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CRAZY FOR CARDIGANS

Jennifer Mejia

 
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It's summertime, and it's hot, at least where I'm spending the rest of my summer. So how can I be thinking about sweaters? I'm definitely not contemplating putting one on during the day anytime soon, but Fall will soon be upon us, and I want to be ready. I snagged this fabulous cozy cardigan during the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, and it's one of the many reasons I'm looking forward to the season of hay rides, pumpkin patches, football games, and cooler temps. It's by Free People, and they also made my favorite cardigan from last year that I've just about worn out. I love the color of this one, as it adds spice to an otherwise plain (and perhaps boring) camisole and jeans and screams "fall."

 
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Although big, comfy, cozy cardigans happen to be my favorite, there are so many others. Dusters look fabulous with leather leggings (I have mine on repeat year-round). And although they have the potential to have an unfortunate bathrobe look, if worn correctly, those that wrap and tie can be a wonderful option to a blazer or jacket. I love to wear a fitted cardigan with a pair of skinny jeans for a cleaner and more stream-lined look while still keeping it casual. But in the end, I love a cardigan because they can typically be thrown over jeans and a t-shirt, throw on a few cute jewels, and voila!...easy outfit of the day without spending much time in my closet thinking, "What should I wear today?" CLICK ON THE PHOTOS BELOW TO SHOP. And many of these come in multiple colors, so don't overlook that when clicking through.

 

TO ACCOMPANY...

similar camisole to one I'm wearing that is a few years old

(A FEW) FAVORITE FASHION FINDS FROM TARGET

Jennifer Mejia

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Who doesn't love a bargain? Better yet, who doesn't love a bargain when it makes us look and feel good wearing it? Target is one of the best places for this, and I've found a few things there over the years that I've loved and would have paid a few times more than I did because they were that good. My first fabulous find that I can recall was about 20 years ago when I purchased a corduroy jacket for $15 and paid $15 to have it tailored. I wore it everywhere, and even a Barney's employee asked where I got it when I donned it on a visit to one of NYC's greatest shopping destinations.

I met one of my friends in downtown Southampton this afternoon. We are both busy moms of two young kids, and I joked about my 15-minute online "shopping spree" this morning on target.com. I'm putting out the disclaimer that I haven't actually tried any of them except for two of the dresses, but with Target's free shipping and free 90-day return policy, you can't go wrong with ordering them and trying for yourself. The two dresses I have tried look much better on and as I styled them than the way Target has. Maybe there's a job in Minneapolis in my future. :-) I'll try to wear the blue dress again this week/weekend and have it photographed for you. It's definitely worth the $28 price tag. 

Keep in mind that shopping for clothing online is sometimes like looking at an old house with peeling wallpaper and filthy carpet. You have to see beyond what you see...imagine it on you and how you could accessorize and style it. Jewelry, shoes, and/or a great bag can do WONDERS for an otherwise ordinary piece of clothing. Finally, if you're getting the piece for a bargain and it doesn't fit perfectly, consider spending a little extra at the seamstress. Shorten the dress, have the waist taken in a bit, etc. Play with it when you try it on, and if you think, "I wish it was _______," maybe that just might be possible. CLICK ON THE PRODUCT IMAGES BELOW TO SHOP. 

I have the blue dress below, and I promise, it looks MUCH better on and styled. I'll try to post later this week if I can get it photographed (I'm alone in the Hamptons with my two boys). The white dress below FO isn't really available online any longer, but I found it in an XS locally. Unfortunately, my bust is too small for even an XS, so I gifted it to my nephew's girlfriend who looks like a J. Crew model (not kidding), and it looked so perfect on her!

 

And for any of you who are lovers of Loeffler Randall's bow shoes that seem to be hot right now, Target has several knock-offs. I just can't seem to bring myself to make the purchase on some of them because I think too much about Aunt Jemima. Just sayin'...

