Portland Home Tour: Lesia + Sean’s Light-filled Pearl District Studio

DSC_0179.jpgI love discovering how other people live: How they decorate their space, how they spend their downtime, what their habits and rituals are…you get the idea. Maybe I’m nosy? (I prefer to think of it as naturally curious.) People are just so fascinating! And since our homes often reflect a lot about who we are, I’m always intrigued to see “inside”. So I’m thrilled to feature my second-ever Home Tour today, bringing you into the Portland apartment of my friends Lesia and Sean.

DSC_0254.jpgLesia is an account executive at influencer marketing platform company Little Bird and a photographer, and Sean is a visual artist. They live with their dog Bosco in a 636 sq ft studio in the Crane Lofts building in Portland’s Pearl District. Built in 1909, the building was completely restored and renovated in 2006, and features massive windows and beautiful red brick walls.

Here, Lesia and I chat about what it’s like living with her own Bob Ross, entertaining in a small space, how she makes her home smell great,  and what she daydreams about while gazing out their giant windows… Continue reading


‘Round the Web: February 2016

photo-1433424165784-75568b0aca13How’s everyone doing?

Last night I had the chance to see one of my favourite Canadian singers, Basia Bulat, perform in Portland. She was amazing! (I went with Joe, who got us tickets as part of my Christmas gift.) This woman plays a zillion instruments and sings with her whole body, every part of her in the song and in the moment. It’s such a joy to see.

Today we are heading to our friends Dianna and Evan’s place to watch the Oscars with our Portland crew. We all had vague intentions of “dressing up” for the event but have decided to go to to the opposite end of the spectrum instead, with a theme of pajamas/extreme comfort. Dianna is going to make her famous “Rotel” dip, which is literally just canned Rotel tomatoes and Velveeta cheese, stirred and heated. It’s completely gluttonous and stupidly delicious. (I can’t wait.) Very intrigued to see how Chris Rock deals with #oscarssowhite and hoping he doesn’t hold back.

Onto the links, if you’re looking for some coffee (or whatever else you may be sipping) companionship…

What a beautiful Modern Love essay

10 ways to tie a scarf

Breasts: The Odd Couple made me smile and think back to my ‘late bloomer’ years. “I was only twelve, but already understood that a mismatched set put me at a cultural disadvantage. We girls pick things up along the path to puberty, collecting whispers like wildflowers and poring over teen magazines as if reading sacred texts.”

* Currently reading this book. And this one. (Lots of easy-to-implement wisdom in both.)

Barbie’s got a new body (Finally!)

* Have you seen the movie Room? Joe and I watched it a couple weeks ago, and we both thought it was excellent. I enjoyed this interview with Brie Larson, the lead actress, on the radio show q recently, discussing her intense preparation for the role.

The problem with “diversity”. (And a vote for inclusion.)

* Lastly, the best parts of being in love…13 couples and one solo artist on what being in a relationship means.

Have a wonderful Sunday.

xox ~C.
(Photo by Anette Grolle)

Freelance Dispatch: My (Unexpected) Business Card Design


I’m excited to introduce a new series on the blog today: Freelance Dispatch! (Insert hi-hat cymbals sound.)

As the name suggests, this series is going to dive into aspects of the freelance/creative life, with topics from my own experience and insights I come across from other people and places.

I might share posts on things I’ve learned through some of my client projects, or tips from creative professionals I respect and admire. I might discuss the challenges of working in ways that are both creative and efficient (hint: they don’t always go together). I might feature different kinds of creative work spaces or the rituals of famous artists and writers.

I might even share a few secrets.

Whether you are a creative professional or not, if you’re at all interested in the creative process, creative people, or creating an unconventional life or career, my hope is that this series will be filled with useful stuff that sparks or speaks to your own creative thinking and projects.

On that note, I’m kicking things off with a behind-the-scenes glimpse of my new business card design.

I’d been wanting to get cards made for a long time, but put it off for a couple reasons:

*I’m super picky about aesthetics when it comes to things like layout/format/font/size/colour etc.—basically everything that would be needed in a card design. I knew the design process would require making a lot of decisions…and while I trust my taste, I can sometimes be indecisive about the details, which both exhausts and annoys me. (See, I am already telling you secrets. I’m actually a bit picky about most things. So much so that my mom nicknamed me ‘Pick’ as a kid. She still calls me that sometimes.:))

*I needed to find the right designer, which meant researching options, comparing portfolios, finding out pricing, etc. It’s time consuming and again, requires deciding on THE ONE…which, see above.

