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


Goodbye Emerald City, Hello Plum Paradise

Color of the year doors Yesterday, We took the kids to see the Broadway Musical Wicked as a Holiday treat. What a wonderful production that we all enjoyed thoroughly. We had really good seats, so the scenes in the Emerald City were flooded with gorgeous shades of Emerald Green, Pantone’s 2013 Color of the Year. You don’t have to be in Oz to appreciate this color, (see “Follow the yellow brick road to the Emerald City Part I“).

Color of the yearImage Source: Inthralld

As we close out the year and turn to 2014, Pantone and Sherwin-Williams have announced their colors of the year for next year, variations on a shade of Plum. While Sherwin-Williams Exclusive Plum is grey’ed out and more of a neutral, Pantone’s Radiant Orchid is a bright, tropical almost pink version of the hue. I asked Rebecca Luckhardt, of Sherwin-Williams, to compare and contrast the two selections. Here are her thoughts, expertly crafted in a “Naughty versus Nice” list for Santa. Which one are you?

Naughty vs Nice – 2014 Colors of the Year

PantoneSource: Simone Design Blog

When two of the biggest color forecaster’s announced their 2014 Color of the Year, both as shades of purple, I couldn’t help but wonder if they planned this creatively or competitively.  Sherwin-Williams’ Exclusive Plum, SW 6263 is grayed violet in a deeper shade with a mysterious quality to transform its self into a neutral and adapt to a variety of sophisticated color palettes. Pantone’s Radiant Orchid, 18-3224, is a charming and perky purple radiating tones of fuchsia, purple, and pink. Described as ‘creative and embracing’ it energizes a space with a jolt.

Sherwin WilliamsDesigned by: Anne Hepfer

When it came time to investigate design applications with these colors, a differential quickly rose to the surface. While both are shades of purple, they can evoke two different moods entirely.  I couldn’t help but compare them as one would evaluate a child’s behavior as Naughty or Nice during the holiday season.To me, Exclusive Plum is a bit “naughty,” dark, and suspicious. Even the name itself implies superiority and begs you to give it attention.  The underlying tones of gray make this color adaptable to existing furnishings and easy to incorporate but give it that suspicious quality of having shifty and layered neutrals.

Sherwin Williams Color of the year1 | 2 | 3

I’d use this color in interiors where I’d want to create a gender neutral space like a study or home office since the subtle undertone of gray brings a balance of masculinity. Suggested parings include bronzes, and pewters, leathers and textures. Another application may be to use it in a place of quietude and respite such as your bedroom that can become more refined or elegant in this deeper shade. When partnered with whites, creams, and deeper plums, you can build layers that add romance and intrigue.Pantone’s more vivid hue energizes spaces and adds a dynamic dimension or pop of color.  This Radiant Orchid makes the “nice” list when cleanly partnered with black and white; it becomes uplifting when partnered with olive and hunter greens, and spunky with teals and turquoise. Psychologically known as a creative color, purples are invigorating and can stimulation innovation. This shade of Radiant Orchid provides that cheerful and motivational boost.

Pantones Color of the year1 | 2 | 3

I’d use this color in a communal space that you’d want to evoke and encourage conversation. An accent in your kitchen that people would be sure to circulate amongst, the high-energy family room where the kids hang out using their high-tech video games, tablets, and gadgets.Explore these applications and considerations on my pinterest board; “Color of the Year: Naughty vs. Nice” and perhaps you’ll see as I did, that we might even be able to compromise on a truce and partner these two colors together. Opening Image Sources: Right-M{pressions Left- Mary Antenucci Interiors-Pintrest  


The Hostess With the Mostest….Cocktail Hour!

Linda's Bar

Clink. Clink. Clink. It’s Cocktail Hour. And it’s time to get your drink on, whatever that may be. Parties are rolling, and the booze is flowing, and for some of us, that’s what gets us through this crazy season. Setting up the perfect bar is pretty fun and easy, but most importantly must be styled to perfection. Another design opportunity!

