Tag Archives: inspiration

Mediterranean-Style Wedding Inspiration

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Take a moment to dream with us. Stephanie Williams of This Modern Romance alongside Karen Tran Florals let luxury hotel, Korakia Pensione act as the inspiration for their beyond beautiful shoot in the California desert. The Palm Spring hotel is a romantic oasis, blending exotic Moroccan accents and amenities to create an unforgettable Mediterranean escape.

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Photography: Stephanie Williams, This Modern Romance Location: Korakia Pensione Florals & Tablescape Design: Karen Tran Florals Invitations: Kristy Rice Rentals: Planks and Patina Cake: Michele Coulon Make-up: Maria Nguyen Hair: Elisa Bunnell Shoes: Hey Lady Dresses: Anne BargeClaire Pettibone

House Tour: Melissa’s Dreamy Fall Abode

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Today, we’re catching up with Melissa of Melissa Ross Photography to tour her lovely home, beautifully decorated for the autumn season. Enjoy the tour!

Can you tell us a bit about your home?

“Our house is located in Glenshaw, PA, a small community just north of Pittsburgh. Glenshaw was founded in the early 19th century, and features many notable homes of Federal and Victorian architecture, as well as early 20th century catalog homes. Our four bedroom home has its own unique history in that its construction was commissioned in the early 1900s by a single woman of means who worked as a manager at the local telephone company. Although she eventually did marry much later in life, she remained in her home until she died at the age of 102 years old. The home’s current occupants besides me are my husband, our daughter, our pudgy cat and our rambunctious Airedale terrier.”

What do you love most about your home?

“I think we are a great example of how your home can be both stylish and functional. With an active young daughter and multiple pets, our friends and family must think we’re crazy for having so much white furniture, but when you have slip covers, white is ideal. Pop them in the washer with hot water and bleach, and they’re as good as new again. Plus, everything goes with white. We like to change things up now and then, so we never have to worry if a paint color or pillow is going to match the furniture.”

What is your decorating philosophy?

“Simple, classic lines with a combination of modern and early American décor.  You’ll find bold furniture sporting mid century inspired upholstery next to elements that predate the furniture by 150 years. Seating elements are modern and comfortable. Also, everything needs the resilience to withstand an Airedale terrier. There’s a reason they’re described as naturally lively and sometimes very rowdy!”

What features about your home set it apart or make it unique?

“Our house is noteworthy for having a unique exterior style that we haven’t seen elsewhere in Pittsburgh. It’s an early 1900s hybrid of classic styles, with a symmetrical center chimney cape with a gambrel (barn style) roof line in the manner of a Dutch colonial.  It has a traditional New England feel, but in the middle of Steeler country.”

How does your work as a photographer influence the way you decorate your home?

“I’m a big advocate of effectively using negative space, both in photography and decorating. You don’t have to have every wall covered or every corner furnished in order to have a beautifully decorated home. Just like the eyes need a place to rest when viewing a photograph, you don’t want to feel overstimulated or crowded in when you’re trying to relax at home.”

Where do you like to shop for art, furniture, and decor?

“For several years, we’ve spent the summer months travelling to various eastern Ohio towns that host antique fairs. There are some really great ones in places like Burton, Hudson and Zoar, where you can find anything from early American furniture to mid-century modern kitchenware. The internet has been a big resource as well, especially eBay and Craigslist. For example, our theater chairs, which were advertised on Craigslist, once served as seating in a local synagogue. It just goes to show that you never know where a great décor find will turn up!”


Why do you shop at Pottery Barn?

“I love how Pottery Barn’s furniture fits in seamlessly with our period pieces. In recent years, it’s become more and more challenging to find authentic antique furniture that’s affordable, so we’ve relied on Pottery Barn to get the look that we want without paying auction house prices. I also love how Pottery Barn encourages its customers to decorate with found objects. I don’t know how many times I’ve browsed the latest catalog and was inspired to dig out old forgotten items out of our basement and place them on display. Lastly, Pottery Barn makes some seriously comfortable furniture. We have the Basic Sectional in our living room, and there’s no better place to curl up with a book or to take a nap after a big holiday meal.”

