featuring guest mystery authors; crafting tips and projects; recipes from food editor and sleuthing sidekick Cloris McWerther; and decorating, travel, fashion, health, beauty, and finance tips from the rest of the American Woman editors.
Showing posts with label decorating. Show all posts
Showing posts with label decorating. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


photo by Yocto
Are you planning a bit of painting this summer? Many of us who weathered the recent horrendous winter and waterlogged spring are about to grab paint cans and paintbrushes to touch up exterior sections of our homes that took hits during the last few months. Or you might be tackling your entire house. For me, it’s my front porch, steps, and back deck. Others will be devoting time to a bit of freshening up interior walls with new coats of paint.

If you’ll be joining me in the paint bucket brigade, here’s a handy tip to avoid paint drips running down your brush and onto your hands when you need to hold your brush in a vertical position:

Cut a small slit in the plastic lid from a can of coffee. Poke the paintbrush handle through the slit. The plastic lid will catch those drips and keep your hands clean.

Monday, April 7, 2014


For those of you who love the shabby chic look, here’s a simple way to make Easter eggs that doesn’t involve piercing shells and blowing out the insides. Make a grouping and display them on a bed of excelsior or in a bowl for a centerpiece.

Shabby Chic Easter Egg

Materials (for each egg):
3” Styrofoam egg
ball of jute
tacky glue
straight pins
scraps of ivory ribbon and lace trim

Place a small amount of tacky glue on the top of the egg. Place the end of the jute at top point of the egg and secure with one of the straight pins. Begin winding the jute around the egg, adding glue as you work to cover the entire egg. Secure end of jute with another straight pin.

Glue lace trim around center of egg, securing with pins. Make a bow from ribbon and glue over lace.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


For those of you hooked on HGTV and the DIY Network, you probably drool over stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, and solid cherry cabinets while you stare glumly at your old appliances, chipped Formica countertops, and laminate cabinets. Even if you can’t afford the stainless and the granite and the cherry, there are ways to spruce up a tired kitchen for very little money.

For the cost of a can of primer and a can of paint, you can give your cabinets new life. The secret is knowing how to prep the surfaces properly. Home improvement centers offer classes. Invest a few hours in learning how to do the job right before tackling the project at home, and you’ll be ecstatic with the results.

Don’t stop with the cabinets. Consider painting your kitchen table and chairs. Then add new seat cushions. Upholstered kitchen chair seats are simple to reupholster. All you have to do is unscrew the seats from the bottom of the chairs. The fabric is merely stapled in place. Remove the staples, and use the old fabric as a pattern to cut new fabric. Staple on the new fabric, then screw the seats back in place. Ta-da! You’ll have a brand new looking table and chairs. Buy a little extra fabric, and make matching valances and/or curtains for your kitchen windows.

If you can afford to put a few extra dollars into your makeover, consider replacing the handles and drawer pulls on your cabinets and updating the lighting.

Finally, consider tiling your worn Formica countertops. If you have your heart set on granite, but your wallet won’t cooperate, consider granite tiles as an alternative. Once again, you can get how-to’s and advice at your local home center.

photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/kitchendesigner/482490489/">thekitchendesigner.org</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">cc</a>

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


2014 Color of the Year

Unless you went to art school or work as a decorator or designer, you probably have never heard of Pantone, but Pantone is the leading authority and provider of professional color standards for design industries and manufacturers around the world. Through their Color Institute they study how color influences us—our thoughts, our emotions, and our physical reactions—especially when it comes to our shopping habits.

Each year Pantone announces their Color of the Year. In coming up with their selection they scour the world looking for color influences. They take into account the entertainment industry, traveling art collections, up-and-coming artists, movies in production, technology, popular travel destinations, socio-economics, and even upcoming sporting events that will capture the world’s attention.

When Pantone talks, designers and manufacturers around the world listen. Their yearly choice influences product development decisions in fashion, home décor, industrial design, packaging, graphics, and more.

The color they’ve chosen as the Color of the Year for 2014 is Radiant Orchid. Does that mean we’ll be seeing orchid automobiles? Doubtful. But we will be seeing Radiant Orchid cropping up in many other areas. The color was prevalent during the spring 2013 fashion shows and is starting to pop up on the red carpet as awards show season begins.

