joy of nesting

joy of nesting
California designer Shiree Hanson Segerstrom's weekly tips for decorating, gardening, and stylish living

Common Misconceptions About Working with an Interior Designer

Today on Joy of Nesting I want to clear up a few common misconceptions about interior designers. The first one is, when you hire a designer you don’t have to replace everything in your home! Surprised? I thought so.

Let me preface that however. There are indeed designers who will want to replace everything and I heartily disagree with that philosophy. Homes are indeed beautifully updated with as little as new upholstery and accessories. In fact, there are designers who are very accustomed to working with some or even many of their client’s existing furnishings. Doing décors with several styles and eras creates a look that evolves much better than homes furnished in all one place and time. If the designer is good, minimal change can be done, and done quite beautifully.

Misconception Two: despite what your favorite DIY shows like to tell you, interior design is a luxury, not a low budget item. However, if you lead a busy, productive life living well at home is a necessity! Our homes either revive or drain us. Busy, discerning people need at least one place to rest and heal and if your main home is disorganized or unattractive, you won’t be able to sustain your lifestyle. So, do create the home of your dreams if you have the financial means but at the very least your home should serve your needs efficiently, and not just physical needs but aesthetic needs too.   

Misconception Three: Just because you can’t see the project as a completed whole, doesn’t’ mean you can’t envision what it will look like. There are many programs and apps today to help designers and DIY’ers visualize their space. But remember magic doesn’t happen without talent behind the program. Also, you can easily envision the space with effective visual aids but first you need a clear plan.

With Bespoke Design Schemes or when using my full service design, you get great visual aids! I provide two to three proposals with clearly written plans and price tags. In all my projects I provide oversized fabric swatches; tear sheets with manufacturers’ information like dimensions and pricing; printed floor plans with elevation and 3D views; and a written report explaining all of my proposed improvements so you can really see how beautiful everything will be when completed.
I provide full service design to San Francisco, Sacramento County, El Dorado County and Placer County and Bespoke Design Schemes nation wide. Email to schedule a complimentary consultation.

Famous Chocolate Wafer Cake

Today is my son Christian’s 34th birthday. In celebration of the occasion I’ve always traditionally made an old Segerstrom family favorite, Famous Chocolate Refrigerator Roll. It’s called a refrigerator roll because it has to sit in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 hours prior to serving.
Have you heard of it? If you have, you are probably emitting an audible sigh. It’s that good. If you haven’t, let me explain. It’s made with Nabisco’s Famous Chocolate Wafers that are used for a variety of recipes calling for chocolate crusts such as Grasshopper Pie. You don’t bake the cake. The wafers soften when they come in contact with whipped cream and turn into a cake like base. The whipped cream is the frosting.
Because Christian was home from San Francisco for his birthday this weekend, I made him one last night. He has three aunts and two uncles a stone’s throw from the house so they all joined us too.
The wafers are in the cookie section but they can be a little hard to find. They are in a small oblong yellow box. Many of the wafers are broken in the box so you will probably have to do a little engineering. My addition is the 3 tablespoons of powdered sugar. I also like to top each serving with berries for the Fourth of July red, white and blue theme.

1 9 oz. box Famous Chocolate Wafers

1 pint heavy whipping cream

1 tsp. real vanilla extract

3 T. powdered sugar, or to taste

1 oblong Pyrex dish, 9 x 12 or other decorative, oblong dish

Beat the whipping cream with the vanilla and powdered sugar. Coat each wafer well with whipping cream and stack on their sides like wheels, about eight in a row. Then form another row. You’ll end up with four rows of 8 well coated wafers.

Now you frost the whole thing, sides, ends and top with whipped cream.

When the cake is completely covered with whipped cream, you take some of the broken wafers and rub them against one another and break them into small bits to make a decorative chocolate dust.

Topped with red and blue berries you now have a festive looking red, white and blue cake with a delectable Oreo cookie-like taste.

Happy Birthday Christian!

Personalizing Your New Home

Moving into a newly purchased home would seem to be an ideal situation. There’s fresh paint, clean carpets or flooring, and all that empty wall space waiting like a blank canvas for your first decorations. But trust me when I say it’s not that easy to make a new home feel warm and inviting. It can take years before a home represents your tastes and lifestyle.


Above via Witford
A home is an evolving, work in progress. Styles change and we eventually crave updates, even with the best chosen furnishings.


