joy of nesting

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

A DELICATE MATTER...Just Saying No to Tacky Design

How does one broach a touchy subject with candor and class? The answer is delicately. The delicate topic is "tacky design". First, there are so many designers available today who's works are truly lovely. Scot Meacham Wood. Grant Gibson. And uber success stories Suzanne Rheinstein and Michael Smith to name just a few. Each possess their own design philosophies based on quality, style, personality, and design integrity. Gratitude to them all.

Room above Richard Keith Langham.

Room above by Allessandra Branca.

In an ideal world designers have a well rounded aesthetic sense, a good business mind, and peerless ethics. The most obvious problems happen when an individual enters the field of design for the wrong reasons. They are ego, money, and an overblown idea of one's own level of talent. We have all heard and seen the horror stories: inflated budgets, blown deadlines, and elaborate design schemes created by misinformed stylista's. Trust me, a Tuscan villa outside of Tuscany is rarely a good idea. Giving a client any finished product that is contrived is not professional.

Above room Suzanne Rheinstein.

How do we designers set ourselves apart from the horror stories? Since it's a visual field, we build beautiful websites, author concise articles and visually pleasing blogs, emphasize "lifestyle" rather than specific design ideals, we build our word of mouth reputations, we develop our own visual sense, and most importantly we take the time to get to know each of our clients.

Room above McAlpine-Booth-Ferrier.

To understand a well rounded view of tasteful residential and commercial design trends read shelter publications Architectural Digest, Veranda, House Beautiful, and Elle Decor. Travel of course is still one of the best forms of exposure. It is how many design professionals find finspiration for their work. Visit designer showcases and showrooms and approach them with an open mind.

So how do you know when you see "tacky" design work? Either you rely on a designer who knows the difference or you develop your own sense of style. Inform yourself so you know the difference between elegant and gauche, rustic and cutesy, minimal and sterile. A space should move you, should evoke positive feelings, should feel comforting, should tell a story. If it's your home the story should be about you.

Years ago I read something that I found amusing but saw some truth to it. To quote Mario Buatta, or something to this effect, "I would love to see people with money have more taste, and people with taste have more money."

The Joy of Outdoor Entertaining plus...Three Great Summer Menus

Celebrating summer properly takes a little effort as well as a little ease: you get out of it what you put into it but you want to be equally relaxed too. I celebrate summer every single weekend with a blend of events like something as simple as a Saturday morning trip with David to the local farmer's market, a hike around Pinecrest Lake, or a breakfast outdoors of fresh fruit, homemade granola and Greek yogurt on our shady planted patio. Credits posted last.

There's something about dining outside that takes meal time to a whole new level, especially when it involves having good friends to dinner. What could be more hospitable or evoke more positive feelings than gathering together a small group of your friends and family for a meal and great California wines?

When I entertain, especially in the summer, I focus on fresh ingredients that are easy to prepare. I love to use lots of color my meals, olive oils, a variety of artisan vinegars and citrus juices, and grains like cous cous and polenta. If meat is featured in my meals, which it often has to be for company, I find grass fed, free range, humanely treated ones. Whole Foods rates all their meats and poultry for humane treatment. I often find inspiration for food combinations in their deli cases too.

Eating outside takes a bit of organization mainly because of walking distance from the kitchen, and insects and flies. I like to set the table first, sometimes even the day before, to get the vibe going. No one likes an overset table so I try to design one that looks lovely but doesn't encumber my guests. I set the buffet up on the dining room table or kitchen island and have the plates next to the food, ready for service.

Planning the menu is the fun part. I like to go through my old recipe files, search online, and flip through my cookbook collection for inspiration though I hardly ever follow the recipes. Most of my meals for parties are about fresh ingredients with grilled turkey, chicken, fish, or beef and vegetables. I don't like to do overly fussy things because they make me nervous and then I can't relax when the guests arrive.


