Melissa Bahen

Building a Dream House: Spring Projects

unfinished basement dream house

It’s been several months since I did an honest-to goodness Dream House update. I’ve talked a lot about little projects that we’ve started working on over the past 6 months (playroom, studio, mudroom, front porch garden containers, etc.), but I haven’t written a plain old update since we moved in. I’ve been very focused on getting things done, and have completely forgotten how fun it is to see works in progress, not just finished rooms. And we’re up to our eyeballs in half-finished projects, so here’s a peek at what we’ve been working on (little by little) this Spring…

dream house basement studio

The basement: Back in the beginning of March (over two months ago), I wrote that the basement was slowly but steadily being finished, and that my studio would be done very soon. Well, it turns out, not so much. The basement is still being worked on steadily, just much, much more slowly than I thought it would. That’s life in the construction world, I’ve learned. The good news is, all the taping is pretty much done, so I’m guessing texturing should be happening soon. We already have the cabinets, shelves, and hardware for my studio, and I’m chomping at the bit to get it move-in ready!

apricot trees dream house orchard

The garden: When it was still cold out and still appropriate weather for planting fruit trees, we put an orchard in! Cherry trees, apple trees, peach, pear, apricot, almond, olive, quince, and plum. We dragged the kids into the backyard one sunny Saturday, used long pieces of kitchen twine to measure and make sure everything was square, and marked tree locations with those colorful little flags that landscapers use to mark irrigation systems. A few days later, our landscaper came out, dug holes, and planted 30 trees. And just like that, we became orcharders (I’m sure that’s not a word). Everything is green and leafy now, which is presenting a bit of a problem in the form of hungry deer. The orchard/garden area is massive, but fencing it is a top priority. We hired a team to sink the upright posts for us, and are just waiting until the weekend to hang mesh field fencing to keep the deer out. Hopefully they won’t strip all of the trees in the next 2 days!

dream house terraced garden orchard

We also started terracing a spot for our vegetable garden. We tilled up a big rectangle of land, covered it in chicken manure (our neighbors probably love us!), put down rows of railroad ties, and back-filled them with top soil to create level planting beds. We’ve gotten two rows terraced, and one row planted with potatoes, onions, and garlic. We have plans for corn, tomatoes, zucchini, strawberries, cucumbers, radishes, and a million flowers. It’s going to be amazing…if we can get it done!

dream house planting a garden

The mudroom: We’ve been talking about finishing the mudroom since we moved in. At first, we thought it was something we could put off since it isn’t a room that everyone sees all the time. But it’s one of the most-used rooms in the house and it gets a lot of traffic, so the sooner it can be finished, the better. The list of things we need to do to get the mudroom done is pretty short: install and paint a plank wall; mount two rows of hooks for jackets and backpacks; build a new cubby bench for shoes; and install a shelf at the top of the planks. Not an easy list, but not a terribly long list, and not one that’s that difficult to finish. We can do all of these things ourselves without hiring anyone or relying on help. And we actually crossed a major one off already by installing the plank wall after dinner a few nights ago. It took an hour and was ridiculously easy to do. I don’t know why we didn’t do it sooner. Now we just need to keep whatever momentum we have going so that we can finish crossing things off the list. Yay for Spring projects!

dream house mudroom plank wall

Jennifer Jones

Organize This: Helpful Home Zones!

I will admit that as much as I love a good organized closet or drawer, what I love even more is the problem solving aspect of organization. I find it exciting to really evaluate our schedules and routines combined with how we use our home and create effective solutions to match. Yes, an organized storage room is helpful on occasion, but what really helps us get through our days are the different zones we have set up throughout our home. In fact, creating small zones with specific tasks can really make all of the difference in day-to-day living. Today, I am excited to touch on a few hot spots that are easy to put together while also yielding impactful results.

I always recommend starting by making a list of your daily schedule and taking note of any areas that slow you down or cause frustration. Also, think about how you use your home and consider small nooks that can become superstar “zones”.

