Spotify Secret Genius Writing Studio

This winter, I was approached by Spotify to style a new concept writing studio in Nashville, called Secret Genius. I was honored and admittedly, a bit nervous, at the same time. How does one design an inspiring space for Nashville's biggest songwriters?! I channeled my 10 years of experience working in the music industry and discussed my vision with my singer/songwriter friends, including my husband, to make sure the space felt, above all else, comfortable and creative.

Nashville Spotify "Secret Genius" Writing Studio designed by Life of Plenty

The studio space that was chosen already included some rustic elements, so I knew I wanted to take its traditional bones and bring it into more of a modern place. Living in Nashville for 8 years, I’ve experienced first-hand the tremendous amount of growth that has taken place, and I wanted this space to both reflect Nashville’s deep roots while also nodding to the future of what Nashville has to offer as a modern city. 

Nashville Spotify "Secret Genius" Writing Studio designed by Life of Plenty

The Spotify space is rented, so I wasn't allowed to change any of the walls. I had to get creative in how to make all the rustic textures work for my new vision. I achieved this by adding as much white and black as possible. The room has amazing ceiling height but still felt dark so adding as much white as I could was definitely a “must”. I separated the large open-concept space it into three zones, including this lounge where the artists can take a creative "break" when they find themselves stuck. The low to the ground bean bag sectional was the perfect choice: it is playful, evoking feelings of being a kid - a time where you were allowed to be creative and forget about adult worries and responsibilities. 

Nashville Spotify "Secret Genius" Writing Studio designed by Life of Plenty

My favorite part of this project was enlisting some of my favorite local artists to provide black and white graphic art for the space. Instead of giving painter, Alic Daniel, a traditional canvas, I asked him to do his signature bold scribble technique on a piano. I was nervous how it would turn out (not because I doubted Alic but because I was second guessing my vision), but thankfully I didn't have time to overthink it so I pulled the trigger. Alic absolutely KILLED it. It is my favorite moment of the entire space and I secretly hope when Spotify decides to retire this space, I can somehow inherit the instrument. No one will notice, right?

Nashville Spotify "Secret Genius" Writing Studio designed by Life of Plenty
Nashville Spotify "Secret Genius" Writing Studio designed by Life of Plenty

The main living area was a challenge because unlike most living rooms, this space needed to accommodate a lot of recording gear, including a dozen guitars, microphones, speakers, a production desk, keyboard, etc. I knew the bold black and white artwork by my good friend, Angela Allen, would be the PERFECT centerpiece for the space. Her art pops against the rustic wood wall and add some much needed modern appeal.

Nashville Spotify "Secret Genius" Writing Studio designed by Life of Plenty
Nashville Spotify "Secret Genius" Writing Studio designed by Life of Plenty
Nashville Spotify "Secret Genius" Writing Studio designed by Life of Plenty

Lastly, the "dining room" - a place to send some quick emails or gather together and share a meal. Here I asked Nashville-based rockstar photographer, David McClister, to showcase some of his black and white portraits of some of music's best talent including: Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, and Jerry Lee Lewis. I used a combination of sculptural white dining chairs to brighten up the darker space. I'm obsessed with the Pantone S chair knock-offs and their weirdly fabulous and unpredictable shape.

Nashville Spotify "Secret Genius" Writing Studio designed by Life of Plenty

A Stylist’s Guide to a Creative Space

ART: Nothing inspires art like art itself. A print won’t have the same impact as the real deal where you can see the brushstrokes, textures, and lines, and can almost feel the artist’s energy.

LIGHTING: There’s nothing more depressing than bad overhead lighting. Creating a nice glow will invite you to linger and stay awhile. A rule of thumb is to have at least three lighting sources in a room - and always have lights on a dimmer. For example: a sculptural overhead chandelier on a dimmer mixed with some low wattage floor lamps to brighten up the corners and a funky table lamp to add some style. 

Nashville Spotify "Secret Genius" Writing Studio designed by Life of Plenty

 A COMFORTABLE SEAT: Whether you are working in an office or writing a song, if you don’t have a comfortable place to sit, you won’t be there for long. When you can, think like a kid - an adult-sized bean bag sectional creates an environment to play in.

Nashville Spotify "Secret Genius" Writing Studio designed by Life of Plenty

THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX: Inspire “out of the box” thinking with non-traditional furniture. Find an oddly shaped chair and put it in the corner. Instead of a standard lamp - choose something more sculptural. Be  bold. I tend to be drawn towards designer classics from the 50s and 60s. Visit your local antique shop to find something unique!

Nashville Spotify "Secret Genius" Writing Studio designed by Life of Plenty

This has been one of my favorite projects to date. I love checking the @SecretGenius tagged posts on instagram to see how the artists are using and enjoying the space. I feel like a fly on the wall. It is so rewarding to be a part of a project that will spark creative energy and great music - two things I am so passionate about! - XO Carly

OUR Bedroom Detox (AND Latex Mattress Review)

Our struggles with starting a family have forced both my sister and I to look in detail at our lifestyles and where we can make changes to better our chances. As I've gone through my personal infertility journey, I’ve learned a lot about the hidden toxicity of a lot of the items in our homes. I have since made it my mission, as an interior stylist, to educate myself on what furniture items are the most problematic and what healthy alternatives exist.

