Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Greetings from TLC!

How many of you remember when I was talking about launching a company called "Lettered Olive"? Well, that was before my design consultation business started to keep me so busy that I didn't think I'd ever get to launch it! Since last fall, I've had the opportunity to answer questions, create inspiration and design room plans for folks all over the globe, and while the work load is heavy, I really feel like for the first time in my life, I'm finally doing what I was born to do.

(My first virtual design consultation!)

It took me 34 years to figure it out, and I made many expensive mistakes along the way. (I quit the Commercial & Technical Art program at Southcentral Technical College in Minnesota to attend a Music Business Management program at the Art Institute of Atlanta? What was I thinking!! Still paying for that one.) Either way, I hope that now my parents can finally find some comfort in knowing that I seem to have figured out what I want to be when I grow up. To be honest, it feels more like IT actually figured out ME. Almost like my inner designer just finally snatched away the reigns and said, "Alright Missy, it's showtime! Hang on for the ride, it's gonna be bumpy for a bit!" :-) But my inner designer isn't the only one responsible for motivating me.

My husband, Kevin, has effortlessly contributed 6 years of inspiration. It started on March 13th, 2003, with a tiny wave from across a crowded room in Springfield, Missouri. Sure, I was instantly smitten, but I had no idea what an impact he would have on my life at that moment. Within the first year of our relationship he had single-handedly inspired, encouraged and helped me to create, an online gallery where I sold my pop art paintings.
I have vivid memories of the two of us sitting on the floor in our first home, stretching our own canvases, so that I could offer custom sizes to my clients.

And while I painted colorful cats, & dogs and cityscapes and country lakes- he was boxing up my finished works, to be shipped, so that I didn't have to put my brush down, and could take advantage of every second of daylight.

Daytime is still my favorite time to create, and six years later Kevin is still my main source of motivation. His approving smile is the ultimate confidence booster, and his open and genuine heart encourages me to become a better person every single day.

And then there's YOU. The witty, the talented, the sweet incomparable you. :-)
Even if this is your first time here, the fact that you took time out of your busy day to stop by and read this post is unbelievably flattering. If you're a regular reader of my blog, I love reading the comments you leave for me. Whether it's a friendly hello, or one that opens my eyes to fresh & fascinating new perspective- it's comforting to know that I've got a network of friends out there that I can not only count on, but also lean on, and be inspired by, 24/7.
Thank you SO MUCH.

Another person that has recently stepped into my picture in a positive way is my friend Sarah. You may remember her bedroom re-do I helped her with, and you may remember when I blogged about her extraordinary etched glassware available on Etsy.
A while back, on a road trip to a distant flea market, Sarah and I chatted about why I couldn't ever seem to find time to launch, and about her desire to work from home so she could start planning a family. By the time we had reached the flea market, we both realized that, together, we might actually be able to accomplish our goals. "Lettered Olive" was the name my Mom and I were going to use, but not long after deciding on it, Mom discovered that she was actually happier creating her Shellboxes, than running an online home store.
So the name Sarah and I have decided to call our new venture is

"Lettered Cottage Home"

We'd like to welcome you to stop by and check us out anytime you're searching for a unique gift or something special for your home. The site is pretty basic right now, and it's not super full yet either, so expect to see it evolve quite a bit over the coming months and (hopefully) years. Sarah built it from scratch though, and I'm so impressed with what that girl can do when she puts her mind to it. (You should've seen the picture-perfect cake she decorated for me for my birthday this year!)

I'm especially excited to report (to all those who emailed me asking about them) that we are carrying the Herb Crates I used in my Kitchen. :-)

But my favorite part of our website is the "Flea Market Finds" section. Once or twice a month, we head out to various flea markets and antique stores in search of enchanting and inspired goodies to add to the site.

It is hard for me to think about parting with most of the things we collect, but the thought of something bringing as much joy to someone else, as it did to me is such a positive rush!

