POSTS BY amillman

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Design Happens readers in Chicagoland, one of our favorite designers, Erinn Valencich, is heading to the Windy City. She’ll be at Century Tile in Naperville on Wednesday, April 27th and at the Mundelein store on Thursday, the 28th. Bring photos of your rooms, and Erinn will help solve your decorating dilemmas.

Designer Erinn Valencich at Century Tile Chicago

Click here for the schedule and reservation information; seating is limited.

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Sundown marks the beginning of Passover, and I have a confession. Another year has passed and I haven’t finished the stamped cross stitch matzo cover I’ve been working on since 2008. (So embarrassing.) It’s a gift for my father. I fear I’m proving that I have the unique ability to stretch out a simple craft project for eons. (Am I alone in this?)

HGTV Design Happens - Passover - Art

Passover Symbols Painting :: Etsy Naomi Broudo

My father inherited the traditional Pesach plate and cut glass Elijah’s cup my family uses from his mother who got them on a trip to Israel in the 50s. I was looking forward to contributing a handmade piece of my needlework to be used with the family heirlooms. As I child, I was so captivated by the designs of those ritual objects. More recent Passover memories include the moving feminist Seders hosted by my adopted Jewish grandmother. All of which has me thinking, if I host the Passover Seder next year, what pieces will my family bring and what would I need to buy and make to complete my table. Here are seven lovely handmade ceremonial objects and ones by leading designers I found while online window shopping. I’d love your recommendations! And if anyone knows where I can find a Seder plate with a special place for an orange, let me know.

Anna’s Favorites, What Are Yours?

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A couple weeks ago, Karli pitted chicks and bunnies in a quest to find out which cute, cuddly mascot of Easter should reign supreme. You, our Design Happens followers, overwhelmingly championed for bunnies. But if you are the proud owner of a small flock of backyard hens like me, (yes, I live in the big city of Atlanta and have six pet chickens) then you know in your heart of hearts…chicks rule! (After all, bunnies don’t lay eggs.)

HGTV Backyard Chickens as Pets - Your Own Fresh Easter Eggs

Hypatia enjoys some watermelon :: fresh eggs :: Zuzu & Lulu like collards

2011 marks the first year I will dye and decorate eggs for Easter fresh from the coop. Even better, we have a chicken known as an Easter Egger that lays pastel blue eggs. What more can you ask for?

HGTV Design Happens - Dyeing and Decorating Easter Eggs

I’m tempted to go with this DIY shabby chic spoon and candle display designed by Just Something I Made, so I can show off a half dozen naturally blue eggs. Since our hens lay about five eggs a day total, we’ve started collecting porcelain eggs crates. Maybe I could do something modern with this one from West Elm? Then again, I am enchanted by the doily stencil approach I found on the blog Urban Comfort. Delicate and subtle. (And no dyeing involved if we use our blue and brown eggs.)

If you love dyeing and decorating with Easter eggs as much as me, then you’ll love seven more stunning, yes, stunning designs I found on Etsy and crafting blogs. Plenty of inspiration and tutorials if you’re a DIYer like me. Or you’ve still got time to order from the Etsy sellers if you love handmade but don’t have time for crafts. Enjoy!

7 Incredible Eggs

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On July 29, 1981, a 10-year-old me slept in the living room so I could wake up in the wee hours of the morning to watch the entire wedding of Lady Diana to Prince Charles on the family TV. If I had been older, or if my parents had been just as enthused as me about all the pomp and circumstance, I would have thrown a royal wedding party. Fortunately, as we approach Kate and Prince William’s big day, there’s that newfangled invention called the DVR, so I can watch the nuptials on my own schedule. Which makes the thought of throwing a small fete with my anglophile friends even more appealing. (Hey, I’m not too obsessed. It’s not like I’m knitting the entire royal wedding party like some people. Although I do have the perfect wedding hat!) Here are four of my favorite sources for inspiration and purchasable decor for what our friends across the pond call street parties.

HGTV Design Happens - Throw a Royal Wedding PartyFrom the bunting to the cake stands to the Union Jack teapot vase , I love so many of the options available at the UK party store …and all things nice.


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When I was a kid, my mother always prepared beautiful Easter table settings. Panorama sugar egg candies, antique Victorian embossed postcards, paper mache eggs and other old-fashioned flourishes were arranged to form a stunning centerpiece. After the delicious meal (my mother is an excellent cook), we’d watch Easter Parade with Fred Astaire and Judy Garland. While I’m nostalgic for the look my mother created, I may not go with a Victorian theme this year. I’m totally enchanted with the ideas I’ve found on, including this blue and yellow look. Here are five of my favorites. What decorating theme will you be using this year for Easter brunch?

