joy of nesting

joy of nesting
Shiree Hanson Segerstrom Design and Wellness for Women with Arthritis and Other Chronic Pain.


I am reaching, like flowers in a sunny window, towards the future, towards the sun.  Is it too soon to yearn for spring?

Last week I announced to Facebook friends that as of March 1st I will be the new interior design columnist for the Sonora Union Democrat's Home and Garden section.  An interesting fact: my late father in law Donald Segerstrom, Sr. owned the Democrat when he was in his mid- twenties making him one of the youngest newspaper publishers in the country.

Join me in taking a spring and early summer tour of my garden.  Hybrid iris above lovingly planting by Melba Price, the original owner of the home and gardener extraordinaire.

What I miss most about spring and for that matter, summer, and fall, is the beautiful greenery.  I miss spending part of every day outside.  It has been a mild winter in California, but still it's brown and dreary in the garden right now.

The small pink roses behind the iron daybed were from last summer.  I think they are called cupcake roses.  They have such a nice fragrance.

Euryops and boxwood euonymous terraced by original stone work.

This image of my St. Francis must have been taken in late April because the peonies are still buds.  Francis is one of my favorite photography subjects.  Waiting for spring to create more photo ops to share with my readers.  Have a great day.


We have company coming tonight for the weekend.  Deborah Ramsgard was my maid of honor in my 1982 marriage to Jim.  Both our sons are named Christian.  Their first names are for their fathers, John and James and their middle names are family names from Deborah's in laws, the Ramsgards and from my mother's family, the Jardines.

Deborah's father Bob started a big avocado ranch in San Luis Obispo and on that ranch they have Meyer lemons, just about my most favorite flavor in the world.  A Meyer lemon is a cross between a mandarin orange and a lemon giving it its spicy, sweet, less acidic features.

In honor of Deborah and her family's arrival I will be baking my favorite glazed lemon cake today after work.  Since I've already shared my favorite glazed lemon cake recipe in the Joy of Nesting archives, I'll share with you another wonderful recipe I've made for years from the Silver Palate Cookbook.

Lemon Black Walnut Bread

Delicious at tea time with lots of unsalted butter.

1 C. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing the pans
1 1/2 C. sugar
 4 eggs, separated
2/3 C. fresh lemon juice
2 T. grated lemon zest
3 C. cake flour
2 t. baking powder
1 C. milk
Pinch of salt
1 C. shelled black walnuts, chopped
1/4 C. water

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter two 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pans with 3 tablespoons of the butter.
2. In a mixing bowl cream together the remaining butter and 1 cup of the sugar.  Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, then stir in 1/3 cup of the lemon juice and the grated lemon zest.
3. Combine the cake flour with the baking powder.  Add one third of the flour mixture to the creamed butter and sugar.  Then add half of the milk, another third of the flour mixture, the remaining milk, and the remaining flour mixture.  Do not over mix.
4. In another bowl beat the egg whites and pinch of salt together until stiff but not dry.  Fold the beaten egg whites and black walnuts gently into the batter.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared pans.  Bake on the center rack of the oven until cake tester inserted in the center of a loaf comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes.
6. Cool the bread slightly, remove from the pans, and cool completely on a rack.
7. Boil the remaining 1/3 cup of the lemon juice, the water, and the remaining 1/2 cup sugar together in a small saucepan for 2 minutes.
8. Drizzle the lemon syrup over the tops of the cooled loaves and let them set until completely cool before wrapping.

2 loaves

Photo credits: Saveur and Meyer Lemon Tree

ACCIDENTAL ACCESSORIES...pretty yet useful things for decorating

Accessories are the frosting on your home's cupcake.  They are the gilding of the lily.  When everyday household items are set out on tables and cabinets to be seen and utilized they become practical yet decorative accessories.

There is an art to creating vignettes with everyday things and one of my favorite useful and beautiful objects is the tray.

Trays are "moments waiting to happen".  Friends stop by, "there are the glasses, here is the port, I'll set out some water biscuits and brie."  Instant soiree.

Tea towels and tea pots are great, collectible travel mementos.  The teapot in the picture above was hunted down and found in Nottingham, England and the tea towel was purchased on a recent trip to Cape Cod.  They are fun reminders of past travels, of moments with special loved ones.

Silver engraved baby cups are sentimental and look quite elegant against dark wood.  I love having our engraved cups out to see and enjoy every day.  Here I have shown from left to right Christian's, Jim's, and my engraved silver baby cups from our childhoods.