SWEET RICOTTA & CHERRY PASTRY

Jennifer Mejia

 
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How many of you would begin to feel really ill if you added up all of the money you spent at Starbucks or your local coffee shop over a month's time? Well, I did just that one day. I added it up, and I became nauseated. I was purchasing a latte and pastry at Kirsh Bakery on the Upper West Side every morning after school drop-off. For too long. So, I became inspired to create my own version of their "Sweet Ricotta & Cherry Danish." It’s a delightfully delicious and ridiculously simple treat for morning or any time of day. I actually made it with dried sweetened cherries because cherries are not always sweet and in season. And if my investigative work was thorough and accurate, the inspiration pastry is also made with dried cherries. Enjoy it any time of year, but if you're looking to experiment during the summer, try macerating fresh cherries and using those instead of dried cherries. That's an experiment on my list!

½ teaspoon                           lemon zest
16 ounces                              ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons                       light agave nectar
½ teaspoon                           pure vanilla extract
1 package (2 sheets)             frozen puff pastry (I use Pepperidge Farm), defrosted
1                                             egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water (for egg wash)
1/3 cup                                  dried sweetened cherries

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place a piece of parchment paper on a sheet pan or cookie sheet. 

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a wire whisk, combine ricotta cheese, lemon zest, agave nectar, and vanilla, and beat for 2 minutes to combine. Set aside. 

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Lay one sheet of puff pastry on a floured cutting board and gently roll it into a 10-inch square. Cut it into 4 equally-sized squares. Place all 4 squares on the pan about 1 inch apart.

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Spread 3 tablespoons of sweet ricotta on each square, leaving a ½-inch border. Arrange 1 heaping tablespoon of cherries (or more if desired) evenly atop the entire spread of ricotta, avoiding the border. Brush the borders with egg wash. 

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Lightly roll the second piece of pastry into a 10-inch square. Cut it into 4 equally-sized squares. Lay one square on top of each of the prepared squares, lining up the edges. Brush the tops with egg wash and cut two large slits in the center of the top pastry to allow steam to escape.

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Chill the pan of pastries in the refrigerator for 20 minutes. Remove pastries from the refrigerator and while still cold, trim the edges with a sharp knife to create clean edges. 

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Bake the pastry in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes, flipping with a spatula after 10 minutes. The pastries should be puffed and golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 to 10 minutes. If the pastries are too puffy, you can press them down slightly with your hands. Serve the pastries warm or at room temperature.

GET DOWN WITH THE BUTTON DOWN

Jennifer Mejia

 
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I love dressing up. But the reality is that my life doesn't really permit me to walk around in a dress and stilettos most days. I'm often in leggings, an oversized sweater or sweatshirt, and sneakers. But there are some days when I want a more polished and "neat" casual look. For those days, I've been a big fan of the button down lately. It's classic. It will never go out of style. And it can be worn a few different ways depending on my mood and what's on my agenda--tucked in, tied in the front, and even out over a pair of leggings. My favorite way to sport the button down is with jeans and a belt, finished off with a few classic and simple pieces of jewelry. 

This particular button down is by Madewell and is part of the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale. It's the perfect cut and it's a light weight fabric that doesn't wrinkle.  I'm in love with it, and apparently many others are, too, because depending on when you check, it may be sold out. But check back, as they often restock. Or perhaps Madewell will carry it later in the season. If not, I've provided a few additional options. If you're looking for a basic white button down, the options from Zara and Theory are perfect, as they also have a great cut, and Zara has a terrific price point. The jeans are Madewell (you've seen them a lot), and my jewels are on repeat, as well. I love wearing my engravable disc with a "K" that keeps my little loves close to my heart, even when they're not around, and it just takes the button down up a notch. The belt is a classic. My wedge ballet loafers are Lanvin and over five years old so no longer available, but this look can be completed with your favorite loafer, ballet flat, or wedge. CLICK ON THE PRODUCT IMAGES UNDER "SHOP THE LOOK" TO GET YOURS.

 
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SHOP THE LOOK

 

PRETTY IN PINK

Jennifer Mejia

 
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Today is the first day that the public has access to the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, Nordstrom's biggest and most anticipated sale of the year. Those with a Nordstrom card got early access. But I learned that next year, I need to set my alarm. So many things I loved were already sold out when I finally got to their site two days after the sale opened. 

