Women Who MAKE: Argaman&Defiance

April 30, 2015 Interviews 0 Comments
argaman and defiance

It’s the second installment of Women Who MAKE, yay! If you’re new to the blog, welcome! This is a monthly post profiling creative women who inspire me with their hands-on talents. This month, it’s my pleasure to introduce you Lydia Crespo of Argaman&Defiance (see below for more about the company namesake).

Lydia has a natural gift for taking everyday items (what have you ever done with onion skins?) and making them into extraordinary things of beauty. I fell in love with her silk scarves and bought one in gray (who knew it was the most popular color). I have been admiring her work since! Read on to learn more about how Lydia got her small business started and what she’s dreaming about five years down the road.

Name: Lydia Crespo

Age: 29

Current title/company name: Owner – Argaman&Defiance

Years in operation: 5


Argaman&Defiance explained: My first name, Lydia means ‘the maker of purple dye’. That purple dye was described as Argaman, which translates from Hebrew as crimson. Growing up, my grandparent’s home was in Defiance, Missouri located near a popular Missouri nature preserve, Busch Wildlife Sanctuary. This is the place where I spent a good portion of my childhood learning, discovering, nature, which had a great impact on my artwork and designs.

What is your first memory of making [art]?

My grandma is a master of craft. She was always encouraging us to draw, paint, and try book making. My earliest art making memory was of course shared with her. She lived near a nature reserve, so there was lots of wild life running around. She mixed up some plaster and we made molds of the footprints left behind by the deer, foxes, and bunnies.

How did your education or past work experience give you the confidence to go out on your own as a small business owner?

I graduated from SAIC in 2010. I focused my education around the fiber department where I learned how to natural dye. I took advantage of SAIC’s wonderful COOP (intern) program. The COOP program allows students to work side-by-side with professional art administrators, artists, and makers in their studio. It was vital to the success of Argaman&Defiance. I was able to experience first hand the incredible amount of work that goes into owning your own business. Everything from time management, to staying creative, to managing finances was covered. There is no way I would be where I am today with out those amazing learning opportunities and the incredible woman who led me and still continue to do so!

naturally dyed silk scarves argaman&defiance

Tell us about the process of launching your own business, Argaman&Defiance. Best parts? Biggest challenge?

I launched Argaman&Defiance after receiving the James Nelson Raymond BFA Fellowship from SAIC in 2010. The fellowship gave me the means to purchase dye, fabric, a website, and other materials needed to get my studio up and running. The first few years were slow going. I was building a following and brand, which takes times. I used that time to explore what in my collection was working, and who my audience is.

The best part about owning your own business is being in control! I love that I get to choose what stays, what goes, and what direction to take my brand!

The most challenging part is juggling all the roles! I create the collections, I do all my own photography (another best part, I love photo work), I do all the selling, invoicing, and keep the books. My to-do list rarely ends, but I would not have it any other way!


What is your favorite part of the creative process? What inspires you and why?

My favorite part of the creative process is just that – the process! I love problem solving. I am inspired most by other makers! I love seeing their process, working collaboratively, and seeing what they are up to at maker events.

What is the best advice you have for other female entrepreneurs/artists? 

Remember to take care of yourself. Take a coffee break, or an hour off.


Do you have a design philosophy, and if so, what is it?

Try it and see.

Imagine Argaman&Defiance five years, how would you like to grow?

We are moving into a big and better studio this year. In five years, I would like to have three full-time employees and a thriving intern program. As far as product goes, my venture into clothing has been pretty successful so far! I would like to continue to expand that. I have been playing around with the idea of creating a wholesale bridal line. Which will be my focus come 2016.


Do you have a most popular item?

Anything gray. And I have to agree with my buyers, it’s my favorite too!


What do you enjoy most about the creative community here in Chicago?

I love that everyone is so pleasant and willing to help in any way. We might live in a big city, but that Midwest charm is at the heart of the creative community here.

Centered By Design is my business name, but it’s also the idea that we can find a bit of sanctuary each day through design, that good design can center us and make us feel great. Does your design process center you in any way? If so, how?

Absolutely! After a full day in the studio I feel confident, strong, and at peace because I love what I do.


Lydia’s Chicago Favorites:

Your favorite spot to get inspired:

If I need to get out of my studio a really long walk around the city, a coffee house or library does the trick.

Your favorite place to shop for clothes:

Dovetail – 1452 W Chicago Ave. Chicago, IL 60642

Your favorite place to shop for home décor/furniture:

Modern Cooperative – 1215 W 18th St. Chicago, IL 60608

Your favorite place for coffee:

The Winchester’s bottomless cup – 1001 N Winchester Ave. Chicago, IL 60622

Your favorite place for dessert:

Bite – OMG the Fudge Salted Carmel Brownie – 1039 N Western Ave. Chicago, IL 60622


You can find more of Lydia’s work, grab the perfect summer crop top, and pre-order the fabulous kimono pictured above at http://www.argamandefiance.com

Also, don’t miss the Instagram giveaway with Lydia and the monthly giveaways to come! Join me at clairerose1212 on instagram and WIN!


