Inspired Outdoor Dining

This week's post is all about taking it outside!  

Going back in time a little... picnics were a HUGE part of my childhood. Every couple months, we'd go on one big, glorious, family picnic (we were about 30 of us!). We lived in Dubai, a city that is insanely hot in summer (too hot to be outside) but super beautiful in fall / winter / early spring.  It was sort of a reverse picnicking season!

My favorite park to go to was the Dubai Creek Park with it's sprawling lawns and huge shady trees. And my favorite food was barbecued chicken and this delicious French Toast (we'd call it "slices" for some reason) that one of my uncles made for us kids.  

You'd see many families sitting around enjoying the breeze, playing board games or just chatting up. But inevitably, we'd be the loudest, most boisterous of the lot. 

You could hear us laughing, arguing, pontificating and backslapping from a mile away! Food was being passed around, an angsty toddler or two was on the lose, some kid somewhere just got struck by a ball and another one was climbing the jungle gym like there was no tomorrow! It was mayhem. A wonderful kind of mayhem :) The parents had a hard time keeping track of who was where, but the sun would set and somehow, magically, we'd all end up as a whole again, trotting tiredly back to our cars. It was a glooooorious time. 

Tis being the season for outdoor entertaining, picnicking and the likes,  I was very inspired to pull together a couple of formal and informal tablescapes for anyone taking it outside & making some equally glorious memories with your family & friends this summer!  I've discovered some really good looking and budget-friendly disposables for the season and there's lotsa fun (and not to mention, kid-friendly) melamine out there as well. Creating an inviting outdoor setting has never been easier! :)  




Breezy & Beachy

I liked this seaside, beachy tablescape I saw at the mall the other day... I liked that the simple white dinnerware was combined with a whole lot of texture (rattan, wood, mesh etc.)


You could create a beachy casual setting of your own, but maybe with a little more color?  

I started with this beautiful coral dinner plate (it's melamine) and added some texture with a mesh table cover, rattan chargers and wood flatware.  

Hints of gold & these neat table lanterns "pick up"  the setting. I especially LOVE the small gold tea light holders - spread 'em across a table and they'll create a perfect ambiance for an outdoor setting. Bringing in a a hint of blue with these cracked teal glasses. 

coral dinner plate / natural rattan charger  / nautical net table throw  /  beachwood flatware / starfish place card holders (too cute! from Etsy)  / linen striped napkins /  gorgeous table lanterns (love these to bring some height into the setting) /  cracked teal stem glasses teal / gold tea light holders /  tropical stargazer lillies in a vase as centerpieces



Pretty & Posh

These rose plates by Caspari instantly caught my eye. They're elegant & fun, and they're disposable people!  



Quite perfect for a semi-formal setting..

Throw on a white tablecloth and line with this fancy-looking (but totally disposable!) place settings - lime green and white dinner plates, paired with the rose dessert plates, and some fancy gold flatware.

Scatter chartreuse tea light holders across the table, and add on a beautiful peony centerpiece to  play up the plates. I LOVE this  "First Come First Served" acrylic pitcher by Kate Spade! It's such a classic & so fun.  Perfect for keeping you guests glasses topped with lemonade.



white tablecloth /  burlap pleated table runner /  green dinner plates (disposable),  rose dessert plates (disposable), gold flatware (disposable), paper cups, paper napkins,  Kate Spade acrylic pitcher,    chateruse tealight holder


Classic Blue & White

I came across this beautiful indoor blue-and-white setting and fell instantly in love with it. This table is so stunning, as is the place setting, and the yellow flowers. This could easily be something you take outside!



I was very inspired to do some blue & white for a picnic :) Yet still keeping it classic...




2 easy tips for outdoor entertaining

Here's a couple tips I've picked up from the first lady of Southern design and decor (the wonderful Bunny Williams), on how to take even the most casual setting up a notch and make your guests feel a little extra special...

The Napkin Fold.  Make a quick fold towards the inside at the top of the napkin, then flip the ends to the outside. It's super easy to do and makes for a great finishing touch even for some casual dining.


Floral Centerpieces  x  Hurricanes.  I love this idea for adding some pzzaz to your outdoor table. Arrange a floral centerpiece with seasonal flowers/plants. Flank by hurricanes. The hurricanes should be tall enough that people can still see each other across the table. Etsy has a bunch of  nice vintage hurricane choices!


