Garden in Miniature

Bring the romance outside with miniature fairies and charming vintage finds.

A romantic garden usually contains roses, beds of wildflowers and a shady place to sit. But what if you added an unexpected surprise with tiny vintage gardens for fairies? Visitors will be delighted, and you’ll be able to use your garden as another canvas to feature beautiful antiques. Here’s how to do it.

Find the right piece.

Almost any vintage item you find at a flea market or estate sale can become a garden container. From a wood hutch or old animal trough to a chipped teapot or gilded frame, add vintage items that are large or small to your garden. Just make sure the piece has enough room for soil and plant roots. Even an item as small as a teacup can transform into a miniature garden if you don’t crowd it with too many plants.

Prep your piece.

Before you add plants to your container, make sure it’s ready for outdoor weather. For wood or painted pieces, add a protective stain or spray to prevent fading and rot. Metal pieces may gain a little rust, but this will only add charm to the piece. You’ll also need to waterproof the container, so line it with plastic or a rubber waterproofing material. You won’t want your antique wood crate to rot when you water the strawberries you’ve planted inside.

Bring the romance outside with miniature fairies and charming vintage finds.

Plant the flowers.

First, make sure the piece has good drainage. If it doesn’t, or the drainage would cause rot, place a layer of pebbles or pea gravel before you add soil. The rocks will act as a water filter and keep the water from sitting in the soil too long, which can damage the plants. Then add your soil and flowers.

Create a sanctuary for fairies.

Tiny creatures need small spaces with miniature accessories. Plant a low ground cover to act as a grassy meadow or lawn; then add small plants and flowers. Finish it off with the accents. Decorate with a fairy-sized table and chair set, or a bench on which the fairies can relax. Don’t forget to add the fairies too!


Grow Your Own Bouquet

Learn how to keep your home filled with fresh flowers without spending a fortune.


Learn how to grow your own bouquets with a cutting garden.

A bouquet of fresh flowers can do so much to brighten up your home. The scent, the bright colors and the reminder of the world outside will add a breath of fresh air to the room. The downside of fresh bouquets is the cost—the flowers will last for about a week (if you’re lucky), and if you want to keep fresh flowers in your home on a regular basis, the costs will add up to a pretty penny.

Luckily, there’s a solution—grow your own bouquets! “You can fill your house with flowers without spending a fortune,” writes Alex Mitchell in her new book, Gardening on a Shoestring. The book is a helpful gardening resource full of tips and tricks for making the most of your outdoor space without breaking the bank. Here are her instructions for how to create a cutting garden in your own backyard.

Learn how to grow your own bouquets with a cutting garden.

What You’ll Need:

  • An area of ground 6 x 9 feet, cleared of weeds and stones and raked into a fine tilth
  • Tape measure
  • Garden twine
  • Twigs or sticks
  • Scissors
  • 6 packets of seed: Bupleurum griffithli, Rudbeckia hirta ‘Marmalade,’ Cosmos ‘Sensation Mix,’ Cornflower ‘Blue Ball,’ Ammi majus, Agrostemma githago (Corncockle), or seeds suited to your planting region
  • Rake
  • Watering can with rose attachment/garden hose

When To Start:

Mid- to late spring

How to Do it:

Divide your growing area into six equal squares, staking out the grid with twine tied to sticks pushed into the soil. Then sow each square with a different variety of seed. Rake over the soil gently to cover the seeds and water well. Keep the patch weeded and protect the young shoots from slugs until established. Sowing each variety of seed in a different square makes harvesting and weeding easier.

Learn how to grow your own bouquets with a cutting garden.


Cut the flowers throughout the spring and summer to keep the plants blooming!

Learn how to garden without breaking the bank.

Gardening on a Shoestring by Alex Mitchel, published by Quarto, © 2016;

Decorating for Spring in Pink and Green

Decorating for spring in shabby chic style with green walls, white furniture and pink cushionsDecorating for Spring

Springtime always arrives like a surprise. When the first hint of spring wafts in on a late winter breeze, it makes us pause, take a deep breath, and then let it out again with the reassurance that, soon, the trees will blush pink and the world will turn green once more.

You can capture that moment of anticipation all year long by choosing the right color scheme for your room. The green walls shown here are color of new plants peeping out of the earth, and provide a nurturing background for the blushing pink pillow on the sofa.

Don’t overdress the simple spring setting with too many accessories. A bit of bling and a bouquet of flowers are all you need to convey the fresh, vibrant feelings of springtime.

Message in a Bouquet

Instead of a text, give your loved one a bouquet of flowers to show them you care. Here are the meanings behind popular flowers to help you form your bouquets.

Flowers aren’t just beautiful—they can also send a message. “In the Victorian era and even long before that, flowers served as beautiful messengers that whispered what often could not be spoken aloud,” write Leigh Okies and Lisa McGuinness in their new book, Meaningful Bouquets. From anticipation and affection to forgiveness and friendship, a bouquet of flowers can help you speak to a family member or friend in a new way. “[In the Victorian era], they were the equivalent of clandestine text messages or notes of encouragement,” the authors write. Here are a few flower meanings and how you can combine them to create a beautiful message.


