The Timeless Beauty of Chinoiserie

The gorgeous work of Benjamin Dhong as seen in a San Francisco Residence
The gorgeous work of Benjamin Dhong as seen in a San Francisco Residence

Of the many things I am drawn to, in love with, can’t get enough of, chinoiserie has to be one of the most potent. Chinoiserie, pronounced SHēnˌwäz(ə)ˈrē,ˌSHēnˈwäzərē, is the imitation and interpretation of Chinese motifs and techniques in Western art, furniture, and architecture, especially in the 18th-19th century. The sheer volume of information about the style defies belief, and I’ve found that you either love it like crazy or you don’t.

You’ve probably seen chinoiserie in your lifetime and may not have even known it. One of the most iconic of all chinoiserie design elements is the Pagoda chandelier. Endless iterations of its design keep the style both fresh and timeless and it literally works in any setting you can think of. seen in bold, glossy colors such as red, turquoise, orange and yellow, a pagoda chandelier adds whimsy and  fantasy to any the space. It works in a small entry foyer, a powder room or even above a small dining table, (among a million other places).

It’s a little confusing these days in that any design style that includes vintage or antique Asian art, fabrics or wall coverings seems to be called “chinoiserie” when really, the style is actually Asian or Asian-influenced. A good rule of thumb is to keep in mind that true chinoiserie is a European thing. It’s Asian as seen through a Europen lens, if that makes sense.

Thomas Chippendale Japanned wardrobe at the Nostell Priory.
Thomas Chippendale Japanned wardrobe at the Nostell Priory.

The very English Thomas Chippendale (who designed the cabinet above) took his interpretation of Asian art and furniture shapes and created works that were in a class all by themselves. These pieces, mixed with hand-painted French chinoiserie wall coverings, created countless elegant foundations for opulence and exoticism

As seen on Scout Mob

Everything about this picture makes me happy. The gilded quail, the faux bamboo table and brass tray and of course, the vintage Asian images.  Chinoiserie went through a huge resurgence in the 1950’s and then again in the 1960’s and 70’s in the form of faux bamboo. The photo is really 1950’s-style chinoiserie, and it’s my second most favorite style. It literally goes with everything in any home. A faux bamboo brass tray is perfect – to corral french cut crystal perfume bottles, used to display an air plant in a cement dish, to hold a bunch of giant seashells – and you honestly cannot go wrong with faux bamboo. Ever. Or a gilded quail. I really think everyone needs a gilded quail.

This is my house
I have a vintage faux bamboo coffee table in my tiny living room (see above!) but my mom has a complete bedroom set in mint green and white faux bamboo.  She got in the 1970’s, and she refuses to give it to me! I mean, she’s still using it and it has looked amazing with every change in home, carpet color and bedding, but still, I believe I love it more and she should give it to me.

Anyway, since I’m not going to be allowed to have the bedroom set any time soon, I’ve rounded up a few of my current modern chinoiserie crushes and mark my words, I’m going to have a vintage or antique pagoda somewhere in my house before year’s end!


Have a beautiful and creative week!




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Fantastical Animal-Footed Furnishings


I have an obsession with animal-footed furnishings.  I don’t even know when that started or why my world won’t be complete without them, but I know I need them in my life. Brass hooved and animal-footed pieces have been around for hundreds of years and have lived in the most luxurious homes – gracing castles, English country estates, and posh dining rooms the world over. In these very serious spaces they brought a touch of whimsy and mystery. In today’s homes, animal-footed furnishings play nicely with everything from traditional settings to ultra-modern surroundings.

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Sexy Shou-Sugi-Ban

keelagenciesPhoto courtesy of Keel A/P

I need to confess something. I am completely obsessed with wood. Not just any wood mind you but amazing wood.  I’ve been heavily crushing on Shou-Sugi-Ban for about a year now and it’s getting kind of serious. Shou-Sugi-Ban 焼杉板 (or Yakisugi) is an ancient Japanese exterior siding technique that preserves wood by charring it with fire, cooling it, cleaning it and finishing it with a natural oil. 

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7 Tips for Creating Sacred Space

Creating Sacred Space(2)It doesn’t matter if you live alone or are a family bursting at the seams. Whether your home is large or small, if you have a room or your own, or no room to breathe, creating a little sacred space can do wonders for your well-being. A while back, I wrote an article on Houzz about this very thing – ways you can carve out magical moments in your home that keep you grounded, remind you of what’s important in life, and touch on whatever spirituality means to you.  To help get you started, here are 7 of my most favorite ways to add a bit of spirit and soul to your surroundings.

