the room together in a style all your own!


Replace the backsplash

This is an easy to tackle area that won’t break the bank.  It’s also a very simple DIY project.  Many hardware stores like and offer complimentary classes and have an impressive selection of tiles to choose from.


Replace the counter-tops

This is less expensive than you think.  And, when set against your newly painted cabinets and backsplash, your kitchen will look amazing!!



Happy remodeling!!




Spring Sprucing

Does anyone remember the days of ‘Spring cleaning’?  My mom was a master spring cleaner, and every year she enlisted our help.  Everything was cleaned… walls, curtains, windows, even the baseboards.  Furniture was either moved to clean underneath, re-arranged or replaced.  Cupboards were re-organized, and carpets and rugs steamed.  You knew Spring had sprung when you heard the sound of birds chirping once again outside your window, while the aromatic scent of Pine-sol moved through the air.  Truth is, the tradition of cleaning the house of the last dregs of winter is one that never gets old.  And, while I may not go to the extent of taking down the curtains (okay I confess, I have) here are a few simple Spring sprucing tips to give your home an instant makeover and a refreshed new look.





My curtains were an elegant addition to my home, but were often neglected.   The look was so lovely when I first put them up, but I didn’t realize was how much dust and dirt they would collect, especially with little kids.  This Spring I decided to part with them, and couldn’t believe the difference it made to the space.  Our family room is so much open and brighter, allowing more light in the room.  We appreciate the view so much more too!






I love throw cushions, because they add the perfect finishing touch to a room or sofa.  Color trends and patterns are forever changing, and adding a few new throw cushions to an existing sofa is a quick and inexpensive way to instantly update a room.  We love these selections at:






De-clutter- use it or lose it:

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De-clutter – use it or lose it:


Spring reminds us of the importance of simplicity.  My mother used say: “there should be a place for everything”.  Say goodbye to items that you don’t have a place for, have multiples of, or haven’t used used for some time.  For more tips on styling your cherished items:







Flowers add instant beauty to a room, and give us that wonderful reminder that Summer is just around the corner. Whatever your style, flowers are the perfect way to add beauty and warmth, and helps to create a space that reflects your personality.


Adding new books to your decor can instantly change a room’s look and feel.  I like to stack books that are within similar color palettes, and add florals to create a refreshing vignette.  For more ideas visit:




Happy sprucing!


St. Patty’s Day

When you think back to your favorite childhood memories, chances are you think of food or better yet, your grandmother’s food!  Those were the days when ingredients were whole, and preparing foods was simple and a no-fuss process. One of my fondest memories of my childhood was being in the kitchen with with grandmother watching her cook timeless classics that were loved by all. She rarely followed a recipe and was never afraid to improvise.  Her food, in a word, comfort!  And, nothing says comfort more than classic Irish stew.  Passed down to her from her mother, my grandmother’s Irish stew is a dish that has been in our family for generations.  While every Irish household has their take on this classic, we wanted share with you ours from the Lynagh family cookbook.  It’s all things classic, comfort and Irish!

Lynagh Family Irish Stew

Servings 4-6


  • 3 pounds lamb shoulder, well-trimmed and cut into 1-1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 ounce of butter
  • 1 yellow onion, cut into 1-1/2-inch
  • 1/4 all purpose of quick mixing flour
  • 2 cups of beef stock
  • ½ cup of chopped parsley
  • 2 bay leaf
  • 1 small sprig of chopped Thyme
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks on diagonal
  • 4 yukon potatoes cubed
  • 4 stalks of celery chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of pearl barley
  • 1 cup frozen green peas

Pat the meat dry and season with salt and pepper.  Drizzle flour over meat and mix together.  In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, cook the onions in oil and butter, on medium-high heat until they are translucent. Add the dried thyme, bay leaves and stir. Add the lamb and brown on a high heat.  Transfer ingredients to a large dutch oven and add carrots, celery, potatoes and pearl barley. Pour in the Beef Stock. Cover and place in the oven to cook for 30min.  After 30min, add stir in frozen peas and parsley cover and cook for an additional 15min until the potatoes and carrots are fork tender.  For thicker consistency, drizzle 2 tablespoons of quick mixing flour and stir.

Serve with the original HP Sauce for added flavor!


