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Nicole Cavanaugh - Interior Designer
It’s no secret that our homes are extensions of ourselves. We begin and end our day here. We entertain friends here and enjoy special moments with family, creating memories along the way. But what does it take to be happy in your home?

At my very core, my whole outlook on interior design is ‘Believe in a Better Life by Design’, so I recently began thinking of what steps I take for clients to give them a better life in their home. Interior design is generally about ‘Out with the old, in with the new’. If you’re thinking about re-designing your home, you want something new and fresh, something that will make you feel alive, relaxed or happy and something with better function. We lose the feeling of happiness in our home because we end up tolerating things in our home that don’t support us. The New Year is a new opportunity to create a new home and a new you! I’ve found that a few tweaks to how you live can help you have a better life in your home, increase your productivity and overall, your happiness. Making just a few small adjustments can not only help you create happiness in your home, it can help you feel more in control of your surroundings.

» Here are a few tips:

1. Design your home with pieces that mean something to you and your family. Just recently, I added a photo to my desk of my mom and I playing on the beach on Cape Cod when I was just 6 years old. I found a beautiful frame for it and I feel happy and uplifted each time it catches my eye! I remember the happiness I felt at the time because my mom holds such a special place in my heart. It’s important to make the memories, then enjoy looking back on them, and if you surround yourself with things you love, your home will make you happy.

2. Give yourself the space you need to do what you want to do in life. Above all, our environment should support who we are and what we do. I know that seems basic, however it’s true. If you love music, create a space that supports you in playing or listening when the mood strikes you. If you love art, look into creating an environment where you can draw, paint or be creative on the computer, or arrange a gallery of collected pieces for yourself. We’re not just designing a home; we’re creating an environment for ourselves to grow, as well.

3. Touch it once. Clutter drives me crazy and I work to create design solutions for clients that reduce what I call their ‘clutter experience’. Clutter creates stress in our lives and it wastes time and energy, so I believe in making each room as ready as it can be when I leave. If you set something down in a room, set it down in its place. If this is difficult, take 2 to 4 minutes before leaving a room to put things back in drawers, close cabinets, hang up clothes or put them in the laundry hamper. A cleaner room will greet you when you return and will feel so much better. Trust me!

4. Make a statement where you enter your home. Whether it’s pictures of your children, a vase of fresh flowers, a beautiful lamp, wind chimes or even new wallpaper on one wall, take the time to put something at your front door or in your entry area that will make you happy. You’ll notice you’ll feel much differently when you look at these things than at a pile of shoes, the dog’s bed, a stack of laundry or a cluttered table.

5. Make your bed. When the bed is made, the bedroom looks infinitely better because the bed is the focal point. Also, statistics show that making your bed allows you to begin functioning in an organized way each day because you are accomplishing a goal first thing in the morning. Making our bed also sets a good example for our children and a neater child’s room definitely makes for a happier home for Mom and Dad!

Nicole Cavanaugh

Mind, Body + Home
Interior Design
Nicole is the founder of Cavanaugh Interior Design Group. Her goal is to provide people with functional designs of spaces. Read more about Nicole and her mission here.

The holidays can sometimes seem overwhelming. However they are also the perfect time to give yourself permission to create bliss in your home. When our home isn’t as beautiful and functional as we want it to be, there’s a negative reaction inside of us at a gut level. That feeling! This holiday season, give yourself permission to gift yourself a space that nurtures and supports you and your family and above all, makes you happy! At my very core, I believe through design we can all have a better life. However, it’s not a matter of putting more ‘stuff’ in our homes. It is really a matter of creating heart in the home through design and infusing the spaces in your home with you… with who you are as a mom, a wife, a sister…with what’s in your heart.

Here are a few ideas to help you create a nurturing, heartfelt home this holiday season.

During the holidays, our thoughts naturally turn to family. This holiday season, surround yourself and your family with love, togetherness and gratitude. One way to infuse your rooms with these things is to bring in happy reminders of what is really important to you and your family. In addition to decorating your home with beautiful holiday decorations, think about infusing treasured memories of past holidays into your home this year. Set aside time after school or one evening as a family to each choose four or five pictures from past holidays that really speak to you and bring happy memories to mind. Choose frames that coordinate with your existing décor and create a photo ‘spot’ in each of your rooms, specific for each person, whether on a blank wall or a side table. For example, your daughter and son could each frame several pictures for their rooms that they’ve chosen, which are special reminders to them. In the living room, you could all choose one or two pictures to display as a collection. This is also a wonderful way for your children to have a hand in creating their own décor and to learn the importance of creating a special space for themselves. Trust me, it will make a difference each time you walk in the room and see the happy memories!

