A small balcony makeover

It’s the new year. Time for fresh starts, room refreshes and completing projects.

Scott and I were immediately drawn to the potential of the outdoor space when we bought our condo in late 2011. We imagined enjoying sunny days and cool nights relaxing, dining and entertaining in this space.

Outdoor space

I backburnered this project for most of 2012 as I got things inside wallpapered, painted, and furnished and prepared for our October wedding. Poor Scott just wanted to sit outside with his beer and his dog and breathe in the ocean air. So for his Christmas 2012/birthday 2013 (his is February 4) present, I committed to cozying up the balcony for him. And here’s how the small balcony makeover turned out.

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Last-minute Thanksgiving decor

Happy Thanksgiving! If you’ve been working all week and need a centerpiece or stoop decor stat, I have a super simple idea for you and your home with these last-minute Thanksgiving decor ideas. Head to the one open grocery store, and scoop up pumpkins—lots of them.

A dear family friend and Wendy James Designs reader, Cynde Garrett, sent me this photo from outside a Scottsdale, AZ resort. Cynde can only be described as the queen of holiday decorating. Her Christmas tree always twinkles brighter than any other, and her mantel looks like it belongs on the cover of a magazine. Her comment with this photo? She just needs a fountain!

Pumpkin fountain

I love the combination of pumpkins and twigs. So easy if you happen to have a huge fountain in your front yard, but let’s use this photo as inspiration only.

Here’s how you can achieve this organic beauty on a much more manageable scale—and in a pinch.

Screen Shot 2013-11-28 at 9.52.43 AM

In the garden, add fallen leaves and other trimmings from the yard to the bird bath, then place a pumpkin on top. Skip making a bouquet, and simply arrange several pumpkins and gourds around the base.

Screen Shot 2013-11-28 at 9.55.53 AM

Or float several small pumpkins in it instead.

Screen Shot 2013-11-28 at 9.53.21 AMHas the greenery growing in the front urns seen better days? Stack a few pumpkins on the top of each, then dress the front steps with the remaining pumpkins and gourds you buy.

Screen Shot 2013-11-28 at 9.57.32 AMPhoto from EAB Designs

Or keep the front steps simple, and tuck grocery-store greens around the base of each pumpkin in the urn.

Screen Shot 2013-11-28 at 9.59.34 AMPhoto from Common Ground

Another idea: Skip decorating the outside of the house, and focus your efforts around the area where everyone will be, your dining table. Start with a small pedestal urn or compote dish. Fill it with just a few dry leaves and berries from the yard, and place a single pumpkin on top.

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Want more height? Stack your urn on top of some old books, and place more than one pumpkin on top.

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This one is my favorite. I love the touch of glam the silver urn adds to the monochromatic display of white pumpkins and candles.

Don’t forget to dress the rest of the table. My easiest idea? Just use dry leaves. You can read all about it here.

How are you decorating your Thanksgiving table? I would love to see pictures.



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!

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 the most of a small balcony, patio or terrace

A neutral and bright living space
Apartment dwellers, townhome owners and condo renters, I’m talking to you on this one. Your homes are cozy and quaint and your yard space is either nonexistent or extremely small. But you want to be able to enjoy that outdoor area, right? Here are my tips for maximizing on that tiny alfresco square footage:
Use odd angles to your advantage. This balcony came to a wide-angle trapezoid in this corner, and I wanted the furnishings to go all the way to the wall since the other side of this balcony is the workhorse, housing a closeted washer and dryer. So I created custom-ish banquet seating. When we purchased this dining table from Craigslist, it came with two benches, but bench seating didn’t complement the sophisticated dining environment. So I moved them outside, nestled them up in a modified L-formation, made bench cushions using weatherproof foam and all-weather fabric, then cozied it up with loads of indoor/outdoor throw pillows from Overstock.com (you can buy them in sets of two).

The benches create a comfy place to read, nap or dine with the addition of a 30-inch round bistro table (a piece the homeowner scored on Craigslist) and two modern outdoor wicker chairs.
Add lighting. Shiny silver lanterns hang from sisal rope knotted around ceiling hooks and create instant atmosphere with lit candles inside.
Plant things. Outdoor spaces beg for living things to soften all the hard surfaces and edges. And succulents boxwoods and ferns are super hardy and difficult for even the blackest thumbs to kill. To create uniformity, plant all of your flora and fauna selections in neutral pots of various sizes.
Go vertical. The homeowner purchased this hanging plant rack on Etsy, and I turned a hardware store stepstool ladder into a plant stand painted Blue Ocean Breeze.

(Photos by Jennie J Sullins)

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