My homeless hiatus

I’ve been a bit homeless the past two years, so this #LetsBlogOff topic, “What is home?” truly hit home with me. The main reason I left the corporate world was because I wanted freedom.  I wanted the flexibility to go where I wanted, when I wanted. Yet, it took about two years for that possibility to really settle in.

Once I had some projects under my belt (money coming in) and I realized I CAN work from anywhere, I put my things in storage and bounced around between my parents, friends, traveling, my parents, traveling, my parents. Okay, I guess you could could say I moved in with my parents…but I was gone a lot : ) It’s still kind of hard for me to say that. I don’t know why…. I haven’t lived near my family in almost 30 years. It was nice to re-connect.  (I’m also extremely lucky to have parents who didn’t mind having me…at least that’s what they told me.)

However, I’m happy to say I have my own home again. Here’s what I realized (and missed) about home during my homeless hiatus:

  • It’s a reflection of who you are… it’s a creative process… as messy and imperfect as that can be…
  • It’s a lesson in contentment…striving to align it with how you would like it to be, while being perfectly okay with how it is now.
  • It can have something to do with the Restoration Hardware catalog or, maybe it’s what those pages are telling you. Where can you incorporate the feeling that look evokes? What are you craving? More peace and order, more passion and depth, a place to nourish and delight?

  • I know that when my home doesn’t feel right, I don’t feel right. It helps to get the aesthetic down, but it ultimately boils down to what’s going on inside. I missed having people over, welcoming them, making food for them, loving them.

  • Now, my home is peaceful, quiet, pretty and yearning to bring people in. And, it kind of looks like the Restoration Hardware catalog… a crystal chandelier in an iron birdcage…a Harley Davidson behind soft sofas… rock star guitars and sweet music…  linen and velvet… a shaggy ocean blue rug atop shiny, creamy travertine.

It says a lot about who’s living there. It’s strength and grace. It’s a happy place.

This post is a part of the LetsBlogOff challenge where every two weeks bloggers unite around a given topic. It’s a great way to build your blogging skills and cultivate your own unique voice. Here are 5 more reasons to join us next time.

Be sure to read the others’ take on “What is Home,” here:


2 healthy ingredients you won't find at the Farmer's Market

What I learned this week in Nutrition School...

that you won’t find two of the most life-nourishing ingredients in any grocery store or farmer’s market. Nope, you’re going to have go within for these – relationships and gratitude. Something shifts in you when you say thank you and genuinely appreciate others. It softens you, opening you up for more love, better quality relationships, which fill you up with contentment… almost as satisfying as chocolate.

So, in the spirit of relationships & gratitude, I’m thanking a few people on my mind.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do and that you”ll send your own thank-you”s this weekend.

@MarniZarr, dreamdaymusings blogger, long-time friend, and soon to be shop-owner (stay tuned.)  Marni is a master of finding dreamy places & things to do – a bistro, a boutique, a blogger, a band… things I”d never find on my own. She even got my groove back with Zumba.  I’m just happy to be part of her dreamy world. Here’s her “double-duty” recap of our last visit.


 @JennBrouwer, interior designer, blogger, a “fairly” new friend (met her at Tobi Fairley”s Blog Camp this year). I love a good “I found my passion and followed it” story so I wrote this post for Design Everyday’s blog about her journey from nurse to interior designer. And don”t miss her blog. It”s filled with truly helpful tips on everything from home design, menu planning for a family, appreciating life and balancing it all.


Bev White, social media marketer and friend since high school. Bev left the corporate world to set up her own shop, marketing for business she”s truly passionate about. One, is Helping Hands for Single Moms, a non-profit helping single moms stay in school by removing the day-to-day obstacles that can get in the way of finishing. Things like auto & home repairs, medical care… they even get their hair done!  To top that off, she was going to a bridal shower the next day where the bride asked her guests to meet her at a women’s homeless shelter to play with the children there.  Turns out, most of the online casino canada women were married. Their husbands work nights and drop them off at the shelter so they are safe and off the streets.  How sweet, determined and admirable is that?