Do you have a piece of art/furniture/decor that has special meaning to you or a special backstory?

“We have an unusual antique Hoosier pantry wall cabinet that was originally used in a delicatessen that was owned by members of [my husband] Mark’s family. It’s now retired from storing pastrami and cheese and is enjoying a second life as my craft supply cabinet.”

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Source: Photos courtesy Melissa Ross Photography

A Visit to Highclere Castle (Also Known as Downton Abbey)

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If you love Downton Abbey, chances are good that you are a major fan of the Crawley family’s incredible home. (Truth be told, the Pottery Barn editors tune in equally for the home decor inspiration as much as we do for the plot twists and Lady Grantham one-liners.)

The series is filmed on location at  Highclere Castle, the home of the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon, who are friends with Julian Fellowes, the creator of Downton Abbey. In fact, Fellowes had Highclere Castle in mind as he wrote the series. We can imagine why — the castle is absolutely stunning.


While Downton Abbey fans are happily ensconced in the third season, it will end all too soon, leaving us longing for more tales of Downton and its family. For those of us looking to fill that gap until Season 4, we’d love to suggest the book Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey, written by the 8th Countess of Carnarvon. The book explores the life and adventures of her predecessor, Lady Almina, the 5th Countess. Lady Almina’s life story is fascinating, and she was known for her generosity. This generosity extended to her decision to convert Highclere Castle into a Hospital in September 1914 (sounds like the television series, doesn’t it?) as well as funding her husband’s archeological pursuits: he discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun with Howard Carter.


Highclere Castle has been Carnarvon family’s home since 1679. Designed by leading Victorian architect Sir Charles Barry, the home is filled with incredible furniture, paintings, tapestries and sculpture.


And while a vist to the castle is exciting enough, the idea of getting married at Highclere Castle has us positively thrilled. The saloon, pictured below, which lies in the heart of Highclere Castle, is licensed for civil ceremonies Brides can prepare for their wedding in a bedroom in Highclere Castle.  Imagine walking down the aisle from the gallery above the guests and then down the oak staircase (as Lady Edith and Lady Mary did in the series).



For those of us not planning a wedding, a simple visit to the castle is thrilling enough. You can visit the House and Grounds  during the Easter  holiday and in the summer. It’s also open during bank holidays as well as open for certain special events. Pre-booked tickets for the summer opening will be available starting this month.



All photos used by permission and copyright Highclere Enterprises LLP 2013


Amanda and Giorgio’s Modern and Romantic Toronto Wedding

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One of the most memorable days in a couple’s life together is their wedding day, which is why we’re excited to provide inspiration for our readers and registered couples with our series of wedding posts. Our first featured wedding is from Giorgio and Amanda. Amanda is the co-founder and owner of The Hot Plate, where she provides food styling, recipe development and other online resources for food lovers. Given Amanda’s profession,  it’s no surprise that food and wine were two major considerations when she and Giorgio married in Toronto at sunset on November 3rd, 2012 at the Berkeley Field House. Let’s take a peek at their gorgeous ceremony and reception and hear what Amanda has to say about her wedding day.

Can you tell us a little about you and your husband?

“Giorgio is one of the most caring people I’ve ever met. When I met Giorgio, I knew that I’d never meet anyone nicer and more sincere than him. I’m very outgoing, definitely a big A-type personality here. Giorgio supports my ambition and entrepreneurial spirit, and helps to keep me grounded and balanced.”

How did you meet?

“Giorgio is from Peru and works as an associate at Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board. I’m from Ottawa and I run an online cooking resource for food lovers and professional recipe development and food styling company called The Hot Plate. We met at a Halloween Party in 2010. I was dressed as a zebra and Giorgio was the most interesting man in the world. After walking off the elevator, Giorgio was the first person I met, and we’ve been together since that night.”


How did you get engaged?

