Back to School for Dawn Cook Design


Many people have asked me where I have been on the blog this summer! It makes me happy that so many people are following Dawn Cook Design for design inspiration and style. Clients, friends, and design enthusiasts, have all wondered – where did I go??

Well, it’s a good thing! The short answer is the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program.  If you aren’t familiar with the program, it’s a life-changing experience for entrepreneurs. It’s similar to a small business incubator. In conjunction with Cuyahoga Community College, it helps business owners’ focus on growing the business, versus just being “in” the business. Earlier this year, we applied to the program, it’s a 10-week program with full day courses as well as lots of homework, and meetings with business advisors. After extensive applications and interviews, we were selected to participate. I have to say it felt a little like “Shark Tank”. The cool thing is that all the work focuses on Dawn Cook Design and how to make this wonderful operation we are running even more successful.

I questioned if this program was worth the time investment, well it has already paid back 100%. From evaluating leadership, to growth opportunities, and putting numbers behind it all, we are on the path to making our business bigger and better than ever. Linda and I will keep you updated as our plans evolve!

Workspace 1

Everyone needs a nice place to be productive  – via

With a busy client workload, kids home for the summer, and sitting in class a lot of the days, I have not had much time for blogging, (or anything else!). The program is over in a few weeks, so I promise to be back this Fall with all kinds of good design ideas and trend forecasts, and just my thoughts in general (scary!). Most importantly, we are dedicated and trained Designers, so our clients take top priority. It’s fun to live in the virtual world of the internet, but living in the trenches gives us the perspective to execute a job to perfection, not just dream up an idea. The Design bloggers keep us all inspired, but we have to live the reality every day.

The best part of this class experience has been the networking opportunities and shared resources. I’ve chatted with toy manufacturers, legacy memorial craftsmen (read gravestones), industrialists, and my favorite – an apple farmer, and many more – Who would have thought we could all help each other with similar experiences, even though our businesses are all so different?

So if you know a small business owner, who has a great vision, good idea, or just plain savvy, pass this on – it’s truly one of the best moments of my life! As we continue to bring you exciting and inspirational design for your home,  stay tuned for more Dawn Cook Design to come. We have lots planned for the Blog and the DCD/Blulens business this Fall so thanks for your patience and support!

Workspace 2via

Goldman Sachs 10000 Small Businesses is located in 10 cities around the country. The program is fully funded by Goldman Sachs foundation, in partnership with Cuyahoga Community College. Dawn is in Cleveland cohort 6, and looks forward to becoming a scholar on August 22nd, 2014. If you or anyone you know is interested in the program, please check out the website, or contact my business advisor, Patrice Blakemore at



Entertaining By Design: An Intimate Wedding Affair


 No Sophie has not magically come of age for a wedding. But I have had fun getting to know all the hot trends in Wedding décor the last few months. I’m planning a boho chic wedding in the Baker Showroom. The Ohio Design Centre is hosting a huge table event this Friday, November 8th and Saturday, November 9th.  30 Designers are decorating tables to fantastic themes such as “Eat, Prey, Love” and “Carnivale”. Linda is hostessing a Midcentury Madness party in the Bello Design showroom. You must come visit us, it is going to be fun.

Flower ChandelierImage Source: Paper and Stitch

The Design Centre approached us back in January to begin preparing for this event. The bespoke wedding theme really spoke to me. Weddings are so personalized these days. If you look at the top wedding blogs, ruffledblog, stylemepretty, and 100layercake, everything is so personalized, unique,…its not about how grande the décor is, its about how eclectic and handcrafted the design is…very intimate. Very individualized.

Party favorsDesigned by: Christine Wisnieski

Quickly realizing I was out of my design element, I partnered with Ann King, of Borrow Rentals. She stylizes wedding with vintage finds, antique furnishing, and her own sense of style. I had a look in mind; warm fall colors, plums, navy, ochre, charcoal, and gold, with vintage table décor and settings. My table is set on Laura Kirar furnishings in the Baker Showroom. My theme works perfectly with her artistic sense of style.

“I’m attracted to the juxtaposition of raw earth and manmade splendor, it implies a history, a kind of interrupted formality that is casual luxury in its truest sense.” – Laura Kirar.

