Big Art, Small Price – a DIY Love Story

Big Art, Small Price – a DIY Love Story

I love scene stealing art pieces.  They transform a space and speak volumes about the person that chose it.  I especially love huge art pieces, but inevitably those come with a huge price tag.

In comes Surface View – a company out of the UK that has arrangements with all the major British and Scottish museums. They make reasonably priced custom reproductions on canvas, paper or even wallpaper and murals.  I’ve recommended Surface View to clients and they have had good success, but I’d not had opportunity to use them myself until recently.

When you combine these canvas art prints with my technique to transform a frame you can have something really special.

First, let me show you my inspiration piece.


Last year I found this huge yellow wood frame in the alley with my next door neighbor’s trash. It had been a mirror; but when the mirror shattered, it went to the trash pile.  I had to do something with it! So I began experimenting with chalk paint and wax.



It’s ridiculously easy.  You paint on a coat or two of chalk paint and then apply dark wax with a brush.  The trick is to use a wood color and then add dark wax to give it depth and dimension. I use Annie Sloan chalk paints and wax, but Lowe’s sells a knock off and I’m sure there are others.

It’s so forgiving. If you don’t like it, just paint over it.

This was not the first time I’d used chalk paint and wax to update frames and transform them into something better.

Screenshot 2020-01-28 at 09.51.36

An hour with Annie Sloan Paris Grey Chalk Paint and some dark wax and this piece we have in our bedroom was just so much better.


For this large yellow frame, I decided to go for a Pecan wood color.  I used a combination of Aries and Honefleur and then a dark wax when it was dry.


Next step was what art should fill the frame and this decision was the hardest.  My husband and I are particularly fond of J.M.W. Turner and after lengthy discussion we chose Life-Boat and Manby Apparatus Going Off to a Stranded Vessel Making Signal (Blue Lights) of Distress”  (yes, that whole thing is the name!)  currently at the Victoria and Albert Museum.  The canvas print took about two/three weeks to arrive from England. Shipping was free.


Because of the curvy frame, it’s impossible to stretch a canvas and not have ripples.  So I opted to use wallpaper glue to affix the canvas to the wood.

If you have a square frame, then you can stretch the canvas or have it stretched at a frame store. Dallas friends, Decor Art & Frame on Upper Greenville near Central Market is great.  I appreciate their knowledgeable staff and prices are very fair.


After a lot of brushing and smoothing out air pockets, I cut the canvas to match the frame’s curves.


At this point I felt the canvas lacked the luster you’d see on an old oil painting so I applied Annie Sloan’s clear wax to the canvas.  To be sure it was even, I applied the wax with my hands. I could feel where it was and where it was not. After it dried, I used a soft cloth to buff it. The difference was subtle but important.


The final touch for authenticity was adding an art light.  We figured that if we really had a 3×5 foot 200 year old painting, it would naturally have an art light.  I won this light on eBay for a fraction of retail.  It’s a battery powered LED, so no need for an electrician.




Here are some inspiration pictures from Surface View’s website that show other ways you can style what they offer.

surface fiew 2

In this example, the art is stretched to cover the edges so you don’t even need a frame. You can crop to print just the portion of the piece you want and select the exact dimensions.  For example, to fit the frame, my print is larger than the original and I had to crop a bit at the bottom.

surface view 3

Here the piece is hung with wood batons and a leather cord.  I love this look!

surface view 4

These are just a few of the styles on offer. They also have vintage maps, photography, and fabulous old cartoons. Check it out for yourself.

For the record there is no paid sponsorship here.  I just love this company making great art accessible and wanted to share with you my current favorite DIY (literal trash to treasure) love story!

What is a “Hip Pocket” and when, if ever, is it appropriate?

What is a “Hip Pocket” and when, if ever, is it appropriate?

Recently I posted about a ‘hip pocket’ real estate listing and was surprised how many of my friends asked “What is a hip pocket?”  While Coachella’s 2019 trend in the hip pocket ‘janties‘ never ever seems appropriate… a hip pocket home listing sometimes makes sense.

A hip pocket listing is a home that is for sale, but the seller chooses not to post it on the multiple listing service. MLS is the database that realtors use to search homes for sale for and also where data is pulled for Zillow, Redfin and other popular real estate search engines.

7,516 SQFT      0.51 ACRES
 This listing just sold off market.

With a hip pocket listing, the real estate agent keeps the listing in their metaphorical hip pocket – sharing about the property behind the scenes to other agents and potential buyers.  Nationally, hip pocket listings are estimated at only 10% of home sales. Here in Dallas, where we’ve had a heated real estate market off and on for a while, several top producer lead sharing networks have developed. We agents share our buyer and seller needs with each other behind the scenes.  Quite a bit happens before properties even hit the market, as realtors try to make buyer/seller love connections. 

DALLAS, TX 75220
4,324 SQFT

Why would a seller use this approach?

Hands down, a property listing on MLS is the apex predator when it comes to marketing.  The best way to sell your house is to get the most eyeballs on your listing.  MLS captures eyeballs.  That said, here are some of the reasons to consider a hip pocket.

  • For privacy: Some people don’t want the general public — or their neighbors — to know they’re selling. They don’t want pictures of the inside of their house on-line for all to see.  With a hip pocket listing, all those who come to see the home are pre-qualified, vetted as serious buyers.