Drink and bar1 | 2

And there is no better entertaining maven than my design partner, Linda Smith, of Blulens Design. She’s got some tips this Holiday season on setting up your festive holiday bar.

1) Always Have 5 Basic Liquors on Hand, they don’t need to be top shelf for mixing:

Vodka, rum, gin, whiskey, tequila are staples. Although interesting bottles help the décor. These are always nice host/hostess gifts.


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2) Mixers are a Must: cranberry juice, tonic, soda are the basic mixers, lemons/limes should be on hand. 

3) Use a Decanter – It presents beautifully, and according to the Riedel website, it is appropriate for young and old red wines to open up the bouquet of flavors. Plus it looks darn cool, don’t you agree?  

3) Have a Signature Drink For a Party. Why not explore those mixology books? Pinterest is a great place to find new cocktail recipes. Try something new!

BooksVegas Seven

4) It’s All About the Glassware. Use the right glass for the drink.  In Belgium, every type of beer is served in specific glasses. Plus, unique glasses make a statement, either for serving or displaying. Also, an iconic ice bucket. Thrift Shops and antique stores are great places to pick up a set. 

5) Keep Nuts and Chocolate at the Bar – to nibble on while mixing, for you and your guests. Always need food readily available for that neighbor or uncle who has one too many! 

6) Always Have Makers Mark, sip as needed! Or required! 

7) Lastly, Never Forget the Aftermath….a good Bloody Mary does the trick, or according to this website….Sprite…who knew? 

It’s important for the bar to be displayed in a lovely setting, mixed with art, objects, and of course on an interesting piece of furniture or bar cart. Even if you don’t have a dedicated bar set-up, you can create one with a few thoughtful pieces. Having this festive watering hole set-up and ready to go, makes for impromptu entertaining and get-togethers. It’s always a party if you are ready!

Bars1 | 2

For our followers with small children and teenagers, we know this may not be ideal, so when hosting a party, have the bar items together so you can pull out and lock away with ease, it will encourage you to entertain more often!

With all these parties, bar essentials make wonderful and interesting hostess gifts. A cool bottle opener, agate coasters and trays are hot right now, a bloody mary gift basket complete with seasoned pepper, Tabasco, and olives, or a unique smaller cutting board.  These are things you never would buy yourself, so help your friend out and stock the bar with decorative items.

Bar gifts1 | 2 | 3 | 4

So party on! Linda and I wish you a festive and sparkling, and of course safe Holiday Season. Follow our advice and you will be the Hostess with the Mostest for sure!

 Bloody Mary Cocktail


Opening Image- Linda Smith’s holiday bar set up.

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Oh, Christmas Tree…Tradition + Trend

Merry + Happy

Yep it’s up. And we didn’t have the annual Christmas tree argument. I think after 17 years of marriage we have perfected the process. Every year either between the selection, transportation, or installation, someone loses it. But now that the children are older, it helps buffer the angst. Cooper essentially manages the procurement and installation process, and Sophie and I handle the decorating. And let me tell you, that little kid is magic at untangling lights!

Lit up christmas treeInstagram @jaywily

Every year I have friends that go to the Sugargrove Tree Farm, harvest the ideal tree, make a lovely family event out of it. My other friend has collected numerous perfect family photos from “the event” while at the nursery making the selection….OK, whatever. I know you are all having family arguments too behind the scenes. At this point in the year, with two Sagittarius birthdays in the mix, I am all about efficiency!

Christmas tree farmInstagram @fuke88

Let’s face it this time of year is stressful, between Black Friday, Small Business Saturday  Cyber Monday, Xmas cards, that damn Elf on a Shelf, gifts, donations, and all the entertaining and décor, how can one come out the other side unscathed? It’s almost impossible.

Large christmas treeInstagram @halloweencarols

I think it’s a little magic. One, it’s focusing on as Linda says “The One Thing” to do well. Have the best Xmas card, or the stellar cookie recipe, or the cutest wrapped presents. But seriously, even the best of us can’t do it all. And take pause to focus on “The Little Thing” too. Brian and I commented how into Christmas Sophie is this year. More than ever! At 8, you would think her suspect would be up, but she was talking about going for a ride on the Polar Express just yesterday. I will remember this because this moment will be gone in the blink of an eye.