Lilly of @LillysTable, inspired seasonal meal planner and Food Day organizer.  Lilly has been coordinating Tucson’s Food Day event with Santa Cruz Valley Heritage Alliance . Next Sunday, they’ll host a progressive dinner, one where everyone can walk or bike their way to three locations for appetizers, entree and dessert made with locally grown, culturally rich ingredients. I love Lilly”s blog and process for providing weekly menus. If I had children, I”d appreciate her insight on picky eaters. I”m sure these tips will come in handy for my future clients! Get to know her by joining her free 30 day challenge, starting November 1st.

Finally, I”ve never met Lisa of With Style & Grace or Heidi of 101 Cookbooks but they”ve been spending a lot of time in my kitchen. Lisa introduced me to sweet potatoes with this. I”ve since tossed them in a Lilly-inspired salad, baked them in enchiladas  and combined them with tofu in Heidi’s delicious miso-curry sauce (I used the recipe she has in her latest book, Super Natural Everyday. It calls for 1 T red curry paste instead of harissa.

And thank you, Google & Wikipedia, I didn’t know what harissa was!

Take care,


Capturing your home design ideas

No more ripping pages out of home design magazines and having to search the pile on the kitchen table for that lamp you’re loving… or is it in your handbag… or, maybe casino online you left it in the car?  With sites like Houzz, Pinterest and Modenus, inspiration (and that lamp you love) is just a couple of clicks away.

Read more of my Design Everyday post that covers the latest tools for capturing your home design ideas…




Getting inspired for green design

When I was asked to write the Design Everyday blog about green interior home design, I wondered what I’d say… I’m not a designer!  Fortunately, I have worked with a lot of designers, really smart ones, the kind that can create green homes without them looking space-agy or birckenstock-y, or whatever we used to think green homes had to look like.

What I’ve learned  is that green design is simply good design. It’s a philosophy more than an aesthetic.

Good designers strive to make a space easier, happier, possibly even prettier to live in. They encourage individuality and have a way of bringing out your own unique style.

Here are a couple of my favorite green interior design resources that I’ve shared at Design Everyday.  I hope they’ll inspire you to live simply, with your own style leading the way.


Elle Decoration (UK Edition)

The perfect blend of aspirational and functional ideas, with words of wisdom from the world’s top designers sprinkled throughout. Even though it doesn’t have green in its title, I find myself collecting quotes from designers that sound pretty green to me… READ MORE



Green Interior Design by Lori Dennis

This one came to me by divine intervention. I met Donna Hazzard of Greenpieced at interior designer, Tobi Fairley’s blog camp just before I started writing for Design Everyday. Donna told me this was the go-to book so I promptly downloaded it and fell in love with Lori’s philosophy. Known for proving that green can be good and glamourous, Lori’s about to go big with her own HGTV show, “Real Designing Women.” – READ MORE 


What are your favorite home design magazines, blogs and books?



@Treadlie magazine on bike-riding in style

I write a weekly blog post for an Australian home design magazine called Light Home. It holds several blogs, mine is called “Design Everyday.”   I get to write about how good design feels and share the philosophy that good, green design comes from creating a home you love, one that expresses your unique style.  Every once in awhile I venture outside the home and talk about creating a life that you love.

In this post,@Treadlie magazine shows us how ultra-hip, designer-types are cycling with style and feeling inspired:


The more you appreciate good, clean design, the more you incorporate it in all aspects of your life – in and outside online casino the home.  Treadlie magazine caught my eye as it does more than cover the latest bicycles. Their “Treadlie Street” section shows us how (and why) people are designing lives around riding their bike. They’re navigating their way through traffic in all kinds of weather and they’re doing it in style, without any mention of those pesky, “leaving nothing to the imagination” cycling tights.   (For more…)



So much good-ness

Ever have so much good-ness going on that you can’t quite absorb it? I’ve been so overwhelmingly, every minute booked type of busy lately that I’m having a hard time staying present for each thing.  I realize that each “good thing” has happened through relationships that have evolved, over time.

I’m especially thankful for my online relationships. The process of blogging and participating in social media has helped me uncover my voice and given me the confidence to follow my heart. I’m trying to slow down and appreciate change. I don’t want to miss a single moment.

I thought I’d take today to fill you in… here are a few things going on…

Design Everyday. I’ve been hard at work blogging for Design Everyday, a blog affiliated with LightHome, an Australian green home design magazine that launched earlier this month. I’m having so much fun interviewing Aussie designers, reviewing thoughtfully designed products and encouraging people to design for the way you live, with things you love. I even squeezed in a trip down under to do some digging myself. This opportunity came my way via Amanda Falconer, the publisher of LightHome and founder of the Sydney Small Business Centre. We go way back, having worked together at James Hardie, giving Australian architects tours across America.

