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



What’s Your Angle? Balance for Design & Life

Carrie-Angle Pose

With the time change, we are all thrown off. Out of whack, out of balance. It’s funny how one hour can set you back, or forward in this case.

Staircase + chair

Angles are everywhere in design and in our lives. They help us with balance and structure, setting a strong foundation to grow and build upon. There is something about the geometry of design that either makes an object or space feel right or feel a little off. While we enjoy a little “imbalance” in our lives to shake things up a bit, setting a strong base, will keep us on track when the world is ever changing around us, or even simply when the time changes.

Table + chandelier + bedroom1 | 2 | 3

Last year, one of our best posts, was about the “chair” pose in yoga and the chairs that inspire us (See “Have a Chair Pose“). I went again to my lovey friend and knowledgeable yogi, Carrie Green, who teaches at the Kohler Spa in Wisconsin. Here are her thoughts on angle poses.

Carrie +StoolArchilenta

Yoga is about balance. What starts as a practice in physically finding balance in different poses can ultimately lead to finding increased balance in one’s life. Each asana or yoga pose is created and built from the ground up. Energetically, a foundation is established, rooting into the earth. Moving through the body, physics is critical to balance.

The human body naturally creates these geometric shapes and angles. It is these foundational structures of the body that offer strength or sthira in poses. It’s complement is softness or sukha. The balance between sthira and sukha, strength and softness brings beauty to each pose. A weightlessness can be found when these two elements are combined through breath and awareness. 

chair + coffee table1 | 2

Design is the same. A strong foundation and then mixing angles (hard), with curvilinear (soft) forms, structures, and objects. This just feels right to our eyes, our brains, and our hearts.

Carrie +chair + Linda1 | 2 |3

So take a breath, and be aware of the geometry and architecture of the world around you. You will be surprised what you discover, even in your own home. And embrace this transition into Spring, this transition in time, flow through it, you will find your balance, no matter what your angle.

 Poses are Carrie Green at home in Sheboygan, WI. Final image is Linda Smith of Blulens Design and Photography

2nd Image Sources: Staircase here and chair here.


LOVEAs Designers, we are always looking for inspiration. It can come from color, retail therapy, vendors, vacations, magazines, nature, and architecture. It can also come from a good meal, a deep breath of fresh air, and a hearty belly laugh with friends.

NYCFriends Rose and Karen in the Merimekko Store on 5th Ave. 

I got all these things this past weekend, on an impromptu visit to NYC. It was a gorgeous sunny winter weekend away with my besties, and it truly energized my mental place, my zen, but most importantly my design brain! Sometime some unstructured time, helps us later “put all the pieces back together again” to create a design masterpiece.

View and girlsSnowy skyline view of Central Park and on foot with Linda Smith, Blulens Design

Inspiration can be drawn from a culinary experience. And every meal in NYC was fantastic. From the Spanish lamb and tapas at Tartulia, to the complex ramen at Ma Peche, to the Italian street fair at Eataly, we ate well! Each of these experiences were truly unique, and very intimate all in the same sense.

NYC foodDelectable dishes, and all sorts of debauchery in Chelsea

Walking around the city during fashion week #FWNY was a treat as well, with extra special window displays, and a buzz in the air with celebrities on every street corner. The link between fashion, interiors, and graphics is tangible, and something to keep track of. A trend on one side, is always and often quickly reflected on the other in the world of design.

NYC Window DisplayWindows during Fashion Week 2014, polka dots? see

We took pause to stroll around The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and enjoy a glass of wine overlooking Central Park, even in the winter this is a beautiful sight. Such a natural beauty within the concrete jungle is awe-inspiring and rewarding.

NYC: The Met

Truly unique culture is also where it’s at in New York. The performance theatre “Sleep No More” was just that. A dramatically soul wrenching voyeuristic personal experience. The recreated  McKittrick Hotel in Chelsea was live performance art loosely based on the Shakespearean MacBeth, with mind-blowing set designs that the crowd participates in but not, there is no talking and you wear a mask…this cult performance was an experience and truly could set the stage for design trends to come. Dark, mysterious, and yes…sexual…my brain is still trying to figure it all out. See the New York Times review for more thoughts on this performance.

New York….where dreams are made of. And inspiration!


Come Out of the Closet: Organizing Strategies

Master ClosetOK. I’ll admit it. I’m a hoarder. I see you gasping in surprise. Yes, I can be a good Designer and still have a messy life.  Dare I say the best Creatives are a bit messy? But more specifically, my strategy has been to pile the things I don’t want to deal with into the closets (yes this is a metaphor for life as well). I would shudder to recommend this to a client. OK ASID police, I hear your sirens. But there is some absolution in reveling this fact out in the open.