Things you've always wanted to ask a realtor

Today's post comes in collaboration with my wonderful friend Laila.

Laila is an extremely warm person and someone who is GREAT at sharing her knowledge. A quality I love!  From tips on how she maintains her gorgeous hair to putting together outfits for her kids - she has always shared little tidbits very generously.

I thought it'd be GREAT to ask her about an area she has expertise in - buying a home!

Laila is a realtor with J Rockliff  and I asked her if she could give us the lowdown on all those burning questions every new home buyer (newbies raise your hands!) wants to ask their realtor. Even the ones that get awkward or you feel kinda lame asking about.

I am psyched to share what we talked about with you. There's some GREAT info in here and I hope it's useful for ya'll!  

So here goes. No filters! Straight from the horse's mouth.  Laila tells all. Let's get into it :P



Where do I start in the house hunting process? What are some good websites to check out? 

There's a ton of apps and websites out there and it can get overwhelming! Start with websites like Redfin,  Zillow might be a little iffy because it's not always up to date, but the other two are.

Also, look for Open House signs in your neighborhood. It's a good way to get a sense of what's out there on the market. Some of these websites have an option to filter by "Open House" (Redfin has this) so you can look for them that way too.


Cool, and at what point do I reach out to an agent? 

People tend to go to open houses before they reach out to a realtor, and that's totally fine. But I would say reach out to a realtor sooner rather than later. We have access to A LOT of information that you won't have access to on public sites.

For instance, I'm connected through the Bay East Association for Realtors and I have access to...

... ALL listings in an area

... Comparable sales numbers (i.e. sale prices of homes that recently sold in an area )

... Rent-to-owner ratios. (If you're buying a home as a property investment, you want to know if it's easily rent-able. Or maybe you want to know what it's like to live in a specific neighborhood - is there going to be a high turnover of people living there? Will your neighbors keep changing? )

... let's say you want to live in a specific neighborhood or even on a specific street, we can zoom in at that level and look for listings for you!

... we have easy access to insurance, mortgage & title companies, things that become important further down.

There's a lot of jargon involved when you're first buying a home. A good realtor can break it down for you upfront.


My friends have had different experiences when buying their first home - some say it's been great, others say it was really stressful. They said a lot of depends on who your agent is. How do I find a good agent to work with?

Asking friends and family is a great way. If they've had a good experience and can recommend someone then nothing like it.

Another thing that's really effective is: go to Open Houses!  Figure out how much you can afford for a house (use a free calculator like this one on Redfin)  and start going to open houses within that range.

Often times we'll fill in as the host for an Open House that we are not the listing agent for. Under 10%  of people coming to an open house are coming for that specific house. So it's a great place for us (realtors) to meet leads!  And a great place for you to meet realtors.

A friend of mine was looking for a home and we went to A LOT of open houses. In the end, we met an agent who was so informative and so nice.  We spoke to him for an hour. That’s the kind of realtor you want!  When we (my husband and I) were buying a home, we also found our agent at an open house. We felt comfortable talking to her and we exchanged phone numbers. 

I'd definitely recommend a bit of an interview process. You can check out their reviews on Yelp, but mostly it’s the personal touch :)


Entry to a beach bungalow, changoandco

Entry to a beach bungalow, changoandco

How long does it typically take from start to finish, when you're buying a home?

You want to give yourself 6-8 months at least.  Start 6 months to a year ahead.

If you're renting a place and your lease is going to end, and  you're looking to buy a home soon, realize that it still takes 1-2 months to close the deal once you've finalized a home (closing costs, inspections, other formalities). So keep that buffer. Let's say your lease is ending in June, you want to start looking by December at the latest.


Makes sense. Do house prices vary seasonally. What's a good time of the year to buy? 

Summer is peak season obviously - prices are high then. 

If you start to look at homes in winter & spring, you may not find a lot of variety but you'll have more negotiation power. People are eager to sell.  

Right after New Year's, prices are at a plateau. You could time it such that you're starting to look for houses around then. By summer they start popping up like weeds! You'll have much more choices, but the prices will be higher too. 


Ok, what are the first few things you look at when you're searching for a home? 

