Monday, August 30, 2010

Transition Your Containers

September is looming and it's just a tad cooler outside.  Just a tad.  I realized this weekend that the containers on my back deck that I so lovingly planted and watered at the end of spring really took a beating this summer in the 95+ degree heat (for weeks on end) and my own shameful neglect.  But my budget is stretched from back-to-school, and it's too early for pansies, so what's a girl to do?  Start researching how to rejuvenate those sad, sad pots.
I hit the jackpot on with these beautiful and inspiring images and easy tips to take my back deck from dried-up drab to dazzling for the next several weeks.  I'll post some of my own photos from my container makeover in the next couple of weeks, so you can hold me accountable!

Pull out your tired summer annuals and replace them with late blooming perennials, such as Mexican sage bush.  Your replacement plants should be large and mature since we're out of growing time for this year.  Make sure you add a variety of textures and colors.  Suggested plants include ornamental peppers, mums, crotons, lambs ear, and creeping fig.  Consider adding a small shrub into a large container, especially if you can transplant it into your landscaping later on.

When you're planting your container, start with the tallest plants in the center, mid-size plants around that one, and finish off with a trailing plant at the outer edge.  Containers with a collection of several different plants should be the focal point in any grouping.  Sound it with smaller containers filled with one plant selection to avoid "busy-ness."  To keep your look cohesive, use pots that are consistent in type (such as terra cotta) but varied in size.

I'll be working on my own after Labor Day and am envisioning Indian summer evenings surrounded by beauty.

Photos by Ellen Ruoff Riley for Southern Living.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday's Favorite Product

This week I'm beginning a new feature called Friday's Favorite Product.  This will be a fun way for me to introduce you to my favorite new Willow House products, without putting you into Willow House overload.  Can you tell I'm excited about our new Fall catalog??  Not only will you get an image of the product along with pricing information, but I'll also provide you with some great ideas for decorating, entertaining, and/or organizing with each product.  Consider me your personal product consultant. :)

Today's favorite is our beautiful Morningside Caddy.  I love the iron swirl accents and the antiqued blue-gray finish.  So fresh!  She would be lovely on a casual buffet holding your flatware, napkins, and disposable plates.  Use one of the smaller sections to pop in a few flowers-- I use a regular juice glass tucked inside the section to hold water and support the flowers.  This would also be a great organizer in your home office or your command central space to hold pens, notepads, mail, etc.  But think outside the box, too, and put this product in your guest room stocked with a magazine or two, small soaps and basic toiletries, plus a fresh wash cloth and /or hand towel.  Imagine how special your guests will feel to have this welcoming them.

Our Morningside Caddy sells for $49.96 plus shipping.  With this purchase you also qualify for a half-price special.  Choose any product in the catalog priced $40 or less for 50% off!  Comment here with your email address if you'd like to order!  Click HERE to visit my website and view the entire Fall catalog online.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Back-To-School and On The Ball

Does my title seems like an oxymoron?  I definitely know that feeling and you regular readers know I don't pretend to be an expert on organization.  I do, however, regularly search for new tips and fresh ideas to help keep the household and business running smoothly.  To my delight, Real Simple stepped up this week with some amazing back-to-school tips, so I thought I'd share.

Here's some highlights from

  • Try a hanging wall organizer in your entry or mudroom.  Label individual pockets for mail, school papers, cell phone, keys, action items, etc.
  • Keep five magazine files visible-- one for every day of the week.  Load each one with whatever the kids might need for that day, such as signed permission slips, work to be turned in, ballet slippers or sheet music for after school activities.
  • Have younger children pick out a week's worth of outfits on Sunday night and hang them on labeled hangers for each day.  Great tip to eliminate the "I don't have anything to wear!" blues during the morning rush.
  • Keep everyone on schedule by creating a morning play list on your ipod.  The kids will learn that by the time Justin Bieber comes on, their shoes should be on and their teeth brushed.  It's time to head our the door when Miley Cyrus sings... you get the idea!
  • Share the load by assigning chores to family members.  Make sure the duties are age appropriate, but even the smallest member of the household can help set the table.
Real Simple must have heard my plea for the return of my school year meal planning skills!  They've also provided a wonderful Back to School Food Planner.  How about 10 jazzy sandwiches to keep your crew lovin' lunch, a week's worth of family dinners like Ham and Cheese Quesadillas, healthy low-cal snacks to keep everyone moving and grooving, and the coolest of new lunch containers for your picky lunch packer.  Be sure to click over and check out all their excellent tips.

