Favorite Things

My love of abstract art began when I took a painting class ten years ago. I struggled through the assignments to paint still life and landscape, yet I was surprised how much I enjoyed painting in abstract form, without any need for accuracy of subject matter and instead based on color and feeling alone. 

Abstract art has no recognizable subject and does not attempt to represent anything concrete in the world. It appears fluid and spontaneous yet the strokes witnessed are in fact a concentrated effort on the part of the artist. Its roots are in Expressionism and Cubism and famous artists like Mark Rothko pioneered its popularity in the mid 20th century.  

Abstracts that are big and bold become a purposeful focal point that command attention in a space.

abstract in entry


Abstracts can also play a more subdued role, filling up the walls of an inviting room with washes of neutral earthy color.

abstract 2


Abstract artwork that echoes the colors found in appealing landscapes (think of the coastline, mountains, forests) stirs the senses and stimulates the mind.

small abstract


When the artist repeats bold strokes in moody hues on an oversized canvas, abstract art can convey powerful feelings or emotion.

abstract art


The easiest way to decorate with abstract artwork is to use it as a source of inspiration and allow it to set the palette for the entire room, inspiring the color, fabric, and accessory choices within the space. 

abstract 6


abstract in bedroom


Online you can find several retailers who offer abstract giclées and prints for sale like Ballard Designs, Overstock, All Modern,and Art.com, among others. 

abstract artwork

For original artwork, check sites like Etsy or Gallery Today for one-of-a-kind pieces.

What about you? Are you a fan of abstract art?  Have you ever painted or decorated with any abstract art around your home?

I’m drawn to old things that are unique, pieces that aren’t fresh out of a box or showroom and don’t look shiny and new, but are instead from another time.  Often these pieces are distressed in that their paint has worn down over the years, and in those chipping layers there is story to be told.  Old pieces of furniture often leave me wondering where it lived in its past life and what purpose it served.   


salvaged desk bhg

One of my favorite things to do is dream up new uses for old things found by scouring flea markets or thrift stores and then bring them home to reinvent them.  Sometimes the doors or drawers are squeaky or in need of a small amount of repair, but with a little attention and care, they can be fully functional and make a one-of-a-kind statement in your home.

Using salvaged furniture is one of the current trends in home design and for good reason.  Rescued pieces bring character to a space and are also an eco-friendly opportunity to use what exists in a new and creative way. 


patina island bhg


It’s always an adventure to hunt for treasure in the form of used furniture and if you’re lucky, you’ll chance upon the perfect piece at an antique fair, flea market, thrift store or on Craigslist, but what if your piece is the perfect size, but not necessarily the right finish?  Good news, it’s easy to give your new find a distressed look with a just a little paint. 


rustic console bhg


Achieving a layered distressed finish is a technique easily mastered with a little practice and patience.  I created a planter for my yard in a look very similar to this stool below by simply dry brushing different colored sample pots of paint onto pieces of wood.


painted distressed stool bhg


Whether you’re whitewashing wood or layering with a more vivid patina, the first rule is choose a water based paint in a color you love, then add just enough additional water in a separate container so that the paint has the fluidity of milk. 

Dip the brush in the paint mixture, scrape most of it off on the edges of your container, and slowly apply the color in very thin layers until you achieve your desired look.  Having a sanding wedge on hand is also useful if you apply too much and want to reveal more of the wood tone underneath. 


patina technique


Layering two to three colors in similar shades will create depth and character, and will give your piece a time worn look.  When dry, finish it off with a coat of clear furniture wax and you’ll have a focal point that will please you for years to come.


distressed green armoire bhg


Are you a fan of salvaged or distressed furniture?  What pieces have you found while treasure hunting and how have you reinvented an old piece to suit your modern needs? 



I love paint’s ability to completely transform a space with a new hue, and patterned wallpaper is equally divine for bringing the wow factor into your home.  For me, grasscloth wallpaper is the love story between both, with the added bonus of texture!


taupe grasscloth wallpaper bhg


Grasscloth wallpaper is available in various neutrals, in colors, and even metallic sheens.  Chocolate brown grasscloth wallpaper envelops this luxurious bedroom where rich contrast is played up between equal parts of light and dark. 


chocolate grasscloth wallpaper bhg


Grasscloth wallpaper is also available in variegated shades which incorporate fibers of different colors into the woven pattern. 


variegated textured grasscloth in bedroom bhg


And how pretty is looks when used like a wainscot wall treatment with a chair rail or molding used to border the top. 


variegated grasscloth wallpaper bhg


Installing grasscloth wallpaper is challenging and hiring a professional is recommended for precise application.  Grasscloth is surprisingly heavy so it requires extra adhesive!  But being the incurable do-it-yourselfer that I am I attempted installation myself a few years ago with an unconventional technique, but three years later (after some recent furnishing upgrades) I’m still loving it! 

One must be prepared for the subtle but visible lines that appear between the panels, but the texture of grasscloth wallpaper is always warm and inviting.   


grasscloth wallpaper in living room bhg


Grasscloth is just as versatile as patterned wallpaper, filling spaces all around the home with chic style, from the dining room to the bathroom.   


blue grasscloth in dining room bhg


grasscloth in the bathroom bhg


Here are some sources for rolls of grasscloth when shopping for your home:


York Wallcoverings


Phillip Jeffries

Decorator Grasscloth from American Blinds

Discount Wallcoverings


Have you installed grasscloth wallpaper in any of your spaces? 