What I really wanted was a designer who I knew was talented and who I trusted would collaborate well. For me, this means understanding my vision, offering their own creative input, giving options, making changes graciously, and communicating in a way that’s friendly and professional. I wanted someone who truly cared about the design and would put in the effort to make it a successful project. I did some research, and ultimately went with my gut: I hired Shaun Kingerlee, a Vancouver, B.C.-based graphic designer who I had recently worked with (indirectly) on a website for a mutual client. I found Shaun really easy to communicate with on that project, which, along with his obvious talent, is one of the main reasons I hired him.

Fun fact: Shaun and I have known each other since 1988. We were both in Ms. Martin’s grade 5 class at Saanichton Elementary School, and I remember him often drawing in his sketchbook. Around the same time, I apparently told my mother I wanted to be an “author” when I grew up. So, the seeds of our career paths were already sprouting for both Shaun and I by the age of 10.

When I first reached out, Shaun responded within a day and said he’d be happy to take on the project. A fast first response goes a long way, in my opinion. Prospective clients are typically shopping around, and when a company gets back to them quickly, it shows they are genuinely interested (and bodes well for future communication). I make a point of responding within a day myself when someone contacts me for writing services, as I know they may also be contacting others. It’s such a missed opportunity if they go with someone else just because that person/company replied faster!

This is what I told Shaun at the outset: I don’t need a logo, so the design should be fairly straightforward…keeping in line with the clean look of my website, but perhaps with some element that makes it really stand out as well.

Looking back, ‘straightforward’ was probably a bit of a stretch, as we did A LOT of back and forth on this design, but it’s true that I didn’t have or need a logo.

Shaun then asked the following: Firstly, are you married to the fonts and colours used on your website? If so, can you tell me the names of the fonts? Also, what kind of quantities are you looking to have printed? Lastly, can you send me all the content you would like to have on your card?

And we were off! To the design collaboration races…which, in current day, means a lot of emailing back and forth. Thankfully, both of us were able to clearly articulate ourselves via email, which is NOT a skill that everyone has, I’ve learned.

I sent Shaun a document with answers to his questions, links to some card examples I liked on pinterest, and some of my ideas for design and content. These included:

*A two-sided card on a white background

*Using one or more of the accent colours from my website (teal and violet)

*My name in large font on front, list of specific services on the back (I provided all the wording)

*Using the font on my website or something similar…but I was open to font options

This is what Shaun came back with, first round: Continue reading

‘Round the Web: January 2016

photo-1445820200644-69f87d946277* How cool is this tiny house on Sauvie Island?

Minimalist Wardrobe Resolutions for a New Year

* The Hollywood Reporter’s 2016 Actress Roundtable (with Carey Mulligan, Jennifer Lawrence, Cate Blanchett, Jane Fonda, Brie Larson, Helen Mirren, Charlotte Rampling, and Kate Winslet)

What Being a Single Parent is Really Like

* Are you addicted to distraction? (Are we all?)

* These awesome women have created an invisible bike helmet. For real.

* Joe and I love making this pizza that’s super easy and actually healthy

Against the open office trend

7 Things You Can Actually Do About Climate Change

Amanda De Cadenet interviews Hillary Clinton on The Conversation. (All personal, not political.)

6 Rules for Great Storytelling

Lastly, thank you for all your thoughtful comments on my ‘By Chance’ post. I appreciate them very much. xox

(photo by Dominik Lange)

Joe’s (Amazing) Popcorn Recipe


A movie and popcorn night with Joe never gets old for me. That’s partly because I love movies, partly because I love Joe, and mostly because I love his popcorn.

(Okay, it’s all about the company.) But you guys, Joe’s popcorn is really good.

Which is why I need to share the recipe with you. We’ve tried a few different toppings on popcorn, but this is by far our favourite. I don’t write about food a whole lot, but we eat this at least once a week, and get excited for it every single time. I asked Joe to share the recipe, and he said, “in detail?”

So here it is, the step-by-step guide to possibly the best popcorn you’ll ever taste. Bonus: this recipe includes the secret to perfect stovetop popping (so you don’t end up with any burnt or un-popped kernels).

Joe’s Popcorn

Continue reading

Happiness, in a Hanging Basket


Last spring while choosing plants for our patio, I deliberated between a couple different ferns at our favourite Portland plant and flower shop, Sammy’s.

One was huge and bushy and beautiful. It was a showpiece, the kind of fern you stop to admire while hiking in the forest. I loved it. But it was so big I thought it might overpower the space, and overshadow the other plants.