My only hopeful request is that if someone buys something from that section, they will send me a photo of where they used it. I love a happy ending. :-)

In honor of our Grand Opening, we're having two giveaways.
Leave a comment on this post, and be sure to include your email address for a chance to win our small Parisian Cake Stand. We haven't added this item to our store yet, and I don't have a photo of it yet, so you'll just have to take my word that it's adorable. :-)
To win the large Parisian Cake Stand, leave a comment with your email address and help us spread the word about Lettered Cottage Home by linking to it on your blog. (For everyone who takes the time to do this, we really appreciate your support!)

So there ya have it. Lettered Olive is now, and its all because I'm surrounded by such an incredible support team.
I hope you enjoy browsing through our selection of wares, and that you'll stop by often to check out our delightful, new arrivals.

If you have any Lettered Cottage Home-related questions, you can find the ever-so-helpful Sarah at

And just because I'm feeling a little mushy, after writing this post, I'll sign off today with an optimistic reminder...

We all have a dream inside of us. Once you've realized what yours is, be brave, and chase it with every fiber of your being. Don't let fear of the unknown, or an already busy schedule deter you. Decide what you want to represent, and commit yourself to your dream, just as you would commit yourself to making sure you eat each day, and sleep each night.
Our dreams allow us to feel the most alive.
Pursue your dream with the same sort of intensity and passion you would derive from experiencing the results of it coming true.

Layla :-)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Hey there!

Thank you for leaving such encouraging comments on yesterdays Design Star post. You really know how to make a girl feel good. :-)

I had pretty much decided that I was too busy to try out again this year, but now I'm having second thoughts! Mr. LC is concerned about the physical demands placed on the contestants, and the emotional beating they seem to take, year in and year out. He's worried that because it's not "real life", and because they force contestants to call out the "weakest link", it may not be the most positive place in the world for me to be. I don't know, I'll have to give it some more thought. Just out of curiousity, would you want to be a part of the show? Do you think your design style would properly translate throughout the season when you're limited to working against a strict clock with team members that will likely have a much different vision than you? I'd love to hear your opinion on the matter.

Speaking of Mr. LC, he has been working very hard over the past couple of weeks to create Today, I'm happy to announce that it is finally finished!

To celebrate our Grand Opening, we're offering a 20% discount on all orders placed between now and Sunday, August 2nd. Before checking out, simply type
life is good
in the coupon code box to receive your discount.

Kevin will be uploading one new gallery of Color, Black & White and Sepia-toned images each month. We look forward to offering affordable, eye-catching art to those seeking unique and inspired photography for their home.

Kevin has also started doing custom photo shoots (when he's not on tour), for those seeking more personalized photography. Email me for more details about this service at

Before I sign off, we'd both like to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for taking time out of your busy day to check in with us. We appreciate your kindness and positivity more than you know!


Monday, July 27, 2009

Design Star - Season 4, Episode 2

Wow. This weeks episode was crazy, huh?!

"Team Amy" re-designed a Kitchen for the Johnson family...



"Team Nathan" re-designed a Kitchen for the Boucher family...



And I had fun creating a quick re-design on Team Amy's room-

I did a stainless steel backsplash, because we all know what happens when a Design Star team attempts a tile job. (For those who haven't seen the show- it never gets finished!) Attaching stainless steel panels would be a lot quicker, and would satisfy the homeowners craving for a more modern and eclectic kitchen.

I chose a flooring that more-closely matched the flooring in the room next door.

I covered the center of the ceiling with beadboard, and hung a drum-style pendant light in place of the bulky, florescent light fixture.

I used an assortment of barstool cushions, just to keep things fun and fresh. Each family member could pick their favorite! :-)

I placed slate placemats on the bar. (Of course I would have written the family members names on them with chalk) :-)

To break up the visual heaviness of all the dark cabinetry, I used an off-white colored island, topped with butcherblock.

A woven-wood window shade speaks to the tone of the butcherblock on the island and the color of the floor. This keeps your eye moving around the space, and makes it feel well-balanced, not so bottom-heavy.

