Author Archives: Guest Writer

Guest Post: Kitchen Update Tips for Any Budget

Decorating, How-To | | | 7 Replies

Shane Inman is an interior designer located in New York,  New York. Today, he’s sharing his tips to help you update your kitchen with any budget.

shane25If your kitchen is in need of an update, it’s well worth the time, trouble and money to spruce it up. A full kitchen renovation can of course be very costly, depending on one’s taste and the extent of updating necessary. But even if you don’t have the budget to gut the entire room and start from scratch, there are many cost-effective ways to make it more pleasant for you as well as more desirable to others.

Paint cabinets. Your cabinets are the most expensive item in your kitchen to replace. If your cabinets are in relatively good shape – meaning that the interior shelves are still holding up and the doors are not falling off – you can paint them. To end up with a great paint job, you must remove all hardware (hinges and door handles), give the cabinets a good cleaning with a degreaser, and prime them. Then, finally, you are ready for paint.

shane24Replace hardware. Updating your hinges and hardware is a very easy way to update your kitchen. But remember this rule: use materials that have the same dimensions as what you had previously. Should you want to go from a pull to a knob, you will need to fill the screw holes, sand and paint the cabinets before installing the new hardware.

Update backsplash. If there is currently nothing but paint on your backsplash, adding tile will give your kitchen a much more finished look. Put up your favorite color to accentuate your style. Using the smallest possible grout line and placing the tile on the diagonal will help you achieve a more custom look.

Flooring. Replacing your flooring with a material that is more up-to-date will single-handedly transform your current kitchen from old to brand new! Tile is always more practical than linoleum and more resistant to wear and tear. Porcelain tile is gaining in popularity over ceramic tile because of its through-body composition, which gives it superior durability and beauty. As with the backsplash, a diagonal layout and the smallest possible grout line will create a more special look – and will make a small kitchen appear larger. Smaller grout lines are also easier to keep clean.

shane21Remove cabinet doors. Taking an ordinary cabinet and removing the door(s) will allow you to have display space. Display cabinets are very popular for cookbooks and other items that you would enjoy seeing on an everyday basis rather than having tucked away behind closed doors.

Lighting. Installing under-cabinet lighting (task lighting) in your kitchen will help you see better while prepping food on your counter. In-cabinet lighting (accent lighting) will draw attention to attractive decorative items on the shelves (this only works with open cabinets or those with glass doors).

Paint walls. Applying a fresh coat of paint is the most inexpensive way to update any space. It is important to use one of the new paints specially formulated for kitchens and bathrooms so that you can wash and scrub the surfaces without causing damaging side effects over time.

shane23Organize. Less is more when it comes to countertops! More visible countertop linear footage will give the illusion of having more surface area than you actually do. Give your whole kitchen a once over and get rid of everything sitting on the countertop that you don’t use every day. It may be a hassle, but keeping your blender and toaster out of sight will actually make your kitchen appear cleaner and larger. Put as much as you can in your pantry. If you don’t have a pantry and think you have very limited cabinet space, you probably just need a good lesson in organizing.

And when it’s all done? You’ll feel like you’re in a new home – in fact, even if you were planning to put your house on the market, you may love your updated kitchen so much that you’ll decide to stay!

You might also like: Smart, Professional Organizing Ideas for Your Kitchen

Guest Post: 10 Insider Tips from the Files of Top Interior Designers

Decorating, How-To | | | 3 Replies

Shane Inman is an interior designer located in New York,  New York. Today, he’s sharing his top 10 professional tips to help you design and decorate your home.

shane1Small rooms. Most people make the mistake of thinking that smaller rooms require lighter paint colors to brighten them up. But, as strange as it may sound, smaller spaces actually appear larger when painted a darker color. Darker colors hide ceiling lines and corner shadows to make walls and ceilings appear to be farther away.

Low ceilings. Painting low ceilings using the same color as your walls will blend wall and ceiling shadow lines. The eye will not know where the walls end and the ceiling begins.

Flawed walls. When you have badly worn or damaged walls, try using a faux finish to cover the dimples, scrapes and mars. A good faux finish will camouflage everything with its many variations of color and random pattern. The eye will not be able to detect the difference between paint and flaws. A word of caution, however: Be careful when choosing and applying your faux finishing technique, because if it is done poorly, it will accentuate the problem rather than camouflage it. For this trick, you will need to gauge whether a faux finish is in order or whether you should use that money to repair your existing walls.