Coffee Station

Organized Coffee Station/Bar


Start the day off with a strong cup (or two) of coffee. Instead of housing all of the coffee components throughout your kitchen, corral everything on a single tray or cart. A few items you may find essential with your daily brew are filters, a milk frother, mugs, spoons, sugars, creams and syrups.


Organized Makeup Vanity

Being organized in the bedroom/bathroom is crucial to a stress-free work morning. Add a hook for hanging an outfit the evening prior and set up a small makeup drawer or vanity to hold daily personal care items and jewelry. Keeping everything divided in easy-to-access organizers will prevent rummaging for your favorite lip color before heading out the door.

Command Station

Message Command Station


This has to be one of my most favorite zones in any home due to the amount of function that can be packed in one small area. Creating a family command center keeps everyone on the same page with schedules and memos, while also providing a place to temporarily hold and sort mail, charge electronics, make lists and hang keys. Customizing a command center has endless possibilities; a combination of dry erase and chalk boards paired with wall pockets and sorters provide sleek and slim daily organization. These types of stations tend to work best when placed in a central/common location such as an entryway or kitchen.

Cleaning Closet

Organized Cleaning Closet

Although cleaning isn’t a task we typically get excited about, it does have to be done frequently enough that finding any way to make it easier is a win. One of the best things we have personally done to our cleaning routine, is store all cleaning related items in a single closet designated just for chores. The closet holds everything from laundry detergent and paper products to essential oils, soaps, brooms, rags and our vacuum. Bonus points for adding a pre-stocked, portable cleaning caddy to make it even easier to breeze through the house with everything you need to get the job done in a jiff.

First Aid/Medicine

First Aid Organization


Accidents happen, so creating a kit to prepare for cuts, bug bites, scrapes and even head colds, will really come in handy at a moment’s notice. Keep ointments, bandages, swabs and disinfectants in a portable bin. Pair it with another basket filled with sinus medication, daily vitamins, pain reliever, cough syrups and chest rub to create the ultimate first aid zone. Just remember to store the items in a cool and dry space, such as a linen closet or kitchen cabinet, away from common heat sources.

Utility Zone

Organized Utility Cabinet


Whether it is a closet, cabinet or drawer, having a designated zone to keep daily maintenance items within reach will prove to be a saving grace on a daily basis. Some items to consider for this zone are extension cords, common household tools (screwdriver, hammer, tape measure), flashlight, matches, batteries, scissors, spare keys, paint brush and picture hanging supplies.

Gift Wrap Station

Gift Wrap Station

I love giving small gifts and packages as tokens of appreciation to friends, family, teachers and neighbors all year round. Having a tucked away gift wrapping station to store a few rolls of wrap, spools of ribbon, blank notecards and gift bags has proven to be beneficial time and time again.

Now that I have shared my favorite home “hot-spots”, what are yours? Have you set up any zones in your home that have changed your daily lifestyle for the better?

Categories: Style Spotters | Tags:

Jill Waage

Building a New Home: 5 Important Lessons We Learned

1. The big three: Siding, Roofing, and Stone

We spent days debating between a gray-ish taupe or a beige-ish gray for the siding. Did the stone facing make the taupe siding look too green? Did the gray make the brown stones look too brown? What about the roofing color? Once we put all three side by side, the combination became obvious.

Lesson: Always choose exterior materials at the same time.


2. The kitchen Island

Mere inches seem like miles when you’re talking about storage and workspace for an island. First, we had to prioritize: More storage or breakfast bar seating? In the end, we came up with features that gave us both. Although we didn’t want a huge island (How do you reach the center to clean?), we were able to gain more storage by making the layout T-shaped with a raised end cabinet and still had space for plenty of stools.

Lesson: Think outside the box when you’re outfitting the island.