Now. That’s better. I can think.

Living in our Stockholm house for 17 years offers many opportunities for clutter. Growing up my family moved every year during my elementary years, my Mom and Dad still held on to items. Maybe this was some way to hang on to never established roots with all the moving. When my Mom finally moved out of her house, I had to clean out the desk, which held notes with phone numbers from 30 years ago, grocery lists, never attempted recipes. My Dad, in his neuroses can still spend a weekend trying to find that one thing that got filed away unexpectedly. Where is the therapy in letting it all go?

Organize the desk1 | 2 | 3

Clean Living. That’s a nice thought, but also difficult to come by. It’s so much harder when it’s your own stuff. I can edit with little tack when I am helping a client get their house on the market. My very first client, whom I adore, has made huge progress editing her piles now that she lives in a “big girl” house. I know she scuttles about clearing before I pop over for a visit.

Once of my favorite websites, Apartment Therapy, does a 30 day home cleanse called The January Cure. It’s worth taking a look to get you on the right path. It’s impossible to follow it to a T, but follow even a few steps and you are on the right path.

Organizer and clean office1 | 2

Even though I would never proclaim to be an organizing specialist, (there are people who do that!), I do have some go to remedies for my clients:

Less is More –as I stated in this article a few years ago, (see “A hardworking, tidy mudroom doesn’t have to be drab“). I know it is tempting to load up on hats, boots, and scarfs, but friends who have many children get it right; everybody gets one of each and you have to keep track of your own items. Why try to keep track of multiple items for multiple children. Although….mom is allowed to have a few extra pairs of trendy boots.

Less is more-Mudrooms1 | 2

Ready Access – Why is that summer clothing still in the front of your closet? Unless you are heading for resort living, stash away items that you absolutely won’t be wearing for a period of time. Right now they just get in the way. Unless it’s a fashion statement, for example my red Kitchen-Aid Mixer which sits on the counter, stow away unnecessary objects.

Fashion Sense in the Container – There is a plethora of hip baskets, industrial bins, wire shelving, and memo boards that would actually make you want to spend time doing household chores.  These items are everywhere from Target, to CB2, to trendy spots designer websites like canvas. And the mecca of all organization, – The Container Store, I constantly tell Brian this place is every woman’s fantasy.

Containers- Organize the inside 1 | 2 | 3

Revel in the Negative Space – clear off those shelves. When we organize bookshelves, and yes we do this a lot, we take everything off, and artfully arrange the items that are important. Grandma’s collection, the loved, worn photography books, the antique bookends. Get rid of everything else. You can appreciate more with less.

Revel the negative spaceLonny

As I make my own home organizing plans, know that we all do this. Some people are better than others, but know that decluttering your home, declutters your mind, and that is a good place to start the new year.

Happy Organizing! Best, Dawn

PS…this post is dedicated to Sadie, my assistant who keeps me organized and sane! Thank you!


Opening Image: LA Closet Design


Time After Time: Taking Pause in 2014


It’s here. My favorite time of year. A new year, a fresh start. Whether it’s a New Year’s Resolution or a new beginning. It’s a wonderful time to reset, replenish, and regroup. Give your soul a break, or a jumpstart, whichever is needed.

This is the time of year that the entire holiday bustle comes down and we reflect on the blank canvas of our lives. Our walls? Or our beings? It’s time to reset the clock and take pause in who we want to be. Is it healthier, wealthier, or wiser? Or none of these? Can you look around the blank walls and just appreciate the now. The empty canvas. The who you are today, not who you want to be tomorrow.

kitchen and scale w/clocks1 | 2

Sometimes when the resolutions fall short, we look in the mirror and feel regret. But why? We do the best we can. We can stay the course, or try a new direction, but if we stop trying to test time, move time, or recreate time….sometimes the beauty is in the present. In being present, in living in the moment. That’s something I’ve learned along the way.

Clocks and table1 | 2

So embrace the clock. It’s going to keep ticking into the future. It can’t move backwards, only forward. Reflected in our face, or in our homes, let’s turn to 2014 with an open mind and open heart.

Happy New Year, Best Dawn

happy new year




Opening Image Source:Little Helsinki


Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas and Happy 2014

Cook christmas 2013

The Cook Family at the Gorge of Doan Brook in Shaker Heights, Ohio 2013

As we look forward to next year, we are excited to start the year off with a plethora of wonderful clients, tons of momentum from a successful 2013, and lots of great ideas to grow and expand the Blog.

All of our clients this year gave us great joy from artists to art collectors, whether big or small projects,  we loved clients willing to take a risk and knock down a wall or just paint the fireplace a cool color. We got the pleasure to design master suites, teenager rooms, glamour kitchens, and swanky living spaces. Thank you for inviting us into your homes.