I moved the cook top to the other side of the room, and used an above-range microwave, that vents, above it. (which Dan would have totally had to install- you'll find out why in a minute) I didn't like the way the cook top broke up that nice expanse of countertop in front of the bar, and I really didn't like the way the vent looked hanging above it. It was such a distraction.

(I would have moved the fridge over to the area where they built the wine bar, and put the wine bar to the left of the it.)

And lastly, horizontally-laid beadboard, painted in a dusty blue semi-gloss paint, would protect the front of the bar from getting too scuffed up by dangling feet.

(Hover your cursor over the bottom photo to see it transform from Team Amy's to mine)

But, in all reality, can you imagine actually designing, building and fully accessorizing a Kitchen from scratch in the amount of time they were given? <:-P Holy insanity Batman! This is where the above-range microwave bit comes in. The day Kevin and I got ours, we were sure we could install it, not only on our own- but lickety split, to boot.

We quickly discovered that it would have taken us hours to decipher the directions and assemble the big ol' thing. And we definitely would have struggled to install it ourselves. Thankfully, one phone call to our electrician and the job did indeed get done lickety split. I swear, that man could sell tickets to his "one man microwave installation show". The speed at which he worked was truly remarkable.

So when I look at what the contestants were able to accomplish in the amount of time they were allotted, I think they did fairly well. But "fairly well" definitely isn't going to wow this distinguished panel of judges, and once again, they were pretty brutally honest with the teams this week.

As far as what I thought of the rooms, well, of course I thought the Amy's room should have been accessorized, and Nathan's room was accessorized a little too literally for my taste. But its really about what Candice, Genevieve and Vern think, and I would keep that in mind each and every week I was lucky enough to be there. They are, after all, choosing this years winner. And I really don't think HGTV could've have done a better job choosing judges this time around.
All three of them have very successful shows on HGTV, so obviously they know "what's up".

Think about what types of designs you see on their shows. They're beautiful, fuctional, comfortable and livable.

Think about how they would probably define "good design".

Vern's website says, "Vern's calling card is his attention to detail, married with precise, clean-lined interiors, balanced with a sense of warmth. Often with Vern's designs, less is more and something in the room always "pops" due to its graphic nature."

An interview with Geneiveve says: "I'm into the earthy tones and styles that fuse culture and time. My home is a reflection of my travels I have a variety of masks and door-knockers, photography taken by my father, friends and me, and colors inspired by a Moroccan palette. I like my rooms light, textural, sensual and most of all comfortable."

And Candice's biography on reads, "Her signature style incorporates creativity, practicality, and timelessness to create sophisticated yet accessible designs."

And while they may select a winner who's definition of good design is different from theirs - I'm sure the person they choose to be this years Design Star will be one who can consistently create beautiful, functional, comfortable, livable designs.

After I created my Photo Drawing last night, I did a little research to see what Geneiveve and Vern did when they had to design on the fly on HGTV's "Summer Showdown".

Here's what the fabulous Genevieve created from scratch-

And here's what Vern did-

And of course we all know a Candice room when we see one...

...fortunately for her, Clive never seems to bust up into any of her rooms yelling, "STOP! THAT'S IT! TIME IS UP!" and unfortunately, for us, she hasn't made an appearance on Summer Showdown yet. I wonder if she will sometime? That would be a trip!

Big news Tuesday and Wednesday. Two new websites to announce....stay tuned for more details! :-)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Design Star anyone?

Who's watchin' with me tonight?

PS..just for fun, I'll tweet on Twitter as I'm watching the show!!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Ratzlaff Virtual Consultation

I recently had the pleasure of working with the Ratzlaff family. The wonderful and talented Miss Kelleigh blogged about it here:

In an effort to get caught up, I've got my consultation service on hold. I plan on re-activating the button in my sidebar, and taking new clients, by mid-August. I'm working from dawn til dusk, every day, to create refreshing, stylish designs for everyone who has hired me. And even though I'm up to my eyeballs in design dilemmas, I'm lovin' every minute of it! It is such a joy to be welcomed into so many friendly homes.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Headboard Bench Video

Here's a quick video Mr. LC shot while I was out of town last Monday.