Table linens for outdoor dining can be as simple or ornate as you please. A wonderful, patterned table cloth in such quality fabrics as Madeline Weinrib  or John Robshaw designs, or in a solid, saturated color such as fuschia, magenta, or turquoise can really set your table apart. I've actually purchased beautiful sheet sets for my outdoor tablecloths and had my seamstress custom make them for me. Use mismatched napkins to keep the table from looking too fussy and use low vases of flowers, olive branches, or herbs as your centerpiece interspersed with plain white candles in stylish hurricanes.

The table above is beautiful. Just take a few precautions with high centerpieces. You can pull it off at events where people don't know one another or by placing guests' chairs off to the side of the vase so they don't have to crane their necks to see each other. But for smaller initmate gatherings keep the centerpieces low.


I like my outdoor guests to be as comfortable as possible and that means providing a few throws in case it gets chilly and baby mosquito repellent. The baby version smells so much better and is gentler on the skin.

I also have to have background music. I play anything ranging from hits of the 60's and 70's to Lucinda Williams to Vivaldi. I love a wide range of musicians and styles and guests appreciate the extra thought that goes into my music choices.


My favorite summer menus always have a healthy slant to them often incorporating a Mediterranean fare. When I entertain I stick to things that are simple, things I've prepared before.

Menu 1

Rosemary marinated chicken breast sandwhiches on homemade focaccia created by my friend caterer Jennifer Stoicheff of Wren Creative Foods; grilled mixed summer vegetables brushed with basil infused olive oil; spinach salad with feta cheese, kalamata olives, cucumber and thyme, basil, and oregano, lemon juice, and olive oil. Homemade chocolate ice cream.

Menu 2

Grilled salmon with peach salsa; corn on the cob with basil butter; and arugula salad with figs, chevre, and balsamic vinaigrettte. Homemade peach pie with vanilla ice cream.

Menu 3

Vine ripened tomato tart with gruyere and basil , grilled Japanese eggplant, misto salad with large shrimp, chevre, and nectarines and white wine vinaigrette, blackberries with creme fraiche.

Photos courtesy Veranda, House Beautiful, Country Living, Elle Decor, and Southern Living. Designers Kathryn Ireland, John Bossard, Lamberston Truex, Allesandra Branca, Harriet Maxwell MacDonald, and Art Luna.

Happy Summer!

Tisket a Tasket, Gardenias in a Basket

Having gardenias in the house is such a treat. Any scented flower is welcome in my house. I have two indoor dogs and one indoor cat and scented candles and flowers hide a myriad of sins.

These miniature gardenias are planted right outside my front door so when people come by to visit the scent wafts up to greet them. And I love the little willow basket that came with its own glass liner. I sold these at my store a few years ago and they were wildly popular.

Gardenias, like all woody stemmed flowers, need to have their stems pounded a bit. This creates an opening for the water to reach the blossom. Once you've gotten the flower to the desired height take a hammer and hit the ends slightly. Strip all leaves that will be below water level. Immerse in water immediately. Try not to handle the blossoms too much because they brown on the edges.

David and I are off to play tennis, go to the lake, and take a long hike this weekend. I hope your weekend is great too!

Summer Beauty Foods and Secrets...links to my favorite sources!

Preparing meals is very inspired with flavorful summer fruits and vegetables in abundance. I notice how remarkably healthy people look this time of year. We invariably trim down, our skin has new color and tautness, and our hair and nails grow faster.

My fiance David and I had appointments with holistic doctor Jakob Jaggy yesterday and were both inspired to kick our eating regimes up a notch. Dr. Jaggy's approach is different from other doctors I've been to and I appreciate the way he thoroughly questions his patients and treats the symptoms, naturally of course, rather than with pharmaceuticals.

As a result of our visit I'm cutting down on sugar and caffeine, eating more protein at breakfast; and eater smaller dinners and larger breakfasts.

For me, the best part of summer eating isn't barbecue. It's salad.

