Graphic Image Giveaway! — CLOSED

I am absolutely ecstatic to be partnering with one of my favorite companies, Graphic Image, to bring you an amazing giveaway just in time for the holidays! This one is for the tech-savvy, iPad-toting folks (or maybe just the girls who would love another colorful clutch in time for seasonal soirées)!

The winner of the giveaway will choose his or her favorite iPad case and will be announced on Friday so enter soon! To enter, leave a comment below. For a second entry, like Graphic Image on Facebook. For a third entry, follow Graphic Image on Twitter. Please leave a separate comment for each entry!

Oh! And Graphic Image is offering all of you 20% off sitewide with the code "GIFTS" at checkout. How's that for spreading holiday cheer? Good luck!

The Design Dialogues {Sue De Chiara}

She has a charming blog, a fabulous home, an adorable family, and a bustling e-commerce site. As far as I'm concerned, Sue from The Zhush is living the dream! Here she dishes advice for aspiring creatives and dreams for her budding business.

Five words to describe yourself:
Dreamer, curious, open-minded, loyal, lucky.

How would you describe your aesthetic?
Traditional with a glamorous twist. Though I should probably add "fickle" to the above five words because I also love a bit of boho, 70s vibe, preppy, trendy... I guess eclectic sort of covers it all, right?

Who are your style inspirations?
Kelly Wearstler, Tory Burch, Jonathan Adler, Mary McDonald, Rachel Zoe, vintage Ali Macgraw, and Mary Tyler Moore. I also love to pop into New York City and soak it up — the people watching, the window gazing... now that is some serious style inspiration right there!

A coffee table vignette in Sue's ski house.

 How did you decide to launch an e-commerce site?  
My affinity for "zhushing" with both home decor and fashion accessories had me looking for another outlet outside of the blog. After briefly researching leases for nearby store space and getting a dose of reality over the cost, I decided getting my feet wet online with less overhead would be a good way to start up a shop and see how it went.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of your work?
Getting great feedback from customers in emails, tweets, and photos or seeing the shop mentioned on blogs and in magazines seriously makes my day, sometimes my whole week! I also love to source great new products to add to the store.  

The pool house at Sue's suburban home.

What advice would you offer aspiring entrepreneurs? 
Don't spend too much time worrying about all the "what ifs" because those can stifle you.  Make like the Nike slogan and "just do it!" The "what ifs" may or may not pan out, but you'll never know if don't just jump on in. In other words, don't over think it. Starting something new can seem so daunting and intimidating; ask yourself simply, "What do I need to get started?" Later you can break everything down into smaller tasks. Once you actually get started you can always ask yourself, "What's next?" and grow things from there.

Where would you like your business to be in five years?
Ideally, I would love to have my own line of accessories and carry some of my own items — maybe even some of my own artwork — and possibly in a brick and mortar store as well.
   Oh heck, why not dream big...several brick and mortar stores! 

Have you ever seen a mudroom more fabulous? Note the compass painted on the floor!

Three items on your to do list:
1. Get the site ready for the holidays.
2. End-of-year inventory (dread).
3. Book dentist appointment for my kids.

Three items on your wishlist.
1. The new iPhone.
2. Python Miu Miu sandals.
3. A Canon G-12.

Three tasks on your bucket list.
1. Travel to Europe with my family.
2. Finally learn to play tennis.
3. Start painting again.

- - -

Thanks so much for participating in the series, Sue! I can't wait to see where the future takes her: designing her own line, opening a brick and mortar store (or several!), and selling her own artwork! Now hop over to her shop and start making that holiday wishlist!

Weathering Winter

We're fast approaching that time of year when the weather outside is prohibitively cold. I'm embarrassed to admit that I literally decide whether to go out and run an errand based on how freezing I will be between my front door and my car... And it's only bound to get worse as winter progresses. Fortunately I found a little ice cold inspiration in this ensemble over on my very favorite style blog, Atlantic-Pacific:

Blair has a knack for mixing colors and patterns that I think goes unrivaled among personal style bloggers. I'm constantly wishing I could come up with the looks she does, which is why I thought we might all use a little lesson from one of her recent outfits. Topped with a warm coat (I love mine!), this layered look is key for surviving winter in style.

Hunter gloss boots, $125 (I have these in black but love a bright color for gray days!)

What are your tricks for weathering winter?

Tied With A Bow

When it comes to giving gifts, presentation is everything. Even the tiniest present feels special if it's packaged with care! Here are a few odds and ends that I'm excited to incorporate into my gift giving this season...

