Coming clean about the ugly truth of downsizing

Now that we have downsized from our big home into a small urban apartment it seems that’s all anyone wants to talk about. All my baby boomer clients, anyone that follows my blog and all my friends tell me they are so impressed with what we have accomplished. They say they too want to downsize within the next couple of years but get overwhelmed just thinking about it.

Since it is (mostly) behind us, I can sum up the process of downsizing in two words…downsizing sucks! It’s a TON of work and seriously, the single most difficult thing I have ever done and that includes chemo. The process is obviously different for everyone, but for me, a collector of all things beautiful and meaningful, getting rid of things was at times downright painful. Imagine lining up all your friends and saying, “okay, I love you all but there is no longer room in my life to stay in contact with all of you so I am going to choose ten of you to remain in my life. To the rest… “it’s been nice knowing you..sayonara!”

Downsizing is different for everyone and to some it’s moving from 5000 sq ft to 2800 sq ft. What my husband and I did though I would call extreme downsizing. We are now living in less than 30% of our previous space, just over 1000 sq ft. The biggest lesson I learned is that downsizing is definitely a process and the more time you give yourself for the transition the less traumatic it will be. We also found there are three distinct phases in the downsizing process.

The first phase of downsizing is relatively easy. It feels great to get rid of old junk and to sell or donate household items, dated furniture, old sports equipment, linens and no longer worn clothes. Trip after trip to drop off items to various charities made me feel happy and lighter every time. 

The second phase of downsizing is harder (much harder). A baby bassinet that had been in our family for over a hundred years (tossed, no one wanted it), antique furniture passed down from my parents and my husband’s parents (donated or sold for pennies on the dollar), my husband’s prized collection of over 600 record albums including many rare live recordings (sold for next to nothing), ceramics and artwork dating back to daycare years with my children’s hand prints and handwritten sentiments like “best mommy in the world” (tossed…sorry kids) it all went. It is true what everyone says, once it’s gone you really don’t miss it but it’s hard to let it go none the less. 

Now for the ugly truth:

The third phase of downsizing is where we have stalled (failed). This phase involves getting rid of the most “valuable” or meaningful items you own, mainly, the family heirlooms. In our case it’s things like my grandfather’s World War I medical kit (he was a doctor during the war and served on the front lines). It’s oil paintings done by my artist grandmother, it’s a large sextant that was used to navigate the boat that brought my great grandfather from Scotland to Prince Edward Island, it’s family photo albums from the turn of the century and antique blue and white china from my husband’s grandmother….the list goes on and on. Over the years my husband and I have become the caretakers of all these family heirlooms.

old world master style oil painting of little girl at desk.

This is a portrait of my mother when she was three years old painted by her uncle. I have the bracelet she is wearing with the three pearls on it. My grandfather added a new pearl for each birthday until she turned seven when the great depression hit and he lost all his money. It’s desperately needs to be cleaned and is not our style but I also can’t imagine getting rid of it.

Treasures are different for everyone but I guarantee when you downsize you will have items you simply aren’t ready to let go of. These treasures have huge value to us but sadly little to no value to anyone else. We tried out an online auction site and gave them a $700 signed vintage art print that we gifted ourselves on our tenth wedding anniversary. Here is a photo of the commission check.

EBTH commission check

My EBTH commission check

In case you can’t read that number on the check it is sixty cents! Yup, our much loved framed and signed art print sold for one dollar. 

So I’m coming clean to everyone who says how impressed they are with what we did. My dirty little secret is that we have not one but TWO storage lockers full of family heirlooms and things we simply don’t know what to do with. My kids might want some of it someday but they have no interest in it now and no space in their tiny Boston apartments. Now in fairness to us, one of the units is very small and almost empty and we have given ourselves a deadline of Sept to clear it out completely. The second one though seems like there is no clean out date in sight. There has to be an end though because everyday with these units feels like a loudly ticking clock and every month the storage fees are equal to a new car payment. As much as it’s causing me stress to store these items I am equally as stressed and conflicted about getting rid of these family memories. Sadly, there are no other family members to give them to beyond our immediate family.

So now that I’ve shared my ugly secret I would love to hear from you. Have you downsized? if so, was it easy or challenging. What did you do with your family heirlooms? 

(side note: I’ve read Marie Kondo’s books about “tidying up” and many more downsizing articles so I am well aware of what the experts say so please don’t tell me to take a photo of it and “thank it” for being in my life).








