Sunday, January 1, 2017


I chuckled earlier this week as I dragged our Christmas tree, drunk with holiday cheer, out to the curb for its next journey to a wood chipper somewhere down the road. The routine felt eerily familiar. Ten years ago, in an attempt to exercise away our post holiday depression, Joe and I went for a walk around our Pasadena, California neighborhood. As we passed one perfectly manicured lawn after another, each meticulously coiffed like the homes they introduced, the thread that wove it all together struck me...each one had a discarded Christmas tree in the driveway waiting to be carried away. As if they'd partied too hard on Bourbon street, some had abandoned ornaments dangling from their dead limbs, while others were draped with tinsel, like fancy ball gowns returning from a New Years Eve bash. Naturally, I started snapping pictures and when we got home I googled; "what happens to Christmas trees in Southern California?" When I found the answer I decided to start a little blog...over one thousand entries ago! What does the after life of a Christmas tree have to do with dining and designing, you might ask? Well, it was the spark that lit the fire under me to begin sharing what I do and how I do it. At the time Joe and I were in the middle of an exhausting renovation of our early 1900's bungalow. Thanksgiving that year found us chilling pies on scaffolding outside our kitchen. Doors were a mere suggestion in most rooms. Our unfinished staircase lead to yet another long to-do list. Tylenol PM was the only way for me to fall asleep without worrying about our wide-open attic (and what creatures were moving in). Our big expectations far outweighed our renovation budget, so to finish the house we had to take matters (and tools) into our own hands. Toss in the decision to move our lives to the east coast (and a deadline to do it) and our nights and weekends were filled with hammers, sawdust, battered limbs and bruised egos. We decided to give ourselves the week of Christmas OFF from hard labor, so we moved construction equipment out of the way to put up a tree...our first together as a couple. While we were too tired to dig most of our things out of storage, we did manage to find a few Joe made as a kid, a few he received as gifts, some I had made and a few family pieces. One night we huddled by our fire, warmed by our sweet dogs and a little scotch. I looked around at our hard work in progress and the wonderful tree plopped in the middle of all of it and thought to myself, these are the things that make a house a home. Not expensive furniture or high-end appliances, but the people, pets, moments and memories that turn living into a life. We met our construction deadline and in the process learned how to hang drywall, install custom made cabinets, hammer in cedar shingles, finish a staircase and the room it lead to. The night before moving trucks arrived we were still painting our kitchen, and as we headed east in a rented motorhome with our puppies barking at passing semis, we wondered if our hard work would pay off. Would a buyer see our vision and PAY for it? While it mattered financially, emotionally it did not. An exciting adventure was on the horizon. Are you still wondering how a Christmas tree started a ten-year design blog? I often tell clients that my approach to designing a home is similar to how I decorate a tree...a tree, at least in my house, represents where we have been and who we are; the ornament Joe made in kindergarten, the danish Santa ornament I bought in college when traveling through Europe, gifts from friends and relatives, photos of our dogs we adore and miss...our tree is the road map of our lives. A home, no matter how big or small, should feel like YOU. As sad as I was that year to say goodbye to Christmas and put away the ornaments, I was excited to move on to the next adventure. Where does the road end for Christmas trees in Southern California, by the way? Many wind up in the hands of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, where the officers sink them to the bottom of lakes where they help smaller fish hide from predators. Our discarded trees become habitats for local fish. How cool is that? So, as we wrap a pretty bow around 2016 and tuck it away, let's take what we've learned...bruises and all...and make the year ahead even better. Endings are sad, but new beginnings are incredibly exhilarating!