First and foremost - the area.   Then if you're a parent, you're looking at school district. You can look up schools in a particular zip code on sites like Check their scores and zoning rules (does your house fall into a particular school's zone or is it at the border?).  And finally, look at the crime rate in the area. We give you a resource package with the contact info of the local police and they can give you details too.

Ok, so let's say I'm a newbie and I've decided to work with you as my realtor. Can you walk me through, step by step, what we'll be doing? 

First, we'll start with your Budget.  You'll go get qualified or pre-qualified for a loan from a bank. How much is the loan amount you qualify for? (this is based on your earnings, your debts). What value of a home can you afford?   If you're serious about buying, you don't want to waste your time looking at homes that are outside your budget!

Keep that budget realistic. We'll use a monthly mortgage calculator to figure out your monthly payments. This depends on how many years you're taking the loan for as well ... 15 years, 20, 30.  


Okay great, once we've sorted out my budget, what's the next step?

Then we'll look at your Wishlist.  What's your ideal square footage? How many bedrooms? Yard or no yard? If you want to live closer to family or friends, we'll factor that in as well. I've seen that people can be quite specific on where they want to live!  We'll start to narrow down listings based on these specifications.

Having said that, I've seen that buyers start with a wishlist and then sometimes they change their requirements altogether! So a realtor has to be acceptable to change along the way.  

Another thing, a good realtor will watch out for if how your wishlist is playing out with your budget. Sometimes people get excited when they start seeing homes & they overstretch. You don’t want your client to end up “house poor”!   I've learned to first build a relationship with my clients, understand their needs. That way I'm being responsible. With finances comes lots of emotions... a good realtor becomes almost like your therapist! 


A blue & white living room with flair, elledecor

A blue & white living room with flair, elledecor

Hah! That actually makes a lot of sense. It seems like you really need to build a relationship and trust each other.

Definitely. The  next step is I'll start showing you homes. Even here I like to give my clients space and don't follow them everywhere. Once they've looked through the home, I get their feedback.  

I'll also start sending you email drips. I'll create a search based on your criteria and send you emails with listings, and get your feedback. 

I like to take my clients around an area, give them a feel of the place. And I like to cultivate a relationship with them, meet them for coffee, learn about their needs and keep getting their feedback.


I like that personal touch!  Okay, so let's say after months of searching, we've found that perfect home. What's next? How are we closing the deal? 

First we'll get a comparative market analysis of that property. What are the prices of other homes in the area? That way we'll have a better idea of how much you should be paying. 

Sometimes a seller might actively price a house slightly lower than market price. I've seen established realtors do this - they start low to attract buyers, and that leads to a bidding war.

When you're making an offer, you have to court a seller! A seller looks at family and things of that nature. I would write out an offer letter representing my client - take a snapshot of the family & present it well. Depending on how many offers they have, they may or may not respond to you. At this point you'll need to start negotiating or up your bid.

How quickly a house gets sold depends on how hot that property is. For instance, I saw this open house on Saturday and by Monday it was gone! If it's a good school district, and a prime location, it goes pretty quickly.  If it's an older home... let's say there are issues listed in the disclosure... that might slow things down.


A serene guest room in a 19th century farmhouse, elledecor

A serene guest room in a 19th century farmhouse, elledecor

What are some red flags to watch out for when you're doing your due diligence?

Sometimes it's simple things like, checking out the neighbors. Just be present and analyze the neighborhood.

Pay attention to the Disclosure Statement that the seller sends you. Look out for things like - if they've built an additional room, is it up to standard and does it meet house regulations? Has it been authorized by the proper authorities? 

Pay attention to what's close by. Say a train station or other noise-generating aspects. Your agent may tell you the windows are sound proof...great, make sure you test it out. You're going to be the one living here!

There are certain cultural things that, as agents, we need to be sensitive about. For instance, people from certain Asian cultures won't buy even the most beautiful house if it's near a cemetery.We just need to be aware of things culturally as well.


What’s the relationship like between the listing agent (aka the seller's agent)  & the buyer's agent? 

The listing agent is representing the seller. And the buyer's agent represents YOU. 

Sometimes people choose not to work with a buying agent and go directly to the listing agent. Then the listing agent becomes a dual agent, representing both you and the seller. In such cases, sometimes they may be working in the best interest of the seller.  

