Although not literally on my bookshelf yet, since I haven’t been able to part with it for too long and it is always strategically placed nearby, on my coffee table or nightstand, Nora Murphy’s new book is a delightful read. It is a charming, down-to-earth guide to capturing that soulful feel of a well-appointed country house in your own home, wherever that may be. More than a set of rules,?country house style is, according to Nora, a state of mind. It’s a cozy and pretty home where family and friends are always welcome, a home that honors tradition and the past, decorated with care and attention to detail with things that are not “precious” but treasured. More than anything, a country house is warm and personal.

All good things so, if you love country homes and dream of one day owning your own, this book is for you. Part wish book, part primer, Nora Murphy’s Country House Style will have you both entertained and inspired. Starting with the excellent photography, specially commissioned, and the large format, Nora takes us on a whirlwind tour of her own home as well as that five real, carefully selected country homes of some of our favorite decorators and bloggers around the U.S. I’ve been savoring every page!

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Well, things are shaping up at the Contreras household. After a long weekend filled with both work and play, we’re happy to be done with the messier projects in our living room. We finished the bookshelves a week ago but we wanted to take advantage of all the books being on the floor and paint the walls too. This board below illustrates my initial plans for the room. I say initial because I have since changed my mind. I still love my original choices for the space but, I have realized that they won’t work so well for our room.?The reason is the lack of architectural details like crown molding, trim or hardwood flooring. I’d love to see this scheme come to life with a backdrop of white paneled (vertical shiplap) walls, even a fireplace and pickled, wide heart of pine floors. I’m looking for a chic cottage feel but the truth is our simple white walls and beige wall-to-wall apartment carpeting?won’t do this blue-and-white scheme justice.

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I’ve been meaning to write this blog post ever since I started blogging, two and a half years ago. Set design is a fascinating art and?I’ve always wondered?how great sets are made to look and feel real, lived-in and warm. Lighting, color and easy camera access are some of the main concerns when designing a set, concerns we don’t have when designing our own homes.

Ivan and I are very different when it comes to watching a movie…while he remembers (for years) the story and characters, I forget all, except the sets and how a movie feels.?One set that has been on my mind for a long time is that of a relatively recent sitcom, HOT IN CLEVELAND (2011-2015). Not because it is particularly pretty (it is but there are so many others like it), but because of the way it makes you?feel – instantly at ease and at home. ?It is also one of the prettiest sitcom sets I’ve ever seen – cozy, colorful, elegant and full of old-world-charm.

The story unfolds in Cleveland, Ohio where a group of three L.A. friends stop on their way to Paris after their plane has an emergency landing and, charmed by the warmth and slower pace of this Midwestern town, decide to stay. It’s a tale of second chances, of finding love and happiness later in life. It’s also funny and cheerful, and quite cheeky at times. ?What else can you expect when the main cast includes the fabulous Betty White, whom I adore from her Golden Girls days, as well as Jane Leeves and Wendie Malick, both Frasier alumns. The guest stars alone are a joy to watch – Tim Daly, Sean Hayes, John Mahoney, Joan Rivers, Mary Tyler Moore, Craig Ferguson, David Spade, Kristin Chenoweth, Carol Burnett, Jennifer Love Hewitt… and the list goes on. You’ve got to see a few episodes when you have the time!?Back to the sets….?Let’s take a peek!


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If you’ve been following Café Design for some time, then you know I can’t go too long without posting about the work of one of my favorite designers – Mark D. Sikes. While I’m anxiously awaiting the reveal of his freshly decorated Hollywood Hills home, I’ve been perusing his portfolio in search of inspiration. I didn’t need to look far, as each project is beautiful and inspiring. But one project in particular stood out, a small cottage in Marin County that I’ve not blogged about before. We’ve seen images of its rooms in Sikes’ first book, Beautiful (by the way, the second one is in the works as we speak) but I thought it would be fun to piece together the different rooms into a detailed tour of this lovely blue and white cottage.

Layers of texture, a mix of patterns and a cohesive color palette of blue and white are a tried and true recipe for a chic coastal home. I love the white painted floors, they really open up the space. I also like that Sikes chose a mix of bistro chairs and wing backs for the dining area. It all looks super comfortable and chic. To make sure the palette doesn’t run too cold, natural fiber rugs, baskets, matchstick shades, butcher block countertops in the kitchen and?a tented ceiling in yummy natural wood tones were used for balance. Let’s peek inside, shall we?


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We’re just about ready with our Ikea bookcase upgrades (it only took us three weeks ?? ) and I couldn’t be happier with how they turned out. I’m still trying to figure out how to best style them and fit all of our things (i.e hide all the ugly stuff) and still have them look pretty. In the meantime, here are some different configurations I’ve been contemplating for arranging our books. There are certainly many schools of thought on the subject, and everybody likes different things.? Some prefer to arrange their books by color & size, with spines reversed, upside down, with/without protective jacket covers for a monochromatic, unified look… there are so many ways to go about this!

So far, I’m a fan of keeping it simple and arranging them by size and theme, spine forward and no dust jackets, rather than by color, but I’m experimenting with different configurations. After looking at many of my favorite bookcase images collected over time, I realized I also really, really love the look of bookshelves that are full, maybe 97-98% books and only the remaining 2-3% decorative objects (blue and white porcelain, picture frames and/or boxes, shells and other bits and bobs). How about you? Do you have a favorite way to style your bookcase? Do you display more books, or more decorative objects? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this… ?In the meantime, here is some Pinterest shelf-candy!


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