St. Patrick’s Day is the national holiday of Ireland and usually celebrated on March 17th.  We here in the United States love celebrating this holiday too! To help you celebrate, I’d like to share with you another favorite way to make this dish.  This version may come a close second to Grandma’s:  



May love and laughter light your days and warm your heart and home. May good and faithful friends be yours wherever you may roam. May peace and plenty bless your world with joy that long endures. May all life’s passing seasons bring the best to you and yours. – The Story Behind this Blessing at In an Irish Home


Design, Desires and Budgets

Congratulations – you just purchased your first home! Or maybe you’re looking to refresh that room that’s in desperate need of a change.  If your design desires appear to be BIGGER than your budget, we’ve got some foolproof tips to get you that look for less without having to wait.


Here are some helpful ways to achieve the look you want without sacrificing quality or your budget.


  1. Reuse items you already have:

There will always be items (even those from your days of crummy-rental apartment living) that you cherish and can work into any space. But, what do you do with those other items you already have that may look dated or tired? Give your old pieces a new lease on life with a few easy changes. Re-purpose that old dresser with some updated hardware and a new place in your home. Sometimes furniture can be completely reinvented by simply moving it to a different room in the house. Re-imagine that bedroom dresser as a dining room hutch with a fresh coat of paint and updated hardware.  

  1. Did we mention paint?:

When refreshing or renovating, paint is always a good place to start.  Nothing will transform a space more than a fresh coat of paint.  Painting the walls is often the easiest and quickest way to refresh a room.  I love the simplicity of white, but keep in mind, there are probably 50 shades or more of white out there, so choose wisely. Trust your tastes and the colors you love. If you love grey and want to incorporate it, go for it, but remember to always consider the mood of the room when selecting your color.  In a bedroom or living room, you may likely opt for more soothing, cooler, neutral colors.  


Conversely, more dramatic colors may be the feeling or mood you want to envelope in social areas like the dining room.  It’s also important to consider the natural lighting in the room, which will show the truest color. Incandescent lighting will bring out warmth, whereas, fluorescent lighting will cast cooler blue tones in a room.  We opted for a soft white in this living room and added soothing neutrals to the rest of the room to create a feeling of warmth, relaxation, and calmness.  This rug from bring it all together nicely.




If you are truly starting from scratch, then you’ll want to get the bigger items of furniture off your list first (e.g., your bed, sofa, and a rug). You’ll want to ensure that these items will be of good quality and stand the test of time.


  1. Shop second hand stores:

Once main larger pieces are in place, it’s time to fill things in and make your space truly yours.  I can’t say enough about second hand stores to help you make that happen. Where else are you gonna find quality one-of-a-kind pieces? Many accessories and furniture items bought today are not made the way they used to be.  We live in a society of mass production, and so, many items we buy nowadays are made in the shortest amount of time possible, sacrificing quality for quantity.  There is no other place to find quality furniture that has stood the test of time than shopping second hand.  


Need more reasons? Choosing second hand furniture allows you to buy higher quality pieces while staying within a lower budget.  More importantly, there’s no better place to borrow than from the classics.  Here, we added a vintage pouf to this living room, giving it a classic and timeless feel.  I also love adding smaller vintage accessories like tea cups, pots, and vases to add a little history and meaning to a space.   


  1. Mix it up:  

Mixing existing items that you own with newer ones can give a room an instant update without breaking the bank.  Simply swapping accessories from one room to another can give a space a much needed shift in look and feel.  And, don’t forget to mix those second hand one-of-a-kind pieces with your newly bought items too. This will help you achieve your design desires while staying within your budget.  Here, we moved a doorway bench into the living room, accessorized it with an updated wall piece, and added a fur rug for texture.  Adding both an unexpected element of function and style.


Buying a home for the first time can be both exciting and nerve-wracking.  You’re not alone.  The exciting part – you now have a space to make all your own!! While prices can seem high to a first time home buyer, there are always ways to save if you know where to look.  Happy decorating!!



A is For Apple


Nothing makes a home feel more homey than the aroma of a freshly made apple pie baking in the oven. Homemade apple pie is one of my simplest pleasures, and for years I have been trying to master the perfect pie recipe. For most apple pie lovers and makers, striking the perfect balance between sweet and tart is anything but easy. And, don’t get me started on pie dough — the thought of making it is enough to send me into a panic!  With so many varieties of apples out there: Honey Crisp, Delicious Red, Winesap, Gala, Northern Spy, Golden Russet and Honey Gold, where does one begin? And then there are apples I never knew existed like Belle de Boskoop and White Transparent. The thought of all this preparation and decision making can give me cold feet, settling for a store-bought pie only to end up disappointed in the end. So, as the holidays approach, we asked some of our favorite pastry pros, our mothers and grandmothers, to share their tips and techniques to help us find pie success every time!