With a buying agent you get special treatment because they are only representing YOU.

The way the finances work is that the seller is paying a commission to the agents. If the house sells, the total commission, usually about 5%, is split between both agents.  So we (buyer's agent) get a 2.5 to 3% commission if you buy the house.  But honestly, as an agent you're not going to lose the trust of your buyer to get a few hundred dollars more in commission!  A good agent will work in YOUR best interest when negotiating a price on the home. 


Got it. I wondered about that!  Alright, back to the closing process, how does that play out?

The seller sends you a Disclosure Statement on the house. You make an offer, negotiate on terms and price, they may make a counter offer. Finally they accept your offer. Great!

Now you want to get an inspection done. Let's say you find a particular problem and you want it fixed - write it down. Make it known to the seller.

Once the seller and you are in agreement, then we bring in the insurance and mortgage companies. You fill out paperwork for the Title etc. You'll also select a warranty package at this point, if it's an older home. Newer homes already have warranties that come with it.

That's about it. Then it's a done deal!


An upbeat bedroom, elledecor

An upbeat bedroom, elledecor


Do realtors specialize in certain areas and neighborhoods? 

Yes, you can ask your realtor if they know a neighborhood well. For instance, I am very familiar with Dublin, Livermore, Pleasanton. I interact with families in these neighborhoods. 

Sometimes a realtor might mention it in their bio. Occasionally, if they aren't familiar with an area, they may point you to someone else and get a referral fee for it. But this is rare. 


What's the Bay Area market like right now? Are homes selling quickly? Are they selling at asking price, higher, lower?

The market is hot right now. Houses are selling quickly, and usually for higher than asking. At times, with just one Open House weekend, a house goes into "sale pending".


And finally, why do you like selling homes? :)

I love homes! I love looking at homes. I’m into home decor. And I love talking and interacting with people :)  Buying your first home is an experience you will never forget! It has a lot of emotions attached to it. I get to be with people at such an important point in their life - it means a lot to me. I'm still in touch with my agent!

I've learned that you have to be good with people and very patient to do this job. 


What's one piece of advice you'd give to a serious home buyer?

Sort out your finances first. Then write out your wishlist. The finances will dictate a lot of things.


Thanks for all this AMAZING information!!! It's so super helpful.

A couple 1:1 questions for you :)

What's a spot in your home you absolutely love?!

I like the outdoors and I love sitting in my backyard. It’s always breezy. I have a lovely veranda too, with a nice sofa set & some flowering pots. I have my breakfast here and if I want to do something peaceful, it's my go to. 


What's something in your home you consider a prized possession you'd never part with?

I like my rugs! They are handmade Persian / Pakistani rugs. They really bring some warmth into my home. And I don't think it would be the same without them.



If you have questions on any of this, drop us a line in the comments!


Image Credits:  House Beautiful (featured image), Chango & Co, Elle Decor, Laila

A Fresh & Soothing Nursery

Towards the end of last year we were visiting family in Minneapolis and I was eager to gift our nieces something precious for their room. I found myself in the baby aisle & I've gotta say, I fell in love with Pillowfort and some of the other brands I was seeing out there. With fresh color palettes and stylish prints, there's lotsa options to create a  beautiful baby or kid's room.

Lately, a lot of my friends are having their first or second child, and I'm back in the baby aisle :)  It's gotten me super motivated to put together a few nursery boards for these sweet mommies-to-be.

Huge disclaimer: I know zilch about what it's like to be a parent. Not even going to try :)  But here's a few things I kept in mind when designing these boards...

... making the nursery a beautiful and calming space for both baby and mom.
... making it a space that ages well as your child grows. So you're not stuck with a lot of baby-ish looking stuff once your little one has outgrown that phase (word on the street is that they grow really fast! ;-))  I feel that if you keep the main furniture pieces slightly more classic and neutral, and "play" with the accessories (easier & less expensive to change up)  that might work better in the long run.

I went with color schemes that felt fresh & put together 2 boards with my favorite finds! The first board  is mix of things from various big box stores. And the second is sourced exclusively from Target (because I've been seeing a lot of stylish things at Target lately).

Fresh Navy & Pink

navy and pink nursery final.png


1,2  I started with this classic valance from PB Kids & these pagoda prints off of a maker on Etsy. I am in LOVE with both right now. The pagoda prints are super cute and perfect for a little girl's room. The valance is clean and classic. 

