Category Archives: Ramblings

New Orleans: where a door is not just a door

Hiiiiiiiiii!!! I’m such a bad blogger lately, ugh. These last few weeks have been a little crazy with all sorts of events, travel, projects… and you know, life. It always seems like this stretch from spring to summer is so busy, like everyone and everything is coming back to life at full speed. Speaking of, this is my first spring at the barn and it is so fun watching all of the plants and flowers pop up. When we moved in last year everything was so overgrown – its amazing to see the beautiful variety we seem to have going. Even had a nice surprise stumbling upon a plentiful supply of asparagus. Yum! Can’t wait to see what else we find.

But really, this post is about our recent trip to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Every time I go back I fall a little more deeply in love with that city. Katrina shook things up, but this city is full of resilient and passionate people. I’ve also matured [a little] since my first trip to the fest in 1999. Bourbon St is now a drive-by for me rather than a destination. There is just so much to take in, I always leave there feeling more inspired. I wanted to share with you some of our trip, but apologies for the iphone pix as I was packing ultra light now that we have a kiddo in tow.

Why do I love New Orleans so much? It is the simple combination of music, art, food, and people – with Louisiana soul. The city honors culture and a passion for all things that please the senses.

the streets of new orleans

Jazz Fest brings us there every year because of our love for the local musicians. From the jazz tent, to the blues tent, to the gospel tent, to the kids tent and all of the main stages – there is music for everyone. Not to mention all of the artisans selling their talents, the kids craft area, the to-die-for selection of local foods [I am a total spice lover], and the experience of so many people coming together to just have a good time. Here’s a pic of one of the stages we pretty much set up camp at for the weekend, but there are several stages like this around the field.

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

Tribes parade through the crowds in Native American ceremonial apparel. You can imagine how excited I get over the feathers.


more feathers! (photographer unknown)

Artisans come from near and far to sell items, I always buy a piece of local jewelry but enjoy seeing the funkier items like this paper mache…

paper mache

paintings of local legends

Jack loved the kids tent so much he cried when we made him leave, screaming “I want the doggies!!”

kids tent

There is a whole area devoted to kid crafts and activities. Great concept to have them leave their mark on the festival with painted cloths.

kids crafts

Music, music everywhere.

Galactic with Trombone Shorty and War Chief Juan Pardo ©2012 Douglas Mason

It is not just the fest that we love, in fact my favorite trips there have been the ones when there are no big events and we can just enjoy the city. This year we took a few extra days after the fest to unwind and experience a city that speaks design. If you walk down any random street it’s hard not to get swept up in the architectural details and creative urban landscaping.

The Spanish-style architecture of New Orleans dates back to the 1700s, known for the quaint doors-windows and intricate wrought iron balconies. Let me tell you, this is a city where a door is not just a door. The scale and variety of details-colors is inspiring for anyone who loves design with character. Entries for this city are about the experience and an opportunity to make each home unique in an urban space.

doors of new orleans by ashley jacobsen

doorway by ashley jacobsen

There is an interesting concept behind one of the most common architectural styles known as the shotgun house, which is a long narrow single-story building set on a raised foundation of brick piers and typically has some great Victorian detail under the front eave. The Shotgun is a descendant of houses in the Caribbean – the first documented shotgun in New Orleans dates back to the early 1800’s. This style experienced a revival at the end of the 20th Century (following its decline after the Great Depression).

The design provides a necessary and natural cross-ventilation system in the hot Louisiana climate, but it also maximizes space while minimizing historic property taxes. Old tax laws used to be based on the width of the house and-or the number of rooms (closets and halls were considered rooms at one time); the shotgun floor plan minimizes both with no closets or hallways. Essentially you can shoot your shotgun from the front door all the way to the backyard without hitting any walls – ahhh, the simple things in life!

the typical New Orleans shotgun style, note the scale of windows + doors

The creole cottage is another popular style that you will find in the French Quarter with its gabled roof and front porch, blending Caribbean and French-Canadian designs.

the creole cottage

The american townhouse is common in the lower garden district with its beautifully ornate iron balconies.

