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


Fickle Fashion: Spring 2014 Fashion Trends

Pastel girlsThis has been a tough winter….it’s still snowing on March 24th, yet the calendar stays it’s Spring! As it seems everyone is either on Spring Break, or preparing to head to warmer climates, we thought we would be nice to spice things up by highlighting some of our favorite fashion trends this season. The stores were jammed this weekend as everyone attempted to lighten their wardrobes with brighter colors, florals, hot oranges, and interesting textures. As always, fashion and interior design go hand and hand, so watch for these trends to not only be on the runway, but in your living room as well!

Orange1 | 2 | 3

I tried this orange lipstick. The yellow base is not so great on my olive complexion, but, if I consult my expert Bobbi Brown make-up consultant, Jane Penny, she would tell me to try one that has a bluer base. My hubby Brian, looks great in orange. Same goes for the home, a pop of orange adds a little wow to any room. I’m ready to go buy some orange ranunculus or tulips and add some orange accents to my home.

Floral1 | 2 | 3

Florals are always part of Spring fashion, but this year, they are out in full force. Definitely a feminine and girly vibe, this trend is more sophisticated and mature this season.



1 | 2 | 3

We love this trend! Fringe is on everything from stilettos to upholstery pieces. Not to mentions skirts, jackets, and bags. I don’t know if it’s a little “American Hustle” influence or #throwbackthursday images that flash across our social media but fringe is all the rage.

Embellished1 | 2 | 3

This is not brought to you by Bedazzler! Embellished accessories in fashion or interiors show a worldly culture, a handmade effect, a level of handcrafted attention to detail that shows exquisite expertise and usually expense. It’s the opposite of the sleek, cleaned up look that has been all over the place. We still love beautiful embellished textiles – always!


Pastels1 | 2 | 3

Whether it’s Spring or Easter, last years neon has softened to a pastel version that shows up in many unexpected places from sporty clothing to lighting. We think pastels will be big multi-seasonal trend this year.

Eyelet and Sheer

1 | 2 | 3

And probably the biggest trend is the sheer, eyelet, caged effect. Fabric is being constructed differently, with an open weave that adds again a global effect to design. White, white, white is still big, so why not make it sheer as well?! We all crave this lightness, airiness after the harsh winter months. In our closets and in our homes. My favorite interpretation of this trend is the caged shoe. And also gorgeous window panels that are a textured sheer. Who needs all that heavy drapery?

So let’s lighten and brighten for the season and welcome Spring!

Thanks to Sadie Kuncel, our resident fashionista, for scoping out these hot spring fashions! 

Opening Image Source: Le Catch


Cat and Shamrock

It’s not the luck of the Irish we need. It’s a greener lifestyle. We are constantly bombarded with options for greener living today. The color green has been popular in Design for many years now, influenced by the movement toward a healthier way of life, a purer existence, a cleaner way of living.  It can all be very confusing, but we do the best we can!

Green design has exploded over the years with products with low VOC paints and wallcoverings, energy saving appliances and lighting, and zero carbon footprint carpets. There’s up-cycled, recycled, and repurposed as design options. Many great sustainable and beautiful products with more and more options exist. It’s almost becoming a requirement to be LEED certified as a Designer in some markets. I continually tell clients that these products are usually more than the less environmentally friendly products. It’s more work, and more expensive to bring these exciting products to market, but worth it in the end.

LR and Fashion1 | 2

Emerald Green was all the rage last year, as the Pantone color of the year, (see “Follow the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City -Part I“). We were flooded with images of green used in new and exciting ways in the home. Where green was always considered taboo in the kitchen, associated with rotting food, it’s now a fresh alternative and linked to the healthiest food options with power packing kale, spinach, and other “farm to table” selections that are so good for us.

Green and LR1 | 2

Green is associated with nature and the color of Spring which we all so crave at this point in the year, When we use green inside, it brings the outdoors in, and we all love and need some organic qualities in our homes.  Green brings us piece of mind, peace in our hearts (the color of the heart chakra), and a quite place to regroup and find our happy (and lucky!) place in our homes.