“A week I’ll never forget . . . Giorgio and I are two peas in a pod so he knew that with my keen sense for surprises, I would probably guess what he was planning. Anticipating this, he sent me a week of calendar invites. Starting on Saturday Giorgio organized full days and nights of events. We visited art galleries, went to incredible restaurants and even revisited the first place we said ‘I love you.’ I started to think that just maybe he would ask. Four days in, I was pretty sure, but night after night no BIG question. Finally, Thursday night I came home to find Giorgio there with a drink in hand. He said he’d booked us a table at SPiN Toronto for a game of ping pong and then a surprise dinner at an intimate restaurant. Giorgio had intended to hide the ring box in the basket of ping pong balls, but when we were assigned a table next to a rowdy office party, Giorgio had to reconsider. Minutes later, Giorgio said that ping pong wasn’t a good idea and rushed us out into the alley. Unable to contain the nerves/excitement, he looked around anxiously in the alley. Although it was raining, Giorgio got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. Excited, teary-eyed and all smiles we headed to an intimate French restaurant. On the table was the most impressive bouquet of roses and orchids I’ve ever seen. The husband and wife who owned the restaurant  asked if it was my birthday and when we told them we’d just gotten engaged they brought out champagne for all 25 patrons. It still makes me smile when I think of the care and thought he put into planning the proposal.”



What was your inspiration for the feel and look for the wedding?

“I’m not a lover of fall foliage. So when we opted for a November wedding we wanted to skew winter. Giorgio and I wanted a downtown wedding with a modern yet rustic twist. We opted for birch bark and pine cones because of their versatility and elegant look.”

What was most important to you when planning the wedding?

“Food! Well, food and culture. Giorgio is from Peru and food is definitely a big part of their culture. Also, my work in the food industry meant that we wanted to impress guests with elegant food that appealed to the season. Our mains included cornish hens with bourbon mash and braised beef short ribs with glazed root vegetables.”

What details really stood out at the wedding?

“I’ll have to thank my mum for this. My mum hacksawed 100 pine cones so that we good use them as place card holders. Everyone loved them, and people even took them home as keepsakes.”



How did your occupation affect the menu and décor at the wedding?

“My work at The Hot Plate is all about making cooking fun and simple for home cooks. For the wedding, I wanted to keep decor simple and seasonal just like the food. Our menu included phyllo wrapped brie, foie gras with pickled scapes and other tasty bites. Our mains included cornish hens with bourbon mash and braised beef short ribs with glazed root vegetables. We were lucky with decor. The Berkeley Field House is renowned for its seasonal dishes as well as its impeccable service, gorgeous whitewashed walls and vintage looking chandeliers.”



What fun details did your guests really enjoy and respond to?

“Our guests loved the pine cone place card holders and mercury glass vases. The woodsy touch added warmth to the room. Our guests also loved what is known in Peru as ‘hora loca,’ also called ‘crazy hour.’ Hora Loca starts about an hour into dancing and usually involves costume pieces and the music taking it up a notch. For ours, I’m an experienced sailor and grew up on sailboats so it was only natural that we embraced the pirate spirit. We passed around eye patches, fake parrots, pirate hats, hooks and plastic swords. Guests got really into the party.”


Did you have a live band or a DJ?

“Giorgio is the music buff of the couple. He organized a string trio for the ceremony and reception. Instead of classic music we opted for contemporary music like Jason Mraz, Bruno Mars and even some Elvis Presley. For dinner and dancing we moved over to a DJ that kept the party going until 2 AM! Giorgio spent months organizing the music. We started by picking favorite Spanish and English songs and then broke it down to dinner and dancing. Every weekend, Giorgio and I would listen to the playlist while cooking for the week. We were able to edit down the list to favorites without any last minute stress.”


What do you think is important to splurge on?

“Definitely wine! The food was important, but when it came to wine Giorgio and I knew we wanted to go for quality. My parents, also wine lovers, had no problem indulging us in a number of tastings. We chose bottles that we loved, and would complement the food beautifully.”

What about where you can save money?

“We saved money with DIY invitations. With a little trial and error on Illustrator I was able to craft up a simple and elegant invitation that saved us hundreds of dollars. We also opted not to rent limos for the day.”