American Townhouse; intricate iron balcony designs are pre-Civil War

The double gallery is also found in the garden district with stacking front porches and beautiful columns.

the double gallery

The arts/warehouse district is really a revived area now with large commercial buildings that showcase a new orleans flair.

Children’s Museum in the Arts/Warehouse District

And of course my trip would not be complete without a stroll down Magazine Street, filled with a range of coffee shops, restaurants, and stores. I have two favorite stores here, but I just love the variety of home furnishing shops that offer vintage new orleans to mod. Peaches has great mid-century modern finds that take you away from the traditional new orleans. Perch is a combo retail and interior design studio that always leaves me drooling a little. My photos do not do them justice.

Turquoise @ Perch

Perched @ Perch

fabulous ottoman @ Perch!

So there you have it, a fun-filled trip with lots of inspiration. I’ll spare you all the details of the food and drinks consumed, but lets just say the several miles of walking [and dancing] we did each day was a total necessity.

the rain dance

Can’t wait to get back there soooooooooon!


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spring clean your health, mind and home

Easter has passed and that means I need to get my b-u-t-t in gear and start a spring cleaning frenzy. There’s nothing better than heading into the summer months with a freshly organized home so you can enjoy time with friends & family. Even though our New England winter was unbelievably mild this year, it was still mentally and physically draining. I don’t know about you, but our family was sick a good 80% of the time from December through February. Fun times…I just coughed a little thinking about it. Without fresh air circulating we are exposed to more toxins and more viruses: indoor air quality can be 2-5 times more toxic than outdoors. Top that off with dry interior heat and cold dry outdoor air, and well, that explains some things.

indoor air continuously re-circulates

All set with that. Spring is a time for us to restore our health as we transition to increased levels of fresh air and daylight. Yeah! So here are some things you can do to get started.

a molly janicki delight

De-clutter and organize. What items need new homes? What clothes have you been hanging onto, only to cause you stress because they still don’t fit? What piles of paperwork and bills have you just thrown in a drawer (hope I’m not the only one)? What toys has your child outgrown? What foods are still lingering in your pantry or fridge? Find your stashes and piles, go through them, and give them whatever new home you deem appropriate. Organize, donate, swap, sell, repurpose, and recycle as much as you can. Getting the physical clutter out of your home will give you some mental clarity to deal with the remains.


clutter free


Ok, ok. Maybe not so realistic… but a girl can dream, can’t she?

Clean, safely. After you have determined what stays and what goes, give everything a good cleaning. Heavy winter boots have brought pollutants to your rugs, closed windows allowed toxins to continuously re-circulate, pets have nested on your furnishings, food has spoiled in your fridge, hard to reach places have collected dust. A good cleaning can feel as good as a home makeover, but to keep you feeling good avoid harsh chemicals that lead to headaches and respiratory issues. They might do the job, but they will also do a job on your health. Avoid products that contain ammonia or chlorine bleach, and especially anything that says “Keep Out of Reach of Children”. You don’t need to drink out of the bottle to ingest a chemical. Chemical residues and fragrances left from these products can be ingested through our skin and respiratory tracts through inhalation. Look for products with a Green Seal, or better yet use a homemade solution. So many great resources online, spend some time researching.

Bring the outdoors in. Give your patios or gardens a head start by planting seeds inside. Or create an indoor herb garden with decorative containers that spruce up a neglected space in your home. Indoor plants help to cleanse your air and add a fresh and natural aroma.

plant a seed

DIY plant markers

kitchen garden

Design a small cutting garden that will allow you to pick fresh flowers to display.

design a cutting garden

If you have no clue where to start, we do – so ask us we have resources for you. Get a master landscape plan. Get a one-hour consultation and then DIY. Take a class at a local nursery like Pettengill Farm in Salisbury, for you locals. There’s a range of options to fit your needs and level of aggression.