We’ll also start seeing more and more Radiant Orchid in decorating schemes as an accent color played against neutrals, complementing olive and hunter greens, and paired with turquoise, teal and light yellows.

So what do you think? Will you be influenced by Radiant Orchid? Will it find a place in your wardrobe or home?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Helena Fairfax was born in Uganda to an Irish mother and British father. She’s lived in Germany and Austria and now resides in Wuthering Heights territory. She joins us today to share her love of decorating with antiques and tell us about her latest novel. Learn more about Helena at her website. 

Decorating with Antiques

Buying and selling antiques has become a popular pastime, and using antiques in your home is a great way to provide individual style.  Antiques are also more affordable than you might think.  Most antique shops don’t just stock the more valuable items such as Royal Worcester vases or seventeenth century oak furniture.  You will find an array of items covering a range of prices…and there’s nothing more fascinating than picking your way through the display!

Incorporating antiques into a modern home might seem like a contradiction in terms, but one or two vintage items of furniture can make a striking addition. If you are not keen on bringing in larger items, then a few vases, a bowl or an antique print can add interest.

It’s easy to get carried away in antique shops (or maybe that’s just me!), so to prevent your house looking like a mish-mash of styles, try to concentrate on your color scheme, or perhaps on one particular period whose style you love.

My terraced house in the north of England, for example, was built during the Victorian era, but I personally find the typical Victorian style a little too ornate and fussy.   The Victorians were great ones for frills and bows and tartan dresses, parlors cluttered with ornaments, and showy jewelry. 

The art nouveau period, at the turn of the twentieth century, swept away all these frills and furbelows, and it's a style I love.

Art nouveau is French for "new art."  It's hard to sum up in words what this new art meant, but I'll try!  To me, art nouveau is all about dramatic, curving lines with themes and colours taken from nature.  Sadly, the original stained glass windows in my house are long gone :( , but I have a replica which encapsulates the art nouveau style.

A stained glass window is one of the more pricey ways of incorporating your chosen style in your décor, but having the style you want needn’t cost a great deal.  For example, I picked up a cheap, battered wardrobe in an antique shop and covered it in a modern wallpaper.  It’s also possible to buy replica antiques, such as the replica lampshade which hangs in my hallway.

Buying antiques for your home is a great way to show your individual style.  And who knows…one day the piece you bought for a song might be worth a fortune :)

The heroine of my latest novel is a woman who knows all about the world of antiques, but maybe a little less about affairs of the heart…until she meets my gorgeous hero!

The Antique Love
One rainy day in London, Wyoming man Kurt Bold walks into an antique shop off the King’s Road and straight into the dreams of its owner, Penny Rosas. Lively, spirited and imaginative, Penny takes this handsome stranger for a romantic cowboy straight from the pages of a book. Kurt certainly looks every inch the hero…but he soon brings Penny’s dreams to earth with a thump. His job is in the City, in the logical world of finance—and as far as Kurt is concerned, romance is just for dreamers. Events in his childhood have shown him just how destructive love can be. Now he’s looking for a wife, right enough, but what he wants is a marriage based on logic and rational decisions. Kurt treats Penny like he would his kid sister, but when he hires her to help refurbish his beautiful Victorian house near Richmond Park, it’s not long before he starts to realize it’s not just his home she’s breathing life into. The logical heart he has guarded so carefully all these years is opening up to new emotions, in a most disturbing way…

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Diane Vallere lives in a world where popcorn is a breakfast food and Doris Day movies are revered for their cultural significance. After over twenty years in the fashion industry, she now writes full time from her home in Los Angeles, California. She launched her own detective agency at ten years old and has maintained a passion for shoes, clues, and clothes ever since. Learn more about her and her books at her website and blog.

My name is Madison Night. I own my own mid-century modern interior decorating business in Lakewood, Texas. I didn’t arrive at my decorating education through college, but instead from a lifelong love of watching Doris Day movies. The sets of movies like Pillow Talk, That Touch of Mink, Lover Come Back, and The Thrill of it All provide ample inspiration and act as a kind of documentary for me when it comes to designing a room from that era.