1. Bright Blue & Yellow Brunch

HGTV Design Happens - Easter - Bright Blue & Yellow Brunch

If you’re tired of traditional pastel Easter hues, this color scheme of blue, yellow and white evokes the cheerful atmosphere of bluebird skies and lots of sunshine. Paper medallions make for an eye-catching background to the dessert table. The blue ruffle placemats, reminiscent of Easter bonnets, and ice-cold lemonade, served in mason jars, fit perfectly with the color scheme. (For adults, spike it with Maker’s Mark for refreshing Kentucky Lemonade.) And in my family, Easter brunch is incomplete if it doesn’t include deviled eggs and banana pudding. (We use Pepperidge Farm Chessmen cookies instead of Nilla wafers.)

  • Tell Your Friends Daily Delight :: Stereo Cabinet #1 by Jeff Klarin

STEREO CABINET #1 by Jeff Klarin :: photo transfer on wood

While most of my music now lives on my iPhone, I still have a small vintage stereo cabinet I refuse to get rid of. There lives a turntable and the first records I ever bought. Also hand-me-downs like the Beatles’ White Album. (Thanks, dad.)

Los Angeles-based designer Jeff Klarin’s STEREO CABINET #1 would look sweet in a loft and looks a lot like the setup my parents had in our living room in the ’70s. I also like his Album Side Table.

Do you miss the visual and tactile appeal of a stack of albums, too? Is a photographic reproduction like this a satisfying substitute?

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We recently said goodbye to HGTV’s first Home Studio interns Carol Schoenfeld and Cassie Reed. The Home Studio university co-op program allows Scripps to collaborate with emerging designers who offer new takes on interior design and decor. Carol and Cassie, both students at the University of Cincinnati‘s prestigious design program, created interactive interior design displays for the HGTV headquarters. Schoenfeld’s vignette is a deep dive into design history with a spotlight on the Wassily Chair, invented in 1925. Reed illustrated a current design trend; she chose “bold” with a sustainability bent…and lots of honeysuckle.

Check out their displays — and stick around for a quick interview with these up-and-coming designers.

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How do you celebrate spring? For many, it means a visit to Washington, D.C., for the National Cherry Blossom Festival. I can tell you, from the year I lived in our nation’s capital, all it takes is a strong breeze for it to “snow” thousands of delicate petals. (By the way, the cherry blossom trees located along the Tidal Basin were a gift from Japan in 1912.)

National Cherry Blossom Festival, Washington D.C.

National Cherry Blossom Festival, Washington D.C.

If you can’t make it to D.C., why not plant your own celebration of spring. Here’s a look at four types of flowering cherry trees and expert tips from HGTV on how to plant them. I’m going to ask my neighbors if they’ll let me cut some small branches from the ones that line the side of their house, so I can make this Flowering Cherry “Tree” in a Vase flower arrangement.

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Springtime in Atlanta, my hometown, is colorful. The red buds, dogwoods, azaleas and spring bulbs are bursting forth with color. And soon a fine dusting of yellow pollen will coat everything. But it’s nothing like the welcoming of spring in India.

Festival of Color - Celebrating Holi in India - UPI

UPI/photographer Maryam Rahmanian

On March 21st, Hindu devotees in India filled the streets to celebrate the annual Festival of Color, or Holi Festival. As you can tell from these pictures, the country literally explodes in color. According to the Travel Channel, “the birth of spring is marked with color, and people embrace this by dressing in vibrant clothes and throwing colored powder at each other.”

Just looking at these photos from the UPI fills me with joy. Happy spring! Let’s celebrate with lots of bright, beautiful color.

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If you’re planning on remodeling your kitchen or bathroom in a couple years, you might want to keep an eye out for the winners of the 2010/2011 National Kitchen & Bath Association Student Design Competition. More than 300 students from design programs across North America submitted floor plans and renderings for a high-rise condominium unit in downtown Chicago. Here’s a look at the winning designs that took first place.

  • 1st Place – Kitchens: Mary Anne Jarrell, Seminole State College

NKBA 1st Place Kitchens: Mary Anne Jarrell, Seminole State College

  • 1st Place – Bathrooms: Alexis Cannariato, Brigham Young University

NKBA 1st Place Bathrooms: Alexis Cannariato, Brigham Young University
By the way, the NKBA is now accepting entries for the 2011/2012 NKBA Student Design Competition. The new round calls for kitchen and bath designs for a 19th century Federal Style Row House.

