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Posted on: July 24th, 2014 by Darla | No Comments

No one else gets as excited as I do about things like concrete and jigsaw blades and spray paint as my girls at Haven Conference do. I just got back from 3 very full days of blog classes, mingling, and DIY projects, and I just HAD to share.

One of the best things about Haven this year was the people I met at Haven last year. I’ve been quietly stalking friends like Cynthia (who apparently still does not actually have a blog) and Tracey and Linda and Anne all year, and we finally got to meet up again. It’s like summer camp for big girls! Big girls who love power tools.Haven Conference 2014

I love, love, love meeting with the product vendors. I get to see what’s new and shiny, and then share that with you. Unlike your basic trade show event, companies I met at Haven last year are interested to hear what we’re doing that’s creative and interesting. In fact, several of them like Rust-Oleum and Annie Sloane Chalk Paint and HomeRight are interested in helping make the Habitat for Humanity events (coming up on 8/7 and 8/16) a really great event for you. They love reading our blog stories just as much as you do, and that’s fun for us writers.

Haven Conference 2014

I always learn so much here. if you see a few changes in my site and blog over the next few weeks, you’ll be seeing some Haven learnin’ going into place. I hope it makes my articles even better to read and easier to find.

While I loved every single moment of the conference, there were definitely some highlights. Meeting Mike Holmes was a thrill. Getting Mike Holmes to autograph my arm was a chuckle. Being able to brag about it the rest of conference, well, I just don’t know where to go from there.

Mike Holmes and me at Haven Mike Holmes and me at Haven Conference 2014 Mike Holmes and me at Haven Conference 2014

After hanging with Mike, the only thing that could come close was seeing my Ryobi friends. Man, if I ever have to go work at a corporation again, I want to work there. They have too much fun, and they get to play with tools all day long. They are the best bunch of folks, and I thought that before they threw the best party of the summer! Thanks, guys!

Ryobi team at Haven Conference 2014

Tom Bury, construction manager on Restaurant Impossible and spokesperson for FrogTape was super nice as well. Let me just say Tom is no frog! I almost completely missed seeing him, and was so glad he tweeted me before he left. It almost makes being on twitter worthwhile.

Haven Conference 2014

There were too many other great people to mention each and every one. but I loved catching up with Sandra Powell {Sawdust Girl}. She’s one of those big, established bloggers, but you know what they say, even those gals put their overalls on one leg at a time like the rest of us. We had some fun in her a how to Tile class, with help from the Ryobi team. 

Haven Conference 2014

But Sandra and I really bonded over our love for concrete. I made her promise that we’ll work together to cast concrete counter tops in one of our houses, hers or mine, I don’t care which.

Haven Conference 2014

My pictures stink, but they are still pretty awesome. Like that time Emily and I realized we were twinsies.

Haven Conference 2014

And that time Kim was perfectly framed In the foyer that was all tricked out in Tide Oxi bubbles. It was so fancy, we both thought it was decorated for a wedding. You’ll be hearing more about how much I love these Tide Oxi bubbles!

Haven Conference 2014

There was only one perfect way to cap off this trip. I just want to give a quick shout out to my friend Lon and his lovely family who is kind enough to let me stay win them in Atlanta so that we have time enough to catch up from the old days at the company we used to work for. They are all some of my favorite people in the whole country, but lucky for me I get to see them when I’m in Atlanta.

Haven Conference 2014

Sigh. Now you know just a teensy little bit about how great this event is, and I haven’t even told you about all the great tools, products, and tips that I’ll be sharing with you over the next few months. Really, it’s going to take that long to cover them all, but I’ll just give you a sneak peek at one that I love, Lacefield Designs, who makes amazing fabrics and curtain panels, all made here in the USA.

Haven Conference 2014

I hope you had as much fun reading about Haven as I had telling you. there’s no good way to wrap up this story except this. Hang loose until next year, Haven Mavens.

Ryobi beach party at Haven Conf 2014

Posted on: July 22nd, 2014 by Darla | No Comments

Want to come shopping with me for home decor? One of my favorite places is a relatively new store in the King of Prussia Mall. Arhaus Furniture (yes, it’s pronounced Our-House) is a lovely, lovely mix of chunky masculine and glam feminine styles that really work well together.

