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Filtering by Category: Art & Design

TARGET FINDS: FAVORITE HOME ACCESSORIES

Jennifer Mejia

 
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Nate Berkus always says, “It’s the things that matter.” I think I’ve used that exact quote more than once in this blog. Probably because I couldn’t agree more. When you walk into a home, yes, the furniture is extremely important. Good design and a mix of shapes, textures, and colors, old and new, modern and traditional…it all adds up to make a home feel collected. But the “things” that complete a space—accessories—help tell the story of who you are a person and a family.

If you have had the luxury of traveling and collecting things over the years, you’ll have no problem filling a home. But that’s not the case for most of us. So what do you do in the meantime when you just want to have it all done? The good news for all of us is that there are so many affordable places to shop for accessories. Being in NYC, we have tons of shops that have such unique and truly awesome finds. But many of you are not here, and you don’t have time to go from store to store to curate it all. Enter our savior in most parts of life: TARGET!

Here’s the thing about accessories. When designers do an install, they bring a ton of things to a home on approval. That means the store doesn’t really charge them for it until they confirm they’re keeping it. Try before you buy! Well, that’s not exactly how it works with Target, but they have a terrific 90-day return policy, so you can try it for three months versus the typical 24 to 48 hours with boutiques. So buy a ton (thankfully most of it is very reasonably priced), play around with it in various places in your home, keep what you love, and send the rest back. Did I mention they have free shipping and free returns for Target card members and orders over $50?

The one problem with Target, and it’s sort of a nice problem to have, is that they have SO much! I sometimes find it difficult to curate things. But I’ve tried my best for this blog post. Now presenting a few of my favorite Target home accessories! Simply click on the images or hyperlinks to shop.

First up are baskets like this woven one on the dresser above. It could also be used as wall decor. Baskets are a wonderful way to add warmth and texture AND collect and contain your junk! Bowls can do the same thing, only they also have the potential for double duty—if they’re made of the right material, they can be used to serve your guests your delicious creations. Trays are like baskets in that they help organize, only they allow things to be more beautifully displayed versus just being dumped on top of one another.

BASKETS

 

BOWLS

 

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Vases are an essential accessory. Why? Because fresh flowers are also an essential accessory. They don’t have to cost a fortune, especially with places like Trader Joe’s. Don’t believe me? Look at any decor magazine or Instagram page of a designer, and any photo worth of your attention will have fresh flowers in the mix. Whenever I study a room, I always cover up the flowers to see if I still like the space because chances are that you won’t always have fresh stems. Because of that, it’s a great idea to have vases that have interesting design and color so they can stand alone and beautify your space even. when empty. Here are a few of my favorites, including this white vase featured in the photo below. I also like simple and smaller glass vases to allow the buds steal the show. And they’re fun to display in groups, like in a line down the center of a dining table.

 
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VASES

 

Decorative objects bring life, add interest, and are essential to fill empty spaces. I love them stacked on top of coffee table books or in collections like the two spherical objects on the top right shelf below.

 
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DECORATIVE OBJECTS

 

And finally, the easiest way to change the look of the space is with decorative pillows. With Etsy and other small businesses like one of my favorites, Danielle Oakey Shop, it’s also a lot less expensive than it used to be. While custom pillows are wonderful, they aren’t always necessary. I love mixing neutrals with different textures and then adding a few pops of color to keep it interesting. Here are a few extremely affordable options from Target.

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I’m hoping you all love this curated collection of affordable home accessories. In order to get it right, I feel like you really do have to try a bunch of things in many different places. Target is perfect for that since they offer free shipping and an incredibly flexible 90-day return policy. In addition, Red Card members save 5% off already fabulous prices. Target saves the day once again!

MAKEOVER MONDAY: BOY'S BEACH BEDROOM

Jennifer Mejia

 
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The room in our home with the most issues when we purchased it was Kai’s room. There were cracks in the plaster coming through two layers of wallpaper! It had a really dirty, beaten up, and painted white hardwood floor. The paint was chipping from the windows. I know there are other things that my memory has blocked in order to preserve my sanity. I’m calling it Kai’s room, but truth be told, Kai never sleeps in it. He likes to sleep between us! If you walk straight once at the top of the stairs, you walk into this room, and he’s worried that if someone enters the home, he’ll be the first person they see. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I had that same fear in our family home when I was 7.

