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



Pet Fancy: Designing with Pets in Mind

Cat on sofa

When you invite us into your home to help you with a project, we are often greeted by the family cat or dog,….or bird, or chicken. And even more so than families with kids, We are  thinking about watch-outs for pets with design elements. You many think I’m crazy for some of the questions I ask you when we are planning your design, but having a pet can be a real challenge when designing a beautiful space. I don’t want you to live to regret your investment down the road if something expensive gets damaged, and it will. Proper planning makes it easier to deal with.

Cat on shelfvia

We’re pet people. I have 3 cats. Linda has 3 dogs. Did I just say that? Yep it’s true. It’s a real time study over here daily as far as trial and error as to what works and doesn’t work with these creatures that are integral to our families and living with fancy interior design products.

When planning your design, we see it all. Kitchens need to be designed with pet supplies in mind, mudrooms with waterproof spray-down locations, special pet snack containers that don’t LOOK like pet snack containers. Where do the food bowls go? How does the elderly dog or cat get up onto the very expensive new bedding? I have to consider an answer to it all, because one thing I know is that pets are very, very important. And I need to take care of them. Sometimes their opinion is more important than the spouse, no kidding.

Dogs in mudroomvia

Here are a few of my favorite tips to consider when dealing with pets in design:

Window Treatments Do Not Mix Well with Animals: Really consider the style and design. Open weave fabrics, sheers, and silks are usually not a good idea. Cats love to scale things that are high. I have seen cats hanging from newly installed panels. Maybe consider a top treatment or roman shade style. That may be less tempting to get too. Also, as cords are an issue with children, same goes for pets. Highly anxious animals tend to chew on these items, so your shades aren’t going to work once they are sawn off. I learned this the hard way. There are many options for cording, so make sure you ask the questions as to what is available.

Looped Carpet and Delicate Fabrics: Tell me if a pet is in your future, even if you don’t have one It will determine what fabrics I suggest on your new sofa, or for the runner on the stairs. Yes, cats have claws, but dog nails do a ton of damage as well. Carpets with a loop are always susceptible to pulls. A boucle, or sisal type of weave is never going to work, also natural fibers won’t survive accidents.  A cut style. or tighter weave  is always going to wear better and hide any damage. While most nylon carpets you can cut a single thread, expensive wool Wiltons can snag and run all the way across like pantyhose or a sweater, so think twice before this investment.

carpet and window treatments1 | 2

Leather: choose antiqued, vintage, or distressed styles.  It does not work well with dog nails. You will see the markings. The best way to avoid this is to buy imperfect leather. Leather that is patinaed and ages, and looks even better with marks and bruises, and time. This way you won’t notice every last mar. And for the record I have seen cats destroy a Baker leather sofa in record time. Cat nails will slice through leather. I hate the idea of declawing, but truly if you are making the investment, it may be something to consider. Or keep them out of the room where the good furniture goes. i struggle with this concept myself, but it’s best to consider your lifestyle and all the options before making a purchase.

Bedding: Let’s face it. Everything ends up on this bedding. We have had every cat excrement appear in our own home. Only go with washable materials. It’s a must. I will never let you buy bedding that you have to iron or dry clean. It’s not necessary. There are so many good washable fabrics out there, and good bedding resources . You can get a big look in bedding with Restoration Hardware or West Elm bedding, and custom designed pillows or a designer headboard. If the pets sleep on the bed or gets mad at you, it’s going to happen.Buy washable and add Designer elements.

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Blocking Against Barks and Meows: We have a 19 year cat that yowls louder than a human. It echos off the walls. I thought about having the hardwood floors exposed for a few minutes on our stairs after we had the floors refinished. After she woke us up every night at       2 am meowing, we got carpet. Upholstered fabrics are an amazing noise barrier. Whether on windows, floors, or furniture, fabric covered surfaces may ease your sleep, and your neighbors nerves if you have a barker in the house.

