the (not always so) sweet sound of silence


We live in an era of perpetual sound and noise.  It is all around us.  Difficult to escape.  Whether you live in the heart of a booming metropolis or out in the far reaches of the wilderness, sound is always making itself known.  However, there are times in one’s life when the absence of noise, the lack of words or sound of what’s common, usual, or expected – that can be monumental, deafening, and statement-making.

WordPress has a weekly writing challenge, and this week they’ve asked bloggers to ponder the concept of silence (read more here).  Seeing as though I am someone who occasionally likes to sit quietly, meditate, and be alone, I have an appreciation of silence.  However, I also have a deep fear of it, so I can see both sides.  I am so ready to take on this challenge as someone who struggles with this one time luxury, one time curse.

I can easily think of three examples where silence has been relevant and present.

keep calm be silent

1. An instance of silence as pure joy.  The other day is a great example.  I celebrated my 40th birthday, and my best friend said she had a day of surprises scheduled for me.  She picked me up that morning and allowed me to be simply a passenger – someone simply along for the ride as she guided me through what she knew to be my most perfect day of events.  She even played my favorite music in the car in the morning.  After a long day of what seemed to be almost too many good things – too many treats for one person, I sat back in the front seat of her car more relaxed and happy than I had felt in a very long time.  I didn’t realize how much I had needed that day.  A day of simple joys, of being a passenger.  And at the end of it all, of just silence.  We did not need to recap or laugh or talk about the rest of the upcoming week or have any other trite conversation (or more profound, as we are prone to do).  We are close enough to be comfortable in our silence, and I cherish that about our friendship.  It made the end of our day together so joyful.


my final choice, robert rauchenberg’s “bed.” courtesy of MoMA

2. An instance of silence as genius.  I went to college in NYC.  I was an art history major, and I had one professor who I really idolized, although she was a slave-driver and pushed her students incredibly hard.  She had us write a thesis and I was really struggling with it.  I had no focus.  I didn’t know which artist to write about, which work to settle on, I was a mess.  I wanted it to be perfect for her because I wanted – oh lawd, who the heck knows what I wanted – I was just being a big perfectionist spaz as usual.  So time was wasting and as I had been known to do, I let it go down to the wire.  But I knew what needed to be done, and I went to the Museum of Modern Art.  I sat there for hours and hours in silence.  No headphones, no conversation with a friend or stranger.  I tuned out the visitors around me, milling around, looking at the works of Cezanne, Avedon, Pollack.  And in my silence, it hit me.  My silence helped me to figure it all out, to select the artist, work and concept, and essentially write my paper in my head.  It was a “genius” moment.  Haven’t we all had moments like these?  Going from stoopified to feeling brilliant, fingers unable to move quickly enough, the thoughts are flowing so freely?  I owe that one to vigilant silence.

hospital beds RunPhoto

courtesy of RunPhoto

3. An instance of silence as pure relief.  Last fall, I ended up in the emergency room unexpectedly.  I was alone, exhausted, and all I wanted to do was get home and crawl into the warm, cozy safety of my own bed.  I was laying on a gurney with a thin white blanket over me, trying to rest, and when I opened my eyes, my boyfriend was there.  He had been away on business all week and I really wasn’t expecting to see his face, but when I did, an incredible feeling of relief washed over my entire body.  Kind of like when you are a kid and you fall and skin your knee and you don’t really start crying hard until you see the look on someone ELSE’s face recognizing that it was a bad tumble, and mom is there to make everything better.  That look: that all-knowing look that two people can share without words, simply in pure silence, but rather with the reassurance of a tender smile and warm hand – that is such powerful silence that cannot be replaced.  No ER nurse could provide that feeling in his absence,  and never before have I been so thankful for the gift of silence that night.

So these days, in this era high technology, of sitting across from people we know, rather than using spoken words we choose to silently move our fingers swiftly across screens and keyboards to communicate. For some, this is powerful.  This is courage where they never once had it.  And for others, it’s an artform lost.  But regardless, silence is powerful.  It is inspiring, it is scary, it can leave one wondering, questioning, and feeling.  But I find it amazing for all of these reasons.