  • To test the market: If you are being ambitiously high with your price point, this is a safer way to try out your price. If you later decide to lower your price, there is no official on-line record of your original price.


  • No ‘Days on Market’ Stats: People start to wonder what’s wrong with a property if it’s been on MLS for a while and hasn’t sold. The listing becomes ‘tainted.’  With a hip pocket, there is no record (therefore no pressure for the seller) regarding how long it’s officially been on the market.


  • Like Zillow’s ‘Make Me Move’ feature, but with an advocate working for you: A hip pocket listing might work if you are not in a hurry to sell, but would sell if you could get certain price. A hip pocket listing lets your realtor promote your property to other agents with potential buyers. It could be a very easy transaction without any open houses, questions from neighbors about the sign in your yard, or hassle of many showings with tire kickers.


  • Pre-Sale Selling: There is excitement when a buyer feels they have the inside scoop on a listing nobody knows about yet. Even when a seller does want their property to go on MSL eventually, often a realtor will pre-sell it as a hip pocket listing for little while first.  There is less room to negotiate a home’s price when it’s not even gone on the market yet, and buyers feel like they have the exclusive.
DALLAS, TX 75230
7,123 SQFT
0.29 ACRES

The negative side of hip pocket listings.

The advantages come with some obvious drawbacks:

  • A limited audience:  When a property is listed on MLS, it has the potential to be seen by millions of people anywhere in the world. Visibility increases the odds of finding the right buyer quickly.


  • No walk-in traffic: Frequently people have a particular area they want to live in and it’s not uncommon for people to drive those neighborhoods looking for “For Sale” signs. Similarly, neighbors may be looking for a home nearby for friends or family. A hip pocket approach could lead to missed opportunities.


  • A lower price: It’s not terribly uncommon for a desirable home to receive multiple offers. But, you might miss out on competitive bidders if your home never goes “on the market” in a highly visible way.


These are the reasons most real estate experts agree MLS is the best way to market a property.  That said, it’s good to know your options.  A good realtor can help you best use all the sales tools out there to your advantage.

DALLAS, TX 75240
3,075 SQFT   0.79 ACRES
 This is my listing and is slated to close next week.

For buyers, the possibility of hip pockets out there is why it’s good to have a realtor looking for you. If your realtor knows what you want and the perfect home comes up, they can make the love connection for you too. 

Dave Perry Miller has a link on their website just for in-house hip pocket listings – in case you’re curious.

Sorry, not sorry, for the ‘janty’ click bait. I’m thanking God that none of my daughters have been caught up in this particular fashion disaster…



Why I don’t buy houses that I love.

Why I don’t buy houses that I love.

Many buyers want a home that looks as fabulous as their Instagram feed.  They’re looking for a home that they love.  But if you are up for a fun and profitable challenge, consider buying a home that needs love instead of buying a home that deserves love.

My husband and I call it the ‘Slow Flip.’ We’ve done it several times over the last 15 years. Slow-flipping has given us some good investments, creative outlets and even a little marital bonding.  We’ve looked for a home that’s in a great location, but because of some funkiness, has been sitting on the market a long time.  If that funkiness can be cost effectively fixed, and if the seller is motivated to make a deal, then maybe it’s worth taking on the challenge.


This was one of my favorite slow flips. I remember telling my husband when we bought it “I don’t like this house, but I love the dirt.”

The slow flip means you live in the house while you figure out how to fix its flaws.  Living in a space, learning how your family uses it,  can often result in more creative and cost effective decisions. Sometimes it takes a while to chew on the design problem before you come up with the right solution. With a slow flip, time is on your side. Better still, after you’ve lived in a home two years (or two of the last five years to be specific) you can avoid paying federal income tax on the gain you make when you resell.

Photo credit @tonyconnect – a realtor in the Texas Hill Country who’s also helping people make homes beautiful.

If you find the challenge of home renovation interesting… and if taking on short term projects won’t add undue stress to your family and relationships, read on!  Here are my top suggestions based on our experience.

Get wise counsel before you buy. 

I’m a firm believer in seeking out good advice and that often means hiring someone with expertise.  Some renovation wisdom is obvious – you see the biggest return in kitchens and bathrooms.  Removing a non-load bearing walls or doors is usually inexpensive; moving plumbing is almost always expensive. But before you make a commitment to take on your slow flip, bring in a trusted advisor that can talk through your options with a fresh set of eyes and real world experience.  During your option period, as buyer you can terminate the contract for any reason and not risk losing your earnest money.  Use that time to ask the right questions to the right people.

Photo credit to @printitengineer – love wallpaper and open shelving for an inexpensive upgrade.

Pick your battles.

Once you’ve decided on the home, decide what you’re able to live through.  Some renovations are more disruptive than others. Flooring & painting wood cabinets are particularly tough  – messy & stinky.  If the floors need to be redone or you need to paint kitchen cabinets, consider doing them before you move in.  Carpet is not as big a deal and can usually be completed in a day with installers moving furniture for you.

Crushing on @thevictorianfarmhouse.  So fun to follow their DIY home restoration.

Don’t underestimate the transformative power of paint.