Arhaus Decorating Furniture Title

I was invited there a while back to check out their new line of dishes. I happened to have my shiny new camera, and the store staff was happy to let me take a few pictures. Just a few.

Come take the tour with me. Their copper-top tables and buffets are one of my favorites. You can have their furniture topped with copper, or just buy a top for something you already own. Each one is hand forged in South America.

copper top table
I am absolutely in love with these wood-backed scroll chairs. You can upholster them in hundreds of fabrics in store.

Arhaus Decorating Furniture (12)Their bedrooms are glam, even the more masculine styles.

Arhaus Decorating Furniture (16)


I’ll take this one, please.

Arhaus Decorating Furniture (7)

Yes, there is a lot of neutral going on in this store, but what I love is the way that it makes the statement colors come alive.

Arhaus Decorating Furniture (6)

This TV cabinet is one of my most favorite pieces. EVER. I will own this someday. Now you see it…Arhaus Decorating Furniture (19)

Now you don’t.

Arhaus Decorating Furniture (20)

Big chunky bookcases? Yes, please. Don’t worry, it’s just my camera that’s on an angle. The bookcase sits up just fine.

Arhaus Decorating Furniture (8)


This light fixture is something special, and would work especially well in a vintage or industrial setting.

Arhaus Decorating Furniture (24)


This sweet breakfast table is generously sized, topped with stone, and would fit perfectly in many kitchens with bay alcoves.

Arhaus Decorating Furniture (34)

Everyone needs a desk, and this one makes a statement. I’m not sure if this is a one-of-a-kind piece, as some items in the store are, or if this is mass-produced. Either way, it’s stunning.

Arhaus Decorating Furniture (30)This driftwood and glass side table is unusual, organic, and warm, as so many glass-topped tables aren’t.

Arhaus Decorating Furniture (39)

This sideboard could do so many jobs. It would be perfect on a covered patio, but I could also see it in a more casual dining room or as an artist’s table. Even an entry hall, if it were large enough.

Arhaus Decorating Furniture (42)

Oh, I promised you a look at those dishes, didn’t I?

Arhaus Decorating Furniture (17)

The color on the ceramics is just my style.

Arhaus (1)

While you are drooling, this might be a good time to remind you that I offer personal shopping services in conjunction with design projects. If you love some of the things here, or if you feel like you need an update but don’t want to spend good money on something you aren’t sure about, please call me. We can find a few special pieces for a quick room refresh, or we can bring in an entirely new look. Just let me know how I can help.

In case you are wondering, this is not a sponsored post. I just really love this line, and would be proud to help you choose what’s best for you. Arhaus isn’t in every part of the country, so if you love something, please get on their catalog list, or email me with pictures and I’ll help you find just the right thing for your space.

Did you find a favorite on this tour? Please do tell in the comments.

Posted on: July 17th, 2014 by Darla | 3 Comments

Franklin was seven. He could tie his shoes and count by fives and clean his room when his mom asked.

Fans of Franklin Turtle will recognize how each books starts, by listing some things that little Franklin could do now that he was getting bigger. If a turtle can do all of these things, my girls can, too!

How to Clean a Kids room title1

My “room cleaning” formula has always been pretty simple for the girls. Despite my love of lists, we do not have this written down anywhere, but they could tell you in a heartbeat that a clean room means:

  • No toys on the floor
  • Nothing under the bed
  • All clothes put away in drawers or hung up or in the hamper

That’s pretty much it. Honestly, they were doing this since they were two or three.

But this bookcase was really starting to drive me batty. Seven year-old KittyCat and I talked about how it didn’t look nice, but she just didn’t seem to have a plan of her own. So, I give her a couple of days notice and told her that we’d organize it together this summer.

Organizing a child's bookcase

Here’s the formula for success to clean and organize a kid’s room.

We tackled this on a Saturday morning, right after breakfast when we both were fresh. Neither one of us had plans for hours, so we weren’t in a hurry. Being well-rested and not rushed is so important to a good outcome.

I used the same process I use with my clients.

