Wednesday, May 9, 2018

10 questions with rachel ashwell about book 10

When I first learned that Rachel Ashwell’s latest book would be about her adoration of flowers, I gasped. After all, Rachel’s style is inspired by petals at every turn. Whether it’s a salvaged dresser embellished with painted swags, vintage wallpaper with floral motifs, or her own line of fabric with names like Royal Bouquet on Oyster (my favorite), blooms are a signature element of all things Ashwell.

Rachel’s tenth book, My Floral Affair: Whimsical Spaces and Beautiful Florals, is dessert for the eyes. Via photographs by Amy Neunsinger, Rachel leads us from Los Angeles to France, Norway, and England to swoon along at beautiful spaces accented with florals. From the aspirational to the inspirational, you’re sure to be motivated to bring even buttercups inside after leafing through the pages.

Here I am looking quite star-struck in 2014. Well, now that you have a visual of us, let's begin!

1. Hello, Rachel! What was your favorite flower as a child?
Daffodils. As a little girl growing up in England, it was a sign that spring was coming.

2. What is your favorite flower at this moment?
Always bluey-pink David Austin garden roses.

3. What is your favorite object to use as a vase?
I collect pretty shaped clear wine/drink bottles for single stems. I’m also partial to vintage vases and pitchers as often by the time they are deemed vintage their designs are nice and faded. I’ve collected quite a few from flea markets over the years. Occasionally I like something really fancy.

4. What is your favorite flower combination for a summer bouquet?
That’s hard, but probably a selection of pink and white garden roses. There’s just something so classic and nostalgic about a rose.

Second would be wildflowers. I love the casualness and organized chaos of flowers picked from a field.

5: Pick one and why: small floral bouquet or large arrangement?
There is something rather glamorous about a large display.

6. Pick one and why: peonies or roses?
Roses -- the ones in my garden are similar to peonies, but they have an amazing fragrance.

7. Describe your favorite shade of pink:
A bluey pink. Or hot pink. Just not salmon or coral.

8. What is your favorite fresh-flower scent?
I love gardenia and jasmine and lavender -- they emit a wonderful aroma, as well as a fragrant rose. I was once told when ladies walked up a pathway in the old days they would brush along lavender and capture the fragrance in their long skirts and petticoats.

9. Is there any flower you tend to avoid and if yes, what and why?
Bird of paradise. Was once given one by a date and that was it! It’s too orange and pointy.

10. Do you have any favorite floral designers?
I love the Fiore Design girls, Jennifer and Nicole in the US. In the U.K. Toria Britten, both featured in my book. I learned so much about their personalities observing how they would direct their vision with wire and frogs. Creating masterpieces of palette and shape. I consider myself a flowers “plopper” meaning I gather beautiful flowers and just plop them in a vase, trusting they will fall beautifully, different to a proper floral designer.

Thank you to Rachel for contributing to this blog post and to CICO Books for my review copy of My Floral Affair: Whimsical Spaces and Beautiful Florals and connecting us, once again! This beautiful book is brimming with inspiration... and permission to be a complete flower plopper!

Thank you for reading!



Sunday, April 22, 2018

my dollhouse design board

I contribute writing {and sometimes develop DIY projects} to a variety of home and lifestyle magazines, and I love love love it! I still pinch myself with each new assignment and finding my work on the newsstand still makes me as giddy as ever. It's always a pleasure to interview homeowners and inquire about the origin of every big and small decor choice. I'm always inspired to look around my own home with fresh eyes for ideas to explore, but some are just not possible either structurally or financially and that's where my curbside-scored dollhouses come into play!

When I'm not writing for magazines, I'm reading them! And one of my favorites is Country Living, which inspired this rustic bedroom in dollhouse no. 2. As you can see, I'm not overly obsessed with scale or perfection. The ceiling beams are painted coffee stirrers, the chair and TV were gifts from my longtime blogging friend Mercedes aka LibertyBiberty who is a magician when it comes to miniatures. 

Coffee stirrers played a big part in this room -- I used them to construct the bistro chairs and for bead-board paneling. I even mixed a tiny batch of Saltwash to give the green console table a layered look. Inspired by Maria of Dreamy Whites, twigs serve as curtain rods for pieces of lace trim.