What advice do you have for other couples planning their wedding?

“Book the big stuff early to reduce stress. We booked everything early and enjoyed a stress-free summer. In September, we picked up where we’d left off and finalized last minute details. Also, make couple time. Even though you’ll be planning your wedding it is important that as a couple you carve out non-wedding talk time.”

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Photos by OliveStudio

Art That Speaks Volumes: Positive Messages For Your Home

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To celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday, we wanted to inspire you with his words, as well as other positive messages that will help you to live your life in a spirit of love. In Dr. King’s words, taken from his 1964 Nobel Prize speech in Oslo, “When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response which is little more than emotional bosh. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality.”



We’ve rounded up 10 positive messages for your home, some of which can be attributed to Dr. King, and others which operate in the same spirit.


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Make Your New Year a Happy Year — Here’s How

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Did you know that there’s a very simple way to increase your happiness this year? It doesn’t involve making more money, taking more vacations or cutting down your work hours. It involves something much simpler: writing down what you’re grateful for. According to Greater Good Magazine, the simple act of writing down these things you’re grateful for can greatly improve your life. The benefits include fewer illness symptoms, a better night’s sleep and more optimism about one’s life.

While keeping a gratitude journal is an easy way to accomplish this task, we like the idea of making the practice more household- or family-friendly with a gratitude jar. Every night, write down those things for which you’re grateful on a slip of paper, and then add it to the jar. Have members of your household do the same. At the end of each month, empty your jar and read your notes aloud, perhaps at a Sunday dinner. Then, archive the notes in a folder or envelope. At the end of the year, you can share all of the memories of the year together. Better yet: catalog your memories in a book or journal that everyone contributes to.

To get you started, we’ve rounded up a few of our own jars that would be perfect for a gratitude jar. See if you can find a match for your home below, and remember — let’s make this year one filled with gratitude!

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Source: Flickr User GranthWeb



How-To: Turn Resolutions into Art

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Looking for a few good words to get you on the right track for 2013? You’re certainly not alone. Typographical art is all the rage, and for good reason. Beautifully designed and inspiring in sentiment, these posters are a great way to add new art — and motivation — in this new year. We’ve found a variety of great posters that, with proper matting and framing, would create the perfect new artwork on your gallery wall.

We’re not the only fan of Francesca Ramos‘s reinterpretation of Gandhi’s 10 fundamental principals — Oprah has also featured the poster on her blog, The Life List. This design is available for free download courtesy of the artist. Hang it above your desk or on your foyer wall to remind yourself to be your best self in 2013.


Artist Emily McDowell designed this intentions poster for 2013 from her original illustration. She notes that “Intentions are stronger than resolutions. They say to your subconscious, ‘This is how things are gonna go around here from now on.'” The Declaration of Intentions for the New Year poster is large, at 13 by 19 inches,  and Emily sees it as a collaboration between the artist and the recipient: write in your personal details  before framing your poster.

Another personalized resolution poster that caught our eye is this Custom Resolution Poster from Etsy seller Porcini Button. The poster can be customised to show your own goals, resolutions and ambitions with up to 15 lines of text between 2-5 words long, along with your custom color scheme. 

We also love the look of this 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Typographical Poster. It seems like the perfect addition to your cubicle wall or office space in 2013! Follow this link to learn how you can get a file of this poster free from the artist, Jake Huhn.


Of course, you can also make your own custom resolution posters for 2013 if you have skills in InDesign. Or perhaps, learning that program is a great goal for the new year — and in the process, you can create a lovely piece of art for 2013.

10 Out-of-the-Ordinary Calendars to Kick Off 2013

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A new year means a new calendar, and we’ve found some beautiful ones to complement your unique sense of style. From mini-calendars to handmade letterpress varieties, we think that one of these may be just what you’re looking for.

This 2013 Letterpress Mini Calligraphy Desk Calendar features 12 loose calendar pages that are printed from all original illustration and calligraphy, with hand-colored holiday symbols. Display it on your work desk or give it to a friend as a sweet hostess gift.