Allergies: Many people love pets and live with allergies. The best course of action is to use natural materials such as cotton, linen, and wools that can be laundered easier. These natural materials have natural immunities that won’t hold the allergens as much as a synthetic fibers. They can also be cleaned better, and laundered less expensively than the alternative. Regular vacuuming of furniture, window treatments, carpets, and washing of bedding will assist with pet allergies. There are some great durable fabrics out there that we can specify for families with pet allergies. I don’t want your design showing wear and tear after multiple cleanings, so let us know so we can make the right selection.

Dog and cat walk1 | 2

Hardwood Floors: When installing hardwood floors, the harder the material the better. So Maple or Oak will beat out pine any day. Pine is the softest and will show every nail mark, mar, and imperfection. Even walnut, which is so popular, now, is a softer hardwood. The best course of action is to install a wood with a lot of natural graining or something called “character” flooring. It has some distressing or hand-hewned effect so it won’t show traffic and wear and tear. Lastly, make sure it gets sealed properly, and gets maintained. If your pet has  a regular “accident” area, it will damage the wood. Be aware of what is happening under a rug or the carpet, I unfortunately learned this the hard way.

Dog on wood floorsvia

So we love pets, and they are a fact of life, and crazy enough, some of our largest clients tell us they are getting a puppy a week after the project ends. So don’t mess around, and we’ll help you “bark and meow” your way through the design process.


Opening Image: Designed by Kim Johnson

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Summer Solstice Entertaining: Linda Style


As the summer solstice approaches, it’s time to plan out your entertaining opportunities before summer slips away. The kids are just out of school last week, yet 4th of July is right around the corner. To truly enjoy the moment, the best celebrations of summer are the impromptu kind, where the neighbors stop over for a cocktail, or you have a quick margarita night with girlfriends.

One thing I know my gal Linda (Linda Smith, Blulens Design) is good at is throwing together a quick fete. Me on the other hand, I have to think about, straighten my house, plan a menu, set the stage. Linda can make fun out of thin air, so I asked her what are her best tips for summer style this season.


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1. Set the Mood, Lights Out! Commercial Lights are all the rage, make sure they are black cords, not green or you will end up with a Christmas look. Candles, candles, candles. Real or flameless, sometimes that’s all you need. 

2. Old Fashioned Lawn Games are not just for children, have fun and bring out the Jarts! 

3. Choose your Summer Shoes Wisely – Wedges are great, they don’t sink in the grass or dirt depending on the weather. And it’s an easy way to dress up a pair of shorts, sundress, or even your bathing suit! 

4. Sunglasses are a Statement, You Better Believe It – don’t wear sunglasses on your head. But it’s OK to wear them at night for a coolness factor. Linda’s words: ”On your face, or in the case!” Save that expensive pair of Ray-Bans from the obstacles in your purse. 

5. Summer Music Must Be Portable. A Jambox is a quick and affordable way to port your favorite I-tunes playlist. 


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6. Be Ready for Drop In Guests: Make Disposables Look Chic. These Bamboo disposable are very cool, and sustainable. 

7. Check Out your Outdoor Furniture – Refresh! Cushions and wood furniture fades with the elements. Sun, rain, and humidity can damage even the most durable outdoor fabrics. Take a good look every season and update, refinish, or repair as necessary.

8. Spoil Yourself, cut flowers from your garden everyday

9. Be Out Front, Don’t Hide In the Backyard: “If You Start A Party, They Will Come”

10. Have a Signature Summer Cocktail – Linda and I both have our vices. Anything with bourbon is always on Linda’s list. I prefer refreshing and cool for summer. Pinterest can be a great place to source a new cocktail. Keep ingredients readily available and learn how to make one drink really well. If you don’t live close enough to walk home, always be ready to hit the “Uber” or “Lyft” app to gracefully, and safely, leave any party!  It’s cool to have a driver!

11. Quirky Garden Accessories Add Character – All those flea markets you are going to, pick up something unexpected to set the stage in your garden. It makes all the difference!

So happy entertaining. Enjoy the summer and try and stay in the moment. We all need a little summer fun right now!


 Here is Linda’s summer ride, her Vespa, if you see her about town, beep or say hi! 

