interior design

The Best Hardware to Update Oak Cabinets

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In a house filled with golden oak, it can be a challenge to update things in a way that is both stylish and doesn’t cost a ridiculous amount.  This is especially true when it comes to cabinets in the kitchen. 

After all, most people are thinking ‘if I’m going to spend so much money to make this oak work, I’m going to just wait to completely renovate the kitchen.’  There is little point to investing in stone counter tops, new flooring and the rest of it, if you are just biding your time until you can deal with the cabinets.

But, what can you do that will update the oak and make your kitchen look amazing in the meantime?

I hear it all the time.  You might be wondering, too: ‘is there such a thing as a quick, simple and cheap update for an oak kitchen?’  My answer?  Yes!

There are a few ways you can make it work.  Right now.  For little money.  All of them check those boxes and can be done, by you, in a few hours or afternoons.  My go-to steps:  Paint the walls, change out the lighting fixtures, work with the other colors in the room (art, accessories, rugs) … and one of the biggest impacts:  change the hardware!

Hardware makes an enormous difference in the bones of the cabinetry and the style of the room.  If I was facing down an oak kitchen that I wanted to live with, in harmony, for a bit of time, here’s what I would do in one weekend:  Paint it a great color.  Clear the counters.  Lay down a great, eye-catching rug.  Change out the hardware.  Add some color (probably a big framed print and a huge plant in a nice planter).  That’s it. 

Rest easy, friends, you can do this, too.  And then, since it looks much better and you are thrilled and at peace with it, you can move on to dreaming about that full kitchen reno you are still working towards… one day.  Or, maybe you will be so happy with the small changes you made that you can cross that idea right off the list and move on to dreaming about making other areas of your home just right.


Wondering if the hardware on your oak cabinets is outdated? 

Here’s what’s to look for:

Full plastic

Overly ornate


Brass or gold look (yes, I know it’s back but on golden oak and in the 90s styles, it’s not)

Ceramic inserts, especially painted with flowers or fruit

Wood center on pulls


Here’s some thoughts on getting that update right:

Stick to either historic (think luxurious historic mansions or Frank Lloyd Wright) or modern with simple lines.

Respect the integrity and style of your home’s architecture.

Balance the oak with a more updated style when choosing hardware, colors, counters, sink & faucet, appliances and accessories.

Contrasting colors will make the new hardware stand out and give some visual breaks in the monotony of overwhelming golden oak (and add The Power of Distraction!) so go for black, oil-rubbed bronze or a nice silver finish.


Take a look at my list of top 20 suggestions for updating oak cabinets with fresh hardware! 


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Clear surfaces are good for the soul – 5 steps to make it happen today

I have this thing for clear counters.  It just makes me feel good.  At peace, grounded, organized… maybe it's all the things I wish I had more of in my life.  Clearing surfaces is my go-to when I need to refresh a space in my own home and it’s my standard advice to clients before any design transformation takes place. 

I don’t think I’m alone, either.  I often hear from clients that doing this simple first step gives them a clean slate, space to breathe and opens them to thinking about all the possible ways they want their space to feel after we are done working together.

It’s simple but then again, it’s not.  We probably all know it should be done, but we just don’t get around to it, probably because it just seems overwhelming or tedious to deal with all the loose ends of life that are piled up there.  Things we need or might need soon, things that need to be dealt with in one way or another.  I will suggest, though, that for most of us, there is a very small amount things that actually do need to be dealt with in any time-consuming way.  The rest?  Quick, fast, simple, and done.

Today I’m throwing out 5 quick steps to get you started.  I encourage you to just pick one surface and give it a try.   See how it feels afterward – I’m guessing you’ll develop a thing for clear counters, too.

1.        Let go

Don’t overthink this.  Toss garbage and let it go.  If it’s recycling or trash, off it goes into a bag or receptacle.  If it’s something that no longer serves you or makes you happy but you think would be useful to someone else, bag it up and take it out to your porch or car right away.  Take action and keep your momentum going here.   Just stand there with your garbage bag and a recycling box and look quickly at papers with expiry dates, newsletters that are outdated, and at broken bits and pieces.  Toss and keep moving.