The good news for you is that this dress is fully stocked in all sizes at the time of this post. The photos on Nordstrom's site don't do it justice. I was drawn to it because of its simplicity, its feminine color, how fitted it appeared on the top, and the flow of the skirt. To me, it screamed Duchess (of Sussex or Cambridge). I imagined how beautifully it would swing and flow as I walked down the street. And I was right. I had so much fun wearing and shooting this dress. I envision wearing it to church (whether a normal Sunday, a baptism, or day wedding), to a business dinner, to a baby shower, or just out to dinner to a restaurant that's a bit more conservative and formal. Best of all, this dress has a very accessible price point. Run, don't walk, to purchase it (and the entire look). The earrings and bracelet are available, as well. The shoes are ages old, as is the vintage clutch, but I've posted similar pieces that will look fabulous with the dress. CLICK ON THE INDIVIDUAL PRODUCT PHOTOS UNDER "SHOP THE LOOK" TO GET YOURS.

 
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SHOP THE LOOK

Simply click on the images below to shop.

 
 

WAKE UP MAKEUP

Jennifer Mejia

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My eldest son has a t-shirt that reads, "Woke Up Like This...Awesome As Usual." At the ripe young age of 44, nothing about my awakening is awesome, especially since on an average night I've gotten a mere six hours of sleep. There have been many mornings when I've done school drop-off without washing my face or getting the sleep out of my eyes, brushing my hair, or putting on an ounce of makeup. In fact, one morning two years ago, I left preschool drop-off (yes, AFTER everyone had seen me) and realized I was wearing one New Balance blue sneaker and one black sneaker. That was my cue that it was time to pay a little more attention to myself in the morning.

While I can appreciate the fact that some people can get through their entire day without a stitch of makeup, I cannot. I'm no longer in denial. But I'm also realistic about the chaos that surrounds me each morning and the amount of time I have to dedicate to myself. One thing's for certain, I'm not waking up any earlier than my kids force me to, simply to "fix" myself. So I've developed a 10-minute morning "Wake Up Makeup" routine so that I look a little more alive at school drop-off and beyond. It's my version of "no makeup makeup." And for the most part, except for needing to reapply something on my lips, it's actually good enough to last for a decent portion of the day. If you’re one who needs to apply a full face for work during the week, this could be great for weekends.

Before I begin with my morning routine, let me begin by saying that skincare is extremely important. One of the reasons I'm able to get away with minimal makeup is because my skin is in fairly good condition. I use the Rodan & Fields Reverse Regimen, and it has done wonders for my skin tone. In addition, you should always wear sunscreen on your face, whether it's a standalone sunscreen or in a BB or CC cream if you want or need a little more overage than what I describe below. CLICK ON PRODUCT IMAGES TO SHOP.

To begin each morning, I rinse my face with cold water. I actually don't wash with a cleanser in the morning because I feel cleansers sometimes wash the glow and dewiness from my skin. And I've just washed, toned, and moisturized very late the night before. After blotting my face dry, I apply Clinique Moisture Surge. I especially love it during the summer because it's super light yet really does provide terrific moisture.

Clinique Moisture Surge

While I'm blessed to not have a lot of under-eye lines and wrinkles, I am cursed with dark circles. Remember, I'm only sleeping six hours. So Ole's Banana Bright Eye Crème is a great option for me. It helps to brighten the under-eye area with lots of Vitamin C, and it also helps improve the wear of my concealer, which is the next step in my routine.

Ole Henriksen Banana Bright Eye Crème

I used to work for a skincare and cosmetics company, and they made the best under-eye concealer. But their color line was discontinued in the U.S. about five years ago, so once my stash ran out, I had to go on the hunt. Diorskin Forever Undercover Concealer gives me the coverage and brightness I need, without setting into any fine lines or becoming cakey. 