But first: Here’s how I approach a new room design, which I think is a concept that would be successful across various decorating styles. I ask the owners to show me their absolute favorite item in the room. Sometimes it’s a lamp they bought at a yard sale. Sometimes it’s a painting. Sometimes it’s a cookie jar they inherited from a favorite family member. Most of the time it’s an oddball piece that seems not to fit. My job is to design a room around that piece, to look at what is already there and determine what fits and what doesn’t. (Side note: once, when a homicide detective mocked my job, I pointed out that what I do when designing a room is very similar to what he does when assessing clues--look at what is there, figure out what fits and what doesn’t. But that’s a story for another day.)

Using pictures from a room I designed for a client who write mysteries, I’ll show how her dining room came together.

We started with a lamp that she bought for $10 at a flea market.

Next, I suggested yellow walls, a classic color from the midcentury era, and a nice complement to the turquoise and white of the lamp.

I installed floating shelves from IKEA next to the lamp and added more mid-century knickknacks from the client’s collection, along with a whimsical painting by Los Angeles artist Josh Hickman.

 Since this is a dining room, we knew the table and chairs would constitute the major focus of the room. One wall was dissected with windows, so my focus became the remaining wall. I anchored the wall with a silly framed work of yarn art found at a flea market, and mirrored the floating shelf/knickknack display on the opposite side to create balance. The client invested in a Saarinen-style tulip table and chairs (in yellow to coordinate with the walls) and the room was complete.

 Mid-century design relies on concepts of minimalism and right angles, but also embraces color and whimsy. And even though this style is my specialty, I think there are a few takeaways here for you, regardless of your style:

1.             Identify your favorite item in a room and rebuild the room around that item.
2.             Don’t be afraid of paint.
3.             Decorating doesn’t have to be expensive to be effective, but it should show personality.
4.             Don’t ignore DIY and chain stores when it comes to things like storage or shelving. Home Depot, Lowes, Target, IKEA, and The Container Store are a few of my favorites.
5.             Flea markets are your friend.
6.             Fresh flowers are just good sense!

If you love mid-century design and Doris Day like I do, you’ll enjoy these resources: Atomic Ranch Magazine [http://www.atomic-ranch.com/], retro renovation [http://retrorenovation.com/], Discovering Doris [http://www.dorisdaytribute.com/blog/].

Next time you redecorate, remember to have fun!

That Touch of Ink
When mid-century modern interior decorator Madison Night receives a five thousand dollar bill in the mail, she knows it’s a message from her past. Doris Day movies help with inspiration for her business, but her favorite actress can’t help when Madison’s lover comes back. After finding a corpse at a local numismatist, she follows a circuit of rare dollars and common sense to expose a kidnapping plot, a counterfeit operation, and the true price of her independence.

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013


When you think of wallpaper, do you have visions of your grandmother’s house? Chickens scampering around the kitchen walls? Enormous floral bouquets adorning the bedroom walls? Seahorses cavorting above the bathroom sink and tub?

Wallpaper has come to represent old-fashioned decorating in the minds of many women. However, lately we’re seeing a resurgence of wallpaper on home and decorating shows. The right wallpaper used judiciously can create quite a statement in a room.

Here’s the trick: keep to the philosophy of “less is more” when contemplating the use of wallpaper. Instead of covering all four walls in a room, pick a focal wall.

Want to make a statement but fear an entire wall might be too much of a statement? Create a wallpaper border around a window or cover a headboard with wallpaper. Paper the backs of built in shelves or the drawer fronts of a chest. Use wallpaper to cover a lampshade or the top of an end table or coffee table. (Tip: for tabletops apply several coats of acrylic varnish to the wallpaper afterwards.)

Remember, you’re only limited by your imagination.

Monday, August 26, 2013


photo by Misocrazy

Joseph Rodriguez writes about hobbies and arts that help with stress relief. His recent work is on earning an online psychology degree.—AP

A Creative Craft: How to Discover the Benefits of Quilting
Making a quilt is more than just making a bed covering to keep you warm at night. It’s about expressing yourself through the art of sewing. Quilting is an inspirational and creative craft that allows you to create wall art, comfort a sick child or adult, travel and bond with other quilt makers, create a source of income and more. Discover the joys and benefits of quilting by looking at the sewing craft through the eyes of adventure.