I just took this picture yesterday alone, at sunset, in creative silence.  I hope you enjoy it.



the luxe list spring 2014

table centerpiece chas place

my inspiration: the perfect centerpiece at Charleston Place Hotel

Recently, I celebrated a birthday (my sincere apologies to those of you who are sick of hearing about it).  I was fortunate enough to be treated, amongst other things, to a fabulous breakfast at the Charleston Place Hotel, which for those of you who may not be familiar, is a luxury hotel here in town that spares no expense when it comes to catering to the needs of its guests.  I was quickly reminded of that when we were seated at our table and I looked at our centerpiece, which was just the perfect little grouping of just about everything you could possibly need, right there on one little platter.

I love the little things, the details, or the deets as I like to call them (just to keep myself rooted in my quickly fading youth).  And this little platter was filled with carefully thought-out details for breakfast so that as your meal progressed from beverage to meal and beyond, there was no need to stop and ask for anything else you might need to make your experience better.  It was already there.  And it was pretty.  Take a closer look:

It was the kind of little thing that inspired me and made me happy!  This was a simple luxury – something that was going the extra mile but really making my life better.  And it got me thinking about some luxe items for this year that I just might not be able to live without, I don’t know about you…  I’m sure you have a list of your own, but here’s mine:

Jo Malone lime basil and mandarin candle 445


1. Lime Basil & Mandarin candle from Jo Malone (available at Neiman Marcus).  I am obsessed with great-smelling candles – not just with the scent they put out, but the ambiance they create.  This one is the mack-daddy of them all; it’s a 4-wick that burns for 230 hours and costs $495.  Um yeah.  Let’s move right along before I start burning dollar bills in my existing cheap candles. Sigh.

Vintage silver by the lb Napa Style

2. Vintage silver by the pound from  I love this concept!  There is nothing prettier than a table set with lovely silver, but not all of us were fortunate enough to have a set of silver that was passed down from our grandmother or given to us as a wedding gift.  Napa Style makes it feasible – just buy vintage silver by weight.  From their website:  “These authentic vintage utensils date back to the ’ 20s and ’30s—all fine-quality, silver-plated, and newly polished to perfection. They’re gathered from estate sales, vintage markets and antique stores all over the US and Europe. And so what if the pieces don’t match? That’s half the fun! It’s a true celebration of life—the second time around—and a most meaningful form of sustainability.”  I just love it.




3. Anything from trumpeter Terence Blanchard.  This may not seem like a luxury to some, but just listen to his music and you’ll see why I say this.  I recently had the privilege of spending an evening at The Mezz, a fabulous jazz club here in Charleston, and Quentin Baxter (leader of the pack) brilliantly selected a piece of Blanchard’s to play entitled “Betrayal of My Soul.”  It was so moving, powerful, and profound.  I had been familiar with Blanchard’s music, but not this song, and not on that level.  Music does something for me that nothing else can – does it for you, too?

Polk Audio Camden Square Amazon


4. The Camden Square from Polk Audio (available on Amazon, $299 full retail, although right now it’s on sale).  Speaking of music…  I saw this pretty little gadget over the holidays when I was shopping for gifts and I fell in love with it (and thus, my obsession began!).  Okay, so here’s the deal with this thing.  First, you must know that I am an audiophile, so anything music related will seem like a luxury to me and thus will enhance my life greatly.  But THIS thing is COOL.  It’s a bluetooth wireless speaker with six speakers that have really excellent sound quality.  So not only can you take it anywhere (office/bedroom/backyard, etc.), BUT it also has this nice feature that makes it different from the competition.  It actually has its own app called DJ Stream and you and up to four friends can add songs from your own music libraries and keep the tunes going all night!  I just love this idea!  Then again, I’m also tempted to buy Sponge Bob Band-Aids when I go to CVS, but I digress.

Helmet Lang stunner dress


5. This stunner from Helmut Lang.  It’s in a lush silk.  It’s revealing in all the right ways.  It’s light and airy in color and texture.  I’m sure it’s a trillion dollars.  Thus, it’s luxe and perfect.

so lucky to know you dodeline charleston


6. Handcrafted cards and stationery, like these ones from Dodeline, made right here in Charleston.  You all know how I feel about the art of the hand-written note, so I won’t beat a dead horse here.  But these cards are to die for.  I love selecting the perfect card for someone, especially when it’s for no reason (not a holiday, not their birthday, just because).  I love the feel of the cardstock and the color of the ink.  Now these are luxe.  They don’t cost much, but they sure are going the extra mile.

hot pink petula vintage wallpaper design your wall dot com


7. “Hot Pink Petula” vintage wallpaper from the 1970s from  Every once in a while, I am fortunate enough to work with someone who will boldly go where few are willing to go – the wallpaper zone.  Vintage wallpapers are back and with a vengeance.  I have totally fallen in LOVE with this one and many more on, and several other vintage sources.  Papers like these work beautifully in small spaces like powder rooms or on an accent wall.  So luxe and so retro fab!  Je love!