 
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The “before”—I promise it looked much worse in person

When we hired an interior designer to transform several rooms in our home, this one was not in the budget. So over time, it was up to yours truly. I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out, especially considering the starting point. Like all of the bedrooms, there was a hideous and dirty through-the-wall air conditioning unit. It was removed and central a/c was installed throughout the second floor. There was a ceiling fan in the front of the room near the windows, so we moved the ceiling light to the center of the room. Because we weren’t certain if we would reconfigure the second floor at some point, we didn’t want to spend the money installing hardwood floors. So we installed wall-to-wall sisal and layered an extremely soft indoor/outdoor rug over it to add comfort and dimension. I knew I wanted the room to have blue in it to continue the theme throughout the home, and I wanted a rug that was easy to clean, so this one was sort of a no-brainer.

 
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I worked with Serena & Lily to choose bedding. As I’ve mentioned before, I like to begin a room with fabrics or a piece of art. In this case, it was the “fabric.” The exact bedding I chose is unfortunately no longer available, but I’m providing a few similar options. We have two sets of sheets for the beds. One has blue crabs all over it, and I chose this to remind myself that I’m a Maryland girl at heart and can pick crabs like nobody’s business! We chose a second set of sheets for when more mature guests are staying in the room so it is not so boyish. The throw pillows are also indoor/outdoor pillows and washable (because my kids are 4 and 7) and no longer available, but I’m listing a few alternate options that would still give you the same feel of this room.

 
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When it came to art, I didn’t want to spend a ton of money because my boys have been known to launch Hot Wheels cars at one another, making breakage of things quite likely, at least for the near future. In a few years, I’m sure they’ll be wrestling and knocking into the walls themselves. One Kings Lane can’t be beat for affordable and attractive art. I actually saw the Surf/Swim print in their Southampton store, and when I applied my 20% off coupon, it was the best deal in town. Framed and ready to hang. The prints over the bed are from Pencil & Paper and also framed and ready to hang from One Kings Lane. Don’t worry if you don’t love my choice of colors, as they have several others and even sell sets of six to create an “I don’t have to think about it” gallery wall. The print between the windows is a limited edition from one of my favorite portrait artists, Sally King Benedict. My little guys love the water, so I just couldn’t resist. I framed it myself in a matted frame from Michael’s.

 
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For the furniture, simple navy blue headboards were an easy and practical option. I’m providing the link to two options—a headboard and a bed—in the shopping section below. For furniture, you know I never match pieces, and in every room I really wanted to have a coastal/beachy element. This bedside table gave me that in this room. I love the shelves and the hidden drawer. And the lamp seemed to be a perfect fit when I saw it staged in a boy’s room at One Kings Lane. My son, Kai, actually chose the campaign dresser, and I said “yes” because it’s a classic choice for a child’s room yet can also grow with them into teenage years. The lamp on the dresser is a classic and could be moved to almost any room in our home, and it’s always nice to invest in classics. It’s presently on sale at the time of this post. This overhead light is from RH Teen, and I’ve listed a very similar option that has a slightly smaller profile.

 
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The things that finish a room can’t be forgotten, so I couldn’t resist this colorful book that is a piece of art itself. The 80 puzzles inside are fun for kids and adults alike. I purchased a small easel for $5 from Michael’s to help it stand and display the cover. The green sculpture was found at HomeGoods, and other accessories are linked below.

 
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This was a really fun room to put together, and I love that Kai actually had an interest in certain elements and helped me. My nephews and their friends have probably used this room the most, and I hope the next time they return, they’ll be happy with the progress that we’ve made. To shop items in this room, simply scroll through and click on the images below. And many of them are also available in the LIKEtoKNOW.it app.

SHOP THE ROOM

MY FAVORITE COFFEE TABLE BOOKS

Jennifer Mejia

 
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I’ve mentioned a few times that it’s the stuff in the home that makes it interesting. By stuff, I don’t mean bedside tables and sofas. I mean the things that you’ve collected over time and the things that show off your personality and your interests. Nate Berkus likes a collected home and even published a book called The Things That Matter. It made my list! He shows examples of homes that tell a story, and he speaks to how this makes a house a home.

 
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But when you have a new home and you’re trying to decorate and finish it all at once, you don’t always have all of those collected things at the time. One of the easiest ways to add style, color, interest, and to bring some of yourself into a home, is with coffee table books. I mentioned this in my Guest Room Before & After post, so today I wanted to show you a few more examples of how we’ve used them and share a few of my favorites.

 
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I like interior design, art, fashion, landscaping, and travel, so naturally, you’ll see a lot of those in this curated collection. But in addition to having really wonderful content, some of these book covers are art themselves. So even if the subject doesn’t really interest you, think of it as being similar to a vase or other accessory. And this may be the one instance where you can judge a book by its cover.