Hope you are inspired to MAKE!


Photoshop Tutorial: Create Your Own Color Palette

color palette make your own with photoshop

I’ve been slowing building my Photoshop skills. Digital design skills are very important for interior design work today and there are lots of ways to learn, but I’ve found the best way is to keep practicing! I took a local course at the School of the Art Institute Chicago last year, and I’ve done a few quick online classes like THIS one on Skillshare. I like to try and master one or two tools at time and repeat the same steps over and over, which I find is the best way to imprint that tool’s function in my brain.

This brings us to the inspirational color palettes! I am in LOVE with color. Color makes me happy, people respond to color, it evokes our emotions and can set the stage for your design whether it be an interior, event or outfit. Color palettes are uber fun to create, and I wanted the ability to create my own very specific palettes from photographs that inspire me. I find nature especially inspiring when it comes to color, and Photoshop’s tools give you the ability to really hone in a specific hue, tone, tint or shade. The Eyedropper tool makes it really easy to pinpoint colors and their endless variations in Photoshop.

shade tone tint hue color wheel

Here’s a quick review on what those terms mean. Hues are pure color, tints add white, tones add grey, and shades add black – all to the pure color.

Okay, so here we go with the tutorial. It might seem a little daunting, especially if you are very new to Photoshop but don’t worry! If I can figure it out, I promise you can too!

Step 1:

Open Photoshop and click File > New. You’ll see this box pop-up. Name your document and create a width and height. Since I’m usually posting for Instagram I’ll go with a square size, something like 1000 pixels x 1000 pixels. This is a good size for the web. You can leave all the other boxes as is and click okay.

step1Step 2:

You should now see your white box on the screen. It’s time to use the rulers on the top and left of the screen to create divisions to help you keep your image and colors in line. You click and drag on the ruler, and you’ll see a blue line appear. Drag the blue lines from either the top or side to create the desired divisions. If you drop one and don’t like where it is placed, hover over the line and you’ll be able to move it. You can also drag it completely off the white box and it won’t be seen in the final image. Actually, the rulers won’t be seen at all anyways, but just so you know, anything that is not on the white box or your “art board” won’t be seen when you save the image.

step2 Step 3:

You need to bring your inspirational image into Photoshop now. First, save the image to your desktop. Next, drag that image until you are hovering over your Photoshop icon. You will know it’s okay to drop the image when you see the words Adobe Photoshop CC highlight over the icon (I’m doing this on a Mac, btw). When you drop your image the screen will look like the photo below. You’ll have two tabs on the screen. The first is your new file (mine still says Untitled), and then you’ll have the name of whatever image you brought into Photoshop.

step3Step 4:

Okay, here comes the trickiest part. You now have to pull your inspiration image into your file. This takes some trust so just go with it! There are two main steps. 1. You are going to click and drag the tab of your inspiration image and pull it onto the tab of your new file. It’s one motion, just click the tab on the right and drag it towards the tab on the left. When you let go, your screen should look like this. Your image will be on top of the white box and have the label on top. You should see it over on the right labeled Background. 2. To merge the image into the white box you need to do one more drag and drop. Click and drag the whole layer labeled Background into the Photoshop/ art board area. If you look closely, you’ll see a white line come up around the black Photoshop background when you drag it in. Let go and it should like the image has merged with the white box. Go to next step immediately.

step4 Step 5: 

When you drop your image into the white box, you won’t have much control over it until you hit Command – T, this is the transform command and you will see little boxes around the image (just as pictured below). You will also notice that the image is now operating as it’s own layer (look to the right). This is important because we are creating several layers and organizing them within our grid to create the final color palette image. Hold down the shift key and grab a corner of the box to scale the picture bigger or smaller. Fit in inside your grid to your liking.

step5 Step 6:

I’ve placed my inspiration image in the lefthand 2/3 thirds of my grid and divided remaining 1/3 third into 4 parts. You will not see these blue rectangles! In this step, we are creating the rectangles. You should see your blue ruler marks, and if you are creating an image like mine you’ll have grid lines that you need to fill in so we can finally get to the COLOR part! Towards the bottom of your tool bar on the lefthand side you will find the Rectangle tool (hover over tools to read their names). When you click on the rectangle tool you’ll notice your mouse changes to a cross bar, click and drag within your guideline to create a rectangle in each of your empty spaces. Each time you draw a rectangle Photoshop will make it a new layer, and it will name them 1,2,3,4 and so on (see image below).

step6Step 7:

Now comes the fun part!! You are going to change the color of your rectangles to create the perfect color palette. First, click on the layer you want to alter and then double click inside the little box showing your rectangle. When you double click the color picker box will pop-up (like the image below). You can change the rectangle’s color from here, or you can use the Eyedropper tool to pick out an exact color in the image (this is why I do this whole thing in the first place!) being able to pinpoint a color is really fabulous. With the color picker window open, click the eyedropper tool and click anywhere in your image. You’ll see the current color in the bottom of the window and whatever color you’re clicking on in the top window (notice the blue/green split on the image below). You can click around as much as you want, once you have found the color you want to use hit Okay in the color picker box, and that rectangle is good to go! Repeat this step for all your rectangles.

step7Step 8: 

You are almost done! The image is ready to save. Go to File > Save for Web. The following box will pop-up. You can leave everything as it is, but you have the option to adjust the image size (px = pixel) if needed. Simply press Save and save your customized color palette so you can share it with the world!

step8Here are some of my color palette creations:






Hope you give this a try! Feel free to message me with any questions or issues that arise.



