Happy New Year!

Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art: Santiago Borja exhibition graphics

Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art: Santiago Borja exhibition graphics

I wrapped up 2016 and my first year in grad school with a trip to Arizona and Utah with a dear friend from childhood, which included stops in Antelope Canyon, the Amangiri Resort in Utah, and Sedona. It involved a lot of driving through magical desserts and canyon lands, and provided much-needed visual inspiration for the soul.

The new year brings continued focus on my MBA program at the University of Portland. If all goes as planned, I'll graduate in December 2017. In the meantime, I have trips planned for Honolulu and Peru to celebrate my 50th year on earth. I can't believe I'm middle-aged. I still think and act like a 20-year-old.

Blog updates will continue to be sporadic as being a full-time student remains a priority. Stay curious!



Like many of my peers, I have spent the last 5 days after the election just reeling and feeling unhinged. In an attempt to feel empowered, I've joined the ACLU and donated to Planned Parenthood. I've decided to take a Facebook break, and just go to Instagram when I need a dose of feeling connected to like-minds. I know in my heart that not all of America is filled with hate and fear-of-the-other. To my LGBT, minority, and female friends, stay safe. Love conquers hate. 

Focus On What You're Good At

Dos Playas, Aruba

Dos Playas, Aruba

I recently returned from 9 days in Aruba, where my MBA Leadership class met with businesses  throughout the island and talked about their particular challenges. It was great to be in the tropics again, albeit the Caribbean vs. the Pacific, without surf, but I'll take what I can get. Warm, tropical beaches are my happy places. It was an action-packed trip, squeezing in adventures to different beaches between meetings. I got to know my classmates better, and we spent a lot of time telling our stories to each other. It was great to have focused time to really think about what I'm trying to do with this MBA. I miss surfing and Hawaii like a lost limb, but I'm also aware of the career and salary limitations of living in paradise. I didn't return to PDX with any revelations, except for the fact that I can't completely ignore my past 20 years of experience, and do have to acknowledge what I'm naturally good at (making pretty things); and what I absolutely suck at (anything w/ numbers). I just have to channel this awareness into a career that can support my love of travel and adventure, and desire to make a difference. My classes in social responsibility and sustainability are helping to narrow my focus. Stay tuned.


View of the Pacific, from Kalon Resort, Dominical, Costa Rica

View of the Pacific, from Kalon Resort, Dominical, Costa Rica

Apologies for the radio silence since June, but full-time MBA school and travel have been eating up most of my time. I worked on 2 small interior design projects this summer: one local client in Portland, and one remote client on the East coast. Its been great being a student again, and meeting like-minded, ambitious, forward-thinking problem-solvers. When I started the program, I'd originally wanted to take my love of interior design, passion for travel and social responsibility, and create sustainable resorts. Now I'm really interested in sustainable assisted living communities. I'm realizing that with every new class, and exposure to the evolving ways of doing business and being socially responsible, there are so many paths to my dream job. Who knows what opportunities will arise in the next two years?

In the meantime, I'll continue to take on interior design projects as they come, but I'm not ardently pursuing them. In the projects that I do take on, I really want to focus on making the most of what clients already have versus acquiring more stuff. In fact, in the spirit of Marie Kondo, I'd like to help clients deaccession, creating more space in their lives for experiences rather than clutter. Admittedly, I've been one of the world's most acquisitive shop-a-holics, and know what it is to lust after a well-designed object, but as the effects of our throw-away culture become more prevalent, I have to acknowledge my role in an industry that encourages buying and having more. New. Stuff.

Don't get me wrong: I strongly believe in remodeling spaces to increase functionality; updating tired, outdated rooms; refreshing with a new coat of paint; upgrading to energy-efficient appliances; story-telling through design. But I'm going to focus on doing those things while keeping sustainable practices in mind.


These paint colors, wallpaper, lighting and accessory choices are for a Portland home with a limited budget. Its a good example of how small changes can make a big impact, especially in the foyer. The individual rooms didn't need additional seating but lacked lighting and reflective surfaces. I think its a handsome, graphic solution; each individual piece combine to make a cohesive statement.