2.       Relocate

There are definitely things that don’t belong there.  Gather them up.  I use an empty laundry basket for this and just pile things in that belong elsewhere in the house.  All that stuff you’ve been meaning to put into the storage room, the little bits and pieces that belong in the office or bathroom, the extra stuff you’ve been meaning to move elsewhere when you get time – now is the time to clear it out.  Once you’re done with this step, just set the basket aside.  Afterward, after everything else is done, take a quick tour around the house with your basket and put things away.  Don’t get stuck in each room mulling over where to put things, either, just set them down in a logical spot or out of the way and move on.  Momentum!

3.       Prune

This is the time to look at what you are using on a daily basis.  If you’re not using it every day, clear it away.  Items that you use less frequently should be stored in a place that reflects how often they get used.  Be wise with your storage and prioritize.  The toaster you use every few days should get prime real estate in the kitchen cabinets.  The punch bowl you only bring out at Christmas could go to the basement. 

Is there anything that can be stored in the drawers rather than out on display?  Common offenders that could easily be stored in cabinetry (but often aren’t):

  • ye olde grease-dusty spice rack (you know the stickiness of which I speak)

  • the ceramic crock full of spoons of questionable aesthetics (no judgement here, my favorite cookie lifter has not had a handle for several years and my go-to bamboo spoon is missing one edge)

  • the spreading pile of papers by the phone (school notices, appliance warranties, birthday invites)

  • the bedside bowl filled with personal items (nail files, lotions, hair ties, loose change and lego bits… usually some goodies emptied from a pocket at bedtime)

4.       Be ruthless with your décor

Take an objective look at the decorations you have on your surface.  Seriously consider if you love what’s there.  A clear, clean space might feel a bit empty at first, but it feels much better than one that is bogged down with items that don’t really suit you.  It’s okay to let things go, to evolve your style or to have a clear space for a bit.  Take your time, later, to find a few things that feel right for the surface and make you happy to look at.  It doesn’t take much – one lovely, wonderful, colorful little thing in a bowl or on a tray is worth a dozen tired, boring, no-personality, no-connection pieces.

5.       Scrub & polish

Finally, give a good soapy wipe down to the surface and everything that’s staying.  Give a good clean to all the little nooks and crannies in the woodwork.  Polish up frames, lighting and mirrors.  Stand back and smile.  Doesn’t that feel good?


I’d love to know if you also have a weird love for clear counters… or maybe I convinced you to try to feel a bit of the love?

Quick and Simple Curb Appeal Basics– A Crash Course from an Interior Designer


The goal with curb appeal is to make your property appealing and memorable.  This applies whether you are getting ready to sell your home or you just want to have a front facade you are proud to have your family and friends pull up to.   As you work, keep those 2 words in mind:  appealing & memorable.  Let’s get started!

There are 3 main steps I think about when working with clients on their exterior facade and I’m going to walk you through them and explain a bit of theory as we go.  At the end, I have a checklist of tips for you to print and go through as you are getting things done.  For the most part, this is an afternoon project.  If you need to do some repair work or go shopping, it might add on some time, but far and away, most of my clients can get this done quickly with a little bit of physical labour and by using what they have around the house already.


1.       Prep:

This is the time to clean & clear as much as you can – give yourself a blank slate to work with. 

This step makes the most difference when you are preparing to sell your home.  You might be able to see past a lot of these things, but potential buyers normally can’t.  Where you see ‘I need to get out and rake those leaves this weekend’ your buyer sees ‘wow, there is way too much yardwork to keep up with here, no thanks’.  It’s so subconscious, and I’m sure they are very nice people but those little things add up very quickly to buyers, often without them even realizing it.  The more you can do to keep that subconscious to-do list short, the better! 

If you are just working on curb appeal for your own happiness, it is also important to start with this step.  Much like decluttering inside your home, it will be easier for you to enjoy your yard and be proud of your home without a bunch of little annoyances in sight.



2.       Create the feeling of an appealing lifestyle:

So much of the power of curb appeal lies in helping people see the lovely parts of the life that you have in your home.  This is the good feeling people have when walking up to your front door.  It’s a feeling that makes your visitors want to sit with you on the porch and put their feet up.  It makes potential buyers want to have coffee in the morning looking out on that yard.  You need to create a vignette, make a case or create a good vibe, whatever you want to call it. 

The appeal almost universally lies in conveying a relaxed, orderly, safe, calm lifestyle.  This is achieved by creating an outdoor seating area (even a small stool suggests this), having flowers or foliage around the front door, having a great door mat and clear house numbers and even things like thoughtful lighting.  You want people to walk up to your front door and exhale ‘ahhhh, this is so nice.’