For more thoughts on the color green, see blog posts: Follow the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City -Part IFeeling Lucky?…Don’t Take a Chance on Design, Emerald Green Part II: Celebrating Earth Day and Green Design and my Pinterest Boards Color of the Year-Green, and Greener Living


Opening Image Source: 1 | 2



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.


Restyling Scandinavian Design: Add Color!


So with all the Olympic Hockey these past few weeks, I’ve been thinking about the power Scandinavian countries of Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Norway. While these countries certainly pack some skills on the ice, they also pack some stylish design trends.


Creative Living

We’ve all been in love with this look for awhile. From stark white everything, to minimalist furnishings, and black and white decors void of color, we have been loving this look. The idea is that functionalism meets modernism. Materials include form-pressed woods, plastics, aluminum and steel.  And it’s not just the likes of IKEA driving this trend. While there certainly is a lot there to choose from, clients are asking for very complex version of this style in their homes.  

Screen Shot 2014-02-27 at 4.50.32 PM1 | 2

But let’s evolve this. For one, those Nordic natives live in 6 months of darkness, they like color just like the rest of us to brighten things up. But I think the key is to present a white base, and stay focused on function.

So while we start with a black and white ground, warmth needs to be added in to keep the space warm, and invited. And while these furnishings may be simple, they are definitely full of details and style. Warm elements can be added back with warm colors such as oranges, aubergine, and soft pastels. Organic wood tones are important too, and can be everything from bleached whites, to veneered pecans and walnuts.

Flowers/Bedroom/LR1 | 2 |3

Lighting is definitely important too to brighten up those dark nights. While Scandinavian design has lots of super cool minimalist fixtures, don’t be fooled, it has the latest technology with white hot LEDs that are all energy efficient.

Office/Bedroom1 | 2

This trend won’t be going away, so let’s brighten up our design, add some warmth to this minimalist approach, and add some color for some Scandi style!



Houzz Award

Many of you have visited our Dawn Cook Design and Blulens Houzz pages. And thank you for your reviews! Did you know you can see a complete listing of our design portfolios on Houzz? By clicking the houzz logo to the right on the blog, you can link through to all of my design photography and client reviews. Houzz puts out their awards annually in January, and we were honored to be designated Best of Houzz.

Black and white kitchen-dawnDesigned by Dawn Cook Design

Living Room-LindaDesigned by Blulens

What did we do before this handy growing website? Not only does it have phenomenal photography, and easily searchable keywords, like “white kitchens”, it also have terrific editorial content, such as “A Mid-Century Style Home Provides Comfortable Minimalism” or the “How to Pick a Kitchen Facet” If you are undertaking a larger project, like an addition, or a kitchen renovation, Houzz is a great resource. Even little things, like how to finish a leg on a bathroom vanity, can be resourced and sourced well on this website. And Dawn Cook Design aside, it’s a great way to find local resources, like contractors, and even source product.

Colorful homeDesigned by John David Edison Interior Design Inc.

A lot of clients like to use Pinterest as well, which is like a file folder of design ideas. I love Pinterest because it is more artful photography, more edgy, more whimsical. I get a lot of Blog inspiration from Pinterest. Houzz is usually more professional shots.


If you think about what we as Designers do, we have to translate what is in your brain into a vision, or effectively communicate our thoughts to you. A picture is worth a thousand words right? Using these social media platforms help achieve that goal. And helps us be better communicators with our clients. What did we do before this resource?

bedroomDesigned by Rachel Reider Interiors

Here is my words of wisdom about Houzz and Pinterest. They are great tools, but you need a professional to make the dream a reality. Also to source all that great product. I get nervous when I hear people say, “I can do it on my own with Houzz” . Just because you like to look on Houzz, doesn’t mean it works for you or your home. Also, The problem is some of these photos go viral, and we stop seeing creative ideas, it all starts to look the same. If you still open a shelter magazine, like Elle Décor or House Beautiful, you still see more inspiring ideas than the websites. There are definitely some drawbacks to these social media sites for consumers, but it’s an effective tool in today’s digital world.

LoungeDesigned by Jeffers Design Group

So check it out, plan those Spring projects, and get inspired. We’ll help you turn your dreams into reality.