For those of you who can't see video, we'll post photos that he shot while working on the project soon!
(You can also go to and type in "theletteredcottage headboard" and it'll come up there too)

FYI- Mr.LC selected the song playing in the background, but he always replaces the words "Delilah" with "My Layla" :)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Design Star - Season 4, Episode 1

Did you watch it?
You can bet your bottom dollar I did!
I have to admit that there were times throughout the show that I was definitely happier to be sitting on my friend Sarah's couch (stuffing my face with HUGE bacon-wrapped scallops), than standing in front of the judges in L.A.

As many of you know, I made it to the second round of auditions this past Spring. And although, in the end, I wasn't cast- I couldn't help but think about some things I might do to some of the rooms if I had been invited to be a part of this years group.

Take the Dining Room for example. Talk about a blank canvas!

Dan and Nathans work was very high-impact, and turned out to be quite a visually appealing design.
I was very impressed with their abilities and creativity. Not only did they come up with a great design, but they also did a heck of a paint job on both the walls and the floor. Not to mention the building, shopping and accessorizing they did in the short time frame. Exhausts me just thinking about it!
After watching the first episode, I feel very fortunate to be able to design in the comfort of my own home. I have nothing but the utmost respect for all the designers that are a part of this years show.

Just for fun, I thought it would be neat to quickly create a design plan for one of the rooms each week, after I'm done watching the show.

This week, I was drawn to the Dining Room.

When I got back home last night, I put together a photo drawing of some things I might have done.
I chose a putty-colored wall paint for most of the room, and to combat its cool & contemporary vibe, I used a textural, ivory-painted board & batten wall treatment on the far wall.

I sprinkled a happy mix of both contemporary and traditional furnishings & accessories throughout the space.
I gave the room a pulse by incorporating earthy art & photography, and large chalkboard wall plaques- which would display a friendly, motivational message for all those in the house to see.
(After the judges harsh critiques, they might need one every once in a while!)
A collection of symmetrically-hung plates on either side of the chalkboard plaques would help to fill up that wall, and a would inject some traditional charm, in a contemporary way.
I painted the floor in a way that would simulate stained concrete. It would be a paint/glaze process that I think would really do a nice job of grounding the space.
A large, jute area rug atop the smooth floor would anchor the dining table and chairs.
The dining table is espresso-colored, and the chairs would be an ivory-colored leather- a nice contrast to the jute texture below.
On top of the table, a silver loving cup, filled with pheasant feathers would be my centerpiece.

Against the focal wall, I too, created a seating area.
An enormous dark-framed floor mirror is flanked by a pair of vintage, green wingbacks.
A small table in front of the mirror would be the perfect place to set a cup of tea at the end of an exhausting 12-hour day.
Close up, framed, black and white photographs of flowers above each chair would bring the outdoors in, in a sleek and modern way.
On the wall on the left, a large oil painting of white birch trees against a muted blue & green backdrop would breathe even more life into the once sterile space. I love the idea of creating a pretty and colorful view for those dining on the opposite side of the table.

Hover your cursor back and forth over the photo below to see it transform!

I had a ball putting together this plan in my PJ's, and I can't wait to watch next weeks show!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Headboard Bench

This morning, walking into our kitchen was a whole new experience.

For the first time since we've moved in, it felt crisp & classic, well-balanced & us.

And I know this might sound strange- but if a room was able to feel happy, I could've sworn our kitchen did, for the first time, today.

You see, until today, our kitchen was made up of two very different sides.
The north side, and the south side.

The north side, (the left side in the photo above) which has pretty much been done for a while now, with the exception of stainless steel appliances, a few under-cabinet corbels, and a window treatment over the sink.

And the south side- previously known as "the side where junk lived".

