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August 20th, 2014

Elle Decor India




I woke up with butterflies in my stomach to see this in my inbox! Thanks so much to Elle Decor India for including me and my Face The Foliage project in your September issue! I have always wanted to be an Avant Gardener!
(And if any of you reading this are *in* India and want to send me a copy I would be so happy and reimburse you in cash and kisses!!)

Also thanks to all who chimed in with messages of love and support to yesterday’s post. Your openness, realness and kindness inspires the same in me. <3.


It has taken me many years to muster up the courage to write this post, but enough time has passed now that I have decided to open up and share a story of my past that is difficult and emotional for me to talk about. Something that I even still feel shame around.

I lived in Italy for seven years (from the time I was 20 until I was 27) and had the most incredible experiences, met the most amazing people, had many true, great friends and learned a lot. I would not trade that time in for anything. That having been said, while there, I found myself enduring one of the most painful and difficult experiences of my life.

He was older and charming and smart.  We were friends for a bit before becoming more than friends. He was romantic and knew all the perfect spots to introduce me to in and around the city. He knew all the flea markets inside and out (and loved visiting them just as much as I did). He would pick me up and put me on the back of his Vespa and take me up windy roads, wind in face, to the most incredible, out-of-the-way trattorias in Chianti where the pasta noodles were made on-site. He paid attention to me and took care of me in ways I felt like no man ever had. He cooked amazing meals for me, made my bed in the the mornings, took me on surprise trips to the South of France and London, and introduced me to so many new things, people…and I fell in love.

We had been dating for about three months and it was Christmas time and I felt it was too early to go to his family’s Christmas dinner (nor had I been invited). When I told him I would be going to a friend’s house for Christmas dinner he got upset and started yelling.  After the fight he didn’t call or text (or respond to my calls or texts) for three days. I was mortified at the thought that I had offended him and chalked it up to some kinda cultural misunderstanding?? I wasn’t sure what I had done exactly but I apologized to him profusely when he finally returned my call and eventually the whole thing blew over and a week or so later all was back to blissful normal.

After that hiccup, we grew closer and continued to see each other almost daily. Things were good and new and fun. We travelled and wined and dined. Then a couple months later another fight. This time he didn’t just get loud,  he got mean and even started calling me names. And again this time, I wasn’t sure what I had done to set him off, but imagined that we were having another cultural misunderstanding somehow. Italians are full of passion–especially when it comes to love…my Italian friends would tell me. This is how he was expressing his passion and love for me apparently.

I knew better than to think that love was expressed through yelling and name calling–But couples fight, right? I’d tell myself. And besides a little temper he was such a great guy. So the relationship continued and we went on like this–fighting every couple of weeks–over tiny nothings.

Soon I’d notice subtle gestures that made me feel uncomfortable. He’d hold his hand on the back of my neck instead of holding my hand as we walked down the street.  It felt almost like a collar.  I would shrug it off though, as though I was being irrational or again, justifying it in my head by imagining that this behavior was a cultural norm.

Then he started to get upset if he thought he saw me looking at another man. I was flirting–he’d say. We’d fight again. The fights would escalate. I’d find myself yelling back.  He’d call me a whore, then he’d disappear for days, sometimes weeks.  He wouldn’t return phone calls or text. His friends wouldn’t know (or at least they wouldn’t tell me) where he was. Looking back it’s very difficult to explain why I kept on coming back to him time and time again.  Why I even wanted to find him. I told myself that I needed closure.

By this time we had been together 6 or 8 months and I began to realize he had “issues” that he had to work through. He was moody, had a bad temper, or maybe he was slightly bipolar–I even did some internet research and decided that he had Paranoid Personality Disorder. I resolved that I was the only person in the world that could help him through these issues. He loved me more than anything, or anyone. I should stand by his side in good times and bad. “When we’re great, we’re amazing” I’d tell myself. THIS is love. THIS is passion. We’re in love and love conquers all.

We went on like this for another year. We were off and on and off and on, and every other week I was in a fit of tears, an emotional mess because he had had another ‘outburst’, and he had disappeared again and wouldn’t take my calls.

It got to be so bad that I stopped talking about him or the relationship with friends or family. “This was fun when it was a movie,” one girlfriend said “But now it’s a soap opera…” And frankly, I was tired of talking about it too. I was tired of making excuses for him, and for myself, and  I pushed my friends away.

At the time, I didn’t think of him (or the relationship) as abusive. I was a strong, educated woman. I was independent–a feminist even–a hippie! I didn’t have low self-esteem. I had travelled the world on my own, started my own business, I would never stay in an abusive relationship, so obviously I wasn’t in an abusive relationship. We were just more passionate than other couples.