3,4,7,8,9,14 I wanted to create a comfy nook for mommy and daddy because let's be real, they're probably spending as much time in this room as the baby :)  At 3am, you want to have a spot you can just plop down in and throw your feet up. Create a cozy corner with a wing back chair /  pink velvet throw pillow / monogrammed lumbar pillow (baby initial!) / soft throw & this brassy gold floor lamp. Don't even get me started on the Moroccan pouf! It's comfy and trendy, and looks amazing.

5,6,10 This fuchsia ikat fabric  from Spoonflower is such a fun, fun print. It would make for a bold & beautiful crib sheet. You can add on a crib skirt and bumper - maybe keep it simple, to complement the colorful sheet. The crib is a classic from IKEA as is this soft waffle weave blanket (here and here)  for the baby - very comfortable. 

12,13  Now for some fun! :) I love these gold bunny ear knobs from Anthropologie. An easy way to upgrade a chest of drawers.

11,16,17 Put a  storage basket or two near the crib to store whatnots and stuffed animals like this adorable lulu bunny  or sheep stuffed animal.

15 And finally this natural fiber  navy blue rug will ground the room.


Soothing Green & Brown (everything from Target)

4 I was very inspired by a beautiful green and brown room with gold undertones that I'd seen online and decided to use this as my color scheme. A hunter green paint color is perfect for an accent wall. Valspar's  Field Time green or Benjamin Moore's Raleigh green are both beautiful grounding greens.

1,2  This walnut crib is a great color & converts into a toddler day bed - very convenient. Keep the bedding white and add on a fun jungle themed crib mobile

3 This ceiling light is all sorts of amazing!  The only place I would not use this is maybe a smaller sized room because it could overpower the space. But otherwise, it's perfection! You can always figure out if something is a good fit or not by measuring. And if you're just not into having a dramatic light fixture in the nursery, a nice alternative would be a floor lamp like this one.

7,8,9,10,11 I wanted to create a focal point around this beauuuutiful 3-drawer chest - great for storing all your nursery essentials.   I've paired it with this striking  zebra framed canvas and a gold base table lamp from Pillowfort.  Add on a globe (giving baby the travel bug early!) and use some alphabet blocks to spell out his name :)  Alternately, you can keep it totally fuss-free and just place a changing pad on top.

6, 12, 13 14  Keeping the rest of the furniture neutral (rug / comfy chair / ottoman )  with a pair of light gingham pillows, creates a calming atmosphere.

15, 16 I love these stuffed animals from Manhattan toys - lots of cute choices!  Keep a large woven storage basket or two in the room to help keep things organized.


For my friends who are going to be moms soon, I hope you're having a restful pregnancy and being taken care of by those around you. When my nieces & nephews were born I was over the moon (and still am every time I see them!). I can only imagine what it feels like to be becoming a parent! Sending a ton of positivity & good energy your way :P

Got any ideas of your own running through your head right now?  Or any of these call out to you?

SF Decorator Showcase

Last week I went to the SF Decorator Showcase and I have to say, it was a wholly satisfying experience! There was lots to love and I definitely had a ball analyzing and spending time in the rooms I found interesting and inspiring.

I thought I'd share some of my favorites from the showcase. There were some elements in each room that I  loved & I pulled together a few boards with retail store finds in case you want to bring these into your home or achieve a similar look. There's lots of options out there :)

So here goes... glimpses from the SF Decorator's Showcase!

Location, location, location...the location was FABULOUS with a capital F. This year's house was a 11,000 sq ft mansion built in 1904. 

SF Curbed

SF Curbed


The living room was a combination of elegance and DRAMA.  It was inspired by Givenchy's salon in Paris, where the courtier and his muse Audrey Hepburn spent many an afternoon. It spelled glamour & elegance. Designed by the inimitable Jonathan Rachman.

Rue Magazine

Rue Magazine


Love this chandelier & the plaster ceiling details. 

Jonathan Rachman

Jonathan Rachman


A classic corner with these vintage medallions & throw pillows.


A wonderful surprise - that's embroidered wallpaper! Designed by de Gournay. Can you tell what's embroidered and what's painted? 