Wall Art
Express your own individual taste by creating a quilt to hang on the wall of your home. A handmade quilt can be made any size and any color to perfectly fit into your unique living space. A full size quilt often is the perfect solution to add color and texture to the large, open wall space in homes with high vaulted ceilings. Mini-quilts can be handcrafted to tell a family story, and/or matted and framed to become a priceless heirloom. When friends come to your home and see your unique wall art, they will be requesting their own unique pieces and a business can be born.

Comfort the Sick
A personal touch of a hand-crafted lap quilt will bring comfort and warmth to a sick child or adult. A medium sized quilt, just right to fit over the top of a hospital bed or across the lap of someone who is ailing, will benefit both the giver and receiver. Taking your time to create a unique quilt for someone who is sick will minister to both you and the recipient on many different levels.

A handmade quilt gift does not have to be reserved for the sick only but would also make an outstanding gift on many occasions. A wedding gift, baby shower gift or as something unique to give to a college-bound teen. A quilt can be made to suit the recipients, the occasion and still allow the creator to express themselves through their sewing talents.

Travel and Bond
Quilt shows and workshops occur regularly all across the U.S. and are usually open to the public. Quilt makers can and should travel to various venues, near or far, and meet like-minded seamstresses and form bonds of friendships. These events allow for displaying and selling your handmade quilt items, learning new sewing techniques and gaining new ideas for future projects. You never know who you might meet at such an event and a new business venture could be formed along with a new friendship.

Stress Relief
Immersing yourself in the quilt-making process is therapeutic. Shopping for fabric, selecting the design, cutting and sewing, the whole creative process keeps the mind and body active while relieving stress. Quilting can be done seated or standing, so no matter what fitness level you’re at (or hope to be at), you can adjust to doing most of the work in whatever way suits you.

Creative Covering
Quilts aren't only for covering beds—you can cover a multitude of household objects with quilts to make a decorating statement. A couch back, chair, ottoman or table top can easily be covered with a quilt. Cover a window, shower curtain liner or create a room divider with a lovely quilt. Look around your home for creative and inspirational ways to use quilts, and you'll never be left bored or wanting for more.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


Those of you who follow this blog know that Anastasia loves to use buttons in her crafts. Just do a search on the blog, and you’ll find quite a few button projects. However, buttons can have other, more practical, uses and not just for keeping your clothes secured. Here’s one of my favorites:

Not all of us are lucky enough to have several bathrooms in our home. Many of us have to share a bathroom with one, two, or even more family members. Few of us buy different colored towels for each member of the family. We buy colors that coordinate with our bathroom decor, and that’s usually no more than two colors, if not just one. And that means your husband or one of your kids often grabs the wrong towel. Sound familiar?

To cut down on towel confusion, assign each member of the family a color. Sew a button of that color on the corner of each person’s towel, and you’ve solved the problem.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


No matter the size of your home, everyone always needs more storage, but organizers can be expensive. Here’s a tip to help maximize the space you have without putting a huge dent in your wallet.

Do you like the look of baskets? They make great storage for everything from magazines in the den to mittens in the mudroom. But baskets can be really expensive, right? Not if you know where to buy them. Head to your local chain craft store like Michael’s. They sell a huge variety of baskets at quite reasonable prices, even more reasonable when they’re on sale. They also offer weekly coupons for 40% off regularly priced items.

Because baskets come in all shapes and sizes, you can use them to organize in every room of your home. In the bathroom, they’re great for everything from toiletries to towels. Place one on top of your toilet tank for a spare roll of toilet paper and a box of tissues. Keep a larger one under the sink to corral your hair dryer, flat iron, etc.

Line your pantry shelves with baskets to organize bagged foods such as pastas, cereals, and chips.

Baskets are great storage for a kid’s room as well. Instead of a toy box, place a row of baskets along a wall to separate different types of toys--blocks in one, cars and trucks in another, etc.

Need to label your baskets? Buy miniature chalk boards at the crafts store and hot glue them to the ends of the baskets. Write the contents of the baskets on the chalkboards. If you decide to switch things around, just erase the board and relabel.  

