Sunday, May 15, 2016

One Room Challenge: A Zen Home Office


The six week #OneRoomChallenge for spring 2016 is officially over! 200+ bloggers participated in this season’s design challenge to tackle one room (or more) and transform it into an intentional space that is as beautiful as it is inspiring. While I started out with high hopes to complete our new master bath this go around, I had to put that project on hold as a result of time and resource coordination issues. But I had a back-up plan ... my home office which has been neglected for years. And even though I attempted this project back in the fall, I never really finished what I started. So today I can finally say that I have made a huge improvement in my every day life just by creating a room of my own that will serve the needs of my home-based creative businesses as well as providing a designated spot to incorporate exercise into my daily routine. 


– Room to work –


– Room to work out –


And to be honest, I wasn’t even planning on adding a space to work out in my office, but once I cleared the unused, unwanted furniture and boxes of clutter, I noticed there was a perfect spot behind my desk to fit an exercise ball, yoga mat and set of weights. I figure if I see it every day, it will be easy to take a break from my computer and get up for even 10 or 20 minutes to do something good for my body. I anticipate that it will be much more enjoyable for me to work out in a room that is free of visual distractions and reminders of obligations. This makeover is a real lesson in less is more. It’s not always what you put into a room that matters, sometimes it’s what you edit out that makes the real difference.




Lighting: Schonbeck Crystal Chandelier
Ceiling: Benjamin Moore China White
Walls: Sherwin Williams Pewter Tankard
Trim: Benjamin Moore Manchester Tan






Framed signed print from designer Jason Wu

Scallop-edged black trash can from Brizo

Brass-trimmed storage chest (side of the road find)

Black, gray, white and acrylic storage boxes




Black Windsor Chair from Bassett Furniture
with animal print pillow from Home Goods

Custom vintage chair purchased at a summer design show
(perfect spot for my sons to sit when they visit my office)

Custom black vinyl covered 8 ft. long office table




Staples: animal print mouse pad
Smith + Noble: linen-style roller shades
The Container Store: storage pieces



Everything in this farmhouse-meets-modern designed room has a place now. I got rid of all the little objects and stacks of paperwork. My new storage system relies on neat and tidy letter size boxes designated for various projects. Lacquered boxes are for odds and ends that I need on hand. I don’t want to see anything until I actually need it. I believe this is going to make for a much more pleasant experience in this space, and it will force me to let go of what I don’t need in the future and be more conscious of removing what does not bring me joy (yes, all learned from the KonMari method!)

Below are some of the details of what remains in my office. There is still some room left for a vision board that I will be working on, but for now, I just have the essentials paired with a few inspiring images from special events in my design life ...




Box of samples for one of my interior design client projects





Framed signed illustrated print from designer Jason Wu




My large format print of New York as seen
from inside Hearst Tower during BlogFest

Narcissus from my backyard garden in Tiffany bud vase
(because a room is not complete without a touch of nature!) 




Thank you once again to Linda Weinstein from Calling it Home for setting forth this design challenge! It’s so motivating to have a shared creative deadline with so many other bloggers who are working towards similar design goals. Check out how they all did by following the links below. And if you have a room in your house that needs finishing, set your calendar for the fall of 2016 and join the fun! You will be glad you did : )




And be sure to look for future One Room Challenge recaps from media sponsor, House Beautiful. They have discovered that the ORC is a great way to capture current design trends, DIY tips and creative inspiration worth sharing with their devoted audience. Search #oneroomchallenge on Instagram for even more! Enjoy!





Thursday, May 5, 2016

One Room Challenge Week 5: Home Office Makeover Sneak Peek!



If you missed my last post, you may be wondering where the master bath project that I was so excited about went! Well, as I explained last week, I had to shift my design schedule around to accommodate my contractor. I hear people complain about this type of situation often, but when you are married to the contractor it’s easy to be more understanding. Working in the trades is not predictable. There are a lot of variables at play. And schedules and resources do not always align. So I have moved my attention to my home office that I have been ignoring since the fall 2015 One Room Challenge. No one to blame for lack of completion of this project but me. So I am back at it with focus and enthusiasm! I saw the acrylic frame above when I was out shopping for a visual merchandising client project recently. I almost gave it to my client, but I liked it so much that I kept it. I have it right where everyone (as in all of my family members) can see it when they enter my space. So far it’s working : )