How to take better interior photos with your iPhone camera

I gave up my career as a professional photographer in 2009. Besides being burnt out from the business itself, I had both arthritis and two bulging discs in my neck. Twenty five years of hauling around heavy cameras, lenses, lighting, and all the supporting equipment had finally taken it’s toll. What never changed though was my love of photography. After a break from the daily grind I found my passion stirring once again after I purchased my first iPhone. I was very surprised at the quality of photos I could get with just a little editing. Now I take photos with my iphone almost daily and continue to see my everyday world as if looking through a lens.

At the Design Blogger’s Conference one of the speakers was professional photographer Colleen Duffley. Duffley travels the world on high profile assignments, so imagine my surprise when she said she shoots some of her jobs, including commercial jobs, with her iPhone! Duffley used a term I had never heard called “iphonography” which is professional photography using an iPhone. I am now rethinking everything I thought I knew about my iPhone camera.

One of the biggest challenges taking photos with the iPhone is getting the exposure right. Outside is usually no problem but inside it can be challenging and one that designers encounter all the time. The scenario usually involves trying to photograph an interior with windows in the shot or maybe just a window treatment but the bright outside light coming through the window causes the rest of the room to be too dark. Here is a typical example taken of a corner of my family room.


The camera’s light sensor will always pick the lightest area to determine exposure. However, there is a simple trick to override the sensor. Place and hold your finger on one of the darker parts of the image. After a few seconds a yellow box with a sun icon will appear.

familyroom 2

Hold your finger on a darker part of the image and a sun icon appears

Simply touch the sun and slide your finger either up or down to lighten or darken the photo. This will over ride the camera’s sensor.

Here is the same corner after I moved the sun icon up toward the top of the yellow bar.

family room3

The image is not perfect but the exposure is a lot better than before. What I would do next is then use an app to fix the converging lines and tweak the lighting even more. That’s more advanced and I will save that for another post.

Here is another example using the drapery. The first photo is how the iPhone camera wants to expose the shot.


This is the image after bringing up the sun icon by placing my finger on the drapery part of the image and sliding the sun icon up toward the top of the yellow bar.

drapery2Big difference right? So I hope this was helpful and I will continue to share more iPhone camera tips on this blog in the coming weeks.

Tell me your biggest iPhone photography challenge and I will answer your question in an upcoming post.

The home trend that has nothing to do with decorating

There is a growing trend happening in home interiors. Shelter magazines, decorating blogs and news show are all abuzz over it. What is it you ask? It is the desire to free ourselves from excess “stuff” and simplify our life by decluttering or “tidying”.

In case you haven’t heard, this is the bombshell book that has rocked the world and caused millions to jump on the “tidying” bandwagon.

Tidying book image

Marie Kondo’s book came into my life at the perfect time because a diagnosis of Cancer has a way of shifting one’s mind set. I thought back to when my mom and also my husband’s mom passed away from Cancer and my husband and I were responsible for cleaning out two entire households of belongings. It took us years and years (over ten to be exact) to finally sort through and deal with everything. It wasn’t the furniture that was the problem but all the stuff (crap) that was stored in the closets, cabinets, bookcases, attic and basement. When I think back on all the wasted time, expense and energy we devoted to first moving then storing and then moving that stuff again, it sickens me. I vowed I would NEVER do that to my kids so if not now, when?

Now let me be clear, my husband and I are not striving to live a minimalist life style which is what Kondo’s book basically advocates. Instead, we simply want to unburden ourselves and ultimately our sons of way more stuff than we need or use. I believe her book has become such a phenomenon because the over consumerism that most of us have fully enjoyed due to cheap labor has run it’s course. Boomers are looking to downsize, gen X’ers are interested in locally made quality goods and millennials prefer spending their paychecks on experiences rather than cheaply made throw away items.

Kondo’s message is very powerful and after reading her book and then having my husband read her book, we decided we were ready to take action and purge or as Kondo refers to it, “detox” our home. Kondo’s process is not about deciding what to get rid of but rather what to keep.The criteria for keeping an item is to hold it in your hands and ask yourself does it spark joy in your heart? Is it useful and if so, do you use it? Rather than go room by room Kondo’s method is to declutter by category. Clothes first followed by books then papers, then miscellaneous items and finally sentimental items.

Since my husband was off work between Christmas and the New Year we spent a good chunk of that week beginning Kondo’s tidying process. Clothing was a breeze because I have very little attachment to clothes nor does he. The final clothing donate pile was four feet high and eight feet long. The photo below are just my husband’s donations.

clothing donation

seven large trash bags of clothes were donated

Books were a little more painful as I am a book lover. Nevertheless we let go of 8 big boxes of books. We spent two full days on papers and then moved to miscellaneous and started with kitchen items.

