Women Who MAKE: Zoe Pawlak

Centered By Design: Women Who MAKE Interview – Artist Zoë Pawlak

This month, I’m thrilled to introduce you to Canadian artist and entrepreneur Zoe Pawlak. It’s not often that a blind email stops me in my tracks, but when Zoe’s team reached out to me I was floored! Not only was her artwork vibrant, gorgeous and perfect for some of my clients, but she also has two rug collections based on her paintings, which are incredibly fun and unique. I love how her work feels contemporary, but not cold. The rugs and pantings pair well in all kinds of spaces, which makes her work so versatile for transitional and modern spaces.

I knew I had to feature her on Women Who Make! We had a great conversation a few weeks ago, where Zoe shared that as a young mom with little work experience she was determined to make a career as an artist work. Here is the interview – I hope you enjoy!

photo: Lululemon Pat Young

  • Name: Zoë Pawlak
  • Age: 35
  • Current title/company name: Zoë Pawlak Studio
  • Years in operation: 11

What are your first memories of making [art]/being creative?

Singing and performing to The Little Mermaid, Bodyguard, and Paula Abdul cassette tapes. My best friend and I dominated the craft fair scene in our suburb in grades 3-5. I never wanted to just make something, I always wanted to make something and then show it and sell it.

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

I was educated at a Fine Arts high school for grades 10-12. This prepared me to attend two art programs in Canada at both Concordia and NSCAD. At university, I obsessively studied the human form, drawing and painting. Also, I suffered from depression as a teenager. I was allowed to go to live in Chile for a semester when I was 14 so long as I paid my own airfare. My parents always let us follow our dreams so long as we worked hard. I waitressed for 7 years and this is a hard job. I learned a lot about customer service, physical work and people. These skills were formative and still shape the way I apply myself at my job now.

photo: Ali Inay

Continue reading →

The Warwick Reno: Spring Home Tour – FULL REVEAL!

claire staszak centered by design

It’s week four of the #SpringIntoHome series – and the home tour of our Chicago bungalow renovation is up this week! I have been sharing pictures throughout the year, but these are the latest and most polished pictures to date. April marks the one-year mark here at The Warwick Reno! We moved into our 1932 Tudor-style brick bungalow during a lovely April snow shower in 2016. As I write this, it’s sunny and 70 degrees in the backyard. Quite a change from last year, both with the state of the house and with the weather!

It’s funny how things have a way of working themselves out. I can honestly say this year’s hard work has been incredibly rewarding. I could have never imagined the house would be featured in the Chicago Tribune, and that I’d meet wonderful design bloggers to collaborate with just as we are wrapping up the first floor renovations and ready to share our home! If you want to go BACK TO THE BEGINNING and see where we were at on day one (lots of before photos) please do! If you’re more interested in the pretty pictures…here we go!

chicago bungalow renovation

Entry with wallpaper by Relativity Textiles, original tile, Moroccan style lantern and vintage mirrors.

Luke and I were wowed by the vintage charm throughout this home. The arched front door and passageways, the hardwood floors, stained glass windows and a kitchen we knew we could gut and make our own!

Built-in made and designed by CBD. Vintage sofa and chairs reupholstered, new Moroccan style rug and marble/brass coffee table.

I started designing the house in my mind right away, began gathering vintage pieces and created design boards to help make the vision cohesive and communicate my ideas to Luke. I really surprised myself with the soft and neutral palette I was gravitating towards, because I’m typically a color addict. Because our lot faces north and good daylight is an issue, I began to realize I was doing everything in my power to make the house feel light.

Love using the original picture rail to hang art!

Lighting from Circa Lighting, vintage chest and console table refurbished by MegMade.

I pulled the soft blushes, greens and blues from the stained glass windows in the living room, and Luke and I knew we would create a large built-in media center to add a focal point and height to the living room.

Right away, I found a vintage black and brass curio wall cabinet that I knew I had to incorporate as a bar in the dining room. The living room and dining room took shape from that point — using blush, black, gold and pattern (greek key and marble) to make the space more interesting. I love Rebecca Atwood’s book Living with Pattern if you need help with mixing pattern and color in your space. Plants and a dose of green help any room!

The living room is painted Skimming Stone by Farrow and Ball. The dining room is Metropolitan by Ben Moore.

The kitchen was our biggest project. I became obsessed with the idea of black and white, since I wanted to pull in the black from the dining room and high-contrast and classic style seemed to fit the vintage bones of the house. We (mostly Luke) ripped out three layers of linoleum to uncover the original rustic pine floors, and adding butcher-block counter tops and brass hardware ties it all together. A vintage cupboard with glass cabinets adds a special twist and extra dishware storage. It was the hardest task to find this cabinet, but I new my vision was out there!