A Quick & Dirty Gallery Wall Tutorial

All right DIY lovers, this gallery wall tutorial is called “quick and dirty” for good reason. This isn’t your perfectly positioned, heirloom framed; spend all day nailing holes in your wall type of gallery wall. This sort of gallery wall has a modern elegance that says, “I’m creative, on a budget, and I like to get things done.”

I was inspired to give this project a shot when one of my favorite online design sites, Rue Magazine, suggested using magazine tears as artwork. Brilliant! The entire project cost less than $100 and once the frames were purchased it only took about two hours to complete the finished look. There are of course endless variations on the gallery wall theme, but here’s how you can give this look a go.


  • Picture ledge (mine was Ikea’s RIBBA) & drill
  • Picture frames (mine were a selection of black frames with mats)
  • Magazines from around the house. Good places to pick up free magazines (with nice editorial photos) are clothing and home stores. Also, calendars work well too!
  • Masking tape/scissors

Step 1 –

Purchase your picture rails and frames. Install the picture rails according to the directions. If you want to one-stop shop you know where to go. I highly advocate thrifting of course, but for this particular look I wanted all black frames, photo mats, and to work quickly.


Step 2 –

Go to town tearing up your magazines. If you’ve got a bird calendar, try going with the theme. Another option is to create categories of what inspires you such as travel, food, pattern, fashion, textiles…whatever it maybe. As you rip, put the tears into the different piles. Begin to pull out the images that you are drawn to, being mindful that there is some color cohesion, balance and/or juxtaposition. For example, all bird pictures represents cohesion of imagery, balance could be found by using a particular color to unite the imagery, juxtaposition might work by mixing interesting food photography with high fashion model shots.


Step 3 –

Use your mats to help you frame photos. Take the mats out of the frame and place them over different tears to get a feel for if you like the composition. Once you have the photo placed to your liking, tape the back so it does not shift while you move it into the frame.



Step 4 –

Play around arranging your frames on the picture ledge and stand back to admire your handiwork! There’s no magic formula for arranging the frames. I find they are much easier to arrange once the imagery is inside. If something is not working or bugging you, have a few back up photos that you can switch out to see if you can improve the composition.



Finally something to do with all those old magazines! Good luck and have some fun with this one!


Bedroom Design: Splurge or Steal?

April 13, 2015 Interior Design 0 Comments
modern bedroom design board

I am always a fan when fashion magazines do the splurge vs. steal page layout for an outfit. It’s not always easy to spot the designer label versus the bargain brand! I’m working with a new client this week, and while pulling her bedroom design together, I realized I could easily put together similar looks at drastically different price points.

The client already has a dark wooden bedroom set and light colored bedding. I’ve added a rug, bedside lamps, chaise lounge, bench for the end of the bed, and accent pillows.

One of these rooms retails for $6,200 and the other for $1,600. Can you spot the splurge vs. steal?

ROOM #1 – Muted grey, lavender and beige

modern grey bedroom design

ROOM #2 – Creams, grey, beige and a hint of blue


Okay, did you guess?!

The pricey room is #2. What makes the price difference so drastic? It really comes down to the rug. The rug options in #1 both retail for about $500. They are mostly synthetic fibers and not handmade. Neither of them will probably last as long as rug #2, but they are good options if you are on a budget. Rug #2 is hand knotted wool and should last a lifetime with proper care. It retails for almost $4,000. All the other items in #2 are a few hundred dollars more than #1, with the exception of the pillow (which is just slightly more expensive).

Do you like one room better than the other? I think they are both fabulous options. It’s great if you can save up for quality items, but you can still get good products at reasonable prices and put together a stellar steal of a bedroom!

All of these pieces were sourced from surya.com and wayfair.com




Colorful Exteriors & Wanderlust

Lately I’ve been dreaming about two things, 1. My client’s homes (there are many days I wake up debating paint colors) and 2. TRAVEL. I have a major case of wanderlust at the moment. It’s been more than three years since I’ve lived abroad. My boyfriend (now husband) and I lived in New Zealand for all of 2011. It was a pretty epic adventure, and possibly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I do have hope for another travel adventure in my lifetime, but it was not easy to move across the world for a year, so here’s hoping we make it happen again someday.