Our Bedroom Detox

One of the biggest toxic culprits in our homes? The mattress. And we spend nearly a third of our lives sleeping on it! Learning this really opened my eyes and convinced me to do a bedroom detox. Did you know that most mattresses are made of polyurethane foam, a petroleum-based material that emits volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can cause respiratory problems and skin irritation? Formaldehyde, used to make the adhesives that hold mattresses together, has been linked to asthma, allergies, and lung, nose, and throat cancers. And then there are cotton pesticides and flame-retardant chemicals that off-gas and pollute the air of your bedroom and are linked to cancer, hormone disruptions and adverse effects on the immune system. Crazy, right?

Andrew and I didn't have a memory foam mattress but we did have a 4" foam mattress topper from Target. It helped transform our cheap mattress into something that felt a bit more luxurious. So learning about how toxic foam is, both unsettled and shocked me. Even more unsettling was finding out that a lot of foam mattress companies actually claim that their foam is non-toxic and that they are Certi-Pur certified - an accreditation created by the foam industry. Yikes! (To get unbiased information about what to look for in a mattress, check out this uber-helpful Mattress guide from EWG.)

Our Bedroom Detox

Luckily, there are more and more companies out there creating healthier mattresses using non-toxic materials, so we can all sleep better at night. I’ve learned that latex-based mattresses are a great healthy option. Latex is a renewable material made from rubber tree sap and unlike polyurethane, it is less likely to emit high levels of VOCs. Latex is also highly resistant to mold and dust mites, and is more durable than petroleum-based foam.

Natural latex mattresses are increasingly easy to find at reasonable prices. The one I narrowed in on was the Zenhaven mattress from Saatva. I love that it is handcrafted in America of 100% natural American Talalay latex and is layered with breathable 100% organic New Zealand wool - a natural fire retardant with no need for additional chemicals. It is then wrapped with a GMO-free organic cotton. Zenhaven is certified by an independent certification body and has the Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certification - the internationally accepted standard for certifying textiles and home furnishings. There is no higher measure of textile purity and safety. ZenHaven also offers a 120 home trial period, Yay!

Our Bedroom Detox

I also love that the Saatva Company is part of the growing number of companies committed to healthy, pro-planet furnishings. SFC members take immediate steps to minimize carbon emissions, waste stream pollutants, unrecyclable content, and primary materials from unsustainable sources in any product platform under its control.

I was officially on board to replace our old mattress, but convincing my husband to shell out a couple of grand for a new mattress when it wasn't previously on our priority list was a different story. So I emailed Saatva to learn a bit more and was open with them about our infertility journey, and my reasons for wanting to upgrade to the Zenhaven mattress. To my surprise, the Vice President of eCommerce emailed back right away and explained that his wife also struggled with infertility, one of the main reasons why he purchased a Zenhaven for his own home and why he now works at the company! He ended up sending us a free mattress to try, and in return, I promised to give it an honest, personal review for the LoP blog. 

Latex Mattress Review + Bedroom Detox

My review: Firstly, I was very impressed by their quick customer service and genuine concern for my husband and my story. This really seems like a company that cares. I was excited to try the mattress and after a few nights sleeping on it, even more excited that my husband loved it. He can be pretty particular about these things so getting his approval is a big win.

The mattress itself is comfortable and feels luxurious to lay on. There is no weird smell and I have peace of mind knowing that we aren't inhaling toxic chemicals while we sleep. However, we do love "sinking" into a mattress and with latex, you really don't get that feeling. Since it isn't quite as “soft" as we like, we will be adding an organic wool or feather topper at some point to give us that added sense of sinking in but all-in-all I am a huge fan of this product and would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a non-toxic, latex mattress. I will slowly be upgrading the rest of the mattresses in our home because we truly sleep better since we made the switch.

Our Bedroom Detox

For the completion of our bedroom detox, we also replaced the items we put on top of our mattress with healthy alternatives. 

Duvet:

We upgraded our standard duvet and replaced it with Buffy. Buffy duvets are 100% hypoallergenic and are made from eucalyptus fiber (also knowns as Lyocell) and recycled polyester microfiber. Their fabrics are OEKO TEX Standard 100 certified. They do not use any fire retardants or other chemicals in the Buffy duvet. It is very soft and fluffy and with a 30-day free trial, was impossible not to try.

Duvet Cover and Sheets: 

We chose Boll & Branch organic cotton bedding for our sheets and duvet cover. Conventionally grown cotton uses more insecticides and pesticides than any other crop in the world, using about 16% of the world’s pesticidesBoll & Branch use eco-friendly, Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)-certified dyes—never chlorine. Another great organic option we love is Coyuchi.

Mattress Topper:

For our extra layer of softness, I am looking at various mattress toppers from Naturepedic (they also offer organic mattresses). I am not sure yet which one we will purchase but this brand is highly reputable and Certified Organic to the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS).

Our Bedroom Detox

Have you made the switch to a latex mattress? Do you have any favorite toxin-free  products in your bedroom? We love hearing what are readers are loving. 

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Saatva. The opinions and text are all mine.

A Clean Morning Routine

Transitioning towards a cleaner lifestyle and healthier home doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, the process can be overwhelming. Defining what is “clean” leads to an endless amount of information, sometimes conflicting, and usually involves memorizing a list of hard to pronounce ingredients. I am often left feeling like I’m not doing enough, and likely never will. I mean, who has the time and energy to stay on top of all of this?