I think what holds us back from creating a warm new home environment is uncertainty, but there is also this misconception that a home looks better when sparsely furnished. Unless you happen to prefer the look of a museum or a mass-mailed furniture catalog, nothing could be further from the truth. A home looks and feels better when it has a more personal appearance, one that has evolved over time.

Above Janie Molster
So how do you personalize your home right from the beginning? I’ve put together some ways to help you identify the usual culprits of decorating whether the home is brand new or simply new to you.

Step One
If you’re going to enlist professionals to remodel, repair and paint now is the obvious time. I’m biased, but employing a designer at this time will help pull all your ideas together and help you prioritize projects.

Above designer unknown
Step Two
Resist the temptation to discard any furniture or accessories until well after the big move. You may “think” you don’t like an old chair or desk or lamp but in reality with fresh paint or new fabric those old pieces may have just the touch of character your new home needs.
Above Witford
Step Three
Place the biggest pieces first: the bed, area rugs, the sofa, the China hutch, the dining table, and the entertainment center. Place these correctly before proceeding. Don’t place anything on angles. That idea is passé and never worked well to begin with.
Think of big pieces of furniture as anchors. When placed correctly, these anchors will “feel” like they’ve been there “forever”. Like matured landscaping, they give a space a sense of “permanence”.
Above Designer Unknown
Here’s a little trick I came up with many years ago. Use your existing pieces as markers for helping you with future purchases. For instance, if you know you’ll be ordering a new sofa, use your current sofa in the place where the new one will go for a short time. How does it fit? Should it be a sectional? Should it have a skirt? Would a different fabric pattern go better in the new surroundings? The same goes with other items. Use them as measuring sticks or barometers for planning new purchases.

Above via Simple Details
Step Four
Once the biggest pieces are properly placed, you can place the smaller items such as the sideboard, armchairs, accent chairs, cocktail and end tables, lamps and dressers.  
In the living room, if the space is large you’ll need two to three seating arrangements: one dominant and one to two subordinate. For small spaces one to two seating areas is plenty. Accentuate each area with at least one accent table and/or lamp.  

Above Grant Gibson
The second most common mistake is to overlook window treatments. Unless your architecture and views are outstanding and the windows themselves are to die for, you probably need a little fabric on them by way of lined or sheer draperies. Clean looking wooden shutters and blinds are wonderful for modern interiors.
Above Designer Unknown
Steps Five and Six
It’s time to gild the lily. You have your big anchor pieces and small accent pieces placed. Now you get to place accessories and hang pictures.
I like to start at the beginning, the entry. From there I like to move on to the formal living room, then the dining room, then the master bedroom, then the family room or den if there is one, then the kitchen, then spare bedrooms and bathrooms.
Above Hamish Bowles
I like working in a circular fashion viewing my rooms as I go, from the point of entrance. Try and mix up styles and eras as you furnish and accessorize each room and aim for a balanced “coverage” throughout, yet leaving little areas of undecorated space as a place to rest the eyes.
Above Via Domino

Above Jeffrey Allen Marks
Here are some common upgrades, some of which are required for building to code:
Light fixtures
Cabinet pulls
Kitchen and bath remodels
Crown molding
Hardwood or stone floors
Radiant heat
Solar panels
Quality baseboards
Decorative interior and exterior doors
Energy efficient windows
Upgraded fireplaces, hearths and mantels
Built in cabinets and bookshelves

Patio Restyling Before and After



CLIVE NICHOLS photo credit

I adore spring. Its my favorite time of the year to be outside. The freshly sprouted greenery, the sound of the pond and waterfall, the fountains, sitting on the back patio with my dog and an iced tea. An old garden is the best sort, and mine is almost 90 years old.

Decorating the patio is so popular and fun right now. To help get you started, your local hardware and garden supply stores have great selections. Once you do your space planning and understand your sizes and furniture needs, you can use this article to help you choose items that will add style and uniqueness to your project.


Rather than choosing all matching furniture en suite (tres boring), coordinate your furniture choices made from a variety of materials. For instance, iron looks great with wicker or wood but not so great with aluminum. Iron and aluminum are too similar to create visual interest. Choose just two or three matching pieces like I did with my dark brown settee and chair. They provided my anchor seating. I then added an iron settee and a black woven egg chair which provided variety and gave my outdoor room a unique, custom vibe. Not like it's been furnished from a catalog. Adding even one piece of interest like a fashionable teak daybed with lots of pillows makes a big statement.