Damaged wood flooring. Damaged wood floors that have no sanding life left in them can be painted to make them look fresh again. You can make a dramatic change in your space by using a very durable garage floor paint that comes in many color variations.

shane4Little windows. To gain the illusion of more windows and to bring more natural light into a room, try adding mirrors. Mirrors create a sense of depth – much like windows. By placing a mirror across from an existing window, you will create the appearance of having two windows in the space.

One good piece. Serious home improvement enthusiasts will want to start off their venture with one really good calculated piece and work around it in future years. Structural integrity, not cost, is the key here – even if the two usually go hand in hand. A room full of inexpensive furniture has no longevity.

shane2Dark rooms.  An inadequately lit space can appear dreary and can make anything placed in it look dull and unattractive. Any good-looking room, no matter the budget, starts with the right combination of general, task and accent lighting to show off color and texture. For exceptional general lighting, add a torchére to reflect light directly off the ceiling onto the whole room. Recessed can lighting located adjacent to walls create a scalloping effect that will provide not only general lighting, but also accent lighting. Table lamps and picture lighting will draw emphasis to surfaces and artwork for a warm feeling.

Less is more. Put everything you want in the room you are redesigning, and when you are finished, edit yourself by taking 25 percent of it out. A person entering a room for the first time should be able to experience the space as a whole and not be overwhelmed by its contents. Remember, the more you have in a room, the smaller it becomes.

Add personality. Not everyone has to fit into either a traditional or contemporary style – follow your good instincts! Nowadays, pretty much anything goes, as long as you do it with some sense of style. Remember, you can’t buy good taste!

shane3A perfect paint job. Even though paint is known to be the least expensive way to update a space, it pays to hire a professional who knows the correct coat coverage, sheen and application process. Even the best furniture arrangement and the highest-priced accessories will look awful if their backdrop is a sloppy paint job. Not only will a properly painted interior come off looking like a million bucks, but it will also have greater durability to stand the test of time in an active household.

Bourbon and Bluegrass: Celebrating a 40th Birthday in Southern Roots Style

Entertaining, Parties | | | Leave a comment

We’re excited to present a post from Jenny Raulli of Bloom Designs! See how Jenny created a perfect 40th birthday celebration for a friend’s husband.

A sweet friend of mine asked me to style a 40th birthday party for her husband. Since he grew up in the South, she wanted to honor his southern roots with a Bourbon and Bluegrass Party but she also wanted to keep the party elegant, pretty and proper. I immediately knew that Pottery Barn would have tons of inspiration for the party. We found Pottery Barn’s Metal Letter and the M became the center of our dessert table backdrop and inspiration for the party printables.




The highlight of the party was the bourbon and cigar bar where guest sampled three kinds of bourbon served from Pottery Barn’s Library Decanters and helped themselves to cigars from the beautiful Hotel Silver-Plated Tray.

The tables were set with burlap runners, wooden lanterns also from Pottery Barn and white hydrangea centerpieces. Modern Silver Plated Frames  held fun signs throughout the party and Hanging Mason Jar votives created the perfect ambience for this 40th birthday celebration.

The dessert table featured lots southern favorites and other dessert all fitting our color scheme. We served, spice cake with a wooden topper by Ten23 Designs. Snicker doodle, oatmeal and peanut butter cookies, caramel cheesecake shots, Elvis pie, banana whoopie pies, bourbon bread pudding and cupcake with amazing banjo and bourbon bottle fondant toppers by Edible Details.


Read more about Jenny’s incredible party styling at Bloom Designs. You can see more photos from the Bourbon and Bluegrass Party below.

Photography courtesy Laura Laing

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How-To: Create a Pinboard For Your Home

Decorating, DIY | | | 1 Reply

We’re excited to share this post from the Fall issue of Sweet Paul Magazine!

Pinboards are perfect for having a personal source of inspiration on the wall. When you make one yourself, you can get it exactly the way you want it!

Sewing materials are so beautiful and we wanted to display some of ours over our sewing table.