Stay Fruit Focused

You don’t have to limit yourself to just one variety for a perfectly tart, yet sweet pie.  Marlene from Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada prefers the tried-and-true Spy and Granny Smith Apples.  Marlene is a mom to three boys, Grandmother to 11 grandchildren, and my mother-in-law. This  homemaker and lover of all things sweet says, “The secret to the perfect apple is the Spy Apples, which are hard to find, and only available in the Fall season.  The next best is the Granny Smith, which holds it’s shape while cooking and is nice and juicy.”  

“Put your apples in the pie raw to ensure you get a filling with texture instead of mush,” says my mom Deborah, who is also a Grandma to five grandchildren.  

We did some digging ourselves and found that the most popular apples for apple pie are the MacIntosh, Granny Smith, and Red Delicious. Now we’ve added the Spy apple to our list, thanks to Grandma Marlene.

Keep it Cool

“The secret to good Pastry is to keep all ingredients cold and do not overwork the dough. The dough should be a bit lumpy,” says Grandma Marlene.  Always use cold water and butter too. The dough needs to be cold. If the butter is soft or melted, then the crust will be too tough. When kneading the dough, use a light hand to ensure a flaky pie crust.

Crumble it

Save yourself some trouble and use a crumb topping.  My mom says that, “adding a crumb topping gives the pie texture and is lovely looking and tasting.”  We agree.  Grandma Marlene’s secret to the perfect crumble is to use oatmeal.

We learned too that another secret weapon to tasty pie is adding a ½ tsp of ground cloves. Yes, cloves!! Cloves give apple pie that  je ne sais quoi …that flavor that excites your tastebuds, but you’re not quite sure what it is until someone points it out. I can remember my grandmother putting cloves in her pie, and if she were here today, I’m pretty sure she’d say that a dash of ground cloves were the secret to her apple pies.


We put a number of apple pie recipes to the test, and listed our favorites here:



We tried this crust from  Simple Recipes, and LOVED it!

Here’s what you’ll need:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling

1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, very-cold, cut into 1/2 inch cubes*

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

6 to 8 Tbsp ice water



We can’t say enough about this recipe share. Thank you, Grandma Ballard from Springfield, Missouri!

Butter loaf pan. Fill about 3/4 or more with diced apples.

Mix in a small bowl and pour over apples:

1 cup sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon ( or more to taste)

1 TBL lemon juice

In another small bowl mix, blend well and pour over other mixture:

   1/2 cup packed brown sugar

   1 cup sifted flour

   1/4 cup butter (softened)

Bake at 325 for 1 hour.



Racqual Sweeney’s homemade irish-style apple and clove pie is TRULY the taste of home:



  1.  5 cups of peeled and sliced apples (about 5-6)
  2.  1 cup of  brown sugar
  3.   3/4 cup flour
  4.   3/4 cup of rolled oats
  5.   1 Tbs of cinnamon or less
  6.   1/2  cup of butter
  7.    1 tsp lemon
  8.   2 TBS water

Arrange apples in buttered deep dish or pie pan.

Combine  sugar, flour, oats and cinnamon.

Cut in butter, add lemon and water.    Mix until crumbly.

Press mixture over apples

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes till brown on top and apples are cooked.

With each layers of apples add a little dash of sugar and cinnamon.

Grandma Marlene says: “A little dash here and a little dash there. Serve with a little ice cream….enjoy!” We agree!!


4 Simple Ways to Make your Home Fall Fabulous

Fall is the year’s most colourful season, and quite possibly my favorite time of year!! One of the things I miss the most about Canada, where I was born and raised, is seeing the leaves on the trees turn colors. It’s everything you would expect in autumn – vibrant red, orange, yellow, and purple leaves standing out against a clear blue sky. There’s a crisp chill outside, and the faint smell of smoky bonfires fill the air. It’s the time of year we don our favorite wool sweater and thick socks. Fall, in a word, is fabulous!! While, here in LA, we’ve been seeing temperatures in the 90s, this hasn’t stopped us from incorporating the season’s colors into our decor. If anything, it makes us crave the creation of those cozy spaces to curl up in with that fave book and apple cider. We’re excited to share with you a few easy and inexpensive ways to bring the warm colors of Fall into your home.