fabulous molly janicki creation

Revive your décor. Now that you’ve cleansed your senses, home, mind it’s time to think about bringing some summer living inside. There are so many small and budget-friendly things you can do to prep your home for the changing seasons. Focus on textures and colors as these are the elements that enhance a connection with the outdoors. Slipcovers/upholstery, layered window treatments, area rugs, bedding, towels, dish clothes, table linens, pillows, throws, lampshades, paint, and accessories can totally change the feel of a space. Invest in the core items you want to last forever – pillow or comforter inserts, furniture, wall art, and allow your décor to be a continual process of discovering things that you love.

focus on textures and colors

Spring/summer is the time of year when all the outdoor markets start up – find some great bargains and DIY projects. Check out the Newburyport Home & Garden Expo on April 21st. Take the family and visit Todd Farm in Rowley on Sunday mornings, spend a few days at the Brimfield in May/July/Sept, and get over to Pettengill Farm in June/September for their Vintage Bazaar. Of course you better come to our open house @ the studio on April 29th! If nothing else, to see the cows.

Don’t forget – Earth Day is April 22nd. Make a pledge to do one thing that brightens your health and our future.

Have a happy and healthy week!


Filed under Decorate It, Ramblings

Gross to Glam

It just happened.  I went to Staples for ink and suddenly I was at Home Goods falling madly in love with an enormous bubble mirror.  What?  How did I get there!  That mirror was a sign…you know, the sign that says you need to do something right now with that {gross} awful {gross} bathroom in the studio even though you don’t have the time or money to deal.  Buy me, I will make you happy!

Come on, how gross…?

gross. gross. gross. gross!

OMG.  I can’t even bear to look at that picture.  Poor Megan.  We used that bathroom for months.  Booooo.

So back to the mirror.  I guessed it might be the perfect size to fill the back wall, and to tone down the brick effect.  Don’t get me wrong, I love textures and I love brick but not this smeary blood red painted {gross} kind, as Juli put it.  Besides, its a barn, we don’t need brick.

$89 (I had a $40 gift card, hence the real reason I ended up at HG and not Staples) and 10 minutes later I was putting this enormous bubble mirror in my car, not so gracefully.

Now what?  Well when I get something in my head there is no turning back.  Next stop Home Depot just down the street to buy paint, if I didn’t go quick I might change my mind.  And if this was not a rental situation and I had any decent budget, I would have thought more about doing cool things like running vertical planks of barn wood up the back wall.  But not the case, so cheap and instant was my mission.

Speed design/shop:

*Black satin finish paint to further hide the brick so I can get the smeary blood out of my head forever.
*White enamel paint for vanity to create contrast against the black along with the toilet.
*White satin finish paint on the other walls since it is a small dark space, but accent it with some fun stencil in black to bring the colors together.
*Black deck/floor paint to hide the gross vinyl tile on the floor.
*Deep base gripper primer for the floor.
*Rustoleum brushed nickel spray paint for gross pipes.
*Roller brushes and paint trays.

$87.  Go!

We gave that rusted pipe 2 coats of rustoleum.  All our other paints were low VOC, but this one was seriously potent.  I’ve found that with most spray paints.  Face mask-it and go far away while it cures.

Then we painted the black brick wall 2 coats.  Ahhhh…. so much better.  Next we painted the other walls and ceiling white.   They were already white so only 1 coat.

Now what?  Stencil design.  Play off the mirror, do something that has movement, simplicity, and a medium scale.  The overlapping circles seemed to meet that criteria so we put a few up to test out scale.  We tortured ourselves because we didn’t develop a stencil for the painting, just a basic one to get the general circle shapes lined up in a diagonal.  Don’t advise painting circles freehand.  Not that fun.  Leaves room for lots of imperfections, but hey, its a barn.  We painted the circles using a black acrylic that we already had in the studio.

Next we painted the vanity cabinet – 3 coats did the trick.   Much better.

At this point I actually considered leaving the vinyl tile as is.  I kind of liked the checkered pattern and it was a coordinating black-white.  But maintaining vinyl tile stinks if you aren’t going to buff it frequently.  And if you are installing a low budget vinyl Im going out on a limb to say you probably don’t want to deal with that kind of maintenance.  It stains and shows wear pretty easily for a material that is supposed to be like superman.  But the worst thing you can do with vinyl, aside from buying it in the first place {sorry}, is dispose of it.  The stuff never dies.  It will sit in a landfill forever.  And if it is not incinerated properly it will release dangerous pollutants known as dioxins into our air.  So I decided to cover it like I did that brick and forget about it forever with black paint.

black painted floor, window frames & heater

We also painted the window frames black, but left the old windows in tact.  I love them just as they are.