 
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You can stack them to add height where needed. If a book has a beautiful cover, make sure it’s on the top of the stack so everyone can enjoy the art. A great example of this is Slim Aarons La Dolce Vita and the Alex Katz book I’ve featured. Pay attention to the colors in the covers when pairing them. And remember they’re called coffee table books for a reason, as they are a wonderful way to fill the large surface area of a table or console. You can place candles, vases, and interesting objects on top of them. And they’re books, so they obviously look fantastic adorning bookshelves! Keep scrolling to see a few more examples of how they can beautify a space and to shop my favorites. Hopefully you’ll find one or two that will become one of yours. Simply click on the images in the “SHOP BOOKS” section below to shop.

 
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A few examples from a favorite designer and artist…

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Photo via Paloma Contreras Instagram—Paloma’s Bedroom

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Photo via William McLure Instagram

 

SHOP BOOKS

Simply click on an image to shop…

GUEST ROOM BEFORE & AFTER

Jennifer Mejia

 
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Renovating this old house has been a love hate relationship. There are always surprises. Construction and renovation ALWAYS costs more than you’ve budgeted. Then by the time you get to the fun part—the decorating that you love—you’ve lost a fair amount of steam and A LOT of money. So then the room that you’ve dreamed about starts to cause anxiety because your champagne taste is now on a beer budget. And that’s when the work starts. But then you realize that this work can be fun. Because it’s now a challenge—to still make it the room of your dreams without completely bankrupting yourself. So where do you begin?

 
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The guest bedroom before the renovation

 

Before you can begin, you MUST see beyond the clutter and everything that’s wrong with your starting point. Just look at the bones. The photo above is our “before” photo. The room as it was when we purchased the home was horrible. If you can believe me, it actually looked far worse in person. And besides the decor, a lot of work was necessary. The second floor of the house had hideous, old, and loud through-the-wall air conditioning units. The ceiling fan light was not centered in the room but instead was close to the windows and the a/c unit. There were two layers of wallpaper, and underneath the wallpaper were cracks in the plaster. The carpet was full of dirt, dust, and goodness knows what else. As for the furniture layout, any light that tried to come in was blocked by heavy drapes and a valance and the headboards of the two twin beds.

So as quickly as you can, put the past behind you and create a fresh start with inspiration. Find photos of rooms you like. Ask yourself what made you fall in love with that inspiration. Study it. Is it the palette that speaks to you? The varying textures? Is there a piece of art that you think makes and anchors the space? Then ask yourself which of those things could actually work in your room, and when you’re answering that question, you need to consider both scale and budget. 

 
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Photo via Studio McGee

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Photo via Studio McGee

 

I am obsessed with these two rooms from Studio McGee, one of my favorite design teams. I loved the neutral headboards with clean lines on white walls, and our walls are white throughout the home. I also wanted blue in the pillows, as every room in our home has some amount of blue in it. I think it’s important for a home to feel cohesive and connected. Nothing is more unsettling and jarring to me than drastically different colors in every room. In the first inspiration room pictured above, I love the use of mixed metals. The chandelier is aged iron, while you see gold/brass in the bedside tables. Mixing metals is one of my favorite things to do in a room, as I can’t take anything too matchy-matchy. Matching seems very contrived, so you’ll never see me purchase a complete set of bedroom furniture. I really liked the mix of natural wood and white in the nightstands featured in the second photo, but that mix doesn’t have to be on one piece of furniture. I opted to mix it by choosing different finishes for the dresser and bedside tables. I also love layers of bedding because nothing is more inviting to your guests than a cozy bed. I especially love the use of a quilt at the end of both inspiration beds. Lighting should never be an afterthought—it can make a room, so I was drawn to the use of substantial bedside table lamps in both of these rooms. And finally, artwork. I love the use of a long piece over the bed so the bed becomes more of an anchor for the entire space.

 
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The design board. I always put everything together before ordering to see how it will look.

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So where did I end up? I can tell you without a doubt that it looks A LOT better than where we started. (And I’m still not completely finished.) As a rule, I always begin designing a room with either fabric or a piece of artwork, and then the rest develops from there. In this room, I began with the pillows because I knew I wanted blue in the room so it would jive with the rest of the house. And my favorite source for beautiful, well-made, and affordable pillows is Danielle Oakey Shop. For our guest room, I purchased two 22” Zoe Pillow Covers and one 14x20 Floral Block Blue Pillow Cover. Not only do I obsess over her products, but I love that she is a hard-working, mom of two, female entrepreneur. She’s also very sweet and genuine to boot, so how many more reasons to you need to shop her site?