Opening Image Source: Sweet Thing 


Arts and Crafts-BLULENS

Farmhouse Chic with a Touch of Sweet: Dawn Cook Design

In honor of Father’s Day, I thought I would highlight two kitchen projects that Linda and I both recently completed. Both turned out fabulous and couldn’t be more uniquely different. One of our jobs as a Designer is to be a chameleon. We need to adapt to our client’s wishes and desires for their own home. But the best part is when we get to stretch those design beliefs into a new place and help them see a vision for the space that with professional help comes together into a fantastic finale.

Arts and Crafts-BLULENSLinda partnered perfectly with our clients from the beginning on this project. Picking gorgeously warm and masculine materials such as rainforest granite and slate ledger stones. As any custom kitchen should be, every cabinet detail was thought through to the smallest degree. The custom detailing on the header, the size and shape of the rails and stiles on the door fronts. These items say style without saying overstyled. Linda’s unique approach makes Arts and Crafts modern and eclectic with just the right amount of classic. That uber chic banquette gives the space a lounge effect, but still is comfortable for friends to relax at home. One of the signature features are custom pendants from our very own Cleveland Art. You may have seen Jason’s work at Burtnwood Tavern or Luxe over in Gordon Square. Nothing is better than featuring a local artist! We love adding that special touch to any design we are dreaming up. And our clients seem to like that too. In today’s desire for clean white modern kitchens, this warm masculine kitchen is a breath of fresh air, and allowed our clients to express their own personal style. This kitchen was designed by Linda Smith of Blulens Design.

Arts and Crafts-BLULENS

Arts and Crafts-BLULENS

Arts and Crafts-BLULENS

Arts and Crafts-BLULENS


Farmhouse Chic with a Touch of Sweet: Dawn Cook Design

My clients on this project were old college friends. Having know and loved this family for many years, it was easy to jump in and know exactly what they were looking for. Initially looking to update the kitchen, my client’s went full steam ahead and also did a major master suite renovation (more on that later). Anybody who knows my client, knows she could not be more beautiful inside and outside. She just is, so the space needed to reflect this. Combining smarts with some southern charm, this kitchen became a cool, clean, modern version of southern living. Yes, it is a white kitchen with stainless appliances, but we didn’t want to do the cookie cutter white kitchen so we added cool greys, and distressed warm blacks. Wide plank character hickory floors in an ebonized coffee color set the theme. Watery blue and warm taupe Brentano and Romo fabrics, and brushed nickel mod Currey and Co. and Circa Lighting, all inspired by the perfect Romo wallcovering for the Dining room helped the design take shape. We needed to add a mudroom space, so we truly touched every corner of this footprint, moving walls, moving the powder room, moving all the major appliances, and adding a banquette. Best part, it all looks like it belongs in this house. A bright, feminine space that looks exactly like our client! This kitchen was designed by Dawn Cook of Dawn Cook Design.

Farmhouse Chic with a Touch of Sweet: Dawn Cook Design

Farmhouse Chic with a Touch of Sweet: Dawn Cook Design Farmhouse Chic with a Touch of Sweet: Dawn Cook DesignFarmhouse Chic with a Touch of Sweet: Dawn Cook Design

Farmhouse Chic with a Touch of Sweet: Dawn Cook Design

Farmhouse Chic with a Touch of Sweet: Dawn Cook Design

Farmhouse Chic with a Touch of Sweet: Dawn Cook Design

Both kitchens and projects were managed by Todd Armfelt of Woodworks Designs. Linda and I collaborate with him a lot on our kitchen and bath projects. He has a team of professionals and a super cool custom cabinet shop! Todd epitomizes custom cabinetry and large scale renovation. We couldn’t have done it without him!

So as we all run out to grab ties, golf equipment, scotch, and fishing gear this week, think about the men in our lives. How does the space they live in reflect their style?


Photography by Linda Smith of Blulens Design


Front doorWhen was the last time you entered your front door? See what your guests see? Probably a long time ago given the long, long winter we just recovered from. But now that we are all set for summer entertaining, here are some ideas for a quick freshen to this important space. I see a lot of front doors going to visit potential clients. And yes, I check out your entry. Lots of times I see birds nests, cobwebs, and peeling paint.  And mind you my front entry looks the same way right now: my doorbell is broken, my steps need to be tuck-pointed, the whole Georgian façade needs to be rebuilt. These Cleveland winters take their toll. Go outside and take a look at your own entry. Your front entry is the first thing friends and family see upon visiting, so why not take the time to modernize this summer. It’s more than just planting the flowers and hanging the wreath.