Until I actually touched everything we owned I had no idea how many things did not spark joy in my heart and how many things I no longer used or needed. I was surprised to see we owned four Pyrex measuring cups, twenty three sets of chop sticks (we rarely use chop sticks) and a waffle iron that I forgot I even owned.

kitchen clutter

Cuisinart, pots and pans and misc. items are just some of the kitchen items we purged

Interestingly, Kondo talks in the book about how this detoxing process can cause actual physical illness. A few days after we started purging my husband who very rarely gets sick had flu like symptoms. I didn’t get sick but that whole week I felt like I was coming down with something.

Our house detoxing is far from complete but we are making progress. One half of our garage is now completely filled with donations. I will admit that I had remorse several times over the monetary valuable of some of the things were we letting go but I stayed strong. Freedom from clutter that doesn’t spark joy is more important right now as I look forward to good health, travel, and eventually downsizing.

We still have many weeks of work on the miscellaneous items and then the really challenging work will begin…the sentimental items. Kondo says her average client takes about six months to completely detox their home. We are shooting for completion by Summer so that sounds about right.

Wish me luck and I will be sure to update you with our progress.


Friday’s Photo: Adding interest to a white kitchen

A few months ago while at the Boston Design Center I passed the Christopher Peacock kitchen showroom. They had just finished redoing the cabinet display in the front window and this is what I noticed.

Christopher Peacock Kitchen showroom

Christopher Peacock Kitchen showroom

No matter what you think about white kitchens, they are classic and never go out of style. To keep a white kitchen from looking boring or sterile (a complaint I hear often) think about incorporating a few design elements like Peacock did.

1. Add a back splash with some personality. I’m not saying go crazy with busy or bossy tiles but a subtle pattern in neutral tones adds interest without overwhelming.

2. Add a statement sink. The dark gray soap stone farmers sink relates to the gray tiles and breaks up the long expanse of white on white cabinets and counter top. The wood detail on the bottom matches the wood lined open shelving.

3. Break up a wall of white cabinetry with open shelving or glass fronts. Peacock used walnut wood to add some warmth against the high gloss white cabinets.

4. Bring in some natural elements. I love plants or herbs in the kitchen and although the topiaries in this kitchen are obviously fake it gives you the general idea.

5. Add color with accessories. Since this is a cabinet showroom they most likely didn’t want anything too colorful to distract from what they sell. In your own kitchen think about adding color with pottery, colorful glassware or even colorful small appliances.

These tips will keep your white kitchen from looking anything but boring.

Have a great weekend everyone. I finish up with my last chemo treatment next week so I am very excited to put that part of treatment behind me.




Didn’t see this coming

Fair warning: This post is long, completely personal and has absolutely nothing to do with design, decorating, color or trends.

Life as we all know is a cycle of both good times and not so good times. Just recently I was thinking about how at the moment I was in one of the good times. Everything is going so well both with my business and my personal life. My kids are “launched”, busy creating a business of their own, living in Boston and supporting themselves. My husband is employed at a job he likes and has the flexibility to work at home. I have what I consider the world’s best friends and I could not ask for better clients. I have the amount of design projects that feels just right and I was invited on two different BlogTours with Modenus and the awesome Veronika Miller. I had the time of my life on both trips and met some of the most inspiring creative people who I am blessed to say are now my friends. Yup, everything was more or less perfect.

Then in an instant my life was completely derailed. Three weeks ago I was blindsided with a diagnosis of invasive breast Cancer….wait what??? I’ve always been the healthy one. I have been eating “clean” since before it was even a thing. I exercise (at least I try to), I’ve never smoked and I do my best to keep stress to a minimum.  I feel great so this must be a mistake, besides, I’m way too busy to deal with Cancer. My mind flashes to two friends, both who died in their 30’s from breast cancer, both leaving toddlers without a mom. I think of my friend Christine who is currently fighting metastatic breast cancer. I think of my Dad who died a slow painful death from lung Cancer exactly 25 years ago this week at the young age of 62, and my Mom who died 17 years later from an equally terrible struggle with brain Cancer. I think, am I going to die? This will destroy my family.  I feel like I can’t breath, I feel sick, I cry.

On the drive home I think about all the things I still want to do. I have never been to Italy, I want to attend Maison and Objet in Paris and swim in Caribbean waters again. I want to visit London and I want to tour the wineries in Sonoma.  I want to go back to High Point with my friends Kim, Kelly, Casey and Jeffery and see all my long distance designer friends. I think of my kids. I want to see them get married and maybe one day have a grand daughter that I can take to the Ritz for tea, and the ballet. Silly things too, like I need to paint the front door and I still haven’t ordered a new sofa for the family room.