My office desk is a very cool black vinyl covered custom table. It’s 8 feet long. I inherited it from a creative business associate who made it for the Frette showroom in Boston. They used it to display luxurious bath linens and such. When they were done with it, my friend was asked to remove it. He was about to cut it into pieces and I asked if I could have it for myself. My husband was nice enough to go pick it up for me, and I love having it! My plan is to organize the large surface area to better accommodate my various projects in the works. My first upgrade was my new mouse pad that looks like black alligator skin (found it at Staples). I love how it disappears into the table now. I wish I could hide everything else so easily! I spent all day today moving unwanted clutter out of my office. It’s now in my hallway and working it’s way up the stairs to the third floor. Remember we don’t have an attic since we turned it into our master bedroom, or a usable basement for that matter (it’s a VERY old farmhouse). I sometimes wish I could just get a storage pod delivered to my driveway just to place the stuff I need to sort through until I am ready to tackle it. But I have a feeling I would end up with a colony of pods if I went that route (plus my husband said “absolutely not” when I mentioned my brilliant idea to him). So for now the boxes will remain in the hall till I can get to them. And I promise that I will. Nothing will go back in this room unless I love and need it!





My favorite light is already installed. It is a Schonbeck crystal chandelier that we picked out for our original master bedroom. We have great high ceilings in this house (close to 9 feet) but the new bedroom we built in the attic is not quite as tall. So I decided to keep it where I would enjoy it every day. And I do!

Come back next week for my final reveal. I am really going to try to get it done before the clock strikes midnight on May 12th, the last day of the One Room Challenge. Thank you, Linda, of Calling it Home, for providing this design motivator – it really helps! Check out how motivated everyone else is ...




Friday, April 29, 2016

One Room Challenge: We may live in a fixer-upper, but we are NOT Chip and Joanna



Bubbles, celebratory sips, and spa-like surroundings are far from my reality at the Week 4 mark of the Calling it Home “One Room Challenge. True, my 3rd floor master bath design plan does not even include a soaking tub this glorious (that will be in the renovation of our current 2nd floor bath someday) and even if it did, my enjoyment of the space would not resemble the type of pampering that is pictured above, although one can dream, right?

The illustration featured in the photo is the front of a small metal container that I used to store bath items, like loofahs and such, back when my husband and I built a new bath in our last home (we moved to our current fixer-upper in 2003). Back then it was SO much easier to accomplish our projects!


Remembering our master bath project from around 1996

We built a brand new full size bath (with a large soaking tub) after completely raising the roof of our New England Cape-style home, along with building two brand new bedrooms on either side. We did all of this while I was pregnant with our first (who is graduating high school this year). And there was no Pinterest or Houzz to help out either. HGTV was barely a network and there were not a lot of programs to follow (plus no DVR!) All we had were shelter magazines to go by or design/build books for research (remember those?) If we were looking for a new trend or idea, we had to wait a month for a new magazine to come out. Can you imagine?

Granted my husband is a contractor, and his friends are contractors. They all worked together to get our remodel done, and they had the real experience and knowledge to do so. And truth be told we had a lot more energy back then. And perhaps a bit more motivation? But even so ... how does so much time go by for us today, with all that we know between the two of us, yet with so little at-home progress to show?


A local Habitat for Humanity build that my husband
John and I participated in together back in 2012 –
he helped out with power tools, my job was marketing.

Well for starters, I do not like to do the physical work. I have met lots of women who enjoy tiling or building walls or getting drills or wet-saws as gifts. I totally admire and respect them, but unfortunately I am not one of them. I barely enjoy painting anymore (hence my unfinished home office). I am more of an idea person. But since my husband is a builder, we cannot hire another builder, just like I would never hire someone to do what I can do. Currently he is too busy to finish my project. So our master bath sits unfinished.


Sink, faucet and glass counter top installed by my husband – on time –
for the Old York Annual Decorator Show House, summer 2013


My husband has helped me out with many of my time sensitive design projects over the years. And when it comes down to it, he always delivers. But what started out as a time-to-get-this-done-for-us type of project – that seemed quite possible four weeks ago – is now looking to be not very probable with current obligations. Of course I am super disappointed, but really, it is just a bathroom. Finishing renovations is not an emergency situation. I have lived this long without it, what is another month or so? I will have to just shift design gears.