Jiti-Lauri-Cotton-Pillow from all modern dot com 26 in  Jiti-Camino-Cotton-Pillow all modern dot com  Classic-Home-Lana-Accent-Pillow from all modern dot com

8. Big, bold throw pillows like these ones from  The first two are from Jiti and the third (black and white) is from Classic Home, but all three are statement-makers.  Have I ever told you that I have an issue with throw pillows that are too small?  They make me angry.  Go big or go home, I say.  Big = luxe.

coral cashmere williams sonoma home 249


9. Coral cashmere throw blanket from Williams-Sonoma Home, $249.  Yep, gotta have this.  Not in cotton.  Not in a poly/acrylic blend.  Not in something incredibly soft and fuzzy and amazing and oh-my-god-have-you-felt-this-thing? No. Coral cashmere or bust.  Luxe.

Breville Smart Oven 249


10. Breville Smart Oven, $249.  My sister made the mistake of getting me another Breville appliance for Christmas this past year, and now I want every other one they make.  I think I want this one next, because anything called the “Smart Oven” has got to be the perfect choice.  You can cook anything in it and it all comes out to perfection, plus, with convection capabilities, it cranks your treats out 30% faster.  Sign me up, it sounds awfully luxurious.

So, what tops your list of luxury items or feel-goods for this first part of the year?  Anything you care to share?  I showed you mine, now you show me yours.



the anti-schmoop

pantone red tray

serving up the perfect red, pantone style. photo courtesy of


When I think of my overall design style, when I really look back and try to define who I am as a designer, I can get a pretty clear vision of who I am.  I know what I like – clean lines, good quality, neutrals with some punch, but here and there no shortage of a few risky, bold pops where they make sense.  But it’s very rare that you’ll see me use a lot of red.  It’s just not a color I lean toward very often, nor is a color I hear my clients say that they just can’t live without.  However, in researching for this blog, I’m beginning to wonder why I don’t use it more.


Oh Dita, you’re glam in any era. Va va voom! photo courtesy of

Red is one of those beautifully rich, saturated hues that can take on so many different feels.  It can be a blue-red, like the perfect matte lipstick, old Hollywood glam style.

Or it can be an orangey-red, maybe like the most lush bowl of warm tomato soup, creamy and soothing to the soul.  It might remind you of the fast-as-lightning red sportscar you always wanted (or thought was silly, perhaps), or the flames of the campfires you used to sit around back in the day that kept your toes warm and your marshmallows roasted.  


mmm, marshmallows. thanks

I’m a firm believer in color theory and the psychology of color, so I feel that it’s important to choose your colors wisely… What does red mean?  Well, it’s the strongest and boldest color on the color wheel.  It has been shown to increase heart rate and blood pressure, so it’s a color to use sparingly and in the right application.  However, it’s also been shown to stimulate appetite and conversation, so it’s an ideal color to use in the dining room.  While it can make a room feel warm and cozy, it can also be very stimulating, so it’s not the best choice when you’re designing a space that’s meant for relaxation.  You will, however, see a few designers push the envelope from time to time and get away with it – and I do like it when people test the boundaries!  I’m going to share with you some of my favorite uses of red in design in honor of this lover’s holiday…  Whether it’s a room awash in crimson or just a tiny tomato accent in the corner, I think this is something worth considering to bring a little more spice to our lives!  


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Much love,




40 is the new 40. Period.

40 courtesy Andres Medina

First, let me begin by saying forgive me for the extended hiatus I’ve taken from my blog.  I appreciate all the kind words I’ve received from those of you who know me on a personal level, and particularly those of you who have supported me in many different capacities, be it mental, physical, or emotional.  Look out, because now I’m back with a vengeance!

