Thursday, March 22, 2012

Thursday Thoughts

Happy Thursday! Hope you are having a great week and looking forward to the upcoming weekend. I had planned on sharing this post on Monday but somehow time went speeding by and it is now Thursday. Things have been rather busy around here so I thought I would update you on a few random happenings.

A little while back I came across an exciting-to-me find in the bookstore – my shower curtain was included in Better Homes and Gardens New Decorating Book! It is only a very small picture (the green one with blue tabs in the center) but it certainly was thrilling to be flipping through a design book and come across something I made. You may remember the curtain was part of this BH&G basement bathroom story.

The warmer weather over the past weekend was motivation to finish up a few inside painting projects (who wants to be inside when the weather is nice!) and begin an outside project that has long been on my mind.

So Mr. RDH completed repainting the two upstairs bathrooms. Both went from SW Aria Ivory to BM White Dove. The change is subtle but one that was well worth the effort. The master bedroom no longer has a blue ceiling and now is more in keeping with the feel of the attached bedroom.

We spent the second half of the weekend removing a whole bunch of myrtle that we had planted years ago on a small hill next to the driveway. The plant was becoming invasive so it was time for it to go.

Now we are left with a dirt hill and no plans for what to plant. If you have any ideas please let me know. I was thinking lavender but I would love to hear your opinion. This area gets a good bit of sun and tends to be very dry.

Besides the above I have also been filling my time with a few sewing classes to learn how to use my new-to-me sewing machine! For those of you who have been followers for a while, you are probably very familiar with the story of my old sewing machine.

I purchased a nine year old Bernina and I am just so excited by all the new capabilities I now have at my disposal. It even does embroidery which will allow me to customize stockings with names in my Etsy shop. Although I absolutely love my Singer Featherweight and will never part with it, I knew it was time for an upgrade. I plan to share more on my new toy later as I have been making several new stocking designs – including the one shown above - for this upcoming holiday season.

Finally there is all the little behind the scenes prep work which needs to be completed for next week’s photo shoots. I have a few smaller projects which I am working on which might be included in a few of the pictures.

Have a great weekend! I look forward to hearing your opinion about our dirt hill.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Twelve Questions For a Magazine Story Producer

Today I am thrilled to present an interview with Donna Talley, Regional Editor and Producer for Meredith Publications. Donna is one of the top design professionals in the industry and her work has been featured in and on the cover of many of the nation’s leading shelter magazines as well as in numerous Meredith books.

Photo by John Bessler

I have had the great fortune to observe Donna at work as she has been the creative force behind most of the photo shoots that have taken place in my own home. Since so many of you are curious about magazine photo shoots, I thought it would be informative and fun to talk to Donna. She graciously agreed and was willing to share her experience and expertise.

Donna Talley / Photo by Andreas Trauttmansdorff

1. How did you begin your career?

I’ve always been interested in interior design and gardening, but started my career as a music publicist in New York City after studying composition at Juilliard. After 10 years of living in the city, I moved to Saratoga Springs, NY and turned my passion for gardening into a topiary & garden shop, which was featured in Country Home magazine (one of Meredith’s main magazines at the time). A Meredith book editor saw the story and contacted me about producing stories for her “Garden Style Projects” book. My shop lease had expired, and I realized I didn’t want to continue in the retail arena. After that first photo shoot, I knew I had found my true calling – creating beautiful images for print media. When the Executive Editor of Meredith’s Special Interest Publications subsequently contacted me about scouting locations for their design and gardening magazines, of course I jumped at the chance! You know that saying “Find what you love to do, and you’ll never work a day in your life”? That’s me. Fourteen years and almost 300 stories later, I still can’t wait to go to work every day and make pretty pictures!

Donna Talley / Photo by Dana Gallagher

2. Most people only see the end result of a photo shoot –a beautiful room, filled with beautiful things. I am sure there is a lot of behind the scenes hard work that goes into making these spaces look so pretty. Could you share a few of the steps you typically follow to prepare for a photo shoot?