PHOTO credit unknow

For accessories, choose useful items such as oversized lanterns, candlesticks, potted topiary, big comfy pillows in weather resistant fabrics, and even subtle wall décor. By accessorizing your patio with things that have a purpose you’ll keep it from looking pretentious or overdone.

I'm also liking the look of black and warm white cushions on the patio. Black and white add a crisp counterfoil to whatever patio material you have be it concrete, flagstone or brick or even semi-soft ground material like crushed granite or pea gravel. I don't like my fabrics to upstage the greenery and garden color.

PHOTO credit unknown
I initially found my own patio very hard to plan. It's a huge square space which always creates challenges and to make matters worse it has a large, upright central wooden beam. Since I  often entertain 6 to 12 dinner guests during the warm weather months I needed ample seating and dining space. Growing plants is problematic too. It  has half light shade and half deep shade making plant choice very difficult. I softened the central beam with large shade tolerant potted plants like asparagus ferns, woodwardia and star jasmine. I surrounded the furniture with double and triple ball ivy topiary which both accentuates and softens the seating areas.




ecause a portion of my patio is covered I can get away with feather cushions and pillows with indoor fabrics but I must admit outdoor fabrics and materials last longer even under cover and are so much less stressful.
Living in California means our life outdoors is extended to nine months. All the more reason to have an outdoor space you love!


Staging for Owner Occupied Home Sales

How many times have you started a project, like painting your home office or choosing new throw pillows for your living room sofa, or organizing your junk drawer and not followed through? If you’re like me lately, a lot!

I’ve been planning a big move. I'm selling my home and relocating life and business to Sacramento County, California. For four and a half months I lived in disorganized despair. However, that all changed this week. My home is back in order and better than ever. With less furniture and fewer accessories the focus is now on the architecture.

Here are some tips for staging that I've picked up in my almost twenty year design career.

Shiree’s Style File: Staging an Owner Furnished Home For Sale:  

All large surfaces like windows, windowsills, carpets, lighting, chandeliers, floors and walls should be clean and freshly painted where needed. Just because you can’t see the dust doesn’t mean others won’t.

Furniture and draperies should also be clean and in good condition but unfortunately not everyone selling a home has that advantage. Services like Coit Drapery Cleaners do come to the house and will clean upholstery provided it’s not frayed. If it’s frayed, cleaning will cause the fabric to further deteriorate.

If the sofa or chairs are especially unattractive, discount stores such as TJ Maxx have a great selection of fine quality pillows. I like to use three matching twenty inch down blend throw pillows on an average sized 94-98 inch sofa. Red is always a good pillow color for neutral color schemes. Cream colored throws also hide a myriad of sins.

Keep small table top accessories to a minimum. Instead use larger items like stacks of hardbound design books, lamps and faux or natural plants in decorative pots or jardinière.
Keep framed family photos to a minimum. For my home, I removed all table top photos and retained my rogue's gallery in the stairwell and at the top of the staircase.

Keep all mail and clutter under wrap.

Sanitize bathrooms with a little Clorox here and there. Yes it is toxic so use sparingly but it gets rid of household germs and smells and gives the rooms a really fresh, clean feeling.

Fluff the pillows and throws.

Open the windows if possible. Nothing beats clean, fresh air. It not only smells better, it feels really healthy upon entering a home. Like a walk in the woods.

Fluffy white towels, white sheets and white toilet paper give bedrooms and baths a spa feel.

Lastly, a few small vases of scented fresh flowers are a nice touch. Scatter them in unexpected places too like the hall, kitchen and bathrooms.

Room Service... for Valentine's Day!

Room Service is my makeover for the home using the furniture and accessories you already have. It's perfect for people who have some furnishings, but have trouble pulling them together in a functional, attractive and cohesive manner. 

When shopping for or planning future purchases, a home makeover is very helpful in
creating clarity on a variety of issues such as size color, style and function. Often times, you’ll find that the item you want to replace, can be utilized elsewhere or enhanced with new accessories.

Room Service Home Makeovers are perfect for people combining homes like newlyweds, people who are downsizing, and even those who are purchasing a new home. It is a dynamic, invaluable tool to get your projects started.

Mistakes are a common factor in purchasing home furnishings. They can be frustrating, especially with large budget items such as sofas and window treatments. However, during my home makeovers I provide clients with invaluable clarity on function, size, color and style so they are much better equipped to shop on their own, with or without a designer.

What we’ll do…

Develop a personal style that’s unique
to you.

Place furniture in the most functional, visually appealing ways.