Finishing touches include a vintage locker bin I found last year at SoWa for necessities, and an Ikea plug-in wall sconce $29.

Ikea wall sconce for a softer quieter light option.

Still thinking about a less barn-like way to treat the sconce wire, and hope to change out that ceiling light fan which sounds like a plane taking off.  But with the new sconce we don’t even need to turn that one on anymore.

So there you have it.  $205.  What do ya think?  Come for a visit!

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Storage Warz

Nope, Im not talking about the show, even though I admit it is totally addicting!! Today my friend Jen needs some ideas for toy storage and what to do with a printer when you don’t have a dedicated office.  So I’m going to try and help her out.

Those of you with kids understand what a challenge it is to keep your homes from constantly being overtaken by toys.  Family loves to spoil our little guy with billions of them, especially the ones with a billion more little pieces that can be used as weapons and thrown at our new TV.  He also totally needs a new stuffed animal every time they come to visit, right?  (we still love you and think its cute…)

Having storage options that allow you to easily re-organize the mess at the end of the day will help preserve a little sanity.  It’s good to have options that kids can easily maneuver themselves, so they can learn to put things away all by themselves {someday, Jack}.  When we design a space we take into consideration the style and available space, as well as what types of toys need a home. This will all determine what is the right solution for your space.  Variety is key.

Here’s a good combo of open shelves for display,  closed storage cabinet for messes, and a soft storage basket @ floor for easy access & clean up.  Soft fabric baskets are ideal because the kids can drag them around the space and not hurt themselves, or your precious floors.  Ikea has some great basic budget options, but you can also find lots of cute options on Etsy.

Evie Lala @ Etsy

I found these cotton baskets @ Pottery Barn a while ago.  We have a changing table with open shelves underneath, and since I knew Jack would do his best to pull down the diaper bin everyday I wanted something soft and light.

How awesome are these upholstered cubes?  A padded wall AND storage.  Mess with them by hiding new things in the cubes everyday.   That’s fun.

With Via boxes you can have fun picking colors and designing your own structure.   Let the kids stack/organize them like a set of blocks.  Creativity, structure, balance.  Jen already ordered these and I can’t wait to see what she picked out, great choice.

Kalon Studios has a similar option that are a little larger but less of a storage option.  A set of 3 nesting tables / stools with squares, circles, and lines. You can store the kids and they will have fun crawling through them.

Take an old box and paint it.  How cute are Jack’s handmade owls?

Check out ModBox on Etsy, adorable.

Take an old crate and put it on wheels, kids will love driving it around like a car.

or make/paint your own.

If you have open shelves, take a cardboard box and wrap it in fabric or fun paper.  Cheap but also not the most sturdy so probably want to keep it out of the kids reach.

One of my favorites.  Storage and a bench with soft cushion.

OK, now onto what to do with that not so attractive large box of a printer. They take up a lot of space, so not ideal to sit on the desk if you are limited.  But you also need it to be easily accessible.  Most printers these days are wireless, which means you don’t necessarily have to have it sitting right next to the desk.

For office stuff I gravitate towards storage solutions that don’t look like office furniture.  This is especially nice when you don’t have a designated office and want it to just blend in.  Hideaway!  One of the best solutions I’ve seen is modifying an Ikea dresser so that the drawer face hinges down so you can pull out the entire printer when needed.  Make some holes in the back to run your wires.

You could basically do this with any bureau or cabinet, just takes some handy work.

Young House Love writes about how they used the Effektiv cabinet from Ikea for their printer.

Transform a flea market find.

For a less complicated option you could also make your own “cover” using a wood crate that would also double as a place where you can rest things when not in use.  Picture something like this, flipped over.  Then maybe painted, or embellished with wallpaper.

