My Guiding Principle for 2019


Last year, I abandoned New Year’s resolutions in favor of a guiding principle. The only thing resolutions ever made me do was feel guilty when I didn’t stick with them. Spend less money! Exercise three times a week! Go to bed earlier! OY! Basically, the surest way for me NOT to do something, is to resolve to do it. I love the idea of a word for the year — and in fact, we ask guests at our Winter Solstice celebration to share their word on a giant canvas that we hang in our home for the following year — but for me, I need more direction. Last year’s guiding principle was SAY NO TO SAY YES, and while I didn’t chant it like a mantra every day, I do think I lived by it. I said no to projects in favor of keeping my schedule manageable and staying (relatively) sane. I said no to social engagements in order to rest and spend time at home. I said no to self-imposed tasks and deadlines and said yes to hosting friends in an imperfect house. I said no to guilt about saying no, in order to feel wholly present in what I was saying yes to. The guiding principle thing worked for me, so I’m doing it again this year.

For 2019, my guiding principle is CONNECT MORE DEEPLY TO NATURE. Now, this doesn’t mean I’m going to spend three months off the grid, or only eat what I grow (laudable goals, but just not for me). What it does mean is grounding myself in the natural world. Taking time to prepare food. Drinking water. Going to bed with the moon and waking up with the sun. Walking. Slowing down. Being aware of the ground I’m standing on and the air I’m breathing. Wondering. Exchanging late-night Facebooking and ‘gramming for a good book. Listening. And yes, spending some amount of time outside every day.

It’s going to be a good year.

One Room Challenge, Spring 2018, Week 5: So Much to Do, So Little Time

Welcome back! I'm so glad you've followed along on this One Room Challenge experience with me. Week Five has just wrapped up, and as of this post, my room is done. My photoshoot with Jessica Delaney was Thursday, and I am so excited to see the final proofs. (Actually, are they still proofs when they're digital?) Next week's reveal post is going to be a doozy, so I hope you'll appreciate this week's non-wordy, mostly pictorial take on the two-day Week Five I had after returning from San Diego. But first, catch up here on what I've done so far:

Week 1: The Old, the Ugly, the Outdated, and the Inspiration to Change It All

Week 2: We've Got a Plan, Man

Week 3: A Few Days Late and A Few Dollars Short (Um, Spent)

Week 4: Help Is On the Way!


When I returned from San Diego, my light fixture had been hung:

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I picked up the beautiful cushion from Laura Braun and her pups (in between meetings, in the parking lot of a Gap):


I bought a million plants for my living wall:


Gregg delivered my new and improved bench:


I decided to keep my rug:


I fabricated a quick and dirty table skirt using my old gray-blue linen drapery. (And when I say quick, I mean wasn't finished until ten minutes before the shoot):


And I styled my dining room like a madwoman late into the night on Wednesday before Jessica arrived the next morning:


I can't wait to reveal it all this coming Thursday...come back, ok?

In the meantime, be sure to see where my comrades are in the process...both the featured designers, and the rest of us guest posters. It's a feast for the eyes!

See you in a few days, friends. I'm going to nap now.  


All photos taken by Paige Lewin, Tess & Ted

One Room Challenge, Spring 2018, Week 4: Help Is On the Way!

As you can see from the post date, I'm writing this a little late. I took off for a much-needed mini-vacation to San Diego, and between the time change and general exhaustion, I missed the post deadline. But here I am now, with double the posts...Week Four AND Week Five (coming at you after this one). But first, if you haven't seen my posts from previous weeks, check them out first and come on back. 

Week 1: The Old, the Ugly, the Outdated, and the Inspiration to Change It All

Week 2: We've Got a Plan, Man

Week 3: A Few Days Late and A Few Dollars Short (Um, Spent)


Now that you're all caught up, let's dive in.

Week Four (4/19-4/25) was the week that I brought in help. I had hoped to do a lot of the final pieces on my own -- installing my amazing light fixture, painting the bench, fabricating the bench cushion -- but as the time ticked away, and I recognized how little time I would have when I got back from CA (May 1, and my photoshoot was scheduled for May 3). I was still committed to fabricating the table skirt and painting the chest of drawers, and I didn't think that would be too much to leave for the two days I had left in Week Five. Anyway, bringing in help is ALWAYS a good idea, and the money spent is totally worth it. 

First up was reaching out to Laura Braun, a local soft furnishings guru, who I knew had the fabric I wanted to use for the bench cushion in stock -- Root Cellar Designs' Espalier Thistle in Minty Blue.


Gorgeous, right?

Laura and I know each other through Instagram, and this is the first time we did a project together, but it definitely won't be the last. I reached out to her in a panic, asking if she could make me a cushion with this fabric in what felt like .2 seconds, and she said yes! Just wait until you see the results.