Diorskin Forever Undercover Concealer

Because I don't apply a foundation or even a BB or CC cream, I do need a little help covering a few dark spots and the occasional blemish. If someone asked me what cosmetic I simply couldn't live without, it would be Laura Mercier's Secret Camouflage. This product has been in my makeup bag for well over 10 years! I apply it with a concealer brush like this one from Sephora for perfect blending. The lighter concealer in this kit covers/lightens the spot or blemish, while the darker side ensures it's blended into your skin, making your concealer application undetectable. It's tried and true for me, and after all these years, I still believe it's brilliant.

If you need more coverage than under-eye and spot concealer alone, consider a BB or CC cream in addition to or in place of moisturizer. I still apply  moisturizer if I use one, but that may be overkill. 

Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage

It's true when they say "the eyes have it." They have a way of telling everyone you're exhausted when you are. But a coat of mascara on your top lashes really helps to awaken your entire face. In full disclosure, I use Rodan & Fields Lash Boost every night, and my lashes are much longer and fuller than they have ever been. However, some people have an adverse reaction to the product, so I'm not comfortable giving a full-on endorsement. But knock on wood, I've been just fine. That said, I still feel I need mascara. I only apply it to my top lashes in this routine because I run around a lot, and as good as they are, they can start to bleed by the end of the day, and when mascara bleeds under your eyes, you look exhausted all over again...or strung out on drugs. Neither is a great look. Bobbi Brown Eye Opening Mascara and Benefit They're Real are two of my favorites because they are buildable, meaning I can have the same mascara for day and night, applying one coat during the day and more at night to have a more dramatic look. Bobbi Brown will provide more volume than They're Real, even with only one coat. Both provide length. If you need to separate your lashes, use a dry lash comb, or play with fire and use the sharp end of a safety pin like I do (not recommending, but it works for me.) 

Next, a quick brush of a nude lip color. Bobbi Brown Luxe Lipstick in Almost Bare is the perfect nude and is long-wearing. Nars Lipstick in Barbarella has a bit more pink, but truth be told, it won't last as long as Bobbi, hence the lower price point.

And finally, whether it's a 10-minute routine or applying makeup for a night out on the town, always always always apply blush last. Why? Because the moisturizer will actually work within a few minutes to give some color and pigment back to your skin, and once the rest of your makeup is on, you won't feel you need as much blush. If you apply it early before the rest of your face is on, you'll wind up looking like a clown. Smile a little and apply blush to the apples of your cheeks and blend. I have used MAC Blush in Harmony for years. 

MAC Blush in Harmony

And that's it. I really can achieve this in under 10 minutes, and that 10 minutes that I give to myself in the morning makes a huge difference in how I feel at the start and throughout my day. Hats off to you if you don't want or need makeup, but I think if we look better, we feel better. And we all deserve to feel good, however we choose to achieve it.

HAMPTONS GUEST ROOM DESIGN

Jennifer Mejia

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The Final Design

I've been a design lover for quite some time. And while it's easy for me to know what I like when I see it, I've always been a little nervous about designing an entire room from scratch on my own. For years, I've followed the blog and work of Paloma Contreras, so when she agreed to design four rooms and the foyer in our dilapidated old home, I was thrilled. But since our budget was not without limit, I had to wait on the rest of the rooms and have been going it alone to work toward completion. 

Kenzi's room was simple because it's small and has only enough room for a crib and a bed. But he's outgrown the crib, so I'll soon be looking to give it a small facelift by swapping the crib for a daybed/trundle (to sleep more bodies) and changing the art to make it a room more appropriate for guests of any age. Kai's room is a work in progress, and we'll be completing that soon. I gave it a good foundation with an area rug and bedding from Serena & Lily. Stay tuned for more to come. 

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The Current, Dreadful Situation

For the guest room, it really is a blank slate. Yes, it's presently cringe-worthy. The ceiling fan is from the previous owner. The headboard used to be in the guest room of our apartment, and while it's a beautiful headboard that I would happily use today, it's not right for the room, nor is the mattress large enough for guests to be comfortable. The nightstand was a damaged shipment, originally intended for our master bedroom, but the company didn't want to be bothered with a return. "Bonus" for our trouble, I suppose. And can we talk about those $5 temporary paper shades? So where to begin...