April Detox: A Clean Morning Routine

I am definitely still in the midst of this transforming journey, but I have learned that simpler is usually better, and making small steps is better than not doing anything at all. It’s also less overwhelming to replace products as you go, instead of trying to replace everything all at once. I feel better knowing that the changes I have made so far have already reduced the amount of chemicals In my life.

Where to begin?  A great way to start your home detox is rethinking your morning routine. Likely, most of the products you use during and after your shower, and while getting ready for the day, involve a slew of toxic chemicals. And you use these products regularly. Scary, but true.

April Detox: A Clean Morning Routine

A great resource for vetting personal products is the Environmental Working Group (EWG): a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment. Their database is easy to search and offers a quick look at where ingredients land on the scale of toxicity. You can type in your favorite products into their product search for a quick health rating based on the ingredients found in that product. EWG has also recently launched EWG VERIFIED™ where they have approved personal and beauty products that meet their strict guidelines.

April Detox: A Clean Morning Routine

Another easy way to start getting “clean” is to shop at companies that offer a wide variety of vetted products that are free from a lot of the chemicals and additives we should avoid. Companies like BeautyCounter and the Honest Company, while not perfect, do take out a lot of the guess work. In New York, there are several companies popping up that offer cleaner products, Credo, being one of my favorites. In Nashville, there is a natural beauty and wellness shop called Lemon Laine. Places like Target have also made great steps forward by carrying some healthier lines but it can be hard to find the best “clean” products amidst the many not so great options.

Keep in mind that there is a lot of greenwashing out there where companies use terms like "natural" on their packaging as a marketing tool when there is really nothing natural about the product. When in doubt, read the list of ingredients.

April Detox: A Clean Morning Routine

Changing your morning routine is a manageable way to start making cleaner choices that will have an impact on how many chemicals you are introducing into your home and into your body. 

The key to making this a permanent transition is to take it slowly and don’t stress about the things you cannot change. One evening I did a huge purge of the toxic products my husband and I were using. Although he is supportive of changes I want to make, there were a few products he wasn’t willing to part with. And I am okay with that. Here are some of our favorite products to help you start your day off right:

HAIR CARE:

Grown Alchemist Damask Shampoo & Conditioner: Non-toxic and vegan, this shampoo and conditioner duo is light and smells amazing.

Citrus & Ginger Sea Salt Texture Spray: Coconut and jojoba oils add texture without drying out hair.

Drop Dead Gorgeous Dry Shampoo: I love using powdered dry shampoo and this one is vegan and cruelty free. It gives limp hair volume while refreshing and extending in between hair washes. A go to product. 

CLEANSE & TONE:

Ladyganics Nova Rosa Facial Cleanser: I’m terrible at washing my face at the end of the day so I love that I can spray this cleanser onto a cotton pad and it takes my makeup right off. It's also made with organic ingredients so it feels light and isn't irritating.

Ujjayi Charcoal Sugar Scrub: This yogi-created scrub is a great exfoliatoe that softens the skin while nourishing. Oh, and the smell is what dreams are made of.

Thayer's Alcohol-Free Witch Hazel Toner: This is a no-nonsense toner perfect for everyday use and comes at an amazing price.

TREAT & MOISTURIZE:

Tata Harper Resurfacing Mask: I discovered this brand during one of the best facials of my life and this organic resurfacing mask revitalizes and refreshes skin.

Ladyganics Jupiter Under Eye Serum: I'm obsessed with the easy roller application on this serum. It reduces puffiness and dark circles and the beautiful glass packaging makes looks good on your countertop.

Aria Starr Organic Argan Oil: Made with one ingredient, there is nothing complicated about this pure organic argan oil. It moisturizes without making skin feel oily. I use it morning and night.

BEAUTY EXTRAS:

Ujjayi Citrus Thyme Charcoal Deodorant: Yes, it's a natural deodorant that actually works. And it doesn't make you smell like a hippie.

Coyuchi Organic Towels: Accentuate your morning by including these lush organic towels as a part of your daily routine. You'll feel like a queen.

April Detox: Clean Beauty Favorites

 

What are some of your favorite clean products and resources?

XO Ashley

Spring Cleaning: DETOX YOUR Home THIS APRIL

Life of Plenty Home

Unexplained infertility is something most people have heard of, but it can be hard to talk about for those who are experiencing it. It feels taboo and negative to bring up these struggles amidst pregnancy announcements and baby celebrations. It also is largely misunderstood, yet relatively common today.

Ashley and I have both struggled with unexplained fertility over the last four years. We never imagined our road to motherhood would be such a difficult path, but we have learned so much along the way and feel grateful to have had each other to talk to, although it is always a personal struggle at the end of the day.

It has been quite the learning experience going through cycles of hormone treatments and scheduled intimacy with partners, the sadness and frustration every month with the arrival of a period, digging deep for hope with the start of every new approach. It’s an emotional journey that often feels never ending. But it has also been inspiring to connect and discuss these struggles with other women who are brave enough to be open about their own unique journey through infertility. I have been shocked to discover just how many women go through this and Ashley and I both feel that it is an experience that is important to share.

