Author Archives: Guest Writer

A Chic Fire Escape Retreat From Refinery29

Decorating, Decorating Inspiration, Inspiration and tagged | | | 1 Reply

As part of this week’s outdoor decorating series, we’re presenting posts from some of our favorite bloggers. Today, Manhattan-based Refinery29 senior editor Diana Nguyen tells us about how she turned a tiny fire escape into a breezy outdoor space. 

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Living in a typical Manhattan-sized apartment, I have very, very limited space. But when I need to feel a bout of vitamin D or just decompress, there’s always the fire escape. I’m not going to lie — it’s pretty drab out there, what with my dead fern and the rusted metal. But with a few portable adjustments, solitary confinement can become a sanctuary — tiny space be damned. I only needed a few elements I could easily bring in and out of my home (don’t want to break any New York fire codes, after all): dim lighting, a place to put my coffee, and some very resilient plants. Using my Pottery Barn items, I was able to create something equal parts industrial, romantic, and functional.


A small side table may be useful indoors, but it’ll also totally elevate your outdoor space. Although you can’t leave it on the fire escape, it’s small enough to transport and great for adding height and dimension to an area, not to mention you won’t have to put your books, drinks, or whatever on the dirty floor.

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A rusty, industrial-like space like this calls for elements that complement and contrast, and these Pottery Barn lanterns blend seamlessly on to the fire escape. For contrast, I added yellow florals inside to bring a touch of color and whimsy. I also coiled metal clothes hangers inside the lantern glass to keep the flowers in place and to maintain the industrial theme. I love the juxtaposition.

Finally, if you’re out more than in, low-maintenance greens and plants are your friends. Succulents and cacti don’t need much care and can bring that welcoming detail (especially if has a pop of color) to an intimate setting, if ever you decide to share it with others (one at the most…let’s not push it).

For a chance to win a $400 gift card from Pottery Barn, head over to Refinery 29 to read more about Diana’s fire escape retreat!

Photos courtesy Raven Ishak


See How the Olivia Star Pendant Lights Up This Garden

Decorating, Decorating Inspiration, Inspiration and tagged | | | 8 Replies

Today, we’re featuring a post by Gardenista editor Michelle Slatella as part of our outdoor decorating series. Michelle decorated her garden with the Olivia Star Pendant.

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We are very DIY oriented at Gardenista; I hung the pendant in a tree at the edge of my bluestone patio and turned it into a votive holder using battery operated votives. (I wrapped the electrical socket securely in waterproof plastic to protect it for future use.) In the autumn, the pendant can come indoors or to a covered porch and be hardwired for electricity.

I live in Northern California, so we pretty much live in the garden year round — day and night, we’re out there. I wanted to have a warm light in the tree, both for when I have friends over and we are sitting on the patio at dusk or later drinking wine, and for when I look out the window into the garden at night. As you can see from the windows in the background of the photo with the pendant, our kitchen and family room look out into the garden and it’s lovely to see the pendant glowing there, like a low distant star, at night.

Keep reading to check out more photos from Michelle’s garden. You can also enter to win a pendant by filling out the form located just below the photos (read the official rules here). For a second chance to win, enter on Gardenista, too!

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Thank you for reading, this contest is now closed.

A Visit to Leyden Glen Sheep Farm

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

We’re happy to present this article, written and photographed by Rikki Snyder, which is running in the current issue of Folk Magazine. You can subscribe to Folk Magazine here.




Tucked away in the rolling hills of western Massachusetts is a place so unique and beautiful that it seems like it was pulled straight from a fairytale. I remember the very first time I drove down the windy and desolate dirt roads leading up to the Leyden Glen Sheep Farm. Spring was in full bloom and my good friend Sarah was behind the wheel. I kept thinking to myself, where is she taking me? Talk about the middle of nowhere!
When we finally pulled up to the farmhouse we were greeted by eager sheep dogs, so full of energy and ready to play. Sarah had told me how beautiful this place was and as soon as I got out of the car I fell in love with everything. The wooden swing tied to a tree in the front yard, tufts of wool covering the ground in certain spots, grass greener than any I’d seen before and sheep by the hundreds feeding on it with enormous, tree covered hills as their backdrop.
Kristin Nicholas came out from her charming farmhouse to greet us and I was first introduced to the incredible woman who calls this place home. Kristin is a true and talented artist best known for her knitting and stitching patterns. But it doesn’t stop there, her tremendous talents include knitting, crochet, embroidery, dyeing, painting, decorative and interior painting and pottery. She lives in this picturesque 1751 Antique Cape Cod farmhouse with her husband Mark and their darling daughter, Julia. Together they run their Leyden Glen Sheep Farm which now consists of over 300 sheep, 20 chickens, 10 cats, 3 border collies who work the sheep, 1 Great Pyrenees Guard Dog, a Guard Donkey and a Guard Llama. Kristin explains how when you live on a real working farm, the farm becomes your life. The animals are in need of constant attention, food, water and are always being moved around from field to field. “I talk to animals more than I talk to people!” she says.