My still challenging One Room Challenge, fall 2015


Fortunately, I did have a back up plan from the beginning. My home office that I did not complete for the fall One Room Challenge will just have to move up on my priority list. My only concern is that last weekend while clearing branches and brush in our rustic backyard to make room for a new garden, I got a touch of poison something, so I am not feeling 100%. I suppose I can still do some shopping and styling, but there is still some heavy lifting and clearing of clutter – and painting – to accomplish, which really does not appeal to me feeling the way I do. But I will move forward, gingerly, but towards my goal of sharing some type of after photos for all of you ORC visitors! Please come back next week to see how it goes.

Now if only I could enlist some help ...


A photo op with Kevin O’Connor from This Old House

Check out the progress shared by the ORC sponsored bloggers here and the many guest participants here. More ORC design trends reported by House Beautiful here. 





Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Perks of Being a Brand Ambassador



Do you currently represent any brands or are you looking to establish a relationship with one? As a blogger, there are now lots of opportunities to partner with big brands who totally get how influential social sharing has become. For years bloggers would make product recommendations to their audiences just because they wanted others to know how much they loved a particular item, whether it was clothing, interior decor, beauty products, etc. Nowadays, brands realize the value of connecting with both bloggers and social media savvy individuals who have significant reach. Just by sharing their user experience, their organic influence can quickly generate genuine interest and increased sales for a product or business.

Since last July I have been partnering with Rodan + Fields, a brand available via e-commerce only that has recently been named the #1 selling premium anti-aging skincare brand in the US. Why did I choose to represent this brand? You know how sometimes you hear about an opportunity and you get goosebumps because you know it’s going to be something big? Well that’s what happened to me when I was approached by a friend who represents Rodan + Fields last summer. She came to me because she knew that my blogging background and work experience as a social media marketer would make me a perfect fit to share this premium product with an audience that values only the best. I tried the products, I loved them, and I knew I wanted to share them with others. 

Rodan + Fields was actually just featured on FORBES this week as “one of the most well respected skincare companies in the world.” You can read the full article here.







Watch this video for an overview of
these award-winning products



After watching my business with Rodan + Fields grow each and every month as a result of happy customers who are loving the products and their improved complexions, I am so glad I said yes when this opportunity presented itself to me! I have also started to train others who expressed interest in being a part of this highly respected company that knows how to support and reward the people who share the benefits of its products. I am equally excited to watch their businesses grow and their lives change as a result!




Jen Drolette, pictured above with her new pearl white Lexus,
just enjoyed a free trip to Napa Valley courtesy of R+F




Above is a photo of the team leader, Jen Drolette, that I met when I first was introduced to R+F. One year ago this week she had 13 people on her direct team. Today that number is well over 200 and she has just earned her signature pearl white Lexus from the two doctors who decided that Rodan + Fields didn’t belong on the shelves of department stores, but in the hands of Independent Consultants who could share the product benefits via word of mouth referrals using the wide reach of social networking sites to do so. How amazing is it to earn such a reward in under two years of working just part-time sharing products that she loves with others? I can tell you honestly that Jen truly didn’t even see this happening for herself, but the product results, the amazing before + afters, are what keeps customers coming back for more. Jen also has some pretty incredible power partners on her team. Many of whom have been able to make some pretty amazing changes in their lives now that their income from representing this brand is beginning to surpass the money they had been earning at their professional careers. Along with achieving this type of individual success, made possible by being a part of an amazingly supportive team, here are just some of the perks that Rodan + Fields offers to those who represent their brand as an Independent Consultant.




Who exactly is behind the incredible success of the Rodan + Fields brand? Just two of the top entrepreneurs on FORBES list of Top 50 “Successful, Self-Made Women in the US!” Dr. Katie Rodan and Dr. Kathy Fields are the Stanford-trained dermatologists who brought Proactiv to market, and they invite you to discover the difference great skincare – along with a forward thinking business model – can make in your life and the lives of others.



Now that my business with Rodan + Fields is starting to take off, I am looking for some social media savvy partners to join me on this indescribably rewarding journey of self growth on the road to financial freedom. Are you looking for something new to add to your mix of income producing efforts? I would love to talk with you if your answer is yes! Email me at yblacker@verizon.net to set up a time to chat! And if for now you are simply curious why everyone is falling in love with Rodan + Fields skincare, below are some of my top product recommendations (along with one from supermodel Veronica Webb who also chose to represent Rodan + Fields). Order before the end of April and you will receive special savings and a free gift just for giving R+F a try. You will be so glad you did!







Here are some of my favorite R+F products ...