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


Award-winning author E. F. Watkins specializes in paranormal mystery and suspense. She’s also a founding member of the Garden State Speculative Fiction Writers. Today she’s here to discuss decorating with us. Seem like an odd combination? Read on. Learn more about E. F. at her website and more about Dark Music here. -- AP

Quinn Matthews, the heroine/sleuth of my new paranormal mystery Dark Music, writes about architecture and interior design for a living. She buys the Victorian house of her dreams in a quiet New Jersey suburb, only to discover it is haunted. The ghosts awaken latent psychic abilities Quinn didn't know she possessed, turn her life upside down and even thwart her attempts to sell the place. The only way she can lay them to rest is to solve a 100-year-old crimethe murder of the house's first owner, whose love life was far from "Victorian"!

All of this should be enough to keep any single 30-something busy, but Quinn graciously has taken time out from both her journalistic career and her sideline as a psychic sleuth to offer a few tips on decorating a 19th-century house on a slim budget:

The basic care and feeding of a Victorian home can strain anyone's finances, before you even think of furnishing it to suit the period. Good antiques from more than 100 years ago don't come cheap! If you weren't lucky enough to find a stash of these in your attic, here are a few ways to “cheat” with style:

* Scour vintage shops for pieces from the 1940s, which often had a neo-Victorian look. You should be able to find plenty of solid wooden furniture with curves, carving, inlay and other ornate touches. The pieces may be a bit more simplified than high Victorian, but that just makes them easier to dust—and much cheaper!

* If you love the lines of a piece but not the finish, you can strip it and refinish it—which calls for some real skill and elbow grease—or you can just prime and paint it. For the "shabby chic" effect, paint it white or a light pastel shade, change the knobs to cut-glass or flowered ceramic, and maybe add an old-fashioned floral decal in a key spot.

* Want the effect of dramatic Victorian wall treatments without spending a lot on wallpaper? Get a deep wallpaper border in a style you like, apply it near the ceiling and paint the rest of the wall to coordinate. Rich shades like rose, rust and gold are true to the period, though you may want to go lighter if your rooms are small.

* Intact throw pillows from 100 years ago are hard to come by, so try 1940s barkcloth in a romantic floral. The full drapery panels can be pricey, but all you need for a pillow or two is a remnant. Center a partial landscape or big burst of flowers on a round or square pillow form, and trim it in satiny braid or fringe for a Victorian look.
* If you like to needlepoint or crochet, you can make your own pillow covers in Victorian styles. Sometimes you can find an old needlepointed pillow “front” among the linens in an antique shop—just use a sturdy, solid-colored cotton or velvet for the back. Tack an old, crocheted doily onto a plain or calico pillow to give it that turn-of-the-century look.

* Have any old photos of your ancestors from that period? Display them—or copies if the originals are too frail—in antique or antique-looking frames. They'll add a touch of your own, personal past to your decor.

* Found a battered old trunk in the basement or attic? Clean it up yourself, or let a professional restore it, then display it as a coffee table or a funky storage piece. Finally, be sure to hang onto any contents of the trunk—such as period clothing, keys, a scrapbook or a journal—that provide clues to the history of your house. They might come in handy, just in case it turns out to be haunted! (Trust me on this…)

Monday, January 14, 2013


Jute & Sea Shells Container

Is winter getting you down? Can’t wait for summer sunshine and trips down the shore? Put yourself in a summer state of mind with a summery craft project. This jute and sea shells decorated container will look great with some of the other shell crafts we’ve previously featured. Use it in the bathroom to hold your hair dryer and brush or in the kitchen for utensils or on your desk for scissors, pens, and pencils.

Materials: coffee can, 1/4” sisal rope (a 50 foot package will be enough to cover the coffee can and a matching soup can for smaller items), assorted sea shells, hot glue gun and glue sticks

1. Using hot glue and beginning at the lower edge of the can, tack the cut end of the jute to the can. Wind the jute around the can, gluing every few inches.