As some of you know, I am on the cusp of turning forty.  Now let me just clarify that I personally do not consider this to be a big deal.  I do not believe that your age defines who you are as a person.  I do not feel that you are bound to the number printed on your birth certificate or driver’s license.  I believe that you are who you want to be, who you feel you are deep, deep inside, regardless of your age.  I often say that I still feel like I’m 12, so I see 40 and it just doesn’t register, but does it upset me?  Does it send me into the throes of a deep, dark depression?  No.  I embrace my age.

But all this talk and mental processing of moving into a new decade has gotten me thinking about a myriad of things. Anyone who has spent a bit of time with me tends to understand that I have some, well, let’s just say distinct, opinions on certain topics, be it design, food, politics, the weather, or what have you.  Some of them I’m very vocal about and others I prefer to keep private, but I know where I stand.  The start of a new year has also put me in a very clear-headed, forward-thinking place, so you put those two together and Marina is off to the races!

One of the things I do throughout the year but particularly at the beginning of a new calendar year is evaluate trends.  It’s key for me as a designer to be on my game and know the top materials  being used, the Pantone color selections for the year, seasonal trend predictions, highlights in furniture and accessories… and the list goes on and on.  In reading everything from the very classic Architectural Digest to the most stylized and opinionated blogs, a common thread tends to shake out.  I feel like that’s my job – to weed out the extremes on both ends and walk a solid center line so that I can provide a well-informed vision for a client.  But this year has me a little irritated.

I won’t bore you with the details of trends for 2014.  That’s another blog post.  Let me tell you why I am irritated and then you’ll see where I’m going with this, I promise.  :-)  I was reading something not too long ago that said “black is the new gray.”  I read it over again.  “Black is the new gray.”  Huh?  Since when was black ever out of fashion in the first place?  I know that the past two years or so, gray has been one of the most-utilized colors in residential interiors, but that statement really got my wheels turning.  Since when do we need to reintroduce the classics?

That statement, however, got me thinking about how so often lately, I keep hearing people tell me – “well, you know, 40 is the new 30!” What the hell does that even MEAN?  Is that supposed to be some sort of consolation for the fact that I am turning forty years old, and you’re wrongfully assuming that I don’t WANT to be turning forty years old, so you’re trying to stroke my ego a little, or talk me off the ledge as if forty is the end of it all?   Why can’t I just be 40 and rock it?  Why does it have to be a new ANYTHING?  Why can’t it just be?  So no. 40 is the new 40. Period. And I am totally okay with that.

So I guess all of this acceptance of where I am in life (ha!) and realization that the classics are what we always tend to revert back to made me want to come up with my own list.

My SIMPLE favorites:

black cat

1. BLACK. It’s a classic, and never goes out of style, in any capacity. Although please note that I much prefer dogs. I actually hate cats. I’m just using this photo from Getty as a good representation for the color black.  He looks bitchy, doesn’t he?

mags bottles  blue swivel  old photos

2. FAMILY HEIRLOOMS. While they might not be beautiful to the next person, their sentimental qualities speak volumes.  Pictured here are a few of my treasures, including my grandmother’s crystal decanters, my parents’ old swivel chairs which I adore, and some of my favorite old family pictures.  That’s my mom holding me as a baby on the right, and my grandfather’s original business card from way back in the day in the foreground.

designlike dot com kitchen

3. FRESH FLOWERS.  Sure, they may not last forever, but while they are around, they are lovely in every way.  I love a simple arrangement in a glass vase or mason jar on the kitchen counter, as you see here in this pic from

LBD blog


4. THE LITTLE BLACK DRESS.  So as not to exclude the guys here, let me just say one exceptional piece of clothing that fits like a glove rather than the six cheapies you could buy in its place.  I love this Diane Von Furstenberg number from Saks, a bargoon at $565.  :-)

lotsa plugs

5. TECHNOLOGY-FREE BLOCKS OF TIME.  Remind yourself that not too long ago, we survived just fine without a cell phone, tablet, or laptop glued to our person.  It can be done, and it should be, regularly.  I take breaks all the time to go for a walk, meditate, talk to a loved one, play with the dogs – connect with yourself by disconnecting/unplugging. (props here to Photonica)

thank you note

6. HAND-WRITTEN NOTES.  I am a huge proponent of the hand-written note, for some reason or no reason at all.  It’s such a beautiful, yet underutilized artform!  Next time you’re thinking of someone, send them a note.  Watch what happens.



