The Beauty of Simplicity

While in San Francisco, I got the chance to interview Jun Pinon, who is one of the top floral designers in the Bay area. His rise to fame is due to his stunning, yet simple, style. And it truly is simple. I was even able to do it. But you'll get to see that on video very soon.

During the shoot, Jun's cousin Iah Isip was there to take photos of the event -- and to make me nervous. Being in front of one camera is enough. But I shouldn't complain. Iah is a highly requested fashion, fine art and landscape photographer -- so it was an absolute honor to have him around for the day.

After filming, I took a look at Iah's portfolio and realized that the eye for simplicity ran in the family. His pictures are stunning examples of the beauty of restraint.

Gorgeous floral arrangements, photos -- and especially rooms -- don't need to be complicated and filled with tons of colors and textures. Often the simplest things are the most beautiful, and the pictures above are a perfect example of that. Maybe after seeing them you'll be inspired to simplify the decor in your home. I know I was.

To see the rest of Jun's gorgeous floral arrangements, visit To view more of Iah's stunning photography, visit

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Posted by Meghan Carter on Wednesday, Apr 2, 2008 in Decorating InspirationTravel Stories.

Screw the Sound, All We Want is the View

That's right. After careful thought, we've decided to take the sound out of all of our future videos. It was a hard decision, but we realized that if we wanted Ask the Decorator videos to be the best around we'd have to ditch the sound.

Rather than focusing on my voice or the random music, you'll be able to concentrate all of your attention on the beautiful items featured - whether it's a stunning kitchen, gorgeous linens or beautiful furniture.

If you're interested in what is being said, you'll be able to read the closed captioning. In our beta tests, we found that only 9.1% of people were interested in the closed captioning. But now we want to hear from you.

Later today I'll post our first soundless video. Tell me what you think about it. Does it make the viewing experience more pleasant? Are you able to better focus you're attention on the decorative items?

I look forward to receiving your input. Oh and by the way, Happy April Fools!

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Posted by Meghan Carter on Tuesday, Apr 1, 2008 in Ask the Decorator News.

25 Things You Want to Do (In Your Home) Before Next Year

While in the San Francisco area, I was lucky enough to get to spend a day at Google. My host for the day, who was - and is - an extremely nice and intelligent man, excitedly showed me all around the Google headquarters. I saw everything stereotypically Google, the sleep pods, micro-kitchens, massage rooms and swimming pools, but the thing that stood out the most was not what he showed me - but what he said at the end of the day.

Being a very polite man, he asked me if he could offer me some advice. "Of course," I said.

"Meghan, you should write down the 100 things you want to do before you die," he said.

That's not exactly what you expect to hear while at Google. But rather than look dumbstruck, I proceeded to tell him that I had to do that for a class when I was a freshman in high school, and I'm sure the things I wrote were completely unrealistic and irrelevant to today.

"I think one of the things I wrote was to tame a wild stallion. They were totally ridiculous," I said.

He looked at me completely serious with not the hint of a smile on his face and said, "What's so ridiculous about that?"

I was completely taken aback. Not ridiculous? But he was right.

Anything is possible. No dream or idea is ridiculous. He taught me the importance of taking my aspirations seriously and treating them like real goals rather than daydreams.

I'm still working on my 100 things. When I finish, I'll let you know.

Creating my list made me think about our homes. We talk about how we want to remodel our kitchens or redecorate our bedrooms, but we rarely write down our aspirations for our homes. So rather than writing down the 100 things you want to do before you die, why not write down:

The 25 Things You Want to Do in Your Home Before Next Year

Your list will be very revealing and can contain absolutely anything. Remember nothing is unreasonable. I'll even help you get started with some ideas.

  1. Have everyone gather in one place - other than the kitchen - where we all relax together rather than going to different rooms at night.
  2. Make a charity box where I can put the things I no longer need. Then actually take the box to charity.
  3. Start a food fight and not worry about what will be ruined.
  4. Create a space for after dinner dancing equipped with good music and low lighting, and use it more than once.
  5. Grow a plant. Make sure it survives longer than a week.
  6. Hang a full-length mirror and not be afraid to look into it.
  7. Host three dinner parties that are such a hit people I don't know want to be invited next time.
  8. Look through my pantry and not find stale food.
  9. Make a real fire. Maybe even roast s'mores.
  10. Create a craft area, and actually make something.

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Posted by Meghan Carter on Monday, Mar 31, 2008 in Travel StoriesDecorating Inspiration.

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Posted by on Sunday, Mar 30, 2008 in Blog Information.