P.S. Need a little gift wrapping inspiration? Check out my Party People board on Pinterest!

Easy Canvas Prints

Before I launch into sharing holiday gift guides — and there will be plenty! — I thought I'd share a lovely gift I received recently. Thanks to the generous folks at Easy Canvas Prints, I converted one of my favorite family photographs into an 11" x 14" canvas! 

I was impressed at how quickly I received my order and the quality of the print itself. My canvas cost $46 and smaller options start at just $29 (well within the gifting range, wink wink!). For all of you looking to decorate your walls on a budget, this could be a great option! Definitely pop over to Easy Canvas Prints and let me know what you think. Do you ever give photographs as gifts?

P.S. The photo was taken by our talented family friend Carly Dudzik!

My New Favorite Toy

Thanks to all of you who shared your favorites on this post, I have found the curling iron of my dreams. Following your recommendations, I immediately ordered the Hot Tools curling iron (1 1/4" size) and subsequently fell in love.

It heats up almost immediately, works quickly, and costs a mere $34. Seriously?! The hair tool of my dreams cost just $34?! I wish someone had told me ages ago. Get yours here and watch this tutorial if you need a little help refining your technique.

And because you were all so helpful with my last beauty dilemma, here's another for you. Do any of you use Clarisonic to clean and exfoliate? I've heard rave reviews but the $119 price tag is a bit steep for my liking. If you've used it, I would love to hear your thoughts!

Currently Coveting {Tortoiseshell}

If there's one trend I can't get enough of this season, it's the resurgence of tortoiseshell accessories for your closet and your home. My friend Alex sent me a picture of gorgeous tortoiseshell bowls at C. Wonder (if you're in NYC and haven't been, you must!) and I'm thinking they'd be the perfect complement to a few of these...

{1} House of Harlow 1960 sunglasses, $125 (I love the gold border on these!)
{5} Michael Kors bracelet, $95 (This is my personal favorite!) 

Which piece is your favorite? Do you have any beloved tortoiseshell items?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Wishing you all a happy day with your family and favorite foods. My family and I are off to Rhode Island to celebrate with extended family and I've been given the task of delivering the toast! I'm quite a bit nervous but looking forward to catching up with everyone and indulging in a little apple pie :) What are you all up to?

Holiday Dress Guide

'Tis the season to fill your planner with parties and your closet with dresses! Here are a few numbers I'm eyeing for various rendez-vous this winter...
Step out in sequins! The ASOS gold strapless dress ($89) will guarantee all eyes on you. The ASOS sequin skater dress ($62) is my personal pick — my favorite color, a flattering shape, and just the right amount of sparkle!
If your skin isn't as pasty as mine, might I suggest a little winter white? The ASOS peplum dress ($242) is a splurge-worthy statement piece while the ASOS sweetheart dress ($80) is a budget-friendly alternative that you can wear year-round.
And if you tend to favor the classics, here are two LBDs with a twist: a Zara low back dress ($79) and an ASOS polka dot lace dress ($80).

P.S. I'll be wearing this on New Year's Eve!

P.P.S. This holiday dress guide is just the beginning! Lots of gift guides coming your way after Thanksgiving :)

Having A Moment {Cobalt}

I hope you'll all hop over to Houzz today where I'm debuting my very first idea book! I'm excited to share twenty cool products in keeping with the cobalt trend in fashion and decor. Think this bargain X bench, my favorite bar cart, and even a solar-powered globe! So. Cool.

The Design Dialogues {Alexandra Berlin}

I'm so excited to introduce you all to my friend Alex of the blog Things That Sparkle. Somehow between blogging, designing, and planning her wedding, Alex has been an incredible support to me as I venture into the uncertain territory of self-employment. Alex recently went back to school to study interior design before launching her own business! Here she is to tell you all about it.

Who you are:

Where you are:

Five words to describe yourself:
Creative, loving, honest, emotional, passionate.

How would you describe your aesthetic?
Classic. Glamorous. Warm. Eclectic.

Who are your style inspirations?
Oh, this is a tough one! There are so many. Bloggers are so incredibly inspiring because you're able to follow their process — it's so real and there's so much talent! I've also been finding inspiration among my favorite artists. You can create an entire room around a special piece of art! Pieces from Sally King BenedictLana Gomez and Amanda Talley inspire me all the time!