If you are selling your home, you can also add some staging to the front area.  What is the lifestyle appeal of your home or area and is there anything that gives a subtle nod to it?  If you live near a lake, a fishing rod leaning in the corner is great.  If a park is within walking distance for kids, a nice basket with some outdoor balls in it or a baseball bat & mitts does the trick.   If you have a nice porch that is great for having morning coffee on, leave a book and clean coffee mug on the side table of your porch seating area.  These are all small touches but they can be very powerful subconscious messages to potential buyers about the appealing lifestyle you have in that home.


3.       Make your home memorable:

Here is where you add the icing on the cake.  This last step is a powerhouse if you are preparing to sell your home, but it’s also that next level up if you just want to love pulling up to your own home that little extra bit.

Why is this important?  Buyers aren’t just looking at one house, they are scanning online listings, looking at flyers, and generally absorbing a barrage of details about a lot of homes.  They are doing this for weeks or months sometimes.  After awhile those houses can start to melt into one another.  It’s a funny thing, but the smallest detail about your home that sticks in someone’s mind means that your home is at the top of the list in their brain, along with all the relevant details about your home.  Familiarity is comforting and when someone is faced with a huge life change like moving, the more they think about your house, the more comfortable they feel with it and the more comfortable they feel with it, the more they are going to gravitate toward living in it.  This is great news when you want to sell it, right?

If you’re not selling, this same factor is what helps your friends and family feel comfortable in your home.  It also means that because you are putting that extra bit of your own personality into your space, you are going to be extra happy there as well.  There is no downside to this!

What makes a home memorable?  Mainly, it comes down to this:  one or two things that are bigger, bolder and more colorful than their surroundings.  You need a statement.  Something unique.  Something in a bright color or interesting material.   Something that makes people say ‘oh, the house with the _____?!  I know that house!’

Does it need to be a purple cow statue on the front lawn or a toilet bowl planter full of foliage?  Um, no.   Those might be conversation starters, but I’m not sure that’s the vibe you want your home to be giving off (or maybe it is, I don’t judge.)  There are lots of great ideas that will also enhance the style of your home.  Consider a few nice planters overflowing with bright flowers near the door, a unique color painted on the front door, house numbers painted a bold color, a door mat with some style, a really great light fixture at the door, or maybe just one bold colored accessory on the porch.


A checklist for my people hyperventilating prepping to list their house:

I know how overwhelmed and busy you can feel if you are getting ready to sell your home, so I’ve created a checklist for you to print off and work through.  It can really help to calm that mental chaos if you can just work through something step by step.  It's ready and waiting for instant download in my free Design Resource Library -  check out that link below if you don't already have access!


My advice for getting this done? 

1. Print the checklist. 

2. Do a 15 minute walk around and see if you need to buy anything (cleaning supplies, paint, whatever) and make a list. 

3. Gather what you need and get it in one spot (hoses, ladder, etc). 

4. Set aside 2 -3 hours to improve your curb appeal.  Do what you can and move along.  

5. If you have more time later, keep working on things you didn’t get to, but any improvement is good and nothing is ever going to be perfect!  You can do this!

Ps - Not all of the tips will apply to every home, so just cross off any that don’t apply to you – doesn’t that feel great? 

Click the image below to access my free Design Resource Library for this checklist and other great printables!

Make Your Oak Kitchen a Pinterest Stunner (in one weekend, without a major reno!)

When you are not ready, willing or able to do a complete renovation of your oak kitchen, the next best thing to do is transform it with pure style.  Yes, it can look absolutely amazing!  

If you can paint the walls, add a rug or two and accessorize until your heart explodes, your kitchen can go from 'Sad & Outdated' to 'Pinterest Stunner' in a weekend!

Level one:

Clear away all the clutter, banish accessories that are too beige or orange, and give yourself a clean slate.  

Choose one or two accent colors and choose accessories in several shades of that color.  In the example below, I went with a rich turquoise.  Blues and greens are great shades to work with honey oak as they both neutralize the orange tones in the wood really well.  At the most basic form, even just adding lots of eye-catching accessories will take the focus off of the oak.   