 
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The beautiful artwork over the bed is a print on canvas from one of my favorite artists, Emily Jeffords. I think this is the seventh piece I’ve purchased from her. I own original works, but her prints are amazing quality, and you have to look very closely to tell one isn’t an original. I ordered “Harvesting” in a 15x30 size and had it matted and framed in the Olympia frame from Framebridge. If you’ve never ordered from Framebridge, you must. Shipping to and from their facility is free. They even send you packaging to ship your piece if you don’t have it. You can choose your own frame or one of their designers can select it for you. Thanks to this company, gone are the days of framing that is more expensive than your artwork. And finally, before we leave the subject of art, the small piece leaning on the dresser is by Jenny Prinn. Her work is always cheerful and would make any guest feel welcome.

 
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As you can see, I actually used a lot of the inspiration from the Studio McGee rooms. I mixed metals in the ceiling light and bedside table lamps. The dresser and bedside tables are different finishes, and the dresser gave me that natural/raw wood I knew I wanted in the room. The bedding is layered with a quilt at the end. The pillows have the blue, and I installed a large piece of artwork over the bed.

 
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Many of the items featured in this room (other than the artwork and pillows hyperlinked above), including the furniture, can be shopped below by clicking on the product images in “SHOP THE POST.” For bedding, I always love Serena & Lily, and that’s what I used for this room. But Restoration Hardware is also a safe bet and what we have in our master bedroom. The shades are from the Shade Store (Hamptons-2), and I highly recommend their product and service. They come to your home to measure and install, and we had the most wonderful experience with our installer. Accessorizing is key, and I love stores like Target, West Elm, and Pottery Barn for vases, bowls, and sculptural objects. And one of the best accessories ever? Coffee table books! They add color, height where needed, and provide hours of interest and eye candy for you and your guests. I purchase most of my books from Amazon.`

I hope you love the before and after of this room as much as I do. Thank you for reading, and keep going to see a bit more and to shop several of the pieces featured.

 
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SHOP THE POST

 

ENTRY FOYER BEAUTY

Jennifer Mejia

 
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As many of you know or may have gathered by now, we purchased a very old home a few years ago. The original part was built in 1896. And it’s been a work in progress for us since we closed in April 2016. The construction part—making the home safe and habitable—just about did us in. The house is about two hours from our apartment in New York City, so “managing” the renovation from a distance was not easy. (I’m planning to do a blog post on renovating an old home, but I have to save up lots of energy to write it because reliving it exhausts me!) When it came time to decorate, I was completely out of steam, so for a good portion of the home, we hired a talented interior designer named Paloma Contreras. And we are so in love with the spaces she designed!

But an interior designer doesn’t come for free. And with construction surprises (very expensive ones), we didn’t have the budget to hire Paloma to design the entire home. So that left yours truly. Fortunately for me, I learned a lot from Paloma and from studying the work of many other talented designers. I’ve made my fair share of mistakes, but I’m getting better as I go along, and I’m proud to share some of the work that truly is all mine.

A few weeks ago, I provided a sneak peek of our guest bedroom on Instagram. It’s now pretty much “finished” so I’ll be sharing that very soon. “Finished” is in quotes because I’m never really finished with anything, always adding or changing accessories and artwork, so it’s finished for the rest of the world of normal people. (Insert wink emoji.) Today I’m sharing a view and source/shopping guide for our second floor landing. It’s a small space, consisting of only two walls and a floor area to decorate. The other two sides are the stairway entry/exit and opposite of that are doors to two bedrooms. I’m not sure many homes have a small landing like ours, but I think this would be a perfect vignette for a foyer, including the artwork on a nearby wall.

I won't talk too much about the space because at the end of the day, it’s s small space. But I like the idea of a sideboard like this one because it provides storage. And every home can always use more storage. In a foyer, you want it to hide junk so that junk isn't greeting you and your guests. As part of a second floor landing, the storage is great to hold things that most rooms on that floor may need. It can serve as a common and obvious area to search for those items. I always prefer fresh flowers, and the hydrangeas here are real. But for boxwood topiaries, I think it’s fine to go the artificial route.

And finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that this vignette was inspired by one of my favorite interior designers, Emily Henderson. At some point I saved a few photos of hers, and she used this artwork from Target, as well as some black candlesticks...perhaps not all in the same spot, if my memory serves me correctly. If I find the photo(s), I’ll amend this post to add them. But my point is that you can learn so much and get wonderful design inspiration from talented designers, making your job as an amateur a little easier.

 
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You can see the entire artwork on the opposite wall in the mirror’s reflection. It’s a steal. I didn’t want to have anything too expensive since it’s low and people are walking by it.

 

You can shop the post here by scrolling through and clicking on the images. I’m really happy about the way it turned out, especially given that we didn’t spend a fortune.

AFFORDABLE ART--A FEW OF MY FAVORITE SOURCES

Jennifer Mejia

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I’m proud to say that I have begun a beautiful art collection that I absolutely love. I’ve always believed what Nate Berkus says—that it’s the things in your home that matter. The things that speak to your soul, things that have meaning to you, and things that reflect who you are. Art is one of those things for me. I may have said this before, but when people ask me how I choose art for purchase, it’s really not that complicated. I choose what makes me feel good when I look at it. And I usually want a different feeling for every room. For example, for our entry, I wanted something that was bright, happy, and cheerful so that everyone who enters feels that way from the moment they walk through the door. I fell deeply in love with this original from Hayley Mitchell! It really set the tone for the entire first floor of our home.

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Another question I get asked a lot is, “How do you know if the art is worth what you’re paying?” Again, nothing too scientific. If you look at places like Pottery Barn, West Elm, Crate and Barrel, etc., you can see what they charge for mass produced prints. And there is nothing wrong with prints. I own many, and it’s a super affordable way to dress your walls. But regarding original art, if I can get a piece at around the same price as a ”Pottery Barn” print, then I think that’s a smart move and that I’ve gotten my money’s worth. The same goes for prints from smaller shops. And my experience has been that when you buy prints directly from the artist, they take a lot of pride in the printing process, and the pieces end up looking very much like an original. A great example of this is our Kristi Kohut print, which looks SO much like an original watercolor. It’s printed on hand-torn rice paper, and it’s probably the second thing you notice in our home after Hayley Mitchell’s portrait. It’s absolutely stunning. I had an extra print, graciously offered by Kristi because her printer originally printed it on a paper different than the one I ordered, so I gave it to our interior designer, who hung it in her bathroom AND then had it featured in Better Homes & Gardens.

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Paloma’s bathroom as featured in Better Homes & Gardens

I have a lot of friends, some who I know personally and others from social media, who have asked me for great sources for affordable art. Now keep in mind that “affordable” is sometimes relative. But I’ve found there are many emerging artists offering original art at a fantastic price. So consider this a great source guide, as I’m going to give you options for originals and prints, and in some cases, the artist offers both.

I have to begin with Emily Jeffords. Why? Because I now own seven pieces of her work, some original and some prints. Unfortunately, I haven’t photographed a lot of her work that hangs in our home, but here is one small original piece that adorns the shelving in our living room. To snag a piece of Emily’s original art, you should follow her on Instagram and/or join her mailing list because she announces when her collections of originals go live. And you really need to have your finger on the trigger to get one. They sell out fast. She also sells prints, which are really authentic. Printed on paper and canvas, you have to look very closely to tell the difference.

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Two of Emily’s prints

Like Emily, Hayley Mitchell announces the release of her originals in advance. You’re going to see a theme here with many of these artists—you should be ready to go the moment they are live. Fortunately, Hayley sells prints via her own website and on One King’s Lane. And she will often have flash sales on her Instagram hkmshopit. I’ve seen her prints from One King’s Lane in person, and they look amazing. Below are two of my favorites.

I love the work of Logan Ledford. I’d say the piece below on the left is her signature style. And she also makes beautiful boobies ornaments, which I adore because the collection is a celebration of femininity. Within a pair of ornaments, each boogie is unique, just like ours. You can purchase Logan’s work through Charish and directly through her website.

A gallery that curates many artists is a great way to go for a one-stop-shop. Well & Wonder Artist Collective is one of my favorites. And many, if not all of the artists’ works, are so affordable. I just purchased a Susie Bettenhausen collage for our powder room, but I haven’t yet taken photos. It is stunning! I love all of the artists available through Well & Wonder, but here are a few of my favorites.

There’s no shortage of amazing work at Gregg Irby Gallery. Again, too many to list, but look at these beauties.

Gallery 1930 is one of my favorites, as I purchased a piece of artwork by Caroline Boykin for our dining room that steals the show. But the talent doesn’t stop with Caroline. Adele Yonchak and Lindsey J. Porter can do no wrong in my eyes, and a sample of their work is featured below.