Well, hopefully Jen that gives you some ideas. Let us know how you make out! And if anyone else has ideas for Jen, shout out!

By the way, Jen writes an awesome blog called Parenture that blends her love for travel with her love for parenting…as she calls it, the “inevitable adventures of parenting.” Check it out!


Filed under Ramblings, Spaces, Store it

Vintage Romance

Happy ♥ Day!  Here we are on this romantic…er…Tuesday.  It’s a day to give little tokens of affection to the people we love.  Some of you will be celebrating with a nice romantic dinner out {jealous}, some will be getting together to celebrate special friendships {jealous}, some will be enjoying family time at home {hopefully with a yummy dinner}, and some will be excited for today to be over quickly {hang in there}.  Whatever your plans, and whomever you are spending your time with, today is about relationships.  Our homes play a role in our relationships, and can even stir up some romance.

Dear Nicole banner@ Etsy

New Orleans completely exudes romance to me.  We find our way there atleast once a year to get our fix.  The architecture, design, music, food, people… its that wonderful mix of old world with french, vintage, and urban.  My favorite design element is their ceiling heights, which means very tall windows and very tall doors {jealous}.  My second favorite are the amazing romantic details you will find all over their architecture.  Look at these gorgeous scroll corbels and red shutters. ♥

Romantic design uses colors, textures, patterns, furnishings, and lighting.  I love the mix of modern and old world elements to create interiors that are both luxurious and comfortable.  How can a space be romantic if it is not comfortable?  Here are a few spaces that make me want to cozy up.

A great example of mixing design elements.  You’ve got the formal wall paneling, embellished fireplace, and high ceilings mixed with comfy modern seating and a furry rug that I want to snuggle with.  That chandelier seals the romance for me. ♥

A romantic piece of furniture.  The mix of a victorian style bed frame with modern tapered luxurious bedding.  I love it when bedding isn’t smothered in frills so you can just enjoy the simplicity of comfort.  Oh, and how about that low hanging chandelier?  ♥

Here’s a similar concept mixing old world shapes and modern textures. ♥

The wingback chair dates back to the 1700s when they were typically placed next to a fire.  The design intention was to prevent drafts from reaching the person sitting in the chair, as well as enclosing them in warmth from the fire.   The concept translates well to the wingback bed, which is perfect for creating a cozy nook.  Paired here with a modern romantic cascading chandelier. ♥

And then there is romance through color.  Red is the most emotionally intense and passionate color.  It instantly brings energy to any space.  Because of the emotion and energy that red can bring to a space, I love it as an accent.  That way it will draw your eye through a space and create depth, but not completely dominate it.

This is so New Orleans.  The vintage louvered doors , tall window, casually draped curtain.  And the tufted velvet club chair creates some romantic drama. ♥

How about this for romantic drama?  An enormous red wingback love seat. ♥

A pink tufted victorian style sofa and glam chandelier begin to set the stage. Pink exudes passion, but typically in a more tranquil way.

And one of my favorites… a red modern flower chair.  I’m in love.  ♥

So today I’m pretty excited that the previous owners of our barn left behind a comfy red velvet down filled queen anne couch.  It has some flaws, but I love that.  We will be drinking a glass of red wine and toasting our budget vintage loving romance tonight {don’t look too close at the cat hairs}.



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Sensory Spaces

I recently wrote an article on kid sensory spaces so thought I would share.  I spent a semester in grad school studying the Reggio Emilia and Montessori Method approaches to childhood learning; both are based on the idea that children learn from their senses, and that their physical environment plays a critical role.  From the moment a baby is born they have an innate ability to explore and interpret reality through their senses – not only is this the way they learn about the world, but it is also how their brains develop in the early years.  Sensory learning is a constant process of sending information from the physical body to the brain, and our home environments can help support this learning.