Recently I did some spring zhushing around my home which lead to doing the same to my two dollhouses, both frozen in a state of decor-dormancy since November! A Shabby Chic fabric swatch tablecloth sets the stage for a guilt-free treat!

After completing articles for Boho Style I wanted to play with bolder patterns and black accents. At over $400 per roll, this Bloomsbury wallpaper from Anthropologie isn't in my budget but printing it out to estimated-scale works. This room is still very much a work-in-progress.

Boho meets Prairie in this little studio at the top of the stairs. The chair is from childhood -- anyone remember Japanese wooden apple tea sets? 

Selina Lake's latest book Garden Style, which I recently blogged about, has me slightly obsessed with botanical prints. Visit this post on my Instagram page to view an easy project.

This ode to Cath Kidston from dollhouse no. 1 featuring bits of stationery was lightened for Spring by swapping out dark furniture with a white slipcover sofa I constructed from cardboard and the cut-up cloth bag from a set of sheets (no-sew, of course).

I'm hoping to explore this concept more fully in a book. Wish me luck!

Thanks for reading!


Saturday, April 14, 2018

8 questions with selina lake about book 8

Spring is such a fickle season. One day it's cold, the next day it's not; the shovels are still accessible but so are the rakes. It's always during this chilly-bright season that I start thinking about making the yard pretty so the timing of Selina Lake's new book Garden Style couldn't be better. Inspired scenes, photographed to perfection by Rachel Whiting, are already filling my head with all kinds of plans! I'm a longtime admirer of Selina's work and can spot her editorial styling in an instant on the covers of magazines like Country Living UK and Country Homes & Interiors. When I visited London Selina and I met for tea, and she later penned the foreword to my second book Seaside Tinkered Treasures. She's a hero, and a friend.

This is Selina's eighth book so rather than the typical review, I thought it would be fun to ask her eight questions about book eight. Here we go!

1. What was your favorite flower as a child?
I loved roses and still do. My sister Aimee and I used to make our own ‘perfume’ with the roses petals we picked from our mum's roses bushes in the garden. (We mixed rose petals and water and decanted into glass bottles).

2. Favorite flower at this moment:
Right now it's blossom flowers. The trees here in the UK are blossoming -- it's been a late start to spring due to the weather this year but slowly the flowers are emerging. We have a white magnolia and a plum tree in our garden which both have beautiful flowers and I can see them from my office window. They won’t last long but while they do, I will enjoy them.

3. Favorite object to use as a vase:
I like to recycle glass bottles and jars and make displays with lots of them grouped together holding single stems of flowers and greenery.

4. Favorite flower combination for a spring bouquet in a vase:
I’m growing a few of my favourite spring bulbs in my garden at the moment and when they bloom I intend to harvest a few for a bouquet to display on our mantlepiece. These include ivory white thalia and scented sweet smiles narcissus with danceline tulips. I will mix them with  a few branches of tree blossoms.

5. Pick one pot and why: terra cotta or galvanized metal?
Galvanised metal every time. I love using old buckets as planters and in my book I share an idea for stencilling fleurs on them. {See above, Garden Style, page 54}

6. Favorite piece of gardening gear:
Definitely gardening gloves. I used to buy pretty ones but after all the weeding we did in our garden when we bought our house, I now use only heavy-duty gloves to protect my hands from thorns and stinging nettles.

7. Your go-to gardening tool:
I like tools with wooden handles and buy second-hand ones at vintage fairs and boot sales. I like to use spades and forks as decoration in the middle of our borders. {See above, Garden Style, page 61}

8. Favorite shade of green:

Oooh, tough one! I love green … I just painted a feature wall in our bedroom a really dark almost black green but I also love the pastel shade of green the shed on my book's cover is painted!

Thank you to Selina for contributing to this blog post and to Ryland Peters and Small for my review copy of Selina Lake: Garden Style: Inspirational Styling for your Outside Space. Well, I'm off to round-up some tin pots and wood crates, and tape some botanical prints to my shed window!

Thanks for reading!