A home without books and potted plants doesn't feel lived in.  Books say something, and not just between the covers.  They tell people a little bit about your personality, your depth, and hopefully your knowledge.

Candles are not just for special occasions, they are for every day.  Living in an old home, and with pets, I find candles to be a necessity.  The beautiful iron candelabra in the image above is from the old Smith and Hawken.

Here is a list of my favorites to make shopping for your own accessories easier.

framed prints
hardbound books
pots and jardinieres
topiary and plants, both fresh and faux
floral, both fresh and faux
stylish frames for family pictures
modern lamps
tea services
decorative bowls and plates
stacks of dinnerware
stemmed glasses
throw pillows and throw blankets
candles, candlesticks, and candelabras
baskets, a myriad of sizes
door stops
bottles of wine, vermouth, vodka, etc.
serving platters
tabletop etagere for displaying multiple small items
(Etagere are structures that are shaped like pyramids, made of wood or metal with glass shelves)

Happy hunting.

OUT OF THE shiree's Yummy Hot Chocolate Recipe

I cleaned out my closet last week.  Five years of accumulated clothes went out the door to the consignment store, to friends in need, and to the local thrift shop.  I realize I may have gained a few pounds since I turned, well, never mind.  Just suffice to say, I am not happy about where those few extra pounds landed.

I have bought myself a big red rubber ball and a sweat belt and I am diligently doing my ab tighteners.  I will be pre-hernia surgery size by spring.

Many thanks to Jay, fitness trainer extraordinaire, for providing me with the only advice that has shown any difference. 

In the meantime, I won't be denying myself the occasional treat.  Hot chocolate is not the same as instant cocoa.  To make the best tasting hot chocolate you need best quality chocolate.  I have made  mine with 80% cocoa bars as well as gourmet unsweetened chocolate and both are delicious.  You just need 2% milk, chocolate, and some agave sweetener or sugar.

Gourmet Hot Chocolate
There is something about the rich, slightly chalky taste and texture of this drink that really satisfies my sweet tooth.  Rather than eating endless bags of M & M's that never seem to please, a cup of this not only fills me up but brings a nice rosy glow to my skin.

10 oz. milk
2 to 3 teaspoons agave nectar or sugar
3 to 4 oz. best quality chocolate

In a small sauce pan, combine ingredients.  Stir until all chocolate is dissolved.  Heat gently for a few more minutes till smooth.  Enjoy. 

Photo credit: Food Network.  With positive affirmations...Shiree'

A Zebra Throw, French Antiques, and Traditional Lee Jofa Florals

Zebra has been done before, it is nothing new.  But when used in new ways it is in fact, quite fresh.  This was a custom throw I had made for a designer showcase benefiting a branch of Hospice in Northern California.  The house is a William Turnbull creation.  Turnbull is best known for creating the Northern California ocean enclave, Sea Ranch.

My showcase room was a mix of French antiques, custom fabric treatments such as pillows, table skirts, and a slip covered cabinet, something I've done successfully a few times since.

To get a better glimpse of this showcase room, please visit Shiree Segerstrom, click on portfolio, then click on Hospice showcase.  The fabrics are mostly from Lee Jofa and S. Harris.  All seating is from Kravet and Lee Jofa.

French antiques on loan from my friend Ruthie, the owner of Fleur de Lis on 16th Street in Modesto, California.  Fleur de Lis is my favorite home store in all of northern California.  You simply must visit.  Google her and drop by.  Artwork by the amazing painters Charles Waldman and Jack Cassinetto.  Zinc pigeons by Vagabond Vintage.  All custom fabric treatments Shiree Hanson Segerstrom.

Piecing Together a Wardrobe..the best of Tory Burch

For the most part, I find current trends in women's fashion obnoxious.  In every collection there are loud prints and colors that add pounds and detract from one's facial features.  I happen to be short waisted and well, top heavy.  I look my best in clothing that defines my waist and creates an elongated line. 

With a wardrobe in need of occasional replenishment, I ventured onto a few fashion websites of brands I for the most part admire.  This is what I found on Tory Burch.  These are flattering choices for hourglass figures.  The Imogen dress above.

The Marcia cardigan also comes in black and off white.

The Flor tunic.  Fitted at the waste yet elongating.  Sweet details. 

Caterina Poncho.  Love the leg.  This would also be adorable with a pair of cropped jeans and heels or long jeans and flats.

The Ackley dress. The details on this dress are amazing.

