Decorating for Christmas with …

I know I am a lucky boy to have a garage (aka ample storage) in the city.  Walls lined with shelving is what helps me to keep my hoarding…errr collecting tendencies in check.  It also allows me to keep a nice little stash of holiday and other seasonal decor at my finger tips.  However, what happens when storage is at a premium and the thought of sacrificing precious closet space for Christmas ornaments is too much to bear?

Well that is exactly what we are talking about this month for my column…..


Matter of fact, what would you say if I said with some smart shopping, thoughtful planning and upcycling your year-round home decor, you could fit everything you need for Christmas into one box, including the a tree? Honest!  To get everything to fit into a box, think outside the box…..



And what if I told you to forget about holiday florals?  Don’t want to waste the money on temporary arrangements?  I am all about ditching the poinsettia for something more hip and perhaps even permanent…..


So are you tempted to learn more about my Christmas decorating secrets?  Well go visit to find out how you can have a fabulously decorated Christmas that won’t burst your bank or leave you bursting at the seams!

[photo credit: photo by adza//art direction & styling: courtney lake ]

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Three Is The Magic Number….

Sometimes  minor tweaks to a design can mean the difference between a client loving or hating a design.  For example, my Calvert Court client recently signed up to have me help update their guest room on a tight schedule and an even tighter budget (like Kim Kardashian in her Spanx tight…).  I literally showed the client about five different furniture pairings and each got rejected for some version of what I call the “Goldilocks Design Syndrome” – a client becomes fixated on one aspect of the design and therefore vetoes the whole concept.

So I used this to my advantage and created three concepts using the same paint and art scheme….dark charcoal walls offset patterned drapes, a sleeper sofa and quirky lighting.  Vintage paint by numbers hung gallery style provide a fun backdrop for guests and incorporates the client’s unique sense of humor….

Typically, I don’t like setting this many options in front of a client at once, but I literally had nothing to lose at this point since the clock was ticking.  The client initially started to nitpick but then became distracted by elements of the second design and by the third design, she was pretty much onboard with the overall concept.  Maybe it was “design muscle confusion” (totally stole that from the P-90X commercials…) but the trick worked and we went shopping yesterday to make selections.

So which design concept do you think the client chose?  Or even better, which do you like?  Today, I am working on a challenging design for a client in the morning,  sourcing rugs in the afternoon and drinking heavily in the evening.  Why you ask?  Because it’s Wednesday….do I need another excuse?

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Life & Style Shoot….

I am officially back in the States from 3 glorious weeks of food, fun and frolicking. I can’t explain how amazing and wonderful this vacation was, not only because it was my longest to date, it involved the wedding of a dear college friend but it also marked the first time one of my projects got published!

Woot! I can officially say that one of my projects has been published! I was lucky enough to work with Ben Flajnik of “The Bachelor” fame to pull together his San Francisco apartment. The process was documented by Life and Style magazine for its current issue on stands (the one with Robert Pattinson on the cover). I can say I can officially start to enjoy seeing my company’s name in print…

However, I would be remiss not to thank Erin Hiemstra of Apartment 34 fame for brokering the project and serving as stylist for the shoot. Her keen eye was essential for pulling all the pieces I had chosen together for the shots. I also must give a shout out to all the vendors who worked tireless with our immensely short deadline to pull the room together. Major thanks to Z Gallerie, HD Buttercup, Big Daddy Antiques, Milk Glass Vintage Rentals, Ron Kisling Photography, CB2 and Crate and Barrel.

Who would have thought that when I officially launched Courtney Lake Interiors this year, that I would have such amazing tales to tell by year’s end. I feel truly blessed and encouraged. Sadly, the one thing I don’t feel is energized at the moment – jet lag is a mutha! However, I have no time to complain – I just booked two more gigs for Fall and am pulling together a tablescape for a photoshoot – yuppers folks, one of my tablescapes is being photographed for publication. As I said, it is raining over here and I am positively giddy that I am being drenched!

So tell me, how is August shaping up for you?

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Pillows, Flowers & the Weekend….

If you are anything like me, you tend to gravitate towards fancy things.  Shoes, fabrics, cars – honestly if you can slap the prefix “expensive” on it, there is a strongly likelihood I have had an improper crush on it at one time or another.  Don’t get me wrong, I love me some inexpensive stuff but often a certain level of detail, craftsmanship and quality are put into items with a higher price tag.

For example, you can find some great inexpensive and mid-range fabrics on the market.  However, they don’t have the weight, stitching or luxe feel in the hand as a higher priced fabric like a JAB velvet or a Romo linen.  So imagine my surprise when I ran across these two pillows at Crate and Barrel and its hipper sister CB2….