Front entryvia 

Dawn’s Tips for a Front Door Freshen…… House Numbers: As someone who is always looking for an address, make sure you have BIG and BRIGHT house numbers. A good place to place them is under the light. Trying to find a house number in the dark is pretty treacherous at times. Bigger is always better when it comes to this design element. Things always look smaller from the street. There are some really cool websites for more modern house numbers, West on Letters, has many different styles, finishes, and fonts available. House Numbers

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Light Fixtures: Again, give up those wimpy little lights, exterior sconces have come a long way, and there are styles from vintage, to modern, to traditional latern. One of my favorites is the phantom sconce from Boyd Lighting. Such a great look, because the light glows from within, no bulb glaring in your guest’s face. It’s always important to match the style of the light to the architecture of the home, but updating the look helps freshen. And lighting has definitely got bigger over the years. So go for it. Exterior lighting

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Hardware: Door Knobs, Lock-Sets, Knockers, Door Bells. I am the first to admit, I hate doorware. Seriously consult an expert if replacing your exterior hardware. As beautiful as it is, especially on any vintage or original doors, getting the right fit, right lock-set, absolute right size can challenge anyone’s knowledge so consult an expert. Beautiful hardware fixtures add class and style to your front door. Websites like Rejuvenation and architecture salvage places have excellent collections of these pieces – Happy Picking! Exterior hardware

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Color: Putting together an exterior paint scheme is not as easy as it looks. Colors have to look right at different times of day, different seasons, against different plantings, stone detailing.  I often find whites looking dirty in the winter against all the snow. Even if you have a good painter, depending how much Western sun your house gets, painting and staining needs to be kept up with. And as much as  everyone loves a red door, there are so many other colors to chose from. A super glossy black, aubergine, brilliant lemon yellow can all look fabulous mixed with the right field color on the house or trim. It’s worth the expense to pay a professional for a paint consult. Front door

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As you get outside and plant those urns, and spruce up the yard, take a good look at your front door and you’ll be all set to welcome summer guests in no time! Opening Image Photo Credit


Lilies and Lilacs: More Garden Obsessions


A few days ago, I took a walk and snapped a pic of Lilies of the Valley and posted it to Instagram. I was so floored by how many comments came back with “My favorite, they remind me of my mom or grandma…” My kids favorite first grade teacher, who is a master gardener,  commented that these are her absolute favorite as well. What is it about these little peepers that evoke so much emotion?

For me it’s lilacs; the color, heavy fragrance. Maybe I am a romantic at heart. One of the best things about living in northeast Ohio is the charm of this beautiful bush.  I constantly hear from Southerners and Snowbirds that this is one garden essential they miss.

Room shotDesigned by Leivars

When we moved into our house many years ago, I contacted the Lilac Society  on how to trim, maintain, and care for our garden lovely. It’s struggled over the years, but even a few blooms annually are worth it. My plant has light lavender blooms, while Linda’s garden has the deep saturated violet hues. Probably the most fragrant of them all!

Both of these flowers may make us think of tea and crumpets, and fussy English gardens, but these flowers and in color combination can work in any modern décor today. And various mixes of these colors too. As we continue on in the year of “Radiant Orchid”, mixing white and shades of greyish purple can be fresh and completely modern.

Room shotDesigned by Bill Bocken 

I’ve posted about visiting the lavender farm before, click here to read more. I don’t know what it is about shades of purple from the garden: periwinkle, delphinium, lilac, lavender, even wisteria, are certainly my favorite.  To see some truly spectacular lilacs in display, visit the Holden Arboretum this week to view their Lilac Collection, it’s breathtaking! So I have shared with you, now tell me what’s your favorite garden bloom?


