Don’t Declutter (yet)

piles of furniture from pinterest

He said that you should have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. This was very sound advice from William Morris, a talented man and a wonderful poet; from what I have read, he could quote exquisite words of wisdom faster than I can swipe on cherry lip balm at a quick-changing traffic light.

I admire him, and others like him, who can speak meaningful words while subconsciously editing out the frilliness that some of us can’t resist; it is a skill that I will probably spend my entire life merely aspiring to achieve.

Editing our homes takes us back to that wonderful quote of his; it is one of the most popular sentences in the design world, because it is so simple and true.

Now is the time of year when we start to feel the conflict of motivation and hibernation. Stuck in the confines of icy paths and nose-freezing temperatures, I really want to follow Mr. Morris’ advice and declutter my cellar, but I don’t want to get frost-bite in the process. Then, if I actually do it, where do I put all my stuff after I have braved the frost-bite? Will I be able to fit it into the garage? Highly unlikely, considering I almost need a waving flag and an engineering degree to maneuver my car inside.

Just thinking about it is enough to make me put my pajamas back on.

So, for now I will be content to wait for warmer weather, but when I eventually do feel inclined, and my home starts to feel more blah than beautiful, I won’t go to the nearest self-help blog, I’ll decide on my exit strategy first. Sounds weird, but I need to know where things are going, before I start to sort through them; believe me, there is nothing worse than going to bed at the end of the day with an empty closet and a bedroom that looks like the final hour of a really bad garage sale. It does your head in, and it is a horrible thing to wake up to.

Decluttering can be an exhausting can of worms to open, so deciding (realistically) where your clutter is going before you start, is far more motivating than sorting random things into lots of neat little piles that have nowhere to go.
This is what I do before I do anything……

  • If I think I will be donating items, I choose a cause that I support and believe in. If I am really organized, I will call them ahead of time to see what their requirements are.
  • I buy heavy duty garbage bags almost before I even think about decluttering; this way, when I am ready to start throwing things away I can do it without hesitating.
  • If I am honestly not quite ready to get rid of some things, and I don’t want them cluttering up a certain room, I don’t feel guilty about it, but I do decide on new (hidden) spaces to store them until I am ready to get rid of them (cellar, attic, garage etc).

Wendy E. Wrzos http://wendyandthebluegiraffe.blogspot.com

Photograph from Pinterest

Restoration Hardware dog

My cat’s litter box sits at the bottom of a pantry cupboard near my kitchen; it is the second biggest cupboard in my house, and it is prime cat real estate. My canned tomatoes and pasta have to squish on a small shelf in the other room, obsessively organized, all because my cat uses their cupboard. And, because the dog can’t resist eating his food, my cat now eats out of a handmade pottery bowl that blends into the living room, and sits on an old vintage dresser.

We all do strange things to make our pets feel at home, and designing around them, or in spite of them, is always interesting to see. For me, my vanity always wins, and I prefer to disguise their belongings, or hide them away; it doesn’t mean I love them any less, it just means that I don’t want to trip over a dog bed, or find myself waiting for the cat to finish sweeping up before I can take my turn in the bathroom.

So, with pampering in mind, here are some designs to make your pets life very comfortable….

PicMonkey Collage pets

Wendy E. Wrzos  http://wendyandthebluegiraffe.blogspot.com/

Top Dog and his Fur Bed from http://www.restorationhardware.com/catalog/category/products.jsp?link=LuxeFauxFurPetBeds&categoryId=cat5090015
Fireplace Dog Bed from 
Campbed Dog Bed, Egg Cat Bed and Wool Rock Cat Bed from
Retro Cat Litter Cabinet from 
Kitchen Dog Bowl Cabinet from
Blue Nightstand Dog Bed from
Kitchen Dog Bed Cabinet from 
Kitchen Cat Litter Cutout from


I remember helping a friend to paint faux marble veins on her countertops with a feather. It was the days where decorating shows were obsessed with Venetian plaster, and we all wanted to create colorful Italian walls in our new 1990’s homes; when spackling on random texture was closely rivaled by the irresistible impulse to dab painted sea sponges onto the nearest empty wall. Honestly, we must have all been suffering from bad eyesight, because I think Venetian plaster should stay in Venice, and that sponge painting is far more fun in the bathtub.

Trends are like fashion; some create wonderful memories, and others are truly cringe-worthy, but they all seem like such a great idea at the time.

