Tuesday, December 31, 2019

looking ahead

New Year's Eve is the perfect time to be reflective, right? I was sitting on the couch watching a live broadcast of fireworks in Boston, it had just turned 7pm and the station cut-in to also show London, where the clock just struck midnight. Happy New Year! I decided it would be fun to join the online conversation and post something to Instagram but didn't really have anything new to share from my phone's gallery (and the light is too dim to snap any pics) so I revisited the archives of my barely functioning home computer.

I found this photo and it kind of stopped me in my tracks. Created in 2011 around the height of my being active on this blog and working tirelessly to build a portfolio of published writing and craft tutorials to support a book proposal. In 2013 my first book Tinkered Treasures was published by CICO Books, followed in 2014 by Seaside Tinkered Treasures, and a few years later came "the IKEA book" in various versions by different publishers. All the while I continued to write home features for shelter magazines. It was a busy time of making and writing and writing about making. So much has happened to me professionally since I wrapped some pencils in photocopies of fabric, topped them with paper roses, and snapped some pics.

I think of the past year and realize I didn't tinker very much with paper and glue. I did spend a lot of time writing, which is a great thing. I also realized that I'm not sharing about making as much and decided to rename my Instagram account to reflect that I'm instead posting more about my life and work and the things I find beautiful – and so with Elyse Major already taken – you can find me on Instagram now at elyse.press.major  It felt strange letting go of my "brand name" but it also seems like a good move forward. The account is still Tinkered Treasures on Facebook. Baby steps, right?

Wishing everyone a happy and healthy year ahead! Thank you for reading!


Sunday, February 3, 2019

insta inadvertent decor diary

We're living in an age where our every move is documented in some form or another. Sometimes this is a useful thing; for example in a few moments I retraced that instant when I decided to paint my kitchen-dining room walls white.

I saw the above post and GASP... began following each account involved in the making of this bright and simple mudroom. As commented, I was smitten with the white walls, woven blinds, and overall simplicity.

Ever the fickle decorating pickle, I'd been switching accents around in my dining room, most notably the window treatments and table coverings. Shabby Chic valances and a lace window panel; roller blinds striped with Frog tape for the IKEA book paired with yardage of floral cotton; and finally black and white checked valances with a section of brown kraft paper. Despite the look from varying exposures, always the white table, always the smoke blue Isabella dining chairs, and always the Spring Morn-painted walls. I always adored the dining decor but suddenly it seemed fussy.

Even a room in Dollhouse no. 2 received a test make-over with a white accent wall and matchstick blinds fashioned from toothpicks. I was ready for this change. Down came the valances and wall decor of the real kitchen and dining room, and in came buckets of pure white; painting was completed toward the end of September.

So fresh, open and clean, I didn't want to return anything except for the dining set. Of course pieces did make it back, including the addition of the living room armoire which couldn't accommodate the size of a new-to-us TV.

All of the wall decor and miscellaneous items ended up in the Girlie Office during the painting process.

I found affordable woven Roman shades at Overstock and as documented on Instagram, they were all installed by mid-November. The chandelier still hangs but I've been thinking of replacing it with this industrial pendant lamp that was once in my youngest son's room.

I am really enjoying the streamline look so much so, that no wall decor has been returned to either the kitchen or dining room walls. Will the Fresh Cut Flowers enamel sign return? Will there be a mirror or a painting? I want the spaces to have a coastal-farmhouse vibe but in the meantime, am leaving it be and enjoying the simplicity and will likely be documenting any progress on Instagram.

Thanks for reading and Happy February!


Wednesday, December 26, 2018

my year end review: looking to the present

I’ve never been very good at resolutions or even setting goals but I do like having a word for the year ahead. Somehow even in the back of my mind the word becomes a motto, an M.O., a compass, a comfort. The word enters my thoughts, prescribed by circumstance; it seems to present itself and I don’t ruminate over it, I agree and accept. There was that year where I felt scattered and so my word was mindful, the year of making random career choices and so I went with strategic. Last year I was in a dark place professionally and the word flourish found me, and I’m glad it did.