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Inspiration from Marie Flanagan Interiors

I've learned that the best interior designers begin with inspiration, and oftentimes that inspiration is a room designed by someone else that the client likes. For many moons now, I've adored this bedroom from a coastal home that was designed by Marie Flanagan Interiors. Unfortunately, our guest room is not this large, nor does it have the same amount of windows and light. But I love the white and neutral fabrics and paint, the natural fibers and wood, and the metal mixed in, so I kept those elements for my design.

I wanted the room to be a little lighter and open given its size, so I opted for a clean sand-colored linen Parsons headboard and bedskirt from Restoration Hardware. To dress the windows, I chose a woven wood shade from the Shade Store, very similar to those in the inspiration photo. I don't think we have the room for panels (which I love), but those can always be added later if space and budget permit. Because the bed and windows were in a natural/wood tone, I purchased white nightstands with metal accents to provide some contrast. 

For a bed to feel cozy and inviting, it has to be layered. I went with black and cream Euro pillows from Serena & Lily, and even though I like a neutral bed, I always like a pop of color. I found a Chinese wedding blanket lumbar pillow on Etsy and snatched it almost as soon as I landed on the page. It's perfect. To keep our guests warm, I've selected a sand-colored quilt, over which I'll layer a cream and black striped throw that's decorated with black and cream pom poms. The edges of the white sheets and duvet (yet another layer) are trimmed with the same color as the quilt. 

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Alternate Design with Gold Bedside Lamps

Far too often, lighting is an afterthought. For me, it's one of the most critical elements of a room and can make or break a space. I love this gold gilt chandelier. It may seem large, but it's actually the perfect size. To determine the ideal diameter of a ceiling fixture, simply add the length and width of the room. Since the nightstands and dresser have aged bronze accents, I wanted a different metal for the ceiling light. The bedside lamps in the first photo are a matte bronze finish, and I hope they'll provide depth for the room. But if they end up feeling too heavy, I've chosen an alternate pair of gold lamps that should work perfectly. 

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Dresser Accessory Inspiration from McGee & Co.

Nate Berkus has a book called The Things That Matter. The idea is that it's the "stuff" in a room that makes it feel lived in and like home. Nate thinks it's better to have a collected home...things that you "collect" over time...things that have meaning. This is our second home, so everything is being purchased as we speak, but accessorizing is important, nonetheless. To accessorize the dresser, I used the photo above as inspiration. Although my design does not include a lamp, I'll still have the variation in height and a pop of color from a beautiful pot and flowers. In fact, as I was searching for photos of a mirror that I plan to use in the room, I found the vignette below and shamelessly stole it. Yes, I ordered the pot and sculpture from Wisteria...the same place I bought the mirror. If it's not broken, why fix it? For nightstand accessories, it's always best to work in threes and vary the height. So I'll have a lamp, a vase for fresh flowers, and another accessory like a candle or photo frame or art (perhaps atop books), to achieve that aesthetic.

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All Items from Wisteria--The Plan for Our Dresser

Although much of our home was completed by an interior designer, I'm proud to say that most of the art is courtesy of yours truly. I love following emerging artists, and I feel I have quite the knack for curating art. Because this is our home and I'm not on a deadline to complete the space, I'm going to wait until everything else is in to finalize the artwork. That said, choosing a great piece of art first can set the tone and design for the entire room. If I don't have any luck sourcing original art in the short term, I've selected a few prints from minted.com that will work well to complete the space. The view into our room is very similar to the one below, and we also have a blank wall. So I'm on the hunt for a large piece that I hope will serve as wonderful eye candy for our guests. Above the headboard, I'll have one larger horizontal piece or two smaller pieces.

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Inspiration from Noir Furniture

For flooring, a great rug always anchors the space. At present, the room has an off-white wool carpet in the room. I'm still searching for the perfect area rug to layer under the bed. 