7. REAL BOOKS.  Speaking of unplugging…  I don’t know about you, but try as I may, I just can’t get into reading books on a Kindle/Nook, etc.  I personally love the sensory experience of picking up a book.  I love the smell of it, I love the weight of it, I love physically being able to see how many pages I have left to go…  Everything about the experience is different.  And it’s another chance to cut myself off from technology for a bit.

marina & tiff kiawah

8. A TRUE FRIEND WHO KNOWS YOU TO THE CORE.  This is my best friend, Tiffany (everyone say “Hiiiiiii, Tiffffannnyyy!”).  She has been with me through the thick and thin of life, and I am confident that there is nothing on the face of this earth that I wouldn’t feel comfortable telling her.  She makes me laugh, cry (only in good ways), think, dream, and keeps my life drama-free.  There is something about a best friend that makes everything okay.  Whoever that person is to you, please tell them so.


9. HOME-COOKED MEALS.  The quick, easy, processed, microwaved approach to life isn’t the one I want to take.  I want to be like this broad.  In all seriousness, one thing that I have really committed to is clean eating and living.  It has changed my life for the better on so many levels.  I’ve always been a huge fan of a well-prepared meal at home, but now more than ever before.  Going back to basics and using organic, fresh, simple ingredients that are healthy for me and my family make me feel great.  Thank you, Stephen Swindek for this fabulous photo of this woman, we’ll call her Madge, whom I must meet.

So, there you have it.  My old-fashioned, simple list of well-loved classics that, as I move into my forties, seem to make the most sense.  I’ll leave the rest to you whipper-snappers.





to each his (or her) own

sexy adjective \ˈsek-sē\ :  generally attractive or interesting :  appealing

Woooooo!  Did I get your attention? ;-)

hey now!

hey now!

For me, I find a lot of furniture to be sexy.  It’s just attractive.  It’s not masculine or feminine, it’s just darned good-looking.  It’s neutral and attractive enough that women find that it meet their needs, but it’s utilitarian and comfortable enough that men dig it too.  My goal is to seek out these sexy pieces for people when I go out on shopping trips.  I lovvvve finding furniture that I know will speak to both women and men, particularly because I know that can be difficult to come by.  The types of pieces that folks tend to have a strong sensory reaction to can really carry a room, and then the rest of the space is gravy.  What makes a piece of furniture sexy?  Maybe it’s got great lines, maybe it’s made of lush material that feels amazing when you run your hand across it, or maybe you just can’t stop staring at it.  Take this chair at ESD in Mt. Pleasant, for example:

sexy blog esd chair-2

va va voom, you’re coming home with me, baby (chair from Elizabeth Stuart Design, Mt. Pleasant)

I saw this thing of white leather wonder when I popped in not too long ago and I almost passed out.  It’s retro, it’s modern, it’s got lush leather with the perfect contrast welt, it swivels, AND it’s a BARGOON at $1650!  I couldn’t stop staring.  So to me, this bad boy is sexy.  Now, I understand that we all find different qualities sexy, and that’s what makes this fun.  To each his (or her) own!  So while this chair really does it for me, it might do absolutely nothing for you.  And sometimes what women like is completely different from what men favor.  Now THAT is another ball of wax all together…

I’ve given a lot of thought to the concept of “designing for the sexes.”  While some folks are great at incorporating different styles and accommodating, say, a girlfriend’s purple fetish or husband’s taxidermy collection, others are not as forgiving.  I’ve had the pleasure to work with quite a few couples for whom this challenge seemed to be like climbing Mt. Everest.  But it’s possible.  It’s just a matter of give and take, push and pull, and deciding when it’s time to wave the ole white flag.

 Let me tell you that I can speak from experience.  Take a look at this chair:
don't be jealous, now

don’t be jealous, now

This beauty belongs to the love of my life.  It was one of just a few pieces in his house when I moved in with him.  I have a long-standing joke about what is considered typical MAN furniture, and let me tell you, this chair is IT.  Your standard brown, microfiber, handle on the side, puffed back, squeaky, oversized, awkward, monstrosity of a beastly recliner.  There is actually a PAIR of these darlings.  I went through a phase where I tried many things to dress them up – pillows, throws:
what's the saying, you can put lipstick on a pig...?

what’s the saying, you can put lipstick on a pig…?