Dawn, Brian, and baby Cooper, at Holden Arboretum May 2003

Opening Image Sources: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4




As I contemplated what to write this week in honor of Mother’s Day, I spent a lot of time filtering through old pictures. Pictures of my Mom and me, me with the kids when they were babies, family pictures, my Grandmothers. Linda and Sadie did the same to. It’s funny to see the different eras our lives span. Linda’s classic photo with her Mom in her mid-century Easter dress, Me with my Mom and my brother with our Kmart special photo shoot (because that’s what they used to do!), and Sadie with her super cute pics that have that ‘90’s look going. It made me quite nostalgic, and really hearing everyone say “kids grow up in a blink of an eye”, its so true.


Dawn with her Mom and brother, Sophie, & Cooper at various ages

As I think about those different generations, things were so different. Kids didn’t have the activities they have now, the sports, and sports and more sports. I think I didn’t live that kind of schedule until high school and college. Even now, Sadie and Cooper can talk the same lingo about soccer and ski club because their lives overlap! When I was young, I was a latch key kid at 9 years old, and came home everyday to a few hours of TV. I feel like I may have played one sport, in the summer, maybe.

Now, I can’t stand the Month of May. Trying to manage the schedule between games, practices, rehearsals, performances, try-outs, band concerts, first communions, and graduations is mind-boggling. The phrase, “It Takes a Village” is epic – and certainly true, thank you former first lady and first mom, Hilary Clinton. I wouldn’t be able to survive my crazy work schedule, and the kid schedule without Brian’s help and all the carpools we have going.


Linda with her Mom, and daughters, Cori and Taylor

But truly, Mother’s Day is everyday. Our kids need to remember that, and so do we. A therapist once said to me, “You truly can’t understand a situation until you have experienced it yourself.” You can try to be compassionate, empathetic, but to truly live it, that is understanding. Friends that have lost Mothers understand this; I see the look that passes between two people who share this sadness. Just like I can know someone who has had a major health scare, we get each other. As Moms, we all know where our Mothers were, either doing a good job, or failing miserably, we all get it. We are both of those mothers now occasionally.


Sadie at various stages of young cuteness with her Mom and sisters

If anything, thank your Mom for her good taste or her best effort, or that she has helped you set your own compass forward with your parenting style. Most importantly, honor yourself this Mother’s Day. Whether you are a mom of kids, pets, “husbands”, friends. or even your own parents,  we all do our best and truly, isn’t that all that matters?

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there! From our team, Dawn, Linda & Sadie


Spring Blooms in the Garden: Reap the Rewards

Garden flowers

Every Fall, I make time to plant Spring bulbs. Whether it’s a beautiful fall day or a freezing November one, I make an effort to get them in. I do this because I know how satisfied I will feel come April and May the following Spring. We have lived in our house for 17 years. One of the reasons that makes it hard to consider leaving is the amount of love Brian and I have put into this garden. As I said in a previous post, for 6 years before we had kids I had dreams about this garden and all the things I could do. With a western exposure, the front bed is perfect for perennials and sunny annuals. But the spring bulbs are the best! Here are some tips from my efforts over the years.

Flowers and tool wall

Dawn’s Spring flower garden and a cool use of an old pallet

Daffodils come up every year and naturalize (spread). This is a good thing! I planted a ton many years ago and still see the results. Only words of wisdom, when the blooms fade do not cut back the leaves, tie-back the stems with a leaf, raffia, or rubber bands, and wait until the leaves brown out and die back, this feeds the bulb for the next year. The one time I did shear back the leaves in haste I got very little blooms the next Spring.

Tulips have to be planted fresh every Fall. Many people think tulips are perennials. Most are not. It’s a one show wonder for most. While there are a few varieties that will come back, I have never found them to be successful or all that pretty. The prettiest varieties last for one season. Dig them up when you plant your annuals and start over in the fall. And don’t forget the Bulb-Booster fertilizer, it makes a big difference.

Quantity equals loveliness. Yeah, yeah, yeah, it says to plant them 6 inches apart, 8 inches deep. Whatever. I dig a giant trough and put 50 into it. My kids are awesome bulb planters. They know the drill. Make sure the bulbs face the right direction, pointy part up. There is nothing worse than seeing 10 tulips a foot apart. You need to think en masse, its so worth it!