If you are thinking about a major trip or adventure, I want to share with you the best piece of advice I got when deciding if I could quit my job, and make the trip a reality back in 2010. The advice came from my dad, whose always been my travel inspiration. As a young girl, I remember hearing him reminisce about his trek to Everest Basecamp as a highlight of his life. I was hemming and hawing about leaving my good job, which I actually really liked, and was scared taking the time off would stunt my “career” future. Dad said the following in so many words, “When you are 60 and look back at your life…are you going to remember if you worked [at your job] for three years versus four, or will you remember the year you set out for adventure in New Zealand?”

Dad’s advice really stuck with me and I decided to make the leap. I can honestly say it was one of the best things I’ve ever done. I sincerely hope if you have a travel or vacation dream that you find a way to make it happen. Travel (or a working sabbatical, which is what I called leaving the country for one year) is not only inspiring, full of new challenges and opportunities – it is just plain eye-opening (and soul opening) to get out of your comfort zone for awhile. Until we can all travel again here are some colorful and far away exteriors, which are keeping me inspired and full of wanderlust here in gloomy Chicago at the moment!


New Zealand wanderlust - Luke and me during our engagement pictures shot in Wellington.

Wellington, New Zealand. Luke and I stealing a kiss in front of one of my favorite exteriors, the boat house.


via @mayamueble – Guatemala


via @lucylaucht – Cuba


@theonewithwanderlust – Venice


via @brightbazar – London


via@charish – multicolored Portofino

via @Flat15 - SugarHouse Studios, London

via @Flat15 – SugarHouse Studios, London


via @mysimplesol – Mexico, Rosas & Xocolate Boutique Hotel

So much beauty, so little time! Send any New Zealand travel questions my way!


Women Who MAKE: Lady Faye Jewelry

April 2, 2015 Interviews 0 Comments

Super excited to share with you my first interview of this new series, Women Who Make! I’ll be profiling a creative woman whose work I admire monthly, and to kick it off we have the lovely, talented, and oh so natural Katie Mills.

Katie and I first met at Lillstreet Art Center (an awesome place to start making). We hit it off, and I’ve been admiring her style ever since. I think you’ll love it too! Also, don’t miss the giveaway contest and a chance to win earrings from Lady Faye Jewelry! Details on Instagram @clairerose1212, the contest runs through Sunday 4/5/15 – 12pm CST.

Name: Katie Mills

Age: 35

Current title/company name: Lady Faye Jewelry

Years in operation: 3.5 years

Lill Street Art Center

What is your first memory of making [art]?

My very first memory making art was working sitting on the kitchen floor making a paper mache globe. My first memory working with metal was during 2nd grade when I made a cuttlefish casting of a fish (editor’s note: see the adorable pic below).

2nd Grade Cuttlefish Casting

How did your education or past work experience give you the confidence to go out on your own as a small business?

I’ve learned from each and every job I’ve had. My first entrepreneurial stint was making fimo jewelry in grade school (ha!) and selling it at my grandmother’s clothing shop. She’d display my jewelry in the front case and every so often I’d get an envelope with a few dollars from sales! During college, I was a waitress and barista (customer service skills are key) and then it was onto design and craft internships. Also, regarding metalsmiting specifically I took my first class in college and was immediately captivated by the process of working in metal. I was inspired by my professor who ingrained the importance of craftsmanship and stressed the idea of “measuring twice, cutting once”.

When I first moved to Chicago, Jen Farrell Starshaped Press hired me as an intern. The experience was very inspirational and influential to my development in small business and the creative community here in Chicago. It also led me to my job teaching classes at Columbia College. With my variety of work experience, my desire to start my own creative business, and my experience with metalsmithing I felt confident enough to start something on my own.

LFJ_StudioSpace LFJ_Tools

Tell us about the process of launching your own business, Lady Faye Jewelry. Best parts? Biggest challenge?

You might say I went about it backwards. I started making my glass button rings and decided on a whim to apply to a large craft fair. To my surprise, I got in and had a few months to develop a small line to go with the rings. It’s been a pretty natural evolution, and I’ve been figuring it out along the way. With a few novice years under my belt I’m excited about what the next couple of years might hold.

  • Best parts: Having found an outlet to focus my creative energy. I also love the process of developing a jewelry line that represents me (and the ever evolving me). I love the idea that my line can evolve as my interests evolve.
  • Biggest challenge: Managing everything! Maintaining a balance between the creative time (designing, studio time, making, reserving time/space for inspiration, skill development) and everything else (promotion, marketing, events, emailing, business development side of things).

LadyFayeJewelry)Process1LadyFayeJewelry_Process 2

What is your favorite part of the creative process? What inspires you and why?

  • Inspirations: the everyday, travel, nature, simplicity, wanderlust, city living.
  • Favorite part of the creative process: Spending hours in my studio working, making, designing, and getting my hands dirty. Sans computers!

What is the best advice you have for other female entrepreneurs/artists?