Paint can give you the most bang for your buck — hands down.  It can take disparate materials and bring unity.  It can transform the lighting of a room and make the old and dingy look new and clean. With the right primer, lots of different surfaces can be painted. So many times I’ve coached buyers “Ok, imagine this whole, dark, dingy space painted white…”

This fireplace is transformed with $20 of paint. Photo credit and plug to follow @conklinhouse.

Are you are unskilled labor?

You can save a lot of money by doing the unskilled labor jobs yourself.  Demo, painting, patching, sanding – if you need to find ways to cut costs consider DIY.  Labor can be 50% of the cost of the job.  Nervous?  YouTube is your coach and can give you the confidence to take on all sorts of projects. Plus, it can be hugely gratifying when you take a crow bar or sledge hammer to a situation.

We chose to do our own demo in our entry and have a pro install the hardwoods.

No shame in calling in the pros.

Be realistic about your skill set.  Know when to call in the experts. When you do go to resell, you don’t want it to be obvious that you did it yourself.  You are going to be spending a lot of money on materials.  You have to live with it when it’s done. Some things that look “easy” really need a skilled hand. For example, perfect tiling is an art form – especially when you use dark grout.

@patticakewagner, your tile install is pro!

Don’t start until you are ready to go.

Living through construction is stressful, so do your homework and don’t demo until you’ve got a complete plan.  There will always be surprises and hidden costs.  Don’t add to the challenges and the timeline by not having the components you already know you’ll need. When possible I buy materials myself, so there is no middle man. Many places will take returns.  Better to overshoot and return, than to be unprepared.

Before and after pantry photo credit Hartley Home Designs.

Give yourself a break between big projects.

It’s stressful for everyone in your family to live through a construction zone. Don’t underestimate that.  Having workers in your home early and late feels invasive. For that reason we’ve spaced our projects out and divided projects up when possible. Spacing projects also helps you save up to pay for them – win, win.

Our current kitchen before & after. 

Our kitchen, for example, was done in three phases.  Before we moved in, we had the cabinets painted, and a carpenter cut some of the upper cabinet doors for me to install glass fronts.  The next year we retiled the backsplash and swapped out the sink faucet.  After living there for awhile, we could see a 48′ refrigerator would be perfect where the ovens were located.  It would improve the flow. After almost two years of looking,  I found a used 48′ Subzero for a steal on a local FB yard sale site.  Our carpenter was able to make it a built-in pretty easily and swap places with the ovens.  It’s a totally different space.  Dividing the project up made it not so bad to live through.

Don’t forget Craig’s List, E-bay, Demolition Sales etc….

Before you buy new, check alternative places like Craig’s List, E-bay, on-line yard sales,  demolition sales, Habitat for Humanity Resale Shop.  Call stores and ask what’s in their scratch and dent section.  When we were planning for a bathroom renovation, I collected all kinds of things for months until we needed them.  I found inexpensive 12×12 marble tiles at a big box chain and then had them cut to the more expensive 6×12 size to lay in a herringbone pattern.

I removed this tub filler and shower hardware from a demolition sale paying approximately a 10th of their retail value. Pro tip: wear closed toed shoes when using a sledge hammer. 

I think of it like a treasure hunt.  When you have time on your side you can patiently wait for just what you need.

Before and after of our bathroom & the new home for my salvaged plumbing fixtures and $15 shower door I scored at a yard sale.

This month we will finish the last planned renovation in our current home and we’ve had a few discussions about doing this again.  The problem is that while I did not love my house before;  I really do love it now. More importantly, our family loves our dear neighbors.

So we’re most likely here for a while.  But just in case this article inspires you to try a “slow flip”, give me a call.  I’ve been following several interesting properties on the market now.  Maybe I can help you find a home you don’t love!



Considering Listing Your Home this Spring? 6 Things to Do First

Considering Listing Your Home this Spring? 6 Things to Do First

Here are my top 6 recommendations so you have everything ready come spring. Time is on your side. Plan ahead, save yourself some stress and improve your chances of getting top dollar for your home.  

Edit, Donate & Recycle

A perfectly decluttered kitchen by Studio McGee.

If you want your house to look more expansive and thus sell for more – this is the key.  Do a clean sweep of your countertops and windowsills. Go through your closets, shelves, glass front cabinets, and bookcases. Take out 1/2 the stuff and neatly organize what’s left.

When I list a home, I always come in with my stager. We work together to rearrange and do a final edit, but only you can decide what you want to keep or not.

A good stager can help make even awkward spaces feel purposeful.  Image credit Everygirl.

Have three boxes going –

  • things to keep, but store for now (like family photos)
  • things to give away
  • things to throw away or recycle

Get excited about an opportunity to give away things you do not need to people who do. For the Nations Refugee Outreach and Genesis Women’s Shelter Thrift Store are great places here in Dallas to donate all manner of household items and clothes.  H&M  has a bin in their store to recycle clothes and fabrics that are too shabby to donate.

Moving homes can be a great opportunity to reset and reevaluate. Don’t waste this opportunity to get rid of things that you don’t really love or need!

Fix what’s broken

Walk through your house like an inspector or potential buyer. Often we live with problems in our home – that leaky faucet, or that door that’s hard to open.  Go ahead and fix these flaws.  If you don’t fix it now, your buyer will most likely ask you to do it, or they will ask or for a concession (a lower asking price to compensate for them fixing it).