Bring Back the Brass

While in California numerous people were kind enough to inform me that brass "should be left in the 80s." Even before leaving for the Golden State, I'd been caught in countless conversations where brass was blasted as being "gaudy," "flashy," and "terribly out of the date."

But I have a confession to make. I like brass.

In fact, it's in my genes. I have brassy-gold streaks in my hair and rims around my irises. So you can't tell me that brass, green, brown and white don't make a fantastic color combination. I might even take offense if you try.

But my natural coloring isn't all that benefits from the presence of brass. There are dozens of other color schemes that come alive when brass is added, and the second you take brass away and replace it with a "hotter" option - which is currently silver or bronze - the once beautiful scheme becomes lackluster.

We have an entire rainbow of colors to enjoy and mix and match. But the second we start following what's hot and what's not, our rainbow turns into an 8 ct. pack of Crayolas.

Trends are dangerous. They limit your choices. This week you can no longer use brass. Next week it might be purple. A year from now olive may be on the banned list. Before you know it, your only selection may be the currently "fashionable" blue and brown.

And as tempting as that combination is, I'll take my brass and green over it any day - even if people call me flashy.

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Posted by Meghan Carter on Friday, Mar 28, 2008 in Musings.

Buying Based on Background Checks

Roughly a year ago, I was diagnosed with numerous food allergies. The huge adjustment in my diet not only taught me the importance of self-discipline, but also showed me the significance of knowing where and how my food is made. In order to stay healthy, I now must scrutinize every food label - and it seems I shouldn't reserve my new habit just for what I eat.

While in California, every Green expert I chatted with stressed the importance of understanding where our products come from and how they are made. The new movement of buying based on background checks keeps both us and the environment healthy - not to mention our bank accounts if we choose wisely.

The tops things we should look for when conducting a "product perusal" are:

  • Where did the products come from? Were they grown organically? Were they harvested in a safe manner from a renewable resource?  
  • How far did the product have to be transported before it reached you?
  • Are there toxic glues or resins holding the product together? Does the product emit toxic chemicals?
  • Is the product made from high-quality materials and methods? You don't want to have to throw it away and buy a new one a year from now. It should be built to last.

Asking those questions is highly important, but I'm sure you're hearing it everywhere. Even as I write them, I'm already bored - better put, turned off. I've become one of the drones contributing to the massive cycle of eco-fatigue because we keep repeating the same message over and over again.

So here's the new part of the message. Conducting background checks before buying is no different than what we've been doing for years. It's nothing new. The background checks before were based on whether the item was priced reasonably, sold by a reputable seller and made well. Now we've just added a few extra criteria because we're smarter. And just as we didn't always make the best decisions about what to buy before, we won't make the best decisions now.

Sure, I'm very strict when it comes to not buying foods that I'm allergic to. Then again I have a very good incentive: breathing. But when it comes to purchasing other products, I'm no saint. As I write this I'm wearing non-organic clothes, have toxic paint on my walls and am about to eat off plates that were probably sent farther than I've ever traveled in my life. And that's okay. The important thing is that I'm trying to make smart purchases and conducting a background check will help - even if it is a bit of a hassle.

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Posted by on Thursday, Mar 27, 2008 in Decorating Tips.

Car Culture

There's no doubt that California is a car culture. I've never seen so many luxury cars in my life. Lotus, Porche, Mercedes, Ferrari, Range Rover and Rolls-Royce were all well represented. I even saw three Bentleys in 5 minutes while filming in West Hollywood.

Being from the Midwest, I assumed the owners of those cars drove up each night to homes that were far more impressive than the set of wheels they owned. But from what I understand, that's not the case.

Sure some of them do, but in L.A. "the car is the new home." As one person I talked to put it, "You find many people who drive gorgeous, expensive cars can barely pay their rent."

But why? Cars are horrible investments. They lose value every day you own them. Putting money into your car rather than your home is like throwing money in the wind. You never get it back. So you must have a really good reason to want that luxury car.

Some told me that Los Angelenos love their cars because they spend so much time in them. After wasting hours each day in L.A. congestion, it's easy to start thinking your home is your car. But people in Chicago suffer from the same problem.

I think it's a bigger issue than time that provokes people to love their wheels rather than their homestead. In a world where stores look better than our living rooms, restaurants dazzle more than our dining rooms, grocery stores entice more than our kitchens and parks offer better views than our backyards, why would we want to be at home? It's more fun to go out. The feeling of walking into public places now surpasses the feeling we get when walking through our front door. So it's only logically to put money into the mode of transportation that takes us to those places - to put money into our car. Because let's face it, having a sweet ride enhances the experience.

