First, break the rules


The photo above is one of the most inviting rooms that my clients always comment on in our portfolio. It is a formal living room in a brand new craftsman style home that we transformed into a cozy space that is perfect for visiting, entertaining or even for a quiet mid day read.

The room is situated just off of the entryway and right next to the formal dining room. The furniture placement and use of rule-breaking elements creates an effortless flow between the rooms.

Ironically, almost every piece of furniture in this room came from different stores. It doesn’t technically “match” and isn’t even the same styles. From the black framed art above the fireplace to the distressed, beachy wood frame in the corner.

This room is the ultimate rule breaker.

This is how we created this cozy room.

We chose a loveseat rather than a full sized couch so that there would be ample room to walk, thus creating an easy flow from room to room.

We placed the slipcover arm chairs facing the loveseat to create a level of intimacy in the room for conversations.

The coffee table is quite long and is accessible from every seat, so you don't necessarily need extra bulky end tables. We used a simple and shallow wood bench to offer a place to set things down under the window.

In the corner of the room by the dining area, we used a nested nightstand rather than a traditional end table. Nightstands are usually not as deep as end tables, so they won’t eat up your precious space. The nesting provides you the opportunity to use the smaller table if need be for food & drinks while entertaining.

Above the fireplace, instead of hanging a large piece of art, we took multiples and simply leaned them against the wall. Its easy, effortless and a cinch to update with the seasons.

Beautiful art found at Ballard Designs"
This room does not follow any rules - that's what makes it great.

Smaller furniture. Intimate furniture placement. Mixing woods and styles. Don't be afraid to break the rules. You may just end up with something great!


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The photo above is one of the most inviting rooms that my clients always comment on in our portfolio. It is a formal living room in a brand new craftsman style home that we transformed into a cozy space that is perfect for visiting, entertaining or even for a quiet mid day read.

Camera tip: Use a polarizing filter


The day that I decided to graduate to a DSLR and purchase my Canon Rebel, I was anxious to make sure that I had all of the equipment, within reason, to take an amazing photo.

Luckily I had a very patient and helpful camera salesman who listened to me explain what I wanted to achieve with my camera. Thankfully, he zeroed in on the fact that I intended to take the majority of my photos outdoors and then helped me to understand the unparalleled benefits of investing in a polarizing filter.

Polarizing filter? (I didn't know what this was)

This is what the filter looks like."

My definition: a slim round piece of glass that threads on to the end of your lens to take away glare and enrich the colors of your outdoor photos. Below is a visual aid to demonstrate the difference this lens can make.

You can see how the colors are more saturated inside the filter ring."

I take a lot of my photos near the water on sunny days and the intense glare that water creates can distort your picture. Grass can take on a yellow hue and anything that is white becomes blinding.

The polarizing filter fixes this. Here are more visual examples.

This was taken on a very bright day but the filter took away any glare.

I love this filter. It has enhanced my photos more than I could have imagined. If you love to take photos outdoors and don't have one, I hope that I have been able to point you in the right direction!


Layering is the key to any room


Layering will add instant dimension and visual interest to any room. It is easy to do and very rewarding - try some of the following ideas in your home and you will see what I mean.

In your living room, rather than only having one or two throw pillows on a couch add more or even better - add varying shapes or textures.

In your cozy reading corner, layer your favorite chair with a comfortable throw blanket.

In your bedrooms, you can add depth to any bed by pulling back the comforter and flat sheet about 12 inches, neatly, to reveal another pattern or texture and then stack the bed pillows for display.

In your kitchen nook, if you have a fruit bowl on your table try adding a runner underneath it.

You can even layer your bath towels too.

Adding layers is the simplest way to add depth to your room without adding any clutter.

I hope you enjoy this tip and that you are able to put it to good use.


Camera tip: use your flash on sunny days.


This camera tip is one of my favorites to share. Use your flash in the daytime, especially on sunny days.

It might seem unusual to use your flash on a sunny day because there is already an abundance of light, but that is actually what can cause a great photo to be plagued by shadows and darkness.

In a situation like this, your camera assumes that your light source is sufficient for the photo and is unable to recognize that your subject is actually ‘in the dark’.

[caption id="attachment_218" align="alignnone" width="480" caption="When I forced the flash on, the shadow lightened up considerably and the depth of the colors in the photo improved as well."][/caption]

You can fix this by forcing your camera to “flash”. Look on your camera for the lightening bolt symbol. Mine is near the side of my lens near the front of the camera. Many cameras, even point and shoots, will allow you to press this button and override the Auto mode forcing the flash to activate when taking your photos.