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The unexplained explanation: Ashley and I are fairly health conscious so dealing with unexplained infertility has been particularly hard to understand at times. We have no family history of infertility or other major health issues. We choose organic and GMO-free products when we can. Neither of us are overweight or have other health problems. We live relatively active lives and try to stay informed.

One thing Ashley and I have talked a lot about as we have done research into possible causes of infertility, are the the toxins that surround us and how they can affect us. At this point, most people are aware of the benefits of organic and clean eating, and many of us have more or less jumped onto that bandwagon. There is also an enormous wave of clean beauty that has gained increased awareness over the last several years. But the place that is most influential to our health tends to be the last place we think of to ‘make more green’. It is the environment we spend the most time in - our homes. 

It may seem obvious but the environment of our homes plays a key role in our overall health and can often be a place we overlook as we struggle to keep up with our busy lives. As we transition into spring, and with April being our birthday month (as well as the month that celebrates Earth Day, something we have been passionate about since we were in middle school), we at LoP are making the effort this April to focus on the small steps we can take to clean up our homes and provide tips on how to create a calm and healthy environment for you and your families as well. 

To begin, Ashley and I are each sharing our Top 4 favorite home products we use on a daily basis that have helped us live cleaner lives. There is a lot we can do over time as we invest in how we live. We hope you stay tuned with us this month as we challenge ourselves to make better decisions for our home everyday.

A healthy home doesn't need to be boring. Here are our favorite healthy home products that make life worth living:

Products for a Healthier Home | Life of Plenty

Carly's Favorites:

  • Berkey water filter: Our bodies need water to survive so improving the quality of the water we drink on a regular basis is a must. Berkey uses charcoal filters to remove 99.5% of water's contaminants and hundreds of toxins including the chlorine and flouride found in our local water treatment plant. I love that I can do a red food dye test to make sure the filters are working properly.
  • Zen Haven Mattress: As I have been dealing with infertility, I took a close look at the environment in my bedroom - the place my husband and I spend so much of our time. I was shocked to find out how many chemicals are in the products we sleep on. (As we dig into this month - I will go into further detail of how we are detoxing our bedroom.) So when we decided it was time to upgrade our mattress we chose the 100% natural American Talalay latex Zenhaven mattress made by Saatva. It is layered with breathable 100% organic wool (a natural fire retardant) and wrapped in organic cotton. I can honestly say we sleep better and I have peace of mind knowing we did our part to eliminate the biggest source of toxins in our bedroom.
  • Shower head water filter: Until I can afford a whole-house water filtration system, I've made sure we have a water filter in our shower. I chose the PureAction all-in-one shower filter and shower head. The filter removes chlorine and I love that the shower head is made out of metal and not plastic. This shower head is truly high pressure which is something my husband is very picky about. We really have enjoyed our showers more since changing over and I have noticed a huge improvement in my skin.
  • Tennen Wandering Moss Incense: Ashley actually introduced me to Tennen and their Wandering Moss incense and I am officially obsessed. I love pleasing all of the senses and this scent is so luxurious and it is made from organic essential oils. Unless your candles are made from 100% beeswax or vegetable oil, it is likely they are mixed with paraffin - which releases carcinogenic soot when burned - and synthetic oils that release microscopic particles that can cause cancer and other health problems when inhaled. So make sure your aromatherapy uses organic essential oils!

Ashley's Favorites:

  • Coyuchi Organic Bed Linens: I am a big fan of cozy bedding, and knew I wanted to purchase quality linens for our guest bedroom at our cabin upstate. I stumbled upon Coyuchi bedding at a home goods store in the Catskills, and was immediately impressed by how gorgeous the linens look and feel. Their bedding is made from natural fibers using nontoxic dyes and treatments and they follow the strictest environmental standards when making their products, from start to finish. I have bought linen bedding from several companies over the last several years, and this bedding is by far my favorite. Beautiful and oh so comfortable - I also feel good knowing this bedding is safe and clean to use on a nightly basis.
  • Able Brewing Kone Coffee Filter: Making coffee is a large part of my husband and my morning routine. We typically use a Chemex and have used the unbleached coffee filters for years. The Chemex is great because it is made of wood and glass (no leaching from plastic!) and looks great sitting on the countertop. When we recently ran out of paper filters, I discovered Able Brewing's Kone Koffee Filter. Made from stainless steel, it is reusable, easy to clean, and helps reduce paper use and waste.
  • Vitruvi Stone Diffuser: New York winters can be especially harsh and dry, and cold season seems to last forever. Early this year, I purchased the Vitruvi Stone Diffuser to help bring some moisture to the air in our bedroom, while also allowing us to detox using essential oils as we sleep. I love the ritual it has created for our bedtime routine. This diffuser is made of ceramic and handcrafted in Taiwan, so it is also pleasing to the eye.
  • Fresh garden cut flowers: Nothing says spring like fresh flowers in the house. Unfortunately, the flower industry is one of the heaviest users of agricultural chemicals, including toxic pesticides. It is possible to have the natural beauty without the toxins, however. This spring I have focused on finding local florists that use chemical free and organic practices in growing their flowers. Better yet, I also plan to include a cutting garden in my spring planting to provide fresh flowers regularly from my own backyard, so I will know first-hand that no chemicals or other pesticides are used.

What are your favorite healthy home products? 