Sunday, April 1, 2018

torie jayne homeware interview

Torie Jayne and I somehow found one another years ago via blogging and connected instantly over our shared preferences for faded pastels and simple crafts. I'm even featured in her first book, How to Show & Sell Your Crafts. So when Torie Jayne asked if I could help announce her first homeware product line which recently launched at Kickstarter, I didn't hesitate to say yes! I'm so excited and proud of her for taking the steps to make this happen {steps which I've been following at TorieJayneDesign on Instagram}. Torie's line includes fine bone china, kitchen textiles, melamine, and more. It's all made in the UK and features a fresh open-lace motif on a limited palette of silver grey, opal blue, blue haze, and cloud pink. So fascinated by this venture, I thought it be fun to interview Torie about her process and product line!

Hello, Torie! So, how did you decide on Kickstarter to launch your product line?
Hello, Elyse! I wanted to launch my homeware range on a platform that would be accessible to all my blog readers around the world. Somewhere I could do a hard launch and focus my attention, take pre-orders on my homeware range and get valuable feedback from a broad range of potential customers.

What I loved about Kickstarter was that it was an inspiring platform; where creatives can share their projects to an audience of people who believe, respect, and want to see the vision. I also loved the idea that you could start with one or two products or in my case three and once you reached certain targets you could introduce new products in the form of stretch goals.

Was it a long process from design to finished products?
Yes! It took much longer than I thought to get the samples perfect and working with three different manufacturers complicated the process. However, I was passionate that I wanted to offer a range of products at launch so it was key to work with multiple manufacturers from the beginning. The most difficult part was getting the colours right across three different mediums: fine bone china, textiles and melamine. I went to the manufacturers’ factories on several occasions to learn more about their processes and to see what I could do to help get the colours to match.

What was the most fun part?
Oooh! That’s a tricky one, I had so much fun along the way! I guess I was the most excited when I had finally approved all the samples in the full range and they were laid out on my kitchen table ready to be photographed.

I live in the South of England and all the factories were hours and hours away from where I live so I got to go on lots of fun mini adventures staying at friends and family while I visited the factories.

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all fun. There were of course times when I was really stressing out about how I would get it all done. Like how I would make a video never having done anything like that! But the overwhelming support from friends and family who I shared the products with pre-launch kept me going.

What was the biggest lesson or take-away for you from this process?
That it is best to get the colour correct on one product first rather than trying to do it simultaneously on all of them! The biggest personal lesson I learned is that I can’t do everything by myself and it is ok to ask for help.

What are your next steps?
During the Kickstarter campaign I am hoping to smash through the target which will let me start introducing stretch goals of more of the products that I have ready to go… I’m dying to share more of the range!

After my Kickstarter campaign finishes and I get to send all my wonderful backers their products I will be launching my online store on

My biggest aim this year is to show my product range at a retail show; I really want to meet my potential customers in person and get their feedback on the range.

I wish Torie all the very best of luck on this project! Be sure to visit Torie Jayne's Kickstarter page for product details and a charming video which includes peeks at the manufacturing process!

Thank you for reading and Happy Spring wishes!


Saturday, March 3, 2018

words to live by

Back in January I stated that "flourish" would be my guiding word for 2018. And just like that "healthier eating plan" that hasn't quite taken hold, I need to keep reminding myself that each moment is a fresh start to live the life I want, to thrive and to flourish. And like those containers of walnuts and berries at the ready, I've been keeping the word flourish close by.

Recently I hosted my very first at-home Crafternoon. What took me so long? I invited my closest friends from high school {Cindy, Ann, and Lorraine} and asked everyone to let me know a word inspiring to them. I decided that we would make paper collages on blank art canvases using our words. I always find cutting and pasting paper so relaxing and uncomplicated, making it a perfect project that wouldn't prohibit conversation.

I placed words over images that I thought would be appealing to each friend and printed them out. I accomplished this using PicMonkey (website or app) but any word processing program will do, or of course, good ol' stamps and ink. A buffet of paper was assembled -- everything from old calendars to scrapbooking paper to vintage French dictionary pages.

There were bouquets of scissors, vases filled with rolls of patterned fabric tape and glue sticks, and you know I was in-the-moment because I barely took any photos!

A pot-luck lunch kicked-off our agenda. An inexpensive party tablecloth from Target kept things fuss-free and cheerful. This was also a birthday luncheon so there were cupcakes to look forward to once the tinkering was done.

I love how each piece turned out and how they're all so unique and personal to us. {Click to enlarge}

Making time for friends and creativity seems like part of a good plan to flourish in the year ahead.