What does the word cottage mean to most of us?  Homey.  Cozy.  Relaxed.  Inviting.  Modern cottage style isn’t a cluttered country cabin, the current definition of cottage style is clean, simple, and light, and now captured inside the pages of the latest publication compiled by the experts at Better Homes and Gardens.


new cottage style bhg


Completely updated, New Cottage Style brings together a medley of welcoming homes showcasing fresh interpretations of cottage style retreats that reside on the coast, in the city, the suburbs, and the country too.   Inside, you’ll see the classic choices of seagrass carpet and relaxed slipcovers mixed with punchy pillows and modern art. 


  cottage style living room bhg


The homes within feature spaces in classic palettes that, in true cottage style, play with layers of texture. 


cottage style family room bhg


Painted pieces, vintage accessories, and detailed trim are abundant plus you’ll find plenty of fresh white paint applied to walls, floors, furniture, and cabinetry.   Classic details meet with modern silhouettes in family friendly spaces where a playful attitude and casual comfort are the focus. 


cottage kitchen bhg


Pared down spaces are still packed with plenty of style in this new hybrid definition of "cottage" that mixes elements of modern, traditional, and coastal too.  Create harmony and simplicity with so many tips for keeping your home current yet still comfortable.


cottage dining room bhg


New Cottage Style also includes dozens of favorite porches, organized offices, streamlined mud rooms, and stylish hobby spaces to inspire. 


mudroom with striped baskets bhg


Look for New Cottage Style at your local bookstore or buy a copy online, it’s a new favorite on my bookshelf.  You’ll love all the fresh inspiration inside the pages!



I don’t consider myself a big “techie” person but I do appreciate those great apps that improve productivity or offer a little fun diversion from the daily grind.  The May issue highlighted innovation, so in the same spirit, today I’m sharing some of my favorite apps for smartphone and iPad.

may 2012 bhg cover


I’ve had an iPhone for years and can’t imagine life or blogging without it, and love the convenience and fun of the popular apps like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.  Just a few months ago, we acquired an iPad for family use and although we limit screen time in our house, we find it a beneficial tool as well.  Here are some of my favorite apps!

First up is Flipboard, which integrates all your news and social media accounts into a digital magazine and instead of clicking on and scrolling through text, it presents it all in a beautiful book-like format with images allowing you to easily “flip” through articles, tweets, and posts like you would with a magazine or book.  I like to bring the iPad outside when the kids play and catch up on the latest with Flipboard.


cg favorite apps


I don’t need to carry a notebook around with the Noteshelf app -  you can use different size and color pens and highlighters to write directly on the notes which come in blank, lined or grid formats.  You can enter type and emoticons too.  Noteshelf allows you to store all your scribbles and notes on a “shelf” and access them later, or send your lists to your iPhone (or your “honey do” lists to your spouse!)  Noteshelf is strictly for iPad and costs $5.99 but if you’re a doodler or notetaker or listmaker, you’ll love it.

noteshelf app


Okay confession time, I’ve gained a few pounds from all the sitting I do all day, so I’m in the middle of a ‘reverse course’ and using My Fitness Pal mobile app to do it.


my fitness pal screen

This app tracks calorie intake and exercise to help me reach my goal of dropping those extra pounds and getting back in shape.  You input your weight, height, profile, level of daily activity, goal weight loss and this daily food and exercise journal helps in that weight loss goal.  A My Fitness Pal account can also be accessed from your desktop.

Photoshop Express is a fantastic “quick edit” app to tweak your photos before you print or share them with friends and family, free and easy to use with just a tap of the screen.

photoshop express app




The Guardian Eyewitness is a free app for iPad that features amazing images from around the globe taken with incredible photography.  I like to flip through it every few days to see what’s notable in pictures around the world.


guardian eyewitness screenshot



Did you ever have a dream you were flying over the earth like Superman? Google Earth for smartphone and iPad lets you do it! You can spin the globe while your at it and pick any place on the planet to “visit”.  My kids love this one as much as I do, especially peeking at different cities, and zooming in on topography from mountain ranges to deserts.


google earth


Magic Piano is a fun one for kids and adults who love the sound of a tinkling piano.  You can tap the board to play and play from the song choices that vary from classical to modern or go freestyle with a few differently shaped keyboards.


magic piano


Photobooth is a crazy camera filter built in to the iPad but if you want to give your kids or friends a laugh, turn it on and snap a screenshot – guaranteed to make everyone giggle!




Five other notable app mentions include Shazam for when you hear a song and don’t know the artist, this app will identify it for you 9 times out of 10, pretty amazing.  I sync my Google Calendar to remind myself of what’s coming up on my editorial calendar when I’m away from my desk.  I love the free app Orchestra for when I think of something I have to do but don’t have a pen with me – it has a voice recognition function which translates to a text reminder, love that.  Also, I’ve just downloaded Kindle for iPad and so far it looks promising, and of course, I adore pinning with the Pinterest for smartphone app.


What are your favorite apps you can’t live without?



© Copyright , Meredith Corporation. All Rights Reserved Privacy Policy Data Policy Terms of Service AdChoices