X-mas tree covered in snowInstagram @kristen_lissette

So back to the tree. Over the years, my Mom has gifted me with many beautiful ornaments. Over the years, the cats have run up the trees and crashed them down and broke many of those beautiful ornaments. But seriously, these ornaments collected over the years hold much significance and memory. But being the Designer, I am always interested in shaking it up a bit…quite literally.

Tree on wallInstagram @theperthian

But moving against tradition is hard. When I announced that I wanted to put a different garland on the tree, Sophie stomped off in a huff. Recently, at the Entertaining by Design Event, one woman told me, every two years she donates her tree décor and does a new concept! Wow, that is a fun idea.

Christmas Tree

Cook Family Tree, 2013

This year, I added in more organic elements, burlap ribbon, natural plaid ribbon (see Mad for Plaid), and ornaments that had a nature theme, like owls and birds. To top it off, I added dried hydrangea from my yard this summer throughout. Top tips for making it work in your home –Reflect it back to the Room Décor in color or texture, I use a lot of roses and golds, because those colors are in my Living Room. Keep it Simple, there is nothing like an overly decorated tree. This is a prime example of less is more. Not all the ornaments have to go on every year, rotate them to keep things fresh.

Christmas tree

Cook Family Tree, 2013

So relish your traditions, but freshen up that tree, we need a little Christmas, right now!

Christmas tree

Cook Family Tree, 2013


Opening image: Instagram @hsimmons09


A Reflection: Thanksgiving

Today I am thankful

The last few weeks have been strange around here. Crazy workdays, my kids hitting a few emotional snags, a few shocking unexpected deaths of a young friend and extended family member.

So it’s hard to gather around the table and give Thanks sometimes. It’s often easy to feel scared or sorry, or just plain upset. Which can be immobilizing. Debilitating. Very challenging to move forward or through.

But for this year, it’s not me. The one “it” happens too a lot. One time in a therapy session (yes, I’ve been…I’m not to too proud to say its necessary occasionally to keep my brain from exploding) . The therapist said. “You’re a warrior”. Which sounds trite, but accurate when referring to a few traumatic medical events in my life. And then Brian’s everlasting comment that “Things usually happen when I put my mind to it.”

I’ve put my mind to being peaceful, hopeful, and of course thankful. Thankful for wonderful friends, loving family, and a very successful business. Thankful for the lovely designers and wonderful, hardworking tradespeople I get to work with everyday. And thank you for the clients that trust me, I am grateful to make their houses feel like home.

Thanksgiving table

Happy Thanksgiving to you from my home to yours.

Best, Dawn


Mad for Plaid

Plaid skirt

As we head full steam ahead into the Holiday Season, it makes sense to cozy up with some Plaid décor. One of my favorite holiday movies is “The Holiday” with Cameron Diaz and Judd Law. Gotta love everything that has to do with romantic English films. With that said….the countdown to Downton Abbey season premiere Jan. 5th is on the radar as well! We are so ready!

CastleInveraray Castle

A designer friend of mine, Sophia Burkart, designs custom luxurious robes and lounge wear. She also happens to be British. We had a chat about her friend’s home project in England. Here is her commentary, “Turkeys & Hummingbirds“.

Skirt and pillows1|2

After reading her post, and after considering multiple photos for English décor, here’s my conclusion: No one does plaid better than Burberry and Ralph Lauren, and our friends across the pond. Plaids and tartans evoke a certain level of warmth, coziness, style, and comfort. So of course they make sense for hearth and family rooms during the holiday season.

Burberry and Ralph Lauren1|2

Everyone is Mad for Plaid this season in fashion, accessories, and the home. So go for it. A little goes a long way. All of our favorite fabric Designers, Romo (a British company mind you), Brentano, and the like have come out with menswear plaids that well, we just love. I keep saying I am going to make a blanket out of them…for my clients (read…myself!).

