What a difference a frame makes

A simple outline around a picture can make the difference between “looks good” and “looks great”.


The BIG frame up

We needed some big impact in our living room. I mean, BIG. We found this oversized abstract wall art from West Elm. At seven foot tall, it had the presence we needed for our 18 foot wall. The West Elm wall art looked good but I knew it could look great. On a white wall the art didn’t pop. What it needed was a big outline on that big white wall. It needed a frame. A simple project with a lot of impact.




Poplar wood – Poplar wood is a good affordable choice because it typically has a straight, uniform grain which is good for staining. Choose a size that proportionately fits the canvas. For my large canvas I used 1 x 3 poplar.

Miter box and saw

Wood stain, polyurethane, steel wool and disposable foam brushes 

Panel nails and hammer



Measure the length you will need for the top, bottom and sides. Measure each separately. Each sided may be slightly different.


Cut each piece with a miter box at a 45 degree angle. Make sure you cut the angles correctly. It’s easy to have a dyslexic moment and cut the angles wrong.


Mark the ends of each piece top, bottom, left and right. This will be helpful when putting the frame together. Stain both sides of each piece. After the stain has dried coat both sides of each piece with polyurethane. Three coats should be enough. Between coats lightly sand with steel wool to smooth the grain.


Lining up the mitered corners, nail each piece directly into the sides of the canvas.

That’s it!






Now our seven foot canvas is the focus on the wall instead of blending into the wall.

Moss growing under my feet

With a nod to her past, a designer uses reclaimed mushroom wood as an accent to a modern kitchen.

Who claims fame for reclaimed?

When my father chose used bricks for the foyer and fireplace of his custom built home in South Jersey, even then, I thought… that’s cool. There were other materials in the house that were “reclaimed” or salvaged. The desk suspended from ships’ chains, railroad tie beams on the ceiling and a penny gum ball machine in the family room. They were all curiosities.

John had a vision when he built the house. It would be a grey weathered New England saltbox. Maybe he wanted to bring a little bit of his New England roots to the Jersey shore. No aluminum siding here. The house was clad in cedar siding. Cedar very quickly weathers to a smokey grey as if being battered from years of weather’s storms. However, I’m quite certain that if reclaimed cedar siding had been available back then to achieve his vision, he would have used it.


Reclaimed weathered cedar siding from Historic Woods



Sustainable and eco friendly?

A natural landscape was chosen to complete the look. Or more simply, it had no lawn. Why? Was it because it was sustainable? Or eco friendly? Not a chance. He had no use for a lawn. To him, spending hours maintaining a lawn involved giving up too much valuable free time. So eventually, the yard turned into a low maintenance and eco friendly mossy carpet nestled in a neighborhood full of manicured suburban lawns.

John was certainly no conservationist. And he wasn’t trying to be trendy. However, he did have an unrealized creative side and a spirit to do things differently.


Provenance Mill works reclaimed mushroom wood

Now trending

Recently, we renovated our kitchen with modern glossy white cabinets. But too much of a good thing can be, well, just too much of a good thing. Our modern glossy cabinets begged for a complimentary natural accent. The back of the counter bar peninsula was a perfect place to add a touch of something organic. Afterall, opposites attract in both design and dating.

I scoured the internet searching for reclaimed wood. You’ve seen it. Every trendy restaurant now has reclaimed wood decor. But finding it for my small project was near impossible. After a multitude of unsuccessful searches, I finally found a local supplier of reclaimed wood. Provenance Mill Works in Philadelphia is an amazing treasure trove of reclaimed wood and salvaged objects. There, I discovered mushroom wood. Reclaimed from commercial mushroom planting beds, enzymes erode the grain which produces sculpted canyons in the wood. It’s affordable, sustainable and never needs treating. And since mushroom farmers regularly replace bins the supply is endless.




Mushroom wood planks installed on the back of the peninsula.