Timing is everything, spread out the season. Make an effort to read the labels that say “Early”, “Mid”, and “Late” Spring Blooms. It’s true! The minute one starts fading, the next come up. It’s such a great show over a 2-month timeframe. There is nothing more disappointing than an “all and done” garden.

Variety is key. There are so many other bulbs other than tulips and daffodils. Snowdrops, crocus, allium, hyacinth. Varying the height of the blooms makes a gorgeous picture. And remember not all these bulbs have scent. But some are just so powerful, like hyacinth, they shadow the rest. If you want to smell Spring, you have to plan for it correctly. It’s like painting a picture, layers are key.

Flowers in front yard

Flowers with house

A varied showing of Spring blooms in Dawn’s garden

I’m no expert, but I enjoy gardening quite a bit and feel that over the years I  have learned some lessons. And since the garden is part of the house, I make sure mine looks just as finished and decorative as the rest of our home. So as you enjoy the Spring, make some notes, and take some pictures of ideas to remember come Fall. It will be here soon enough.


Sophie and Esme Carroll in the garden

If you want more tips or inspiration, one of my favorite gardening blogs is Gardenista, check it out! Also, for authentic bulbs from the Netherlands, the best supplier is Van Engelen, a great catalog, and even more beautiful flowers.

Happy Gardening, Dawn


Pink outdoor

Thank God it’s here. Spring. Time to get outside. Celebrate Earth Day. Clean up those yards, ready the porch for summer entertaining. Every season, the outdoor space becomes more like an indoor room, complete with rugs, lighting, plush fabrics, and accessories. This season is no exception with even more exquisite options for you to choose from. I handpicked some of my favorites from this year’s offerings. Take another look at your furnishings as you pull them out and set up the patio, and freshen things up  with my picks for  this year.

Dawn's Outdoor Living Picks


Furniture: Furniture is all about conversation, circulating, and comfort. Of course I love the high-end McGuire pieces like this back-to-back bench (#5).  McGuire is the epitome of well-made durable furnishings that work indoor or out. Made of rattan, and other natural materials, McGuire is not your Mother’s wicker. McGuire has hip artisan Designers that have created some stellar designs. On the more reasonable side, this West Elm sofa (#7) is a great mid-century design and can garner the same look for less.

Accent Pieces: Outdoor spaces need to be decked out just like the living room so side tables and funky cocktail tables are just as important. You need a place to put those drinks down right? Check out this super cool cement resin garden stool (#2) that has natural leaf imprints in it. It looks heavy but is easily moved around and lifted. Perfect for a pool party, or late night fete.

Lighting: There is more to lighting than candles when it comes to outdoor décor. And you don’t need those big palm frond ceiling fans either. When it comes to outdoor lighting, as long as the fixture is rated for a wet location, anything goes. Especially in a covered area. Pick something you like, but be cognizant of natural material like silk, cotton, or wool, those will not survive the elements. There is really cool lighting out there now, love these fixture from Dwell Studio (#3). Elegant or reclaimed materials make a statement!

Fabrics, Panels, and Rugs: Solution-dyed acrylics are the core to good outdoor fabrics. They will survive the elements. You can bleach them and hose them down. Available in an array of colors and prints  you can step away from the limited stripes and solids on cushions. We saw a beautiful presentation from Perennials this week (#8 & #9). Loved the soft outdoor rugs, gorgeous prints, and chenilles and velvets. Who would have thought we could have this luxury outside?

Accessories: I’ve always been a gardener. Before I had kids I would dream about planting flowers and sprucing up the garden in the Spring. So I am partial to these lovely accessories from Anthropologie Terrain, and La Crosse.  Love the colorful wind chimes, the leather planter, rain measure, mid-century terrarium, and alphabet birdhouses (#1,#4, #6, #11, & #12).  Adding a little whimsy adds comfort and chic to your outdoor design. Stylish throws and fire pits, like this one from Restoration Hardware (#10), help keep us warm so get outside now and enjoy some fresh air even with the cooler nights.

Patio Living has come a long way. Try some of my picks to freshen your space, I know I will, then you will be fit for Spring in no time!