EBD-Color schemeImage Source: 100 Layer Cake

I have excellent vendor partners for this event, Hummingbird Bakery, Miranda’s Vintage Bridal and Alterations, and Molly Taylor Floral Design. If your planning a special event or want to try something new this holiday party season, these ladies are where it’s at in CLE these days.

Wedding CakeImage Source: Style Unveiled  Photography: Jamilah Photography

It’s been so fun being a part of this event this year, and thanks to the Baker Showroom for choosing me to participate!

FlowersImage Source: Studio Blush

My intimate Wedding Affair, is boho chic, elegant style that’s so unique its classic. Just what you would expect out of me! See you there!

AMDesigner: Alexander McQueen

For a special treat, visit between 12-2pm on Saturday for sounds from a string quartet from the Cleveland Institute of Music tutored by Annie Fullard, of the Cavani String Quartet.  It is a wedding after all!


Opening Image Source:Sbdigs  Photography: Jose Villa


Highpoint Market 2013 Update: Show Us Your Dark Side

Bernhardt and raw edge welt

Just returning from High Point Furniture Market 2013!

It’s always so intriguing to see what the fashion world is bringing us as trends for the interiors markets. And right now it feels good. More warmth, comfort, and more deep and mysterious than it has been in a few years.

Bernhardt and BellaBernhardt Interiors|Luna Bella,Inc

Remember my post about everyone having a masculine side in their design?( “Going on a Man Hunt: Showing your Masculine Side“), well this Market was all about bringing your bad boy self forward with a rocker edge. And this is no country club living, this is LA luxurious with chocolate walls, hair on hide sofas and chests, and rugs with some gold or black bling throw in for some modern appeal. The new introductions at Bernhardt Interiors epitomized this look, and we couldn’t help ourselves from lingering and lounging a bit.

Arteriors and BernhardtArteriors Home|Bernhardt Interiors

Everything is still open and clean with simple line, elegance, glam, and just plain WOW factor. Not fussy, not heavy. A lighter, brighter combination of dark colors (does that even make sense??), fabrics and then something bright thrown in like a splash of color or a magnificent light fixture. Also, found objects are still really strong. Accessories – lighting, side table, etc are not as refined as we have seen in the past. More reclaimed.

Noir and LoloiNoir|Natural Curiosities

Vendors such as Four Hands and Halo Styles, do the “dark and moody” thing well, but even the likes of Currey and Company had their goth on in an elegant way with new designs by iconic jewelry Designer Shannon Koszyk. More to come about this next week in my Halloween post! Ever heard of Steampunk…well you will…stay tuned!

Stanley and BakerStanley Furniture|Baker

The past markets have been all about grey and white. Think the Restoration Hardware look. But it’s changing and the masculine side is still developing. Consumer want that strength and stability in their design now. That rock solid confidence. While grey will continue to dominate in the design world, at this year’s market, it’s being over taken by a dark side we can all relate too.

HaloHalo Styles

So warm up, and be a little bad with your design, it will be good in the end!


Opening Image Sources: Bernhardt Interiors|Regina Andrew


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Appreciating Second Chances: A Reflection

Cook family

This week is full of anniversaries. Our 17th wedding anniversary on the 12th. On Thursday the 17th, it will be the two-year anniversary of my heart surgery. Sophie has the same teacher in 3rd grade that Cooper had two years ago. Today is her birthday. All these anniversaries give me pause for reflection.

Coopers class

Dawn with Cooper’s 3rd grade class – Fernway School, Fall 2011

Consequently, this time of year makes me happy, and sad, and melancholy, and….grateful. I have been filled with emotion in October as I recall all the good and bad things that have happened during the beauty of Fall here in Northeast Ohio.

Last weekend, I spent time with college friends. My lovely friend in Lexington, KY is celebrating her one-year wedding anniversary this month as well. As I got caught up with her on how she and her 13yr old are doing, I also got to see the gorgeous wedding photography she had taken at a beautiful Southern estate. She certainly is celebrating a second chance at wedded bliss.

Wedding shotsSecond chances sometimes aren’t as big as what I’ve described above. Sometimes it’s about recycling your grandmother’s favorite chair. Or clearing out the clutter and starting over in the same space. Or just packing up, and moving to a new and different home.

