Joshua Tree

Did I forget to mention the time we spent a few magical days with my brother and sister in law and their 4 daughters in the desert? It was mid February, President's day weekend, and they came to visit us from Michigan to get a reprieve from the brutal winter cold. Luckily for them, the temps were in the mid 80s that week and lucky for us they found an awesome house to rent near Joshua Tree.

Rock House in Yucca Valley was the name of the house and the price was right at about $100/per family per night, easily sleeping 10 in comfort. The name was appropriate since there were a few boulder groupings to scramble on around the property. We saw a jack rabbit and heard coyotes.  We clearly saw the starry night sky and Beauty and The Beast on VHS in the rec room.


About 15 minutes away was the actual national park of Joshua Tree. We were able to get the cousins out on 2 easy hikes and enjoy the immaculate scenery.


Back in Yucca Valley we visited Pioneertown; an Old Western town used for many a movie shoot that's now a fun tourist destination to polk around. The main draw was the cluster of antique shops along 29 Palms Highway down the road. Incredible prices, but less midcentury and more antiquey Western. We did score a geode for $5 and a large gorgeous quartz crystal for $18. Easily 10x that in LA. I saw a cool longhorn for $100 but A wasn't into it. 


The main idea was to get plenty of downtime with the family and it was super worth it. Every minute was sweet, funny, and memorable and worth trying to repeat annually. Just look at those beautiful punim.

We made a pit stop in Palm SPrings on the way home. It just wouldn't be a proper trip to the desert without a dip in the Ace pool or a meander through Moorten Botanical Cactus Garden. I highly recommend all of the affordable and family friendly  above whether its  a quick getaway or longer. The desert will not disappoint. 

Golden Light

There is nothing better than being on a hike at the golden hour in the golden state. Our local hike is usually dry and brown, but after a good rain the grasses grow in, lush and green, and we welcome the Spring. These images are from an iphone. I'm curious how they would look blown up and printed?

Noteworthy 09

Its Friday already, huh? Yikes. Here's my round up of things that caught my eye recently. I seem to be coveting a few material items this week. Hmmm, what's that about Natalie?

1) I'm excited for this 100 Layer Cake crafting activity this weekend. I am so there with the kiddos.  Come and say hi if you are on our side of town. 2) Enchanted by this rustic glamping wedding. It reminds me of Will and Dana's wedding last June. 3) The people at Kei jewelery have figured it out. Makes layering necklaces and stacking rings a no-brainer; one of everything and call it a wrap. 4) I toldya eye motifs were going to be big this year. 5) Every time I visit Teil Duncan's shop every painting is sold out. With good reason. 6) I have a new design crush on Studio McGee. Their work is a bit traditional for my taste but it still feels youthful and relaxed. Very nice work. 7) This little Claire V pouch is tres chic.

About the House (Downstairs)

Its been a while since I have recorded changes about the house. Things come and things go in small increments until you take a step back and realize they look a little different for someone who hasn't seen our place in a while. 


I'm done with shifting furniture for this place. Its exhausting and I like all the major pieces we have now so they aren't going anywhere. The rugs are what are prone to change. Ilana asked me to bring in a soft rug instead of the kilim and I used that as a valid excuse to go rug hunting again. I liked the tribal Persian we used at Castle Heights so much, I found one for myself. It feels more mature to me and changes the color scheme of our living room significantly.


Also, I realize we are not coffee table people. I have tried 4-5 different styles in this living room and not one has worked for the long run. Either my kids trash it, or its too big, or too heavy, or too low. I am going to keep this space open for running and floor games. The small side table can be pulled up when you need to rest a cup or book. And then easily cleared out for more play.


Check out the amazing new quilt my mother in law made for me. Its made of old denim fabric, cut from jeans she actually wore. I love its utilitarian modern folk look. Priceless. And its goes splendidly with the new rug. I found the pillow for $3. I couldn't believe it myself. Its beautiful an  the colors are just right.

No major changes in the dining room. The table, light, and fixtures are here to stay for the long haul. The gallery wall continues  to grow slowly with  a focus on desert and sea landscapes. Those are my favorite and since its the wall I stare at when I sit to eat, I get to pick the art. Truth be told, the dining table is the command center from where my laptop spends most of its time at these days too. I really want to get a pair of white Panton S chairs for the ends but A is not yet convinced they are a good idea. I'll work on him. I'm also kind of itching to repaint the long gray accent wall. I just don't know what new color that would be except another shade of gray so I wait for inspiration to strike.


Over MLK weekend I repainted our kitchen cabinets. They aren't my favorite, but there is nothing wrong with them either. They came with the house and are built quite solidly, so I will live with them until we move.  I got it into my head that with fresh paint, I would love them. But that didn't happen. It was a lot of work for not a huge reward; I took the doors off the frames, sanded the doors and cleaned the hardware, painted multiple coats, and put it all back together again. I chose Super White for the uppers and Kendall Charcoal for the lowers. It makes a slight difference, not huge. I was thinking of swapping out the hardware for brass but then I thought it would look too blogger 2014 so I stuck with the nickel Euro pull hardware I already had. I will say that the darker lowers are much easier to keep clean. Yay for that. A coat of fresh paint never hurt anyone.