Site re-design. I’m a big fan of Reese Spykerman (she’s the creative genius behind Chris Guillebeau’s Art of Non-Conformity site).  When she ran a site review special in June, I jumped on it.  Reese’s process gently suggested the look of my site didn’t reflect my voice. She gave me a lot to think about, which prepared me to bring in designer, Kaiko Kassab of Izumi Studios to work her magic. We’re not quite done yet, but I think it’s evolving nicely.

Back to school. While I love marketing, I’ve learned that I really love encouraging people to be their best self. I’m about three weeks into a year-long program to become a certified health and lifestyle counselor through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. It’s the only school that approaches “nutrition” holistically, with food just one small part of a happy, healthy life. I can’t wait to really dig in and learn more ways of helping people live their best life.

Guest posting. On top of all of this designer, Tobi Fairley asked me to guest post for her “All-American” series this weekend!  How much good-ness can a girl take??? I’ll be sure to share it. Tom Brady is involved.

Mom’s birthday. As if that wasn’t enough –  today is my Mom’s birthday!  We’re celebrating her 65th, Princess-style. I want her to feel as special as she’s made her children feel every day of our lives. She doesn’t have near enough Princess moments. To ensure she can have one whenever she wants, I gave her a Helen Ficalora crown charm. I think she liked it 🙂  Love it, love Helen and especially love my Mom.

Happy Birthday, Mom!

A crown for the Princess (Helen Ficalora style)

Alaska bound. And, I’m taking my first cruise tomorrow… to Alaska! I’ve packed every variation of Ugg, knitting and reading material you can imagine. We’ll see what I actually end up doing. More than anything, I’m looking forward to enjoying the beautiful scenery and being chilly!  It’s 110 in Tucson. Alaska is going to feel sooooo good.

I’m looking forward to sharing a lot more goodness with you, goodness that comes, thanks to you. Thank you for stopping by.

If I were choosing an architect or designer…

If I were choosing an architect or designer, I’d be wary of ones who jump too quickly to a generic checklist without getting to know me first. If they’re the ones creating the story my home is going to tell, I want them to at least take some time to get to know me.

if i were choosing an architect or designer(Flowers aren’t necessary, patience and listening will do…)

Unfortunately, we don’t always know that we have the option of conveying what we want.  We think the expert knows exactly what we need, so we let them design it for us. Even if we do have an idea, it gets lost in translation because we have no idea how to articulate it in architect-speak.

Architect, bingo, bob borson

(For anyone wanting to learn this elite language, Bob Borson has designed
an entire
Bingo series around “Words Architects Use” … 🙂

Fortunately, I know architects and designers aspire to create more meaningful stories than a checklist alone allow (even the green ones).  They learned how to do this in school.  At least after reading Matthew Frederick’s “101 Things I Learned in Architecture School,” I think they did….

I have worked with them, I read their blogs, I know their heart.  All we need to do is have an inkling of what we like, of the experience we would like to have, the story we would like to tell and let them help us articulate it.

I know this is easier said than done… And, it may not be as much fun as shopping for throw pillows or bath fixtures. But, I’m pretty sure taking the time to dig a little deeper up front will leave you more satisfied than any of the latest trends.

I thought this note from Melody Beattie’s, “Journey to the Heart” might get you thinking about the story you want to tell…

“Choose carefully the possessions you want around you, for they tell a story all day long…. Fill your world, your life, with objects that are beautiful and have special meaning to you. What articles and hues have you surrounded yourself with at home, at work? What stories do these things tell about you? Choose objects and colors that make your heart smile.”

You might also want to read architect / designer blogs to learn more about their mindset, their stories…

How do you get to the heart of your (or your client’s) story?


Are architects on hold? What CNN, Curtis & Andy say

Is the architect profession on hold?  CNN’s “Masterpieces on hold” article suggests that it is… Sure, the big-scale-creative-showcase opportunities are few and far between. Most of the article’s comments are arguing the need for such elaborate structures in the first place.