And here are two of my very own trusty tips that have worked for years with my own busy crew.
  •  Keep a bin or large basket full of school supplies handy.  I reload on the staples whenever I find them on sale--someone always needs colored pencils, composition notebooks, 2 pocket folders, glue sticks and note cards-- or they will in the near future.  At the beginning of the school year, we "shop" first in our own bin before we hit the stores.  I've saved a bundle of money over the years by staying stocked this way.  You can also recycle certain supplies from year to year.  Zipper pouches, locker shelves, compasses, graph paper, pens, and pencils can always be re-used.
  • I have a designated homework zone for my sons on the dining room table.  There are no TVs in view or earshot, plenty of light and room to spread out, proximity to our office and the computers and printers if needed, and some quiet to get the job done under my watchful eye.  They each have a basket I store under my breakfront with their individual supplies such as calculators, textbooks that stay home, and on-going projects.
Here's another great tip I came across on  Check out to turn any surface in your home or office into a dry-erase board.  Great idea!

Photo by Dana Gallagher for

Monday, August 23, 2010

Derian and Decoupage

I used to love decoupage as a child.  I didn't mind all the sticky, gooey mess-- the process was enchanting, and the result even more so.  John Derian has elevated decoupage to designer decor through his company John Derian Company, Inc (est. 1989).  His collection of home accessories utilize 18th and 19th century reproductions in nature-inspired designs-- everything from small plates (my favorite!) to wall hangings.

Wall Hanging


Small cache pot

So what happens when a high end designer teams up with Target?  Decor lovers like you and me are the winners!  On September 5th, Target rolls out a limited run line of John Derian home accessories for a few dollars a piece.  Rather than the hand-made glass and ceramic pieces in his New York boutiques, these affordable gems are made of melamine-- perfect for everyday use or picnics.  Use them for your next party! They would make great accents for your plain dinnerware...and great conversation pieces, too.

Small plates from the Target collection

Rectangular tray from Target Collection

Dinner plates from the Target collection.

Photo credits John Derian Company, Inc and Target.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Trowbridge at One Kings Lane

One Kings Lane, one of my favorite online sources for affordable and interesting decor, is offering a selection of fabulous prints from Trowbridge Gallery, again.  All are quality framed pieces for under $500.  If you have wall space to fill, this is your next stop!  Be sure to click over to view all of their selections, but here is a sampling of prints for sale.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Willow House Debut Party

I am the queen of keeping it simple when I entertain, but I always want my guests to feel special, too.  For my Willow House Debut Party,  I set up three zones.  My dining room became the bargain basement, where I was unloading gently used samples for $5, $10, or $15.  My kitchen was refreshment central while the breakfast area was a display of new Fall products.  Catalogs and order forms were in the family room where I had some low-key music playing and candles burning... great place to relax and peruse the new catalog!  I had 22 ladies that came and went, along with a couple that popped in the next day to see "what was left of the bargains."  :)

Bargains in the dining room

Margaritas made with fresh lime and Master of Mixes Low Sugar mix-- delish!  These didn't last long :)

Turkey and Swiss pinwheels from Costco, cubed cheeses with strawberries and grapes, lemon creme cake from Publix Bakery-- like I said, Keep It Simple!

Black bean and corn salsa (recipe below) with tortilla chips

Fall Display

2 bunches for $5 at WalMart... seriously.  Tie a little raffia around the stems to help them stay upright.

You can order from my party until Friday the 20th.  Visit my website, click on "Our Products" and enter my name (Heidi Milton) as hostess.  You can place your order right there.

Black Bean and Corn Salsa

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can sweet corn, drained and rinsed
2 medium plum tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup diced sweet onion (like a Vidalia)
2 tbsp chopped jalapenos
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 tsp salt (I use kosher)
1/4 tsp garlic powder
2 tbsp fresh lime juice

Combine all ingredients in large bowl, stirring thoroughly.  Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour.  Serve with tortilla chips.
** Also a great addition to fish!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Christmas in August

My new Willow House products arrived yesterday and I couldn't wait to tear into them!  All set for the Willow House Catalog Premiere Party tonight!  My head is swimming with ideas for these beauties.  What do you think?

Click here to view the entire Fall catalog.

Roxy Reindeer Accent Towels

Jolly Holiday Stocking

Berry and Bow Door Bucket

Hyacinth Measuring Cups

Portico Accent Plates

Wirework Treasure Trio

Prism Glass Ornaments

Small Lady Jane Bottleneck Vase

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Lonny Magazine at Your Fingertips

I recently stumbled upon a NYTimes article about Lonny Magazine, an online shelter magazine.  Bear in mind that I am a print magazine kinda girl.  I like to hold my glossy pages in my hands, dog-ear pages, rip out inspiration, and hold onto them for dear life.  But let's be realistic.  Print magazines add up in cost, and if I truly indulged in every issue of Elle Decor, House Beautiful, Architectural Digest, or Veranda, I would be broke.  Intrigued by the concept of a design/decor magazine that hosts its content strictly online, I decided to check it out for myself. 