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Crossville and Kohler Add Laid-Back Luxe to RMH Stanford

20160103_172741Throughout the design and build process for the Ronald McDonald House Stanford’s, Where Hope Has A Home Project, one of the most challenging spaces for me was the diminutive bathroom. Knowing that some resident families will stay at the house for more than 30 days, I wanted to provide as much of a home-like feel as I could in such a tiny footprint.

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Where Hope Has A Home – Update!

My beautiful niece Selah

Each time I sit to down to write a post I am overwhelmed by all of the things that have happened since I last updated my blog. It’s apparent that I need to devote as much love to the blog as I do to my projects because it’s an awesome creative outlet that helps me connect with you in a way that my Facebook and Instagram posts cannot.

Having been chosen as a designer for the Where Hope Has a Home Project at the Ronald McDonald House Stanford, has been such a humbling and challenging experience. I am continually in awe of the design talent that has come together to make this very special building a beautiful, safe and comforting place for children and their families.

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Spring Has Sprung!

Flowers and table by Apartment 46

There is so much goodness to share so I’ll just dive right in! A month or so ago I was selected to be among a group of awesome and talented designers who will be donating their time and vision to help decorate rooms in the new wing of the Ronald McDonald House, Stanford. Conceived in conjunction with the San Francisco Design Center (SFDC), and titled, “Where Hope has a Home,” this amazingly worthwhile project will provide a safe, comfortable and beautiful space for families with critically ill children to be together and heal. The current RMH has had to turn away families for lack of space and this new building will enable many more to benefit from the loving environment that the home provides. My own daughter was treated at Lucile Packard for a rare heart condition. Though it was the most terrifying experience of my life, the staff and doctors at Stanford were outstanding and provided the care needed to save her life. I am so honored and humbled to be able to give back in one of the biggest ways – by providing a space in which those on a stressful journey may find a moment of peace.

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There Are Great Things In The Works!

Gilded Protea Leaves

So I’ve been doing some soul-searching and I’ve decided I’m finally ready to tackle a TOTAL renovation of my blog. It’s been sitting here sadly waiting for quite some time and I feel like I know where I want to go with this. Writing two weekly columns for Houzz has been amazing and I’ve met so many fantastic people through my involvement with the site but I have to admit, I’ve let my own little blog kind of languish. I’m sorry for that. I regularly post missives on our shop Facebook page so you can always keep up to date with our day-to-day there, and I’m probably far too active on Instagram where I post the things that inspire me. All of this is happening, and yet, I go to sleep each night filled with stuff I want to write about and share with you. So I’m getting re-focused and will be reworking the blog over the next couple of months.

#Designcat isn’t really helping.

Since I somehow got myself on the platform instead of normal-people WordPress, I’ve found that I am unable to apply any new template or format. The theory is that I should be intelligent enough to code my own template on which is never gonna happen so…Wish me luck with this while I work on the new blog in parallel to trying to keep y’all updated on this blog. You know there will be a lot of coffee and swearing happening up in here as currently it’s is all me and I am many things but graphic designer/tech brillianaire is not one of them.

Our last meal at Kohler happened here.

Many of you know I was recently invited by Kohler to visit their phenomenal resort, The American Club spend time in their design centre, drool over their gorgeous offices (The Beacon), and tour the factory. I promise I’ll expand on that visit in my next post because really, it was incredible and I want to go back. The most important thing I took away with me from that visit was getting to meet and connect with several really fantastic, intelligent and creative women in design and photography.

Nicole Cohen of Sketch42blog and Paloma Contreras of La Dolce Vita blog.

If you haven’t checked out Sketch42 or La Dolce Vita, hurry UP! There is so much to see and experience on both sites and the women behind them are awesome human beings. You know me, it takes me a while to warm up to folks and being the always-wary girl I am, I wear my trust issues on my sleeve. These girls are the real deal and I’m blessed to have crossed paths with them.

Gilded bean pods

As usual I’ve been in the shop creating because that’s how my mind works. When I’m stressed, excited, happy, sad, or breathing (which is always thankfully), I’m creating. Sometimes I get stuck in my own head and it’s hard to come back to reality. I’ve been making loads of curious things with what nature has provided me and I can’t wait for you to stop in the shop and see what’s been going on.

Semi-precious stones hung on a piece of dried kelp.