But, the bigger problem is in George Miller’s, president of the American Institute of Architects, statement:

“It’s really difficult … for students coming out of school to find appropriate positions … we’re afraid that we’re going to lose a generation of architects.”

What is the architect profession doing to really cultivate the skills young architects will need going forward?   What can we do to re-brand the architect as a problem-solver-for-human-beings, vs masterpiece-creator-for-display?

How are we connecting with the young architects who would love nothing more than to feel they’re making a difference in the world?  Do they really understand the power they have through design to affect how we live in our home, our community, our city, our world?  Can we re-position creativity as cool when it’s simplistic, sensible and centered around the experience it will offer?

Here are several articles & interviews that suggest all kinds of opportunity for young (and older) architects:

Survey suggests opportunities for architects

Survey suggests skills for architects

Inside the Designer’s Mind: Curtis Gelotte, AIA

Inside the Designer’s Mind:  Andy Suzuki, AIA

Seasoned architects offer survival skills for the young

How should we go about re-branding the architect-as-entrepreneur?

Inside The Designer’s Mind: Jenny Sullivan, Design Editor


When I asked Jenny Sullivan, Design Editor for BUILDER magazine, for an “Inside the Designer’s Mind”  interview, she hesitated, saying, “That’s kind of interesting, I write about design, but I’m not a designer.”  Her reaction reminded me that all too often we dismiss the designer inside of us… the one that sees possibility.

Jenny has earned  building industry respect and a seat on the judges’ panel of countless design competitions after years interviewing designers and observing trends. However, her ability to capture the essence of good design (whether she’s writing or judging) is pure Jenny. Her humble, playful, grateful-for-all-the-right-things nature guides an intuitive sense for what works for people and the world we live in – which, I’d say, is one of the most important skills a designer can have.

How do you gauge good design in buildings/neighborhoods and in the products you choose for yourself?

First and foremost, homes and neighborhoods have to be comfortable, nurturing, functional places.  They just have to feel good. Beyond that, I think that restraint is a necessary ingredient in good design. An unlimited budget can sometimes be a bad thing.  If your architectural proportions are balanced, you don’t need all kinds of bump-outs and fancy details to make a house attractive. It’s better to put money and attention toward a select few focal points – perhaps a beautiful front door, an unusual kitchen backsplash, or a custom fireplace mantel — that aren’t competing with other elements for attention. That means meting your resources in a smart way and investing carefully.

If you’re wearing a Rolex watch or a dazzling emerald necklace, it’s okay to pair it with a simple white shirt. The eye needs a place to rest.

How has your perception of good design changed over the years?

Attitudes about art and design are always a reflection of the times, and the building industry has slogged through a couple really tough years. I think our country is also finally awakening to the dangers posed by climate change.  Out of these respective crises, I see some really positive things happening on the design front.

I’d argue that today, good design is less about window dressing (the finest imported granite or zebra wood) and more about stewardship.

I have grown to have a much greater appreciation for design that minimizes waste, uses humble materials creatively, and considers the bigger picture.  By bigger picture, I mean how a single house fits into its neighborhood, its city, its geographic and ecological region, and of course, its world.

What was important to you when you first started observing design? What do you look for now?

Early in my career I wrote about graphic design and product design, and I think some of that training still influences the way I look at houses.

I like design that is playful and creative in its appropriation of space and materials, yet also disciplined and dead set on solving a problem – be it an odd lot configuration, a steep slope, a limited budget, a crazy set of planning board limitations, or all of the above.

I tend to look for the same exquisite simplicity in a home that one might find in an iPhone interface or a letter-pressed business card. Sometimes the simplest, most intuitive solutions are really the best ones.

Outside of writing for work, how do you enjoy expressing your creativity?

I know a lot of journalists who blog, tweet, or dream of writing the great American novel in their spare time. I am not one of them.

When I’m not at work, I usually prefer to use the non-verbal side of my brain for other things. I tend to cook a lot without recipes (my husband and son are great guinea pigs) and I like going places where I can simply observe people.  Our family travels quite a bit, and when we do, I always like to hit places like cafes, outdoor markets, and everyday neighborhoods to see how people live.

How do you prepare for creativity? Do you have a ritual/routine?

I procrastinate. Nothing gets those creative juices flowing more than a managing editor who is threatening to stab you if you don’t get your copy in.