Cozy corner

1- Tea Flower Wind Chimes from Anthropologie $68.00

2- Concrete Side Table from McGuire $1,440.00

3- Indoor/Outdoor chandelier from Dwell Studio $1,920.00

4- Birdhouse from Anthropologie $98.00

5- Back to Back Bench from McGuire $2,399.00

6- Picture Frame Terrarium Terrain $198.00

7- Huron Sofa from West Elm $1,399.00

8- Outdoor Rug Crescendo Grey Matter from Perennials

9- Outdoor Fabric Odyssey/Melon from Perennials

10- Concrete Firepit from Restoration Hardware $1,795.00

11- Rain Gauge La Crosse $8.95

12- Leather Latched Wall Lantern Anthropolgie $58.00


1st Image via, 3rd image via


Picture Perfect: Arranging Art and Photography

Blue sofa with gallery aboveLinda Smith of Blulens Design and Photography, has a critical eye for art and photography in a design space. Knowing her talent for many years now, my family thinks of her as our own personal paparazzi. With her professional family photos every year, you can imagine we have a multitude of good photos around the house. I am always aware of photography when I walk into a client’s home. It adds a personal element and tells a lot about what clients enjoy, what they hold dear, where they have been in the world.  Sometimes, not so great photos make it into a space, and sometimes, really dated photos hang around way longer than necessary. With the digital age, it is harder to take the extra step and get the special ones printed for viewing.

Gallery WallMelanie Acevedo

Kitchen artA.K Studio 

Photos need to mix well with artwork, and color always has to be considered. All black and whites? Interesting frames? Interesting mat colors or shapes? Hanging a photo gallery is no easy task and it’s always better to consult an expert. Don’t try to hang art on a staircase by yourself, the angle, slope, and “weight” of the art, including the projection of the framing is all important to consider. There has not been a time when we have consulted on  “picture-hangering” and a client has not said that is the best hour or two of well-spent money. The right height, spacing, etc is all very important when hanging art. Negative space is as important as the actual pieces themselves. Hanging or rearranging the art you have is a quick, inexpensive make-over to any space. And here’s a tip, I’m not even that particular about the frames. Mixing up different frames can have a nice eclectic effect in the design.

Art in the officeSolid Frog

As I look around my own house of photos there are easy fixes: Remember sometimes less is more, and too many is just too many. Pick your favorites, in either black and white or color, and rotate them in their frames. Place all the frames in a grouping, thus making for a big impact in one location. Another idea is to arrange them within bookshelves mixed with other objects. If you have a lot to display, go big and dominate an entire wall in the same framing. A commonality needs to pull the pieces together, either in color, shape, theme, design, or size.

Blue ceilingLa Dolce Vita

An important fact, try and update framed photos (especially of children) every two years. Yes you want cute baby pictures, but kids change so fast. Yes, a professional photographer is great, but don’t hesitate to mix in candids, landscapes, travel related pics or just interesting snaps. With all the photography apps and filters these days, any photo can look fabulous.

Art in bathroomDesign Sponge

Linda has some more important advice when it comes to hanging art and photography:

Art does not need to “match” the room. Use art with perspective to offer depth to a room, especially in a small space. Rotate art and photographs often. This gives the space visual interest and can make you feel a feeling of freshness. Hang art in unexpected places, under an open legged table, inside a closet or cabinet and don’t forget the bathroom, Hang low or propped on a long console, lean inside bookshelves, or hang right over top a stack of books. Fill small spaces – go floor to ceiling, use either very similar pieces or extremely different. Be thoughtful about mat color and frame, these  shouldn’t overwhelm the actual piece or photo. 

Styled shelvingDesign Sponge

Being thoughtful with how your photos and art are arranged can really jazz up a space and give it character and personality. You will be picture perfect in no time.

In honor of Autism Awareness Month, Linda’s Blulens Design is posting thirty days of original blue photography on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Photos are tagged with the following…#blulensphotography #blueforautism, #30daysofblue, #thecolorthatchangedtheworld, #takingflight, #autismawarenessmonth. Check our her amazing photos!

For more inspirational thoughts on the color blue, check out my post…”Blue-Who…Fighting the Birthday Blues


Opening image by Emily Henderson