2018 kicked off with a visit from the incredibly talented Matthew Mead, someone whose work as a stylist, photographer and magazine editor I have been following for years. Funny, gracious, and creative as they come, I am honored to know Matthew and call him my friend. He showed up on a bright Saturday morning in January – his pick-up truck filled with props and buckets of fresh flowers – for a fun filled day of styling and photographing my home. The images that focused on my craft room, aka the Girlie Office, are featured nearly a year later, in the current issue of In Her Studio magazine.

During the first half of the year, writing for shelter magazines kept me afloat both emotionally and financially. For each home story that I penned, I was transported, inspired, and validated. While a trio of articles is just about to hit newsstands in Boho Style, I actually wrote them back in April and so they seem like ages ago. Another piece due out early in 2019 was written in July. That’s the world of the editorial calendar -- always months ahead. 

During the second half of the year, on June 11 to be exact, I started a new position, my dream job as editor in chief at Providence Media, publisher of a host of Rhode Island lifestyle magazines. Here, I am surrounded by kind collaborative colleagues and am committed to work that I love. I feel valued, useful, and appreciated, and proud of what we do. I have my own office with a tall window that overlooks a leafy brick courtyard. Each day I pitch and develop story ideas, I write, assign, edit, and I even do some product styling. Six months in, I still don’t get that Sunday feeling of dread.

Being immersed in planning editorial content for a series of magazines, my mind is always spinning and months ahead. In September I was writing about wintertime and today I’m working on March. This can cause time to blur and even holidays to feel like they already happened. I have also been self-aware of skimming instead of reading, scanning not looking, and hearing over listening. It’s no wonder that the word PRESENT surfaced as my word for 2019. The plan is to strive to be better aware of my surroundings, to slow down a bit, to pay attention. After all, each day is a gift – that’s why they call it the present, right?

Thanks as always for reading. All best wishes, always!


Saturday, August 18, 2018

such a pity: final issue of prairie style magazine

To receive an assignment for Prairie Style magazine from its Founder and Editor in Chief Fifi O'Neill, was like getting a present. The honor of being among her roster of writers aside, sets of images for each home bundled in emails were always a swoon-fest! Through the years I connected with homeowners around the United States, mostly by email or phone, even forming some friendships along the way. Why the past-tense? The Autumn 2018 issue will be the last of this series.

Fifi broke the news to me months ago but reading her ever-gracious editor's letter simply titled "Thankful" most definitely bummed me out. It's no secret that magazines are having a tough time with advertisers spending more of their dollars digitally these days. I too spend hours scrolling through images on social media but when I'm really ready to dig in to a project, it's the printed page every time.

There's something special about images that have been planned and styled and photographed by seasoned professionals. All of the time including travel that goes into this work all for us to want to buy this magazine over another one fascinates me; images get posted to Instagram where we scroll them, stopping for seconds to show our adoration with a heart. But the thing is, I don't want printed magazines to go away any more than I want my local bookstore-cafe to disappear. I enjoy the experience. What good is online content when the power goes out?

Writing for Prairie Style has made an impression on my own decorating. I've been inspired to paint my bathroom floor in a checkerboard pattern.

I learned so many tips and tricks from Kim Leggett of City Farmhouse who recently published her first book.

I wrote about a studio constructed of hay bales...

Virtually met fashion and home furnishings designer Tracy Porter and her menagerie of animals...

Learned about pockets of America and even building construction terms and techniques...

Shared about the beauty of simplicity...

Indulged my adoration for alliteration...

Became a fan of ship lap without watching Chip and Joanna Gaines...

And developed a project or two.

I continue to write for other magazines but I'll never forget Prairie and hope you enjoyed it, too.

For the sake of keeping this post from getting too lengthy, only a sampling of readily available images to me are included but all of the generous homeowners and designers and their beautiful and clever surroundings have inspired me in some way and I thank everyone for being available and responsive to my MANY questions!!!