I tell my husband, I tell my boys, I tell my close friends.

We meet with the surgeon a few days later. She is calming and very reassuring. She stresses that my Cancer is small and that I am extremely lucky it was caught early. My Cancer is stage 1 (on a scale of 1-4). The initially pathology report from the needle biopsy shows it is a type 2 Cancer (on a scale of 1-3). Not great, but thank God it is not a 3. As long as my margins and lymph nodes are clear I will not need chemotherapy, only radiation.

I try and stay as busy and distracted as possible waiting for the surgery but the word Cancer, becomes an all present loud voice in my head. I am checking out at Whole Foods and the perky 20 something cashier smiles and asks “how are you today”? I smile back just as perky and say “fine thanks”… the voice inside my head screams “I HAVE CANCER!”. I am at the bank making a deposit and the teller asks, “Anything else I can do for you today?” I smile back, “Nope, all set”. The voice screams “YEAH, CAN YOU CURE MY CANCER?”

I had the surgery two weeks ago and the news was the best it could be. Both the margins and the lymph nodes were clear. No chemo needed!!! I tell EVERYONE the good news. My husband brings home champagne, the boys come with my son’s girlfriend. We all celebrate. I feel like I have dodged a bullet. I don’t need to go public with the news because I know radiation won’t be fun but it will have minimal impact on my life and business. I have four days of bliss thinking I am in the clear.

Then we meet with the Oncologist. She is very sorry to have to tell me some unexpected bad news. The final pathology report comes back and the Cancer I have (had) is clearly type 3 (fast growing highly aggressive form).  I need chemo, I will go bald, I will be tired, I will be sick, I will be a Cancer patient. For the second time in just two and a half weeks I feel completely blindsided.  I can’t breath, I feel sick, I cry. This time the news seems even more devastating because I had already told EVERYONE the good news. I can’t bring myself to tell anyone the new bad news. I slowly tell people, everyone is shocked and sad.

In ten days I have Pre-Chemo “class” (I find this quit humorous because I always describe myself as a life long learner). I start treatment a few days after that. It seems somewhat surreal because I feel so healthy yet in just a couple weeks I will be bald, tired and sick. After twelve weeks of Chemo I will then have 6 weeks of daily radiation treatments. It will be almost the holidays until I’m done. I have no idea how I will feel since everyone reacts differently to chemo. My Oncologist says she has patients in their 30’s that can barely get off the couch and patients in their 70’s who hardly miss a beat.

My intention is to stay positive and work as much as possible. My friends, family, and clients have been and are, incredibly supportive. I cut my hair short(er) in preparation of what is to come. I am working like a fiend getting some painting, cleaning and house projects finished before chemo begins. I’m already scheming about how I can turn chemo treatments into a design related blog post. It will be interesting to see what colors they use in the treatment room, hopefully they are uplifting.

So my friends, my next step is a trip with my good friend and wardrobe stylist Susan kanoff to pick out a wig. I’m thinking “short and sassy” might be a good look for me.

short and sassy

But then again…life is short!


Enjoy the little things my friends and whatever you do, don’t put off those yearly screening tests!



NYC Spring 2015 window displays

Every time I visit New York City I have the same thought, “Why don’t I do this more often?” New York City is only a little more than three hours from Boston but the truth is, I rarely go. I can come up with lot’s of excuses why; hotels are expensive, I don’t know anyone there and I can never find a good time to take time off work.

While attending the Architectural Digest Home Show a couple of weeks ago I once again was reminded of how inspirational the city is and how I really need to make an effort to travel there more often. Even just walking the streets while checking out the windows is a visual delight. Look at these terrific windows I spotted while walking the famous 5th avenue.



One thing I noticed as trending in almost every window was the use of faceless all white mannequins. One reason may be because color continues to be big this Spring and what better way to showcase those colorful clothes than against a clean white background.

Bergdorfs had an interesting theme for their Spring windows as each window vignette highlighted a different sense. The one below is taste. Not totally clear on the message but those are big white cakes above the models heads. The dress on the right with the pompoms is not something I could wear in a million years but the one on the left I love.


This second window vignette for smell is more clear as that is a big nose encased in that Lucite box. The message is further driven home with all those flowers in the background. I love the two skirts in this window as well.

This last one for hearing is even more literal with a huge ear floating front and center. I usually get annoyed by the street reflections in the window but actually loved the reflection here.