  1. Frame pieces of silk in embroidery hoops.
  2. Cut out pieces of foam board so that they fit inside the hoops and gently place them in the hoops from behind.
  3. Glue the edges of the fabric to the foam board on the backside.

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Put up your favorite pics and memories from your most loved city. We found this old rustic bag that has been used by the New York City Transit Authority and just slipped a foam board inside. We smile every time we see it. New York, New York…


  1. Get an old sack or bag that you love.
  2. Cut out a foam board so that it fits the sack and slip it inside.
  3. Sew a loop on the backside so that you can hang it on a wall.

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A great way to personalize pinboards is to cover them in beautiful papers in your favorite patterns and colors. We used paper from Paper Source and glued them to standard clipboards. We got clipboards from Amazon for super cheap! This project makes a colorful and inspirational wall.


  1. Cut out pieces of beautiful papers that are a little bit bigger than the clipboards.
  2. Glue the paper to the clipboards and fold back the edges of the paper to the backside of the clipboards and glue.


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Tin ceilings were popular in the Victorian era and it’s easy to find old parts of those ceilings at NYC antique markets. We found a pink one and matched it with pics from magazines, old postcards, and Japanese stickers. You can choose between using magnets or sticky tack to put up your pictures.

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Letterboards are just amazing. They have such a great and timeless design. And you can choose both font and size when you buy the letters! This is a felted board and the pics are pinned with needles. Put up a favorite quote. Ours is from The Great Gatsby, in 1-inch Helvetica. We bought the board and letters at

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Sweet Paul loves Brooklyn and it is lovable for sure. What an amazing place to live and work. This is a map of Downtown Brooklyn and Paul, we pinned your favorite place! Cutting it out was time consuming but still easy.


  1. Put a map of your selected area over a watercolor paper.
  2. Cut out the blocks and the water. Sketch some place names and spare those too if you wish.
  3. Decorate with a contrasting paper. Bkln has an extra layer of neon pink paper glued to the white.
  4. To give the map a small distance from the wall cut out a foam board frame and glue it to the backside.

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Craft+styling by Lova Blavarg & Susanna Blavarg

Photography by Susanna Blavarg

Design Destination: Stockholm, Sweden

Decorating, Decorating Inspiration, Inspiration | | | Leave a comment

We’re excited to present a story from the new Fall issue of Sweet Paul! In the story Northern Delights, Will Taylor explores the architecture and design in Stockholm, Sweden. You can read more of the story in Sweet Paul’s Fall issue.



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I’d heard the city described as the Venice of the North for many years, yet when I stepped off the Arlanda Express train from the airport, I was still taken aback by its beauty. The cool and crisp air and a light dusting of snow were the only reminders of the chilly season as the sun was shining in a deceptively bright manner across a vivid blue sky.

Stockholm has a distinctly maritime feel thanks to its largely waterside location, which affords the city a laidback, refreshing, and surprisingly calm vibe for such a cosmopolitan destination. Unlike many of its southern European counterparts, Stockholm offered a urban vacation that left me feeling both inspired and relaxed by the end of my trip: there’s a generous offering of museums, galleries, restaurants, bars, and shops to explore yet everything is relatively compact, making it easy to explore on foot. Another benefit? I didn’t have to recreate scenes of elbowing my way through tourists as I’ve done in places like London and Florence; Stockholm is quite the opposite, especially outside of the busier summer season. I was able to leisurely explore the quiet cobbled sidewalks of the Old Town (Gamla Stan) and climb the hills of the Sodermalm in order to take in the stunning views of the Stockholm skyline. And all this in relative peace and quiet.

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On my first morning in the city I took a stroll from my hotel, Scandic Grand Central, across the water and into the Old Town. Although I live in Britain where there’s an abundance of history to devour, I was still excited to explore the original part of Stockholm—the part that was founded during the 13th century. As I walked the district’s narrow streets I found it hard not to imagine the footprints left by those who would’ve paced the very same streets in centuries gone by. Nowadays there are around 3,000 people living in the Old Town and most of the buildings date back to the 17th and 18th century—the dominant building is the King’s Castle. It was clear that this area of the city is popular with tourists, as one or two of the main thoroughfares were littered with tacky souvenir shops, but don’t let this deter you from the quaint discoveries that lie a little off the beaten bath.