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When renowned interior designer Charlotte Moss agreed to take time out of her busy day to talk with about her new book, we were thrilled. Ms. Moss has enjoyed a celebrated career; most recently she was honored with Elle Decor’s Vision Award and named a top 20 design icon by Traditional Home. Charlotte Moss Decorates is an entertaining and insightful read. Packed with more than 200 photographs of sublime interiors, coordinating scrapbooks for each space, as well as an abundant offering of Ms. Moss’ “Why Not?” decorating maxims, it’s impossible not to feel uplifted and inspired after finishing the book. It’s a resource to turn to again and again. We hope you enjoy this interview as much as we did our time talking with Ms. Moss, who exudes great warmth, humor and Southern charm. (And now we know what podcasts she downloads on her iPad to get in the zone!)

Charlotte Moss Decorates :: Photos by Pieter Estersohn

Photographer Pieter Estersohn

AM:  The gorgeous interiors featured in your new book, Charlotte Moss Decorates, are Kips Bay and other show house rooms. Why?

CM: When I sat down, I thought, “What are the messages in my head that I want to communicate? What can they learn from me?”  The only time a designer is really on equal standing to someone decorating on their own is in a show house, because it’s blank and up to you. When you have a client, they are giving opinions. A show house is all about me. I’m just like someone at home staring at four blanks walls and asking where do I start?” That is the question I get wherever I go—”where do you start?” Everyone wants to know, do I start with the rug? You don’t start with a damn thing! It’s not about things. It’s about ambiance. You want a place where you walk in and say, “I want to be there!”

Design Trade Secrets & More

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I’m an off-season traveler. So for spring break, I opt to stay home. Now I just need a backyard that’s peak-season staycation worthy. Here are my three favorites. Would any of these convince you to avoid hoards of beach-bound sunbathers or long lines for the ski lift?

Jamie Durie - Exotic Retreat - Taj Lake Palace Inspired - HGTV.comExotic Outdoor Rooms by Jamie Durie

Jamie Durie found his inspiration for this design on a trip to Taj Lake Palace in Udaipur. India is on my bucket list, but for my spring break staycation, you’ll find me poolside, sipping a mango lassi and listening to Malkit Singh.

Next Stop: Italy, Then Thailand

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spring cleaning tipsI ask because I’m wondering if there are others like me who are as passionately (my spouse would say maniacally) committed to an annual deep spring cleaning? In my home, by the end of the three-day weekend, I’ve usually gone through about 200 Q-tips, 3 gallons of vinegar and have dropped off a large donation of gently-used items to a charity.

I would LOVE to hear about your spring cleaning to-do list and tips!


  • Pour boiling water down all sinks
  • Run the washing machine with only vinegar added
  • Move all large appliances and large pieces of furniture for vacuuming and mopping (and removal of dreaded dog hair dust bunnies)
  • Wipe down all small kitchen appliances, including the power cords (you’ll be surprised what you’ll find stuck on the cord of your mixer)
  • Wash all dog beds and refresh with cedar chips
  • Take down all hanging art, mirrors and picture frames, dust and dust picture rails
  • Wash baseboards throughout house
  • Q-tip clean all corners and crevices (around sinks, faucets, light switch plates, doorways, etc.)
  • Per’s Help Around the Home: swap out high wattage bulbs for energy-efficient 3-way bulbs
  • Take all books off bookshelves, dust and downsize
  • Take all rugs outside and beat them
  • Use peroxide to whiten porcelain in the cast iron clawfoot tub
  • Give all indoor plants a bath
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For all you Anglophiles, Francophiles and Aussiephiles out there, here’s what we’re reading this month at

• Lili Zarghami, Managing Editor: I just finished reading the Feb/March issue of the Aussie mag Adore Home. With young boy and girl twins (4th birthday tomorrow!) at home, I am constantly searching for well-designed, gender neutral ideas that I can use for their shared bedroom. Personally, I cannot abide cartoon characters or anything overly precious. So, I was thrilled to see three different rooms in Adore Home that feature bold, bright palettes for kids rooms that would work for boys or girls (or both at the same time!) as well as the parents who have to share the same house.

Adore Home magazine - The British Edition: Circus-Inspired Boys Bedroom

As this new digital shelter magazine is produced on the other side of the globe, many of the products will be hard to find in the States. But ideas and colors know no boundaries. (If you like the Catherine Martin Circus Silhouettes wallpaper shown above, you’re in luck. Sydney Harbour Paint Company in California carries it in red and blue.)

• Anna Millman, Online Programming Manager: From the haute couture dining room in a 220-foot superyacht to one of the biggest apartments in Manhattan, Alberto Pinto has been called “an interior design magician,” and his work spans practically every continent. As seen in his latest book, Alberto Pinto Today, Pinto achieves effortless perfection in every vernacular with artful vigor. After reading it, I think you’ll agree, Pinto’s talent is limitless. (No surprise, he’s a Chevalier (knight) awarded the Legion d’Honneur, the highest civilian award in France.)