The advice that I often give myself is to just get started! Whether I’m sitting down with an idea or no idea. I sometimes struggle with getting the ball rolling on a new project, and have found that experimenting with the materials usually jump-starts the process. Things usually fall into place from there.

Do you have a design philosophy, and if so, what is it?

I like the notion that jewelry can have a story, remind you of a time and place, playful, like something you picked up from a market in a foreign land. I also value a high level of craftsmanship and affordable prices.

Imagine Lady Faye is five years, how would you like to grow?

My goal for Lady Faye Jewelry is to continue to develop the product line, producing jewelry that maintains a small-batch collection. It is important to me to maintain a personal connection with everyone involved in the everyday process such as, vendors, coworkers and customers. I would love to establish a boutique storefront that functions both as studio and retail shop, while developing a strong online presence. I would love Lady Faye to become my full-time gig as well; I’m still juggling multiple jobs.

Do you have a most popular item?

The most popular items are my Czech glass button rings. The color and intricate hand painted detail of the glass button speak for themselves. I like making a simple bezel setting to showcase the glass. Also, pieces from the Volcan rock series are very popular as earrings and rings.






What do you enjoy most about the creative community here in Chicago?

Being part of a local creative community is priceless. I’m inspired and in awe of the Chicago creative community that spans across all mediums. Everyone works so hard! From the first day I arrived in Chicago, through the letterpress internship and Columbia College community, I’ve felt the love from the Chicago creative community. Nine years later, and since beginning Lady Faye Jewelry, the network continues to grow larger and stronger. I love running into my neighborhood creative friends and business owners in Ravenswood.

Centered By Design is my business name, but it’s also the idea that we can find a bit of sanctuary each day through design, that good design can center us and make us feel great. Does your design process center you in any way? If so, how?

I love the name of your business and idea behind it. Yes, I find so much inspiration, calm and focus from my surroundings. My home definitely centers me, as do my long studio days where I’m lost in the process of making sawing, hammering, filing and soldering.


Favorite spot to get inspired:

Generally speaking: the great outdoors: fresh air, sunshine and greenery a must. I also find camaraderie at Union Handmade, where I’m surrounded by a lovely and inspirational group of women working in a variety of mediums.

Favorite florist:

Favorite place to shop for home décor/furniture:

  • Scouring Wisconsin flea markets for home treasures.

Favorite place for coffee:

  • Intellegenstia in the Monadnock building. Love the historic feeling of the building and shops (hat maker, florist, barber…).

Favorite place for a sweet treat:

  • Hoosier Mama Pie Company

You can view more of Katie’s work at her website, and shop in-person at great local stores like Lillstreet Art Center and Union Handmade. I hope you are inspired to MAKE something today!




photo of Katie credit: Nicole Radja / Time Out Chicago

all other photos courtesy of Lady Faye Jewelry

Shibori Dyeing Tutorial

Shibori fabric has hit the mainstream design market big time this spring. You will see designer dresses, pillows, bedding and scarves all for sale for upwards of hundreds of dollars. Many of these items are beautiful and artfully made, but you can definitely get the designer look without the price tag with this DIY tutorial!


What is Shibori?

It’s a Japanese term for various methods of dyeing cloth by binding, folding, twisting and compressing. The earliest known examples of shibori techniques date back to the 8th century, when indigo dye was commonly used.

How Do I Start?

Indigo Dye Kits are available and easily found online, but they require air, work better in sunlight and need additional time to work correctly. I used a shortcut that produces similar results to indigo dye, but is essentially the common tie-dye technique. Here’s what you’ll need to gather to get started.

Supplies Needed:

  • Natural fabrics such as 100% cotton or linen
  • Soda Ash Dye Fixer (fixer and dye is commonly found at art/craft stores)
  • Cold Water Dye for Natural Fibers (MX Dye) – Blue/Indigo/Navy
  • 2 large buckets
  • Scissors
  • Rubber bands – multiple thicknesses
  • Stones
  • Optional for more folding techniques – wood, cork, PVC/copper pipe


Okay I have all my supplies. Let’s begin.

Step 1: Fill your two buckets with cool water. Follow instructions on your soda ash and pour fixer into one bucket.

Step 2: Place your fabric into the bucket with the soda ash and let it set per package directions.

Step 3: While fabric is one bucket, mix your dye in the other bucket. It’s not going to look like a ton of dye, but don’t worry a little goes a long way.

Step 4: Remove your fabric pieces from the bucket and begin to wrap/fold/twist each piece with your desired technique and pattern.

Step 5: Dip each piece into the dye bath.

Step 6: Place all dyed fabrics into a garbage bag and let them set overnight.

Some Additional Tips

It is best to wash and dry all your fabric before beginning this process for the best results. After the overnight setting of dyed fabric, rinse each bundle under cool water until the water runs mostly clear. Then cut off all rubber bands/string and wash and dry again. Don’t worry the dye is set and will not run.



Here I’ve shown three different techniques to try. These are all resist techniques, this means where you fold, bind and rubber band your fabric you make it harder for the dye to pass through, and this creates a resist or white space where the dye cannot penetrate.


