Valentine's Day Last Minute Gifts

It’s February, the month of expressing your love! Whether you are married, dating, or just want to have a Galentine’s Day, here are some fun and easy gifts you can get before the big day. Everyone knows a good candle is everything but have you considered doing something more activity oriented like making fresh pasta? I know that this Valentines day, me and the hubs are making fresh pasta and revisiting our old date night in habits. I’ll be setting the table and lighting the home with candles and flowers to make it feel moody and romantic even though we will be be having other guests. The night will be fun and eventful as we make fresh noodles with our guests and possibly a dessert.

A Little Extra

I spent this morning acting like a New Yorker while in New Jersey.  I snuggled the cats in bed while I sipped on my DIY pumpkin spiced latte, tanned my freshly manicured feet (Let’s be honest, that is all that I am going to reveal this Winter anyway), and stumbled into the local Dry Cleaners in tattered sweatpants to pick up my favorite sweater. Ahhh, welcome home to my favorite sweater!

For anybody who knows me, I am a royal pain in the ass to shop with. Put me in any clothing store - even my favorite - and I will meander around for a good twenty minutes, touching things and contemplating what it is I actually NEED before I even dare to try something on. Like most people, I have my shopping comfort zones. Unlike most people, I am constantly trying to break that zone and wander into something daring and different to reflect my sparkly, chaotic, worldly soul. Or, at least that’s what I tell myself. I usually end up walking away with a single item. Yesterday, I shopped for three yours only to bring home a discounted pair of sparkly Kate Spade earrings which, as you probably guessed it, I paired with my tattered sweatpants this morning.

I remember the day that I purchased that sweater. I was living in California and had just gotten a call back saying that I was selected to become an Advocate for survivors of sexual assault. This meant that I would spend six hours every week supporting men and women in the hours immediately following a sexual assault. It felt so spot-on for me to be the one holding up, talking to, laughing with, and comforting a complete stranger in what could, arguably, be considered one of the most vulnerable moments in their life. My mom gave me her Nordstroms credit card and told me to go get something that fit the “business casual” attire guidelines for the agency. I knew I would be working the overnight shift in a cold building so I figured I would start by finding a sweater - something cozy and comforting. Naturally, I took my sister with me.

My sister is much more sure of herself when she is shopping. She is clear about her image and what she likes but she is a designer so she has an unfair advantage. With her help, I eventually found a long, crocheted, beige sweater. It’s one of those sweaters that doesn’t actually keep you warm because the holes are so big but you throw it over a tank top, call the look hippie-chic, and imagine yourself as a layering goddess. It’s one of those sweaters that does not count as a whole “top” and, really, it forces way more wardrobe planning time than a sweater should require. I twirled around in the poorly-lit dressing room falling in love with this stupid sweater before I even looked at the price tag. Worst. Mistake. Ever. My sister sat in the room with me and explained how important it is to get something you love even if it costs a little extra because you will probably love it for a little extra time and I eventually gave in and purchased it. The budget my mom had set for me was completely blown on this damn sweater.

Fast forward six years and I am across the country picking up that same sweater. I don’t pair it with Uggs and leggings like I used to but it has incorporated itself nicely into my Autumn layers. It reminds me that, when I don’t trust my gut, I should at least trust my sister. In some silly poetic way, it is also the perfect example of how the women in my life help shape me. There are so many little stories like this where a girlfriend of mine has taught me something small but impactful. My morning coffee and to-do list routine is owed to my friend, Lauren, who is one of those insanely productive morning people. My skin care regime is something my friend, Isabel, suggested briefly while using me as a test model for her makeup artist interview. Those Kate Spade earrings I purchased yesterday were actually me just copying my friend, Kristina, who somehow always looks like a million bucks even if she spent the whole night drinking rose. The list goes on and on.