But why not enhance our homes instead? We should use those public places as inspiration for how to decorate rather than a refuge and see our home as the place to be seen rather than the place to flee.

But then again, I am from the Midwest ...

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Posted by Meghan Carter on Wednesday, Mar 26, 2008 in MusingsTravel Stories.

Getting on the Lint-Free Line

Ever since I visited Anichini and learned the proper linen care from Alan Jesseman (you can watch the video here), I've felt guilty for using my dryer. But I can't help it. I don't have much time to spare, and my dryer is so convenient and fast. Hanging my clothes outside seems like such a hassle.

That is, until I saw this. All of that lint is from drying one blanket and a robe. I'm surprised they didn't disintegrate in my hands when I took them out. You'd think they would from how much they shed, but for now they're still holding together. Although, I don't know how long that will last. Each time I dry them they get more brittle.

So I think it's time to look into line drying. My linens will appreciate it, and I'm guessing yours would too.

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Posted by Meghan Carter on Tuesday, Mar 25, 2008 in Decorating Tips.

Here's to a "Durable" New Year

Happy New Year! I hope you had a wonderful holiday! It's good to be back!

   While out to dinner on New Year's Eve, I noticed that the tablecloth at the restaurant I was at repelled water. What a brilliant idea. I'm sure the tablecloths with that feature are less likely to stain and easier for the restaurant to wash, which must be a relief considering how many tablecloths the staff must wash every day.
    That got me to start thinking about how much wear and tear restaurants must endure. We worry about maintaining our homes, but maintaining a restaurant must be far more stressful. Restaurants not only have to deal with a constant flow of traffic, but also have to maintain their beauty in order to keeps customers coming back for more. That's quite a burden unless you use durable products that make cleaning easy. Judging by the water repelling tablecloths, I'm guessing that many restaurants have started to introduce highly durable products, which makes restaurants a great place to find long-lasting products that actually hold up to the manufacturer's promises.  
    So the next time to you go out to eat, look at the floor, walls, furniture and countertops at the restaurant. Which materials look shabby, and which ones look brand new? You'll quickly find out which products would be a hassle to maintain in your home and which ones require little maintenance to keep looking beautiful. And as we start 2008, wouldn't it be nice to spend less time cleaning and more time enjoying our home. Plus, talk about a great excuse to spend a night at that restaurant you've been meaning to try!

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Posted by Meghan Carter on Wednesday, Jan 9, 2008 in Decorating Tips.

Home Sick

    I spent the weekend home sick with the flu. It was the second time I had the flu in the past three weeks. Yes, I should win the healthiest person award. Thanks for nominating me. Jokes aside, it got me thinking about how prepared are homes are for when we get sick, and let me tell you, they're not.
    The perfect home for a person home sick would have a bathroom, microwave, television and washing machine all within five feet of the comfiest couch in the world. Unfortunately, I've yet to see that house. So when we're sick, we need a plan B, which is why in my delirium I came up with the Sick Kit.
    The sick kit would contain all of the essential items you need when you fall ill, and would be stored stylishly in the place designated as the "sick spot" in your home. For me, that has traditionally been the family room. The biggest perk of the Sick Kit is that it would enable you to actually be "sick" while being sick instead of having to run around taking care of yourself.

    Here are my suggestions for items to include in your sick kit. I'd love to hear your suggestions because I'm bound to have the flu again here in another week or two.

Comfy, Warm Blanket. When you're sick, it's no time to be fooling around with cashmere. You need something that is durable and washable so that if you get "sick" on your sick blanket you can just throw it in the washing machine. Plus, if you have to make one of those dreaded 6 foot walks to the microwave, you can wear the blanket around you without worrying about dragging it across the floor.

DVDs. Some people suggest reading books when you're sick. But I can barely remember my name, let alone concentrate on a book, when feeling bad. So I always opt for mindless entertainment. I've found movies to be good, but TV series are even better. They last longer, which means you're less likely to get bored.

Work and School Numbers. It's bad enough having to call in sick. Don't make it worse by having to find the numbers. Keep a list in your kit to make those dreaded calls easy.  

Electrolyte Drinks. There's no better time to drink efficiently than when you're sick. You should be drinking 8 glasses of water, but drinking one takes all the energy you have. So make sure the one you do drink packs a punch. Not to mention, there's no way you're going to go a get yourself a drink. It better be within an arms reach if you're going to consume it.

Tissues. I never buy tissues. I don't know why. I just don't. But when I'm sick, I need them and always have to resort to using toilet paper. I know. It's not very classy. So stash a box of tissues in your sick kit, and make sure they're the type with aloe. You'll appreciate the extra soft touch.