…moving them to different parts of the house, separating them… You name it, I did it.  But you know what?  I have learned to EMBRACE the recliners.  Because my man loves those nasty things.  My touches are all throughout the house, and he adores those chairs because to him, they are a source of comfort and a place for him to really relax and let loose.  So why mess with a good thing?
i am now at peace with the pure manliness that this chair exudes.

i am now at peace with the pure manliness that this chair exudes.


Now, I realize that not every situation is going to be so easy.  What do you do when your man is hell-bent on a leather sectional and you want a curvy tufted sofa?  Or your mom has just insisted that great-great-great Aunt Edna would have wanted you to have her glass curio cabinet filled with porcelain collectibles and you can’t say no, but your other half is fuming…  This is where some tactful negotiation comes into play.  It’s a matter of getting to the root of WHY people want what they want and determining how to make the right things work.  Selecting and purchasing furniture is often much more emotion-driven than people realize.  I love having the opportunity to play mediator (and at times, counselor, but not divorce lawyer).  You have to take a step back and really be sensitive to why people are making specific selections.  Once you get into the psychology of it all, it’s easy to help women and men make choices that will appease both of them.

typical man & woman: she says he hogs the bed, he says she snores

typical man & woman: she says he hogs the bed, he says she snores

So you see, it’s certainly not impossible to incorporate the distinct styles of a strong man and a feminine woman, or a strong woman and a gihrlie mahn, or whatever the scenario may be – (I could go on for days here), it just takes a little patience and skill.  So don’t be afraid to show your true colors and have faith that no matter what, your style personalities can be incorporated if you’re willing to put in a little time, effort, and compromise.




just go au naturel


FALLing in love, watching greens turn to gold. photo courtesy of WIN-initiative

It is finally starting to feel like fall, and I am loving it!  There is finally a crispness in the morning air that puts a spring in my step like nothing else can.  I don’t know about you all, but this is my favorite time of year, and I love this time of transition.  Time to take out the sweaters and boots (well, eventually), and put away the bathing suits.  It’s been real summah-time, but peace out.  See ya next year.  Let’s just hope I don’t eat my weight in chili.

One of the questions I am commonly asked is about accessories.  “Can you HELP me?  I don’t know what to DO!  My house is totally bare because I don’t know what to BUY!”  or “My house is so full of crap that I’ve bought over the years that none of it makes sense!  I need to start over!”…  And everywhere in between.  Often times people need help editing their massive collection of accessories – keeping the good ones and letting go of the, ahem, less meaningful ones in an effort to develop a more cohesive approach.  Sometimes it’s just a matter of taking what you have and putting it all together in one central location (say, the kitchen table) and allowing someone else to arrange it for you so that it makes sense, as opposed to a hodge podge lodge of little things scattered all over the house.  When it comes to accessories, you want to make them impactful, you want them to matter, and you want them to be a reflection of not only the space but of you.

Too often I see people get into desperation mode and fall into the trap of over-doing it and filling every table, shelf, nook and cranny with a figurine, bottle, vase, coaster, Grandma’s doily collection, you name it.

headvases organizedclutterqueen

Did someone say doily?

Whoa Nelly, calm down!  A little blank space is allowed!  And those of you with barren space, filled with nothing but a few dust bunnies?  You’re not exempt here either.  Clean lines are one thing, but few accessories here and there to add warmth and visual interest never hurt anyone.

So, how do we handle this design dilemma?  One of my favorite ways is to look outdoors.  Bring the outside in.  It’s a great way to decorate because natural tones complement everything – whether you’ve got traditional, modern, transitional, antique chic, or any style in between, the colors of nature will work!  Bright yellow wing chair?  No problem!  Some striking palm fronds in a simple glass vase will look gorgeous next to it.  Boring console table behind the couch?  How about a cool container with some branches in it for height and interest?  Done and done.

Okay now, I can hear some of you groaning.  You know who you are – the ones who don’t like to get “creative” or don’t think you can “do this kind of stuff.”  First of all, I’m not asking you to get uber creative here, and there is a difference.

au naturel ugly wreath

This crafty fall mesh wreath reminds me of a meat & cheese platter. Mmm, meat. I will NEVER ask you to make one of these things. Maybe the platter though.