Kumo – This is a twist and bind-resist. I used river stones from a craft store, but found objects such as rocks, pebbles, and even ping-pong balls could work! It’s important to wrap your rubber bands tightly around object, so you get the white circles.

Tie-Dye-Style – You probably did this in kindergarten at some point. Pick a point you’d like to be the center of your design and pick up your fabric from that spot. Then rubber band it all the way down creating a sort of fabric snake.

Itajime – This is a shape-resist technique. Fold your cloth like an accordion back and forth, and then in half once or twice you want it to be a similar size to the piece of wood or cork you have. Sandwich the fabric between the two pieces of wood and use various rubber band pattern/widths to create an endless variation depending on your placement.

handmade shibori pillows

Here are a few of the finished fabrics, which I sewed into pillow cases. I made 10 yards of fabric in this one trial with the help of a friend. This is a nice project to do with someone if you can find a DIY buddy. I hope you are inspired to give it a go! Let me know if you have any questions!


Wallpaper Resources and Trends

Wallpaper is making a huge comeback, and I mean HUGE! You can’t look at any interiors focused site today without an article or post about wallpaper. Even familiar retailers like West Elm are creating their own, curated lines of paper.

And, so this means wallpaper has returned to the masses. I am super excited about what I’ve seen many companies producing and promoting lately. Get ready to forget about those terrible sailboats and stripes, or dated floral scenes from your very kind relative’s home (who we will not name here).

The average homeowner may be wary of wallpaper due to the cost and not-so-fun removal process, but there are many ways you can use a little bit of wallpaper and get a big impact (see examples below). There are even some great temporary peel-and-stick options popping up on the market, and more brands than ever are available direct to the consumer.

Here are some of my favorite wallpaper brands at the moment:

BRANDS YOU CAN ORDER FROM DIRECTLY – shop and order directly from the web. HERE is a good tutorial on how to calculate how much paper to order.

Chasing Paper – Removable, Peel and Stick Paper


Chasing Paper – The entry way is the perfect place for pattern/color with wallpaper.


Chasing Paper – Wallpaper your fridge! Would you ever do this? I think it works here.

Hygge & West – Awesome Artist Collaborations, Gorgeous Options


Rifle Paper Co. for Hygge & West. Using paper as a focal wall behind a headboard is much more cost effective than papering the whole room.

Use wallpaper on your stair risers for extra visual interest.

Hygge & West – Use wallpaper on your stair risers for extra visual interest.

Serena & Lily – Lifestyle Decor, Pretty, Preppy Prints

Serena and Lily - Linen Aqua Citron Paper

Serena and Lily – Linen Aqua Citron Paper

Calico Wallpaper – My Absolute FAVORITE!

Calico - Use wallpaper on the ceiling to reduce surface area, but still create a gorgeous 5th wall!

Calico – Use wallpaper on the ceiling to reduce surface area, but still create a gorgeous 5th wall!

Calico via Homepolish - Use wallpaper as a backdrop in shelving.

Calico via Homepolish – Use wallpaper as a backdrop in shelving.

More Calico beauty - yes this is wallpaper!

More Calico beauty – yes this is wallpaper!

Lazy Bones – Australian Company with several floral prints inspired by the Royal Melbourne Botanic Gardens

Selection of vintage florals from Lazy Bones

Selection of vintage florals from Lazy Bones

Lazy Bones gorgeousness!

Lazy Bones gorgeousness!

DESIGNER BRANDS – Usually brands like these are sold “to-the-trade” meaning you need to have a business account with the company, or you need an interior decorator/designer to order for you. They typically have A LOT more options, more neutral paper options, and other textures choices like grasscloth or vinyl.

Osborne and Little – British Company with timeless designs and TONS of options

Osborne and Little Drama - wallpaper a whole room can be very dramatic if you like that look. This is just beautiful in my opinion.

Osborne and Little – wallpapering a whole room can be very dramatic if you like that look. This is just beautiful in my opinion.

Osborne and Little - Sophisticated and elegant designer papers often have lots of options and colorways.

Osborne and Little – Sophisticated and elegant designer papers often have lots of options and colorways.

ROMO – Love the Romo Black collection by Jessica Zoob

Romo Black - inspired by impressionist watercolors Jessica Zoob has the most ethereal papers and fabrcis.

Romo Black – inspired by impressionist watercolors Jessica Zoob has the most ethereal papers and fabrcis.

Are you in love with wallpaper yet? Let me know if you’ve used it in your home lately and what you think!


Navigating a Career Change with Compassion

creative office space claire staszak

Many of us leave college with a degree, but not with a direction. In my eight years since college graduation I have worked in philanthropy, event planning, marketing, arts administration, and finally interior design. I also became a yoga teacher part-time along the way. It took me until I was almost 30 to realize that my creativity and talents were well-suited for the field of interior design. On one hand, this was an exhilarating revelation, on the other it was terrifying!