My least favorite trend is the bad pretend trend; when we want something in our home, and not only does it not suit us and our house, but we opt for the inexpensive version that really looks like the inexpensive version. If we’re going faux (I think I just like saying that) then it should look (and feel) close to what it is supposed to be, or, if it is a glaring imposter (and just begs to be prodded, poked or scraped with a curious fingernail) decorate with it discreetly, and place it in a spot where it doesn’t scream that it is pretending to be something that it isn’t.

I will be the first one to admit that I have linoleum tiles in my kitchen that look like they are slate, but they’re not. Do I love them? No, but the original was white, sprinkled with tiny pink and blue flowers that matched the white wallpaper that also had tiny pink and blue flowers. One of them had to go, and as much as I yearned for slate, or a gorgeous, aged brick, my tendency to drop things and my need for warm toes in the morning, made me choose the faux slate instead. Fortunately, my kitchen is the size of a large postage stamp, so if you are in it you are probably covering most of the floor anyway, and you wouldn’t notice what you were standing on.

One place where I couldn’t do the imitation thing was on my front porch. Again, it is a small space, and I was advised to get it made out of this great new composite material that looks like wood but lasts forever. As my house is basically built out of glue, hope and plywood, I was a little unsure about using such a modern product on it, but I was open-minded, and was happy to look at it when the contractor brought over the sample.

From a distance (ie. my neighbor’s living room) if you squinted, it looked exactly like wood, but up close it looked too new and plastic-like for my house. Being something that I would walk by every day, I knew it would bother me; I wanted the reassuring tap of wood, and to be able to screw in a cup hook for my hanging baskets wherever I wanted to. It was a very good imposter, but I could still tell the difference.
The contractor did a wonderful job, and the paint has held up for more years than I could have hoped, but it was truly a design choice to go with the real wood, not a practical one.

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but I think, that when it comes to most things authenticity usually looks (and feels) better…

Wendy E. Wrzos  http://wendyandthebluegiraffe.blogspot.com/

Photograph from: www.plentyofcolour.com

Polka dot artist Yayoi KusamaSomeone asked me the other day if I could just write design ideas, and not go into a long story. Oops. So, with inspiration from Yayoi Kasuma (the Polka Dot Queen) and a big cup of coffee, here are five of my favorites….




Rugs give purpose to your furniture arrangement, and add warmth and character to a room.
By the way, it’s okay to have rugs in the kitchen, bathroom and foyer, even if they aren’t specifically made for that space.



If your room seems boring, but you don’t want to add a painted “pop of color”, make it more interesting with something organic. A live plant, a bowl of rocks or pine cones, a bunch of flowers – even some twigs in a vase perks up a room without almost any effort at all.


bert and ernie1
If you’re stuck on knowing exactly where to hang your art, recruit some help – let one person hold it up,
and the other step back to see how it will look. Take turns, until you’re both sure of where it should go; standing by yourself, with two crooked elbows and your nose glued to the wall, skews your perspective,
and isn’t nearly as much fun.



Once you start matching your chairs to your curtains, and your pillows to your rug, you begin to fall down a designer rabbit hole; it will feel uncomfortable, things will start to blend together, and your home can feel dated very quickly.
Try to coordinate your styles and colors instead (which is actually easier).




Homes should look as if they have been collected over time, not as if you bought everything from the shop yesterday. Mix old treasures with new finds, and shiny hardware next to dull.
Don’t be afraid to change what you already have; scuff up a metal finish with a piece of fine sandpaper or kitchen scrubby, remove the jackets from all of your books, and dare to paint the inside back wall of your dated china cabinet.

Wendy E. Wrzos http://wendyandthebluegiraffe.blogspot.com/

Photographs from:
Yayoi Kasuma http://littleaesthete.com/yayoi-kusama-my-life-is-dot-lost-among-thousands-of-other-dots/
Bathroom –  http://www.popsugar.com/home/Midday-Muse-Bathroom-Rugs-1896372,
Living Room – Atlanta Home via http://www.nikiebarfield.com/
Bert and Ernie – http://www.kids-coloringpages.com/74/sesame-street/Coloringpages-Bert-And-Ernie.html
Buttons – https://www.pinterest.com/barbiedoll7/buttons-bows/ and http://www.katekessling.co.uk/blog.php

Your Dining Room Table

dining room eclectic2I am always surprised at how many people want a formal dining room, but never use it. I think it has just become part of our dream, along with the white picket fence and the piece of land; an image of how we believe life should be. We want our family to gather around the feast, laughing and telling stories over a heavingly, abundant table; it’s a Norman Rockwell thought, in a less than simple world.