If your photo spots are on side or console tables, try pairing a plant, flowers or other organic component that corresponds with the memory, or that brings up other fun/pleasant memories from past holidays. You may try a small rosemary tree in your kids’ rooms or some other organic, holiday reminder. For instance, when I was younger, my mom and I made spiced orange pomanders during the holidays, using oranges or tangerines and spiking the rinds with cloves in decorative patterns. Not only did they make pretty centerpieces, the scent of orange and clove throughout the house during the holidays was amazing! So for me, using these near my photo spots or simply as a centerpiece just layers the holiday memories together and incorporates a wonderful scent that brings back even more happy memories.

The holidays are also about gratitude and using a gratitude journal is one way many of us stay connected to those things that truly matter to us. Why not begin a new tradition this year and create a family gratitude journal? You can even give it a place of honor on one of the tables or bookshelves in your home, specially decorated for the holiday season. Each evening or every few days, set aside 10 or 15 minutes to spend time as a family and pass the journal around to add one or two things for which you’re each grateful. Writing our gratitude helps center us in the present moment, shutting out the chaos of homework, the To Do list, carpool and soccer. Sharing our gratitude only multiplies it and serves to bring other good things to us, so pass it around and read them to each other! You will create a fun, new family tradition and you’ll have the journal to look back on each year to come.

I know we’ve all heard this phrase at the holiday season: carve out space and time for yourself. Selfcare is important, particularly for moms who focus on nurturing everyone but themselves. To give ourselves adequate self-care in our homes, we need to have a space that we can call our own at least some part of the day. Give yourself permission to take a room, a corner in the living room or a spot on the patio or in the bath, and take a few minutes here to allow yourself space to breathe and be you.

Connect with your surroundings. Congratulate yourself for accomplishing all that you have. Light a candle or use a reed diffuser with a scent that reminds you of something happy and enjoy spending some time with yourself.

Remembering that the holidays are truly about family, giving and gratitude helps center us during this typically crazy time of year. Creating reminders in our home throughout the season is one way to help bring togetherness, comfort and bliss to our families, to carry with us into the new year.

Nicole Cavanaugh

Mind, Body + Home
Interior Design
Nicole is the founder of Cavanaugh Interior Design Group. Her goal is to provide people with functional designs of spaces. Read more about Nicole and her mission here.

With so many women joining the workforce from home, recently I began to think about the many different ways to create an office at home and what we need when doing so. Ideally, those who work from home have a separate room available for a home office. However, many times we incorporate an office into an existing guest room, corner of a living room or even in a bedroom. And, more often than not, we aren’t the only person who uses the space! Whatever your situation, here are a few rules of thumb to follow, as well as some essential elements to incorporate, from my experience creating and working with multi-functional spaces.

The Basics

» Begin with a plan

To avoid falling victim to what I like to call the Shiny Object Syndrome, any good design begins with a plan. More often than not, and because of fantastic advertising by retailers, people first fall in love with the look of a piece in a home store or catalog, then try to make it work in the room. It’s like building an outfit from a pair of shoes, a belt or a great handbag: it’s successful at times, but it’s much more difficult than if you had an idea ahead of time of what actually worked. Of course, you still want your home office to be aesthetically pleasing, but first think about how the room is used the majority of the time and begin designing your room from there, taking into consideration the room’s other functions, as well as who will use the room and what their needs are.

» Choose comfort and functionality

Comfort and functionality are significant characteristics of any productive home office and versatile furniture is your best choice, as it adapts easily to different needs. Versatile pieces, like a beautiful armoire, eclectic sideboard or wallmounted storage and organizational pieces, are useful in almost any room and function in a multitude of ways. I love to use them to hide the necessary but not-so-pretty printers and other office equipment.

As well, you’ll likely spend the majority of your time sitting at your desk, so invest in the most comfortable chair you can find and leave as much surface area as possible for work functions, like writing, computer time and bill-paying.

» Incorporate storage

Whether you are a financial planner, teacher, skin care specialist or freelance artist, you probably need storage. Storage is usually at the top of the needs list, particularly in a multi-functional space. Built-in or wall-mounted storage not only looks better and gives a high-end look to the room, it takes up less floor space than free-standing pieces. It also works better if it has adjustable shelves to allow you to update your look and function as much as you like. If you have open shelves, give thought to backing them with mirror or even wallpaper with a sheen to it, to give the illusion of additional space and to create a custom look. If you prefer doors, consider those with a mirrored front to achieve the same effect.

If your primary area of storage is on or around your desktop, the most effective way to manage clutter is to create organizational zones for your items, within eyesight, based on function and how often you use them. For instance, if you are a sticky note fanatic like me, consider creating a note board above your desk only for these reminders. If your children are budding artists and you frequently find their items all over your desk, give them their own shelf or wall space so they feel like they are still part of the picture, and to allow you to retain your own organized space. Your storage and organizational system is only good when you use it!