It’s a joy to do this job and always fun in the process. Even though our clients entrust their money in our vision, we always want the design to reflect back to the Homeowners heart and soul.

Gingerbread houses

Gingerbread Houses, Mom and Daughter Holiday Event, 2013

A few days ago, Sophie and I made gingerbread houses with friends, and it was great fun and right up my alley to “build a house made of cookies”. So whether it’s a house made of brick and mortar, house of cards, or house of candy, this is my passion and I enjoy sharing it with each and every one of you.

Cheers to you and yours in 2014. May your days be Beautiful and Bright in 2014!

Dawn, Linda, and Sadie


Opening Image Photography: Linda Smith of Blulens


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



Dazzling Dahlias…. Autumn’s Delight

 dahlias fieldBrian and I love to travel to the Pacific Northwest. We have friends in Portland and Seattle. We always try to go in the fall because the weather is gorgeous, sunny, and with perfect, crisp blue skies.

Ten years ago, while visiting the Pike Place Market in Seattle, I was blown away by the huge bouquets of Dahlias in amazing colors for give-away prices. Later that trip, we visited the Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island. As a garden lover, I will tell you, that is one place – You. Must. Visit. Nothing can compare. The gardens are breathtaking, but the display of dinner plate sized dahlias, bed after bed, in saturated and vibrant color was stunning. Something about the climate, makes these flowers grow there like they belong in a Jurassic Park set.

Dawn in PortlandNorthwest flower market, Portland, Oregon  Fall 2010

DahliasImage Source: Deb Reny

Dahlias are actually rhizomes that you plant close to the surface in the Spring, and they grow tall and with stalks thick as a trees by August. In this planting zone, they need to be stacked and require a little tender loving care. But once they start blooming, they keep producing until it frosts later in October, the more you cut them, the more they produce. They need their own home in the garden, and I usually dig them up every Fall,  let them winter overnight in the garage and replant them the following Spring. Gorgeous!

Dahila types/plum dahlias1|2

In colors of deep plum, bright pink, persimmon, and glowing blush, how can you not appreciate their dazzling display? So while it’s too late to plant them this Fall, pick some up (I just bought some gorgeous ones at Heinens!), and enjoy the beauty of Fall. And mark you calendar alert to plant some in your garden next May, it’s well worth it!

Coopers 1st halloweenMy son Cooper’s first halloween in the dahlia garden, Fall 2003

Bundle of dahlias/tablescape


 Opening Image Source: Portland Monthly




Paying It Forward…. Random Acts of Kindness

Princess Diana Quote

When I started this blog, I wanted to discuss more than just Design. I needed to speak about what is important to me. After being where I have been, see (Be Still My Beating Heart….), it’s hard not to be continually floored by how kind and generous people can be. Random people. Everyday people. Yes, we all complain about “those people”, the ones who bother us, drive us crazy, or even those we are just a little bit jealous of. But in reality, there are so many just great people out there. When do we celebrate them? If your life is touched  by a few of them, you are blessed.

And I don’t come at this from a religious or spiritual position. It’s just life. Think about it.

The other day Brian was in the grocery store with the kids, he overheard a woman behind him getting some unexpected bad news on a call. After the call, he asked her ‘How is your day?” When she replied “Horrible!”, he gave the cashier extra money and paid for her groceries, and left, never waiting for an acknowledgment or thanks. How did I hear about it? Sophie told me. So happy she watched, and learned this lesson.

Big or small, you remember these moments. When in the Cardiac ICU, I will never forget the nurse Nancy, who mothered me, and let me grip her hand until it was white, who looked after my parents, calmed my fears.  Now this wasn’t a random act of kindness, you many say it was her job, but she truly cared about me and my family’s well-being. It was much more.

Last night at the Blossom Music Center for the Pixar Concert by the Cleveland Orchestra (which was fabulous by the way…) we had lawn seats and a picnic to celebrate Sophie’s 8th Birthday. While we chatted with the couples wining and dining next to us, the sky opened up and thunder and lighting ensued. Sophie, who still has fear of storms, was not pleased. The couple handed us their four pavilion tickets and said “Happy Birthday” and continued on with their party in the elements, while we enjoyed the sounds of the orchestra in the comfort of the amphitheater.

Friends, and teachers, and mentors, and work associates all influence us with kindness. We all have people we respect in our circles. But think of the randomness. Think of the souls that we are all connected too in some way. I do believe that things all happen for a reason. Good or bad, large or small. Just think about it this week, and take the time to do something a little uncomfortable, a little unexpected, a little kind. But most importantly, remember to be kind to yourself….that’s the hardest part!

What unexpected acts of kindness have you experienced in your life?


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