See if one of our other choices catches your eye!


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An Elegant Winter Tablescape Perfect For the Holidays and Beyond

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Today we’re featuring a lovely holiday tablescape from Dawn at Inspired Living. We think this tablescape would also look gorgeous for any elegant winter dinner party.

What’s your decorating philosophy for holiday dinners and dinner parties?

“I don’t believe you have to go overboard decorating every last space to have a dramatic and eye catching home for the holidays.   A few simple, well thought out choices will go a long way to create a festive environment and to make your guests feel welcome and warm.  For example, the hurricanes and Pottery Barn candlesticks I used on our table were all of different heights and sizes, which keeps the display visually interesting.  All of the items were made from the same material, which unites the display.

Also, you can never go wrong with candlelight and greenery to add a little holiday warmth to the home. From there, you can layer in an additional element or two to add interest; on my tablescape, I stuck with mercury glass and silver. After all, keeping your decor simple will allow more time to focus on preparing for your guests and welcoming them to your home.”

 We know that you love to mix in vintage pieces — what’s your advice for making these pieces look beautiful and part of an overall decorating scheme?

“I like mixing new and old.  For this tablescape, I paired thrifted vintage low ball glasses with china we received as a wedding gift to create an elegant place setting.  For serving dishes, I might use my Pottery Barn Claro Cake Stand along with my grandmothers silver platter — another wedding gift — both of which spend most days displayed in our china cabinet.”

What’s your favorite aspect of decorating for the holidays?

“I love creating a warm and festive atmosphere that encourages our family and friends to gather around the fireplace to relax and enjoy company. I want people to come into my home and feel like they want to linger for awhile and stay.”

What do you appreciate about Pottery Barn’s pieces (like the Clarissa chandelier in your dining room)?

“Pottery Barn’s merchandise is eyecatching and beautiful; I’ve used my Pottery Barn purchases over and over again for years now. Furthermore, I feel that many of the items have a timeless quality. If you don’t have time to search out that perfect vintage find, chances are Pottery Barn will have something at the ready.  Numerous guests have asked me if my Pottery Barn Clarissa chandelier is an antique!”


Check out Dawn’s tips for creating a beautiful tablescape similar to hers!

  • Layer your linens. “For this tablescape, I used two tablecloths to create yet another layer of interest. One served as a traditional tablecloth while the other was folded to be used as a runner.”
  • Group like objects for an impactful display.  “In addition to the glass hurricane and candlestick display, I grouped several milk glass serving dishes and pedestals to create an interesting display to plan Paperwhite bulbs this year.”
  • Think outside of the box for the items you already have in your home.  “Next year, I might serve you a salad out of the very same milk glass dishes being used as planters this year.  Hope you don’t mind! Additionally, I plan to use the low ball glasses to serve a small appetizer on Christmas Eve. These same glasses currently serve as votives in other areas of our home while on other occasions they are used to serve a festive beverage.”
  • Go outside for more inspiration.  “My son loves bringing home acorns and pinecones.  I’ve used these to fill hurricanes and bowls around the house in the past.  This year we brought branches and greenery inside from around our yard.”

Source: Photos courtesy <Inspired Living

A Holiday House Tour With Our Big House on the Prairie

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Karen, who blogs at Our Big House on the Prairie, has a gift for creating a festive, cozy, holiday-decorated home. We’re so happy to share some photos from her lovely abode — you’re in for an absolutely festive tour. We also spoke with Karen about her decorating style and holiday traditions.

Can you give us a brief history of your home?

“Our home was built in 1907-08. We purchased the house in foreclosure in July 2010 and embarked on a two and a half year renovation. Every inch of the house was in need of tender loving care . . . and some parts needed a complete overhaul. We are thankful we survived the process.”

How do you use your office during the year? Does its use change at all over the holidays?