We’ve had empty nesters sell their homes and move into condos downtown. We’ve had people downsize and upsize, and we’ve have clients redecorate the same space many times. We’ve even had clients argue over furnishings in a divorce, and then argue who got to keep the Designer. (For the record, we were able to continue to help everyone!)

There’s so much emotional content attached to our things, our homes, our spaces. But although they are beautiful, (and sometimes heirloom quality!) In the end, they are just objects with a lot of memories, good or bad attached to them.

So in reflection this week of the many anniversaries, and in honor of my lovely friend Natalie, give something a second chance – either in your heart or your home. You’ll appreciate it in the end.

Wedding shoe shot



Opening Image Photography: Linda Smith of Blulens



Diet Confusion or Design Confusion?

Reflecting girl

I started a new wellness program last week. It’s called the Fast Metabolism Diet, by Hayley Pomroy. It’s essentially a 28 day cleanse. No caffeine, alcohol, dairy, wheat, soy, sugar…so yeah, I’m a joy to be around right now! But I had to do something.

After the heart surgery, nearly 2 years ago now, I had such diet confusion. I had no risk factors. No high cholesterol, no high blood pressure, no anything! Afterwards, I did the required cardiac rehab program and learned about the good fats, bad fats, trans fats, etc. Stuff I already knew. I met with the nutritionist who said, great job keep eating the way you are. Well, where did that get me?

I really didn’t know whether to be vegan, or just eat, drink, and be merry because really, I was alive! The most ironic part of this whole scenario is after I had Sophia seven years ago; I worked out like a manic and lost a ton of weight. I was in the best physical shape of my life BEFORE this all happened. So part of me just needed to get through the mad, the why me, and just be happy to be here. Instead of being the mega-healthy restrictive dieter, I went the other way and said – “Just Live!”

Well, now I need to do what’s right and get it all back under control. So I am detoxing, de-everything, and trying to clear out, and figure out what really works for me. It’s a process, but I know it’s the right thing to do.

So how does this relate to design? Maybe it doesn’t but I see “Design Confusion” every day in my job. Am I Modern or Contemporary? Do I like stark Gustavian Swedish, or Mid-Century eclectic? Do I like bright colors or warm neutrals? And the dreaded “Transitional” style, a catch all for “Just Update my Décor!”?

Most clients I believe are a mix of everything, and truly that is what appeals to most of us. We like our creature comforts, icons that we grew up with, but also the styles from pop culture that draws us today. I rarely see the true style loyalist. The only design style we need to worry about, is the one that most reflects who we want to be in our homes. And what works for us. Isn’t that the same as the diet? It has to work with our lifestyle, it has to be functional and get results, and most of all we have to look good when we are done! That’s exactly the same objectives of a design project.

And most importantly, like a good nutritional plan, there’s no end (so much for my 28 days)…. It’s an ongoing evolution and process that changes with the demands of our lifestyles. In design, our tastes change, and so does our palette of decor.

No more deliberating, or confusion, let’s pick a plan and get some results!

QuoteImage Source: Nancy Ray Photography 

Opening Image Source: Image Source: Unicorn/Dream Magazine


Designer Challenge: Two-Week Kitchen Renovation


I love a good challenge. A few months ago a new client approached me to update her  kitchen while the family was on vacation for two weeks. Under normal circumstances this would be a feat beyond possibility, But it was a great opportunity so I considered the factors:

  • Homeowner client would get possession of the house the night before vacation
  • One planning visit with the client before their move to the area
  • One site visit while the existing owners were still present
  • Pull together a team to execute the job who could commit to the time frame (oh and there was a holiday in there too!)
  • Nice clients with a realistic budget for the job
  • Other projects to complete – painting throughout, carpet, etc. while gone.

So, I said….of course yes and the whirlwind began. Although the kitchen was beautifully renovated a few years ago, the dark cabinets and heavy fixtures were not to the new client’s taste. “Make it White and Bright!” Another good descriptor – “We want it to feel like a pre-war Classic New York apartment.”. I knew just what to do! With good taste and a creative flair, this client helped us get the job done, but most importantly she trusted the team.