Today, I am living in New Jersey and commute to New York where I am a Case Manager for men and women coming out of our correctional facilities and into their first apartment ever. My clients have a long history of mental health challenges, substance abuse habits, homelessness, and incarceration. They face gigantic hurdles every day and the job is often tiring. There are some days where a client relapses and other days where a client celebrates three years of sobriety. It is an honor to continue to be welcomed into the vulnerable (and often times lonely) corners of a person’s life. I wish that all of my clients had the level of support that I get from the powerful women in my life.

April Hinkle


Mirror Mirror in the Flea Market

If you have been following me at all then you won’t be surprised that I love a good challenge at a flea market. But lets back up a week when my lovely client asked me to consult her on a mirror for over her antique, bone and gold inlay table. She had picked out a hand full of gold antiqued mirrors from various websites and shops that send catalogues up the ying yang. They all looked relatively similar with just minor detail changes. While I did actually like them all, my concern was that they were not authentic as her table was. Something in my gut said they would take away from the table by trying to match instead of compliment. That is a huge subject in interior design my little proteges. Find something to stand out in the room and let that piece be your focal point. Everything else will work for it. So let it all “Work, Work, Work Work Work…”

I politely picked a mirror for client and said that I picked the one with the least detail for all of the above reasons. BUT also said something along the lines of “If you really want to know what I would do if it were my space, I would paint the mirror a dark blue to match your other accent pieces. No black. No gold. No white. Less predictable.” And I kid you not I was so surprised when she said “Let’s do it.” (Insert shocked super excited emoji here) Well I wasn’t about to let her refinish a $400 mirror so let the flea marketing begin! So we set an appointment to scope out the local flea market in two weeks.

You may or may not know that going to a flea market looking for something specific is a COMPLETE gamble. Especially one as small as the one we were going to in both of our neighborhoods. I went to the market about 30 minutes before she came just to scope out what they had and start haggling before. And I was surprised to find two runner ups. But one had my attention. It was a lot more intricate and…well here is a picture of it….


I mean…..HELLOOOOOO SEXAY THANG. Am I right? I had my navy blue filter glasses on and it was a prime suspect of perfection. I saw it! I immediately attempted to show client but of course I couldn't find it at first so we stumbled upon a couple more. But we found it. She was a little hesitant. The birds were not her thing and the pagoda on the top was not giving it the right scale. So we popped them off!

Several coats of paint later and some sawing, sanding and filling, we have an ecstatic client with a one of kind piece of jewelry for her home. See pictures below to see transformation.


Stay tuned for final project pictures of the table accessorized and the room finalized!

The Difference of Our Home

My home is a guest house I rent on my parent's property. It is the art work I put on the walls; some of which I painted myself or I collected from fellow art students. It is the flooring my fiancé and I picked out as the first fixer-up project we did when he moved in. And by we I fully mean him because he is way more capable of handy work. It is the bedding that could be more white and spot free but also shows that our little baby boy spends time cuddling and eating there with us. Dare I say, it is the collection of THINGS. It is the people that live in it and the many people that visit it. It is the collection of things from the journey to get here. It is my 560 square foot of safe haven.  

Through out my interior design career, I have helped people create "home". For some, that meant walking into a showroom and saying effortlessly and without question of the price, "I'll take all of that vignette." While I admire their braveness that that chunk of product will somehow magically look just as good in their home despite different lighting and floor plan, it seems so irrelevant and subjective. On the other end of the spectrum, I've also worked with some that collected their whole lives and for some reason had to start over and get "new". Ive seen them shake and cry and get upset that the idea of "new" was no longer a fresh and exciting idea but an actual scary and heart aching process. People who came in saying, "Yes! Let's revamp my space. Please help me. I AM READY."  But these same clients then left saying "I just can't part with my 20 year old sofa." From a sales perspective, this was the WORST kind of client. They were the most time consuming and maybe for some they were eventually possible to "tackle". But for my empathetic little designer heart, I didn't want to tackle them. I actually quite admired their attachment to their things. I liked listening to their memories about the family they raised with their Ethan Allen sectional. It wasn't some Italian designer made piece. But, it was theirs. And it was their people's. And no matter where they moved, it would always fit. (Hypothetically of course!) But these are the things that mattered for them. And I cannot help but admire that.