The mudroom is the perfect little 8′ x 8′ room right off the kitchen. We tiled the floor with ceramic tiles (cement look-alike but much less expensive from Wayfair) in a fun pattern, and painted everything bright white for a fresh feel to coordinate with the kitchen. Adding a bench and coat rack is perfect for coming and going. My favorite bright white is Chantilly Lace by Benjamin Moore. We also used heated floor mats under the tile, which I highly recommend if you live in an area with cold winters. Warm tile under foot is wonderful little luxury!

Mudroom adjacent to the kitchen and back entrance to house. Original brick walls as this was enclosed at some point over the life of the home.

The blue bedroom is our downstairs guest room, but we are sleeping in here for now until we get the upstairs and master renovated. This room has more of my bohemian side with its mix of colorful textiles and rattan pieces. The paint color is Solitude by Benjamin Moore. The blue watercolor painting over our dresser is a print of original work, “The River” by San Francisco artist Emily Proud.

And last but not least is my home office. It’s a great spot to get work done on late night nights, and someday could transition into a little playroom off the kitchen. For now, I spend a lot of time blogging right from this spot! I love my standing desk, which is an IKEA hack Luke created. We bought a white IKEA desk top and he created the base from birch plywood. The storage unit is IKEA Kallax, and we painted the wood floor white (it was a different flooring from the rest of the house). I’ve got an entire post about painting your floors.

There’s a bathroom and second bedroom on the first floor that aren’t quite photo shoot ready, but might get makeovers at some point. And we plan to tackle all of the second floor rooms (including gutting the upstairs bath) on Luke’s break from teaching this summer. We’ve got an entire deck to re-stain, garage to organize and pretty much the list never ends once you’re a homeowner. As my best friend said once we closed on the house, “now this house owns you!” And personally, I don’t think we’d want it any other way. : )

Thank you so much for checking out our home and labor of love together! If I can answer any of your pressing renovation or decorating questions don’t hesitate to ask! AND don’t miss the wonderful ladies and other home tours on the #SpringIntoHome series this spring:

Farmer’s Daughter Interiors – Instagram | Blog  //  View from my Heels – Instagram | Blog

Doreen Corrigan – Instagram | Blog  //  Bria Hammel Interiors – Instagram | Blog

Photography by Dustin Forest and Aimee Mazzenga


Spring Home Tours Week Three: Farmer’s Daughter Interiors


Alrighty! By now you know the drill, it’s Friday and that means it’s #SpringIntoHome home tour time. This week it’s my fellow Designer Blog Conference Award Winner, Kelsey Grose of Farmer’s Daughter Interiors who won Best New Design Blog. Kelsey and I really connected at the conference for several reasons. We are both new business owners, share a love of vintage pieces and renovated our own homes with our husbands! We also both love the blogging and marketing sides of the design business. Kelsey is one of few other designers I know whose business name is not her own name. You’ve got to give a read to her post about the meaning behind her business name – it’s a really special story.

Here is Kelsey’s home tour in her own words. She is based in Saskatchewan, Canada.

“We’ve lived in our home for just over three years, since just after we got married. It was in pretty rough shape when we bought it and we started renovating before we even moved in. Our renos involved shifting the stairs to allow for a larger dining room, taking out some of the interior walls, moving a few of the windows, and completely re-configuring the main bathroom.

Our home isn’t huge but, having done almost all of the reno work ourselves, it’s been a labour of love and suits the two of us great for now. I’m happy to say it’s basically completed now – we finished the basement a year ago and the exterior this past fall.

Outfit to Room: April Edition

centered by design outfit to room april

With wedding season in the Midwest quickly approaching I thought that this month’s Outfit to Room post could stand to go a little more formal. Stylist Alyssa of CoChic Styling give us her FAQ’s on wedding attire etiquette and says you CAN wear white to a wedding.

Here’s the room that inspired this spring wedding look. Our black, white and brass kitchen!

FAQ’s on Dressing for a Wedding

– When do I wear a long dress versus a short dress?

This look would be appropriate for a black tie or black tie optional spring or summer wedding. For a more casual wedding, opt for a cocktail (shorter) dress instead.

– I can wear white to a wedding?

Yes! This is a very dated rule. It depends on the bride, though. If you know the bride is someone who would be offended by others wearing white, or if she’s having an extremely traditional wedding, don’t risk it. And make sure your white dress doesn’t look like a bridal gown at all.

– What if the invitation is very fancy but doesn’t indicate that the wedding is black tie or black tie optional?