Here are some wonderful summer salad combinations I have been enjoying for years that are full of anti-oxidants and nutrients:

Arugula salad with peaches, chevre, white wine vinegar and olive oil

Salad of romaine lettuce with Pecorino cheese, avocado, blueberries, lemon juice and olive oil

Mixed greens with strawberries, toasted walnuts, honey, balsamic vinegar and olive oil

Arugula salad with figs, warm goat cheese, toasted pecans, balsamic vinegar and olive oil

Spinach salad with cucumber, shrimp, feta cheese, dried thyme, basil, oregano and kalamata olives

Romaine with grapefruit sections, avocado, chevre white wine vinegar and olive oil

Mixed greens with cherries, warmed brie, toasted pecans, balsamic vinegar and olive oil

Spinach salad with grilled chicken, sun dried tomatoes, avocado, toasted walnuts and cumin and lime juice vinaigrette


Besides great produce choices, summer weather offers the best activities for super beauty and health. Hiking, tennis, bicycling, golf, swimming, outdoor Yoga, water skiing and paddle boarding are such fun activities but more than that they bring the glow of health to your skin and trim inches off your waist.

Skin care consists of more than just sunscreen, water, vitamins, and working up a good sweat which gets blood circulating. My best beauty secret is one I learned from an interview with Christie Brinkley: exfoliation.  Exfoliation is key in getting rid of the dead skin cells so they can turn over faster. For exfoliation I love Andalou Naturals Lemon Sugar Facial Scrub and Juice Beauty's Green Apple Peel Full Strength. I used to shop at department stores for my skin care products. Now that I know better, I only purchase at natural food stores such as Whole Foods.

Joy's Top Sofa how to choose the perfect sofa!

Next to choosing a mattress, the most important decision you will make in purchasing furniture for your home is the sofa.

My company has been selling the sofas, chairs, and ottomans featured here and I have come to love their quality and style and the companys' integrity. All my lines are made either in Los Angeles or North Carolina.

Generally speaking I prefer to do three back cushions and three seat cushions two will do if the sofa is well designed like the one above. The look of a single cushioned sofa can be very tailored and lovely too.

Skirted sofas are best for spacious rooms, while sofas without skirts are better suited for smaller ones. Details like welts, banding, fringe and tacks add to the character of the piece as well as the price.

The features to look for in purchasing a quality sofa are in regards to the frame, the ties, the cushions, and the fabric. All are equally important to not only it's longevity but to the comfort and appearance of the piece.

You want an 8-way hand tied frame that's made of kiln dried wood. Sustainable wood is preferable. Cushions with a solid core and down feather wrap are the ultimate in comfort and durability.

Fabric quality is more important than you might think because of  the wear and tear a sofa takes.  The program fabrics, the ones that come with the sofa lines are often poor quality and unattractively designed. For that reason I always do high grade fabric choices or COM, customer's own material which means it's ordered separately from another company.

When I choose fabrics for a sofa I usually do a patternless fabric with texture. If there are pets on the furniture I almost always do a pattern of some sort. I love Bennison style floral patterns. They are apologetically feminine and so forgiving when it comes to stains and fur. 

I usually do three 20 inch down blend pillows with fringe or a tiny contrasting welt on my sofas but sometimes 18 or 22 inch pillows work well when the sofa is extra small or extra large.

All sofas available through Shiree Hanson Segerstrom. Prices from $4000. Lead time six to eight weeks.

Living with Books: How to Fill a Book Shelf

Summer is movies in air conditioned theaters, homemade lemonade, homemade strawberry shortcake, and fictional novels that draw you in and keep you transported for hours on end. (Designer credits and photo sources at the end of this post).

Anyone who has had a holiday home by a lake or the ocean knows the sheer delight of spending long days shaded by the overhang or an umbrella with their nose buried. Why is it so many of us forget to do that in our main residences?

One theory I have is that people don't know how to use a bookshelf. Not everyone has enough hard bound books to fill the shelf up and that leaves open spaces that require decision making questions such as "what should I put in between the books?", "how do I organize my books?", and "do I separate the hard bounds from the paper backs?" or for those who have an abundance of books, "how do I prioritize them?". In vacation homes, they're mostly thrown onto the shelf, gathering dust, and losing their jackets over the course of years of family outings.

