Winter Vignettes: Foyer Bookcase



Sorry, the "winter" part of this is very misleading (nothing that you are about to see is seasonal at all). But the nerd in me likes the repetition of the title, kinda like a mini series:) It would probably be more aptly named "Mixed Metals, Green and Black".

This post-holiday styling of the bookcase started with the green vases and bottles and books that I already had up there for Christmas.  I love green so why not keep them here?

Then it was just a matter of filling in the couple of shelves that had actual holiday stuff on them. I started with the top of the bookcase, with this framed house portrait of the home I was born in and the two mercury glass hurricanes my Mom gave me last year for Christmas (from Ballard Designs). (PS. I cheated and repeated these elements from last year's winter bookcase.)

I was kinda digging the mixture of metal tones here, the brass from the frame and the silver from the vases. I also have silver in the picture frames and in the tray where Paul drops his keys/keeps his wallet. So I wanted to add a little more of the gold tones to help balance things out. I'm going to admit, I do not own a lot of brass...but then I remembered these really cool old duck bookends that I stole from my parent's house (I plan to use them in Maura's "big girl room", but for now they were just sitting around). I grabbed some of our big hard backs with black and gray and white covers to tie in with the black mat above and voila.

And even though these have that dull, aged finish to them, I think it still works with the shiny new brass. Sometimes things just come together, even when you started with no plan whatsoever:)

Winter Vignettes: Mantel



If you are one of those people like me who change some of your accessories up seasonally, I think decorating for winter is the hardest. I mean, unless you go with a snowflake motif, or branches and pine cones, there's not a lot of obvious nature or iconic themes that you can use. (And this is assuming you live in a climate where there actually is winter!) So I just approach the time after the holidays as sort of whatever...anything or everything that you would normally accessorize with, just stuff that you like, kinda like down time.

I always start my mantel or other vignette decor with a trip to our basement, which is where we keep all the stuff that we don't know what to do with, don't have space for or that we are not using at the time. Then hopefully I get inspired by something and run with it:) Here's what I came up with:

I found these three large matted wood frames kicking around down there that worked nicely as a base. Large scale, great height, and I love the wide mats with much smaller photo opening inside. Then I decided to flank them with lots of white on white...pitchers and vases and candles. Love the layers of soft color and depth that you can get from tone-on-tone.

I usually don't decide what I'm going to put in the frames until after I have the composition worked out. In this case, the largest frame got a page from my bird calendar. (Added these wood printing blocks from Brimfield - our wedding anniversary month and day - for a little bit of extra texture and sentiment.)

In the frame on the left is a map of Dublin County and the town where my mother-in-law is from in Ireland (also from Brimfield).

The frame on the right got a page out of an old book called "The Anatomy of Lettering" (all about typography and designing fonts) friend found the book for me (free) at the dump of all places, so I figured cutting a page out of it was ok:) I love these kind of informational graphics.

I was digging the whole white-on-white thing so I added these strands of capiz shells (really old from West Elm and which I usually only put up in the summer). They sparkle with the light and pick up on the glass of the candle hurricanes nicely.

All in all, I had no idea what I was going to do with this space when I took the Christmas stuff down, and now this is one of my favorite looks that this mantel has ever had!


Do you guys struggle with after the holidays decor? What are your go-tos? I have our foyer bookcase done, which I'll share soon and am currently working on the ledge shelves.

PS. Another thing I'm loving about this is that since its actually not seasonal-specific, I can leave it up for awhile. Just thinking that I might not have time for spring decorating come May when baby #2 arrives!!

The Children's Book: Character Sketches



Hi! It's been a while since I talked about the children's book I'm illustrating with my friends Lisa and Kristoffer of "Life in Dar", so I thought I'd give you guys an update and a behind-the-scenes look at a bit of our process.

So far we've spent a lot of back and forth time figuring out what will be depicted on each page of the book and how the layout will be in terms of full page spreads v. single page illustrations, etc. With that mostly wrapped up, it was now time to actually start drawing! We wanted to nail down the appearance of our main character, Santa Claus, first and get an idea of how the style of the illustrations will be, so I began with some character sketches.

Meet our Santa:
A lot of the book takes place in the summer (and not at the North Pole), so we also needed to figure out what our hot weather Santa would look like. In this case, we're picturing him owning a plethora of red Hawaiian shirts (each with a different Christmasy pattern on it) and kicking back in some boat shoes (we considered sandals, flip flops, and Crocs) while still sporting his traditional Santa hat. Like this:

It took a bit to get to this point. I am not the type of artist who can just make things up out of their head. I envy, applaud and admire those kinds of people - that is serious, raw talent. I need to be looking at something to have any chance of getting it right. In school, I was trained to take lots and lots of reference literally have someone dress up as my character and pose them as they will appear in the final image. Ask my college roommates, I put them through a lot:) This is the same way that someone like Norman Rockwell worked. So, for this book, I needed a Santa...and thankfully my Dad is up for the job! 

I didn't spend a lot of money getting a completely accurate Santa costume...we already had the hat, I bought the beard at the party store and he wore black pants and short boots from his regular wardrobe...I just needed to see the positioning of the body and how the fabric drapes, how a wide belt (in this case one of my scarves cause it was all we had on hand) would wrap around a bigger belly (there's a pillow in there), etc. So here's one of the shots I used to help me with the above illustration.

Then I drew him in pencil, changing the clothes to be what I wanted, making the boots taller with buckles, puffing up the white trim, adding more detail, etc. The next step was to go over that with a fine point black pen until I had a more finished drawing like this:

and this:
Then I scanned these in and added all the color in the computer in Photoshop (using a tablet pen), while keeping the ink lines on top. I'm hoping as I refine the process that I can get the look to be a little less digital and more painterly, but I'm ok with how these turned out. And so are the authors, which is the important thing:)

Next I will tackle a complete full page spread illustration...starting with a photo shoot and then collecting other reference for things like reindeer, etc. Fun! And nerve-wracking!!

Would love to hear your honest feedback! Good and bad. Thanks for all your support:)

Team Blue!



Hi there! Happy late New Year!

Totally didn't mean to be gone for blogging for almost a month there, sorry! We hit 2013 super sick...didn't even make it up until midnight on NYE and then spent New Year's Day in the minute clinic at CVS, so we are kinda behind on getting back into the normal swing of things. 

Thank you so much for all your wonderful comments and well wishes about baby #2!! You guys are the best! We had our big ultrasound right after Christmas and found out its a boy:) Handsome little guy, isn't he?!

So excited!!! And he looked all healthy, which was the most important thing.

We have a lot to do around this place to get it ready for a second little one. Our plan is to move Maura down the hall to a "big girl room" (still not sure though if we're going to transition her right away to a twin bed or keep her in her crib for as long as possible since she is completely comfortable there..advice?) and then convert her nursery over to be ready for a boy. First things first, we need to get all the crap out of the other room that will be her new one so we can start setting things up in there. I should probably take down the Christmas stuff first though, huh?!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

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