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Our dining room featuring Caroline Boykin’s art from Gallery 1930

For prints, I have a few great go-to sources. Juniper Print Shop, which offers a lot of flexibility on how you get your print, makes life so easy. You can purchase a digital download or select certain sizes for them to print. You can even choose larger sizes that fit perfectly into IKEA Bjorksta Canvas Frames, so you don’t need to worry about searching far and wide for the right frame. Look at this beautiful print of a Copenhagen scene.

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Artfully Walls has so much art that you’ll likely feel you don’t need to go anywhere else. The print on the right is actually hanging in our living room. And you’ll also see prints from many artists you recognize, like Kristi Kohut.

Dorothy Shain is one of my favorite whimsical artists. She won my heart with her swimsuit originals. She has grown quite a bit in popularity, so her originals are tough to come by. Again, set your alarm when they launch. But fortunately she now sells giclee prints, and here are two of my favorites.

I mentioned One King’s Lane above for Hayley Mitchell prints, but they have SO many other artists’ prints. All of the prints featured in my older son’s bedroom are from One King’s Lane. And the great thing about this place is that they often have sales. I purchased all of these at 20% off. They come framed, too! It might be the best deal in town. (Don’t judge me for allowing my son to watch the iPad!)

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If you’re in or near NYC, mark your calendars for the Spring (March 28) and Fall (September 26) Affordable Art Fair. It’s a terrific way to see and purchase affordable art in person. Some exhibitors are regulars, but they have new and different artists each time.

And finally, you’re probably going to need frames for some of your work. I’ve used Framebridge more times than I can count, including framing of the pieces featured here in our foyer, living room, and dining room. They make it so easy! They will send you packaging to keep your art safe in transit if you don’t have it. They’ll send you a label to ship it to them for free. Shipping of the finished piece back to you is also free. You can choose your own frame from a large and quality selection or their designers can help you if you’re not certain which will look best. Why didn’t I think of this business myself?

I have so many more art sources, but I have to save something for a future post and hope you’ll return! Always feel free to message me with any questions.

MY HEART FOR ART: ALEXIS WALTER

Jennifer Mejia

 
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Photo via Paloma Contreras Design from her
Southern Style Now 2017 Showhouse Room

 

It’s been a while since I poured out my heart for art. But rest assured that my love has not waned. Art is very subjective. And I’ve found that I can like most of an artist’s work and still not love all of their pieces. But one exception to that rule is Alexis Walter. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen a piece of her work that I wouldn’t be thrilled to hang in my home. From her stunning layered acrylic pieces to her soothing and serenely beautiful watercolors, every piece is a masterpiece.

Whenever I fall truly, madly, and deeply in love with an artist’s work, as I have with Alexis’s, I have a desire to know more about the person behind the easel. People often ask me how I find art. What do I look for in a piece? How do I know it’s worth the money? While I am certainly drawn to certain palettes more than others, I usually decide to buy a piece of art based on how it makes me feel when I look at it. I usually sense some sort of connection, as strange as that may sound with an inanimate object. So when that happens, I like to know what inspires the artist and what kind of story might be behind their creations. It sort of completes my connection with the piece.

Fortunately for me, I recently had the opportunity to interview Alexis Walter, whose stunning work you’ll see throughout this post. She was so gracious and kind and provided a view into her world so that those who admire her work could get to know her a little better. Alexis is based in New Orleans, and I’ve been a fan of hers since I first laid eyes on her work via one of my favorite designer’s Instagram feed. I have sworn that when I have the opportunity to redesign my NYC living room, I’m going to splurge for one of her larger works to be the centerpiece over our sofa. The question is, how would I ever choose since there is so much to love?

So without making you wait any longer, meet Alexis Walter and feast your eyes on the stunning work that her magical hands and soul create.

Jennifer: When did you first discover your talent? Or when did someone else first discover it? 
Alexis: I am very fortunate to have parents who fostered my creativity from an early age. I was always taking different art classes throughout the year, especially during summers. It was pretty amazing to be able to learn and play around with a bunch of different mediums at such an early age.

 
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Watercolor Minis

 

Jennifer: Who or what serves as your inspiration? 
Alexis: Really, almost anything can serve as inspiration. Usually travel has inspired me in the past; however, we haven’t been traveling as much recently, and I’m finding most of my inspiration in my everyday life. My latest group of paintings was inspired by my courtyard garden, which is right outside my studio French doors. I think as I get older, the experiences I've had are inspiring me more than anything.