Before: Dark and heavy cabinetry

I renovate a lot of kitchens. It’s fun, I always love to see the most used room in the house updated and functioning. But the key to a good design is truly trust. It’s a process. Any design plan is. And guess what proper training and being a visual person helps good Designers go a long way. Also important, trusting your gut. I know inside when I believe something is “just not right” or “that’s it!”. I have to go with the feeling even as I get to know a client. There are so many cues that pop up along the way, we just have to watch and listen for them.  Redesigning a kitchen is a process, a long one usually, and although we had two weeks to execute, it was months of planning, measuring, guessing, and deciding. And the trust factor helped. The client trusted us to get the job done!

Durning: Bar area

Let me tell you about our awesome team. Woodworks Design managed all the trades and the on-site work. This involved everything from electricians, plumbers, tile-setters, A/V specialists. You need good people to pull something like this off. One reason why it worked was that Woodworks does custom cabinetry, so they could measure one day, and deliver pieces the next. We touched every cabinet, updating, deleting, changing moldings, posts, etc. It was a crazy schedule and a crazy process, but well done.

Before: Midst of construction

Countertops are Mystery White Marble and Renoir Quartzite – both gorgeous and fabricated by Firenza Stone. The 2” eased edge modernizes the space and the light colors brighten the space. Let’s face it, marble is going into kitchens. It’s OK! It is stone, you just have to be careful like any other natural surface. It’s been used in coastal areas and Europe for many decades. Another hot trend – Quartzite, it’s the new rage, it looks like marble, but has the durability of granite.

After: Lighting, countertops and white everywhereDesigned by: Dawn Cook Design  Photography by: Linda Smith of Blulens Design

The islands were done by my favs – Kim and Sue at Metheny Weir. Those girls can paint and make anything look great. It’s not the decorative painting you remember from the ‘80s. The layers of finishes they can do – on walls, cabinets, ceilings (see the post The Neglected Ceiling), is just the special something every design needs. The Annie Sloan chalk paint they use has great color and coverage and is in super hot demand!

Island ShotDesigned by: Dawn Cook Design  Photography by: Linda Smith of Blulens Design

Painting, painting, and painting….we painted everything in this space. Cabinets, casings, tons of trim. Benjamin Moore Decorators White is a true white, and of course I love the Farrow and Ball All White for the cabinets. Swift Painting Co and their crew of about 20 got the job done, and they used every second of the two weeks to do it.

Durning: Painting cabinetsLastly, the light fixtures! Oh my, these are the show stoppers! While they may look like fabric (in a kitchen you say??), they are actually coco beads. So perfectly durable and way elegant. LOVE! These were the client’s suggestion and I said YES!!

After: Coco Bead ChandeliersDesigned by: Dawn Cook Design    Photography by: Linda Smith of Blulens Design

There is still more to do…we are fabricating a wall of custom antique mirror panels by the  bar, building a banquette,  having a table made with reclaimed wood, and furniture is on order. But the client came home and had a functioning kitchen to move into and start using for her family!

So it can be done, but not always. Way to go too with the Design team – Linda Smith, Blulens Design & Sadie. our lovely assistant!  – we rocked this one!  On this project the stars aligned and this kitchen is complete! So what design challenge is next??


Follow My Own Advice: Take A Breathe

Black and White Blowing

When I started this blog, I planned to use it as a means to release through words. Yes, I want to pass on insightful design knowledge and foster my business. But I truly gain great joy from writing…and sharing. So once in awhile, you may just get something a bit different.

With all the craziness of the Communion, Mother’s Day, the month of May events, end of school activities, work, and everything else, I often forget to breathe. We all do, literally, and figuratively. My poor Cooper can’t breathe from seasonal allergies, I can’t breathe from stress.

Yet I am thankful for every breathe. After my surgery, I literally could not breathe. It hurt to take… A. breathe. Just one breathe. My lovely yogi friend Carrie taught me how to breathe again.

PausePhoto Source: Valued Based Leader

I need to continue to remember this.  Yet despite all the years of yoga practice, I still have locked up issues that keep me from mastering many poses. But most importantly during each session, I remember how to breathe during that hour of bliss. Remember, just breathe…in…out…it sounds cliché, but so true.