You’ve traveled outside the U.S. a lot… What do you value most in traveling?

Seeing how other people go about their daily routines, organize their lives, make things, and solve problems. It’s a great way of getting out of your comfort zone and realizing that the way you always do things isn’t necessarily the best way.

How do you encourage creativity in your son?

I do try to expose him to new places, media, people, and experiences, but mostly I just try not to interfere.  Kids are creative by nature, but the forces of inhibition and insecurity start to set in faster than we realize.

What stops people from expressing their art, voice, vision?

Insecurity, ritual, routine, survival, lack of resources, laziness, life, TiVo.

What’s the biggest opportunity for designers today?

Reinventing the world to be more sustainable.

Thank you Jenny, for letting us inside your designer mind. Read more from Jenny, including Design Details, an ongoing series focusing on the little stuff, in BUILDER.

Inside the Designer's Mind: Curtis Gelotte, AIA

Curt Gelotte-1

Find a need and fill it” has been a marketer’s mantra for years.  Today, savvy architects are turning entrepreneur, finding unmet needs and creating new business models, products and services. After 26 years of design, Curtis Gelotte and Scott Hommas of  Gelotte Hommas Architecture, a Seattle area custom design firm, saw the need to simplify the process of creating the one-of-a-kind home by artfully blending spec-house-economy with custom-house-method.  I recently talked with Curtis Gelotte about his entrepreneurial journey.

Did you always know you wanted to be an architect? As a young boy, I was always drawing houses. When geometry class appeared I discovered that I visualize space really well. My first job at 14 was running prints and sweeping floors for an architect. By 15, I was drafting. At 17, they had me designing.   I was hooked!

Does today’s architect need to be an entrepreneur? With two designs under my belt I started my own business 26 years ago. I still design for that builder.  It takes an unrealistic confidence to step out on your own or present an idea.  It takes faith that no matter what comes along, you’ll be able to figure it out.  That mindset has never been more important for architects.

What skill should architects be cultivating? Become a great listener.  Architects are natural problem solvers. But it takes a willingness to listen to discover the true problem.  If you listened to my client consultations, you’d find them doing 90% of the talking.  I ask questions to clarify and help them articulate their vision. We find our best opportunities by observing and listening.

What are today’s unmet needs? My partner and I saw the need to simplify the process of creating a one-of-a-kind-house , so we”ve blended spec-house-economy with custom-house-method.  There’s a large segment of the population who would like to build a custom home, but don’t because they’re afraid the cost will be too high.  What causes budgets to get out of control is the thousands of decisions they have to make – just selecting a refrigerator can make you crazy. By getting to know our clients and streamlining their choices for them, we can eliminate budget uncertainty and prevent it from getting out of control.

Biggest misconception about architects? That we”re not practical.

What is the biggest opportunity for architects today? Being facilitators: connecting people with others who can provide missing links casino online to get projects moving.

How do you prepare for creativity? Beauty in all forms inspires me – nature, art, sculpture and music. I flip through books and magazines and absorb images of great works of architecture and paintings.

Do you have a special ritual or exercise that gets your creativity flowing? Usually I start with a gridded pad of paper and start exploring ideas. Once the germ of a concept appears, I move on to larger paper.  I sketch a lot in meetings to try to convey ideas.

How do you cultivate creativity in your own firm? One of the problems I see is that younger architects are great at 3d computer, but they don’t know how to draw by hand. People aren’t used to describing moods and emotions in their house and they don’t know architect lingo. So, I try to help them articulate what they want and confirm with visual images. Being able to sketch in the presentation can be really helpful.  We encourage our staff to draw more. We do watercolors in the office and have a Christmas card design competition that’s become so popular, our mailing list is over 1,000.

2009 HolCard

3 things we probably won’t find in your bio: I lived in Haines, Alaska until I was 8 years old;  I own three types of bicycles: road, mountain and cross; I paid for part of my college education with a bowling scholarship.

I”d like to thank Curtis for sitting for this interview after a long day of judging the Gold Nugget Awards.  His entrepreneurial spirit undoubtedly comes from the energy and enthusiasm he has for  his work. GH has even embraced social media!  Follow them for a great example of incorporating a blog, Facebook and Twitter into a marketing program.

Page 1 of 212
© Copyright Denese Russell: Writings | created by: IZUMI STUDIOS