How did you decide you wanted to be an interior designer?
I was always one of those little kids who loved to rearrange my room and help my mom choose fabrics but it never occurred to me to make it a career. I graduated from college and went straight into advertising. After two years, I began to see it wasn't for me. I had just started my blog and realized so much of what I loved to blog about was interior design. All of a sudden, it clicked! I haven't looked back since.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?
Seeing clients happy with a home or a space they love and feel good in. That really is the best feeling — it sounds clichéd but it's the end goal of everything I do!

And the least glamorous aspect?
Missed deadlines by vendors and billing. Nothing glamorous about frustrated clients and spreadsheets.

What advice would you offer aspiring creatives?
Just do it! Seriously. If this is your passion, then follow it. There is nothing more fulfilling that doing what you love every day.

Where would you like your business to be in five years?
I'd like to have my own office space, expand my list of clients, and try some new types of projects, to name just a few!

Three items on your to do list:
If I'm really being honest... Pay the dog walker. Buy bedside lamps for client. Vacuum — So. Much. Dog. Fur. Isn't my life glamorous?

Three items on your wishlist:
Is this a dream wishlist or a realistic wishlist? I'll include both! My birthday is in a month... This perfect blush and chevron iPad cover. This perfect spin on monogramming. This Céline bag.

Three tasks on your bucket list.
Travel, travel, travel — Asia, Australia, New Zealand, the South Pacific, Prague, Istanbul, I could go on forever! Get another puppy — I've been dreaming of this ever since my dog turned one but sadly living in an apartment in the city is not conducive to two big dogs. Have my work published — it would be totally surreal to see my work on the pages of a magazine! Such a dream.

- - - 

Isn't she wonderful? I love her advice, "There is nothing more fulfilling that doing what you love every day." Now go check out her blog and say hello!

Get started now.

One of the most ambitious goals on my 101 in 1001 list is to start my own company — as in I fully intend to have my own company within the next two years (the 1001 day mark is September 28, 2013). I wasn't expecting to hit the ground running this early on, but two months at a desk job made me realize that life is just too damn short to do anything that makes you unhappy. Just three weeks into self-employment, I've never been more confident that I'm pursuing the right path.

I love this quote for several reasons. Starting a business is never going to be easy. There's always going to be some reason not to do it. You're too young, you're worried about money, you're afraid of what other people will think. You're aware that it could totally backfire and leave you back at square one. But if it's the kind of challenge that's going to get you out of bed in the morning, excited about the possibilities — if it's the kind of thing that you'll look back on and regret not trying — then you know what you have to do.

My dad used to tell me, "He who has a beginning has half the deed done." In other words, sometimes making up your mind to do something is the hardest part. Taking that first leap of faith and committing yourself to a new venture is always daunting. But the peace of mind that follows and the excitement about what's ahead are every bit worth the initial anxiety.

Which is not to say that it'll be smooth sailing from here on out. That's another reason I love this quote. I know I don't have all the tools I need to succeed right this instant. Challenges and obstacles that I have no idea how to handle will inevitably pop up. But the opportunity for growth — for newfound strength, skill, self-confidence, and success — is not to be missed.

I'm in the early planning stages of my very own company and that's an absolutely exhilarating feeling. In fact, I highly recommend it ;)

Places & Spaces

A little collection of homes and interiors that have caught my eye recently... 
This perfect townhouse.
This sunny breakfast nook.
This hallway library.
These leather benches. (Same shape for less here.)
And this dreamy escape. What's stopping you in your tracks lately?

Must. Have.

What to get for the girl who has everything? I don't know a single girl who doesn't need one of these gorgeous K. Slademade tassel clutches in her closet. 

Both colors are totally versatile but the oversized tassel makes them party-appropriate as well. In fact I think the black one will be my go-to this holiday season!

Reading List

One of the goals on my 101 in 1001 list is to begin my book collection with ten coffee table books. As my darling friend and fellow collector Christine would agree, this is one of those instances where it is absolutely okay to judge a book by its cover! Here are a few of the titles that are tickling my fancy...

I already own Details, Domino, and Style A to Zoe and look forward to expanding my collection over time! These books are all from Barnes & Noble but I suggest keeping an eye on Joss & Main's frequent book sales as well! I scored Details for half price ;) What are your favorite coffee table books?

Little Luxury

In case you're beginning your holiday shopping early this year, I had to share these faux fur trimmed mittens from Topshop. Aren't they the cutest things you've ever seen? I'd be hard-pressed to choose a favorite color!