Trim, fireplace and built-ins are Benjamin Moore Simply White

If you’ve got children, pets, or are a human being, a fresh coat of paint can be a very cost effective way to brightening up a space.  There is nothing that gives you more bang for your buck than paint. And if, for example, your dining room is red, go ahead and paint that to a more neutral color.

Beautiful 1940’s tile in a pristine bathroom.

Make sure your bathroom grout is in good shape.  If you have shabby appliances it could well be worth replacing them.Replace worn door handles or knobs. Sometimes just spaying them with Rust-Oleum can make big difference. I’ve also done that with light fixture frames.

A wood paneled drop-in tub replaces a dated jacuzzi tub.

There are situations where it’s cost effective to do more substantial improvements, like replacing an ugly countertop or swapping out a dated jacuzzi tub. This is true particularly in higher end markets.   But these can still be tricky decisions. You want a good return on your investment of money, time, and hassle. This is where your realtor can offer solid advice on where to best spend your rehab dollar.

Squeaky Clean

You may want to hold off on this one until right before you list, but everything needs to be spotless to get the most for your house. If this sounds overwhelming, consider hiring a cleaning company for a deep cleaning service.

Julie Hickman to the rescue! She’ll make your home squeaky clean.

Let me give a little shout-out to Julie Hickman, owner of Maid Meticulous here in Dallas. I’ve used her at clients’ homes been stunned by the results.  She and her team know how to make your home look its very best.

Don’t neglect washing your windows – you want to let all the light in you can. I always recommend Dale Harris here in Dallas. He can be reached at 214-986-2334.

Steam cleaning carpets kills most odor causing bacterias and surface mold.

Do you have carpet? Have it cleaned by a professional or rent the equipment to steam clean it.  Many will companies will also steam clean tile floors, bathroom grout, and can also clean upholsery and area rugs.

Almost every home will benefit from several boxes of magic erasers.  They are little cleaning miracles in a box.

Image credit to Style at Home

This is also a moment to be honest about smells.  Scent can be a big deal for buyers, so don’t underestimate it.  Is there anything in your house that smells nasty?  Is it obvious you have a litter box or pets in general, or that you smoke? Does it smell musty? Candles and cookies are nice, but it’s usually pretty obvious when you are masking an odor.

Light & Bright

Everyone wants a home that’s light and bright.  You can’t change the direction your home faces, but there are a number of things you can do to help.

Image credit, the lovely Emily Henderson

Take down heavy drapes, or if you just can’t bear to part with them, open them as wide as possible. Light colored drapes are best for letting sunshine in. Clean the windows (see above), and replace dark lamp shades with light ones. Up the wattage in your light bulbs if necessary, but make sure it’s a warm light and not a blue cast.  Consider installing can lights – flush mount can lights are less complicated (and expensive) to install.  If landscaping blocks light from your windows, consider trimming it back or replacing it.

Curb Appeal

First impressions count. Whether it’s driving by or swiping right on your phone, you want to make the most of your curb appeal. Repaint or stain the front door. Pressure wash the stoop or steps or sidewalk.  Update your porch light, and maybe your front door hardware.  A fresh front door wreath and welcome mat can go a long way too.

These vinyl house letters from Etsy cost $12.95. I bought them for the glass transom above our front door – love!

I recently recommended that a client paint their home’s exterior here in Highland Park. At the time it was a combination of brick, stone and stucco. There was a lot going on, and I thought painting it one solid color (Sherwin Williams Marshmallow) would unify the materials.


The dramatic difference it made was worth the few thousand dollars they spent.  It sold quickly, and for so much, that I was a little nervous about it making appraisal. (It did!)

Image credit Home Best Idea

Are your shrubs leggy or overgrown?  Often you just have to start again, and an afternoon pulling out the old and planting the new can be a good investment.  If you need help with a master plan I highly recommend Julie Simons of JDS Landscape Design  here in Dallas.  She is brilliant at creating beautiful outdoor spaces.  It’s also almost time to plant fall bulbs for spring flowers.  If you’re listing in the spring that can be an easy way to add color.

Finally – Plan to Price Right

Hire a realtor you trust…  then trust them.  The single best strategy for selling your house is to price it correctly.  Listen to the data only a licensed realtor has access to. This is especially true in Texas, where the law does not require public disclosure of real estate sales prices.  This means places like Zillow and Trulia have the list price, but do not have what the house actually sold for.  Unless you live in a Charles Dilbeck or a David Stocker home, most buyers won’t overpay for your house.

David Stocker’s Sunnybrook North in Preston Hollow – more glorious pictures here.

A good realtor will pay for themselves, not only in the price you ultimately get for your house, but also in helping you navigate and avoid stressful pitfalls.

If you are planning to list in the spring, check out open houses in your area in the mean time.  It’s a free way to see first hand what your buyers are seeing.  I’ve had clients who do not listen to the data. Their houses sit on the market overpriced and people start to wonder “What’s wrong with it?” Typically, overpriced houses sell for less than if they had been correctly priced from the beginning.

One final thought I must add…

Image credit to The Imagination Tree

I’ve had several clients, particularly those with lots of young children, for whom the best thing was to move completely out, let me bring in my painters and a cleaning crew and then lightly stage.

