Lovely in Lavender

Decorate with lavender for a delightfully simple way to evoke Provence and integrate the floral herb's lovely scent and color.

Lavender centerpiece
Dried lavender acts as a centerpiece and color inspiration.

Decorate with lavender for a delightfully simple way to evoke Provence and integrate the floral herb’s lovely scent and color.

Lavender is easy to find and to grow. Whatever your method, once you’ve gathered fresh lavender, set some aside to dry. Simply tie a bundle together and hang upside down. The dried lavender will make a great centerpiece strewn across a table runner in the same dreamy shade. Play off the color and natural inspiration with seashells and barnacles with purple tinges. White and cream decorative accents like other seashells or china are excellent complements.

You could also use an extra creamer from your tea set to serve as a bud vase for a few pieces of lavender set aside as an accent. For a more rustic take on a countertop or on top of a bookshelf, use a vintage watering can as a vase for some dried lavender. You could also create a vignette with some lavender peeking out of a vintage book.

Lavender as a powder room accent
Lavender as a powder room accent

Lavender can extend beyond your tablescape. Decorate with lavender in your bathroom, too. You could set up a vase or vintage bottle on the countertop to hold the dried lavender. You can also use them to beautify your soap. The flower’s clean, earthy scent will also grace your bathroom with the French country fragrance.

A Vibrant Cottage with Floral Flair

This colorful Santa Monica home is full of cottage charm and vintage style.

Bright white is the background that allows every other color in the house to show off in comparison

You already know that to turn a house into a comfortable home you need to make it fit your style and lifestyle, but you are probably less certain of how to make all the elements come together in the most effective personal and functional ways. That’s when an interior designer can be your friend—and in homeowner Joan Swartz’s case, the designer actually was one.

A centerpiece in the family room showcases Joan’s pitcher collection. She enjoys using pitchers to hold flowers and likes to give them away as gifts. Amateur art found at flea markets lines the wall.

“We chose Santa Monica for the neighborhood and good public schools, and this house had enough bedrooms that even with a live‐in nanny and home office, I imagined we would never have to move again,” Joan explains. Although the house was two stories with six bedrooms, there was no real master suite, and it was in poor condition. It had also been remodeled with cheap finishes, such as aluminum sliding windows.

“So we tore it down to the studs and reorganized the entire floor plan and front elevation to restore it to look and live like an original, traditional Cape Cod‐style house,” Joan says. “I was determined to use every inch of this house—and I did.”

About 12 years later, Joan met interior designer Alison Kandler, who helped her remodel a second time, to redesign the kitchen/family room, entry and powder room on the first floor.

The former aluminum windows were replaced with Craftsman-style wood casement windows that accurately reflect the time period in which the home was built.
In the guest bedroom, quilts add color and softness to the white walls and floor.

“Another decade went by before we tackled the second story,” Joan says. “My sons were all out of the house by then, so we remodeled the master suit and kids’ bathroom, and cannibalized a couple of bedrooms to become my home office and an upstairs family room.”

A third remodel of the home included the attic area. Although the three remodels were done many years apart, Joan wanted them to look seamless. “I wanted to make it feel cohesive, like it was all done at the same time, even though it was a work in progress for 25 years,” she says.

Some of her favorite architectural details include sloped ceilings, dormers in the bedrooms, and niches that are very romantic and charming. “And a lot of windows—about 65 windows,” Joan says. “Windows on at least two sides of a room help to let light into a room at different times of the day. I love living so near the ocean for the constant ocean breeze and beautiful sunsets.”

Redecorating the Rooms

The double-wide armchair for two was found at a garage sale in lime green. Joan had it upholstered in her favorite cranberry color.

Through the years, Joan and Alison became business partners as well as close friends. Joan trusted Alison’s intuition and skills as an interior designer to achieve her desired décor. “You can’t collaborate well unless you feel comfortable with someone else having a better idea,” Joan says. “There’s an absence of competitive ego between us, so we work really well as a team. Alison is the keeper of the concept and helps me to balance all these beautiful colors without getting carried away.” Alison’s familiarity with Joan was a great asset in making decorating decisions. “Joan has a lot of personality; she’s very outgoing. She loves life and wanted her home to feel happy, warm and colorful,” she says.

On Joan’s request list was opening up the kitchen for entertaining, so Alison made some creative changes in design and functionality. “I opened it up by getting rid of the upper cabinets and rearranging the overall space,” Alison says. “We wanted to include an island with a stove on it, but the kitchen wasn’t quite big enough, so we created a C‐shaped island so Joan can stand on an angle to cook while seeing through to the family room and socializing with guests.”