The focus of the magazine is my starting point. For example, if I’m producing a shoot for one of our budget kitchen magazines, I won’t be bringing in expensive copper pots to style the space. The props and accessories are carefully chosen to further the story (and, of course, make a beautiful photo!) I start with a styling plan, and then head to the stores. I’m basically getting paid to shop – which sounds like fun – but time is money, so I’m very calculated and decisive about what I’m looking for. On a typical shoot I go to 3 or 4 (sometimes 5 or 6!) stores, depending on the number of rooms we are photographing. I also have wonderful interns who help me keep track of all the shoot props.

Donna Talley / Photo by John Gruen

3. What characteristics do you look for in a house when scouting for a magazine?

I scout for many magazines, all with a different point of view – some are budget-oriented, others feature very high-end projects. So at any given time, I might be looking for pretty cottages, rooms with a strong storage angle, creative before-and-after renovations, beautifully-designed kitchens and baths, fabulous gardens… the list goes on. Truly, no two days are alike. I find a lot of potential stories through my network of interior designers, architects and renovation experts – and even homeowners who have already had their homes published refer me to projects they think might make a good story. I think the biggest characteristic I look for is a story that readers can relate to, and find inspirational. Also, very nice and accommodating homeowners are a big plus!

Donna Talley / Photo by Andre Baranowski

4. What are some of your favorite styling tools/ideas which readers can easily incorporate into their own décor?

My go-to styling tool is always incorporating some element of the outdoors and nature, no matter the season. This goes beyond flowers and plants – I recently discovered these natural moss spheres in a great chartreuse-green that live forever! I also like branches and items you can find in your own back yard. But even a $10 bunch of beautiful tea roses from the supermarket can bring life to a room.

Donna Talley / Photo by Michael Partenio

5. Can you share some of your best simple and inexpensive ways to keep a house looking fresh and up-to date?

Sometimes just changing out pillows can really make a big difference! Keeping big pieces (sofas, chairs) neutral ensures a room won’t look dated in a few years. I’ve seen many trends in fabrics over the years, so you could change the pillows every year or two to freshen up a room without breaking the bank. I recently traveled to France and found 1-1/2 yards of gorgeous fabric in a scrap bin that I had made into pillows for my living room sofa, using fringe found on The cost of the $175 pillows amortized over the course of a year is a little over $14 a month!

Donna Talley / Photo by Michael Partenio

6. What are your go-to sources for finding great accessories, furniture and other home décor products?

I’ve been doing a lot of online shopping for shoots in the past few years, if I’m looking for something specific, such as bar stools., etsy and ebay are favorites. I’m also lucky to have retailers provide products for my shoots in exchange for credit – The Container Store, Country Curtains, Wisteria Catalog, and Smith + Noble are all great. I also shop a lot at Pottery Barn, HomeGoods, TJ Maxx and Target. The key to styling is to mix things up so a room looks “real life” and not like a catalog or store display.

Donna Talley / Photo by Michael Partenio

7. Do you have an all-time favorite story you have produced?

That one is easy! I produced a story about my mom’s pizza recipe that we shot in my kitchen with my sisters in 2005 for BH&G Simply Perfect Italian magazine. We were up at 4:30 AM making 8 batches of dough for all the shot sequences. She got a kick out of being in the same magazine as a couple of Food Network stars

Donna Talley / Photo by John Bessler

8. Where do you find inspiration to consistently come up with new and exciting ideas?

Inspiration, for me, comes from everywhere. And travel definitely helps open my mind and see how people live in the world.

Donna Talley / Photo by John Bessler

9. Have you seen a change - from your point of view as a producer/editor – in magazines due to the ever increasing number of design blogs and sites like Pinterest?

In my opinion, I think design blogs enhance design magazines, as they are another source of inspiration for consumers. I’ve also found that bloggers are very open to having their own homes featured in magazines, so they are a great scouting tool for me.

Donna Talley / Photo by Michael Partenio

10. What design trends do you see developing over the next several years?

I think the biggest design trend is that homeowners are living smaller, with little luxuries and modern conveniences being the focal point. Ten years ago, I regularly scouted kitchens that you could park a couple of cars in! Now, spaces are more intimate, designed with a more realistic lifestyle in mind.