Thank you as always for reading!


Monday, January 1, 2018

my {writing} year in review

Happy New Year from bright and below-freezing Rhode Island!

Last night at the stroke of midnight the idea of a new chapter began. 2017 was filled with many good things but was also disappointing in some ways both personally, nationally, and globally, and I'm more than ready to flip the page. Scanning through my Instagram feed -- which serves as a nice visual short-hand -- I realized that as a working writer, the year was better than I first recalled. I'm generally preoccupied with what piece of work is coming out next and don't always take that moment to celebrate making good use of my English degree from Rhode Island College to write about subjects near and dear to my heart: making pretty spaces and things. This post is more like my own diary so if it feels self-indulgent, you've been warned. ;)

The "IKEA book" was released in French in February and while I never received or purchased a copy (and I believe there's an edition in Korean as well), it still counts as having a book out in 2017, oui?!

I was contacted in late 2016 by USA TODAY to provide a quote for their annual HOME magazine, and what began as a blurb turned into a sidebar for the issue that was at my local market by March.

I always enjoy writing "home tours," which generally begin with my receiving photographs and interviewing homeowners about what lead to their decorating choices. For the Spring issue of Prairie Style, Kelly Keen shared about the makeover her home received from pals Amie and Jolie Sikes, better known as Junk Gypsy, for "Rustic Redo." For "Southwest Sanctuary" I wrote about the shared Albuquerque vacation home of sisters Kathy Fredrickson and Sarah DiPaolo. Very fun chatting with creative homeowners around the country!

I provided two projects with essays and instructions to Somerset Home for Spring 2017: an altered picture frame and stamped insert titled "Explore More," and jars painted in a mix of decoupage medium and food coloring in "Rose-Colored Glasses."

A trip to Home Depot for a new washing machine lead me to helping myself to a few laminate samples and tinkering them into what would become "Go With the Grain," my first contribution to GreenCraft.

The distressed sign at a farm stand served as inspiration for a Somerset Life how-to detailed in the blog post farm stands and newsstands.

I revisited memories of Paris and returned to my tinkering origins of fabric strips, paint and tin cans for "Les Jolies Pendules" in Somerset Home, Autumn 2017.

I always love writing about homes where space is an issue, like Rachel Mullen's Parisian-inspired Minnesota house in "Practical Sophistication" for French Country Style.

On newsstands now is my article "No Place Like Home" in the premiere issue of Modern Country, which showcases the less-is-more aesthetic of Melisa James' Boise apartment -- with some really cool space-saving tricks!

For the Winter 2017 issue of Prairie Style, I used one of my favorite words (plucky) in "Flown the Coop" about Tiffany Eckhardt's shop in Burton, Texas; wrote about Betsy Johnson Anderson's cozy cabin by the Colorado River in "Family Heirloom" and the fun-meets-utilitarian style of Jim Healy's Connecticut home in "Collected Wisdom."

Using a trio of hand mirrors from Dollar Tree, paper napkins and glue, I wrote, styled and photographed the "Vanity Project" tutorial for the Summer 2017 issue of Romantic Country.

I created the Cath Kidston-inspired decorated picture frame tutorial "British Accent" for the May issue of Romantic Homes.

For Rustic Weddings I interviewed new-bride Summer Hamrick for an article that showcased her beautiful but down-to-earth wedding held at a state park in South Carolina.

Pernilla Frazier's Pawtuxet home in "Mix Master" for Vintage Style provided an opportunity to shine a spotlight on Rhode Island friends and small businesses.

It was so special for me to welcome the return of my fairy godmother Fifi O'Neill, to my little house along with her longtime photographer Mark Lohman and his son Taylor, to style and shoot for the Spring 2018 Romantic CountryOn newsstands now, the eight-page spread titled "A Garden of Fresh Ideas" was written by Sandy Soria, and includes the sewing magic of my dear friend Lorraine Miranda. The issue also includes six DIY projects that appear toward the back of the issue as well as the two-page "Playing House," all about using a dollhouse as your own design practice space, that I penned.

So, what's in store for the year ahead? Well, my fingers are crossed about a book proposal and I just submitted two articles for the next issue of Boho Style, but other than that, blank pages await!

I have selected flourish as my word for 2018. May we all flourish in the year ahead! As always, thank you for visiting and reading!