The other fern was lovely, too. It was smaller, less bountiful, less of a ‘center stage’ player, but a solid, hardy-looking plant. It’s a better size for our patio, I told myself. It won’t obstruct the view of the trees. It was also less expensive. It’s the fern I bought.

I transplanted that fern from its plastic pot into a wire-frame hanging basket lined with moss, and hung it on a hook above the railing. It was the first plant to grace our new patio, and it looked good. I planted a bunch of starter fuschias in an identical basket and hung it on a hook beside the fern, and the two plants shared the shade all summer. I watered, misted, and trimmed out any browning leaves. The fern grew, a little, but its fronds never became overly full or bushy. It didn’t try to become something it wasn’t.

I liked that fern, a lot.

But I didn’t love it. I always wished I had gotten the bigger one.

Continue reading

A Food Blog for Dinner Lovers

DeathtoStock_Cozy1Next week I’ll be celebrating American Thanksgiving in Illinois with Joe’s family for the first time. Admittedly the above image is a little more “Christmas” than “turkey + stuffing”, but the sentiment is the same: gathering around a big table, feeling grateful for family and food.

Besides, Thanksgiving has already come and gone for my Canadian readers, so this can be a little holiday spirit in advance for you guys.

I’m the only vegetarian/pescatarian in the family, and Joe’s mom Sue is always super sweet about making sure there are lots of veggie options when we visit. Yesterday she emailed to ask if I had any suggestions for an extra side dish at Thanksgiving.

There was a time, a few years back, when the only side dish I knew how to make was my stepmom’s lemon and garlic roasted potatoes. They are crazy good, so back then I didn’t really mind not having other options in my repertoire. That was when I still worked in the restaurant industry, eating most of my dinners pre-shift, sitting at the bar at Il Terrazzo.

Times have changed. My meals are no longer cooked for me by a restaurant chef, and I have discovered cookbooks and food blogs. (I am useless without a recipe.) This is not to say I am now in any way great in the kitchen, only that I at least actually do things in the kitchen besides making coffee or grabbing a fork to dig into my Thai takeout.

There’s one food blog in particular I keep turning to… Continue reading

2 Months In: Our Flanders St. Living Room Progress


It’s been two months since we made the move from our studio apartment on Northrup to our third-floor Victorian on Flanders. In distance, the two places are just eight blocks apart, but psychologically the move was big, for a few reasons.

One is that in our old place our living room doubled as our bedroom, so right beside the futon and coffee table (which we have since sold), was our bed, with no door, no separation between the two areas. Joe and I both lived in studios in South Korea for two years before moving to Portland, and that set-up can totally work—it’s liberating, even, to have everything you need for daily life in one open space. But by this fall, we started thinking how sweet it would be to have our living room, which we hang out in all the time, be just that. (Truthfully, we also wanted a bedroom with a door to stop Cleo from waking us up at 5 a.m. wanting to play fetch with her little paper balls. This totally hasn’t worked. But it’s a dream we hope to see play out in the future.)

Part of the call for change was decor driven: we wanted to go in a new direction with our colours and furniture, but when you’re trying to create two spaces with two different purposes in one pretty small room, and you know the apartment is temporary, it’s a bit of a losing battle.

We were in a holding pattern: not that stoked about the stuff we had (bought rather hastily when we first moved to Portland), but not prepared to redesign when we knew a move was inevitable. I believe your surroundings impact your mental state, and being somewhat on pause in terms of our living space and uninspired by its aesthetic was making me feel blocked.

So I was pretty happy when we found a one-bedroom we really like, sold the pieces we didn’t want, packed up the rest, and moved in.

This is our current living room, the week before the move.

Living Rm 5

Living Rm 2

That’s a whole lot of tan-coloured flooring and tan-coloured grasscloth wallpaper. If I were renovating, instead of just decorating, these walls would be stripped and painted white, and the floors would be hardwood (still light), not laminate. But we’re working with what the universe has given us here.

This is where the living room is at now:



Two months in, it’s far from done, but our vision of cozy and calm, cohesive and eclectic (with style and pops of colour) is beginning to take form.


For those of you who are interested in such things, I’ll break down what we’ve done so far. The couch is the first thing we chose, and it’s this guy, from Walmart. We needed a sleeper sofa for guests, but didn’t want to spend a ton because when we eventually graduate to a two bedroom (one day!) we’ll invest in the real deal (meaning a couch that is only a couch, and doesn’t double as a bed), and this sleeper will find itself in that second bedroom.