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Saatva. The opinions and text are all mine.

Welcoming Spring

A Bright and Colorful Nashville Dining Room | Life of Plenty Home

It's officially spring and finally starting to feel like it here in Nashville! It is one of my favorite seasons (behind fall) and I look forward to the welcome signs of the changing season: the pink and white blossoming trees, multi-colored tulips, and neighbors emerging from hibernation. So when my friend, Gracie Moakler, a branding and social media consultant, reached out to me to help brighten up her space before she left for spring tour with her husband, country singer/songwriter Steve Moakler, I was happy to help.

An Eclectic Bohemian Nashville Dining Room | Life of Plenty Home

Gracie had her eyes set on this amazing wallpaper from Anthropologie, which we used to create a nice focal point that can be seen from the home's entrance. We paired it with a jute rug to make the dining room feel finished but not too formal. The solid wood dining table grounds the space and the colorful metal dining chairs, from Urban Outfitters, add another pop of color, along with some great texture.

A Bright and Colorful Nashville Dining Room | Life of Plenty Home

The dining room chandelier came with the house and serves as an interesting centerpiece to the room.

Forsythia bushes are some of the first signs of spring here in Nashville, so I brought in some large branches along with some fresh blooms from my favorite Nashville wholesale flower shop, Import Flowers. We celebrated the finished result with blood orange kombucha tea and some inspiring conversation! How do you get ready for spring? - XO Carly

A Bright and Colorful Nashville Dining Room | Life of Plenty Home
A Bright and Colorful Nashville Dining Room | Life of Plenty Home
A Bright and Colorful Nashville Dining Room | Life of Plenty Home
A Bright and Colorful Nashville Dining Room | Life of Plenty Home
A Bright and Colorful Nashville Dining Room | Life of Plenty Home
A Bright and Colorful Nashville Dining Room | Life of Plenty Home
A Bright and Colorful Nashville Dining Room | Life of Plenty Home
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A Bright and Colorful Nashville Dining Room | Life of Plenty Home

A Musician's Magical Loft

Last August, I was asked to style a loft for one of my favorite clients, Matt Wertz, a singer/songwriter here in Nashville. I enjoy working with Matt because he has a great sense of style, appreciates good design, and loves vintage pieces, allowing me to really flex my creative muscle.

The loft is located above the main area of his vaulted back house and requires a climb up a custom ladder to get to. Because of the challenging (yet fun) ascent and the unique layout of the room, I wanted the space to feel extra special, reflecting the magic of being up in the clouds and providing a true “hideaway” experience. Instead of fighting the low, angled ceilings, I used their cocoon-like quality to my advantage and brought in low furniture to keep the ceiling height in check.

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For the rest of the design, I took cues from the homeowner and focused on building a room that would inspire creativity. When I saw the antique tribal floor pillows from one of my favorite Nashville vendors, Nomad Collective, I knew they'd be perfect for the space. Channeling my inner dreamer, I imagined an adult-version of my all time magic place: twinkly lights, floor cushions, and music - a place to escape the world and spend hours with friends listening to vinyl records and enjoying a drink. Just be careful on the way down!

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 Interior stylist, Carly Ripp, and homeower, Matt Wertz, enjoy the finished loft.

Interior stylist, Carly Ripp, and homeower, Matt Wertz, enjoy the finished loft.

2018 Design Forecast

I set aside some time in January to consider the design I’d like to create this upcoming year. I prefer not to chase “trends” but instead, I aim to create interiors incorporating both classic and eclectic elements. However, I also understand the importance of knowing what other designers are trying. I do a lot of research, paying attention to what I personally connect with as well as what I feel isn’t working. There are several design shifts I’ve come across recently that I find particularly exciting and worth sharing. Here is my official Design Forecast for 2018. What design styles are you looking forward to seeing more of in 2018?

TEXTURED WALLS

The modern farmhouse has been in the design spotlight for awhile now, and with that, we’ve seen an endless amount of shiplapped walls. While I plan to continue utilizing wall texture to incorporate charm into a room, I have been exploring other ways to achieve this look.

Board & Batten

I love board and batten. It is a bit time consuming but can be done by the average DIYer and is an affordable way to add character to a room. We added it to our bedroom a few years ago and I still love the result. Check out the before and after here.

Plastered Walls

I am dying to use a plaster wall finish in a room. Application requires a skilled professional but the transformation oozes old world character and is worth the extra effort. Plaster walls have a slight variation in the color that evokes an old English countryside or Parisian loft, making regular walls look plain and boring.

Vertical Paneling

Don't remove that knotty pine just yet! By giving paneling a fresh coat of paint, you can keep the original character of your home while given your space an updated look.

GOODBYE SUBWAY TILE

Subway tile is a classic and will always have it’s place in traditional and mid-century modern homes. However, because of it’s affordability, it has been used to the point of ubiquity and has started to feel a bit uninspired. I have been eyeing another classic influenced by my 1939 bungalow bathroom - square tiles. These uneven hand-made zellige tiles from Clé feel extra special.