There are some small changes that happened upstairs too. Nothing earth shattering, but worth recording. When I get around to it, I will show you what's happening in the bedrooms too.

Blast from the Past

A few years ago I worked with a talented art director/photographer on her apartment in Santa Monica. I honestly don't even know why she needed my help since she has an artful and curated eye of her own. Maybe just having someone to bounce ideas off of is all you need sometimes. We were going for a minimal and neutral rustic look for her home and after I suggested a few pieces, she pulled it all together on her own. Just like that. She ended up being a coworker of one of my mommy friends at GloMSN, now she has moved onto freelancing. Well, lookie at her new apartment featured on the Nest.

It was super fun for me to see some of her old pieces come alive in a new place. I remember the existing sofa, those chairs, the new (at the time) coffee table. 

I think I remember that rolling cart as an UO piece. Styled to absolute perfection as a bar cart. 

I remember the hunt for the rustic table and bench and her excitement when she happened upon the right set. And the vintage leather safari chairs as Craigslist deals. The vintage buffet is new to me and a very handsome addition. What an inviting, laid back, and thoughtful spot.

Seems like her boyfriend brought an awesome midcentury storage piece into the mix, as all good boyfriends should ;)

Marvel at the creativity of her DIY closet nook. The student has clearly become the master. 

How I Use 3D Renderings

One of the best tools developed for designers in the past few years in Google Sketch Up. First of all, the basic version is free so you aren't investing thousands of dollars just to learn the program. You can mess around stress free for hours and hours until you get the hang of it. Secondly, unlike Autocad and other more complex rendering programs, it is very intuitive. You can start making decent looking models soon after you start. Third, there is a library of furnishings and materials that others more versed in the program have created and shared so you aren't spending a chunk of frustrated time trying to create an Eames lounge chair. You can just plop it into your model. Actually, a lot of architectural and interiors companies have their products officially modeled top encourage you to use them in your models and ultimately specify them. And lastly, I love the way the renderings look. They aren't photorealistic at all. There are other programs for that. They look like a very well drawn 3D view I would aim to create by hand. 

Here are the development drawings for an office build out I am currently working on. Rendering brings the 2D space plan and elevations to life and communicates more confusing concepts to make sure the client and the builder fully understand what I would like to build. I love being able to "build" the model virtually and then move through it, peek in and out of rooms, reconfigure furniture before even one dollar is committed to acquiring materials and furnishings. 

Modeling the space helps figure out the right proportions and view the design from many angles so you can be sure its going to look right. It also helps the client envision it. By the time the space is actually built out, it has lived in my mind's eye and the computer for long enough to feel familiar to me.  I highly recommend you get versed in Google Sketch Up if you are about to remodel your home or need to represent your design ideas. It will make a big difference in the overall success of the project. 

*Totally 100% not a sponsored post. I am simply a huge fan of this software*

Mar Vista Remodel: The Play By Play

There is nothing more satisfying than turning a garbage house into exactly the kind of home you would like for your family in exactly the neighborhood you envision. There is nothing more maddening than doing it for an investor and seeing the house immediately get 4 offers after the open house and go into escrow $100K over asking price. Because this is the world we live in people. You take the good with the bad. Let's start with a little before and after:

This little shack was literally a garbage house. Garbage in the scrubby front yard, scary things happening inside. Simply sad.

Whaaaat? Is that the same house. Yes, yes it is. Let me show you how it got from garbage house to super star in just a few months.

When I started designing this house in early October, the roof had already been blown off to raise the ceiling heights and the view you are looking at was the former living room and future kitchen. This is the same view before and after.


The architectural plan for the house had already been approved so as the construction crew was moving as fast they could with framing walls, windows, rough plumbing and electrical I was moving as fast as I can to envision the final space's look.


The hardscape and exterior entry was one of the first things I needed to design since the concrete pour for the master suite foundation was happening early on to have time to cure. It was interesting to commit to exterior elements before knowing exactly what the interior would look like, but that's how it had to happen.

Once framing was completed, the drywall could go up and a sense of the interior space started to take shape.

After the walls were taped, sanded, and primed then we could install wide plank White Oak floors and the kitchen cabinetry, counter top, and appliances.

Then we were able to get to the interior finishes such as tile and paint colors, and concentrate on finishing the bathrooms.

Finally, in early March the house was listed. Here is the accompanying eye candy.


Yup, that's pretty much my dream kitchen. Open to the main living area, a large island with built in microwave and a waterfall edge (just imagine how much cooking and prep can happen here), floating shelves and thoughtful storage. The staging you see was done by Meridith Baer Home, but I threw in that vintage rug to make it more "Veneer" ;)


Shut up master bathroom, and get in my house.