Use traditional Victorian flower meanings to convey a message.


“When you want to commemorate an occasion or a special person, this combination of flowers comes together for a memorable impression,” the authors write. The bouquet doesn’t have to be large—combine the flowers in a vintage coffee or food can for extra effect. Whether the occasion is a birthday, holiday or anniversary, here are some of the flowers you can include and the meaning they convey:

  • Pink carnations: I will never forget you
  • Rosemary: Remembrance
  • Oak leaf hydrangea: Calm
  • Forget me nots: Remembrance
  • Bluebell: Constancy


Use bouquets of flowers to convey meaning.

Crush on You

This bouquet can go to a significant other or another person you admire, such as your mom on Mother’s Day. “This arrangement is a lovely way to express your feelings for someone you find fascinating,” the authors write. “Give it to your crush or a friend to let them know they’ve been on your mind.” Include a “Thinking of You” card to tell them the meanings of the flowers in the bouquet:

  • Orange roses and rosebuds: Fascination
  • Maidenhair fern: Secrecy
  • Rose hips: Love
  • Daffodil: Admiration
  • Honeysuckle: Devotion


Use bouquets of flowers to convey meaning.


Sometimes it’s difficult to know how to give comfort to a friend or loved one when they’re having a hard time. A bouquet of flowers with their Victorian meanings is a steady reassurance of love and support. “Giving comfort and sympathy to others requires sensitivity and quiet reassurances,” the authors write. Here are a few flowers you can use to support others:

  • Scarlet geranium leaves: Sympathy
  • Dahlias: Dignity
  • Glove amaranth: Unchangeable
  • Peony: Bravery
  • Goldenrod: Encouragement

For more ideas, including bouquets for celebration, luck and passionate love, get a copy of Meaningful Bouquets here.

Meaningful Bouquets

Meaningful Bouquets by Leslie Jonath and Lisa McGuinnes, photography by Annabelle Breakey, published by Chronicle Books, © 2016;

Throw a Literary-Themed Garden Party

Inspired by the scents and sights of old pages, this erudite event pays homage to the romanticism of the famed French novels of the 19th century and beyond.

Book Pages Table Runner
Use pages from no-longer-needed paperback books to create a table runner. You can embellished it further by painting the pages with fun-colored craft paints, or hot-gluing on faux petals for a formal teatime party.

It’s time for a gathering of girlfriends who enjoy the simple pleasures of reading a great book and having good conversation. Inspired by the scents and sights of old pages, this erudite event pays homage to the romanticism of the famed French novels of the 19th century and beyond.

Set the tone with an easy-to-create table runner fashioned from the pages of no-longer-needed paperback books. The covers were removed and the books were soaked in a tub filled with coffee until the pages were stained. The books were laid out in the sun to dry, and then the pages were carefully torn out and hot-glued by the corners in random fashion to create the long table runner.

Vintage Books
A simple pairing of vintage books and fresh-cut flowers make for a charming centerpiece.

A lush and breezy bouquet of pink roses and softly muted greenery brightens up the table and adds an almost sculptural beauty. At the end of the party, the hostess will dismantle the flower arrangement and each guest will receive a jar to fill and bring home as a memento of the day.

Literary Soiree Buffet Table
Preparing all of the food ahead of time and setting the table in advance of guests arriving allows plenty of talk time!

The French theme carries through to the food, set out buffet style for guests to serve themselves. French Limoges china with a delicate pattern of roses is party perfect and lends itself to accessorizing with antique glassware, vintage monogrammed napkins and silver flatware.

Croque Madame Sandwich
Made from brioche, Gruyere and ham, and topped with a fried egg, Croque Madame sandwiches are a quintessentially French touch to add to your menu.

For the main course, simple bistro fare includes homemade Croque Madame sandwiches that are filling and easy to make. Pâtisserie including macarons and madeleines have been set out on charming plates atop boxes from trips to an iconic French pastry shop in Paris.


Conquer Spring Cleaning with a Few Helpful Hints

Dive into spring cleaning with a few spring cleaning secrets from the staff of Romantic Homes.

Spring Home Cleaning tipsA quick poll around the office gleaned these great tips to help you conquer spring cleaning:

  • Stock up on vinegar. It works on everything.
  • Clean surfaces with disinfectant wipes to make sure they’re clean, then wipe with Windex to ensure they’re streak free and sparkling.
  • Use denture tablets in the toilet bowl. After they fizz up, it’s easy to swish away hard water stains.
  • Use dryer sheets to clean baseboards, especially in the bathroom and laundry room where lint builds up.
  • Declutter. Get rid of unnecessary items you never use or think of.
  • Pledge will give a shiny finish to mirrors, and can also polish up your leather furniture.