“I own a business where I help people care for their photos by getting them off their hard drives and into their lives. My office is where I preserve my own family’s memories and stories — and in the process help others do the same. I coach a team around the country, and all of that happens around my computer. It’s so important — both mentally and emotionally — to have a beautiful place to work. I use my Pottery Barn shelves to surround myself with my favorite things . . . photo albums, favorite needlework, a picture of my daddy, gifts from my children and my cherished collection of 17 Susan Branch journals. (For 17 years I have celebrated each day with written comments at bedtime in a journal.) This year I added my Top 40 movies to my shelves! My work is steady throughout the year, but my Pottery Barn project table probably sees a little more action around Christmas. My wish for the world: That every woman gets a Bradford Project Table.”

Can you tell us about all of the stockings and mittens you have hanging? There are a lot!

“We are a blended family of ten kids — and now six grandchildren! With spouses, our stocking count is up to sixteen! With every wedding I get to pick a new stocking. Our stockings are handknit in Bosnia by underprivileged women. Since we are adding grandchildren at an alarming (and wonderful!) rate -— 5 in this past year. I made an executive decision that the grandchildren would have mittens instead.”

Do you have a favorite room in your home?

“My favorite room would be the kitchen . . . and our bedroom . . . and the master bathroom . . . and my office. Ha.”

Are there any Pottery Barn products you used to decorate with this year that you particularly love?

“I loved bringing wrapped Christmas gifts home from Pottery Barn and incorporating them right into my decorating! Isn’t that why we love Pottery Barn, because everything coordinates? Right down to their wrapping paper, ribbon and tags! My friends are not going to get their gifts until the last minute. I loved seeing the way Pottery Barn filled glass decanters with ornaments in the store. I went home and did the same. My favorite new thing is the real wax flameless candles that you set on a timer with the touch of a button. Every night at 5:30 pm my candles all come on like magic and flicker for 5 hours. It has added a real magical feel to the house this holiday. And I know it is time to go to bed when all my candles are out — ha.”

“I also loved putting the Pottery Barn Kids chair Santa hats – on my PB kitchen stools, and I love the Pottery Barn mercury glass collection because I think it reflects the beauty of our leaded windows — no pun intended. This holiday I wrapped it in white toile netting and added vintage snow.”

Your tree is lovely! What kind is it? Is this how you usually decorate it every year?

“Our tree this year is a Douglas Fir. I like Frasier Firs, too. The important thing for me is fresh. “Life is too short for plastic greenery” is what I like to say. This year I did everything fresh, even the evergreen boughs on the mantels and at the front door . . . it made me happier. The tree is decorated with ornaments that have been lovingly collected over the years. If we tried, we could probably tell our family history with that Christmas tree.”

How are you celebrating the holidays this year? Are you hosting family?

“This year I am celebrating by creating a family recipe book with photos and family stories. It is actually Volume 2 of Mother Rabbit Cooks. Our family will gather to celebrate after the holidays because we alternate with the ‘outlaws’ and this isn’t our year.”

What advice do you have for others who want to enjoy their holiday decorating more?

“Force yourself to get it done early by being on a Christmas Home Tour or scheduling a big holiday Party. And make a great playlist of classic Christmas music.”

Why do you shop at Pottery Barn?

“I like one-stop shopping. I am not a mall shopper. I like having everything I love all in one place. I love beautiful, classic design. I love how everything in the store fits together and works together because I like my whole house to feel coordinated. I also like the way that my vintage Pottery Barn pieces work with the new stuff — and last year’s pillows mix and match with this season. I love the prints that make me want to stand and stare at them. I love the color palettes. I love getting my PB catalogs and being inspired . . . Not only are they a decorating guide, but they transport you to places that you can dream about creating for your own home. Somehow we learn about warmth and creating intimate spaces, color and good design just by flipping through the pages. They ‘teach us’ with pictures. I love feeling inspired by walking into the Pottery Barn store — and I love the kind people who work there. I loved renovating a home knowing that Pottery Barn had everything I needed — and wanted! From the light fixtures to the mirrors and house numbers.”

Take the full tour of Karen’s beautiful home!

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Source: Photos courtesy Our Big House on the Prairie/a>