Plaid coat and skirt1|2

As Sophia says…”An Englishman’s Home is His Castle”, so put your luxurious robe on, grab a fancy coffee or hot tea, and cosy up in some plaid and give yourself a break this Holiday season, you will be so glad instead of mad!

English HomePin Lovely


Opening Image Photography: Chris Nicholls


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Entertaining By Design II: Setting the Perfect Table

Dawn Cook-Wide Shot

The Entertaining By Design Event at the Ohio Design Centre was a huge success! We were in very good company with designs by 30 different Designers all putting their unique spin on setting the perfect table. With very different themes, we all pulled out the stops and excelled at what we do best: being creative! I was so impressed with the inspiring and original energy my fellow Designers represented.

Dawn Cook Design was honored to win the Best Over the Top Award for our Bohemian Chic wedding design and our Intimate Wedding Affair theme in the Baker Showroom. Three awards were presented for Best of Show, Best Over the Top, and Best Execution of a Theme.  Three different tables won Peoples Choice awards. With over 800 people attending the 2-day event, the turn out of friends, clients, and the public was spectacular. We were honored so many of you joined us for this terrific event.

Dawn Cook-Detail shotTuxedo napkins with vintage hotel keys and rosemary boutonniere inspired by Alexander McQueen and a Birdcage centerpiece accented with floral, Dawn Cook Design

Monarch Interiors

Sizzling Havana Nights in the Jacque Garcia room at Baker, Monarch Interiors

Creating the perfect table, requires some thought. I noticed many of the Designers worked off of basic Design fundamentals, and then added their special zing to their table scape. Here are the three most common trends among all the creations. Follow these principles and you are on your way to Holiday Entertaining.

1) Be Unique: Pick a different Color Palette or Item to Highlight 

I chose plum, navy, blush, coral, and chocolate as my pallete for the wedding. Everyone commented on how “warm and fallish” the design looked. We mixed in moody lighting, lots of was a big hit. Those are not necessarily “fall colors”, but it worked well with the Design. Fellow Designer, Jennifer Monachino, of Monarch Interiors had to work around a shocking yellow room for her Havana Nights theme. Electrified candles added the necessary glow to reflect this color amist the man’s world of cigars, vintage leather luggage, zebra print rug, and barware, pulling it all together with a touch a moustache panache.

Weave Ideas-Wide Shot

 Polynesian dining at this organic feast with woven linens, rugs, and asian elegance, Weave Ideas

2) Represent Organic: Materials Matter

Sandy Varelmann of Weave Ideas, won Best Interpretation of a Theme based on her authentic table from Bali from  the movie “Eat, Pray, Love”. With the bamboo structure, natural linen floor pillows and placemats, gauzy panels, the natural materials pulled off this theme perfectly. Reflections had a gorgeously decorated Enchanted Forest theme. Their organic moss, wood chargers, and even water ball hanging accents, made you feel like you were in the middle of a Mid-Summer’s Night Eve. This table appealed to the masses, winning the Peoples Choice Award. Natural materials will add the authenticity to your table, the natural texture adds design interest.

Reflections-Detail Shots

 Evening in the Enchanted Forest, Reflections Interiors


Barrie Spang

Bubbles and La Boheme, Barrie Spang, Lee Meier Interiors 

Have a Focus: What’s your Wow?

Whether it’s the centerpiece, the buffet, or the artwork behind the table, have something truly be the masterpiece of your table design. My table had fabric ribbons dressing up a traditional chandelier and a birdcage as the centerpiece. Barrie Spang, of Lee Meier Interiors, had a gorgeous original artwork mural behind her buffet, and then place settings with hand painted mini canvases of each of the guests at her La Boehme table. And sometimes it can be understated and still be a wow. Her attention to detail won her the Best of Show Award.

Overall, great ideas were shared by all, so try something a little different with your table design this Holiday Season. Learn from the experts, you will be gathering in style!


Opening and 2nd Image Photography: Linda Smith of Blulens


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