For now, it’s great. A touch firm if you sit in the same spot too long, but totally does the trick and looks good. It’s modern, but with soft lines. We love the grey and I’m into the subtle tufting. My best friend Melissa who came to visit in March spent three nights on it and was her usual happy morning self, every morning.

10009308_10153886598985029_1477564179_n (1)

See, she looks like she had a good night’s sleep, right? That’s us down the street at Blue Moon Tavern. This was taken in the afternoon, after a hike through Forest Park, by the way. We don’t actually drink ciders in the morning. Although that could be fun. Maybe next time.


The coffee table and jute rug we found through craigslist (they’re the same pieces I mentioned in this post). The jute is originally from West Elm. It has a few snags, but they’re barely noticeable and we got it for the half the price of what it sells for new. The sheepskin under the coffee table was my grandma Lil’s, and I am so grateful to have it, and a part of her, with me forever. It’s not going to stay there though—I see it draped over my future desk chair that I have yet to find. I’m on the hunt for a bright beautiful patterned rug to layer over the jute instead, bringing more colour into the room and breaking up all that tan shade.

Something like this rug (photo from littlegreennotebook) would be cool. Maybe not quite that bright, but you get the idea:



The green floor cushion is from World Market. It’s essential seating for devouring cheese plates with friends around the coffee table. The little round dining table is also craigslist, a $20 rescue from a nearby town called Scappoose. Its legs are getting painted a soft grey this spring because while the size and shape is perfect, its colour blends in way too much with the floor and walls.

The bookcase: craigslist Ikea (this one) for a crazy deal.


I’ve gotta say, there is a whole lot of second-hand Ikea on craigslist. And while I much prefer unique vintage pieces, sometimes a well-priced Ikea item with clean lines that requires no sanding, repainting, or restaining lures me in. One day we will own a serious solid wood bookcase but for now this hit the size and colour we were looking for.

Plus, Cleo officially approved it.


Though I think she secretly wishes we’d put one of those giant wall-size cat scratching towers here. That will never, ever happen. (We have a small one for her strategically tucked behind the couch, next to the window.) Decor trumps kitten castle. Sorry, Cleo!

6Other plans include: Replacing the green mirror above the dining table with one that’s more interesting. I’ll know it when I see it. Different dining chairs, probably. (I like the yellow but its impact is diminished next to these walls.) Switch out the big gold pillow on the sofa for a few smaller ones, possibly patterned. Some sort of cozy reading chair in the far corner, to the left of the window. And more plants, of course!

Wow, that was some major chit chat about my living room. Thanks for staying with me, friends. This space is currently doubling as my office, which is much cooler than doubling as our bedroom. I can happily write in here for hours, which I do, most days. I’ll share more progress as the apartment evolves…our bedroom and patio are also in the works.

Are any of you moving/decorating/recreating your space? I’d love to hear about it, the challenges and the inspiration. Tell me what you’ve got going on! Happy spring to you all.


ps. Other apartment posts, including manifesting our 3rd Floor Victorian, and furnishing Our Flanders St. Pad


Inside Our Flanders St. Pad

You know what’s tricky?

Bdrm Patio doors

Trying to furnish your apartment through Craigslist when you don’t own a car.

Also, focusing on work when what you really feel like doing is checking out vintage chairs and area rugs on pinterest.

After living mostly in studios (and a lot of Indian, Indonesian, and Cambodian hotel rooms) for the last four years, Joe and I are feeling pretty inspired to get set up now that we’re in our new (1 bedroom!) place. In January we sold most of the furniture we acquired when we first moved to Portland, as a lot of it was hasty Craigslist purchases that ultimately just didn’t feel right. (I’m a believer in either changing or letting go of what’s not working. This applies to life as well as home decor.)

For our new pad, the vision is to create an atmosphere that’s cozy and calm but also has a lot of style and pops of colour. Cohesive and eclectic.

We also want to find as many sweet second-hand deals as we can, so we can bring some new things into the mix too, like bedding, throw pillows, and a couple of these nightstands:

Wire nightstand

which I just discovered and which are low enough to go with our (Ikea) Malm bed. Finding nightstands under 22 inches high is surprisingly difficult. We’ve been on the hunt for the last year! Most are designed for regular beds with high headboards, which is the opposite of the Malm. Someone needs to create a line of nightstands for all the low-bed sleepers out there. This is a million-dollar idea, I swear.

But back to Craigslist. You might find an item with serious potential, like this $45 coffee table:


But realize that because it’s located in Beaverton, a suburb 25 minutes southwest of Portland, you need to coordinate with the seller a time to see it that corresponds with renting a Getaround car in your neighbourhood, with a backseat big enough for the table’s 54 inches in length.