There are two types of people who are out there; the people that think home is a building to fill and the people who build a home out of sentiment. While the latter makes them more vulnerable to loss, it also gives the warmest feeling when they walk into their space. A feeling of belonging. A feeling of an embrace. "Home" is not far off from "Love".

It's Black. It's White.

Rule of thumb.  Bring a bit of black into every room.  Why?  Because we have a tendency to forget contrast which leads to rooms feeling like they could literally float away.  But I digress.  I will definitely post a separate blog about how to incorporate black.  But for now, let's oggle over my latest DIY refurbish project!

I have literally had this white dresser since I shared a room with my twin sister circa 2003.  That room included pink and purple walls, meticulously picked out by my twelve year old self with pride! The dresser was adorned with a matching jewelry box attachment and vanity mirror which graced too many Myspace selfies.  I've kept it because it was just a piece that I got used to.  And despite it's undeniable girly-ness, was practical in size and storage space.  A couple years ago I did remove the jewelry box and mirror making it a little more grown up but not by much. 

Well last week I figured instead of spending a couple hundred that I don't have on a new dresser, I would slap a fresh layer of white paint on this one.  But if I was going to repaint it, why not do something more unique!  I knew right away I was going to do black.  Because I am a brave soul who had nothing to lose except high school memories.  Which is more than ok.

After removing the frilly handle pulls, I added crisp acrylic handles since I really am obsessed with modern mixed with traditional.  But to bring some of the frill back, I added a wood overlay on either side of the dresser as an ode to it's original state.  Plus, it would make the piece a good photographing piece from very angle. 

I think it looks beyond bad ass and can only imagine it in my next, larger home where it can take center stage in perhaps a guest room or Parker's room. Here is a list of supplies it required:

Primer- $20 (more than enough so I will be keeping this for future refurbishes)

Black Paint - $10 Nightclub by Behr

Sandpaper - $5 from Walmart

Paint brush - $15 total.  One for primer. One for paint.  Although i preferred using my old craft brushes which were much cheaper anyways because they didn't leave brush lines in the paint.

Acrylic Pulls - About $5 each from Home Depot totaling in $40


I am debating getting a piece of smoke glass cut for the top of it to really make it look polished but still waiting for a quote for that.  Other than that, a couple fresh felt pads for underneath to protect my floors and it's better than new!  So all in all this project cost me about $100.  Which is more than I planned but well worth the facelift if you ask me.


Dinner Parties At Home

Since Michael and I have made it a point to have dates, but we also have our cute little side kick, Baby Parker, we have opted to do our own little dinner dates at home.  I really should give credit where credit is due though.  I told Michael one weekend I wanted something nice done that night.  I was thinking laundry or clean the floors.  But what I came home to was our coffee table dressed up in linens and glasses and tons of candles that I had never seen. He spent the whole day purchasing things to make it feel elegant as we sat on pillows on the floor and it meant so much to me!  And something about being able to include Baby Parker made it more special.

So now we are trying to do these dinners every week and take turns.  For Valentines Day though we decided to do it together.  I set the table with this pink blanket I got from Olvera Street a couple years ago.  I used some framed pictures to make it feel more personal.  And candles everywhere!

Because of these dinners we have decided to do our birthday a joint birthday this year and set up a big dinner party for our family and close friends.  So i'm currently on the mission to collect crystal glassware and napkin ring holders.  I scored this week a dozen silver napkin rings that reminded me of Kate Spade.  They were $5 for all 12 so it was worth it.  I figured the worst case I could spray paint them to make them a little more modern.  But I found this recipe to polish silver with just vinegar and baking soda.  And they came out super shiny!!! Check out the pictures below and let me know if you think they are too grandma or so Kate Spade.