It happened dozens of times. We’d be blissful, then he would find some reason to blow up at me. I was always treading carefully on thin ice. We’d fight. He’d disappear for days or weeks. Then he’d call, apologize, tell me he loved me and that he wanted to be with me forever, that I was an angel, that I was his angel. That I was the only person who really understood him. And then we would get back together and it would be magical for about three weeks until things, once again, would fall apart. Yelling in restaurants “How many men did you f-ck when you were in college..” He’d holler. “You’re a whore! All American girls are whores and you are no exception!” ”I thought you were are Ferrarri but you’re a deflated bicycle tire…”

By the end of the two year stretch, getting back together with him was like getting a fix.  I was a drug addict and he was my drug. I felt elated the minute he was back in my arms after a fight, but I was also hurt, tired and scared.

But I love him. I’d tell myself.

This went on for two years. Then one day we were at my apartment with a few friends and we were all having some snacks and getting ready to go out. He was in one of his moods. By this time I could smell the ‘mood’ from a mile away. He came over to where I was chatting and snacking with friends and asked my why I was dipping my artichoke in mayonnaise. When I replied that I had grown up eating it this way–he looked at me and said “Yes, I can tell.” Embarrassed by his dig, I told him to f*ck off and he grabbed me by the wrist and dragged me into the bedroom. He told me never to talk back to him in front of my friends again and hit me in the face, hard, with a closed fist. Blood streamed out of my nose and dripped slowly to the tiles floor and I let out a scream.

As my friends came in from the other room to see what was wrong, he said that he had barely touched me and told me to stop being dramatic. Honestly, the rest is kind of a blur.  I had spent two years living on eggshells, not knowing what buttons I was about to push, not knowing whether that day I was his angel or his whore, his everything or his nothing.

Some of my Italian friends tried to justify his actions. “We are a passionate people.” One of my close friends told me.

I ended up leaving Italy that year for good. Upon reflection, I think a big part of my decision to leave was about making sure I was I was getting myself out of that relationship because there was a part of me that was afraid that I’d go back to him again as I had done so many times before–even after he hit me.

I learned a lot in that relationship–that it’s easier than I could have ever imagined  to find oneself justifying abuse–even for someone as ‘strong and educated’ as myself. I learned that ‘love’ and ‘passion’ are NEVER reasons to stay in a relationship that doesn’t make you feel good. I learned that you can’t be in a relationship to ‘save’ someone–it just doesn’t work that way.

Since this chapter in my life I have talked to so many women–including close girlfriends–who have also experienced abuse (physical, verbal or both) from men they were in relationships with. Because this is clearly not as rare as I wish it was,  I thought it would be important to share this experience with you. It can happen to anybody. It’s easy to make excuses for people. He didn’t mean it. It’s a cultural misunderstanding. He has a problem that he is working on…

Most importantly, one must love oneself enough to know when it’s time to let go of someone that doesn’t know how to love you back. Now, thank goodness, I have found a man that loves and respects me, without the crazy ups and downs, without the yelling, the berating, the name calling or the punching. He is gentle and kind, passionate and full of love without the the violence, disappearing acts or the escalations. He holds my hand as we walk down the street, not my neck–he is neither controlling, nor jealous. There is mutual respect and mutual love.

The good news is, each day represents a new opportunity for a fresh start, for growth and for love–the kind that doesn’t sting and ache and burn.



I am constantly shaking things up in the jungalow.  I’m usually either making room for new stuff, moving furniture around to adjust to Ida’s next stage of growth, or just changing the look because I get bored of staring at the same stuff all the time.  I find that when I use simple, stylish and durable pieces in the home as a foundation, it’s easier to make them my own and adapt them to new settings and new functions as my family, my tastes and my mood grow and change.

Last week I shared with you some of my favorite pieces from Target’s Room Essentials line and today I’m going to share with you three ways to use this simple $39 ottoman. It was love at first click for me with this piece. It’s simple but not boring and super versatile.


I use this little desk at my bedroom window-seat as a creative station. I don’t work here all the time, but I like to sit here and write (a lot of my book was written at this very spot) and I also use this desk to sew when I’m working on DIY projects. The ottoman works perfectly here as a stool — it’s small enough to slide right under the desk when not in use, it’s very comfy and sturdy to sit on, and the modern lines work really well with the mid-century style of my window seat. I put a colorful vintage Berber textile over the cushion to kinda make it my own and I love the way it looks and feels.


Another functional way I use this ottoman is as, well, as ottoman–a comfy spot to kick up my feet after a long day. I’ll plop down a tray with a snack while I get cozy with my favorite magazines.

I’m gonna be honest–I only have time to do this about once a month–but for those few zoned-out dreamy minutes I feel super relaxed.