Last night was Bradley Angle's annual fundraiser ball, GlamHer. The theme was "Unmasked: Celebrate Your True Self" and it was a costume ball, of course. Bradley Angle provides shelter, services and education for victims of domestic violence. Everydayish sponsored a table and I invited some of my interior design friends and classmates from the Heritage School of Interior Design. I couldn't think of a better crew to mingle, dine, dance and bid on silent and live auction packages with. We took advantage of every photo op with some of Portland's most FABulous drag performers. It was my first opportunity to give back to my new community and contribute to a cause close to my heart: supporting domestic violence survivors. It felt good to do and it was so much fun. What causes and organizations do you support?


Its not too late for that last minute Mother's Day gift! Here are a few bright & fresh ideas for your interior-loving mom.

  1. Serena & Lily Montara Mirror
  2. Owens & Co Mahalo Porcelain Ornament
  3. India Hicks Treasure Box in Mint
  4. Josh & Main Penelope Table Lamp
  5. One Kings Lane Calhoun Jute-Blend Rug in Yellow
  6. Anthropologie Folding Fans Pillow
  7. Kathy Kuo Savita Global Bazaar White Rattan Hand Woven Basket

decorating around a statement piece

Designing a living room around a statement piece is tricky; like this settee. I want to honor the style of the piece, without making the room feel kitsch-y. The accompanying pieces need to reflect the bright, cheery personality of the settee. I chose to find an area rug, table lamp and accessories in the navy blue, turquoise and chartreuse from the settee's pattern. I kept the coffee and side table light, to keep the room from feeling too heavy. What do you think?

  1. Joss & Main Caroline 49" Settee
  2. BSEID Lacefield Designs Sahara Midnight Lumbar Pillow
  3. BSEID Lacefield Designs Navy Linen Pillow
  4. Deqor Company C Staccato Throw
  5. Belle & June Rosanna Jet Setter Nesting Dish Set
  6. Kathy Kuo Kathmandu Global Bazaar Navy Blue Japan Inspired Bottle Lamp
  7. One Kings Lane Billy Rug - Navy
  8. Joss & Main Josie Coffee Table
  9. Deqor Candence Cross Back End Table
  10. Kathy Kuo Folly Coastal Beach Turquoise Ceramic Double Bulb Vases
  11. Kathy Kuo Bianca Blue & Gold Hollywood Serving Trays

P.S. If you use the links to the right to purchase anything from the vendors mentioned, you get a significant discount.

Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water

When it comes to designing a room, my good friend and all-around creative, Lisa G, goes by the rule that every room should contain the 5 elements: wood, fire, earth, air and water. I did some research and found that its based on the idea of balance in Feng Shui, which aims to create a space that allows chi/qi to flow naturally. Besides creating an aesthetic balance, interior design Feng Shui practitioners use the theory to "treat" imbalances in a space: like improving sleeping habits in the bedroom, calming spastic teens in a high school, or encouraging expansive thinking in the work-place.

Materials that correspond to each element are as follows: 

  • Wood: green, blue, vertical elements, fresh plants/flowers, natural textiles, wood furniture
  • Fire: red, pink, purple, natural light, sunburst mirrors, candles, electronics, animal prints
  • Earth: brown, green, beige, squares or rectangulars, low surfaces
  • Metal: white, grey, silver, pastels, round or oval shapes, anything made of metal, rocks/stones
  • Water: black, deep saturated colors, reflective surfaces like mirrors, curvilinear or organic shapes, aquariums or fountains

Each element symbolizes a different energy and evokes a different mood:

  • Wood: creativity, expansion, cycle of life, strength, flexibility, intution
  • Fire: passion, enthusiasm, leadership, expressiveness, inspiration, boldness
  • Earth: physical strength, order, grounding, balance, stability
  • Metal: clarity, logic, organization, focus, justice, intelligence, 
  • Water: spirituality, inspiration, wisdom, intuition