But as of this morning, I'm happy to say, the south side no longer looks like a messy flea market booth, and it now actually serves a purpose!

Within minutes of waking, I sat at the Dining Room table, chomping my way through a bowl of Cracklin Oat Bran. I was giddy with excitement, staring at the finally finished beadboard wainscotting, and the headboard bench Kevin built...

I want to have a thick, upholstered cushion custom-made for it.
My Mom might know someone that can make one, but if there's anyone out there that's interested in trading services with me- drop me a line! (

I bought the old headboard at a local flea/antique mall, several months ago. I wasn't quite sure exactly where, or how, I'd use it- but something about it really spoke to me.
(It was probably the caning...I'm a sucker for the stuff)

Two seconds after I spotted it, I started hauling it up to the front of the store. Certain that if I let it out of my sight for even one second, someone else would snatch it up.
"Twenty-one dollars and forty cents", said the lady behind the counter.
Remembering the last purchase I made there (my Dining Room table and chairs), I replied, "now that's a grand total I can handle!"

Once I had decided that the headboard was to become a bench for our kitchen, I started to envision what it would look like.

I drew him a sketch of the vision in my head and we talked about what we'd need to get to bring the bench to life.

We ended up only having to purchase two pieces of trim to make it. The rest of it was made from scrap wood we had from other projects. As soon Kevin is finishes editing the video he shot while building it, we'll post it here for those interested in how he did it.

On the beadboard above the bench, and the wall above the chair rail moulding, I'm going to hang a large collection of mismatched, antique plates. I visited a few flea markets today, with my friend Sarah, and was thrilled to find four little plates that would work perfectly as a part of the collection. The best part- all four plates cost just $1.00!

Oh! I should mention- the two pillows in the photos are not the ones I'll actually be using long term. Those are from the Guest Bedroom. I just have them sitting there, temporarily, until I purchase some that are perfect for the bench.

I'm also working on a project inside the china hutch. Here's a sneak peek...

It's hard to believe the Kitchen looked like a big, bowl of sherbet, less than two years, and less than $2000 ago...

Tomorrow morning I'm sure I'll sit in the Dining Room and reminisce some more. But thanks to a "buy one get one" sale at Winn Dixie, and Kevin's thoughtful Mom, it'll be cantaloupe I'm chompin', not Cracklin Oat Bran. :-)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Happy July 16th!

Well, it's already Thursday again, and I'm so excited to blog about what's transpired around these parts this past week!

Kevin's out shooting some custom-ordered photography for a client of ours right now, so I don't have access to the disc which contains all the photos we've taken of the headboard bench- or the newly-finished beadboard panelling. But when he gets back, I'll be sure to post them here, for all to see.

The bench is divine!
He really outdid himself this time.
It all started this past Sunday, with a simple, extremely rough sketch I scribbled on the back of an old envelope I found in one of the kitchen drawers.

First, I drew a rectangular-shaped box, which I explained to him could be made from some old 2x4's we had out back. Then while I drew, I described how the box could be clad in pieces of leftover beadboard panelling. Finally, some leftover trim would be the just the thing to cover up any imperfections. We always have lots of those- thank goodness for trim and caulk. :-)

While I made my way to Market in Atlanta on Monday morning, he got to work on the wooden box I had enthusiastically rambled on about the night before.
Sweet thing even videotaped a tutorial! I could hardly believe it when I came home and found the camera sitting atop its tripod, aiming directly at the almost-finished bench he'd slaved over all day long.

Kevin made taco salad for us Tuesday night, it was delicious as always. Within minutes of finishing mine, I plopped down on the floor in the Kitchen, and began to paint. The unfinished wood box had been begging me to paint it the entire day, and I just couldn't take it anymore.

After a coat of polyurethane on Wednesday, the bench really came to life. When we finally slid the new furniture into place, Kevin and I leaned against the kitchen counter, on the opposite wall, and admired our handy work.
It always amazes me what we can pull off if we just put our heads together, and let our dreams take the reigns.

Monday, July 13, 2009