Alison had to find another creative solution for a column next to the refrigerator that couldn’t be moved, so she hid it behind laminated glass. She chose American cherry wood for the countertops, since Joan loves the warmth of wood. “The wood counter is a bit of maintenance, so we put a fresh coat of polyurethane on it every year,” Joan says. Since Alison knew Joan loves color, she painted the island in eggplant (plum) and the chairs in different colors.

Joan says she feels like she’s showering in a flower garden thanks to this colorful custom-made tile floor.

Making a Splash in the Bath

“My favorite aspect of the project is the tiled shower floor in the master bathroom. It’s covered in a floral design,” Alison says. “An artist in Phoenix creates unusual tiles, so I gave him a color palette of purple and pink flowers, and I told him the kind of flowers I wanted to use.” Joan adores the floral shower floor. “I really like to bring the outdoors in. I feel like I’m showering in a flower garden,” she says.

The gingham pattern might look like it was painted, but the effect was actually produced with tiles. Mauve grout, rather than the traditional white, is responsible for making the transition appear seamless.

Another favorite is a guest bathroom that boasts a charming gingham purple floor. “Alison said to me, ‘When are we ever going to get to do a purple floor?’ So I trusted her and went with purple instead of green. It’s fabulous!” Joan says.

A built-in nook holds a house-shaped cookie jar, cookbooks and an assortment of Joan’s collectibles.

Adding a Personal Touch

An unexpected but enduring effect Alison has had on Joan was introducing her to the world of being a collector. “She didn’t have collections at the time, so we started going to flea markets, and she caught the bug.”

Joan has amassed several collections that she enjoys displaying. “I love to buy amateur art and paint‐by‐number paintings at flea markets. I’m a quilter, so I display them as well as my needlepoints, Sandy Kreyer floral ceramics, pitchers, miniature teapots and antique Barbola mirrors from the early 20th century.”

The architect and designer are both thrilled with the outcome. “We live in each other’s art,” Alison says. “You want the family to feel like they could never live anywhere else.” Joan says she is finally living in her dream home. “I feel like Cinderella. Every morning I wake up thinking how lucky I am to live here,” Joan says. “We have plenty of room to have friends stay with us and share our comfortable home. We are really blessed and grateful. It fits us like a glove!”

You can learn more about architect/homeowner Joan Swartz at Joan Swartz Design. To learn more about interior design Alison Kandler, visit Alison Kandler Interior Design.





Shabby Rustic Kitchen

Shabby rustic kitchen
Shabby rustic kitchen

With farmhouse and romantic touches, this shabby rustic kitchen is ripe with ideas for your own. Emulate the style with help from these items we’ve rounded up from around the web.

Use white and gray trellis wallpaper for a touch of elegance.

Dress up your table with a large lace doily either in place of or atop a tablecloth.

Use a vintage porcelain creamer as a bud vase.

Vintage storage solutions also make for beautiful displays. Try using a wire basket on your countertop for extra dishtowels or for oven mitts and a metal caddy to corral spatulas and wooden spoons.

For artwork that’s both nature- and vintage-inspired, look to botanical prints like this one.

4 DIY Ideas to Disguise Your TV

Hide your flatscreen with these creative covers!

A vintage pull-down map conceals the TV.
A vintage pull-down map conceals the TV.

When you’re not tuning into your favorite show or enjoying a movie, a TV can be a bulky eyesore. You want it to be central so you can comfortably watch, but it’s not a worthy focal point when it’s turned off. Discover some casually elegant DIY solutions.

For a simple and fun solution for hiding your TV, use a vintage pull-down map. See for more information.

Sliding barn door TV cover
An old barn door becomes a clever TV cover.

Cut and mount an old barn door for a rustic, patina-rich way to hide your TV. It becomes a vignette with a wreath in the center and shutters on either side. Pieces of beadboard for the door help the hardware that allows it to slide to blend into the overall look. Learn more at

Trellis-patterned TV box
Trellis-patterned TV box

A homemade wood box painted navy with a Moroccan trellis pattern beautifully covers a flatscreen behind it. The box is made of two layers of 1 x 6 boards for the frame and fence boards for the doors. Wood putty covers the nails, as well as the navy paint, and the pattern is a vinyl application. For more instructions and step-by-step photos, visit

Framed art TV cover
Framed art TV cover

Turn your tv into art with a custom frame that suites your style.