During all the commotion this past week, Brian (the hubby)  told me I should become a Buddhist. You know “accept for what you cannot change”. According to the Buddhist Centre…”An enlightened being sees the nature of reality absolutely clearly, just as it is, and lives fully and naturally in accordance with that vision”. This does have its possibilities. Especially given that I come from a long line of hyperactive, OCD, Type-A personalities.

 Relaxing in chair

Photo Source: MP Greek

Continuing on that note, yesterday for Mother’s Day, we took the Moms for a visit to the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the visited the new Focus Gallery which has an amazing Tantra in Buddhist Art exhibit. Sophie proceeded to tell me what the eight limbs represent, Cooper tells me the fundamentals of the culture….enlightening! This gives new meaning to being “mindful in the moment”. I realize I need to listen a little better. Be accepting. Start mediating….breathe.

MeditatingPhoto Source: Clean Cuisine

So, take my advice. And I will to. Take a breathe. Every single one counts. Good or bad. The next one will be better. Enjoy the house in disarray, the leaking faucet (really??), the ugly curtains (well, those I would pull down), But most importantly, take a breathe and enjoy the moment, you won’t get it back again, but if your lucky, you will get another one.



Opening Image Photography: Katies Kustom Photography


Sophie with flowers

We all love our Mothers. And yes they influence our design aesthetic. In both a positive or negative way! You either have grown up traditional and still love that today, or you really can’t stand mid-century modern, because you saw one too many macramé plant holders as a child. Our Mothers were our first homemakers, first Betty Crockers, first June Cleavers… or Claire Dunphy’s.

Dawn and Mom 1972My mother Donna and I at the Columbus Zoo (circa 1972)

Some of our mothers went off to the work force and we became the latch-key kids. I remember being in charge of watering the endless supply of houseplants my Mom had a serious addiction too. Now while I love gardening, I can’t get a basil plant to grow in this house. Some of our Moms always had cookies waiting or a hug for a bad day. Some of us lost our Moms too early, but we still remember their influences on our homes and us.

Dawn and Sophie 2010My daughter Sophie and I at Waldameer Park (circa 2010)

So Moms are a big part of the Interior Design world…when I meet the Moms of my clients, they are either a carbon copy in personality and design form, or striving for the exact opposite. I’m always a little hesitant when the Mom makes an appearance at a design meeting. We don’t realize how much we strive for our Mom’s approval of our lives and our surroundings. It could either be a blessing or a curse to have the Mom present.

Yesterday I met with my friend client and her very dear Mother was there and our whole meeting got side tracked, but in the end her Mom helped get my friend client back on track (she tends to stray…I love hot pink and black…no… Scandinavian white…also …you know who you are.) See…having her Mom there was a good thing.

My other lovely new clients had parents at our very first meeting….could be potentially challenging given they are making some pretty bold design moves in their lovely new  home…but they are steady as they sail and confident in their own decisions. (so proud of know who you are too!)

But truthfully, we as Designers need to respect the Moms out there. They are important to us, and our trade.

What about pregnant client Moms, and helping with nursery design? Talk about a rigid timeline, a baby on the way! This is where I tread lightly with design decision-making. Emotions and anxiety run high. But it’s also a good time to explore healthy design selections (see Emerald Green Part II – Celebrating Earth Day and Green Design). What’s more fun than designing a child’s room?

Sometime the buck stops at the Mom of the client. I have had clients that won’t make a move without Motherly approval. We all have our reasons. But sometimes the parents are “gifting” the décor to their children, so in this case, the Mom becomes the ultimate decision-maker.

I can’t influence my own Mom’s design aesthetic. She wouldn’t take my professional advice.  She still sees me as her kid. OK Mom! Do your own thing! Isn’t this how it goes?

So regardless…new Mom, everyday Mom, or Mom of Mom…the Mother is a queen bee when it comes to design decisions.

Cooper and SophieSophie and Cooper before school (circa 2012)

So to all my followers, clients, friends, family, and friends who miss their Moms..but most importantly my own Mom….I wish you the happiest of Mother’s Day…may your design be delightful, but most importantly…not your Mother’s décor, your own!