Having collected books since I was in elementary school, and being an interior decorator, I naturally have some opinions about the topic and I'm willing to share them with you.

These images are perfect examples of how to live with your book collections. Store them sideways as well as upright. Inject little novelty moments like the coral or cache pot in the picture above. Keep hard bound and paper backs separate. And choose from either author or topic to organize them separating the extra small and extra large ones for shelves that fit those sizes.

I recently did a makeover for a home with a full wall of floor to ceiling book cases. The client was overwhelmed by the commanding presence of the existing book shelves and wasn't at all certain she could embrace them. But embrace them she did when she saw them filled full with her favorite hard bound design and travel books, darling ceramic pieces, and small framed family pictures. The results were positively smashing.

Books are meant to be out where you can see them daily and peruse them from time to time. On a break I'll stand in front on my myriad of book cases choosing what books will go in my "weekly read bag". I love to go over my books again and again, particularly the business books I keep in my office.

Piles of books on table tops, even on the dining room table, in guest rooms, kitchen, and bathrooms add an inviting feeling to the home. I believe that a lot of books around the home indicates the inhabitants are soulful and evolved. 

My cheat sheet for living with books

1) I buy books in hard bound that I know I'll be keeping for a life time such as my design books, and novels by my favorite authors. Those go in my living room, guest rooms, and master bedroom.
2) Paper back books are the ones I like to buy for business topics like marketing, sales, and time management. Those go in my office book cases.
3) My book cases are not ultra organized because my library isn't big enough to be concerned with it. They are mostly organized by size because my cases require that.
4) Client's are always intrigued when they see decorators stack odds and ends on piles of books. It's okay to do this as long as you don't go overboard.
5) Every week or so I'll go to my book cases and pick out five or six books to peruse. They could be ones I've already read and want to revisit or they could be books I never finished. Or maybe I'm looking for something really juicy and I want to look through a stack of books before making my selection. 
6) When you're done with paperbacks, most used book stores will take them and give you credit towards new ones. This is a good way to keep them from piling up. 
7) As for the hard bound books you intend to keep, walls of built in book shelves in the formal living room, family room, office and den will keep you collecting for years to come. They are especially lovely when worked around a fireplace and mantel. Built in book shelves add to the value of the home as well as giving you years of enjoyment. There is nothing quite like built in's.

All photo credits Elle Decor and House Beautiful. Designer credits Shiree Hanson Segerstrom, Todd Klein, Myra Hoefer, Albert Hadley, Miles Redd, Jorge Almada, Rebecca Ascher, David Kaihoi.

Neutrals Needn't be Boring: Five Top Tips on using Taupe in a Design Scheme

Working on a recent design project I found a wonderful sofa and great accessories in neutral tones. The goal is to create a living room in neutrals without being boring or predictable.

The bronze lamp and zebra shade are transitional, a mix of contemporary and traditional elements. The tufted sofa is simple, elegant, and will look good for years and years to come.

I love the quality and design of this rug. Just enough detail.

A drum pendant to go over the cocktail table and a beautiful inlaid mirror to add special touches. Still working on the remaining details.

Tips for using taupe in a design scheme:

Neutrals in their very nature are boring but designers like a challenge. You can use a variety of tricks to create visual interest using neutrals. 

1. Texture is the most popular element used in creating neutral spaces. Texture adds visual interest and also much needed depth to neutral color schemes so they don't fall "flat".

2. A variety of neutral tones will also add visual appeal. Using taupe, ivory, cafe au lait, honey, and light chocolate brown adds further depth.

3. Scale is a wonderful element to throw into a neutral scheme such as a large Belgium hutch in the living room to house media equipment.

4. Neutral color schemes are less forgiving than their colorful counterparts and you'll really need to edit furniture and accessories to the most essential elements. It's not a scheme that takes kindly to over furnishing.

5. Quality will be more important in a neutral scheme because each piece stands out so clearly.


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