Forage for Foliage

Most Californians love to hike and enjoy the great outdoors just as much as anyone else. My favorite family activity with the kids is taking our dog, [name], on nature walks. It’s a time where tasks and work cannot exist – just us, our conversations, and memories. I love our walks around this time of year and the interior inspiration it sparks. There are so many beautiful things mother nature has to offer to make an indoor space fall-fabulous. Pick a few branches of colorful fall leaves, and simply arrange in a tall glass vase. From this bold focal point, build out the rest of your tabletop display with pumpkins and gourds. Voila!

Visit Your Local Pumpkin Patch

Nothing sets the tone for Fall better than a trip to your local pumpkin patch. While you’re there, gather an array of seasonal gourds and pumpkins – don’t be afraid to play with different colors, sizes, and textures. I love incorporating white and grey pumpkins to the mix. They add an elegant and unexpected twist. They’re great for decorating tabletops, entryways, and steps.


Set Your Tablescape – Keep it Natural

The one thing we all look forward to in Fall is Thanksgiving and time with family. Put your autumnal activities to good use and create a tablescape from elements found in nature. Simple white plates with a seasonal theme paired with antique flatware, and simple glass stemware keep this rustic setting looking elegant, while green and white pumpkins with orange and red leaves/florals give it a pop of seasonal color. Let your fall-freak-flag fly!

Enjoy it!

We captured this moment to remind us how short this season truly is, and to remind ourselves that curling up under a thick blanket with a good book and a hot drink on a cool autumn afternoon is nothing more than perfectly fall-fabulous!

Shelf Help!

The first home my husband and I owned in California was full of built in shelves.  Tempted to get rid of them, it simply wasn’t in the budget.  And so, I eventually embraced the idea of having a place to showcase “stuff”, but wasn’t quite sure where to start??  I had a few framed photographs from our wedding of us with family, and other photos of friends at the time along with a few books (mostly from College).  But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t quite get my shelves to look like the ones I saw in magazines.  It wasn’t before long that our parents and grandparents were handing down vintage frames of black and white photos of relatives we had never known, vases, porcelain figurines, tea cups, plates, stamp collections, the list goes on.  I quickly grew to love the stories behind these pieces and meaning they had within our families.  I couldn’t bring myself to store these away in a box to one day be passed on to our children.  These pieces had a special meaning for us, mainly because they were apart of the memories we had of the family members who once possessed them, something we wanted for our own children.  So the challenge of incorporating these unique, one-of-a-kind pieces into our lives, style and decor became a true labor of love, and that’s where we begin!

Here’s my 5 tips on how to put together a fabulous shelf…

1) Start with love, your interests, your hobbies –  Whether you collect books, frames, coins, tea cups, plates, stamps or rocks, your love for these cherished collectibles deserve a rightful place in your life and home.  If you have a number of items to fill a shelf, you’re in luck!  If not, fear not.  Think outside the box for uniques items and head to antique stores and flea markets.  These places are filled with thousands of unique collectibles suitable for any style, love and personality that you want your space to reflect.

2) Size doesn’t matter –  Objects of  shapes can play off each other.  Don’t be shy to go big or even bold.  Oversized books, vases, large ornamental piece creates drama and attracts attention.   Items don’t have to sit perfectly symmetrical on the shelf either.  Mixing heights and size of objects will keep the eyes from being visually bored and keep them moving. So, go ahead and pair a large frame with a smaller one or display both large and small pottery pieces together giving the display dimension and interest that can be seen from across the room.

3) Color matters –  Deciding what items to display on your shelf, for me, begins with color.  Keeping pieces within the same color families/palette as the rest of the room is key! The colors of your room can easily be reflected by choosing books with covers that either match or complement the other colors of the room, for example.

4) Layer – I love it when a shelf has depth. Display your favorite painting or larger taller pieces in the back behind smaller pieces to create depth and visual interest.  This will keep your display from looking flat.

image via

5) Mix it up – Highlight your love for mixing and matching metals.  If you’ve combined stainless steel appliances with bronze-finished lighting and polished nickel plumbing fixtures, extend that to your shelves.  Combine these finishes with frames, vases and ornamental accent pieces to create a more complete and integrated look.