I'm applying this practice to a living room that I'm collaborating on with another designer. The rustic home is on a mountaintop outside of Portland, and the walls and ceiling are lined with pine (wood element). The client has already furnished the room with a brown, leather sofa (earth element). His fireplace surround is stacked stone (metal element). As you can imagine, it feels masculine and solid; perfect for this single, male client. Fortunately, walls in the adjacent hallway are a cool green, balancing out all the warm tones. My collaborator has created a perfect Pendleton blanket/mountain cabin theme, incorporating the clients collection of framed Mount Hood posters, adding a gold wall-sconce, masculine chandelier, and red area rug (fire element). I'm going to suggest adding a reflective surface (water element) in a round wall mirror, gold lanterns for accessories by the fireplace. and wood, nesting, side tables with skinny metal legs to keep the room from feeling too heavy. This was great practice in designing a space that doesn't necessarily match my personal taste, but truly representing the client's.

Kitchen & Bath

Today I completed a course in kitchen and bath design at the Heritage School of Interior Design. Our final project involved taking a given floorplan, designing a layout, choosing appliances, fixtures, cabinets, countertop, backsplash, flooring, shower/tub surrounds and decorative lighting. It was an intense class; our instructor, AKBD Hannah Hacker, crammed alot of information into a short amount of time. I've learned so much, but honestly, I'm glad this class is over. Going back to school when you're almost 50 is no joke. I need to regain some life/sleep balance, but there's still one more to class complete: Advanced Sketchup for Kitchen & Bath on 4/29. Then, MBA school starts on 5/17. I must be completely out of my mind. 

Apartment Therapy's Small Cool Contest 2016

Some girls grow up knowing exactly what they want to be when they grow up. Although I always loved moving furniture around, and beautiful interiors, I never thought it was a professional transition I could make after so many years working as a graphic designer. It took me until I was in my late 30s to even entertain the thought, and my late 40s to actually make it a reality. Today I received an email from Apartment Therapy telling me I made it into their Small Cool Contest 2016. Winning the $5,000 grand prize, or even the $1,000 division prize would be great. But I'm absolutely over the moon just having been accepted into the contest. Its the first of hopefully many validations that I made the right choice in leaving the familiar world of graphic design behind, and venturing into the exciting industry of interior design. 

Small Changes

An e-design client lives in a small, NYC studio and is looking for just 2 items to help organize her home: a bookshelf, a hallway runner. She's a photographer who works from home and already has an abundance of furniture, so my job is to design a furniture plan to make her live/work space feel more spacious yet retain all the necessary pieces of equipment and furniture that allow her business to thrive. Her style is clean, contemporary, black, white and grey. She already has some quality furniture pieces like a DWR bed and a Ligne Roset sectional in black. She uses essential Ikea pieces in white for office furniture. I'd like to throw in just a hint of color with the hallway runner. And some warm, wood tones in the bookshelf; and a touch of the outside with staghorn ferns.. Since it's a rental, we can't paint, but I'd also like to introduce some visual interest on one wall using removable wall tiles. I'm also going to suggest some plug in wall sconces for either side of the bed. Do you think these pieces work together?

  • DWR Min Bed Queen
  • Ligne Roset Togo Sectional
  • Hygge & West Removable Wallpaper Tiles in Petal Pusher Gray
  • West Elm Ladder Shelving 
  • Wayfair Nourison Karma Blue Hallway Runner
  • Schoolhouse Electric Holmes Sconce
  • Pistils Nursery Staghorn Ferns

microwaves: one of the things I obsess over

I hate microwaves. I hate how they look. I hate what they do to food. (Although, I will use them if in an absolute pinch and there's no alternative.) But when I moved into my current apartment, there's was one already installed over the counter. With some precarious climbing and scrambling, I removed it, rejiggered the shelves, and created open-shelving, much more conducive to how I like to organize my kitchen. And created a perfect cubby for my wall clock. Just one of the many things I obsess over.

First Impressions

What's the first thing you see when you walk through your front door? Is it a welcoming sight? Or a jumble of unopened mail and things waiting to be put away? I'm a combination of OCD and forgetful, so I need my landing strip to serve two functions: remind me to take certain things with me as I walk out, and be an orderly place to drop things off when I get home. I never have to look for my keys or scarves because they're always in the same place. I also like to take my shoes off when I come home, so I keep a stool by the front door. During the winter, the basket contains a variety of knit hats and gloves. With the early arrival of Spring in Portland, I recently swapped out all that stuff for beach towels, pareos, and swim goggles. How do you keep your landing strip organized?