Multi-Function Eye Cream with Eye Cloths

One of the most popular combinations in the Rodan + Fields arsenal of age-defying products is the Redefine Multi-Function Eye Cream paired with Redefine Eye Cloths. These two together pack a powerful anti-aging punch right where most of us notice the signs of aging first. Our customers love the Eye Cream so much that it has been known to sell out (can you say stock up??) One jar of the Eye Cream lasts about 4 months and the benefits are noticeable right away. The Eye Cloths are great for quickly removing light make-up while depositing hard working peptides to combat fine lines, wrinkles, and under eye puffiness. A win-win combo for sure!







This “pot of gold” as it is called, works wonders on exfoliating the skin by removing dead skin cells and improving cell turnover, skin tone and texture. Gentle enough for the face, it can also be used to smooth away rough spots on elbows, the backs of arms, and to get your feet sandal ready. One full size jar could last from the beginning of spring through the very end summer. Apply the Daily Body Moisturizer after use and you will love your super smooth results!


Mineral Peptides Powder with Retractable Brush


The only “make-up” item in our collection, is Mineral Peptides Powder (SPF 20) with Retractable Brush. This powder works great as an alternative to heavy foundation and is perfect for the upcoming summer months to add a layer of SPF to your daily skincare routine while reducing shine and evening out skin tone. Most of our customers ditch their foundation completely and switch to this product exclusively after R+F has worked its wonders on their skin. Just another reason why we love Rodan + Fields!





Night Renewing Serum + Lip Renewing Serum


A time-released Retinol formula in a single use capsule that visibly improves skin texture and firmness.

A peptide and antioxidant-rich capsule that helps lips retain natural moisturizing factors, smooths lip texture and reduces the appearance of lip wrinkles.






A Fashion Worthy Favorite

Our Essentials Foaming Sunless Tan will give you a sun-kissed glow regardless of the season. It retails for $24+ tax or just $21+ tax as a Preferred Customer.





Take my Solution Tool quiz to decide
which daily regimen is best for you.






New Customer Special!

Place your first Rodan + Fields order of $80 or more with me from now through the end of April and you will receive your choice of one of the following:

Essentials Body Sunscreen with SPF 30 (this sunscreen smells AMAZING and not like sunscreen at all!), Essentials Foaming Sunless Tan (for a sun-kissed glow without the exposure), or Essentials Daily Body Moisturizer (a rich moisturizer with a light scent that works for both women and men – one of my favorites!) Retail price for these products is $24 each.

Plus get FREE Preferred Customer status (a one-time enrollment fee of $19.95 to qualify for FREE shipping and 10% off the retail price for your first and future orders).

Just let me know which product you would like to receive for free and it will be sent to you after placing your order, along with reimbursement for the $19.95 PC enrollment fee. Email your selection and mailing address to yblacker@verizon.net.



Want to be a brand ambassador for R+F?


And for those of you who are curious about the perks of representing this amazing brand yourself, please reach out to me for more details. I would love to be able to share this opportunity with some social media rockstars who enjoy recommending truly great products – that deliver real results – that their devoted followers will love!




Note: Income results will vary.







Friday, April 22, 2016

One Room Challenge: Master Bath Details

This Robern Medicine Cabinet with pencil edge and white interior
will be recessed in the wall above our Duravit Darling Vanity


When planning a new bath, there are a LOT of details that have to be taken into consideration before the walls go up. After the rough-ins for all of the plumbing have been determined with a licensed plumber based on the specifications of the selected fixtures, the electrical is probably the most critical step in designing an efficient bathroom. Creating a lighting plan that includes switch and outlet placement is essential.

Think about how you plan to use the space. How many lights will each area require? Do you want the lights to go on automatically when you enter, then turn off after exiting? What are your electrical requirements? Will there be multiple users who will each need an outlet at the same time? How about a USB charger? Does your medicine cabinet require wiring for lights or electrical? Where do you want the fan switch to go? Is there a towel warmer that will need wiring? How about inside the shower? Will there be steam functions, media options, or special lighting to plan for? Gathering all of this information before your electrician begins the install will make for a much smoother construction phase and your end result will look intentionally designed.

Currently we are in the electrical phase of our master bath build out. I was really hoping to have plastered walls to present by this date – which is halfway through the 6 week challenge – but living with a busy contractor often means that my projects at home get delayed while my husband takes care of his paying customers. Sigh. I am still optimistic, however, that progress will be made soon, so for now I will just share some of the accessory choices that are on our install list. 