 (Image via Cle Tile)

(Image via Cle Tile)

ALL ABOUT ARTISANAL

Speaking of hand-crafted tiles, the artisanal movement continues to gain steam and won’t disappear in 2018. Whether making a beat up vintage table the center of your dining room, highlighting your space with worn brass fixtures or painstaking wood trim details, or accenting with hand-thrown pottery and knit rugs, mixing crafted elements into a home nods to the perfect imperfections of history. Tap into the Japanese worldview called Wabi-sabi, which focuses on the acceptance of transience and imperfection.

MOVING AWAY FROM OPEN-CONCEPT HOMES

I may be alone on this one but I am starting to feel a bit turned off by overly open-concept homes. Instead I find myself drawn to the intimacy of a home layout with smaller rooms that one can escape to. The key to striking a functional balance is to make sure the floorplan has good room flow - meaning the rooms open up to each other and have more than one entry/exit per room. In my ideal iteration of this, a home would have one large entertainment space: a kitchen that is open to a living room but set apart from the rest of the house. A casement doorway or change in ceiling height is a great way to give the main space some separation. I do still (and always will) appreciate open-concept modern homes that are laid out in a very intentional way. I just think “open-concept" has been taken too far and often the space feels a bit exposed.

WARM COLOR TONES

The problem with paint color trends, is that because paint is SO hard to get right, most people get it wrong. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen a room or house painted “gray” but in reality it is more of a purple color. Gray is actually one of the hardest colors to get right. A year and a half ago I had a client starting a kitchen renovation and really wanted gray cabinets. I was hesitant, and instead steered them towards a dark moody blue color that turned out perfectly. I am so glad they were on board! If you want gray, pair gray accents with brown and creams. It might be counter intuitive, but this combination feels fresh and modern.

  ( image via Joseph Dirand)

(image via Joseph Dirand)

A TRUE EAT-IN KITCHEN

Built-in islands have long been a staple in the kitchen. They are a great way to maximize seating and functionality. The down side is that kitchen islands can often take up a lot of visual space and feel cold. I love kitchens that use dining tables in place of an island, for a more homey vibe. And with a kitchen this beautiful, who would want to eat in the dining room anyway?!

A RETURN TO WOOD CABINETRY

Unpainted. wood cabinetry is back and better than ever. The warm, natural tones look great in kitchens and bathrooms balanced against the hard, cold surfaces of tile, stainless steel appliances, and stone countertops. To help keep wood in the kitchen and bathroom from looking like the dated spaces of our grandparents homes, remove the upper cabinets to prevent the space from feeling heavy and dark. Pair wood with contrasting style choices like white tile and countertops.

  (image via E lle Decoration)

(image via Elle Decoration)

THE HIDDEN RANGE HOOD

Nothing says 2016 & 2017 like the exposed industrial stainless steel range hood over a stainless steel kitchen stove. I have always loved the look of built in range hoods and their timeless appeal. Pair them with a statement stove and you've got an amazing chef-worthy space!

A NOD TO NATURE

Organic elements add warmth to a room and I love the idea of connecting the interior world to the outdoors. Bringing in these natural, imperfect elements adds a relaxed feeling to the home and provides a nice balance against manufactured materials. 

New Year, New Living Room

I am starting 2018 off with a living room refresh! The winter weather has coaxed my husband and I into spending more time by the fireplace in our front room, which means more time staring at the adjacent living room. While the living room is functional as-is, I’ve learned a lot about my personal style through designing the last few years, and I’m feeling a bit restless and eager to be bolder in my own space. This is the perfect room to incorporate changes that reflect this evolution.

Here is a current photo of the room. 

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The major mistake I made in this room was never having a design plan for it. The only update I knew I wanted to make, initially, was painting the walls white to match the front sitting room so it feels more like one, big room. 

The room is small (11 feet x 11.5 feet) so when we first moved in we did invest in a perfect-sized sectional couch from Robin Bruce (found here) to help maximize seating. The splurge is one I’m glad we made. Four years later the couch still looks great and is just as comfortable. The higher back and down-wrapped cushions support long sitting sessions (movie night anyone?) and the slipcover means I can throw dirty cushions into the washing machine.

The one thing I wish the sofa did have was a longer, more minimal bench seat cushion, to give it a more streamlined and modern look. Unfortunately, despite endless searching, I could not find an option that fit our specific dimensions and budget. And while I love a modern sofa, Andrew is a huge advocate for comfort. The couch we chose in the end has been perfectly cozy for the room, which we spend a ton of time in. 

DESIGN TIP: I highly recommend investing in a high-end (the best you can afford), neutral sofa that will stand the test of time, hold up to use, and outlast trends. It is easier to add style to a room with affordable accessories that you can change out as your tastes evolve, than having to replace a large item, like your couch.

Here are my design challenges for this space:

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  1. Lack of contrast: A cream sofa against white walls with natural linen curtains and a white chandelier shade = boring. Adding contrast will add much-needed sophistication.
  2. Lack of texture: There is so much fabric in this room! A slipcovered sofa with a skirt, long curtains behind the sofa, a fabric shade on the light fixture and decorative pillows - it’s all just too much. 
  3. Trendy decor: There is nothing wrong with rustic, industrial style (I love it in the right setting). This coffee table was my attempt at incorporating the trend into our space. Unfortunately, there isn't anything else even remotely rustic industrial anywhere in our home and our home is a 1939 bungalow. I’ll admit the purchase was more an afterthought than an intentional addition to the space. I'd love to find a unique coffee table that will also add personality.
  4. Limited changes: My long-term vision for this room is to make it an office when we completely renovate our home, so I won’t be making any structural changes.