I believe when you truly discover something you’re passionate about, it will be hard to let your feelings go unnoticed, but sometimes it takes a voice other than your own to validate your intuition. I had a few important professional encounters where people told me I had an eye for design. Then I realized that everyone I admired and looked up to was a woman with her own creative business. I began to seriously consider my thoughts and feelings around becoming an interior designer. Did I have what it takes to get more training and start my own business?

This is when the hard part begins. The agonizing and planning around how to actually make a career change happen. I started to ask myself a million questions. How do you start over at 30? Have you even really begun? Some of my friends sure seemed like they were on the career fast track, and I felt behind. I’d prioritized yoga and travel over staying put and working my way up at several jobs. Did those choices make me less worthy of success? Did I really need more education? How would I afford it?

Working out the nitty-gritty details of finances, education costs, quitting my job, and taking another less stressful job to pay the bills was not a fun process. Change can be stressful and sometimes the finish line feels far away, but it was also a very exciting time. I was taking the first step towards a path that I felt called to be on. When I reflected on how hard I was working, I realized what I needed most was to give myself a break and treat myself with some compassion. Why are we always cheerleaders for everyone but ourselves?

I would love to share some of the ways I use compassion to help make this journey (that I am still on) more enjoyable. Also, I’m totally your cheerleader! GO YOU! HERE YOU GO. TAKE A RISK (I highly believe it WILL pay off).

  1.  DO YOUR RESEARCH – Interview as many people as possible, or as you feel necessary in the line of work you are interested in. Discern the education level or certification(s) you need to be successful in the field. Life and transferrable skills count for a lot when you’re transitioning and older. I was told time and again to get the minimum education (and minimum cost degree) I would need for the job or business I hoped to have.
  2. REALITY CHECK – Realize that changing careers is much more than simply changing jobs. When you get a new job it might take you six months to really get acquainted or even excel. When you transition into a new career it could take five years to really build something financially stable. Remind yourself: it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
  3. BE PATIENT – This was and still is, the hardest part of the game for me. I often feel like Veruca Salt from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, “Daddy, I WANT IT NOW!” It’s all about small successes in the beginning, especially if you are going back to school. You have to allow yourself time to learn and grow.
  4. ENJOY THE PROCESS – Everyone is at a different place on his or her path. The people you see on Instagram with millions of followers have most likely been blogging for years, or it is their full time job. At one point, they were starting for the first time or starting over. Don’t always focus on the finish line. Live in the moment, and try to even enjoy it from time to time.
  5. GET INSPIRED – Find people that inspire you and read their blogs, hire them to help you develop your ideas, listen to their podcasts when you are stressed and feeling alone. Here are a few that I like: http://jesslively.com, http://jessicamurnane.com, http://theeverygirl.com, http://www.designsponge.com, http://uppercasemagazine.com
  6. TAKE BABY STEPS Make your own business card, start a blog, create a logo, make a website. Do little things, one step at a time, which fit your scenario and will continue to build towards success.
  7. CELEBRATE – Don’t be too hard on yourself! Celebrate the little and big gains. Make a point to do this whether it’s a just a moment’s pause of true acknowledgement, or a big celebratory night out.
  8. BREATHE – The yoga teacher in me has to vouch for meditation. It’s easy and free, plus it’s proven to reduce your stress levels. Try this quick loving kindness meditation. Remember you are on a path towards your goals, keep your head down, your feet quick, your heart open, and your mind calm and you will surely achieve your dreams!

PS. I’ve posted some pictures of my home office. If you’ve got the space I recommend creating a space that feels like an office for yourself. It will help keep you focused, organized and feeling professional. Even if it’s just adding a desk to your bedroom, you can make it work!

Photos by: Jennifer Kathryn Photography, from TheEverygirl Home Tour.









Tips & Resources: Great Interior Design Books

decorate book holly becker

I am definitely a book lover. These days with my Kindle, Iphone and Amazon it’s rare that I actually get to a book store, but I still love to buy actual books – especially interior design related books (and vintage art books too)! These books just are not the same in online versions. The photography, the reference tips, the ability to flip back to a page quickly and show a client a detail are so valuable.

Several of my favorite designers and bloggers have been putting out books lately, and I couldn’t be happier with several of the choices. I also have a few older books, which I think are super helpful to the novice designer that I’d like to share with you. Lastly, I am anticipating the release of several upcoming design books that should be released in 2015 that are on my wish list and should be on yours too! Here are my picks for some great interior design books to get your collection started. 


SEWING MADE SIMPLE: The Definitive Guide to Hand and Machine Sewing

sewing made simple book

This book by Tessa Evelegh is AMAZING if you’ve recently started learning how to use a sewing machine, or need a refresher. It has more than 500 color pictures, multiple patterns, sewing-machine anatomy, lots of (seriously) achievable projects, and best of all (for a designer) a huge glossary and section on fabrics. This book was better than my design school text book when it comes to fabric details, examples and terms. Can’t remember the difference between a dobby, damask or doupion? Sewing Made Simple will make you sound like a fabric expert!