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Almost as if it’s the antithesis to the quiet and quaint moments offered by the Old Town, the Sodermalm district gifted me a trendy, hip, and unique experience. It’s the place to visit for an eclectic mix of unusual, contemporary boutiques for fashion, design, and interior décor. I found that the product assortment (and the clientele!) in the stores on the Sodermalm tended to be trendier, younger, and more bohemian than in the downtown part of the city. It’s well worth setting side a day or two to be able to make the most of the diverse district at leisure. I enjoyed dipping in and out of the small boutiques; both Gotgatan and SoFo—the area south of Folkungagatan—are now a varied scene for daring and unexpected designs, not to mention a strong offering of vintage merchandise. If you enjoy people watching then pull up a chair outside a café and watch the myriad of fashion and design mavens going about their daily business. I wiled away an hour or two doing just this in Café String in SoFo—a charming place that’s decorated with vintage ‘50s and ‘60s designs (all of which are for sale, so you can buy your teacup or chair as a souvenir).

Afterwards, I walked to Hornsgatspuckeln and spent the afternoon exploring the galleries in the area. One of the most noteworthy was The Glassery, which is completely devoted to glass as an art form and shows work by independent glass artists from across the world.

Screen Shot 2013-09-11 at 3.18.07 PMAs I walked back to my hotel down the hills of the Sodermalm I basked in view of the sunset. The city had already proved itself to be sophisticated and stylish at every turn. I smiled to myself as I thought how even the Stolkholm sunsets appeared to be designed to aesthetic perfection.

Discover Will’s restaurant and hotel recommendations when you read the rest of the story in Sweet Paul!

Photography by Will Taylor

Halloween DIY: Chalk Paint Boxes

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We’re excited to present a DIY from the Fall issue of Sweet Paul magazine that will be perfect for Halloween. This DIY was created by Lova Blåvarg, at 17-year-old Swedish-born designer whose beautiful craft and art projects are featured in the column Lova’s World.
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Chalk Paint boxes

I have always loved dressing up in costumes, but we don’t have Halloween in Sweden, so I was really excited to come to the US and have a chance to experience it (especially since I was allowed to wear my costume in school!). This year, I decided to make spooky chalkboard boxes for candy and other goodies.

1. Find tin boxes in different interesting shapes and sizes. (For example, I used an Easter egg tin box to make the dragon egg!)

2. Fill a big bowl with chalkboard paint. Dip and roll the boxes in the paint. Dipping gives a nice smooth effect compared to painting them.

3. Let dry.

4. Draw Halloween inspired designs with chalk on the boxes.

5. Fill with candy!
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Tip: When Halloween is over you can easily erase the drawings and use the boxes for tea and coffee and such things until next year!

Fourth of July Tablesetting Inspiration

Entertaining, Parties | | | 20 Replies

Michael from Inspired by Charm recently shared these lovely Fourth of July-inspired tablescape photos with us. You can see the entire tablescape on Inspired by Charm. Michael is a lifestyle blogger, designer, and entrepreneur. On his blog, Inspired by Charm, he takes a fearless approach to decorating his home with a splash of color and a whole lot of passion. From decorating to baking, Inspired by Charm is all about making everyday life more beautiful.

DSC_4354TWurm_ Michael

Independence Day is probably one of the holidays I look forward to the most. Each year my dad hosts a pool party at his house and the entire family gathers for some food, swimming, and fun in the sun. It’s one heck of a good time and the kind of day I never want to end. Because it’s one of my favorite holidays, I put together a table setting inspired by and in celebration of our country’s birthday.

I like to set a table by using a couple unique focal pieces and then adding things I already own and love. I also enjoy mixing new finds with vintage treasures. Of course, red, white and blue was the obvious choice for the color scheme.


The table started with a red gingham table runner and this great anchor metal-tiered stand, both from Pottery Barn. Standard white plates are dressed up with a blue polka dot napkin set to one side. This reminded me of the American flag.

The anchor stand is filled with flowers on top. Various size mason jars and flowers from the yard make an easy centerpiece. Patriotic red velvet cupcakes fill the bottom.