Take Out Menus or Soup Cans. Unless you have someone to cook for you, you're probably going to need to eat. I normally let myself starve until I'm so famished I have to crawl to the refrigerator. But wouldn't it be nicer to have the phone number of the closest sandwich and soup shop right next to you so that you can have them deliver. What makes the scenario even better is if you already have a $20 stashed in the menu so that you don't have to find your wallet. If a dream shop like that doesn't exist in your neck of the woods, at least have stash a can of soup or two you can heat up in the microwave in your kit.

Vitamins C Pills and Medicine. Those electrolyte drinks will come in handy when it's time to take some vitamins or fever busters. Of course, you could always pop them dry just like House does, but if you've got a sore throat, that won't work so well.

Cough Drops. They're one of those things you don't think to buy until you need them, and then when you do need them, you can't go out and buy them.

Hot Water Bottle or Heat Packs. When you have aches or pains, heat can help - a lot. Using a heat pack is like a small slice of heaven and will make you feel so much better about being home sick.

Achy Muscle Bubble Bath. Nothing makes you feel better like a nice, hot bath, and when you have special bubble bath that takes aches away, it's even better.

Disinfectant Wipes, Sprays and Hand Sanitizers. The only way you're going to keep others from getting sick is if you make it easy. So stock up on cleaning supplies that take no effort at all to use.

Towel or Bucket. In my house, I was taught to put a towel on my pillow in case you get sick in the middle of the night. But I've heard that it's way more common to use a bucket. Either way, it's an essential, because I'm sure you like the current color of your carpet.

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Posted by Meghan Carter on Tuesday, Dec 11, 2007 in Decorating Ideas.

My Gift to You: Enjoy!

   At first, I thought about getting you a pair of really fuzzy slippers to say thanks for stopping by. I mean everyone could use a pair of fuzzy slippers. But the whole sending out thousands of slippers thing didn't seam like it would work out that well. So then I thought I should send each one of you a personal e-mail telling you how much I appreciate the time you spend here at Ask the Decorator. But then I figured I'd look like a stalker.
    So I went back and thought really hard about what to give you that would say, "Thanks for being my reader." I thought for a long time about what you would want, and then it hit me. I should give you a Web site where you feel welcome and at home - a Web site that is easy to navigate, easy to use and gives you information that makes your life easier.
    Now, I'll be honest, that's a hard gift to create. I didn't think I was going to be able to do it. But after months of hard work, it's time for me to give this Web site to you and say thanks. I appreciate every second you spend here on my Web site. I even put the Ask the Decorator logo on a gift tag so that every time you visit you'll remember that it was made especially for you.
    I really hope you like it and enjoy all of the little perks we've hidden on each page.


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Posted by Meghan Carter on Tuesday, Dec 4, 2007 in Ask the Decorator News.

The Second Time Around: Welcome Back

My first attempt at a blog was pathetic, and after terminating it six months ago, I thought I would never have a blog again. The posts were useless. I didn't enjoy writing it. Other people didn't enjoy reading it. And three weeks ago I discovered why: my old blog lacked me.

I was a spectator. I wasn't present in my words. You couldn't hear my voice. It was as if I had checked out and let a robot do the work. There was no personality, no passion, no love. And the worst part, I thought I was doing the right thing. By taking myself out of the writing - by making the words completely objective, I was being as selfless as possible. I thought people didn't want or need to hear about the trials and tribulations of my life or my opinions.

But, you know, if that were true, reality television wouldn't be a hit.

Through this journey of being a writer I have come to learn that what turns people on is a real voice. We want honesty. We want a personal connection. We want to experience the emotion captured in the passionate beats and lyrics of our favorite songs. And the second you begin writing like a journalist you zap all potential of creating that bond with your readers.

Well, I won't make that mistake again.

This time around, my blog will aspire to attain an intimate connection with you. You'll get a full view into my life - my home, no matter how imperfect it may be. Together we'll discover what it means to own a house, create a home, decorate a space and perhaps what it's like to laugh or cry at a blog post written by someone you've never met.

It is my promise to you to let it all hang out and obliterate my objective journalistic tendencies. If those frigid, scholarly habits creep their way back in, let me know. I'll pound out those ideas of reporting substance and facts and bring back the truth of human existence: the masses want raw emotion.

So let's get this blog on the net and see what happens. That sounded much better in my head.

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Posted by Meghan Carter on Monday, Dec 3, 2007 in Ask the Decorator News.




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