The large striped pillow is from CB2 and is made from a really beautiful light weight open weave linen.  The pillow cover and the feather insert total $29+ tax.  In turn, the cut velvet pillow is from Crate and Barrel and is beautiful in person.  The pattern reminds me of something from Beacon Hill or Romo and the colors are rich and muted.  At $39 for the insert and cover, it is a steal.  A quick calculation reminded me that I rarely am able to find a 24×24 feather insert for that price, let alone a pillow cover, so I bought 3.

Yes, I know paying $200 for 6 pillows may seem excessive to some, but a yard of the fabric alone would be around that of and then factor in labor plus the cost of the insert and you are now looking at spending that much on one pillow potentially.

So using “new shopping math”, I took my well-earned savings and picked up some fresh flowers at the grocery store….

People bag on carnations but I think they are the workhorse of the cut flower world.  Keep them monochromatic and add in some floral berries and you can create a pretty but modern center piece for less than $10.

I am off to repack since it looks like I am making a quick trip home to Michigan next week.  So tell me, what is your “secret place” for stellar cheap finds?

Have a great weekend!

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Loving Out Loud: CB2 Galvanized Metal Planters…..

I have received numerous emails and comments about where you can find the galvanized metal planters I used on my patio last year……

They were sale purchases from last year’s CB2 outdoor line and until recently, I couldn’t find anything similar to share with y’all.  Fortunately, CB2 saw it fit to bring them albeit in slightly different shapes…..

The square planter comes in three different sizes and are a great price.  However, this style does not come with a liner which is highly important to prevent corrosion.  The Titan planter is the closet to what I currently have and does come with a liner.  At $90, it isn’t cheap but still less expensive than some of the other alternatives on the market for a rectilinear metal planter.

Today I am planting bulbs to see if I can soften a rather barren corner of the patio.  I am not sure if it too late in the season for planting, but I figure it’s worth a shot.  So do you have any gardening goals this Summer?

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Hiding that B***h of a Retaining Wall……

The patio update continues…..

This weekend, I planted four planter boxes in an attempt to soften/hide a prominent concrete retaining wall.  I initially thought that the large wooden planter box we built on top of the wall would hide the wall completely but after talking with multiple landscapers, they all agreed that unless we were going to plant a climbing vine, then it would be difficult to grow a trailing plant long enough (7 feet) to hide the wall.

So I decided to attack the wall from two ways — top and bottom.  On top, we have the wooden planter box with the red aptenia which is growing in nicely…..

In less than a week, the red aptenia has grown half an inch!  Fingers cross that by the end of the summer, I will see the beginnings of a a trailing planter box!

On the bottom, I decided to buy four metal planter boxes from CB2 at $19.99:

After drilling some drainage holes into the bottom of each box with my drill, it was time to plant.

I lined each box with gravel/rocks to assist with drainage and then added a variety of sun/part shade loving plants to each box keeping in mind that the plants needed to (1) be hardy enough to survive my black thumb and (2) be perennials with some interesting flowers or leaves.

The final result is better than  I anticipated….now I just hope they live!

I ended up using the following plants:

1) Cannomois Grandis (Virgata): A reed-like plant, it grows up to 10 feet tall in the wild and is identified by the pink shoots of its new growth.

2) Vinca Minor “Ralph Shugert”: A perennial with dark green foliage, variegated with white edges and blue flowers from Spring to Summer.  Robust and tough and loves part shade.

3) Mondo Grass:  Low-maintenenance ground cover that maintains its color and size.  Low-water needs and thrives in shade and sun.

I love how it looks from the dining room and think it will fill in nicely over the next few months…..

With the planter boxes in, I am sorta loving the retaining wall.  I just noticed (after 3 years) that the wall has raised ridges that almost seem decorative.  Well if anyone asks, I am going to lie and say it was planned…..but it’s our secret.

Next on the list is creating an outdoor vignette in a fairly barren patch of the patio, staging the furniture and lastly figuring out why some of the Irish moss is dying….

However, I see the finish line!  I am hoping that if the heavens line up, I MAY be able to pull this together by this weekend.  But realistically, I think that by mid-July I will be ready for the big reveal.

Any of you been working on your patios or outdoor spaces?  Drop me a line or leave a comment and share your progress.

Give Some & Get Some Back With CB2


The holiday season is upon us.  I know I am busily crafting up holiday dinner tablescapes and dreaming up new ways to dress my Christmas tree.  However, in these trying economic times, there are many who are dreaming about less lofty things – how to get a decent meal, shelter and caring for their families.  That is why I was pleasantly surprised to see CB2 will be conducting a food drive starting next week through the end of November in their various stores to support local food banks and charities.

The CB2 here in Oakland/Berkeley will be supporting the Alameda County Community Food Bank.  I have volunteered there on several occasions and appreciate the struggle this group of dedicated workers go through on a daily basis to help feed the less fortunate in our community.

All it takes is SEVEN non-perishable goods and  for your good will, CB2 will be giving you 15% off your total purchase.  I know there are plenty of things in the store that  I can use for my holiday decorating and tables.  So why not give a little to get a little?