The second person I called in for backup was my perfectionist painter Gregg of White Home Improvements. I had planned on painting this boring bench a crisp white, but literally couldn't find the hours to do it. He picked it up with the promise to deliver it new and improved just in time for my shoot.


The final piece that fell into place in Week Four was the drapes. Even though I had put a rush on the production, I was concerned that they wouldn't make in time for my May 3 deadline, but by April 23 I got a call from my favorite gals at Calico in Beverly, MA saying that they were in. I zipped up there between client meetings mid-week and hung them just before taking off for California. They're graphic, substantial, and stunning -- a far cry from the faded gray-blue (see above) that they replaced.

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The fabric is an upholstery-weight Waverly pattern and it resulted in incredibly luscious, thick drapery. The cartridge pleat was a perfect selection, as many of the other pleat options would've messed with the pattern too much. Plus, it's a perfect balance of casual and elegant. 

So let's check's what I have left, post-California:

  • Fabricate and install the table skirt
  • Paint the chest of drawers
  • Purchase and lay out 20 six-inch potted plants
  • Receive and install light fixture
  • Decide on which rug to use
  • Style, style, style

Ugh, even with all that help, it doesn't look like I've ticked much off my list. Keep your fingers crossed that this all gets done, will you?

Before you come back, be sure to visit the posts from the ORC Featured Designers and my fellow guest participants. There are some incredible projects out there, from both pro and amateur decorators and designers. It's amazing what a deadline can do for you.

See you in Week Five!


All photos, other than the fabric close-up, taken by Paige Lewin, Tess & Ted

One Room Challenge, Spring 2018, Week 3: A few days late and a few dollars short (um, spent)

Week Three? How are we at Week Three already? This may be heralded as a six-week challenge, but the truth is it's more like a generous five for many of us. My room is being shot on Thursday, May 3 (a full week before the final post), and it is FAR from photo-ready. However, I did make quite a bit of progress this week. But before we dive in, have you seen the posts from weeks one and two? Hit those up first and then come back.

Week 1: The Old, the Ugly, the Outdated, and the Inspiration to Change It All

Week 2: We've Got a Plan, Man


So this week was kind of madness for me, as my boys were on April break, and we planned NOT.ONE.THING. for them to do. They're older now, so I thought it would all be fine, but I realized (yet again) that I am really terrible at trying to be a productive business owner while being at home with my kids. It just doesn't work for me. Can anyone else relate?

Anyway, the big news was that one of my favorite men on the planet -- my amazing carpenter, Bill -- came to install my plant wall.


For those who follow me on Instagram, you may remember the room that AnaVera Design and I did for the 2017 Junior League of Boston Show House last October. In it was a ten-foot living garden that we designed with my carpenter, he crafted, and then we all installed together. After completing that project, I knew I wanted one in my house, and given how spacious our dining room is (because, remember, it's actually supposed to be a formal living room), it was the perfect place. 

Each box is hung on a French cleat system, allowing it to be moved and keeping it from damaging the supporting wall. In addition, Bill built the boxes around watertight liners, in order to keep the system from leaking when I water the plants.


It doesn't look like much right now, but this is going to be a huge addition to our house. Adding something living in a space instantly changes the feel of it, and this is going to be "something living" on steroids.


There were a few other decisions I checked off the list this week, including what fabric I'll be using for the sideboard table skirt (I'll be reusing something I already own), what color I'll be repainting the white chest of drawers (the always classic and perfect Hale Navy by Benjamin Moore), and which light fixture I'll be installing above the table (huge thanks to my Visual Comfort rep, Jeff Pomeroy from Light New England, for expediting that order!). 


One decision I'm still wrestling with is whether to use our existing vintage Persian rug, or to swap it out for something more neutral. If we keep it, the rug will be a dominant element (you can see it in the pictures above) and the red/rust will totally define the palette of the room. However, if I go more neutral, it might suck all the life from the space since it's primarily white with blue and green accents. I keep going back and forth on this. Of course, finding this shot of MY EXACT RUG in Old Home Love, the book from One Room Challenge partners Andy and Candis Meredith, is NOT making my decision any easier! 


So, with less than two weeks before we shoot (oh, and five of those days I'll be traveling in CA), here's what I have left to do:

  • Fabricate and install the table skirt
  • Paint the chest of drawers
  • Purchase and lay out 20 six-inch potted plants
  • Receive and install drapes
  • Receive and install light fixture
  • Place final order for bench cushion
  • Decide on which rug to use
  • Style the space so it's fit for the pages of House Beautiful (ha! I wish!)

No biggie, right?

See you next week, same time, same place. (In the meantime, be sure to check out all the posts from the ORC Featured Designers, my fellow guest participants, and my own updates on Instagram at #projectontheflydining!)


All photos, other than the light fixture product shot, taken by Paige Lewin, Tess & Ted