It’s always better to overdress than underdress. Assume it’s going to be a fancier affair and opt for a “black tie optional” look, like this one. A midi dress is also a good option to consider. (A midi dress is in between floor length and cocktail length.)

– Is it ok to bring a change of shoes for dancing?

Totally! The bride and groom want you to have a good time and be dancing all night long, so bring comfortable flats if your heels are going to bother you.

LinksDress Shoes Bag | Earrings

centered by design outfit to room april

Happy Wedding season! XO – CLAIRE

CBD Interviewed on our first PODCAST!

Hello there friends,

Excited to have made it through my very first podcast interview!! I was recently interviewed by LuAnn Nigara (more on LuAnn below) of A Well-Designed Business Podcast. LuAnn’s podcast (you can find it online and on iTunes) is incredibly helpful to anyone running a business in the interior design industry. She has completed more than 150 interviews with top professionals in the industry, and was a speaker on the podcasting panel at the Design Bloggers Conference 2017. I was interviewed and spoke with LuAnn about my win for Best Blog Writing at the conference this year.

You can LISTEN my Well-Designed Business Podcast interview from your computer or download the podcast series on ITUNES. I hope you enjoy the interview!

Meet LuAnn Nigara

well-designed business podcastLuAnn Nigara is an award-winning window treatment authority, author, host of one of the most popular podcasts for the design industry, and overall business dynamo.

Based in Livingston, New Jersey, LuAnn got her start in 1982 when she, her husband and cousin purchased a franchise of the Florida-based window treatment company, Window Works. With LuAnn at the helm of sales, they quickly expanded from New Jersey to serving the entire metro area from Philadelphia to Connecticut, and became the leading showroom in gross sales of the more than 120 stores Window Works stores around the country.


Today, Claire talks to LuAnn about:

well-designed business podcast

  • How she got to do her internships with Nate Berkus Associates and Kate Marker Interiors.
  • The advantages of getting as much work experience as possible.
  • The benefits of working for a large and well-run business, in order to gain necessary experience, to run a successful business of your own, later on.
  • Where she found the inspiration for her blog.
  • How she incorporates Yoga and Meditation into her design work.
  • How she’s starting to be recognized by her clients, who know that she really gets them and knows what they want.
  • That consistency is really important with blogging.
  • Creating blog content that readers want to come back for.
  • Her Renovation Series- how it helps her to draw people to her website.
  • How collaboration has really worked for her as a marketing vehicle.
  • That she really doesn’t try to sell things from her blog, yet it still makes money for her in other ways.
  • That you should go to conferences to renew your energy, expand your horizons with blogging and keep you moving forward.
  • The great networking opportunities that she found at the conference.
  • How the conference has helped her to partner up with other Interior Designers, to enhance their blogs and hers.
  • Her Spring Into Home collaboration with other design bloggers.
  • You don’t need to spend a lot of money on your blog, however, you do need to spend something, to make it look really good.
  • Using the correct etiquette and ethics to credit the source of the photographs that you use on your blog, from the internet.
  • An idea to help people to network better with the people that they connect with at conferences.

Did you listen? What tips resonated with you? Do you have others to share when it comes to blogging?


Spring Home Tours Week Two: Bria Hammel Interiors

April 13, 2017 Interior Design 0 Comments

It’s week two of #SpringIntoHome and this week’s home tour is courtesy of Bria Hammel Interiors. Bria and I were first connected through a mutual Minnesota blogger friend (remember DIY maven Erin of Francois et Moi). Bria has the brightest and sweetest personality. The minute I met her and saw her big smile I thought, “she seems like a FUN and fabulous friend (and boss).” Bria had her crew from Bria Hammel Interiors with her at the Design Bloggers Conference and they were all so welcoming, and let me join their party for the weekend.

Bria’s home is reflection of her light, bright and FUN spirit! Lots of cheerful patterned wallpaper, classic white and bright walls, plus some soft colors round out the rooms.  Here’s her home tour in her own words. Hope you enjoy! Check back next week for another great tour!


“This is the first time I’ve done an actual home tour of my house {still a work in progress!}. We have been in our home now for 1.5 years, and are chipping away at all of the projects that come with a new construction home. {we still don’t have grass in our backyard, yikes!}

bria hammel interiors

The lovely Bria Hammel. Her kiddos pictured above.

One of my favorite parts of our house is the front door. Clients always ask me if I worry about privacy, but we are up on top of a hill so you have to drive all the way up our driveway and walk down our sidewalk to see anything. The natural light that comes in through the door and windows is so beautiful during the day… totally worth any privacy I may be giving up!