If all the home improvement suggestions above make you sweat, maybe this is best for your family too. There are financial products, like a bridge loan, that can help to make that possible. It’s not an option for everyone, but if you need references for creative mortgage brokers, I’ve got them too.

If you’re thinking about selling in the spring, give me a call – I’d love to help.  If you’d just like to know what you’re house could sell for I’m happy to help with that too.  Good luck!


Feature image credit goes to Emily Henderson. I’m such a fan. If you love homes and decorating you should be following her blog.





Buying Vintage: 6 things you always should consider buying used

Buying Vintage: 6 things you always should consider buying used

“Everything old is new again” goes the adage.  When you search Instagram and Pinterest, you see countless examples of big box retailers recreating vintage pieces. In many cases they are not as interesting or as high quality as the original. It’s almost impossible to recreate the personality and patina that comes with age. Plus, a great vintage piece will usually hold its value, whereas the value of a new replica declines the moment it leaves the store.

These days, finding great vintage home decor is as easy as it’s ever been. I love a great estate sale and struggle to pass one by, but in the past few years most of my vintage finds have been on-line.  I love local community groups like those on Facebook and Craig’s List, but on line auction sites are a game changer. Sites Everything but the House on line auction are such a fun resource.  For many of these sites, you can even search within your local area, so you can drive to pick up items and avoid paying shipping charges.  

Here are some of my recommendations for items well worth seeking out the original.


Photo credit to mi casa revista

New chandeliers really can’t compare with their vintage counterpart. Especially with crystal, the new does not have the heft and luster of the old.  Plus, in most cases, older pieces are a great value in comparison.  If you find a chandelier where the wiring looks suspicious, it’s worth a trip to a lighting store to be rewired.  Even with that additional cost, I’m my experience, it’s still been a great value. 

chandelier 2
For sale on Ebay.

A beautiful chandelier is like a piece of statement jewelry for your home.  Even if crystal is not your style, there are some fabulous vintage light fixtures out there that can be a unique centerpiece in your home.


Loved the vintage rug in this bedroom by Sarah Sherman.

A vintage rug can set the stage for the entire room.  With a bit of patience, it’s not that hard to find.  In most cases, new rugs are not made with as high quality wool or as soft a texture as older rugs. Plus, many new rugs are machine made.  They both shed and wear quickly. 

rugs 2
Photo credit Katie Hodges Design.

I find even the worn spots of vintage rugs very charming.  I’ve found large antique hand-knotted oriental rugs in wonderful condition for a fraction of what a rug that size would cost new, at say, Pottery Barn.  Also, it’s entirely possible that an antique rug could appreciate over time, whereas modern rugs have practically no resale value.


SF Girl is a blog and shop where she sells found pieces, particularly art.

Invest in original art and old portraits.   Estate sales both on-line and local are a great way to find these treasures which are infinitely more interesting than big box store reproductions or trendy quotes on canvas.

art 2
Photo credit from Lulu & Georgia

Sometimes when I see a piece at an estate sale, especially a sale that is very cluttered, I have to stand back and try to think of the piece outside of that setting. Maybe it needs a different frame or just refinishing the current one. Maybe it just needs to be center stage with a white wall behind.


Mid Century Absinthe Green Cocktail Shaker on Etsy

You can curate a very glamorous bar by scouring estate sales.  Vintage cocktail glasses and barware are so much more fun and unique than most anything new and generally at a fraction of the cost.

bar 2
Photos from Architectural Digest

Cocktails served in fabulous glasses taste better — I promise – try it and see.



trays 3
Photo credit Roses & Rust.

I love trays to corral and unify a space. I have a tray by my night stand, on the coffee table, in our bathroom by the sink and a tea station on a tray in our bar.  Trays are organizational superstars and a great place to add a unique touch. 


Moroccan Inlay Tray – see one similar for sale on Everything But the House

I look for a tray that is sturdy and waterproof like this brass and copper Moroccan tray.  I got mine for $20, and you could not get a metal tray that size at Wal-Mart for that price.


This beauty was found on Craig’s List.

If it’s taken care of, leather can age beautifully. If you are in the market for a Chesterfield sofa or leather club chair, these classics are best bought vintage. Some distress to the leather only adds character.  Of course you don’t want heavy cracking or peeling, but a little love with a product like Leather Honey can bring many pieces back to life.  A little tear?  Depending where it is, there are easy answers to that too. Here is a recipe for leather glue with natural ingredients you likely have on hand.    

This chair was so dried out when I picked it up at an estate sale for $75 (including it’s ottoman). Leather Honey was like a miracle for it.

Buying vintage makes a home feel more relaxed and comfortable too. People are not worried about messing things up.  With some scratches and wear, well it’s just broken in for you.  Like glorified recycling, it feels good too.  Happy hunting!  


Faux Friends: My obsession with faux houseplants that won’t let you down.

Faux Friends: My obsession with faux houseplants that won’t let you down.

I adore plants and feel they add life to every space – the bigger the better!  I rarely stage  houses that I don’t think need a plant or more plants.  But I have also gone through stages in my life where I just cannot have one more thing that solely relies on me for its sustenance. Thus my ongoing quest for the perfect faux plants. Plants that look so real your houseguests will offer to water them. Interested? I have a few tricks to share with my fellow travelers. 

Image credit Studio McGee

Go for naturally ‘plastic-y’ looking varieties.