Combining the Old with the New

When I moved from Honolulu to Portland, I brought only a few pieces of furniture with me. The heaviest and biggest pain in the tukus is a teak credenza that I bought from Bali Boo in Kailua in 2005. Even though I love it and its a convenient place to store everything from bed linens to office supplies, I've wanted to get ride of it multiple times. It was usually the one piece of furniture that required a flatboard truck and more than one person to move. But I still have it and its now survived 6 moves. In my current home "office", I use it as my standing desk. Combined with more current purchases, I think it keeps the space from looking right out of a West Elm catalog. What furniture have you held onto that plays well with newer pieces?

Function AND Form

I live in a small apartment (aka garage-less), and I need to store my board. Those standard black, wall-mounted surf racks just won't do. They are definitely utilitarian but lack in beauty. Luckily, PBTeen had a great solution. (Don't knock shopping teen home-goods and clothing until you try it. Products may err on the side of cute, but Its always more affordable.) It comes with racks for 2 boards, a shelf, and 2 strips of peg hooks (I'm only using one strip); perfect for hanging wetsuits or bikinis/board shorts to dry. I can see it being used in a large laundry room, garage, or even a small, urban apartment. What do you guys think?

Final Project

Client: 74 year old, retiree in Cannon Beach; no children/pets, loves to entertain.
Room: Living room with old school brick fireplace and 3 north-facing windows.
Request: Create a cozy but sophisticated room with plenty of flexible seating.

  • Combine luxurious velvets and patterned textiles on traditional seating, mixed with contemporary casegoods and metallic lighting, to create a warm and cozy room. 
  • Pick up colors from owner's painting and PNW coastal environment; use copper and gold for accents. 
  • Demo existing red brick fireplace and surround, replace with electric fireplace (easier for elder client) with lower profile copper surround. 
  • Cover the wall around the electric fireplace with decorative wood tile to emphasize this architectural focal point.
  • Create a secondary focal point with owner's original painting; flank with gold, diamond-shaped wall sconces.
  • Cover remaining walls with custom, hand-painted, textured treatment in deep blue from original painting.
  • The custom-covered upholstered furniture combine solid velvets with geometric, organic & small scale patterns.
  • The wing chairs, upholstered bench & cube ottoman will all have hidden casters for flexible seating.
  • Use symmetry to create rhythm and repetition to calm the plethora of textures.
  • Pull up existing wall to wall carpet and cover with luxury vinyl planks in "fumed oak".
  • Define the conversation area with a silk, hand-made area rug; in light grey found in original painting.
  • Convert 3 windows into a wall of french doors with plantation shutters.
  • Gift client plants to cozy up the room.
  • Final effect: woods, metals, plus textiles and greenery combine to create an inviting room that reflects the colors and mood of the PNW coast.

Back to Reality

I'm sure you can all relate to the post-vacation blues. Well, I've got 'em bad. But I fully realize how fortunate I am. I'm so grateful for 6 golden, sun-shiney days of waves (even if they were small); 1 day of surfing in thunder & lightning, and watching a funnel cloud form & dissipate on the horizon; snorkeling with turtles; meals with friends; time for 1 nap; and the 1st world ability to even take a tropical vacation while a full-time student. 

When I moved to Portland, I never thought of it as a forever move; only a detour to get better educated so that I could increase my earning potential and possibly return to the warm tropics. Right now, while I'm missing the salty waves on a visceral level, I'm finding it hard to focus on that "long game" (as my dear friend K calls it).

But, fortunately, I've got the distraction/motivation of my final project in interior design fundamentals, which is due in a little over a week. And little bits of nature to keep me connected to the islands. I've pulled the shades open to let as much PNW sunshine in as possible. Easy tricks for making my apartment feel warm-ish; until the 70 degree days forecasted for later this week. Life is good. And reality ain't a bad place to be.