The rich saturated blue background grabbed my attention in Fendi’s window. It’s hard to tell the scale but that bag is about 10 feet tall and fills the entire window.


Leave it to Ralph Lauren to keep his mannequins classic and beautiful. This was another window where I thought the street reflections added interest to my photo. It’s almost as if the mannequin is making a ghost like appearance by stepping right out of the wall of the building.

Ralph Lauren

Ralph Lauren

For those of you that watch Downton Abbey, this window had a fun discovery. If you have seen the opening “commercial” for the series it shows Ralph Lauren painting a water color of a jeweled necklace on a model. It then shows an actual model wearing that same necklace down the runway. Here is the  necklace on the mannequin in the window.

This last window is Dolce and Cabbana. I know they have had some very bad press lately by making some really dumb comments that don’t even make sense. I did however enjoy their window because I interpret it as “Winter” waiting for “Spring” to come to life.

Dolche and cababa

I hope you enjoyed a little glimpse of the New York City Spring 2015 window displays. I have made a commitment to myself to get to NYC more often and as Wayne Dyer says, “excuses be gone”!!!….Anyone want to join me?



Dining By Design Dining vignettes part 2

One of the most notable things about seeing this year’s vignettes at Dining By Design was the huge variation in each designers vision for their space. Since it’s not like a show house where there are certain rules, dining by design is a blank slate for the designers to just have fun. I shared some of the vignettes last week in part one and today I bring you more…the glamorous to the crazy.

This vignette designed by Bronson Van Wyck for Architectural Digest was one of my favorites. I love the Curry chandelier and the tented striped fabric along with the Moroccan inspired wall treatment (couldn’t tell if it was paper or fabric). I’ve always had a fantasy to dine in a tent in the desert maybe while on safari.

Bronson Van Wyck: Linda Holt Photo

Bronson Van Wyck: Linda Holt Photo

Speaking of fantasy, this room certainly fit the bill.  Lit with all blue lights the table was set under tree branches hung with Spanish moss.


Linda Holt Photo

This next vignette was all about glitz and glamour. Sparkling crystal sheets were hung under spot lights to illuminate the table and the walls were constructed with reflective panels. It would be like dining inside a silver jewelry box with Marilyn as your dinner companion.


Linda Holt Photo

This one done by Marks and Frantz was another one I was drawn to. Those green and gold chairs are amazing and I love the green orchids tucked into broad leaf green plants running down the table. The glass sputnik chandelier and vintage Opera photo mural add to the old Hollywood glamorous look and feel.

green roomRed

Marks and Frantz: Linda Holt Photo

There were some crazy dining rooms as well. This one by Evette Rios for Moen might induce a seizure while dining but how fun! Notice how she used their shower heads as the chandeliers.

Moen:Linda Holt Photo

Evette Rios for Moen:Linda Holt Photo

Minimalism was on display in a few rooms like this one done by Arteriors. Obviously the Arteriors Brutalist inspired chandelier and wall scones were the focal point in this room. Something about that heavy metal chandelier hanging above that glass table made me a bit uneasy but the small stools don’t look like they would encourage long drawn out after dinner conversation anyways .

Arteriors: Linda Holt Photo

Arteriors: Linda Holt Photo

Don’t know who designed this room, but like Arteriors, more contemporary design with not very comfortable looking “chairs”. Perfect for dining under the full moon though.


This dining room was by Ralph Lauren. Obviously the focus is on their paint color offerings but it would be fun to eat at this table just the same.

Ralph Lauren: Linda Holt Photo

Ralph Lauren: Linda Holt Photo

Great idea using the paint cans as flower vases and paint stirring sticks as name cards.

Ralph Lauren: Linda Holt Photo

Ralph Lauren: Linda Holt Photo

Anthropologie created a colorful vignette with a “tree ” made from old wood scraps and bright blue flowers made from plastic bottles. I loved that they chose just two colors, pink and blue and then used neutrals for the walls and furniture. It really makes the pink and blue pop.

Anthropologie:Linda Holt Photo

Anthropologie: Linda Holt Photo

Anthropologie: Linda Holt Photo

Anthropologie: Linda Holt Photo

This last one was a mystery to me but hey, it’s Orange, one of my favorite colors so I have gone ahead and included it. Plus, this room seems to be all about drinking wine and I can certainly get on board with that.

Linda Holt Photo

Linda Holt Photo

I hope you enjoyed seeing the 2015 Dining By Design table vignettes. Which one is your favorite?

Just in case you missed it you can see the other dining spaces in my post part one HERE.





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