Whether you use it once a year, or every day, a dining room table is a big purchase, and while I always tell people to buy what they love, this is one of those things that really does need a good dose of practicality thrown in, before you hand over your credit card.

I found an old walnut dining room table in a junk store for $40. about 20 years ago. It has three leaves, and a pulley system underneath that requires an engineering background to figure out. But, it is the smallest of rectangle’s without the leaves, is virtually indestructible, and its less than fancy style fits perfectly into my 1930’s home.

In an ideal world it would be round, but despite all the wishing I couldn’t make my house any bigger, and I was lucky to just happen upon the next best thing. Round tables are my favorite; they can seat more people, and give an informality to a space, but they are usually too wide for a dining room (but perfect for a kitchen nook).

Ironically, a rectangle table in a rectangle room quickly needs some softness, and a round table in a rectangle room can often feel like you are drinking bad coffee, and an important meeting is about to start. So, what type of table is best for your dining room, and how do you decide?

  • It has to begin with how much physical space you have, your budget, and how you want to use the room. Ignore Norman Rockwell for a moment, and jot down a few notes about your own family, and what your eating/entertaining habits are.
  • Consider what else you want in the room eg. art, mirror, storage etc.
  • If you must have the matching hutch and/or buffet, then you might need to consider a smaller table, and you have to measure it all out first (showrooms are always bigger than your dining room, and they can’t have a family of twelve reaching for the mashed potatoes, or grandma’s wheelchair squeezed in at the end by the kitchen door).
  • Are you a tablecloth person, a table protector, or do you want to see the wood (and don’t mind the occasional scratches).
  • Dark or light wood, fancy shapes, plain, rustic or traditional?  Leaves, or no leaves?
  • How many chairs do you need? How many can you fit, and do you have the space to store any extras?

Writing it down makes it seem like a lot to think about, but it is really worth a little bit of time; your home and your family are important, and at the end of the day, a table is far more than just a piece of furniture.

Wendy E. Wrzos http://wendyandthebluegiraffe.blogspot.com/

Photograph from: http://decoholic.org/2014/10/31/mix-match-furniture-40-dining-room-ideas/




Happy Holidays!

e4c8586feb0c9bb1eb2fef84a8ca7064Wishing you peace and joy this holiday season from all of us at ADE!

I have set up a small hot chocolate station in my own kitchen, but when I saw this elaborate set-up at one of the houses I toured during the Concord Museum Holiday House Tour, I just had to share. To pull this off, you’ll need a good deal of counter space, however you can take a few bits and pieces of ideas to use in your own home. And, you can gift someone their very own hot chocolate bar.
Start with your very own sign or menu, or just use a cute decoration like the snowman you see under the cloche. Set out mugs, a few pitchers—one for spoons, straws, cinnamon sticks, or candy canes. Of course you’ll need some hot chocolate and plenty of marshmallows. Bottles of toppings like a shaker of cinnamon or cocoa powder are also a good idea. Stagger the heights of each item and use a variety of materials like glass, silver, and china to keep things interesting. Then go ahead and add some greens, berry branches, or even a few ornaments in and around the display.
Now the gift idea… Choose a large container that can serve as both packaging and as part of the gift itself like this large glass cookie jar from Target. Fill it up with packages of candy canes, hot chocolate mix (we like Silly Cow Farms), a bag of mini marshmallows, some old-fashioned straws, and fun containers of toppings like jimmies, candy dots…lots of things you might use to decorate a cake. OR, keep it simple and fill a pretty box with two mugs, some hot chocolate mix, a bag of mini marshmallows, and a DVD of their favorite holiday movie. (Kids would enjoy their own version with a copy of The Polar Express.)
Wrap them both up with a beautiful ribbon and some jingle bells.
Hot Chocolate Mix

2 cups instant non-fat dry milk powder

1 cup powered sugar

3/4 cup powdered non-dairy creamer

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

1/8 teaspoon salt


  1. In a large bowl, combine the creamer, milk powder, sugar, salt, and cocoa powder.
  2. Pour into air tight container or freezer bag for storage.
  3. Add 1/3 cup of cocoa mix to 1 cup boiling water or to a 1/2 hot milk, which I prefer.
  4. Mix well.
  5. Add chocolate chips and stir until melted. You may add more if you wish.

Optional: Top with mini marshmallows or whipped cream.
More recipes…
Hot chocolate on a stick // Crockpot hot chocolate // Italian hot chocolate // Truffle hot chocolate


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