3. Bathroom floorplans

How many times do you think you can re-arrange a bathroom? Well, for the three-and-a-half baths in the house, we went through no less than 10 iterations. And that doesn’t count the pencil sketches or iPad doodles. Or the versions our kitchen and bath designer worked over in her own head before showing to us. However, going through those iterations did get us to a clever arrangement for the master bath that is far from where we started. And allowed innovative bath products to shine—a tub with music, a shower with digital controls, and a really cool way to watch TV.

Lesson: There is more than one way to design a bath. Don’t feel hemmed in by conventional layouts.


4. The TV placement in the living room

This could be the most discussed wall in the entire house! With the changes in television sizes and formats, the design of a media wall isn’t the standard proposition that it used to be. We knew we wanted to showcase its spot in today’s family life, so we turned to our designer for help. She came up with a configuration for the TV, fireplace, and shelving that is sleek, balanced, and modern. And feels right at home in the open floorplan.

Lesson: Because electronics will continue to change, think about flexibility. And remember that finishes and paint colors can help integrate a television seamlessly into a room.

5. And the easiest decision? Black cladding for the windows. We loved it in theory and we’re loving it in reality. Some things you just know.

Lesson: Trust your instincts.


Rachel Shingleton

Get the look: Matisse-Inspired Decor & Accessories

Get the look: inspired by Henri Matisse. Wallpaper by Kate Zaremba. Pagoda print by Pencil Shavings Studio

Have you noticed that Matisse-inspired decor and accessories are all the rage these days? Maybe it’s the recent exhibition at MoMA of Matisse’s cut-outs that has everyone excited again about the sea-like designs and technicolor graphic symbols, but Matisse’s influence lives on, even over sixty years after his death.

Henri Matisse was born in France and was one of the founders of Fauvism. With a career that lasted until his death at the age of 84, Matisse dabbled in a variety of different mediums including painting, sculpture, graphic design, and paper cutting. All told, his paintings were magnetic to me with their use of color and were the ones I gravitated to most when I was an art student in Paris over ten years ago. The brilliantly unexpected paintings of the women in technicolor-hued spaces inspired similar (but poorly rendered!) versions of my own little Parisian apartment. I fell in love with his bold interiors in unusual color schemes. There is a ridiculous amount of inspiration to be had: women reclining on yellow sofas (velvet maybe?), goldfish swimming in bowls, patterned dhurrie rugs, and striped linens create a dizzying amount of texture and visual interest.

Paintings by Fauvist Henri Matisse

sources: Henri Matisse

So how does this translate to interiors? There are oodles of items to be found inspired by Matisse, especially the paper cut series. I recently picked up a roll of Kate Zaremba‘s gorgeous multi-hued wallpaper as shown above (also in black) and I couldn’t love it more. It’s currently pinned up on the wall in my studio, but imagine how stunning it would be in a powder bathroom. She also offers the same print in textiles such as these placemats.

Kate Zaremba

Porthault Matisse-inspired linens

Porthault offers this Matisse-inspired print in its luxury line of linens. If you want to keep from going overboard on the pattern, pair it with a solid hue and do pops of color on accent pillows to compliment the busy print.DIY Matisse bowl w/ balloon

If you’re of the DIY persuasion, check out this fun little egg created by Karuski’s Little Shop of Colours. It was made by attaching paper-cut shapes to a balloon with mod podge. So clever – I’m tempted to try this one with my 7 year old! I’m sure he’d love popping the balloon after the paper dried. (Oh, if you’re looking for more Matisse-inspired projects, check out this book over on Amazon.)Karen Kimmel

Finally, Karen Kimmel Studios offers this shape-shifter mobile in a couple of different colorways. It would be great to hang on a wall or in a child’s bedroom.

Ok, friends – tell me, are you inspired by Matisse? Share your fave finds in the comments!

Erin Menardi

We Heart It: Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

Mother’s Day is right around the corner–and what better way to show her how much you love her than with a handmade gift she’ll absolutely love? This week, take a look at some cute ideas I rounded up for all of the wonderful women in your life!