Rugs are a great investment in an oak kitchen because (just a guess) the flooring tends to be dated and normally lacks the style we are aiming for.  Well, really, when it comes to things like dated and yellowed linoleum flooring, it probably lacks the style that anyone in the current year is going for. 


Level two: 

If you can paint the walls, it creates a gorgeous backdrop that downplays the oak and pulls everything together.  Please, please do this if you can!  Have time and inclination to paint baseboards and trim, maybe even the table or other furniture?  That creamy, neutral white will take things up a notch. 

Major bang for your buck: changing out the door and drawer hardware for a dark oil-rubbed bronze pull in a smooth look that is big enough to make a statement.  This is so easy to do and makes an incredible difference in the style of your kitchen.  

Also firmly within the DIY category of change:  updating the lighting fixtures to something sleek and stylish, something without too much detail, is a huge style-maker as well.


Level three:

Ready for some minor renos that you can totally tackle yourself or have done in a few days by a pro?  Replacing the counter top with a deep charcoal or graphite colored laminate and adding a drop- dead gorgeous hexagon marble backsplash will transform your kitchen completely.  These items are a bit more of an investment, but not out of range if you are going to be making do with your oak kitchen for a few more years.  The 'wow factor' of these larger ticket items make them well worth it.  They are absolute game changers for the feel of your kitchen as they take up so much visual real estate.  Besides, I don't know who could say no to that hex marble tile?  It's stunning!

What not to do:

In general, I wouldn't waste your resources or precious renovation energy on replacing flooring or adding granite countertops to an oak kitchen.  Why not?  Well, chances are when the time comes to replace or refinish the entire kitchen cabinetry, you are going to want to change those things at that time to either coordinate with the new cabinets or because styles have changed and they will need updating.  

You also don't like want to get 'out of your league' when it comes to return on investment with the kitchen cabinets as-is.  If you sell your home before renovating any further, sinking big bucks into major items in an outdated kitchen is just not a wise investment.

Getting started:

I had a lot of fun putting together a look that you can actually shop!  All of these items are available on Amazon which also has that great Prime shipping so you really could be starting on this project in a few days!  You can do this, I believe in you!  It's going to be amazing!


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5 Soul-Focused Tips for Designing a Feel-Good Room


A personal style is like handwriting – it happens as the by-product of our own way of seeing things, enriched by the experiences of everything around us. - Massimo Vignelli

Designing a space that is ‘just right’ means pulling together things that make you feel good and that remind you of warm memories.  You will be at your most comfortable when you are surrounded with things that make you happy and remind you just why it’s good to be you.  Here are 5 soul-focused tips for doing just that.



1.       Clear the clutter

Get rid of stagnant energy by clearing out clutter.  These piles and nests of stuff tend to harbor bad feelings because they are normally things you need to deal with, are unfinished or regret buying or owning in the first place.  Quickly evaluate what you really need to keep (then put it away properly or deal with it right away) and get rid of everything that no longer serves you.

2.       Turn up the volume on some great color

The psychology of color is vital to creating a happy space.  Yes, there are studies and charts to help you find a color that might give the mood you are looking for, but if that’s not your thing, take a look at your closet or the rest of your house.  What colors are you drawn to?  What makes you feel good?  It’s also important to think of the energy you want your room to have – brighter colors tend to be ‘louder’ and be more energetic.  Muted tones tend to be more soft and restful.  Dark, bold colors tend to have a solid, heavy feeling.  Adding color can be as subtle as small accessories or a throw, or as bold as painting the entire room.

3.       Add a few memories

Having little touches of things that warm your heart is the best way to make a connection with your space.  Things like pictures of tender moments with your children and happy photos from around your home are easy fits here.  Don’t overlook more abstract mementos, though.  In my house I have on display a rock collection from summer walks with my kids, a few feathers in a vase brought to me by my son, and a watch that belonged to my husband’s grandfather.  All of these things make me smile when I look at them.

4.       Nod to nature

A connection to nature will bring life to the space.  Consider plants, fresh flowers, rocks, rough wood, water features.  Don’t overlook big, open windows (keep those blinds open and hang your curtains outside the frame), especially if you have a view of trees or a garden.  If plants aren’t possible or just aren’t your thing, there is nothing wrong with a good quality fake, or consider the other non-living alternatives.

5.        Let all that isn’t you fall away.

Evaluate everything in your space.  Get rid of things that just aren’t you - you know you have at least a few things that just bother you for whatever reason – au revoir!