I was pleasantly surprised!  The brainchild of Michelle Adams and Patrick Cline, formerly of the defunct  shelter magazine Domino, Lonny has the look of an actual print magazine.  You can flip the pages back and forth and the pages themselves are laid out much like a print magazine.  Click on an ad and you're automatically directed (in a separate window) the advertiser's site.  I especially enjoy the how-to bits, the "know your lingo" blurbs, and the Market section that highlights decorative accessories for the home.  Adams and Clark believe that good design can be affordable and are determined within the pages of Lonny to show you how.  I believe their goal to "reopen the doors to accessible design" has been reached!  Click here to check out their August/September issue.

Patrick Cline and Michelle Adams

Photo by Ruth Fremson for New York Times

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Provence Paradise by Michel Biehn

Have you ever been stopped in your tracks by a magazine cover?  This is exactly what happened to me in the airport a few weeks ago, when I caught sight of the August issue of Veranda.  I splurged and picked up a copy for my flight and I've been repeatedly engrossed ever since. 

The images of this stunning Provencal villa restoration are captivating!  The result of a ten-year collaboration between designer/antique dealer/author Michel Biehn and the American owner of the villa, the renovation became as much a restoration as anything.  Uncovering windows that had been covered for centuries and stone walls dating back as early as the eleventh century (the house began as a defensive tower back in the Middle Ages), opening up ceilings and doorways, rebuilding collapsed structures that connected different additions to the house were only a few of the challenges this dynamic team faced.  "The main family came in the thirteenth or fourteenth century...Each generation seemed to open windows but close others, create a staircase or build a tower.  Parts were destroyed in the Middle Ages.  There was a fire in the nineteenth century, and the other tower was destroyed.  The property is like an encyclopedia of French architecture," explains Biehn.  Not only is the finished product structurally magnificent, but the interiors are an inspired combination of antiques, modern touches in rugs, artwork, and fabric, and vintage finds that are the hallmark of Biehn's work.

Take a look at these magnificent photos that capture this labor of love and tell me you aren't longing to spend a weekend in Provence.

This is the image that "got" me. :)

Quite possibly my favorite space.

Can't you picture yourself enjoying your morning coffee here?

Interior Design by Michel Biehn
Landscape Design by Michel Biehn, Jean-Claude Appy, and Marco Nucera
Photography by Peter Vitale
Article by Jean Bond Rafferty for Veranda, August 2010

Friday, August 6, 2010

Happy Birthday, Andy Warhol

I had a different post planned for today, but when it came to my attention that today is Andy Warhol's birthday, I felt compelled to mark the occasion here.  He is by no means my favorite artist, but the art historian in me cannot dismiss his leadership in the Pop Art movement of the 1950's.  And, you have to admit, his images have a familiarity and enormous visual appeal, whether it's the pop culture subject matter, the vibrant colors, or the repetition of a single image in a larger piece.  He was an iconic cultural figure in his own right, coining the now-familiar phrase "15 minutes of fame."  The Brooklyn Museum is hosting an exhibition that runs through September 12, 2010 entitled Andy Warhol: The Last Decade, examining a period of renewed energy, inquisitiveness, and experimentation in his work.

Most of these will be familiar to you.

My personal favorite:  Butterflies, 1955

"I don't know where the artificial stops and the real starts." 
Andy Warhol

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Great Fall Fix Up

What renovation would you undertake if you suddenly had $75,000 to spend?  That long awaited kitchen re-do?  A new master bathroom?  Finish out your basement?  Add a screen porch?  Well, I would just be remiss if I didn't pass this along to you!  HGTV is having a Great Fall Fix Up Sweepstakes that runs through August 23, 2010.  All you have to do to enter is head over to and enter-- no photos, no plans necessary.  You can enter once a day until the end of the sweepstakes period.  Start dreaming!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Here's Your Hook-Up!

The beginning of school is upon us and my thoughts always turn to ORGANIZATION.  I don't claim to be an expert or even proficient at organization, but I do a pretty fair job of keeping the household rolling in a somewhat orderly fashion.  The big question:  what to do with all the STUFF?  My favorite solution?  Hooks.  Plain and simple.  Perfect for sweaters or light jackets, backpacks, umbrellas, dog leashes, lunch boxes, even shoes (cleats in my house) with the laces tied together.  They don't have to be the plain jane garden variety either... consider this your hook-up!

Love these... from my friends over at One Kings Lane this week.

Have a nautical theme?  On sale at One Kings Lane-- perfect for bathroom towels.

How about these from Ballard Designs?

Disguised as sculpture... from Pottery Barn

Again from Pottery Barn... and marked down right now :)... cute for a mud room!

Beautiful and functional from Pierre Deux.  The shelf adds another organizational tool.

Hurston Collection Hooks from Willow House (contact me to order)