Our great room is definitely still a work in progress. Since we moved in with a six week old baby, we have kept this room on the back burner. It hasn’t been a bad things to have floor space and no breakables to be thrown across the room 😉 I’m definitely getting the itch to get this space completed. We want to add another sofa, possibly remove the carpet and extend our wood floors (hubby is pushing hard for a new puppy!) Even if I can just get window treatments up this room would feel more complete… stay tuned!

One of the most used spaces {obviously} is our kitchen. The island is large enough to host a large gathering and offer plenty of places to sit/stand… which happens often in our space! We love hosting friends and family whether its for a holiday, football game, or Sunday dinner! Having a functional kitchen is key.

Continue reading →

The Warwick Reno Featured in The Chicago Tribune

the warwick renovation

It was an exciting week at the Staszak household. Our little renovation story made it into the Chicago Tribune, and on the front page of the home section no less! I got a little teary-eyed hearing someone else tell our story. The day-to-day of running a business and the stress of renovating (when we were doing it) kept me from truly appreciating all the work that was accomplished. I’m so happy to say that Thursday we did a little happy dance together. Designing and renovating our first home/kitchen together will be something we’ll never forget. This summer we’ll tackle the upstairs!

Don’t miss the full online version of the ARTICLE that details more of the renovation experience.

More pictures and our full downstairs home tour will be up soon. Thanks for all the support and well-wishes!


photography by Dustin Halleck for Homepolish, and Carolina Mariana.

View into our living room from entry. Built-in designed by us, built by Luke.

chicago tribune chicago couple renovates

Picture of the article in the paper!

Spring Home Tour Week One: Doreen Corrigan

Today is the first of the Friday home tours this spring! It’s always thought provoking and inspiring to see how someone else designs, decorates and styles their home. I love the little tidbits of each homeowner’s personality; mentions of a favorite vintage finds, motifs with special meaning and the ways they’ve shaped their home to make sense for the whole family.

Doreen Corrigan is a home decor and lifestyle blogger, and twin mama located in the suburbs of Chicago. She is also my new easy DIY queen (cute, quick and classy DIYs). Here is Doreen’s tour in her own words. I think you’ll love her light, bright and elegant home. And don’t miss a new tour each week for the next five Fridays! Play along on Instagram with us as we #SpringIntoHome


DOREEN CORRIGAN – #SpringIntoHome Tour

We purchased our home over three years ago and fell in love the first time we walked in. The wraparound front porch and open floor plan immediately greeted our family and we knew it was “the one.” As with love, when you know you just know. But the process of moving in is ongoing; we’re still working on the upstairs and I’m looking forward to redoing the kitchen someday – slowly but surely we’re putting our touch on each room of the house.

The open floor plan and grand staircase were so welcoming that first time we entered the house. We’ve made several updates along the way including staining the floors and front door, painting the staircase and adding a runner, a fresh coat of paint throughout, wainscoting, and changing out all the light fixtures.

Continue reading →

Spring Home Tours Announcement

April 4, 2017 Interior Design 0 Comments

To welcome springtime this year and share our love of interior design, I’ve collaborated with fellow blogger gal pals (many of whom I met at The Design Bloggers Conference) to bring you a new home tour each week of April. I can’t wait to see the homes of these talented design-centric women, and learn more about their personal decorating philosophies!

We’d love for you to play along with us on Instagram as well. Tag your photos #SpringIntoHome and we will feature your spring decor, spring flowers and maybe even your spring cleaning!

Here’s a quick look at my wonderful collaborators:

Continue reading →

Women Who MAKE: Angela Chrusciaki Blehm

The wide world of Instagram led me to the work and home of artist Angela Chrusciaki Blehm. Her profile read, “Obsessed with offbeat beauty” and her feed was endlessly color and different. Not that I’m hating on the white and bright look that is so popular right now, but I’ve got a bit of rebellious streak when it comes to decorating and I feel like Angela does too. She’s also got some amazing chops when it comes to color theory! I mean she painted her living room pink – and it looks amazing!

Read on to learn more about Angela and the artwork she produces at her home and studio in Georgia. Also, don’t miss the amazing new jewelry she has for sale. I bought a pair and LOVE them (see pic at end of the interview!).

  • Name: Angela Chrusciaki Blehm
  • Age: 41
  • Current title/company name: Angela Chrusciaki Blehm
  • Years in operation: 1…in this incarnation.

What is your first memory of making [art]/being creative? I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t making something…out of Play-Doh, clay, paper, crayons and markers. As a girl, I used to make books of my poetry and short stories and illustrate them.

Continue reading →