As adults we have each developed our own preferences to the various sensory stimulants including sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch.  Responses to these stimulants can be emotional, psychological, cultural, and learned – but they are definitively individual.   What colors, lighting, textures, or smells do you have an immediate connection or reaction to?   You already know I love the smell of play-doh!  Did you know I have a total aversion to the texture of styrofoam? Like, it completely creeps me out.

styrofoam cups

For our youngest children, they have not yet made these associations so their responses are pure.  It’s a wonderful opportunity for us to watch how our children respond to new things, and can help us identify what their individual interests might be.  I’m going to share some tips on how you can create a multisensory space in your home.  The most important thing we can do is provide sensory opportunities so that kids can naturally learn through their own means of discovery and exploration.

**********************MY TIPS********************

Allow the ability to construct real and imaginary places through a space that offers physical flexibility;  keep them stimulated by facilitating constant change.    Incorporate modular furniture that is easy to move or stack.

Pony Modular Furniture

Evoke a sense of wonder by including items that might sparkle, reflect, create sounds, spin, or be in motion.

Etsy pinwheel mobile

Hide items in different nooks for them to discover new each day.  Limit the amount of toys that are displayed and swap them out regularly so you can avoid overstimulation but also provide that sense of change.

hide things in different nooks everyday

Hang a temporary set of string lights or paper lanterns, or introduce a mirror to provide a fresh transformation.

Cotton & Cable design your own string lights

string lights

Kids of all ages also love a variation of levels which can be incorporated through loft spaces, risers, ramps, and seating.  When they are at a higher or equal level with adults it gives them a sense of empowerment which helps them build confidence and self esteem.

sleeping loft

craft loft


Create a spatial wonderland to match the greatest of swing sets.  Who says swings are only for the outdoors?  Spice it up!

With the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, our homes should provide kids with a sense of belonging and security.  You can create a cozy environment that allows sensory connections by incorporating elements that are soft and personable.   Warm colors, soft furnishings, interesting textures, and elements of nature help a child feel emotionally and physically comfortable.

cozy nook

An overall neutral color palette will provide a calming backdrop and allow your child to personalize it with colors through toys, artwork, photos, and accessories that can change over time.   A child’s identity begins at home, so give them a sense of self and your family and allow them to participate.

allow your kids to participate

DIY garland

The easiest and quickest thing you can do is find everyday items that can be manipulated or experienced through touch or smell.  Warm woods, cool glass, rough stone, textured fabric, clays, sand, rice, cotton balls, shredded papers, foam peanuts, feathers, shells, flowers, leaves, marshmallows, buttons, and dried pastas are all great.  Pair these materials with items such as measuring cups or spoons, mini shovels, lids, cookie cutters, sponges, straws, toilet paper tubes… done!

sensory tub with rice

sensory tub with cotton balls

Finally, consider incorporating natural light, fresh air, and views to the outside into these spaces.   Nature provides our children with connections that help them to understand things like seasons, as well as the light and dark cycles of a day.   These cycles regulate a lot of our human behaviors; exposure to daylight is especially important for the production of serotonin to give us those feelings of general well being.

incorporate daylight and views to the outdoors

So there you have it.  Did you create a sensory wonderland for your kids?  Send us pics so we can share your great ideas.

Have fun!

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Filed under Decorate It, Ramblings, Spaces, Uncategorized

Tangerine Tango

 “Orange is the happiest color.” — Frank Sinatra

Pantone’s 2012 color of the year is Tangerine Tango,  a ‘spirited reddish orange’.

Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, says this about the color:  “It has some sophistication, but at the same time it has energy. It’s a color that symbolizes a need to recharge our batteries. With orange there’s always that undertone of friendliness and warmth.”   Love it!

Pantone’s color of the year influences interiors, fashion, print, and web design trends.  Bring it into your home through accessories to revive your decor this year.  Color affects us all differently, so consider the preferences you have. Orange is said to stimulate energy, appetite and socialization.  In China and Japan, orange is used to symbolize happiness and love.  American Indians associate the color orange with kinship.

Here are a few fun ways to bring tangerine into your home.  We love it with blue!

our mood board

and some spaces we love…

at the door

up the stairs

on the furniture

on the ceiling

on the wall

for the kids

in the bedroom

You feeling the energy?

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Filed under Decorate It, Furnish It, Ramblings, Spaces, Textile It