[caption id="attachment_219" align="alignnone" width="480" caption="In both photos I was standing directly in front of the subject on a bright sunny day. The only difference is the flash."][/caption]

Press the lightening bolt several times and your camera will go through different flash options with you. In some of cases, one of those options is “fill flash”. This is ideal because it will tone down the amount of flash output so that you won’t overexpose your subject.

Go ahead and try it! You will not be disappointed.


My bedroom, my sanctuary


My bedroom is my sanctuary. At the end of the day I count on this room to be free of visual chaos and clutter so that I can relax, collect my thoughts and most importantly, rest. Lately, my room has felt much less than a sanctuary. Sometimes this seems like an absolutely impossible feat, so I remind myself to start small.

My bedside table is where I began.
I needed a place to put my jewelry, a book or magazine to flip through, and some lotion and chap stick. You know the drill. This combination was destined to look pretty chaotic if I had just heaped it all on there, so I had to put some thought into it. I tried to whittle my needs down in my mind, but of course that never really works, after all, a girl needs what a girl needs.

As soon as I felt the dejavu, I realized there was a very simple solution. I would solve this chaotic crisis the same way I solved the TV remotes and magazine mess that makes me neurotic - I found a tray.

The tray in the picture above is only a little bigger than a salad plate with a nice inlaid mirror to contain all the little things that would have inevitably rolled away and wound up under my bed. There was no way of omitting an alarm clock but because my books took up a large amount of space, the best solution was a pretty petite travel alarm that could sit atop my stack of reading.

I am very happy with the result and the bottom line from a design standpoint would be: contain the chaos and get creative!


Taking the mystery out of photography


These are some of my favorite photos. I love that the subjects are clear and that the background is quietly out of focus.

I’ve tried for an embarrassingly long time to figure out this photography technique. As it turns out, it is very simple. If you have agonized with this as well and you are a visual learner, you might appreciate this tip.

Whether you have a point and shoot or a fancy SLR, you can achieve some level of this effect by following a few tips.

I personally use a Canon Rebel XS with an EF 50mm f/1.8 lens II however previous to this camera I used a Canon PowerShot G5 which is also an amazing but non SLR camera. Of course camera quality and a great lens makes a huge difference but chances are that if you are utilizing your camera to its fullest potential, you can turn out some amazing photos with a little practice. For point and shoot cameras remember to switch from Auto mode to Portrait to attain this type of picture.

If you enjoyed this post, please be sure to check back for more visual photography tips!


Transform ordinary flowers into a luxurious accessory


I love flowers.

Growing up in the nursery business and being exposed to many amazing greenhouses has taught me to appreciate that which I cannot grow myself.  Flowers make me gasp out loud even if I am simply walking past them in the grocery store. When we head to the market (Pike Place Market) my heart skips a beat and I feel like I am going into sheer panic just looking at the options in front of me. I would forgo dinner for a week, just to be able to enjoy a handful of fresh flowers in every room.

As it would stand to reason, vases are put to good use in my house.

My favorite is any compact vase. It doesn’t matter to me if it is a fishbowl, a square or a round. I love how a compact vase can take the most ordinary grocery store bouquet and turn it into a full and luxurious arrangement.

Just remember that underneath that cellophane wrap and those long gangly stems awaits a beautiful addition to any room. Place this joy on a bathroom counter, a side table, your serving tray atop an ottoman or as a centerpiece at your table (remember to keep those leaves out of the water to lengthen the life of your flowers).


Use the fine china!


Although I am not really a “planner” type of person, I do like to have a really good reason before I will break out the china or glam up the house.

With all that life has thrown in the past few years, some good and many a challenge…I am realizing that I need to count my blessings – and use the fine china!

New Year’s Eve was no exception. I did not have a plan, I didn’t even have a single decoration. All hail to the local grocery store for supplying the last minute-ers like me with a few party horns and tiaras. My best girlfriend and I dug out my beautiful silver chargers from Crate and Barrel and quickly washed a few pieces of hardly ever used china and stemware. We raided the Christmas tree for tone on tone ornaments and threw them in a tall vase together to create a charming little barware space on top of our vintage record player.

With a tiny bit of effort we transformed our average buffet into a sparkly celebration! And thus began our ultimate resolution to really let the New Year begin.

I’m excited to see what fortunes this year holds and am truly motivated to put my efforts and talents to use every way I can think of whether or not I have a “really good reason” to.  Most importantly, I intend to live in the moment.

I sincerely hope that you enjoy reading the posts to come where I will share my design insights that have come from years of staging homes, working as a graphic designer and from the endless hours spent honing my photography skills.


by mlekoshi