The plan:

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  1. Incorporate modern touches: One of my personal design preferences is adding vintage accents to new, modern homes to help create a feeling of history, and adding modern accents to update older homes. Because our 1930’s bungalow already has a ton of character, I want to replace our bland light fixtures with something modern and sleek, to add contrast.
  2. Add personality: I plan to purchase a better fitting coffee table and side chair that will simultaneously add personality. I am also open to replacing the rug (or getting ours professional cleaned), whichever works best with the new design.
  3. Update window treatments: These sheer, linen IKEA curtains are closed most of the time because they are a pain to open (I actually have to stand on the couch to open and close them). It’s a shame because this room gets the best light in the house and we aren’t currently taking advantage of that. I'd love to replace the curtains with something more functional that also shows off the wonderful wood window trim. I mean, why cover that up?! Maybe a fabric or textured roman shade that adds coziness or perhaps even some pattern. 
  4. Accessorize: Nothing beats real, original art. I’d like to include more of it to elevate the room. Buying art is also a great way to support the creative community which I am a huge advocate of. 

Budget:

  • $1400 - light-filtering roman window treatments to let in light while also providing privacy
  • $500 - coffee table
  • $350 - statement chair
  • $350 - accent pillows
  • $400 - new light fixture
  • $500 - frame current art / new art

TOTAL: $3500

While I’d prefer to get the budget down to $2500, I want to allow myself some room in case I find some truly unique pieces. Plus, I’ve learned that great design does often cost more money - especially if you are buying something that is custom. At this point, I’d prefer to invest in fewer, high-quality items that are built to last.

What do you think of my design plan? Do you have a room you want to refresh this year?

XO Carly

A Vintage Glam Christmas

The halls have been decked! I love getting into the holiday spirit but prefer to not spend a lot of money on decorations. If you have never been to an estate sale, I highly recommend going - especially for holiday decor. Almost every estate sale I've been to has had a large selection of nutcrackers, anything Santa related and even yard ornaments. I really try to seek out unique vintage items that have lasted over the years - I struck gold with these knit stockings. They are classic and festive and they warm my vintage-loving heart so much. There was even one with a dog on it which felt perfect for representing our furry family member, Mae. I then added some sparkle with a few affordable accessories from Target and layered in some sheep skin rugs around the base of the tree to add texture and warmth. 

DESIGN TIP: A festive way to display the holiday cards you receive from family and friends is to use them as ornaments on your tree.

Safe travels and here's to a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you!

Photo credits: Grace Boto

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Before & After: Finding Balance in Transition

Looking to start over after a significant life change while also busy running her own law firm in southern California, Carolina wanted a calm and invigorating place to come home to. My role was to transform her standard apartment into a source of security and balance during some major life transitions.

While spaces are meant to breathe and evolve, my personal goal as a designer is to reach the point where a room provides adequately to those living within it: there is a place to set one's keys upon entering, a reading lamp next to the sofa for nightly reading, a table by the window to enjoy a cup of coffee and cozy layers that feel good on bare feet while watching one's favorite show after a busy day at work.

There is a lot to think about and that's where good design comes into play. Although there are some fast and hard rules and various design philosophies to follow, for me it is more about instinct and really "feeling it out". Below are a few ideas that I hope will help you achieve balance in your home.

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Upon entering Carolina's living room, there was no focal point for the eyes to rest so instead of feeling calm, my eyes were searching for a place to land, and as a result, the space evoked a sense of unease.

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DESIGN TIP: CREATE A FOCAL POINT

The TV area is a natural focal point. In this space we created a gallery wall behind the TV to draw the focus away from technology and towards something more inspiring, art. A lamp and cactus were included as part of the "gallery" really bringing it to life. We also used a larger piece of furniture under the tv to help give the area some weight because, after all, this is the area we want the eyes to focus. 

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DESIGN TIP: BRING ON THE LAYERS

Couches are meant to be cozy but as they are often the largest piece of furniture in the room, they tend to suck out all of the energy. Here we broke up the large expanse of the navy blue couch by adding a lot of texture in similar tones to keep it from looking too busy. The white shag rug, paired with a white textured pom pom blanket and the muted design on the pillows, add pattern without calling for too much attention. The texture extends up into the wall with the baskets, breaking up the blank wall. 

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The original bedroom also had a lot of colors and textures competing for attention. So instead of being restful, it felt unsettled and was not a place Carolina spent a lot of time in.

DESIGN TIP: CREATE A SENSE OF CALM WITH CONSISTENCY

Although I advise against purchasing "sets" of furniture, materials in a space should work well together. Instead of one rustic nightstand and one mirrored nightstand, I found another mirrored table that Carolina currently had and brought them together so that both nightstands were mirrored but don't feel too match-y. I also used a more subtle colorway when layering the bed so that the bed as a whole acts as the focal point, instead of having multiple focal points on the bed. The rug adds pattern but doesn't distract from the the mood of the bedding.

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The finished result is a balanced and calm retreat for this busy working woman. The apartment now also feels like a home and reflects Carolina's passions and personality, including her Nicaraguan roots and strong feminine energy. Good design isn't just for looks, it's for LIFE.