Alberto Pinto Today - new book

And Third on Our Reading List…

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While most people watching the 83rd Academy Awards tonight will be focused on Natalie Portman, her baby bump and whether she takes home the Oscar for Black Swan, I’ll be watching out for the nominees for Best Art Direction and Best Documentary. In particular, the feature-length documentary Waste Land. Co-directors João Jardim and Karen Harley have created a moving look at the power of art to transform people’s lives and the environment.

Waste Land - artist Vik Muniz at Jardim Gramacho

Artist Vik Muniz in front of Jarim Gramacho

Waste Land follows renowned artist Vik Muniz as he journeys from his home in Brooklyn to his native Brazil and the world’s largest garbage dump, Jardim Gramacho, located on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. There he photographs an band of “catadores”—  pickers of recyclable materials.

Waste Land - Marat Sebastiao - Pictures of Garbage

The documentary Waste Land

Muniz’s objective was to “paint” the catadores with garbage. However, his collaboration with these inspiring characters reveals both the dignity and despair of the catadores as they begin to re-imagine their lives.”


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If the Oscars was a room, designer Candice Olson would win Best everything. So in honor of the 83rd Annual Academy Awards, here are three red carpet looks I’ve assembled for co-host Anne Hathaway (with help from 1st dibs) matched with three glamorous rooms by the divine Ms. Olson. What look/room get’s your vote?
♦ Number 1 ♦

Oscar De La Renta layered organza gown

• Oscar de la Renta gown ¦ Dining Room with black crystal chandelier and velvet banquette •

Candice Olson Designs - Dining Room

Cast Your Ballot

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Happy President’s Day. As someone who has had the pleasure of eating tomatoes, cucumbers, watermelon and lettuce harvested from my own backyard garden, I’ve discovered that while some might label me “granola”, it would be more accurate to call me “patriotic.” Why? Well, I learned from my interview with Sam Watters and Ulysses Grant Dietz about their book Dream House: The White House as an American Home that from the early days of the White House, the gardens and grand landscapes were regarded as “proper appendages to the House of the People.” And like the Obamas now, many early administrations enjoyed nourishment from a White House kitchen garden.

Founding Gardeners - BookCome March, I’m looking forward to reading Andrea Wulf’s new book, Founding Gardeners. The Revolutionary Generation, Nature and the Shaping of the American Nation, and learning more about our founding fathers through the lens of their lives as gardeners, plantsmen and farmers.

“Andrea Wulf describes how, even as British ships gathered off Staten Island, George Washington wrote his estate manager about the garden at Mount Vernon; how a tour of English gardens renewed Thomas Jefferson’s and John Adams’s faith in their fledgling nation; how a trip to the great botanist John Bartram’s garden helped the delegates of the Constitutional Congress break their deadlock; and why James Madison is the forgotten father of American environmentalism. These and other stories reveal a guiding but previously overlooked ideology of the American Revolution.”

So in honor of George Washington, the first President of the United States, go play in your garden! Here’s some tips for growing late winter vegetables and early spring flowers.

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The first images to come out of a natural disaster never fail to leave me stunned. Well, this is what the aftermath of an economic disaster in our own country looks like. This is Detroit. Like they say in the Chrysler Eminem Super Bowl commercial, the Motor City has been to “hell and back.”

Detroit in Ruins - Lee Plaza Hotel

Ballroom, Lee Plaza Hotel

Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre’s photographs of this once magnificent city are haunting … devastating … and beautiful. They say in their book and website, “Ruins are the visible symbols and landmarks of our societies and their changes, small pieces of history in suspension.”

Detroit in Ruins - William Livingston House

William Livingstone House

Marchand and Meffre’s photos remind me of the genius of man, the glory of great of design and the fragility of even steel and stone. For those who built Detroit and those who live in Detroit, I want to see this city make a come back.

Four More Photos

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I love pictures of dogs in beautifully designed rooms…especially when they are on the furniture. So as I watched the 2011 Westminster Dog Show, I got to wondering…do the owners of those prize-winning pooches allow them on the couch? I bet the Pekingese that took home top prize for the toy group has sofa privileges. Certainly not the 85-pound Scottish Deerhound, right?

Dog on chaise - Emily Gilbert photographer

Photographer Emily Gilbert

Well, my three fur babies won’t win best in show at Madison Square Garden, but they are best in everything in our hearts and home, so they are allowed on the couch and in the bed. What about in your house? If you lived in these rooms, would you change your mind?

Jumping Allowed

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