Pick plants that, when they are real, have leaves that already look a bit like they could be plastic.  Good examples are: succulents, banana trees, mother-in-law tongue, aloe, fiddle leaf figs, air plants, lotus leafs, philodendrons, maguey stems, monster leaves and certain types of ferns. Since real ones already can look fake, it makes the fake ones look real. 

When I picked this up from my clients house yesterday it was clear someone had watered it.

Above, I mixed a faux lace fern with a faux asparagus fern.  I got these in Dallas at Nicolson Hardy on Lover’s Lane.  Their designer worked with me for free, selecting the perfect planter and helped me styling it.  Pro tip – ask for help. 

Succulents are an ideal plant to go faux. Image credit from Defined Design.

Styling is huge.

When you are trying to emulate a real plant, perfection & symmetry are not what you are going for.  Real plants lean toward the light and are not equally full so style them like they were real. I usually re-pot them in something less generic or at least pop them into a floppy basket.  Make sure the pot size matches the proportions of a real plant’s root ball.   I often add some dirt, stones, or at least moss on top of the faux dirt.

My neighbor created this succulent arrangement for her covered porch – faux perfection.

Similarly, putting a plant in a place where it could never ever live is a give away.  If it’s a dark bathroom with no windows, pick a different decorating prop.

There are lots of places to find a faux staghorn fern. I got mine at Etsy from Bohemian Goods.

To look live, add some dead.

Real plants have imperfect and dead leaves.  One trick I used for the staghorn fern above is to gather bits of dead leaves and moss and tuck that around the base of the plant. I do that in some form with most all my faux plants.

The faux staghorn fern was the perfect addition to my gallery wall. 

I put my staghorn together with an oval precut board that I stained and hung with a strip of leather. Here are step by step instructions from Gardenista.  

fiddle leaf
Image credit Studio McGee

The ever popular fiddle leaf tree also can look very realistic in plastic.  I gave this purchase lots of thought because a 6 foot faux fiddle leave will set you back.  For me this is a business expense since I can put this in practical every house I’m staging to sell.  And most rooms can benefit from a big beautiful bit of green. A faux tree won’t mind me dragging it around, house to house or room to room in a photoshoot. This extensive Apartment Therapy article helped me make my selection.

Central Market grocery store has an amazing selection of preserved flowers in with the fresh and their staff is amazing at advising on your arrangement, even if you bring in your own vase.

Preserved Real Plants

I also use preserved real plants and flowers. One of my favorite tricks to gather rice flowers, limonium, billy balls, or golden yarrow in low dense arrangements. I like these arrangements in solid color containers so you don’t see the stems or the fact they need no water.

I made these for my dining room in January & they still look fresh in May.  All the flowers are from the 3 for $12 bins at Central Market. 

These are more fragile than plastic, but if you take care of them they can last a long time. 

I love Billy Balls & monochromatic arrangements are so chic. Photo credit here.

I also love to mix faux silk flowers with the real preserved flowers like I did here for staging a client’s bedside tables.



That said, I don’t recommend you fill your whole house with fake plants. Defiantly steer clear of bad fakes (run from faux rain drops).  Instead, layer in some low maintenance, easy care real plants punctuated by a few strategically placed & styled faux friends.

Do you have any faux friends to share? I’d really love an introduction. Please comment below!


Feature image credits here from Elise Larson’s fab blog “A Beautiful Mess.” 

Welcome to Dallas, Caitlin Wilson!

Welcome to Dallas, Caitlin Wilson!

Dallas friends, have you heard? Caitlin Wilson Design chose Knox/Henderson here in Dallas to place their second showroom.  Her warm, inviting, family-friendly style will fit right in. Check it out for yourself – I think her pieces have the perfect blend of whimsy and timelessness.

Caitlin Wilson’s Dallas Design Showroom opened this fall at 2923 N. Henderson Ave Dallas.

Do you know about Caitlin Wilson Design?  They are an on-line decorating phenomena with a fabulous line of rugs, textiles, wallpaper, upholstery, lighting and more. But they also offer interior design services at an hourly or by project basis.


Caitlin Wilson Design Services include:

  • Client on-site consultation (if you live in Dallas or San Francisco)
  • Creation of design plan
  • Architectural detail, millwork, materials, paint & finish selections
  • Space planning & furniture layout
  • Selection of furniture, lighting, rugs, fabrics, wallpaper, artwork & accessories
  • Custom made furniture, window treatments, pillows, bedding, & more
  • Installation, accessorizing, & styling

You’ve probably seen Caitlin Wilson’s designs before. She has been featured by all the fun decorating magazines – Domino, House Beautiful, Domain, Traditional Home, Better Homes and Gardens.

This weekend's CW instagram pic inspired me to rethink mudroom.
This weekend’s CW Instagram pic was my mudroom inspiration.

I’m giving their design services a go with our mudroom which could use some attention.  It’s where we frequently foster dogs and puppies for Operation Kindness.  Needless to say, it needs to be scrubbable and durable.  The design team was up for the challenge!

Her joint venture with Pratt & Lambert was featured in last month’s Traditional Home Magazine.