This has been a fabulously fun first design project for me, even if a little intimidating. All of the items are on order, so with any luck, I'll be able to install everything over the next month and share photos. Kai's room and our first floor powder room are also in the works. If you're planning to design a room of your own for the first time, I have a few pieces of advice. There is a saying that goes "measure twice, cut once." While you're not cutting, you are purchasing. So in addition to measuring, I use painter's tape to outline the furniture in the room to ensure it will fit. For lighting, consider the placement and height of the fixture to ensure your guests won't knock themselves out in the middle of the night. And if you have a friend in design, ask for their opinion before ordering. Paloma was generous and kind enough to review my plan, and she advised I double check the size of the original bedside table lamps. Thank goodness I listened because the shades probably would have been overwhelming on the nightstands I selected. But other than that, she blessed everything, which delighted me, so stay tuned to see the finished product.  

SUMMER GARDEN PARTY DRESS

Jennifer Mejia

 
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Perhaps it's because white jeans, shoes, and possibly dresses, are forbidden before Easter and after Labor Day, is precisely why I can't get enough of white during the summer. I LOVE this dress. It's so feminine and effortlessly light and airy. It just screams "beach" to me. As silly as it sounds, the moment I put it on, I imagined how beautiful it would look next to the hydrangeas I'm obsessed with, so I walked outside and asked my husband to snap a few shots. (No, this isn't what I typically wear when I garden and pick flowers.) The dress has a partial liner under the skirt so you don't have to worry about it being too transparent. And I love the "sleeves" because they actually look great when they fall a little, so they're not annoying like many off-the-shoulder pieces that have you constantly adjusting the arms. 

I've paired the dress with a few of my favorite summery/beachy jewels that I can't get enough of. When I wear off-the-shoulder pieces, I often like to forego a necklace and opt for a pair of statement earrings to allow the clothing to show off your body, as it was designed. These earrings definitely make a statement and are fantastic because they can also be worn as studs simply by unhooking the part just below it. I'm wearing three bracelets...because why choose if you don't have to, but one or two would be just as beautiful. My hat is ages old, so I've posted a few wonderful alternatives.

In addition to the dress I'm wearing, I'm also posting a similar piece that's a little shorter in length in case you don't want a full maxi dress. CLICK ON THE PRODUCT NAMES BELOW THE IMAGES TO SHOP THE LOOK.

 
 
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NORDSTROM ANNIVERSARY SALE PICKS

Jennifer Mejia

Holy cow! The early bird really does get the worm. I finally sat down last night to complete my review of the "early access" to Nordstrom's Anniversary Sale, and I can't tell you how many of the items I love are already sold out! Last year, they restocked some items, so I'll be keeping an eye out. "Early Access" is through July 19, and you can only purchase the items with a Nordstrom credit card, which you can conveniently click through to open when you attempt to purchase a sale item. There are so many great things. If you like them, grab them now or they'll be gone. With Nordstrom's flexible return policy, you can send them back without hassle if they don't work out. There were so many jackets and at least three pairs of shoes that I adore that are completely sold out.  I'll keep watch and update you if they become available again. (Apologies if something is sold out when you try to access.) CLICK ON THE IMAGES BELOW TO SHOP.

CREATING AN OUTDOOR LIVING ROOM

Jennifer Mejia

 
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Lounge furniture, coffee table, and sofa pillows from Pottery Barn. Rug, chair pillows, and candle lanterns from Target. 

Outdoor living. Summertime makes it so inviting, especially if you take the time to design a homey space outside that mirrors that which you've created inside. Whether alone or with guests, we enjoy lounging on the cozy sofa and chairs, with a soft rug under our feet, anytime of day, but especially at night after the kids have gone to bed. It's wonderful to either listen to nature or our favorite tunes by candlelight (citronella candles!)

So what are the key elements of an outdoor space? Surprisingly, they're no different than those of an indoor space. But there are some subtle differences, so you'll want to make note.

The backdrop. Inside your home, your walls are the backdrop. So you choose paint colors and wallpaper carefully. Outside, you may have to choose paint colors, as we did, but you also often have a "free" backdrop from Mother Nature. At our home, we have a lot of green around us, in addition to brown cedar shingles. So we chose a crisp white paint for the millwork. All three parts of our outdoor environment were key considerations when choosing the decor. Because we had green, brown and white, and because we have a coastal home, we chose to keep it clean and simply bring in navy blue.