 
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Photo via Meg Lonergan Interiors Instagram
Featuring Alexis’s work over the bed

 

Jennifer: Your mixed media works have so much texture and dimension. What media do you use? Can you briefly describe the process and tools used to create one of them?
Alexis: Thank you! My process is one that started in high school. I loved working with pastels and wanted to use them on canvas, so I developed a technique which worked to hold the pastel to the canvas. It was really pretty but a total mess! About 15 years ago, I had a canvas prepared for pastels and decided to try oils on it. It worked beautifully. I love the look and the way oils paint. Now I have switched to acrylics, which are so much easier to clean up and work better for my small studio. Over time, I’ve developed my own acrylic concoctions to give my work more of an oil look and feel.

 
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Jennifer: Do you remember the first piece of art you sold? When was it? Can you describe the piece and how you felt when it sold? 
Alexis: I do! I don’t think any artist ever forgets. It’s such an exciting moment!! The piece was an early watercolor (which is my first true love). It was the first official opening I had. The first couple to walk in the door bought it right away. I was beyond elated. Honestly, I still feel the same way, especially when I am able to meet the clients who are bringing home their painting. More often than not I’ll say to my husband after a big day, “Can you believe I’m doing this and people are buying my work?” It’s still very exciting.

 
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Jennifer: Can you describe your art education?
Alexis: My education in general took many detours. I went back and forth between Fine Art and Interior Design all through college. Now that I look back, I am so thankful for being able to learn so much about each major. I loved interior design, but I just do not have the brain for the math. Now I spend all day working with Interior Designers and am able to be inspired by their palettes and designs while I create special pieces for them. It really is the best of both worlds!

 
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Jennifer: Who are your favorite artists, including contemporary artists?
Alexis: My all time favorite is Nicolas de Staël. His palettes and textures are phenomenal. There are special places in my heart for Gauguin and Picasso, as well. For contemporary artists, I’m dying for one of Donald Martiny’s pieces. There are also a few young artists I love following on Instagram. I just bought one of Kristin Blakeney’s small landscapes. She’s doing some really interesting things with landscapes and abstracts. I also really adore my friend Ashton Shaw Despot’s abstract impressionist work.

 
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Photo via Rivers Spencer Interiors, which carries a lot of Alexis’s work

 

Jennifer: If you weren’t an artist, what else would you be?
Alexis: I would be doing something with flowers and gardens or have some sort of specialty shop. I love the hunt for special things and would love to share them with others.

 
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Photo via Paloma Contreras Design Instagram

 

Jennifer: What is your favorite travel destination?
Alexis: Venice, Italy is probably my favorite. We haven’t been in years and we’re due for another trip sometime soon. I love being on the water, and being on the water in such a beautiful historical place is just the ultimate. Not to mention the shopping is DIVINE! 

 
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Foyer in our Southampton home featuring a
flash sale piece from Alexis

 

Jennifer: What are your hobbies?
Alexis: I love to garden and to look at other people’s gardens and dream about future gardens I might have. I’m a big daydreamer. I also love to cook.  

 
 
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Jennifer: Tell us about those adorable furry friends of yours!
Alexis: Miette and Celie, are the sweetest cocker spaniels with very strong and very funny little personalities. I’m so spoiled working from home and getting to spend so much time with them. At any point in the day while I’m in the studio, if I look in my den windows, I’ll find both of them watching me work. That is, of course, when they aren’t in the studio attached to my hip.

 
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Photo via Betsey Mosby Interiors Instagram

 

Jennifer: How has social media changed your business?
Alexis: Social media has been huge for my business. Early on, I had a blog through which I met so many amazing people. Instagram has also been a large part of business for me. I love being able to connect with people from all over. I’m always amazed whenever I meet someone through social media—we always have a person, a school, or a place in common. It’s such a small world!

 
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Jennifer: Do you work with interior designers and/or homeowners to create commissions
Alexis: I do! The vast majority of my business is commission work. I love painting pieces especially for a space. Part of that is definitely due to my love of interior design, but I also love seeing the design of a room and crafting the perfect piece for it. There’s always a bit of trial and error but it is extra fulfilling when the project is completed and I’m able to see my painting photographed in the finished space.