Doreen dress.  Business like without being stuffy, perfect for professional creative types.

Eduarda jacket, inspired by sixties styles but modernized by the length.


Jabria jacket.  I love the lace detail at the waste. This jacket is very early 70's, they were originally done in double knit.  I would wear this on appointments to meet my clients.

Polly dress.  Professional and comfortable.  Best worn under a coat as the details would be lost under a jacket or cardigan.

The Ulima dress is adorable but the hemline is hard for petites to wear.  A better hemline for women 5'5" and under is just below or a few inches above the knee.  A dark stocking and shoe would help. 

Mildred dress.  Subtle and sophisticated.  Just right for the office.

Because weekends happen.  Terrero Long Caftan. 


My client Rita had the sweetest antique love seat, with tufted arms and a feather cushion.  We recently recovered it in this gorgeous Stroheim and Romann cream colored fabric with coral velvet checks.  The welts and throw pillow are done in a contrasting pale mint green ribbed fabric by Kravet.  It matches the pillows on a new sofa we just had made.

In The San Francisco Chronicle article that was recently done on my design firm, I mentioned a sofa with a Cole Porter vibe.  This is the sofa.  It is covered in a pale mint green leopard print, has a single feather cushion, contrasting mint green pillows, and bronze tacks.

This is the type of sofa you want in a formal living room, not a family room.  I love to sit up straight because I know it improves your posture as well as your appearance.  A straight back sofa, such as this one, allows you to do that.  Sinking in is not an option and hurrah for better posture, especially at parties.

We left this antique chair alone, giving it only a new custom feather kidney pillow.  The lamp and end table are also part of the family's antique collection.


Warm colors advance while cool colors recede.  The peachy colors were too warm for this smallish formal dining room and the window treatments were store bought, a common mistake made by homeowners.


To visually enlarge the space we had it repainted a pale, cool mint green which also links the space to the adjacent formal living room.  A wall of floor to ceiling custom draperies, sheers, and coordinating hardware provide a finished appearance and further enlarge the space visually with their vertical lines.

The pair of candlestick lamps on the sideboard are narrow enough to allow people to pass through without bumping into them with their elbows.  The mirror further enlarges the space.

The dark woods of the china hutch, table, chairs, and sideboard and the bronze lamps and fixture add warmth to the cool paint and fabric colors making it a comfortable, serene, yet deeply beautiful room.

A small spot of coral on the chair seats provides just the right amount of oomph in the center of the room.  The chair's leopard print welt matches the main fabric on the sofa.

Some tips for working with a designer...

1.  It is crucial when working with a designer, that you find out how many years experience the designer's workrooms have.  Her upholsterers, seamstresses, and installers should have at least 15 years experience.  I have seen elaborate mansions decorated (by other designers, not me) with the most dreadful curtains, pillows, slipcovers, bedding, and upholstery imaginable.

A more experienced workroom adds a little extra expense but not enough to consider going elsewhere.  Where the expense really adds up is in the fabric choices.  Good fabrics for draperies run $70 a yard and up although some perfectly fine choices can be found for under $50 a yard.  Upholstery fabrics run $90 a yard and up but again, less expensive choices can be found if you are willing to spend the time searching and know where to look.  Whether you choose wooden or woven blinds, or draperies, or valances think of custom window treatments as you would landscaping.  They are a necessary expense because they protect your flooring and furniture and make virtually any home look finished.

2.  People who have never worked with a designer are rightfully curious about the ways we charge for our time.  These methods vary from firm to firm.  Generally speaking, a firm will use a variety of billing methods.  In my firm we bill by the hour for consultative services such as flooring and paint selections, space planning, and finish schedules for new construction.  For furniture, we don't bill by the hour.  I purchase the furniture at wholesale and sell at the suggested retail price which is called the cost plus method.  For window treatments, upholstery, and other custom fabrications we use both methods.  We bill cost plus for the materials plus several hours of "design time" in order to cover a portion of the time that goes into shopping for materials, creating the overall design, creating work orders, following up with the workrooms, and assisting the installer on installation day.  Custom fabrications are technical and time consuming.

3. Be up front with your designer.  If you have a budget, do share.  A good designer will take on a project based on its merit, not just dollar amounts.  But don't misconstrue that to mean we don't need to be compensated.  Design talent must be acknowledged and paid for.  If we were under priced, you most likely wouldn't appreciate what you've purchased.  Telling us what price ranges you are looking for will save us both time and expense.