The reality of Kristin and Mark’s unique lifestyle as sheep farmers is this: long days and intense labor. The lambing begins in January and lasts through March. During this time lamb upon lamb is born and in need of constant care. March is the mud season which Kristin describes as pretty awful! “No one is happy- humans or lambs.” The grass starts to grow in April and weaning lambs starts when the pastures are dry and ready. When May rolls around different flocks of sheep are moved to different pastures and are continually moved throughout the grazing season. Sometimes the sheep are moved by truck but sometimes Kristin and Mark move them many miles by foot depending on the location and traffic on the roads. Harvesting hay soon begins in June and lasts until October when the grass stops growing. Mark cuts and bales all of the hay that their sheep eat during the winter. In November, after the harvest, the sheep are ready to be moved back to their winter quarters where they are kept in a couple barns for cover. And then…it starts all over again.



Kristin and Mark sell their lamb meat all year long at local Famers Markets as well as the vegetables from Kristin’s garden in the summertime. The sheep’s wool also proves to be invaluable as Kristin uses it to make yarn. She learned how to hand spin wool at a night class during her time in college at the Oregon State University where her and Mark first met. They both grew up on the east coast, Kristin being from the suburbs of New Jersey and Mark, ironically enough, grew up on a dairy farm only 5 miles from where they now live. They bought their first 4 Romney sheep in 1980 before they were married. As Kristin’s mom said, “Some people get engaged; Mark and Kristin bought sheep!”.

Just before their daughter Julia was born, they found their current farmhouse. It was love at first sight; they gave a full price offer and it was accepted in a matter of 5 hours! Kristin started telecommuting instead of going into her job at the time, as the Creative Director of Classic Elite Yarns. “It was a chance for us to build our farm and our family,” she says. In 1998, their daughter Julia was born with a life threatening condition, hydrocephalus. Kristin became the primary caretaker and in her words she, “..decided to ditch the full time gig and go freelance.” She started writing knitting books, then stitching books and was even asked to illustrate a couple of knitting books. She used gouache, a technique of painting with opaque watercolors and soon realized that she could draw or paint anything.
Since then, Kristin has taken her art to a new level. Her home is a blank canvas that she has transformed into a work of art with her numerous free-form wall murals that she hand paints. The mural in the dining room is dressed with chickens, birds, flowers, leaves, guinea hens and peacocks. A second one can be found in their TV room that Kristin created by cutting shapes out of FedEx boxes, layering these shapes on top of each other and hand painting each one. Her beautiful oil paintings can be found hung throughout the house as well as other handmade items such as her colorful pillows that are displayed on the window bed between the kitchen and living room.

“I think every art or craft I learn adds to the others I know,” Kristin says, “They all ‘inform’ each other. The common thread of my work has always been color. I love color! Working with color, mixing color together when I paint or dye, and then combining colors in a canvas or on a piece of fabric or in a knit wear design is such fun and joyful.” Kristin has also taken inspiration from her grandmother who was from Germany. She was always making something with her hands which fascinated Kristin and when she was 9, her grandmother taught her how to crochet. After that, she never looked back. Ten books later, Kristin is still going strong with her artwork and is constantly creating. She also writes a blog called “Getting Stitched on the Farm”, which is a way for her to communicate and connect with the outside world. It allows her readers to enter into her crazy yet captivating lifestyle that is always satisfying and never boring and shows a little slice of what it’s like living on a working sheep farm.
It’s been two years since that first day I stumbled upon the Leyden Glen Sheep Farm and after many visits back, through each season, I have fallen in love with this place even more. The beauty of it all continues to amaze me as does Kristin’s artwork. Never have I found such inspiration with color and pattern as I do when I’m in Kristin’s home. I’ve had the pleasure of sitting down with her for lunch on those colorful chairs with her paper lanterns swaying above our heads and the view of the pastures outside the windows where subtle baas can be heard from the grazing sheep. They’ve become some of my most memorable days and I always look forward to my next trip back where I travel off the map and step into their unique world once more.