Flooring. Every space, whether indoor or outdoor, can be anchored by spectacular flooring. We have a traditional wooden deck so we opted for an outdoor rug. Today's outdoor rugs are fabulous! Many are soft, and best of all, they can be spot cleaned or squirted down with a hose if necessary to clean a big mess. Our rug was a steal from Target last year.  $90 for an 8x10! But these days, everyone makes awesome and inexpensive outdoor rugs. In fact, some are so wonderful that we chose an indoor/outdoor rug over sisal in our son's bedroom. But you may want to consider a beautiful and decorative tile or pavers if are able to make the investment and have the appropriate space. Check out this fabulous patio tile from Emily Henderson.

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Photo via Emily Henderson's website/blog. Her tiled patio is to die for!

Seating. You can find outdoor lounge furniture to fit just about every budget and style. But I do have a few important suggestions to consider. First, when looking for a sofa (indoor or outdoor), I really like one seating cushion along the entire sofa versus two or three. (This doesn't apply if you have a sectional.) The problem with multiple seating cushions is that the sofa ends up looking lopsided at some point when people sit on one side more than the other.  Second, invest in stain-proof fabric or cushion covers. Sunbrella or Perennials will be your best friend and lifesaver. Because even if you're careful not to spill red wine, you may have nature's critters visiting who like to leave their calling card in the form of footprints or other "treasures." Although it comes at a price, Restoration Hardware makes the most fabulous outdoor lounge furniture. The Provence Collection is my favorite. 

For furniture frames, I like the all-weather wicker that isn't actually wood. When we purchased our Torrey All-Weather Wicker sofa and chairs from Pottery Barn last year (our color no longer available), the salesperson gave us a tip that might be the most useful one I've ever received. Regardless of the weather-resistant claims, anything can start to get a little funky in damp environments. So if you have a pool, throw the furniture frames (NOT the cushions) into the deep end of the pool for a few minutes at the end of the season. Allow them to dry in the sun and then store. The small amount of chlorine in the pool water should kill any mold or mildew that has begun to grow. (This obviously won't work if you have a salt water pool.)

Pillows and Blankets. Yes, you need cozy pillows for anytime and a blanket for those cooler nights. 

A Place to Set Your Drink and Snacks. Coffee tables and end tables are also required outside. Small garden stools make great side tables. And like the cushions, make sure they are easy to clean and can withstand humidity. You should get something labeled "outdoor."

Lighting. If your outdoor space has electricity, you'll want to choose light fixtures. Far too often, lighting is an afterthought when people decorate a space. But for me, it's one of the most important elements of a space. The right lighting, both style and the amount of actual light, can make or break a room, even an outdoor one. If you don't have electricity in your outdoor space, choose beautiful lanterns that hold candles. The candles will provide light and ambiance, and if you choose candles with citronella, they'll also help keep the bugs away.

Flowers (and Accessories). I can't tell you how much of a difference flowers and plants make to any space. Before we had art and accessories to complete the inside of our home, I purchased fresh flowers to fill the void. Your outdoor living area, even if you have lots of trees around, needs color in form of table plants, hanging baskets, and/or nearby landscaping. Be sure to choose plants for the amount of shade and sun your space gets, in addition to plants that nature's furry friends (and I'm not talking about your house pets) won't view as a salad bar. Think about how long they will last...some plants will last for a good portion of the summer. Finally, think about how much maintenance they require and how much you (or someone else) can give them. 

And last but not least, Ventilation. If you're right on the ocean, I think the ocean breeze will do. But if you have a roof over your space, a stylish and functional fan is always a good idea to help keep you cool and to keep the bugs at bay.

A few of my favorite sources for outdoor essentials are: Restoration Hardware, Serena & Lily, Ballard Designs, Pottery Barn, Target (for rugs and tabletop lanterns), Annie Selke (for Dash & Albert rugs). I hope you're enjoying the summer!