Yup, that's the kids bathroom. 

Since the interior SF was limited, outdoor living spaces became paramount with an emphasis on indoor-outdoor connection. The garage was converted into a studio office with an adjoining lounge to enjoy the greenery of the backyard. A large redwood deck off the living room and a smaller concrete deck off the master bedroom feed to the back yard as well. In the front, the redwood was continued with paneling at the entry to warm up the gray plaster. And a specially designed trellis overhead to shade visitors from the bright California sun. OH, how I wish I could have moved in upon completion. Next time for sure.

Lessons Learned 01

I have been setting some big goals for myself and the business that is Veneer. I think its important to have some goals to achieve in the foreseeable future to keep you focused and ambitious. I'm going to document these goals to keep me honest and with my eyes on the prize.

background watercolor source: Carolina Garofani

background watercolor source: Carolina Garofani

Goal 1: I need to get my real estate broker's licence. I have zero interest in being a broker. But we got oh so very badly burned on our last attempt to buy a house. I no longer trust the people you are supposed to trust to guide you through the transaction. So I will get my license and do it myself. Also, this will save us tens of thousands of dollars in commissions. Win win. This has to be done by Spring 2017. Until then, I need to hustle hustle to send as much to our savings account as I can to be able to pull the trigger on our next home purchase and remodel when the time comes.

Goal 2: Rent a studio space outside of the home. Working from home makes a lot of sense right now because of the need to have a super flexible schedule to cater to the needs of my young kids. Also, with daycare costs being relatively high, I couldn't justify renting a space that I wouldn't be able to use full time at this moment in time. The reality is this mode of working is a good fit for me and I can be super productive, but there is no way I would bring an intern or assistant into my home. It would be a not so inspirational work environment and a kooky schedule for my eager young recruit so that wouldn't be fair to him/her. Which means I can only take on so many projects. So when Ilana enters kindergarden in the Fall of 2017 , it sounds far away but isn't really, and my daycare costs go down to $0 I plan on renting a studio space with the savings. It will have a small retail element. It will have a  second desk for a part time assistant and renting part time to another creative. And it will allow me to really take Veneer to the next level. I have already started mentally planning this space. Some might find it lame, but I find it super motivating.

Which brings me to my reason for starting a new series called Lessons Learned. Its important for me to keep account of all the mistakes I have made along the way trying to figure out how to be an awesome freelance interior designer. Thereby more successful. Doing so will ensure these mistakes will never happen again and I just get better and better every day. A mistake happens on every project, whether its your fault or not. Its embarrassing, stressful, and sometimes costly. Navigating through them gracefully is the difference between a pro and a dilettante. Cassie from The Veda House does a wonderful series for the graphic designer. I haven't come across a good one yet for interior designers; only descriptions of what to do right. Not what things could go very wrong, so I will start one myself. Hopefully you will get something out of it and you will avoid some of my mistakes and make your own truly original ones. 

Mistake #1: Saying "yes" to a project when your gut says "don't do it". When you are starting your own business you feel the pressure to say yes to every project that comes your way, even if it sounds like its going to be a cheap client with a difficult personality. You say to yourself. "It's a good challenge for me and will build my portfolio" but you will be wrong. What I have learned is that when I get the sense the client is going to be a jerk from our initial conversation, they WILL BE a jerk. Making every interaction painful, making getting your billings paid in a timely manner nearly impossible, making that great project you thought would look neat in your portfolio something you don't even want to show because your creative ideas are too expensive for this particular client to build out and they will cut corners and delete details wherever they can. They will find ways to blame you for things that you had nothing to do with. Things will get bitter and awkward. 

I don't know why some people conduct business in this manner. I truly believe if you are respectful and treat the client, contractor, and consultants like one big team people will go out of their way to please you, reduce their fees, put love into their work, and come back willingly for new work. I have also come to realize that when a client seeks you out they appreciate anything and everything you create for them. When you answer a post, they will treat you like you need to constantly prove yourself and are disposable. Which is why I have learned to let my work speak for itself and do zero marketing. Quality clients will find me through referrals, online, other blogs.  And if I get the spidey sense that a potential client is not going to be a sweet and respectful person, I just say no, er...politely decline. And you should too. Other projects will find you and you will enjoy the process of creating and building exponentially. Trust me on this one.

PS - I know this is a very long post so if you are done reading, peace be with you. As a post script, I want to say that twice I have gotten the just say no gut feeling but said yes to miserable stress inducing work that I vowed never to work with said client ever ever ever again. After the project concluded successfully my difficult clients came to the realization that they had burned their bridges with me and yet I was talented and pretty tolerant of their tirades. I received mia culpas and glossed over apologies with the hopes that we could collaborate again. On one hand I was satisfied to get the vindication, but on the other hand I knew to say no thank you to working with them again. Life is too short. Lesson learned.