The final issue is now available for presale and hits newsstands on September 4 (some back issues are listed as well). Let's make Prairie go out with a bang and somehow keep our other newsstand favorites going strong!


Captions for images from top to bottom {pretty sure they're all accurate}
Major bunting, Summer 2015
Autumn 2018 issue
Linderman home, Summer 2015
McConnell home/Leggett designer, Winter 2015
McConnell home/Leggett designer, Winter 2015
Holt studio, Winter 2015
Porter ranch, Spring 2015
Anderson cabin, Summer 2016
Linderman home, Summer 2015
McCreary home, Spring 2018
Bush home, Summer 2016
Major bunting, Summer 2015
Healy home, Winter 2017

Sunday, May 27, 2018

romantic country - spring 2018 #204

The other day that purveyor of the past Facebook, reminded me that it had been one year since Fifi O'Neill visited my home for the second time. I had the date wrong in my mind and when I visited this blog to verify, realized I'd never posted about the experience. So, Dear Blog, on Tuesday, May 23, 2017, Fifi O'Neill, along with her longtime photographer Mark Lohman and his son Taylor, arrived at my home around 9 a.m. for a wonderful day of styling, photographing and of course, lobster rolls {her New England must-have}.

Much had changed since Fifi's first visit...

Today the living room is more streamline and open with layers of window treatments removed and a much darker sofa and love seat in grey, and while Fifi suggested that light-colored throws would do the trick for the space to be Romantic Country magazine-ready, I had an alternative plan!

What if the sofa and loveseat were outfitted in a mishmash of floral fabrics, like this image from Pretty Pastel Style by Selina Lake? Over the years, I'd amassed quite a stash from Rachel Ashwell's Simply Shabby Chic line for Target: window panels, shower curtains, pillowcases and more. What if my sewing-enthusiast friend Lorraine would want to realize this vision for me!? Dare I even ask?

I barely got the proposal out of "Would you sew..." and awesome Lorraine replied, "I will!"

Reunited besties from Junior High, Lorraine and I enjoyed working on this project together, just like the old days. She visited my home frequently taking measurements and doing fittings, and somehow following my notes of keeping the patchwork random {more difficult than it seems}.

Meanwhile, I painted furniture (the piece above was given the Saltwash treatment) and purchased textiles like area rugs and throws {which oddly enough, I don't really own}.

Knowing I was doing the whole swathed-in-cotton florals thing, Fifi shipped me this very slipcover used in her Romantic Prairie Style Cookbook and I borrowed a wingback chair from my friend Maureen!

Here we are at the close of a very fun, very busy and unforgettable day!

Fifi remembered the aqua coffee table from her first visit, which was originally in the Girlie Office and had since been in the basement for a few years! She pulled pastel accents from other rooms, like the frames that line the floating shelves. The shade on the floor lamp is actually a skirt of mine! And as always, Fifi arrived with big ol' spackle buckets of fresh flowers!

The Spring 2018 issue of Romantic Country is especially dear to me because while it had a dedicated writer, I provided the text for six projects, and there was also a feature on dollhouse no. 1 noted on the cover.

Sadly this would be the final issue of Romantic Country, a magazine adored by many for years. Print is really taking a beating these days with advertisers directing their money toward mostly digital sources, requiring publishers to pass costs onto the readers (that's why magazines can be priced around $7-9.). If you love a publication and don't want it to go away the best thing you can do is to keep buying it and even subscribe. But I digress...

It was an honor and a pleasure to have my home featured, to have the help and support of so many, the unconditional patience of my family ("Um, Mom, why is there a camera crew in my room?!"), and to have such a special friend in Fifi. If you ever meet Mark and Taylor Lohman, mention The Jam and you'll see big grins across their handsome faces.

If you missed it on the newsstands, Romantic Country is still available for purchase online at http://amglifestylestore.com/p-2248-romantic-country.aspx

Thank you for visiting!


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!