A modern living space

I really like the house we bought in Dallas. It’s spacious, has three bedrooms, and plenty of storage. I did, however, think we were going to end up with a mid-century modern charmer. There are so many of them in Dallas. In fact, Scott and I both fell in love with this house when we went to see it.

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Cozy decorating ideas

Temperatures have officially dipped in Switzerland, and without the comforts of home, I’m struggling to find a cozy spot in this apartment. So I’m dreaming of things I can do to carve out a comforting nook, a relaxing spot to curl up in and read, blog and design. I wrote this article for CountryLiving.com and talked about creating instant warmth here, but I’m looking for that space I can escape to on cold days or when I need some me time.

I’ve given cozy decorating ideas to friends and I’ve made warm spaces for magazines. I designed this creative space.

Creative space

(Photo: REDBOOK magazine)

And this reading nook for REDBOOK magazine when I was an editor there.

Reading spot

(Photo: REDBOOK magazine)

We all deserve a comfortable place to rest, plan, read, dream, Pin or think, to turn off daily stress, get comfortable and do nothing that involves crossing anything off a to-do list. And creating this haven doesn’t have to take a lot of time, money or even space. Claim a corner of the living room, a nook in the attic or a spot outside (if it’s not too cold). And surround yourself with cozy, feel-good things.

Reading nook

Move a comfy chair to the corner of a room. Throw a plush rug on the floor, pull up a soft ottoman and a small side table for your tea, coffee or wine. Then think about creating a sort of barrier. You could hang a curtain, reposition a bookcase, even move a large houseplant to make the space feel more secluded.

Nook(Photos: top left to right; Little Bits of Delight, The Style Files, imgur.com)

Leave no space uncozied. Look at those overlooked “dead” spaces in your home and claim your territory there. Do you have an underutilized closet or an awkward recess? Remove closet doors, add a bench, lots of pillows with texture and a fury one, and a throw.

Think outside the box. Literally. Step onto the porch, patio or courtyard and see where you might be able to set up an outdoor retreat. In designing our back patio, I wanted a space where yes, we could entertain, but I wanted a corner of the small balcony to entice me to build a fire, have a glass of wine and just enjoy the cool San Diego night. Enter a fire pit and oversize furniture to invite lounging, and voilà!


How have you cozied up your home? Do you have a space for you? I’d love to see it!

What wood you do?

Remember the design plan I created for this bachelor pad? I wanted to share the final product.
A better bachelor pad
Photo by Jennie J Sullins
This bachelor was in the market for a modern design. He loved the idea of the black, gray and orange I proposed, but I had a hard time convincing him that we needed some natural wood tones to warm up the large room with vaulted ceilings.
A better bachelor pad
Photo by Jennie J Sullins
Natural wood grounds a modern space and gives a room a warm, layered feel.
A better bachelor pad
Photo by Jennie J Sullins
To prevent this space from looking cold with the largest furnishings reading very modern—the couch, the Barcelona-style chair and dining table, I introduced wood tones slowly so the homeowner could see the warming-up process evolve. I brought in black-lacquered café chairs with natural cane seats.
Cane seat chairs
Photo by Jennie J Sullins
I painted the bar high-gloss black but left the rattan cabinet panels untouched.
A better bachelor pad
Photo by Jennie J Sullins
I painted a mid-century modern end table russet but kept the drawer front au natural.
Painted end table
Photo by Jennie J Sullins
The coffee table came last. The modern couch and chair’s metal base craved something that didn’t look so new (even though the chair is vintage). The wood table, a Craigslist find, gave a more inviting collected-over-time atmosphere.
Photo by Jennie J Sullins
Do you have a room that could use a bit of natural wood? I would love to see photos. Remember a few key points:
1. You don’t have to mix paint and wood finishes like I did on the end table and bar. Start with blocks of color. Maybe you have a black dining table and white sideboard. Introduce natural wood chairs or start smaller with a wood-frame mirror.
2. Resist your urge to match. Don’t match furnishings to the floors or to other pieces in the room. Instead find complementing undertones in the wood. Does your wood have warm brown undertones or cool gray undertones? Find tones within the same family.
3. Put touches of wood throughout a space. It can be as small as the coaster set I added to the end table or as large as the coffee table itself. The trick is not to gather all your wood in one spot. Pepper the room with it.