Second of all, that’s what you have folks like me for – to help coach you through.  I can give you pointers all day long, but when it comes down to it, some people have a huge mental block when it comes to these types of projects.  Have you ever had a meal prepared for you that was incredibly simple, but incredibly delicious – maybe just 3-4 ingredients?  You think to yourself, why can’t I make the same dish taste that good?  Well, certain people have certain talents, and sometimes you just have to leave it to the professionals.  This is why I have an accountant.  I thank the heavens daily for him.  Eeesh.  But I digress.

Most of you know that I live in Charleston, and a good number of you live here too.  So when I turn to nature for inspiration, I am really fortunate to find certain things that some of you in other parts of the country may not find.  Things like starfish and driftwood and palm fronds and shells…  But we all have beautiful elements all around us that make for great decorating – autumn leaves, branches, river rocks, and certainly store-bought items that remind us of our favorite natural features, depending on where you live.  Take advantage of what is right in your backyard!  Here are some of my faves:

I recall when I was a kid watching my amazing grandmother bringing a huge armful of gladiolas into the house.  She would pull out her best cut crystal vase, expertly drop them down inside, fill it with water, and place the vase on her front entry table.  She made it look so effortlessly perfect, so simple, yet so striking.  Her house was filled with lovely antiques and rugs and treasures from all over the world, but that was always my favorite thing.  Fresh flowers dropped in a vase.  I hope that you too can find the same beauty in a naturally accessorized, lovely home – yours!



PS – and if you can’t and you’re on the verge of making a meat platter wreath, for Pete’s sake, call me.

(not so subtle) lessons in humility


photo courtesy of Dejan

photo courtesy of Dejan

Every now and then, it’s healthy to fall on your face.  It keeps you humble – yes?

Well, the past week has been filled with literal and figurative falls – some more graceful than others – but each came with its own lesson learned.  Take for example yesterday.  There I was, in typical fashion, letting out my two Dachshunds, Waylon & Dottie, to run free in the backyard, sniff to their little hearts’ content, and eventually do their business.

Dottie & Waylon, aka Serene's accounting department

Dottie & Waylon, aka Serene’s accounting department

I was standing on the stone walkway as I always do, although yesterday I was wearing the most fabulous pair of platform shoes.  Yeah well, next thing I know, my foot just barely grazes the edge of the stone I’m standing on, and before I know it, my feet are in the air, my arms are flailing, and I’m laying in the grass.  Waylon and Dottie come running over to see what’s brought me down to their level, and I’m laughing because that’s all I can do at this point.  Just laugh.  I know just how silly I must have looked, toppling over when there I was, thinking I was too-cool-for-school in my fabulous, yet highly inappropriate shoes for the yard.  Chalk it up to humbling experience number 857 for the week.

I have the honor and the privilege of being a young(ish) woman entrepreneur.  It’s not something I take lightly.  I am surrounded by many, many more who are highly successful and who push me to strive for greatness, because I see just how amazing they are.  And I’m not talking about the celebs – I’m talking about my friends and co-entrepreneurs making it happen right here in Charleston, and beyond.  There is so much talent out there – so many folks who are driven to work hard and aren’t afraid to fall on their faces a little to make it happen.

photo courtesy of Forbes

photo courtesy of Forbes


We may all have a different idea of success.  Had you asked me a few years ago, my answer may have been different.  All I can tell you now is that to me, success is taking a few falls, maybe enduring the pain of some scrapes and potential embarrassment, but then getting back up again, brushing yourself off, and getting on with it.  Learning, growing, and taking pride in the scars that you bear.  Each one of those scars tells the tale of how you arrived.  So success for me comes with a certain level of humility because it is not easy to achieve – it must be earned.  (Now keep in mind here that I am not saying that success is not to be celebrated – indeed it is, and I am the first one to wholeheartedly rejoice and sound my barbaric yawp.  I’m merely saying that there are also times when you keep your head down and keep on pushing.)

I am a big fan of quotes, and I turn to them often for inspiration and guidance.  I’ll leave you with some on which to ponder:

Begin doing what you want to do now.  We are not living in eternity.  We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand – and melting like a snowflake.”

- Marie Beyon Ray, author

or how ’bout this one:

“Until you’re ready to look foolish, you’ll never have the possibility of being great.”

- Cher

Here’s to your humble successes.  Show me your scars and I’ll show you mine.