Be patient with me while I revamp this little sugar-shack of a blog I have and hopefully I’ll do you all proud. In the meantime, go forth and get creative, it’s good for your soul. 🙂


Much love,


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DIY Ideas from a Sleepless Mind – Drink Tables


IH-155040I am in love with this little table – the price, not so much. It’s called the “Argo” and it costs anywhere from $350-$550 depending on where you look. It’s a drink table and as the name implies, it gives you space to set a drink or two. I am obsessed with drink tables, and I think they have a place in every home, however I don’t think they need to be $500.

Anyway, for the past two weeks I have had  the “creative crazies”. I have a ton spastic energy and far too many ideas. I have also been on a mad purge, going through all of my design files and magazines in an attempt to distill it down to what inspires me most. Take last night for instance, I was sitting on the couch enthralled by a renovations episode on HGTV when I was suddenly compelled to create my own mirror-topped drink table.

I used a brushed nickel floor candle holder and a mirrored tray. The candle holder had been on my fireplace hearth for over a year and the tray was happily living at our shop, Apartment 46.

I literally got in my car and drove to my store in the middle of the night because I was obsessed with my own idea. Both items were then combined with a healthy dose of epoxy and are now celebrating their new incarnation as a drink table in someone else’s living room, (because I was talked into selling it). I loved my own idea so much I repeated it with a vintage brass table base and a papier mache Italian tray.

The old design adage is that for every chair there should be a place to easily put your drink – and I love that. A coffee table is great if you can reach it from every seat in the room but that’s not often the case. You don’t need to have a large side table to place a glass on, you need a candle base or an old table base and a sturdy tray!

Large Old World Floor Candle Holder_400-01If you want to use a candle holder as your table base, be sure it’s a floor candle holder. You want it to be tall enough to be useful. Also, ensure that it has a weighty, sturdy bottom to balance out any top-heaviness of a tray plus drinks. This stone floor candle holder is definitely weighty enough, and the spike can be removed. Many tall candle holders have a metal spike in the center to hold a candle steady. These can be broken off with a solid pair of pliers or nail/bolt cutters. Sometimes they come off easily, sometimes it’s a bit of a struggle so be careful! If you end up taking a chunk out of the candle holder that’s okay. Your tray will cover it.


I love the idea of tarnished silver trays as drink tables. There is something soulful and bittersweet about old silver and it’s fantastic when utilized in an unexpected way. Metal trays are also a great counterpoint to a wood or stone base.


Don’t feel you have to stick to round when it comes to the tabletop shape. You can use a rectangular or oval tray and create something unique and fabulous. The Italian tray I used was an exaggerated rectangle. The antique sterling tray above would be beautiful as a drink table and it would likely get much more use and admiration than if it were sitting on a shelf somewhere. I am always trying to find a way to re-purpose vintage items in fresh new ways. For me, it’s all about giving something new life in today’s world and drink tables are versatile and super convenient for space-constrained homes.


Lately I’ve been super into two-part epoxy because it holds incredibly well and is relatively easy to apply. You take off the tip and squeeze it onto a piece of cardboard or heavy duty paper and kind of mix it up and apply it. I use a paint mixing stick to smear it onto the flush part of the candle holder because it’s thick and messy. I also apply it to the bottom center of the tray I’ve chosen.

Use a generous amount and wipe off whatever seeps out once the tray and base have been connected. I like to turn my pieces upside down to cure because the weight of the bottom piece gives it a tighter seal. You could also put something heavy in the center of the tray but it may fall off or fall over. I learned the hard way that upside down works best for me.

Epoxy creates strong fumes so I recommend applying it outdoors and letting it cure before bringing your piece inside. I checked my tables after a couple hours just to be sure the tray top hadn’t shifted and brought them in fully cured the next morning.

If you end up making a drink table of your own please send me pics! I’d love to see your creations.

Happy Making!

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Dark and Stormy Decor

Image courtesy of Indulgy

I would describe my personal design style as being a bit dark and stormy. While I can appreciate things like country cottage and shabby chic, the sweetness of it isn’t something I naturally gravitate toward. Whether a room is traditional, contemporary or completely eclectic, I’m always looking for a bit of strangeness, something that can counter-balance the perfection. To me, dark and stormy style is all about finding that thing that makes a room edgy, interesting, and mysterious. It’s a room with a sexiness that makes you feel sexy by being in it. It doesn’t have to be a Goth-themed space. I’m not talking about darkness in the context of death and scary monsters, I’m talking about darkness that evokes a naughtiness, curiosity or steaminess.

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