If you are not following Caitlin on Instagram already you should start now – especially if you live in Dallas.  You will be notified of all the fun local events they are hosting.  I stopped in yesterday for their ‘Galentine Party’ and left with a dear watercolor greeting card personalized for free by an on-site calligrapher.

caitlin bathroom
I love how she uses pattern through tile and wallpaper in this modern classic bathroom.

In addition to having a fabulous eye for all things hearth and home, Caitlin and her family are so dear and quite genuine.  This summer I got to know them better when they  moved in next door.  It was a busy summer – moving to a new state, opening a new store, doing extensive renovation to their new home. Did I mention Caitlin was very pregnant with their fourth child? She handled it all with grace and a smile.  I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next and am thankful we get to have a first row seat to Caitlin Wilson Design here in Dallas.


Do stop by their showroom at 2923 N. Henderson to see for yourself — you’re welcome!


Cookbook Club Dinner Parties – A Potluck for Foodies

Cookbook Club Dinner Parties – A Potluck for Foodies

Ever heard of a Cookbook Club? It’s basically a book club and a dinner party rolled into one.   It makes for a fun, stress free way to collaboratively entertain. Just pick a cookbook, and each guest prepares a recipe from it to share. Since recipes are all from the same cookbook, they tend to fit a general theme and blend nicely together. With everyone trying unfamiliar recipes, you may find you feel a bit more adventurous. Everyone is trying to make something they’ve not made before.  If you fail at it, you have the feeling – well, we’re all in this together!

Rodman’s Hungarian Pörkölt was amazing!

Last spring was our first Cookbook Club dinner party and we have continued to read, cook, and eat together every few months ever since. These get togethers are the ultimate foodie potluck dinner.  They are decidedly informal with a mix-match of plates, napkins, and platters. The conversation has a natural flow as we share our experience with the cookbook. We leave full, happy, and inspired to cook.

Everyone had a full plate trying to try a bit of everything.

Here are some tips if you’d like to start your own Cookbook Club……..    Invite everyone interested in cooking to Cookbook Club, not just your friends who are amateur chefs.  We invite about 35 people and usually our gatherings have 15-20. Certainly you could have a smaller group, but you want to have enough people to have a nice variety of dishes.

Cotty’s Cherry Jack Pie did not disappoint. It was just as good as it looked!

When picking your cookbook, consider the time of year.  We did Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi this past spring when vegetable were at their peak.  And this month, in the midst of an unseasonably cold winter, we switched to comfort food with Hugh Acheson’s great new cookbook The Chef and the Slowcooker. And because there were few dessert options, we offered the option of also bringing a pie.  This was a great idea btw.

We lined up all the crock pots and dishes like a buffet that wrapped my whole kitchen.

Consider using a shared Google document for a meal sign-up sheet so that two people don’t end up making the same thing and so the offerings are well-balanced.

The Buerger’s Mexican Drinking Chocolate was a huge hit.

Label dishes with what they are and who made them. If you have anyone in your group with food allergies, use this label to help everyone know what’s in the dishes.

The dessert course was epic.

It may seem daunting to host 20, but in this case, it’s really not. In a way it’s like crowdsourcing your dinner party. Everyone takes responsibility for bringing the dishes.  Everyone takes their serving dishes home to wash. It’s actually one of the easiest dinner party I’ve hosted and with possibly the best food. Our group rotates hosting, and that works well. No one person should get all the fun.

I love our Cookbook Club!  Such a jolly crowd.

Be sure to let everyone knows to still come if you don’t have time to cook. Everyone understands. Just bring some wine!

A surprise Texas warm snap made it possible for some guests to eat outside.

The biggest concern most people have is how to seat that many people. But it’s really not a big deal. We set up card table and patio tables and sit on sofas and chair arms and even the floor. Lack of seating won’t keep people from having a good time.

Thank you Elizabeth!

Hope this inspires you!  I want to thank our amazing Cookbook Club coordinator, Elizabeth Buerger.  She’s the consummate chef and host and being around her is always inspiring. This Cookbook Club has been such a fun way to get to know these now dear friends better. Wishing the same for you!

Could Changing The Way You Make Your Bed Improve Your Relationship?

Could Changing The Way You Make Your Bed Improve Your Relationship?

Many of our European friends have figured this one out.  Instead of sharing a top sheet and one big comforter, each person sleeps with their own fluffy down duvet that’s untucked and there is no top sheet at all.  This simple solution can solve so many common sleeping problems between couples, resulting in better rest for everyone.

 Photo credit Krista Ketlanen

For us it started when we moved to Munich, Germany. We traveled light – bringing only our 2, 4 & 6 year olds and some books, clothes, toys and my beloved kitchen knife set. We’d rented our home in Dallas furnished and my husband’s company was helping with furnished housing during our expat assignment. Within days of arriving, I found myself looking for European sized bedding for our European sized beds. When I asked the sales person for a king sized comforter,  she sternly replied that it was “unsanitary!” Now my German was ‘sehr schlecht’ so I initially chalked it up to a mistranslation.   

duvet 2
Photo credit Stadshem via Plante Deco

But I soon learned that in Germany (and at least Austria, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Finland ) couples typically have two duvets on one bed. They don’t share blankets; they each have their own. 

duvet 5
Photo credit Joanna Goddard 

10 plus years since we moved back to the states and we still happily sleep with separate duvets.  Here are the top reasons why…

  • Left to my own devices I’m a blanket thief. I slowly steal it all bedding to my side leaving my beloved shivering. Sad fact – we all have our flaws. Having my own personal duvet means I can roll over, taking my duvet with me and hubby is left unscathed. 