 
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Jennifer: Besides your mixed media and watercolors, are you considering exploring any new directions?
Alexis: Always. I have been working on a fabric line for about six years. While I was going to High Point Market, I could never find the time to finalize the designs and really follow through with production. Now that I’m taking a break from Market, I’m hoping to have the time to get the ball rolling again. I also love to collaborate with other artists working with different mediums. There’s usually a project or two going on behind the scenes.


And finally, Alexis was kind enough to share a list of her “best of” New Orleans, but I’m going to save that for another post so you all have something to look forward to. I promise I won’t keep it a secret for much longer. For today, I hope you enjoyed learning more about the person and her art and have fallen in love just as much as I have. The Alexis Walter Gallery is located at 5702 Magazine Street, New Orleans, LA 70115. You can find her on Instagram at alexiswalterart. Her website is officially alexiswalterart.com, but it’s best to check her Instagram feed and stories for dates and links to available work. And of course, you may email her for current available work or to inquire about commissions at info@alexiswater.com.

Thank you, Alexis, for sharing your talent, and now more about yourself, with the world.

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.  

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! 

A HEAVENLY HYDRANGEA HIGH

Jennifer Mejia

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Big Leaf Hydrangeas

When I had the idea for this blog, it took me a while to come up with a name and a tagline. The blog doesn't have a singular focus. And although that might be best to gain a loyal following, it was just too difficult for me to choose. I wanted it to inspire joy for my readers, and the beautiful reality is that so many things in life can inspire joy. For me, one of them is flowers. And during the summer, my favorite flowers are hydrangeas. Honestly, when I can walk out into our yard, cut fresh hydrangeas, and then arrange them to brighten our home, it's a natural high.

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Smooth Hydrangeas

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I refer to myself as "Crazy Hydrangea Lady." Here's why. We arrived at our Southampton home at about 9 pm last Friday night. We carried our sleeping kids from the car into their beds, and my husband went out to Tutto Il Giorno to pick up our dinner. In the darkness of night with my sheers and iPhone flashlight in hand, I wandered into our backyard and began cutting hydrangeas. It's best to cut fresh hydrangeas when they've had time to recover from the day's humidity and hot sun. So either cut them at night or first thing in the morning. On a really hot day with full sun, if you look at your bushes at around 1 pm, you'll see that some of the flowers look a little wilted, so it's best to cut them when they're perky to give them their best shot in the vase.

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White/Green flowers are Smooth Hydrangeas and the Purple are Big Leaf
Photo courtesy of Paloma Contreras visiting our home

If you're cutting fresh hydrangeas from your garden, cut about 1/4 inch above a nodule where leaves are sprouting. Don't just hack anywhere.

I often have friends marvel at how I manage to keep hydrangeas looking so spectacular once in a vase. Hydrangeas are very sensitive flowers and will wilt quickly if they aren't cared for properly. The first rule of any flower is to give them a fresh cut on a diagonal for more surface area. It's always best to cut with a sharp blade vs. scissors because the motion of the scissors can close off the end of the flower a bit. But if you have sharp sheers, that should still be okay. Many advise to put hydrangeas in warm water, but I put them in clean hot water. It's also very important  (for any flower) to remove any leaves from the part of the stems that will be submerged in water. Leaves will start to disintegrate in water, making the water murky and affect their life in the vase. Every two (or three) days, give your hydrangeas a fresh cut and empty the old water from the vase, replacing with fresh hot water. I like to arrange them very tightly in a vase so they almost appear to form one giant ball. 

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Photo courtesy of Paloma Contreras in our home

Unfortunately, I found out the hard way that there is a right and wrong time to prune hydrangeas for the season. Our "landscaper" cut them back in November in Long Island, which was too late, and many don't have flowers this season. The type of hydrangea you have will determine the ideal time to prune the bush. If you have Big Leaf Hydrangeas, then they should be pruned in late summer, just as the flowers begin to fade. These shrubs form next year's flower buds in late summer or early fall as the temperatures get cooler and the days are shorter.  The earlier you prune, the longer the shrub has to recover and produce more and larger blooms for next season. If you cut them back too late, you’ll cut off the buds that will form flowers next season. My present plight. It's also good to remove really old wood canes at the soil so the shrub can flourish. 

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Blooms in early September...they were blue and purple earlier in the summer.
How awesome is nature?

Smooth hydrangeas, whose flowers and stems are more delicate, can be cut back in late winter before new growth begins. And they can be cut really low and still produce a ton of gorgeous flowers the following summer.

These flowers are just stunning and scream "summertime," at least for me. If you care for them properly, they can beautify your yard and home and induce a natural high. I am so addicted that I carted mine back to the city Sunday night!