Wouldn't you be delighted if a pair of these turned up in your stocking?

Shoes, shoes, shoes!

Bows and leopard and sparkles, oh my! A round-up of standout shoes that have caught my eye recently...

Any shoes you've been eyeing lately?

P.S. I'm sharing my dream home on Apartment 34 today!

Cheap Thrills

I love to shop and I like to think I'm pretty good at it. I love the feeling of scoring a great deal or finding an inexpensive product that works just as well as a pricier alternative. When it comes to my beauty regimen (which I've far from perfected), I'm all about a good drugstore find. Here are a few of my favorite inexpensive basics:

Origin biotin pills, $2.49 (A recent hair growth recommendation from Ashlina!)
Neutrogena ultra sheer sunblock, $8.99 (Dries fast and leaves skin super soft!)
Aquaphor healing ointment, $6.99 (Perfect for chapped lips come winter!)

What are your favorite drugstore buys?

DIY {Campaign Table}

I'm a little bit obsessed with campaign furniture. You may recall my dad and I painted this Union Jack campaign dresser for my boyfriend. Then I purchased a second dresser off of Craigslist and gave it new life with glossy white paint for my own bedroom. Then last week I decided it would be pretty cool get the look of campaign furniture without having to stalk my local Craigslist or spending hundreds of dollars. Without further ado, my DIY campaign table!

I started with two of these Ikea Lack tables ($10 each) and gave each two coats of Benjamin Moore's semi-gloss Admiral Blue. 
Then I bought brass corner braces like these ($1.50 for four). You'll need three braces per corner so three packs per table. (Math isn't my strong suit so I thought I'd spell that out for you.)
My intention was to screw three to each corner but after learning that I'm not so handy with heavy machinery my dad stepped in to show me the ropes.
Work in progress (sleeping companion strongly recommended)...
And the end result looks something like this.
One day I'll show you pretty pictures of them all styled up in my first apartment but until then you get iPhone pictures of me tackling DIY projects on my kitchen floor. The project cost boils down like this:

- $10 x 2 for two Ikea Lack tables = $20
- Leftover paint = free
- $1.50 x 6 for twenty-four brass corner braces = $9

$29 for two DIY campaign tables! What do you think?

Playing Dress-Up!

Who else is counting down to the holidays? I know, I know, it's not even Thanksgiving, but I already have my sights set on Christmas and New Year's Eve! With party invitations trickling in for the holiday season, I thought you all could do me a little favor...

My friends are planning a New Year's Eve bash in New York City and I'm excited to go all out for the occasion! I've decided to use Rent The Runway (which I've used before and highly recommend!) but I'd love your help selecting the perfect ensemble. Won't you head over to the Design Darling Facebook page and vote for your favorite look? The outfit with the most likes is what I'll be wearing come December 31!

Currently Coveting {Costume Jewelry}

I'm in the midst of reading Rachel Zoe's fashion bible Style A to Zoe and, while my personal style is far more casual and less glamorous than the celebrity stylist's, I find myself nodding in agreement with her love of costume jewelry. I've collected a few statement pieces in recent years but I either forget to wear them on my way out the door or sport them one at a time, so unlike Rachel's "more is more" philosophy. I think I'll give her maximalist ways a try in the spirit of the sparkly holiday season. Won't you join me?

(1) Michael Kors link necklace, $175 (2) ASOS tassel necklace, $27
(3) ASOS box knot drop earrings, $14 (4) Loren Hope Farrah necklace, $185
(5) Catbird ring, $88 (6) House of Harlow antler cabochon ring, $95

Which is your favorite piece and what's your jewelry philosophy?

Introducing See Design!

Happy Monday, everyone! This morning I'm excited to introduce you to my newest sponsor here on Design Darling. See Design is the brainchild of designer Donna Gorman, who hand paints and custom prints her colorful textiles. The end result is this playful collection of cosmetic cases, tote bags, and tunics:
Aren't they fun? I love the polka dot prints in particular. But the best part is that everything on the site costs less than $100! Go check out See Design and let me know what you think!

And the winner is...

Entry #10, Maggie of Cheap & Chic! Maggie will choose $200 worth of wallpaper from Kimberly Lewis Home. I'll be emailing you today! Thank you to everyone who entered and to Kimberly for hosting such a generous giveaway!

P.S. Kimberly has extended 10% off to all readers with the code "darling" at checkout through December 11! 