Donna Talley / Photo by Dana Gallagher

11. What is the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is being able to help talented design professionals get their work published. Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t easy to get your projects in front of the right people at the magazines, so us Regional Editors are the connector to help get a project green-lighted for a story. That is very satisfying to me.

Donna Talley / Photo by John Bessler

12. Is it possible there is a worst part of your job?

The worst isn’t so bad… I’d have to say, when it’s pouring buckets on a shoot day, I wish I could turn those into home office days and re-schedule the shoot for a bright, sunny day! But in this job, you need to have a “go with the flow” attitude.

Donna Talley / Photo by Michael Partenio

Thank you Donna for sharing your expertise! You have shared some great information.

Donna Talley / Photo by John Bessler

If you would like to see more of Donna’s work please visit her website She also has a Pinterest account which can be found HERE.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Adding a Little Green

I am not sure if it is the lack of snow this winter which has me thinking about spring or my constant need to rearrange (probably a little of both!), but last week I found the top of my family room built-ins to be looking a bit sparse. I decided some new plants were in order and headed to Lowes to see what I could find.

I ended up coming home with three succulents, a small ivy plant (1/2 price on clearance) and a funny looking plant which reminded me of un-mowed grass.

The succulents and a sprig of the ivy found homes in a white ironstone bowl and the “grass plant” was simply placed in a container I normally use in the summer outside.

I grabbed a few other plants from other parts of the house and within twenty minutes I was quite pleased with the new arrangement.

I now have a little bit of spring inside to tide me over until it finally arrives outside!

Are you thinking about spring too? Have you added any spring touches to your home?

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Exciting Photo Shoot News!!!

Today I am happy to share some exciting news! I just received confirmation that my new family room built-ins will be included in Storage Magazine, a Better Homes and Garden’s special interest publication.

The photo shoot will be produced by Donna Talley, Regional Editor and Producer for Meredith publications and photographed by John Bessler. I am so thrilled to be hosting both of them in my home. You may remember they were the creative team behind my basement remodeling story which appeared in Better Homes and Gardens a few years ago.

Better Homes and Gardens / Donna Talley - Regional Producer and Editor for Meredith Publications
Photographer - John Bessler

And to add a cherry to the top – Donna and John will also be using my house as a location back drop for a story Donna is creating for Flea Market Storage Magazine.

Better Homes and Gardens / Donna Talley - Regional Producer and Editor for Meredith Publications
Photographer - John Bessler

Needless to say I am giddy! The shoots will take place at the end of March, but at this point I am unsure as to when they will appear in print. I will be sure to keep you updated with a few sneak peeks.

Thanks for sharing in my excitement!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

An Urban Cottage – The RDH March Blog of the Month

Today I am happy to introduce you to An Urban Cottage – the March Red Door Home Blog of the month.

via An Urban Cottage

via An Urban Cottage

An Urban Cottage is a new to me blog that has quickly become a favorite.  You know I love a good house renovation story and this one is superb!  An Urban Cottage chronicles Steve’s journey of restoring his 1842 Greek Revival cottage in Boston, MA.  Along the way he also shares tidbits about flowers, decorating, favorite finds, and more.

Below is how Steve’s house looked when it was purchased.

via An Urban Cottage

Here is what it looks like today.

via An Urban Cottage

Quite a beautiful transformation, wouldn’t you say?  (For all the details click HERE.)  Along with restoring the outside of his house, Steve has also been hard at work renovating the interior. Take a look at the inspiring pictures below to see the beautiful transformation which has taken place.
Kitchen before
via An Urban Cottage

Kitchen after

via An Urban Cottage

Steve has done such amazing work on his house that not too long ago it was photographed for and will be featured in the new Better Homes and Gardens New Cottage Style book.

The book is not available yet but is scheduled for release in June of this year.  You can visit HERE to preorder your copy.

Steve’s current project involves an update of the bedroom shown below.

via An Urban Cottage

He is stripping wallpaper and plans to remove the turquoise paint from the floor as well as change the vintage Cape Cod cottage look into something more in keeping with the rest of the house.  I can’t wait to see the results!

Thank you Steve for allowing me to feature your incredible blog!  To see more Urban Cottage happenings please stop by Steve’s blog.  I know you will be thrilled you did!

Blog Widget by LinkWithin