» Use ample lighting

Lighting is one of the essential components of a good workspace. I once had a client who dragged the only floor lamp in the room to his desk area each evening when he would work in his home office area. When I asked him why he didn’t simply purchase a desk or wall-mounted lamp, he replied that he didn’t know which one to buy. I think this is a common issue, so when it comes to a home office or other workspace, task lighting is inherently easier on our eyes than overhead, general lighting, particularly in the evening. Choose lighting that illuminates your workspace rather than lighting that shines directly in your eyes and you will feel less eyestrain at the end of the day. If desk space is at a premium and you have a cabinet over or around your workspace, consider pendant lighting, puck lighting or other undermount lighting.

Lighting is one of the essential components of a good workspace. I once had a client who dragged the only floor lamp in the room to his desk area each evening when he would work in his home office area. When I asked him why he didn’t simply purchase a desk or wall-mounted lamp, he replied that he didn’t know which one to buy. I think this is a common issue, so when it comes to a home office or other workspace, task lighting is inherently easier on our eyes than overhead, general lighting, particularly in the evening. Choose lighting that illuminates your workspace rather than lighting that shines directly in your eyes and you will feel less eyestrain at the end of the day. If desk space is at a premium and you have a cabinet over or around your workspace, consider pendant lighting, puck lighting or other undermount lighting.

When working with windows as your main or part of your main light source, consider the amount of light control you will need. You may want to layer a pretty, heavier window covering over sheer panels, to allow versatility and light control, as well as privacy. If the room doubles as a bedroom or other living space, you may need a heavier window treatment, like a Roman shade.

The Fun Stuff

» Balance

As with any space, we want to create a room in which we truly want to spend time and the key is balancing the functionality of the room with the pretty, decorative things that make our eyes light up when we walk into it. Finishing your room with decorative elements like draperies, a rug and personal items, like family photos and your children’s artwork, help any office become personal and inviting and balance out the functional areas you’ve created.

» Using The Unexpected

You may also enjoy using the unexpected as functional accessories that are in line with your design aesthetic. For example, I design for coastal homes and small spaces and one of my aesthetics is using coastalinspired elements in design concepts. In my own office, I use a large shell as a business card or paper clip holder and I’ve incorporated a woven sisal rug for texture. So, think about balancing the functional items with fun pieces that speak to you, as well as the look and feeling you’d like to create.

» Dress Your Floor

Rugs are an anchor and can be one of the jewels to any space and they’re also a great way to add color and your own personal touch. Much of a room’s personality – as well as your own – can be conveyed with the right rug. If you have contemporary taste, try one with bold colors and geometric shapes and if you prefer something more traditional, a floral or Asianinspired rug may be more to your liking. However, when considering one for your home office, choose a low pile and opt for one of the hard plastic sheets that will allow you to roll around easily in your chair. If you prefer not to use this sheet, choose an office chair without casters, as they can be difficult to use on a pile rug.

Any time you’re choosing the fun things for your home office, keep in mind how often décor changes seasonally. Every three months or so, there will always be a new trend, so choose items that really speak to you and that can be changed out inexpensively. If you’d like, you’ll be able to create a fresh new look a few times a year and indulge that Shiny Object Syndrome from time to time as well! In the end, it’s all about beautiful, balanced space that is uniquely yours.

Nicole Cavanaugh

Mind, Body + Home
Interior Design
Nicole is the founder of Cavanaugh Interior Design Group. Her goal is to provide people with functional designs of spaces. Read more about Nicole and her mission here.

When summer is in full swing, people are more than happy to take advantage of the great weather, bright sun and outdoor activities! It gives us a chance to explore and reconnect, not only with people we may not see as often as we’d like, but also with the outdoors and ourselves.

Many people may not realize that summer also offers a unique opportunity to freshen their décor. Whether you decide to make design and decor changes indoors or outdoors, your choices will refresh your space and help you feel like a special guest in your own home. Even still, as an adult, the mere mention of summer brings the word ‘happy’ to my mind. Summer is a lighthearted, playful time of year, and with a little time and effort, your home can reflect this carefree attitude. Here are a few ideas to get you in the spirit of the season.

Move the Living Room Outside

Extending your living area outside and connecting with your surroundings seems natural during the summer months. There’s almost something decadent about having another separate living space outside. I mentioned in a recent blog post that outdoor patios and porches are perhaps the most underutilized area of our home. They offer an amazing opportunity to expand our living space and our square footage. During the warm summer months, outdoor spaces should be a continuation of your interior spaces, and making them mirror your interiors is an easy way to do so. Create a living area outside this summer and see what happens! Include seating to encourage guests to sit, socialize and relax. Anchor the area with an outdoor rug that echoes your décor inside. Using outdoor chairs and ottomans that are comfortable with colorful fluffy pillows and cushions made from weather-resistant fabric is an excellent way to make an inviting area no one will want to leave! There are also numerous accessories available that will help thread the look of your interiors into your new outdoor living spaces, such as art, mirrors and wall clocks that will make any outdoor room look complete. Don’t forget to add end tables and a coffee table for convenient places to set food and drinks.