And our favorite answers:

  • Wait until summer!
  • Let someone else do it!

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.





5 Ideas for a Vintage Easter Party

Surprise everyone this Easter with these fun and creative holiday favorites.

Add vintage charm to your Easter table with these helpful hints.

It’s time to start thinking about your Easter celebration! Here are 5 spring-inspired party ideas to help you get going.



Add vintage charm to your Easter table with these helpful hints.


1. Use an egg as your centerpiece. This beautiful giant egg is the perfect size for an Easter centerpiece—it catches the eye but isn’t too large or tall to block views or take up food space on the table. Set on a nest of wildflowers, the combination of the egg and blooms is a show stopper. If you can’t find a giant easter egg, dye some regular-sized eggs and create a nest full of them on the table.



Add a burst of spring flowers to your Easter table.

2. Add flowers to your cake. Whether you’re serving cookies, brownies or cake for dessert, decorate the top with fresh cut and washed flowers. This will bring the bright bloom of spring to your table. Try a combination of roses, pansies, daffodils, carnations and poppies to create a colorful splash.



Add vintage charm to your Easter table with these helpful hints.

3. Use a vintage element. No party or decoration is complete without a vintage element. In this pretty sideboard setup, a vintage vase with fresh daisies graces the dessert spread. You could even add a vintage statuette or figurine, such as this rabbit, to the dessert tray itself. This will add height and depth to your display.



Add spring charm to your Easter table with these helpful hints.

4. Serve rabbit food. Alongside your roasted chicken and deviled eggs, include some rabbit-friendly eats such as carrots, beets and greens. You could even pair the greens with rabbit-shaped tea sandwiches. Simply construct the sandwiches (egg and chicken salad work well) and use a rabbit-shaped cookie cutter to create your desired shape. Include a few pb&j sandwiches, and the kids at your table will be delighted!



Add vintage charm to your Easter table with these helpful hints.

5. Surprise your guests with a take-home favor. Make or buy a small favor for your guests to take away from the day. Even if you’re serving other homemade desserts, a beautiful decorated cookie wouldn’t go amiss as a party favor. You can set one cookie at each place, which will delight your guests and add an extra element to the tablescape.


For more on Diane Sedo, visit here.

A Picnic for All Seasons

Rain or shine, host the perfect picnic in the comfort of your own home.

When the weather tries to cancel your garden party plans, don’t take a raincheck! Instead of hiding under your quilts, spread them out and host a whimsical indoor picnic that always has good weather. From light finger foods and brightly colored quilts, the party inside will have you and your guests forgetting the inclement weather outside.

Indoor Picnic
When you don’t have to trek out to the middle of a park, enhancing your picnic’s décor becomes a breeze! Collect your favorite vases, foot stools, chairs and other delicate items from around your home and use them to spruce up the dining area.
Picnic Teacup Berries
When deciding what to serve, keep things easy on yourself. Fresh berries and biscuits are great finger foods and nobody will know that all you did was place a fresh berry on a store-bought cupcake! And don’t forget a nice glass of sparkling water to keep everyone happy and the conversation flowing.
Rainy Day Indoor Picnic
Even though you won’t need a picnic basket to carry your food from your kitchen to your living room, this picnic essential still makes a great vessel for presenting the afternoon’s offering.
Picnic Parasol
If the weather outside has the inside looking dark and gloomy, set up a few lamps on the floor behind some parasols. The light will brighten up the scene while the parasols will diffuse it beautifully.

5 Tips for the Perfect Indoor Picnic

  1. Pick the right spot. A proper picnic is all about the location. If your living room has a nice view of the picturesque world outside, lay down your quilts overlooking some nature. If that doesn’t seem feasible, pick the room with the most real estate for spreading out and being comfortable. Wherever you pick, make sure it’s nice and bright to simulate a beautiful summer’s day!
  2. Keep things light. With a kitchen nearby, you may be tempted to serve your guests larger meals from your oven, but we recommend sticking to finger foods. Small tea sandwiches, cookies and fresh vegetables assist in creating that picnic vibe while avoiding the extra dishes (and potential messes) casseroles or soups may create.
  3. Take it to the next level. Literally! Cover a nearby couch, table or stacks of cushions with your quilts to add height and shape to your picnic area. Create a “hill” for your guests to recline against or cover a “boulder” to display your delicious spread. In this terrain, you have all the control!
  4. Mix and match. Don’t be afraid to pull out all of your throws, pillows, quilts and cushions, even if they don’t all match. A patchwork of different colors, textures and patterns will only heighten that picnic blanket appeal. You don’t even need to worry about mud ruining your more delicate pieces!
  5. Play Mother Nature. The one thing that nature has that your living room doesn’t is the wonderful vista of trees, grasses and blooms that make a picnic so fresh. Fill a creamer or vintage pitcher with some fresh cuts from your garden to add a bright, floral touch to the scene.