Vintage dishes filled with cashews and a mini-flag add decoration and a little nibble before dinner. Homemade jam brings a fun touch to the table and doubles as a treat for guests to take home to remember the evening.


Near the table a vintage cart serves as a cocktail table. A mason jar drink dispenser is filled with homemade lemonade allowing guests to easily serve themselves. Vodka is available to make a refreshing lemon martini. Equal parts vodka and lemonade, shaken in an adorable whale shaker, and served in a martini glass create the perfect summer cocktail! More flowers tie the areas together.

A little gingham, unique touches, and a whole lot of charm create a table perfect for a Fourth of July celebration!

To get the look, try these pieces from Pottery Barn!
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DIY a Paper Votive For Your Summer Parties

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We’re excited to share this DIY from Sweet Paul, whose new Summer issue just launched next week. This DIY would be great for an outdoor party decoration or a fun centerpiece for a themed get together. This DIY was created by Lova Blåvarg, a 17-year-old Swedish-born artist and crafter who regularly contributes projects to Sweet Paul through her column LOVA’S WORLD. (Make sure to scroll down to see her other great projects for wrapping paper, placecards and notebooks.)

Magically simple home decor!

You will need:

  • Printouts downloaded from this webpage
  • Tissue paper to use for the windows
  • Scissors
  • Xacto Knife
  • Paper glue
  • LED votive – I love these votives from Pottery Barn.

Lova’s World – Castle (3375 KB)

  1. Download and print out the files attached to this post.
  2. Print two copies of the page for each castle you will make.
  3. Use scissors or Xacto knife to cut out four castle sides. Using Xacto, cut out the little windows from the castle sides.
  4. Cut pieces of tissue paper a little bigger than each window and glue the tissue to the back side of each castle wall to create a cute little window.
  5. Glue the four sides of the castle together. 6.Place your new lantern over your LED votive and enjoy!

I love little LED battery power votives. They are readily available and some even flicker like real candles!


For more DIYs from Lova, check out these other projects featured in Sweet Paul


Photography by Susanna Blåvarg

Dream Destination: Franklin Fountain and its Sweet Treats

Decorating, Decorating Inspiration, Inspiration | | | 1 Reply

We’re excited to present a post from the new issue of Sweet Paul, out today!  You can find this article, “Candy is Dandy,” written by Aimee Swartz and photographed by Alexandra Grablewski on page 40 of the new issue.



Since opening The Franklin Fountain in 2004, brothers Ryan and Eric Berley, each clad in vintage suits, plucky suspenders, and tie-your-own bowties, have established themselves as Philadelphia’s premiere purveyors of all things sweet and the go-to duo for unique treats steeped in history. Their latest venture, Shane Confectionery, located just a few doors down the block, pays homage to the store’s namesake, who had operated the store for generations, and their hometown’s love of candy, in a beautifully and authentically restored shop in Old City.




Seeking a cold-weather counterpart to their ice cream shop, the Berleys bought the store (formerly known as Shane’s Candies) in 2010. The sale included recipes, scribbled on the back of an envelop by the founder himself, for its famed hand-crafted buttercreams, peanut butter cups, caramels and other turn-of-the century candy—each of which has no more than 10 ingredients. With the sale also came the country’s largest collection of intricate Victorian-era molds—from foxes, swan and a menagerie of others to steam locomotives and sailing ships—to make clear toy candies, an old-timey confection brought to Pennsylvania by German settlers and today made by few others. These are just some of more than 600 treats, from the traditional to the whimsical, that are for sale at Shane’s.


For the Berley brothers, it’s not just the candies that are nostalgic–it’s the experience, too.  A look around the pristine storefront shows an antique cash register and pay phone, walls lined with memorabilia and ephemera of eras gone by, and apothecary jars stocked with penny candy (think Abba Zabba and Bit-o-Honey). The duo, along with head confectioner Davina Soondrum, use period tools and equipment like hand-fused copper kettles and bowls heated over a manually-fired gas stove, to keep the production experience as authentic as possible.




While Shane’s undoubtedly delights in yester-year, in recent years it’s come into modern-times with a website that allows to candy lovers everywhere to enjoy its sweet treats.  Visit for more.