The last way I use this little dude is as a side-table. It could go next to a chair or a sofa, and in this little space, I’ve used it in a corner of our house that is always begging for a little action–a plant, or some flowers–a little somethin’ somethin’ to liven up the place. I added a pile of books and a bamboo situation and came out with a cute little vignette.

We don’t have a dining room at the jungalow, but the ottoman would also make great additional seating for a dining area. It’d be perfect for a vanity stool, or a piano bench, too. I can think of a lot of perfect places for this little dude. Did I miss any ideas? How would you use it in your home?

This post is sponsored by Target. Shop Room Essentials to make modern life easier.
All Photos by Justina Blakeney. 


August 18th, 2014





I’m enamored with the collections of South African knitwear designer Laduma Ngxokolo. His line, MaXhosa was designed as a knitwear solution to Xhosa initiation rights, that includes a tradition of dressing up in “new dignified formal clothing for six months after initiation.” He incorporates traditional Xhosa beadwork craft, patterns, symbolism and colors into his modern knitwear collection. Gorgeous, yes?


Once upon a time when I heard the name ‘Eames’ I thought of mid-century modern designers with a clean, borderline stark or sterile aesthetic. I knew they were a married couple who were based in California and designers of, among other things, some of those classic mid-century chairs that are loved by all and knocked-off all over the place. But the first time I saw pictures of the interior of their Pacific Palisades home, I just about fell off of my chair–their home was furthest thing from stark or sterile, they lived in a jungalow!

Photo by Leslie Williamson 

Brimming with philodendrons, patterned rugs, objects, books, artifacts and patternful textiles, it seems Charles and Ray Eames were maximalists too, with a thing for layering on the color, pattern and plants, just like me. eames-house-pacific-palisades


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Photos by Leslie Williamson 

So much jungaliciousness, right?!? So I guess I was just so shocked to discover that two of the parents of modern design were so boho!! It’s kinda surprising, right??


As an addendum to this post I thought it would be fun to to do a little get-the-look so here are some  ideas of how to incorporate the Eames jungalow vibe into your pad.  You can find all of these items (and more) among my favorites over at Chairish. What do think? Are you digging the vibe?

For further reading:
The Eames Case Study House has been designated as a National Historic Landmark, and is still maintained by the Eames Foundation. It is also the home of the Eames Office. You can even visit the house if you’re in the L.A. area (something I’ve been meaning to do for ages). (Reservations are required.) These images are mainly outtakes that Leslie Williamson posted on her blog from her book, Handcrafted Modern but there are a TON of other amazing images of this house (and other incredible homes in both her books Handcrafted Modern and Modern Originals–so full of inspiration.




Over the weekend we celebrated Ida’s second birthday with a few of her favorite things…family, friends, park hangs, yummy food and her very favoritest color of all time: purple!


We got to our favorite chill-spot in Griffith park really early to reserve the good shady brunch location,  threw around some poufs and pillows for folks to lounge around on…



..covered a couple of fold-out tables in shibori-dyed purple drop cloths and covered the fence in some cheap-o striped fabric and a $10 piñata. Instead of being crazy and trying to do everything myself, I worked with Urban Palate  to create a park and purple friendly brunch menu that was seriously bomb and everyone (especially Ida) really loved. Urban Palate also made it so that I could actually enjoy the party too and not have to be worried about replenishing food and stuff which can be stressful. CLICK FOR>> (more…)

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While prepping for a recent shoot at my house, I started freaking out a little that I didn’t have a proper light fixture in the kitchen…or any room of the house for that matter!  I had to think fast and saw the perfect little pendant in my wire egg basket that usually sits on the kitchen table.  Like Justina, I love finding ways to creatively reuse objects in the home and was so eggcited when this little makeshift re-wiring worked.  All I did was widen one of the open parts of the wire by cutting a bit with wire cutters, then I pushed the lighting cord through and added a bulb.  I fastened it to the cord, so that it hangs straight, with a little piece of wire and twisted it like a grocery twist tie.  So Simple. And effective, right?

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It still works as an egg basket too if I want to switch it up:

I love to change the scenery at my house all the time; keeps me inspired and on my toes.  Try and look at objects in your home in new ways, it can really fun and totally rewarding when something kooky works out.

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Also…a hat?  I thought so.  This is me, by the way…if any of you have been wondering.  I was channelling this dude in the colander hat, but it didn’t quiiite have the same effect.  Thanks for letting me share!

P.S. It looks like Justina has already shared how multi-talented the colander can be, and the funnel too!

{Project by Nicole Valentine Don for Justina Blakeney est. 1979.}
For more Nicole,  visit her blog and follow her on instagram.
Photos by: Fiona Galbraith