To read more stories of this, check out the current issue of Folk Magazine. You can subscribe to Folk Magazine here.


Add Fresh Color to Your Home With These Quick Tips For a Spring Refresh

Decorating, How-To | | | 7 Replies

We’re excited to present a guest post from Dawn Reeves from Inspired Living. Keep reading for her tips for infusing your home with spring color and freshness!

This past winter, I welcomed in the cold and crisp weather by using winter greenery and branches inside my home. In my entryway, I built a neutral backdrop of whites and creams to showcase the beauty of nature indoors.



This spring, I continue to showcase nature inside my home; however, this time around, I wanted a more vivid and colorful display that echoes the vibrant and colorful spring blossoms that would soon appear outside.



Here are a few of my tips for styling your entryway with splashes of color for spring:
Create your foundation by choosing two to three elements for your entry. Here, I used graphic black and white elements, with touches of gold, as a strong contrast to the bold colors.

Add something living. The easiest and most obvious way to add color is through beautiful blooms – any clippings will do. I chose potted orchids for my entryway because they are low maintenance, long lasting, and have a sculptural, colorful beauty. I brought these orchids home mid-February, and 6 weeks later my blooms are still going strong.


Front Entry Spring

Use colorful pillows and throws. Add a chair to your entryway and throw a colorful pillow on top. In this display, I used a pillowcase inside my black and white frame. Also, consider your entry from all views. Here, I added a soft blue throw on my couch to compliment the blues of the ocean painting I placed on the sideboard.



Layer your colors and add a touch of surprise. While I used reds and purples as the colorful element on the majority of my entry display, I added the blue ocean scene as an unexpected touch of color.




Thanks for the tips, Dawn! Make sure to check out Inspired Living for more of Dawn’s decorating adventures.

Six Days of Spring: Bejeweled Place Card Holders

Decorating, DIY | | | 9 Replies

This week, we’re participating in a week’s worth of spring projects and DIYs with five other bloggers (make sure to click through on today’s projects at the bottom of this post).

For today’s project, we’re revisiting the bejeweled place card holders that were  featured in our garden party tablescape.



They’re perfect for weddings, dinner parties or other gatherings where a place card is needed. Karen Ondracek of General Taxonomy has all of the details for her DIY.




  • Small wooden blocks (toy blocks worked well – I chose them in the spirit of reuse. You can buy small wooden blocks at craft and hobby shops.)
  • Vintage clip on earrings and/or vintage pins. Larger brooches & pins can be used to make holders for menus, welcome signs, etc.
  • Spray paint (Needed only if you wish to alter the color of your blocks or jewelery. You may wish to use a spray primer as well.)
  • Masking tape (Needed only if you are spray painting and wish to retain some original colors.)
  • Hot glue gun & hot glue sticks


Step 1:

Spray paint the wooden blocks to coordinate with your color scheme. I chose white. If you have wooden blocks that look great as found, skip this step.


Step 2:


Spray paint vintage jewelry to coordinate with your color scheme. Mask off any jewels or other areas that you want to retain their original appearance. I spray painted gold tone, brass and pearl elements of my jewelry silver. If all your jewelry looks great as found, skip this step.


Tip: Try a few drops of eucalyptus oil mixed with a bit of hand lotion to remove any spray paint you might accidentally get on your skin, then wash with soap and water. Unless, of course, you are allergic or sensitive to eucalyptus.


Step 3:

Use hot glue to attach earrings and pins to woodblocks as shown.


For pins you want to create a narrow slot between the pin back and the block for the card. For large pins, you may need more than one block.


With the variety of jewelry styles & spray paints out there, these DIY place cards could work in many a tablescape. Have fun!

Thanks Karen! Make sure to check out her shop General Taxonomy for more arty and vintage goodness!

Check out the rest of the DIYs featured today from the other participating bloggers!

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