What are some core values of your business?  The local sourcing of ingredients, with honesty and transparency, has become an obsession for us. The maintenances of historical traditions and rediscovery of confectionery traditions once lost. We value employment of human hands to make things again in this great country. Integrity in all things.




What are some of the challenges in tweaking your confections for modern palates and other preferences?  Shane’s is famous for their buttercreams, which are very sweet by nature of their ingredients.  The modern palate, for finer chocolate anyway, has actually become less sweet. Contemporary interest in dark chocolate with higher cocoa content and the foodie scene has encouraged us to experiment with savory inclusions like salt, bacon and herbs paired with the sweets. But you still have plenty of folks who like an old-fashioned buttercream!


What were your fears in making the leap into the candy business? The complete renovation of a hundred and forty-eight-year-old building was a larger commitment than anything we’d undertaken before. The building was still functioning with 19th century technology in many ways; for instance, the heating system consisted of firing up the gas candy stoves in the morning to warm the kitchen.  Then, we had to restore all of the antique machinery, learn how to use it and make candy with methods from the early 20th century.



And what are its biggest rewards?   Knowing that confectionery will continue to be made onsite, using human hands and local ingredients fulfills our most basic mission. Having older customers come into the confectionery and reminisce about their parents and grandparents bring home Shane candies for the holidays is also very rewarding. And when folks thank us for saving a piece of Philadelphia history, my eyes get watery.




What do you like most about your work?  My favorite part of the job is the working with period confectionery tools, antique candy molds, glass display jars, and ice cream ephemera for redesigning our menus. I really enjoying handling and talking about these objects, teaching and telling stories through them.  Antiques allow me to channel our confectionery predecessors from decades gone past.




What kind of experience do you want visitors to Shane to have?  We would like visitors at Shane Confectionery, both in-store and online, to experience a world long gone. To feel the cold, polished marble and press one’s nose to the curved glass window.  To smell the chocolate being tempered upstairs and dream of its deliciousness. To delight at the colorful clear toys and candy canes in the mirrored display. For children young and old, a place where all sweet dreams can come true; this last bit is sappy, I know, but we do tend to sugarcoat everything.

Thanks to Sweet Paul for sharing this story! Make sure to read the entire  new issue of Sweet Paul, out today!

All photos courtesy Alexandra Grablewski

A Relaxing Garden Oasis Perfect For Summer Entertaining

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Today, we’re featuring a post by PopSugar Home editor Angela Elias as part of our outdoor decorating series, inspiring readers with tips on how to decorate outdoors for summer. Angela decorated her garden with the Net Ceramic Stool and Hermosa Stripe Outdoor Canvas Pillows.




I envisioned having an outdoor space where I could catch up with friends over cocktails while enjoying the yard, but a lack of patio furniture and lighting was causing a road block. A dining set seemed like a big commitment and lounge chairs proved to be better suited for sunbathing than conversation. Electric bistro lights have also played a part in my backyard fantasy (and Pinterest boards!), but having smaller, spread out trees canceled this out as well. The solution, I finally figured out, was a more flexible formula.




  • Instead of a dining set, I decided to test out a pair of Net Ceramic Stools. While they could serve as extra seating in a pinch, I love that they’re the perfect size for holding drinks (or a plant!). Since they are intended for indoor or outdoor use, I know I can easily transplant them indoors too! Much more versatile for renters or those with smaller yards.
  • While I love my Mexican patio chairs, the leather is pretty worn. To hide the cracks in the leather, introduce some style, and a bit more comfort, I gave these Hermosa Stripe Outdoor pillows a try.
  • Since the bistro lights weren’t happening, I hung some mirrored candle sconces on our fence, scattered ceramic hurricane lanterns around the seating area and in the garden, and also hung Moroccan lanterns from tree branches. For the sconces, I like to use plain white prayer candles because they have a long burning time and won’t blow out as easily with a breeze. The mirrored mosaic surfaces on the sconces also helped to reflect extra light. I used battery operated candles for my hurricanes and Moroccan lanterns, which allowed me to keep them close to the greenery without worrying about burning anything down.




For a chance to win a Net Ceramic Stool, just fill out the form below (read the official rules here). Make sure to also check out Angela’s post on PopSugar Home for more tips on styling a backyard space like this one.

Thank you for reading, this contest is now closed.