  • She did the actual organizing and touching the stuff. I was just there to move things out of her way and label the piles as we worked.
  • We used the same five steps of S-P-A-C-E that I’ve written about before.
  • She decided what got thrown away. I thought she was going to want to keep every little scrap of paper but, honestly, she didn’t! The only thing she stumbled on was wanting to keep some toys that were broken, and I reminded her that we don’t keep broken toys. Thems the rules.
  • We started with the bottom shelf and moved up one shelf at a time, sorting into piles and purging, so it wasn’t too overwhelming.
  • We used sticky notes to temporarily label the categories of items she discovered, like money, bookmarks, pencils, and makeup.

piles when organizing a child's room

It took less than 30 minutes to get through the bookcase. We emptied all of the bags and boxes, and decided what should really go in them. (Really, if I never see a birthday party goodie bag again, it will be too soon.) By this time, she was into a groove, so we dumped the toy boxes next to the bookcase and went through those, too.

Organizing a child's room

Then we tackled the one drawer in her dresser where she keeps her “treasures”. She wanted to do it, but then she hesitated and turned to say, “Mom, don’t get offended, but there’s some candy in here.”  So sweet. I assured here that although there really shouldn’t be candy in her room, she wasn’t going to get in trouble. When we found it, because you know there is always a melted lollipop in the bottom of a little girl’s drawer, I just explained how it would attract ants and we didn’t want that. She was cool with that.

I’m pretty sure that there will come a day when I’ll wish that all I found in her dresser drawers was a melted lollipop. This, I can handle! (Note to self: check more often for candy.)

I wasn’t prepared for a little girl who collects rocks, and we talked (again!) about how the rocks really belong outside. She took them out to be with their friends. Maybe I’ll think about getting her a rock display case for Christmas.

Organizing a child's dresser drawers

Last, we went through the jewelry. I thought this was going to be overwhelming, but it wasn’t. It turns out that she was keeping hair stuff in her jewelry box, so we moved that to where we actually keep the hair bows and ribbons. Then there was plenty of room for her rings and things.

Jewelry for a kid when cleaning her room

Once everything was sorted, I asked if she thought we had gone through everything, and she agreed we had. Then we worked to put things back on the shelves so that it looked tidy and made sense to her. No, it’s not Pottery Barn pretty. That little plastic mess on the right? She made that for a recycling project at school. It’s a play house for her Littlest Pet Shop toys. Not showroom quality, but adorable nonetheless, and she’s very proud of it.

organizing a child's book shelves

She helped me put everything away that she had squirreled away in her room, relocating them to other parts of the house or garden where they belong.

The last step, which is always the most important for both kids and adults, is to Establish a Maintenance Plan, or decide how to keep it clean and clear. In this case, I asked her to tell me what we had put where, so she knew how to do it.

organizing a girl's room

Like any job, it doesn’t really matter what I think. It’s always the client’s assessment that matters. When I asked if she thought it was better, she said, “It is WAY better!!!”  Even more, she said, “I like organizing with you, Mom.”

Did I mention that I thought I was going to have to do some yelling and tough love? Nope, I was able to honestly say, “I like organizing with you, too, KittyCat!”

How to Clean a Kids room title2

 If you are the pinning type, I’d love it if you’d hover or click on the image above and add it to your boards on Pinterest. We all know some mom who can use a little room-cleaning encouragement.


Posted on: July 15th, 2014 by Darla | 1 Comment

Organizing photos for a living, I’ve come across several types of photos that absolutely everyone has in their archives that they don’t need to keep. You may think you have to keep every photo ever taken, especially if you paid to have them developed, but some pictures just don’t add to your story.


photo organizing


Chuckle along with me as we take the tour of the types of photos that absolutely everyone has that can be thrown out.