Outlets and switches will be from the Adorne Collection by LeGrand. We used these in our first floor powder room (picture below) and we really love their clean design and functionality.









The shower will have a hand-held shower sprayer from Grohe. Hand-held showers are a must in my opinion. Along with being able to direct the spray of water at various heights and pressures, they are also especially useful when it comes to rinsing the shower walls down when cleaning. And while the shower bar technically is not a grab bar, it can provide an extra bit of stability if needed. As you can see from this picture, there are many bits and pieces needed when it comes to ordering plumbing fixtures. Working with an experienced bath designer or through a showroom is the best way to make sure you have all the moving parts needed for your project. 

Two towel bars will be installed. An 18 inch polished chrome bar from the Ginger Kubic collection will be to the the left of the vanity and the 24 inch version will be on the wall outside of the shower. A matching toilet tissue holder from the collection will also be installed.


And since this bath will not have a linen closet, we will instead utilize a wall mounted hotel-style towel shelf above the toilet area. I chose to go with just a single shelf in order to keep this area looking neat and tidy. 

I can’t promise where we will be next week with our One Room Challenge progress, but I can promise to share more of what I have learned about bath design over the years. My husband and I have a new bath remodel project for a client that we hopefully will be starting soon. But I really, really hope that my bath gets done first!!! 


See how everyone else is doing with their ORC spaces by checking out these posts:





Are you participating in this challenge or following along?
I would love to hear your thoughts!




Thursday, April 14, 2016

One Room Challenge: A Modern Master Bath


ABOVE: our design plans for the new master bath

BELOW: visual reference of the master suite area:
bedroom carpet / stained oak floor in the hallway



I am SO excited to be sharing my design plans for our new and very modern master bath! With this being the second week of the One Room Challenge, set forth by Linda of the blog Calling it Home, I am feeling pretty good about where we are at this time around.

As I mentioned in my last post, we actually have all of the fixtures ready to be installed. This is very important when it comes to planning the install of a new bath project on a relatively short time line. Some plumbing fixtures can take months to receive after ordering them. This is what happened with my vanity which was a custom order of an import item. But fortunately, I ordered the entire room full of fixtures YEARS ago. Yup, they have been sitting in our house just waiting to be installed into a bathroom that was not built yet. I bought them when I worked full time for a bath showroom (yes, I saved some $$$!) after budgeting for them for some time.

After receiving them all, we were still in the planning stages of our new master bath. And then life just took us in some other directions for awhile (I mentioned we have four kids?)

I am a very patient person, but I admit it was wearing on me that we hadn’t gotten around to finishing what we started, even if we had accomplished other renovation related goals in the interim. Being ready to move forward at this point is a true blessing and I am super grateful that we can do so!

So the question is, are my selections from years ago still on trend for today?

As the marketing director for the showroom at the time, I was well versed in the latest trends in bath design from around the globe. We often advertised styles that were outside of the mainly traditional New England comfort zone.

With all the beautiful lifestyle shots of clean, sleek baths that came across my desk, I quickly fell in love with fixtures that had a minimalist look influenced by modern design. In a suburban farmhouse like ours, these streamlined pieces will provide a fresh look that I anticipate will age gracefully. And for a third floor private bath, we really can depart from what one might expect to see from the more public spaces in our home. Our recent first floor powder room is traditional in many ways, but there is definitely a touch of modern to keep it interesting. Guess that’s just how we roll around here! 

Below is what you will see installed in our house by the end of the One Room Challenge ...





Duravit Darling wall mount vanity with 3 hole tap ceramic sink top


Hansgrohe Metris S wide spread lavatory faucet in chrome





Norwell Sobe wall sconces in chrome with frosted glass





Toto Carlyle II high efficiency toilet





Grohe Tempesta Cosmopolitan chrome shower head





Jerusalem Heights Chevron Thassos + Crema Marfil tile



The newest addition to our design plan has been the tile selections. Years ago we never made an actual decision on what to install. Last week I went to a local tile resource known for their great prices. I easily found what I was looking for there, including this gorgeous chevron pattern that will be installed in our shower area. Next week I will share more about these selections, along with some bathroom accessories that will be included in the space. And hopefully I will be showing you the newly plastered walls!

In the meantime, be sure to follow the other One Room Challenge guest participants here and the 20 featured participants here. And how nice is it that House Beautiful is also part of the fun? Check in with them here.