DECORATE: 1,000 Professional Design Ideas for Every Room in Your Home

decorate book holly becker

One of the first “celebrity design bloggers” is Holly Becker of DECOR8BLOG. This book is largely her baby (also written by Joanna Copestick), and it is filled with very practical decorating advice! This is actually the most step-by-step instructional design book I’ve ever seen. It has floor plan examples, lots of guidelines and tips, quotes and advice from well-known designers from around the globe, and lots of photos of spaces that actually look lived in. Totally a good buy if you are trying to redecorate on your own!

ELEMENTS OF STYLE: Designing a Home and a Life


Erin Gates is also a well-know blogger with a book! She is actually new to me, but I find her sense of humor and bluntness quite refreshing. I always laugh reading Elements of Style. I have not purchased her book yet, but it is on my list to buy this year and I’ve heard great things i.e., it’s practical and personal, which are two things I love. Here’s a quote from Amazon, “Erin combines honest design advice and gorgeous professional photographs and illustrations with personal essays about the lessons she has learned while designing her own home and her own life—the first being: none of our homes or lives is perfect.”


CHICAGO SPACES: Inspiring Interiors

chicago spaces book

I love to support local and Agate Publishing here in Chicago put out this lovely book with Chicago Home + Garden. Its forward is by hometown design hero, Nate Berkus, with an introduction by Jan Parr (Chicago Home + Garden Editor). It showcases fabulous home here in Chicago and in surrounding suburbs. I think it does an excellent job of showcasing different types of designs and styles. You may think “Chicago” and simply think Frank Lloyd Wright or Mies van der Rohe, but style has evolved in the Midwest and this is a great peek into real people’s expertly designed spaces.

SUZANNE KASLER: Inspired Interiors

Suzanne Kasler book inspired interiors

Atlanta based Suzanne Kasler has been named one of the top 100 designers by House Beautiful. Her Southern flair and classically inspired rooms are a nice respite from the more modern styles I usually gravitate towards. There is such an elegance to the natural palettes she uses, and I personally appreciate her less is more approach. The photos in this book are stunning, and Kasler’s advice is honest and down-to-earth.


MID-CENTURY MODERN: Interiors – Furniture – Design Details

mid-century modern design book

One of the older books in my collection, Mid-Century Modern is most like a text book of educational knowledge on all topics, historical and current, concerning mid-century design. These styles, many made popular in the 1950s, fell out of favor for almost 40 years. The 21st century has brought modernism back to the forefront of design, and you can’t look at a popular retail furniture store today without seeing a large mid-century influence. Love it or hate it, it’s great to be well-versed in different aesthetics.

THE COLOR SCHEME BIBLE: Inspirational Palettes for Designing Home Interiors

color scheme bible book

If you only buy one of these books, this should be it! Color palettes, mixing paints, mixing colors and finding the right inspiration for you or a client can sometimes be challenging. This book by color consultant, Anna Starmer (yes that is a job!) is chock full of color schemes. There is also a nice section on color theory, and more than 200 palettes (including a main color, accent colors, tonal varieties, highlight colors, and inspirations). Yes, you need all those color types to make a room look great! This book will certainly get you started and help you become well-versed in coloring with confidence.


This next section could also be described as bloggers gone wild. JK. The following ladies are quite popular at the moment in the blogosphere, each with their own unique design partnerships and projects. The common thread is that they are all a bit bohemian in their decorating, which is certainly a large part of my personal/decorating style, so naturally I love them! I can’t wait to for each of their books to be released. I’ll leave you fit an Amazon snippet and a link to their blog – enjoy!

HABITAT: The Field Guide to Decorating

lauren liess

“When I originally came up with the idea to write a decorating book in the form of a field guide, the table of contents and subsequent proposal just sort of flowed out. The book has ended up being a massive brain dump in which I’ve tried to share everything I can about the decorating process, and the logic behind it all.  It’s easy to reference, including charts with information being broken down on specific products and materials where I felt like it was helpful, mixed in with small bits from my life and home. I hope that when people read it they feel excited to work on their homes and feel like it’s something they can tackle, be it on their own or with help from a decorator.” – Lauren Liess (cover image not yet released)     

THE NEW BOHEMIANS: Cool and Collected Homes


“In The New Bohemians, LA-based designer Justina Blakeney defines the New Bohemians as creative individuals who are boutique owners and bloggers, entrepreneurs and ex-pats, artists and urban farmers. They embrace free-spirited, no-rules lifestyles and apply that attitude to all areas of their existence, including their homes, and explores 20 homes located primarily on the East and West coasts.” – amazon

STYLED: Secrets for Arranging Rooms from Tabletops to Bookshelves


Emily Henderson has one of my favorite blogs and her style is just plain fun. There is no actual description for her book at the moment, which is to be released in October 2015 but I can guarantee that it will be a winner. For now, follow along with her at: http://stylebyemilyhenderson.com