My claim of reclaimed

Once I decided to used reclaimed mushroom wood as an accent in our kitchen I couldn’t give myself THAT much credit. Afterall, haven’t many have gone there before? Many, including my father, used reclaimed before it became trendy. It’s always been a vehicle for adding a little bit of soul where non exists. Be it because of economic necessity, the desire to be closer to nature, or just our past, reclaimed materials will always intrigue people. But for me, I smiled to myself, thought of my dad, remembering him doing things a just a little bit differently.

Building on a theme

Inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, this DIY project brings ecologically friendly stacked stone as a natural element indoors.

In Fallingwater Wright captured the perfect essence of our desire to live with nature, to dwell in a forested place and be at home in the natural world.

– Edgar Kaufmann, Jr.

Organic, it’s not just about food.

If you’re familiar with Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater in Mill Run, PA, then you know he designed the Kaufmanns vacation home with the idea of bringing the outdoors in. The Kaufmanns, who lived in Pittsburgh, were the well-to-do owners of Kauffmann’s Department Store. Their property along the Bear Run stream was their summer escape from what was then called the “Smokey City”.

Photo Courtesy of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. Fallingwater is located in Mill Run, PA.

A building should grace its environment rather than disgrace it.

– Frank Lloyd Wright, Hugh Downs interview, 1952

Fallingwater, or the Edgar J. Kaufman House, was constructed from 1936-1938. What makes it so special is that it was is built over a 30 foot waterfall. The house lives IN nature. Wright designed a home that is not only an architectural masterpiece but an engineering marvel as well. His “organic architecture” combines with cantilevered terraces that jut out over the falls, creating strong horizontal planes reminiscent of the surrounding landscape. Native stone is used on floors and vertical supports. Horizontal components are poured concrete. And adding warmth is sap grain walnut throughout. The conscious use of materials from nature bring the outside in.

I visited Fallingwater while on a road trip to Pittsburgh a while back. I’ve wanted to return ever since. I want to remind myself of the design details which make this home a modern icon. A modern icon that beautifully balances the sleek lines of modern design without giving up the warmth of nature.

Mill Run is located between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. It’s about a 4-5 hour drive from Philadelphia. It’s worth the visit.

Bringing my outside in.

I knew I wanted to bring natural components into our modern space. Modern spaces can quickly become cold. So it was obvious this white support column between the living room and dining room would be perfect covered in stone.

BEFORE: The white support column. Photo bomb by Zoe.

It didn’t occur to me I was borrowing from Fallingwater.

Photo Courtesy of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. Fallingwater is located in Mill Run, Pa., 724-329-8501.
Living room of Fallingwater. Photo Courtesy of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. Fallingwater is located in Mill Run, PA.
AFTER: Stacked stone column inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater.

Earth friendly organic architecture

I live in a condominium. Unlike Mr. Wright, I didn’t have natural field stone lying around to face my column. Even if I did, I’d be crazier than I already am if I’d even considered using it. Real stone is heavy. That includes the pre-made staggered stone panels. All more than I was willing to tackle. Eventually, I found Native Go-Stone sold through Home Depot. It’s lightweight and made from 87% recycled material. Here’s how I installed it.


Native Go-Stone panels sold through Home Depot. – Flat panels and corner pieces as needed. They can be ordered online and delivered to your home. Be aware. I received a few boxes with broken pieces. Don’t panic if you do too. With all the cutting required to cover my column the broken pieces were all usable.

Trowel and AcrylPro tile adhesive

Shims, painters tape and rosin paper

Ear, eye and face protection

Angle grinder, blades and a level

Recommended: portable work table with clamping capabilities




Before starting, make sure to protect your floors surrounding your work area. Rosin paper is inexpensive and works very well. It can be taped down with painters’ tape. Fold it up and toss it out when you’re done for the day. Yes, if you have lots of cutting to do this will take longer than a day.


Cut marks can be made with a pencil. Where eye, ear and face protection when cutting. You’ll also want to do this outdoors. There is a lot of dust and debris left after cutting.