Hang artworks for the most visual impact. 

Arrange accessories in new and interesting ways.

Edit or incorporate items to and from other rooms.

Evaluate future purchase plans to go with your new scheme.

My Valentine's Day Gift to you!

With your purchase of a four hour Room Service Home Makeover, refer a friend and receive your choice of a complimentary year's subscription to House Beautiful or a 15 minute phone consultation upon receipt of their order!

Save up to $145 on my annual special pricing on two and four hour Room Service makeovers February 1 through 28. For reservations call 209-728-7701 before February 2nd to make your reservation. 

Twelve Classic Ways to Add Winter Interest to Your Home


I have to confess, winter is not my favorite season. Even though I live in California we have our fair share of cold and even the occasional snow. I’m not complaining. Okay, maybe a little. But by the time Christmas is done I crave tennis, the longer days of daylight savings time, and the sight of fresh green growth in my garden.

Over the years, I’ve found effective ways to lighten the winter doldrums like bundling up for walks with my mate and canine companion; building evening fires in the fireplace; keeping warm and hearty vegetarian soups and stews cooking on the stove; and finding appealing ways to add warming, visual interest to my home and garden.

As an interior designer, gardener and former owner of five retail design stores I’ve been exposed to as well as have come up with my own, ideas to make the dreary winter months pleasant, warm and aesthetically pleasing.
Here are ten of my favorite ways to brighten your winter mood at home:
1.      Forcing bulbs and branches- Paper Whites, Amaranth, flowering quince, forsythia and hyacinth are super easy to ‘force’ into flowering. Cold storing bulbs mimics the effect of winter cold and tricks the bulbs into thinking its spring when brought inside to the warmer temperatures of the home. Quince and forsythia need buds on them before they can be forced but bulbs can start without growth.

2.      Texture- in design terms translates to warmth and visual interest. Functional, beautiful elements that add texture are baskets and heavy throw blankets.  For fall think in terms of earth tones like russets, golden yellows, and warm browns. For Christmas, winter white, greens, reds or icy blues if that happens to be your color scheme.

3.      Swapping throw pillows- is a bit more challenging especially in rooms that are already decorated. Look for fabrics in warm tones that also coordinate with the other elements in the room. If you don’t have a lot of patterned fabrics in your design scheme it will be easier to find the right coordinating pillows.



4.      Greenery, fresh or faux- bringing the outside in is never a bad thing but it’s especially effective during long winter days. Having greenery, fresh or faux in your home signals spring and can be incredibly mood enhancing. Some of my favorites are ivy and honeysuckle topiary, red and white amaryllis, and fragrant paper white Narcissi’s.


5.      Mirrors- are also strategic year round decorating elements and during the winter months they help by expanding light during shorter, darker days. 

6.      New lamps- to shed light on those dark corners of the home. With lamps, you really get what you pay for. The design and quality of high quality lamps is truly an investment that will pay off. Cheap lighting seldom looks good to begin with, and doesn’t stay in style long.
7.     Cocktail trays and carts- add a touch of festivity and function to your rooms. I love freshly washed stemware, interesting liquor bottles and attractive cocktail accoutrement like decorative cheese knives and stir sticks. Also a nice touch: fresh tea towels to hang casually from cart handles.

8.     Silver or China tea service- are other great ways to add festivity and function to formal rooms. I love putting them in the formal areas like a corner of the living room, on the dining room sideboard or even in the entry if it’s near the dining room.

9.   The color red- in little touches here and there is a subtle yet confident way to add warmth and brightness to any décor or color scheme. It doesn’t take a lot: a red nosegay in a small green glass vase, a red cashmere throw tossed casually over the back of a chair, a lampshade in red silk. Even if your color scheme contains no red, small touches of the color add so much.

10.  Hard bound coffee table books- are my favorite “fillers” for table, sideboard and dresser tops. I have them in every room because they add character, beauty and a feeling of permanence to any home. It’s very hard to have too many so don’t be shy.



11. Solar tubes and skylights- are one of the best upgrades you can make in any home. I’ve done them in designer showcases and client’s homes and they’re indispensable in winter months. Care must be taken, however to protect furniture and flooring from sunlight.
12.  Drapery sheers- I have long been a fan of unlined, white linen, floor length curtain panels on rods and rings layered in conjunction with lined, functioning (traversing) stationary (non-functioning) drapery panels. I love the options the two layers allow. Keep in mind how much glass and light will be covered by the expanse of draperies.



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