Add instant warmth to a room

I don’t believe in changing out decor and furnishings with each season, but I do think it’s important to cozy up a room for fall and winter and delayer come spring and summer. I also don’t believe in spending buckets of money for a seasonal switch or addition, so here are five easy–and quickish–ideas to cozy up your place.

I always say that the quickest way to dress up a look is to paint your pout a classic red. And the easiest way to warm up a space? Red. It’s a statement but one that comforts. Santa Clause, hearts and nostalgia-creating Radio Flyers all share the shade. I wouldn’t advise letting the bold hue samba all over your home but start with the entrance. Paint the front door. Try any hue from a soft orange-y Nantucket red, like Farrow & Ball’s Blazer 212 to something bold and flaming, such as Benjamin Moore’s Moroccan Red.
Farrow & Ball Blazer 212Moroccan Red







Quick. Think of your fondest memory? Does it take you to a warm safe place? Is it from your childhood? Use those memories as inspiration for your home. As a kid, I loved playing games with my family. We’d have family game time on every vacation and on all holidays, and it always created lots and lots of laughter. To incorporate this fun into my home, I might frame and hang a series of vintage board games, fill a small glass bowl with wooden game pieces or take a whack at these mallet hooks from the very creative KariAnne at Thistlewood Farms.
Vintage game boardsVintage game piecesMallet hooks






Leather is fantastic for summer but can feel pretty cold in the fall. Add lots of comfy textured pillows. Some of my favorites for fall include off-white knits , dark turquoise velvets and a jacquard weave.
Comfy sofa
Fill space with favorite tomes. For me, cold, rainy days mean curling up with a good book. Stack novels or decorative books on nighstands, entertainment centers, even entry tables (like I did here).
Styling the entryway
Fixing drafty windows, doors and fireplaces can be a costly endeavor. Keeping several throws in easy reach is way less expensive. Fill this graphite tweed bin with throws like this coral one and this woven stripe.

new bin shotcoral onewoven one








Make an impact with neutrals

Neutrals are not boring. Grays, browns and whites come in such a variety of shades (from light to saturated, matte to metallic), textures and patterns that they can add more visual interest to a room than a single bold color.
Michelle's before
Lots of espresso decor and not a ton of natural light made this space very dark, but the furnishings were still in great shape so there was no need to toss and start new. Instead I lightened things up with lots of light accents and surfaces with different finishes, like replacing one of the end tables (and repurposing it in another room) with a white pedestal marble table.
A neutral and bright living space
I started in the living room. I removed all of the oversized brown pillows and added new decorative cushions in gray tones made from materials like wool felt, silk and metallic cotton blends. I also added a white cable-knit throw to the mix.

To eat up a good chunk of the large wall behind the sofa, we commissioned one of the clients’ friends to take this fantastic black-and-white shot, then blew it up on a canvas at Costco. The smaller sketches came from a British artist on Etsy. I loved the touches of red each had because the room needed a little pop. I framed each print in a different black frame and created a small collection.
A neutral and bright living space
My clients didn’t have a dining room in their previous apartment so we went with a light wood farmhouse table (a Craigslist score) and repainted the chocolate stools the same light gray we used on the console table in the entryway.
Michelle stools before
I hung a floating shelf to take up space in the dining room, then layered handmade artwork. You can read how to create my crackle paintings here. To make a few sophisticated chalkboards for the room, I purchased thrift-store frames in different sizes and spray-painted the glass with chalkboard paint. The clients use some of this art to let friends and family leave their mark when they visit.

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