But you’re liking that narrow mid-century look, and it’s freshly painted, says Hanna, the seller, with gold on the drawer pulls and leg bottoms. $45 is a steal, you decide. Beaverton mission must happen, before someone else nabs it. Even if the soonest you can get there is 9 pm on a Tuesday night in the pouring rain.

The coffee table is now in our living room, on top of this second-hand jute rug from West Elm. (These are the Craigslist photos, not our apartment.)


The chair on the right here was a $10 find just a few blocks away, no car needed. It’s now in a corner of our bedroom.


This is the sort of thing we’ve been up to since moving—tracking down good finds, checking measurements, visualizing if something will work, and then either passing or making it happen. There’s still a lot on our to-do/wish list, but the place is starting to come together. Especially with the recent spontaneous addition of a lavender plant on top of our fridge and a big-leafed tropical called a monstera deliciosa next to our living room window. I must admit I feel pretty wistful about all the houseplants in beautiful pots I gave away when I moved to Korea four years ago. I don’t even remember which friends got what plants, but I had vines, ferns, a massive jade and others that I’d nurtured over the span of seven years. It’s the tradeoff of living in other parts of the world, this starting over, the rebuilding after. But so worth it.

Here’s what we’re working with:

The Living Room

Living Rm 5

Top floor of a 19th century Victorian house = angled ceilings everywhere. This gives the place tons of character but also limits your useable floor space, which can make the layout a challenge. We were a little worried these crazy living room angles were going to make it feel too enclosed, but they don’t at all. Just the right amount of cozy.

That weird triangle window on the left looks out to our patio. We’re trying to coax Cleo into making the area below it into her sleeping zone, which is sort of working, until about 6 a.m. when she starts scratching at our bedroom door and crying to get in.

Living Rm 2

The wallpaper is grasscloth, which gives it a cabin-esque feel. My preference would be white walls, but we love the place, so no complaints.

The Kitchen

Kitchen 2

One of our biggest priorities when we were manifesting a new apartment was a kitchen that had a decent amount of counter space (vs. our old one, which had basically zero counters) and was open to the living room. We want to hang out and cook at the same time. If Joe’s making us roasted veggie and chipotle quesadillas, we want to be able to chat while he’s doing it, not be calling out to each other from separate rooms. Same for when we have friends over. This kitchen is open and has tons of counter space. And a dishwasher. It’s so. much. better.

Kitchen 1

The Bedroom

Bdrm Patio doors

For us having a bedroom, period, is a novelty. No more bed-in-the-living-room situation. And this bedroom is big!

The doors lead out to the patio.


Bdrm 4

That’s the door to a pretty substantial walk-in closet. Lots of floor space and a long hanging rod, but the whole thing is awkward because the back wall is so sloped. We’re making it work. (And a dresser’s on the list.)

The Patio

Deck trees

Another priority was having some sort of outdoor space, ideally private. This has it all. Lots of room for a table, chairs, planters, and a few friends. Wrought iron hooks are already hung, so I’m seeing some hanging flowers and succulents in my future. It’s partially covered too, so has a mix of shade and sun. Pretty stoked for morning coffee out here in the summertime.


The Bathroom

Bath 2

When our friend Bryan who helped us move in saw the bathroom, he said “It’s so seventies,” which I hadn’t really noticed, but I think that’s because I was so stoked, again, about the counter space. I’m sure I sound like I’m obsessed with counters, but our old bathroom had a pedestal sink with no counter, no cupboard, nowhere to put anything. This one is the opposite. There are so many drawers we don’t know what to do with them. A good problem to have.

Bathrm 4

Bath 1

This is the original clawfoot tub. As I wrote that just now I suddenly thought of how that means people have been bathing in it for a over a century, which is kind of out there. Apparently this floor of the house was originally servants’ quarters. That’s a lot of history.


And that’s a serious claw foot.

Okay, there you have it. Our new place, the bare ‘before’ pics. We plan to keep adding to it gradually over the next few months, so I’ll share a few updates and photos here as it progresses. I’ve also got some other fun posts in the works that have nothing to do with home decorating, but all involve creativity. Coming soon!

If you’re interested, feel free to check out my Apartment Colour Palette board on pinterest to see the direction we’re headed. I’ve got a few other decor inspiration boards started too.

Happy February, everyone!


ps. Some great tips on shopping for vintage on Craigslist, by one of my favourite designers

And more tricks for finding good vintage pieces in second hand stores

Both of these women are total pros and super talented. Enjoy!