Love, love, love the hardware in this very French country kitchen

hardware 2.JPG


You can achieve a similar look with grey cabinetry from IKEA & gold hardware off of Amazon.


Another stand out.. was this nook / side entry into the kitchen that had this stunning horse wall mount and the PERFECT hooks to go with it. 


While I didn't find a horse mount that was similar, I thought these horse head statues would look great on a console table. Search for "horse head statue" on Etsy and you'll see a bunch!


This tiny all-black bathroom brought in all sorts of drama with statement blue herring-bone tiling. Because this bathroom was small, I think going high on the drama was a smart choice. It definitely made a statement in person.

Courtney Springer Interiors

Courtney Springer Interiors


I liked the end tables that were in the master bedroom (which was monochromatic, with lots of greys and whites). Nice clean lines and cool drawer pulls.


I found a similar side table on Overstock that has this rustic/industrial feel to it. Add on some fun accessories (some gold in there :)) And I paired it with this gorgeous chinoiserie panel to breathe some life into the space!


One of my favorites - the "lady of the house" room. This gold etagere (aka open shelving unit) was a study in how to style a bookshelf. A horizontal and vertical arrangement of books, layering,  combining antiques with modern pieces, and that gorgeous sunburst mirror.


Also, you can't go wrong with a sunburst mirror and malachite candles :)


You can achieve a similar look by combining some of these elements with your own curios and decorative objects!


A very inviting corner & a touch of zen - in the master bath. And the greek key pattern towels are ever stylish. Also, you can't see it, but the tiling was really understated and beautiful.



I love the interesting-ness greek key patterns bring into a room. Pulled out a few favorites that make for great accents.


This laundry room was STUNNING.  You just can't go wrong with blue & white. Wallpaper by de Gournay. And that pendant lamp went really well with the room.

One element I loved was the trim on the roman shades - definitely caught my eye!

details shades.jpg


How gorgeous is the Grecian Urn wallpaper.  It brought in high glam into this very feminine, elegant bathroom with 2 beautiful vanities

double wallpaper.JPG
Molie Malone

Molie Malone


A simple combination of olive trees in black planters & metal lanterns, made for a nice vantage point for the phenomenal view. 

SF Curbed

SF Curbed


I loved this wood inlay table in one of the children's rooms.  


An inlay accent in a room is so warm, old-world charm gorgeous! I was very inspired & found this beautiful Anthropologie inlay mirror that I felt would be perfect in an entryway.

You could pair it with a glass console table and some gorgeous accents. (I especially LOVE this adorable pagoda print from Etsy for some layering)


Or keep it classic chic


And last but not the least, an all-black office had this particularly fun corner with a bevy of gilded frames. All-black can be intimidating to some, but it definitely set the mood here. The antique frames with abstract art were just the right touch.


Gilded gallery walls are super eye catching. Go antique (search on Etsy for "gold frame gallery wall") . Or keep it clean and contemporary, like this wall created with frames from Framebridge.

Anything in here you love?  Drop me a line in the comments. I'm happy to answer any questions!


Image Credits: SF Curbed, Jonathan Rachman, Courtney Springer Interiors, me


Statement Pieces

One piece of design advice that has really stayed with me (this one from the inimitable Erin Gates) is this - pick one item you absolutely, die-hard LOVE, something that makes a statement or has an interesting shape or color, and build the rest of the room around it. It's really good advice.  

Right now there's 2 things I'm in love with that I feel make for great design elements in a room.

1. The bold & beautiful federal eagle mirror.  It's definitely statement-making and so so versatile. 


You can put it above the fireplace, in an entryway....


Up the stairs... literally place in anywhere, and it works. It just takes the space up a notch.


2. X benches! They're such an EASY way to bring some style into a space. Especially smaller spaces like an entryway (and they serve a purpose - sit down and wear your shoes people :P)  They're great in the living room too for some extra seating, apart from being so visually interesting.

I love, love these malachite pattern X-benches designed by Erin Gates (from her book Elements of Style). Never get old to look at. Aren't they stunning?

x benches banana leaf.jpg


And here's one that has both my favorites in one place! 

What do you think? Any of these call out to you? :)


Image Credits: Desert Domicile,  Haus And Home, Cup Half Full,  The Gathered Home, Element of Style,  Laurel Home,  Bright on the day, No 29 Design