2. Continue gluing jute around metal top edge of can. Trim jute when can is completely covered.

3. Glue sea shells to can in desired arrangement.

Additional sea shell crafts from previously posted blogs can be found at the following links:

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


Take a deep breath! Christmas is over. Sometime within the next week or so you’ll start packing away all the holiday decorations and taking down the tree. For many of us, our homes look really bare and drab at that point, and we get the decorating bug. A fresh coat of paint can work wonders to spruce up a room.

One of the hottest decorating color trends is gray. Gray is both sophisticated and modern and is a great neutral color for walls. You can create some really dramatic looks by filling a gray wall with a grouping of black and white photos framed in black wooden frames of varying sizes. Frame some full size, others with white mats. Use family photos or landscapes or a combination of both.

Don’t have any black and white photos? You can easily create them from your color photos by printing them out yourself on your computer or having them printed at your local photo shop. Or look for calendars with images of old photos. The photo above is of the Flat Iron Building in New York, taken in 1913. I plan to frame it, along with several others from a 2012 calendar, to make a grouping for my dining room.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


When we think of Christmas decorating, we often think of angels. Today author Patricia Bohnert shares with us some interesting facts about angels. Writing as PA Bees, Patricia is a published short story author and an aspiring novelist. Her published works include Marjorie's Art Find and Intersection of Intent. Learn more about her at her website. -- AP  

December seems a good month to talk about angels.  Whether you have an angel tree topper with white lights under her robes and she holds her own lit candles in her hands (yes, I have this angel) or like to join in to sing “Angels We Have Heard On High” on the radio because of the melismatic rise and fall of the ‘O’ in the refrain Gloria, (melismatic, that’s a cool word) angels are all around us in December.

Have you ever heard of the book The Watkins Dictionary of Angels by Julia Cresswell?  I do not know how many of these books were sold, but I picked one up at a used book sale and it looked like it had never been opened.  What a shame!  It is fascinating reading. 

There are over 2,000 entries, in alphabetical order, relating to angels and angelic beings.  That is a ton of research.  Something the author, Ms. Cresswell, must be very good at as she has a number of books in print having to do with names including three books dedicated to Scottish, Irish, and British first names.  Two of her other books are The Penguin Dictionary of Cliches and A Dictionary of Allusions.  I need to find both of these books; my curiosity is aroused!

Back to angels for a minute, many angels seem to be in charge of a specific month, day of the week, or location.  Nonanrin presides over Friday.  Really?  Was the word Friday established when this angel was named?  Perhaps I am taking this too literally.  Days of the week must have been designated in some way and somewhere there is a translation.  But, if we are to use the name Nonanrin, then I want to know the REAL name of Friday back when it was decided Nonanrin was in charge.  (Writers can be such a pain, can’t we?)

And take Rasliel, for example.  What a self-promoter he was.  Rasliel was one of the angels of the eighth lunar month.  If you say the name of Rasliel, and presumably the others of the eighth lunar month, ‘in each thing that thou wilt do … thou shalt profit.’  Who wouldn’t go around mentioning Rasliel’s name?  That is, if you can pronounce it correctly.  I am sure the charm does not work if you mispronounce his name.  I hate that, don’t you?

This is not a book I read every day.  But, when I want to use a symbolic name in a story I often turn to it.  In my short story “Daniel” (God is my judge) there are only two characters, Daniel and Sahaman.  It is a story about coincidences, geocaching, and finding love.

Sahaman (an angel of the ninth lunar month) is a name I can see being used today.  Putting her in the story gave me a chance to play up the significance of the number nine.  Without The Watkins Dictionary of Angels and Julia Cresswell this story would never have been written.
Thank you Ms. Cresswell for an interesting read and a fun short story idea!   And know that at least one non-academic has thoroughly thumbed your book.  And keep up the good work, after all, ‘Hey, you’ as an email address would never work for millions of users; we need names.

Have a very Merry Christmas.

Intersection of Intent

One woman’s desperate act starts an apocalypse of events for the residents of New Minden, Ohio. Twenty years later deceit, hidden motives, stale leads, and fresh clues intersect with murder and mayhem when Jacob, Keith, and Bobby, three of the town’s sons, look for the truth. All have their eyes on the young librarian, Colleen – not all for good intent. Intersection of Intent.