Desk Du Jour {Poppin!}

You already know I'm in love with Poppin, so please imagine my utter delight when they reached out about collaborating on a desk du jour feature here on Design Darling! These pictures of Public Relations Director Meredith Zenkel's desk had me beaming from ear to ear...
Ta da — instant inspiration for the cubicle-bound! A colorful inspiration board, fresh flowers, and a lime green file cabinet make Meredith's workspace creative and functional.
A close-up of Meredith's current inspirations! I spy Andy Warhol and Hermès — how's that for a little mid-day creative boost?
This wouldn't be Poppin if it weren't stocked with colorful and contemporary office supplies! I'm dying to make this calculator ($7) and these scissors ($8) to my collection. 
You know I love a monogram — and what better way to personalize your workspace than with your very own initials? Switch that "Z" to an "H" and I'd gladly trade desks ;)
- - - 
Thanks Poppin for the fun sneak peek into this fabulous desk du jour! What do you think and how does your workspace stack up?

The Design Dialogues {Amber Lewis}

She has a thriving design business, a so-good-you'll-laugh-out-loud blog, the cutest little girl you've ever seen, and, oh yeah, a rockstar husband (no, seriously). Is there anything Amber Lewis can't do? I'm so excited to have her as our latest guest for the Design Dialogues!
- - -
I mean, seriously. Don't you already want to be her best friend?

Who you are:
Hi there! I'm Amber of Amber Interiors, the design firm and the blog.

What you do:
First and foremost, I am a mommy! I am also an interior designer and now I guess I am a blogger.

Where you do it:
I have the fortune of working from an office located in my house! Most days you can find me there or in the car... I spend a lot of time in the car.

Five words to describe yourself.
Driven, like a mo'fo. Passionate. Funny. Sarcastic. Misunderstood. Fortunate.

Her insanely gorgeous kitchen. How good is that light fixture?

How do you define your aesthetic?
I am a lover of layers and colors. I don't consider myself a one-trick pony — however I do favor a little bohemian and eclectic flair. So if you had to define my aesthetic, I would say boho glam?

Who are your style icons?
For interior design, I'd have to say good ole Kelly Wearstler. She has yet to let me down. I don't always love some of her furniture choices or color palettes but I always love her way of thinking. She's attracted to shapes and colors and that's where I find inspiration for my own work. In terms of fashion icons, I'd go with Anita Pallenberg. She had that whole 6os rocker thing which I obsess over. Plus I wish I had her hair...

How did you decide you wanted to be an interior designer?
I had always wanted to do something with houses — since I was like 6 or 7. My dad is a builder so he was always taking my brother and I to his job sites and it fascinated me. As I got older, I knew I wanted to do something creative, I just didn't know what. I got a job at this very high-end retail store renowned for its displays.  I kind of adopted  "displays" as my job there and would run around making beds and setting tables. It was so much fun! One thing led to another and I started going to people's homes and helping them decorate their own beds and tables. I got a side job designing and I guess the rest is history!

Amber's dining room. Would you not kill for that fluffy chair and tribal rug?

What advice would you offer aspiring creatives?
Immerse yourself in whatever it is that you're doing. When I was working for interior designer Kirsten Marie, I became a sponge; I listened to everything she said taking mental notes and applying them. I started reading blogs and reading books. I would collect images on my computer (before Pinterest) and study them, paying attention to every detail... literally. It really pays to dive head first into what you love, because if you love what you're doing you'll never think of it as work. 

Recycled lampshades breathe new life into this dreamy vignette in Amber's home.

Three items on your to do list.
Work. Spend time with my wee one. Work!

Where would you like your business to be in five years?
I dream big so I will project big. Gracing the covers of some of my favorite design mags is where my head and heart goes. Hey, House Beautiful, let's talk, shall we? No, but seriously, I feel so lucky to do what I love so I hope in five years I'm still able to make a living doing this fabulous job!

Amber and baby G in her home office. Fabric sample heaven!

Three items on your wishlist.
A vacation with my fam. A new coffee table. A new car!

Three tasks on your bucket list.
Do a 60 day juice fast. Haha! Live in another country for a while so my little monkey gets some culture. Retire at 40 and travel the rest of my days!

- - -

Thank you so much for joining us, Amber! I love this quote in particular: "It really pays to dive head first into what you love, because if you love what you're doing you'll never think of it as work." Solid inspiration for my recent announcement, don't you think? Now go peep Amber's blog and tell her you love her as much as I do.

{all photos are Jessie Webster for Glitter Guide}