4. Have key decision makers involved in the design process.  If your spouse has definite opinions of what he or she wants the project to look like they need to be involved in the ongoing process.  It sets everyone on edge when after a full day is spent shopping and making all kinds of decisions based on price, aesthetics, and function, the absentee spouse says they don't like something.

5. Set aside a budget for accessories.  Accessories and any fabrics you choose are the icing on your cupcake.

6. Most designers love their job and truly want to please you but unfortunately not all of them are style savvy. Find one who understands a myriad of styles and can translate the look you want.  If possible, provide inspirational pictures to communicate what style you are after.  Show him something you already have and love.  It could very well act as the visual spring board for your next project.  Educate your eye by visiting showcases and reading a variety of shelter magazines.  Don't look to furniture stores for inspiration: they usually have cookie cutter style.  Instead, visit individual designer stores.  I personally love Nathan Turner's store and Suzanne Rheinstein's Hollyhock.

7. Lastly, don't underestimate the power of personality.  If you don't like a designer's communication style, manners, or respect of your time and money, you might not be a good match.  Always get testimonials or recommendations.  Be prepared to interview and expect to pay an hours worth of time for it.

MAKING ROOM FOR GOOD THINGS TO COME...organizational ideas for 2012

My friend and client Leonora sent me these organizational ideas from unknown sources.  Reorganizing your office and home is one of the best New Year resolutions.  The bonus is you get a nice energy boost after it's done.

Egg crates are useful for organizing any number of breakable items including Christmas tree ornaments.

Pillowcases are perfect enclosures for bed sheets, keeping them folded and snug.

I haven't tried microwaved popcorn cooked in a brown paper bag personally, but I do know how unhealthy store bought microwave popcorn is.  This method is quick as well as healthy.

Open the closet door and look up.  Ceiling storage for gift wrapping paper.  Ingenious.

Bread tags used as identification for power and computer cords.  Another "why didn't I think of that" moment.

"Have you seen my diamond earring?"  No? Neither have I but maybe there is still hope for yours with this hosiery and vacuum trick.

A tension rod under the kitchen sink stores spray bottles and frees up space underneath.

Walnut meats are nice little scratch removers.  My mother in law Mary Etta and my own mom Shirrel use this trick with great success.

More tips for buffing up your life, streamlining your work, and making room for good things to come...

1. Invest in a label maker this year.  I love my Dymo LetraTag for identifying client files and binders, and for using on the outside of storage containers.

2. Tote bags are great solutions to staying organized on the go.  Create a separate bag for each project or topic.

3. My favorite storage solution is the large, rectangular woven basket.  I buy several matching baskets in varying sizes and place them on top of the cabinetry in my guest room and office.  They store a myriad of work related items such as sample books for fringe, window blinds, and fabric samples.

4. This is a simple solution that very few people practice.  Twice a year, go through your closet and give away or take to the Good Will any clothes or shoes you haven't worn in over two seasons.  This will make access to the clothes you love easy and pleasant.

5. Magazines pile up quickly and I have a simple system for keeping them in check.  I have a large round basket (about 36" diameter) in my living room.  In it I place, in a circular fashion, four months to seven months worth of magazines.

Every season I take the three oldest months away and put the newer ones back in the basket.  It is an enjoyable task because I get to go through the magazines at the bottom of the basket that I haven't seen in over a season.  After I've re-read them they go to my fitness center, where they will get more use and find new homes.

6. All of my closets have a multitude of robe hooks which I use for hanging totes (which I use for on the go tasks), my design portfolios, tablecloths on hangers, dog leads, coats, brooms, and more.  Mounted on solid wood 2 by 4's, the robe hooks will stay in place under tremendous weight.

7. Many old garages and basements have run off from rain and irrigation systems.  One storage solution is to place pallets on the floor with clear, plastic storage tubs stacked one on top of the other.  The clear plastic provides at-a-glance identification.

8. Decorative boxes on bookshelves are great storage for the small things you only use occasionally like place card holders, napkin rings, and ribbon.

9. Save sentimental cards or drawings from your children or spouse in hardbound books.  Cook books in particular are great storage because you seldom get rid of them.  I love coming across a drawing from my son's childhood.  It's a sweet surprise.

10. Bedside tables get messy quickly.  A high sided woven basket or tote stores your night time paraphernalia nicely.  I keep a box of Kleenex in mine as well as a small reading lamp, a stack of books, and cream for removing eye makeup.


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