  • My husband and I operate on a substantially different body thermostat. Being under the same blanket together can be like sleeping next to the sun. Having my own bedding also means if I get too hot in the night, I can flip my duvet over to the cooler side. Ahh…


  • There is no top sheet to arrange or divide equally or to tangle around your feet. Making the bed is also a snap as we just fold the duvets on our side.


  • If I’ve made my most wonderful lentils for dinner, the after affects are not shared so readily.  Maybe this is what the lady meant by shared bedding being unsanitary?
duvet 3
Photo credit via Decor8

All of this adds up to a better night’s sleep and that makes everything in my life better. But don’t take my word for it, there are lots of other American converts out there.

Sara Crow says “Having two separate blankets on my bed …. it’s an act of love.” 

Julie Maigret says “Pretty much the best thing that has happened to our relationship ever.” 

Kate Arends says “We slept like babies.”

Rebecca Thandi Norman says “It made my life better.”

Julia Ryan says “For two restless light sleeper cover-hogs this is a genius strategy.”

duvet 4
Picture from Swiss Lark

There are lots of options about how to make your bed in the European style with separate duvets. I’ve provided some examples in the pictures in this post. European sized single duvets are not as wide as a American twin duvets, which typically hang over the sides of a twin bed.  But both can be folded like the pictures above, either in half or in thirds.

I’ve read lately about the new trend in luxury houses that have two master bedrooms, one for each spouse. This feels pretty sad and lonely to me. Maybe they should first try separate bedding. 

Feature image credit from Scandinavia Standard

Helping the Less Fortunate Dwell with Dignity

Helping the Less Fortunate Dwell with Dignity

I want to share with you about a great non-profit here in Dallas that’s working to help people escaping homelessness. Dwell with Dignity partners with local agencies like Genesis Women’s Shelter, Interfaith Family Services and Promise House to help people transitioning to self-sufficiency.  Once participants have graduated from their agency’s program (meaning they’ve attained necessary life skills, secured a job, and have the financial resources to pay first & last month’s rent along with ongoing expenses) they have the opportunity to be nominated to receive a DwD home interior.

A participant’s apartment before DwD. Photo: Dwell With DIGNITY/nousDECOR

Typically when a family leaves one of these programs, they take very few possessions with them.  Dwell with Dignity staff meets with the family to hear their hopes and dreams for a home. Then, along with the help of volunteers, they come together-not to just furnish, but to create a beautiful welcoming space. They put up window treatments, create art, provide dishes and silverware in the kitchen and even stock the pantry with groceries.  About every 2 weeks Dwell with Dignity does this for a family in neighborhoods all across Dallas.

DwD double
A participant’s apartment after DwD. Photo: Dwell With DIGNITY/nousDECOR

“What we find is that families start thriving right away,” Founder Lisa Robison says. “Kids do their homework at the kitchen table or a desk. They get a good night’s sleep because they’re sleeping in a bed. They start to socialize in the home—they can finally invite other kids over to their houses. It instills confidence for mom and children.”

Testimonials from participants tell of how they felt, for the very first time, they could be proud of their home. They tell of finally being able to all eat together because there were enough plates and silverware for everyone in the family. This dramatically improves one’s outlook on life, and the impact is even felt generationally. 

A newly designed bedroom. Photo: Dwell With DIgnity/nousDECOR

“When we reveal a home to a family, we try to tell them, ‘The reason this is happening is because you’re doing a good job, you’ve been nominated because of your success. We have confidence you can strive for more.’” Robison says. “One of the things we find is that when we talk to the families again later, the parents will tell us they got promoted, they want to move to a bigger place, they’re saving to get a house. They have confidence and the feeling that all their hard work is coming together.”

Every installation is treated like a professional interior design project.



How can you help?  There are a number of ways.  

Donate Wood Furniture – DwD is always in need of wood furniture they can paint and rehab.  They need dressers, night stands, end tables, chairs, bookshelves, tables and desks.  If it’s not in perfect condition, that’s just fine – they’ll fix it.  All donations are tax deductible and can be brought to their facility at 1127 Conveyor Lane, Dallas. Check their website to coordinate.

Join the DIY Team – Volunteers can repair, sand, repaint and update donated pieces Wednesday evenings from 5:30 – 8:30 pm or Saturdays from 10 am -1 pm at 1127 Conveyor Lane, Dallas.  This is also a great team building activity. I’m organizing an evening for fellow Dave-Perry Miller realtors right now.  You can sign up here

Help with an Install – Have you always wanted to be a part of a big HGTV reveal?  This is your chance.  1-2 times per month, over the course of 3 days, DwD volunteers help install the furniture and decorate the home while the family is away.

Cash – They’ll put it to good use for sure. 

Since 2009 they have installed home interiors for more than 100 families in Dallas and recently started a DwD branch in Atlanta.  For more information on how to get involved, check out DWD’s website here.  I love being able to spread the word to you about this non-profit supporting our neighbors here in our community!

Feature image photo credit: Dwell With DIGNITY/nousDECOR.  This living room was designed by Dwell With Dignity.