XO Carly

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A Room to Rest

After owning Holly House for over a year and a half, our main floor bedroom finally received the focus and attention it needed. At one point, the room was either an addition or porch so it has lower ceilings than the rest of the house.

What we wanted: a sophisticated and cozy bedroom that felt modern and moody, with perhaps a little bit of drama - all on a limited budget. I love how it turned out!

Taking the Focus Off of Your TV

Whether you recognize it or not, your psyche is highly impacted by its environment: a messy room can stress you out while a spa-like setting helps you feel relaxed. We, at LoP, focus on creating well-balanced spaces that recharge us with creativity, rest, and time with loved ones. However, attaining balance is usually easier said than done, especially when combining the practicalities of modern living with the goal of a restorative space.

One of the most common challenges I work on with clients, and one of the most transformative fixes, is moving a room's focal point away from the TV. This simple approach allows a room to be both functional and restful whether entertaining friends or unwinding in front of the latest episode of "Veep".

Here are three easy ways to take the attention off of your TV.

1. CHOOSE THE BEST SIZE TV FOR YOUR ROOM. Most people purchase a flatscreen that is too big for the size of their living room. Unless you have a room exclusively designated for watching TV, an oversized screen screams for your attention and creates imbalance when focusing on other activities like reading or socializing with friends. For an optimal viewing experience, a general rule of thumb is:

Viewing distance (in inches) ÷ 3 = Recommended TV Size

For example, if you're favorite seat is 10 feet from the TV, the viewing distance is 120 inches (10 feet x 12 inches). Divide 120 by 3 and the recommended screen size for you is 40 inches (remember, that's the diagonal measurement of the screen). You can always cheat the size up or down a few inches, but this equation is a good guideline.

2. CREATE A GALLERY WALL BEHIND THE TV. Hanging your favorite art in a grouping around the TV is a way to surround yourself daily with the things that inspire you. A gallery wall is also great because it moves your eye around the room making your space feel bigger. DESIGN TIP: Don't be afraid to layer some artwork slightly behind the TV so the arrangement looks more natural. 

 Design by Life of Plenty

Design by Life of Plenty

3. PAINT IT BLACK. Painting the wall behind the TV a soft black takes the focus off of technology and puts it onto the architecture of your home. When not in use, your flatscreen will visually disappear.

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Design by Life of Plenty

Have you tried any of the above recommendations? What are you favorite ways to take the focus off of your TV? XO Carly

Vintage Accents for Modern Dining

Incorporating vintage pieces into a modern home makes a space feel collected and personal. Years of use and wear on older items adds a sense of soul that can't be achieved when purchasing everything brand new.

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Look for vintage items that you are naturally drawn to and enjoy. When in doubt - a chair from any century, even just propped against a wall - is an easy way to add interest and charm.

At Home With...Julie

“I am constantly trying to find new ways to be creative. Originally from the good ol’ Sunflower State of Kansas, I came to Nashville with my husband for his job as a musician. My favorite space in our home is our front sitting room because of its great light and because the only thing to do in here is to hang out and enjoy each other. We like to read here or have a conversation without any distractions. It’s also a good place for entertaining guests because its cozy and intimate.”

“I found the settee at the flea market and recovered it in my favorite color – green. It is SO comfortable. I took out the cushions and put a down comforter in there instead, and when I lay down on it, I fit EXACTLY… it’s perfect for reading…or napping. It is the focal point of the room. The other pieces are fairly neutral but play with different textures, styles and patterns.”

“I filled the rest of the room with items that are sweet and personal to us – the lyrics to a John Denver song that we loved when we were dating, the framed picture of my husband’s grandfather on his 24th birthday with a note written by his grandmother, a painting I bought in Paris when I was with my sister (she has a matching one in her house), a needlepoint cloth that used to hang in my great-grandmother’s house, a piece of art that was done by our friend, and our wedding album on the coffee table.”

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“I am inspired by good memories, real talk, fearlessness (something I admire and can’t say I always possess), and things that grow better with age. I wish I was better at slowing down to realize life exists most deeply in the small moments.”

“I need to have the freedom to adapt and re-arrange my schedule and change directions so that when creativity shows up, I don’t miss it. Elizabeth Gilbert gave a great TedTalk about an idea the Greeks had: that creativity is like a divine spirit that passes us by and as an artist it is our job to sort of grab it and let it manifest itself. So, I have tried to be more aware of those moments when inspiration comes and to stop to at least acknowledge it and to see those moments as precious, because they are rare, but great.”

“To me, living a ‘life of plenty’ means being thankful for everything, tangible or intangible, and realizing that I have far more than I need or deserve because all the ‘plenty’ is a gift.” – Julie




Lindsay Letters American Dream Collection

A few weeks ago, the lovely and talented Lindsay Letters photographed her patriotic new collection American Dream at the Holly House. She was on the hunt for the "perfect white mantle" to host her new prints, and through the grapevine, landed at our little cottage.

Lindsay had this to say about the inspiration behind American Dream: "There is something about classic Americana, patriotic songs and stars and stripes that make me feel so grateful and blessed. Maybe it's knowing all the hardships and lives sacrificed for our freedom and this beautiful country…people who gave (and give) their lives to serve us and keep us safe."

Here are a few photos from the beautiful lookbook shot by April M. Walker.