1. Cityscapes. Been there. Done that.

photo organizing

2. Beach/water horizon shots. This picture could have come from every single seaside vacation you ever took. Or that I ever took. It might be universal, but it isn’t worth a spot in your album. Find the people and experiences from this trip, and highlight those instead.

photo organizing


3. Zoo animal photos. Maybe you’ve got some cute pictures of your kids at the zoo. Maybe your family is a zoo. But the long range, fuzzy, through the chain link fence photos of some random giraffe/tiger/gorilla don’t say anything about you.Besides, can you even see the animal in this photo?

five types of photos to toss (3)

4. The back of the bride. There are literally hundreds, maybe thousands, of pictures from that wedding that were full of personality, and that isn’t one of them.

five types of photos to toss (2)

5. Feet. Enough said.

photo organizing


We take pictures to tell our story. These faceless pictures don’t tell anything about who we were or who we loved. Go find the pictures that make you smile and celebrate those.

This is not an exhaustive list. I’m sure there will be a part two.

Do you have lots of these types of pictures to toss in your photo stash?

Posted on: July 10th, 2014 by Darla | No Comments

There’s a lot going on here this week. Hopefully you saw the announcement that I’ve been invited to do a painting workshop at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Montgomery County. There are two dates where I’ll be covering the same material. You must register before the end of July. If you’ve ever wanted to see what the ReStore is all about, or if you’ve ever wanted to learn some painting tricks, this is the time. I’d love to see you there.

Painting Workshop at ReStore Montco

This is a great tie in, because I’m actually at Haven Conference this week, meeting with great home decor product vendors and creative people. I attended last year and couldn’t wait to come back. It’s in Atlanta, the world headquarters for Habitat for Humanity, and last year we had one of their head folks come speak…and make us cry. That might happen again this year. If you want to keep up with what’s going on while I’m at Haven Conference, please be sure to follow me on Facebook or Instagram.

But what I really wanted to show you today is something that I’ll be covering at the ReStore painting workshop, and that’s how to use modern graphic stencils. Do you remember this little number, the painted lampshade makeover from a few weeks ago?

stenciled lampshade makeover

One of the things I love about stencils is that once you buy it, you can use that pattern wherever you want to customize almost anything. I knew that the nightstand in KittyCat’s room could use some refreshing, and coordinating it with her new lamp was just the thing. I love this fresh pattern, called Small Kinetic Floral (#6175S) from Royal Design Studio Stencils. So, here was the nightstand before:

nightstand makeover before

Notice that it’s missing a drawer? This is where I admit that it’s not always smooth sailing at my house. KittyCat destroyed that drawer in a tantrum a few years back. She’s past that stage now, so my plan is to add a shelf and stencil that to match. Here’s the funny part…I actually stenciled this nightstand about 20 years ago. Actually, I think it was stamped, but it’s the same idea. I can’t wait to get rid of the evidence! Blech. Makes me shiver.

nightstand makeover shelf repair

All right, you know the drill. A fresh coat of white Chalk Paint® decorative paint by Annie Sloane. Remember, one of the virtues of this paint is that you don’t need to prime, even to cover my awful deco disaster from decades ago.

Materials for nightstand makeover, Annie Sloan Chalk Paint® and Royal Design Studio stencilsNightstand painted

Tack down the Royal Design Studio stencil with a little ScotchBlue Painter’s Tape. (Remember to enter their $5K contest going on right now.) Here’s a little trick: if you can’t quite fit the whole stencil on, run a line of painter’s tape under the last row you can use, so you don’t accidentally paint more than you mean to.


applying stencil to Nightstand makeover

Then I did the same thing to the shelf. You are actually using such a thin coat of paint, that it dries almost immediately, so you can use it on another surface that quickly.

stencil a shelf for the nightstand makeover

Attach the shelf. Did I mention I don’t get to use my Ryobi AirStrike Nailer as much as I would like to? Two quick hits were all I needed here.

nail shelf to nightstand makeover

And here’s the finished nightstand makeover. The bottom two shelves will always have books on them, so there’s no point in fussing with a stencil here.

finished nightstand makeover

This bold design is much nicer, fresher, and most importantly, Kittycat says she loves it. In the end, that’s all that really matters. Do you think my girl likes pink? I promise you, I did not pick the shirt she was wearing for this shot.

Nightstand makeover with bold modern stencil graphic

This is the kind of thing you’ll learn more about, and maybe even get to try your hand at, if you come to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. Be sure to register soon. And follow me this week as I’m sharing lots more great ideas from Haven Conference.