To create the ultimate outdoor living room, consider having an arbor added to your backyard that incorporates the use of fabric panels to create your own personal cabana. I’ve found that adding a pantry area for clients to house candles, matches, plastic plates, cups, barware, napkins and a few serving pieces is a welcome addition to their outdoor area and saves unnecessary trips back and forth to the kitchen. The finishing touch for kids and adults alike is an outdoor fireplace or fire pit to help them stay warm on cool, early summer evenings, and it is a perfect place to roast a few marshmallows after dining al fresco with friends. Remember, it’s summer and it’s all about light-hearted fun!

Create a Cozy Nook

Whether it’s indoors or outside, the kids probably need a quiet space for summer reading during their three month break from school; or you may need a space to get away from the kids! A reading nook is the perfect place to escape. Take a look around your home or outdoor space and get creative, as long as it’s quiet and comfortable, with adequate lighting. Most importantly, a reading space should be a peaceful area free of noise and the traffic of a household. Surround yourself with objects, colors and textures that make you feel at ease, and be sure the area is relatively clutter-free. Don’t forget to incorporate the use of a small table to make room for a glass of water or an afternoon cocktail! This is all about time for you.

Create a Summertime Tablescape

Summer is the perfect season to entertain family and friends and who doesn’t love a summer meal? Since the heat of the day is in the afternoon, guests will enjoy an early brunch or an evening dinner party. Have fun arranging the dinner table with tasteful, lighthearted summertime elements, like shells and flowers, candles and glass candle holders. Whether you favor formal or casual, eclectic or traditional, try using a variety of different colors, textures and patterns. One of the easiest and most cost effective ways to make an impact is with the addition of fresh flowers and potted plants. Freshly-cut, brightly colored flowers from your own garden or from the floral section at your local store make such a difference in your home and at a table! Avoid using heavy, dark or bulky vases and let the flowers take center stage.

Liven Up the Colors in Your Home

It’s no secret that color has an impact on our moods and plays a major role in any design project. Understand that colors behave in three basic ways: active (reds, yellows and oranges), passive (pastels, blue and green), and neutral (crème and white). Dark colors are sophisticated and cozy and they give large rooms a more intimate appearance. Light colors are expansive and airy and they make rooms seem larger and brighter. Personally, I enjoy combining both in my designs for clients while maintaining an overall feel, because I want them to be uplifted and happy when they use their rooms. Since summer is all about a fresh, happy feeling, take advantage of the bright summer sun and increased light levels and choose bright and airy colors or patterns, using those that incorporate the feeling of the season.

You may also enjoy incorporating fun summer accents like brightly colored vases, vintage glass bottles filled with sand or shells, a few antique frames and wicker baskets. Summer is also an excellent time to replace your throw pillow slipcovers with bright, happy designs or just replace your pillows altogether!

Install a Summer-Friendly Door

Consider swapping your traditional front door for one that’s a little more charming. Though we live in coastal Southern California, I’ve spent a lot of time on the East Coast. So perhaps this is why I’m so drawn to this little-used feature when I see it here. A Dutch door is divided horizontally into two half-doors, and either half can be left open or closed, letting in the warm, summer breeze. If you don’t want to change your front door, consider installing one leading to the back porch. Keeping the top open allows conversation to flow easily during parties between the house and backyard or when the kids are playing outside; and the kids love the cool factor of having a door that opens in two places!

Illuminate the Backyard

Summer entertaining isn’t complete until you set the mood with lighting. There are so many options from candles and chandeliers, to candelabras, sconces and hurricane lamps. When considering an evening with friends, I always, always, always brighten a table and dark corners with candles. If your outdoor area is large enough, weave several strands of garden lights through the trees or highlight a path, stairs or pool edge with luminaries. Luminaries are containers or sacks filled with sand and a candle and there are gorgeous upscale ceramic or metal versions available through outdoor living stores. Candlelight will twinkle through the holes in the luminaries, allowing light to bounce around and flicker in the dark, throughout the evening.

Summertime is a time when we are energized and full of ideas, so it is an excellent time to incorporate new ideas into our home décor and design. This summer, give yourself permission to let your imagination go a bit and see what kind of changes you can incorporate into your own living spaces!

Nicole Cavanaugh

Mind, Body + Home
Interior Design
Nicole is the founder of Cavanaugh Interior Design Group. Her goal is to provide people with functional designs of spaces.
Read more about Nicole and her mission here