Keepsakes are always in style–if she loves to cook, something like this adorable hand print apron from Simply + Kierste could be the perfect way to say thank you for everything she does!



Everyone loves getting flowers–make hers extra special by making a personalized vase to hold them in! I love this idea from Homes Stories A to Z.



If she can’t make it to the spa, help her relax with these deliciously-scented lavender lemon soaps from A Pumpkin And A Princess!



If you’ve got a few extra hours this week, try this adorable Mother’s Day sign from Sawdust And Embryos. Personalize the words, colors and shape to express all of her wonderful qualities!



And sometimes, flowers are the perfect touch. If you’re lucky enough to have multiple moms to give gifts to, make a batch of these gorgeous mini bouquets from Homey Oh My! for a simple way to say, “I love you.”



Have a wonderful week! Show those ladies some love.




BHG Guest Blogger

5 Tips for Setting the Perfect Summer Table

Hi! I’m Camille Styles, founder of and author of Camille Styles Entertaining.

I would definitely call myself a “summer girl” — it’s the season I most look forward to all year long. Growing up, my end-of-May birthday usually fell during the last week of school, and even now the day represents freedom in my mind: the time to lighten up and have some fun! There’s nothing like that first dip in the pool that recalls sunny childhood memories and gets me in the mood to ditch work early for a picnic in the park complete with cold fried chicken, juicy strawberries and fresh-squeezed lemonade. This is the season for unfussy, effortless entertaining; fine china and perfectly-arranged flowers just don’t feel right at this time of year! Here’s how I set a table fit for a dinner party that captures the carefree vibe of summer.

1. Dress the table in summery textures. In the same way I might throw on shirts in fabrics like linen when it’s hot outside, think in terms of light, breathable materials like cotton and linen when dressing your table for a dinner party. I have a collection of light blankets from India and Mexico that I repurpose as the most gorgeous tablecloths — their vibrant colors and textures feel festive without trying too hard, and are bold enough to set the tone for an entire celebration.2. Incorporate elements that feel like summer vacation. There’s nowhere I’d rather be than at the beach, and since my home in Austin is pretty landlocked, I’ve always been obsessed with collecting textures and shapes that recall marine life: the wild shapes of sea coral, spiral patterns of shells and roughness of sand are all so beautiful. I place elements I’ve scavenged from past beach vacations around the house to instantly take me away, and place them on the center of the table for a simple, 2-minute centerpiece.

3. Celebrate color! Summer is when I really embrace color on the table. I usually choose either all cool shades (blues, greens, lavender), or all warm shades (pinks, reds, oranges), and then go to town! Layer different patterns like florals and stripes in striking color combinations for a bold look, then pile on vibrant dishes, mismatched napkins and colorful cocktails. I love pieces that incorporate textural or exotic touches like woven Guatemalan patterns or Indian-inspired tassels to satisfy the wanderlust that strikes more frequently in the summertime. If the minimalist in you is cringing at the thought of all that color, try sticking with a neutral palette and adding one vibrant pop. My bright teal tablecloth always makes a statement in our dining room that’s otherwise cream, white and light wood.

4. Let summer produce take center stage. Summer is a constant reminder of the earth’s generosity: just take a stroll past farmers market stalls brimming with juicy peaches, heirloom tomatoes in every shade, and summer squash begging to be tossed on the grill and devoured. Set out a big platter of your market haul – a colorful salad or sweet slices of watermelon sprinkled with sea salt – and let it play double-duty as family-style feast and beautiful centerpiece.

5. Create a glowing ambiance. As the sun sets, create a magical glow with some strategically-placed candles and lights. For my husband’s birthday party a couple years ago, we surrounded the pool with tons of votive candles that lit up the night in such an unforgettable way. String up white café lights overhead, place a few lanterns with candles inside around the patio or scatter bamboo torches filled with citronella oil along the perimeter of the yard. They’ll ward off bugs while adding light!