NOTE: According to Go-Stone this material can be cut with a drywall saw. That’s sort of true. I wore out three drywall saw blades before I’d had enough. Go out and buy an inexpensive angle grinder. It’s worth the $40 to save your sanity and everyone’s around you.


Start at the bottom (starting at a corner if applicable) and dry fit panels before applying tile adhesive. There are three different size panels, plus corners if you’re using them. Stagger the panels. You want to reduce the appearance of seams.


Generously apply tile adhesive in a criss cross pattern to the stones. Adhere the tiles wiggling them a bit to ensure the adhesive coats thoroughly.


Once you’ve set a row of stones, check to make sure they are level. If not, level the stones with shims. Continue stacking the stones and leveling until you are done.

The finished column. I couldn’t be happier. What do you think?


LEDs… delightful.


Mid-Century Modern not so modular shelves.

We bought this Mid-Century Modern modular shelving unit from the estate of the previous owner. It’s well-built, stylish AND practical. The rails are aluminum. The drawers are solid wood. The doors have rattan inserts. And, there’s lots of storage. I’m not a fan of clutter. I’m a fan of hiding clutter. I hide the dog toys in the bottom drawer on the left.

Our predecessor had the shelving unit upstairs. In order to move it downstairs to the living room it had to be taken apart and reassembled. “Modular” was not the word I used to describe the unit while moving it.

Binder screws.

I scrubbed 30 years of nicotine off the shelves. Polished the aluminum support rails. And then, went off to the hardware store to find binder screws to assemble the unit. Half of the binder screws were missing. The holes in the rails needed to line up perfectly with the holes in the cabinets in order to put the shelves together. Another two person job. The project that I said, was at best, 1-2 hours, took the entire day. Funny, that happens a lot.

shelvesAGreat! Love it… except. It looks underwhelming.

The shelves required some drama to show them off. At night, against an 18 foot wall, the shelves visually melted into the room. But with minimal cost and effort. And by adding background lights. The shelves now look rich and sophisticated. 

Not too hot. And not too cold.

Lighting is an important component of design. Lighting design professionals understand the art and science of lighting. It can be used to create drama and add dimension. Retailers, designers and directors all use lighting to connect with audiences.

With lighting, knowing color temperature is important. Do you ever wonder why you look so bad under fluorescent lights? It’s because the least flattering light for your face is blueish light. It’s color temperature is cold. Fluorescent lights emit bluish/green light. This makes your skin tone look sickly and pale. This is useful information for your next selfie.

Lowel EDU: Lighting Resource Center

If you want to understand about the art and science of lighting, visit Lowel.

Drama, in the right places.

For this project, I used LED tape lights from LED Wholesalers. I taped the LED lights to the back of the shelving unit. They are 12 volt DC, 24 watt, warm white with a color temperature of 2700K. Warm lighting is a good choice for home lighting. It feels natural and comfortable.

These lights are cuttable, dimmable and have an adhesive back. They required a power adapter and connectors as needed. A touch sensitive dimmer switch is optional.

LED lights have come a long way in recent years. Partly due to the phasing out of incandescent bulbs. I recommend changing to LEDs throughout your home. You’ll save money, save the environment AND you can still look good. LEDs are affordable (they keep going down in price) and are readily available in warm white 2700K.



LED 12 volt DC, 24 watt, warm white tape lights with a color temperature of 2700K and scissors.


Power adapter, connector and optional touch sensitive dimmer switch.


Tape lights come in different lengths. These lights can be cut with scissors every two inches for custom sizing. A variety of connectors can be added for different situations.



  1. Peel off tape backing and stick in place.
  2. Connect to connector or connectors.
  3. Plug into the power adapter.
  4. Plug into an outlet.
  5. Optional: Connect the power adapter to a touch sensitive dimmer switch.

I love the way this turned out. This media unit needed a little help. The LED tape lights also compliment the two LED lamps.


3floornoledAUnderwhelming too.

This media cabinet without lighting.