I have always been drawn toward authenticity, and it is one of my highest values as a designer. Even as a young person, I gravitated toward different and unique things, especially in my clothing choices. My mom would often give me a hard time and say, “You have the style of a grandma, Ashley!” But I didn’t care - I loved taking risks and wearing clothing that represented my true self. I won best dressed in high school because I was known for finding different clothing pieces and styling them well together. In fact, you could find me shopping all over town on the weekends or during any free time I had, searching for the perfect outfit. I’m not saying that I’m so secure with myself that I don’t sometimes hear that “mean girl” voice in my head. However, I am always working towards being my authentic self-daily.
What Does Authentic Mean, Really?
We hear the word tossed around a lot, but what does it mean to be authentic? Authenticity means "being true to your personality, values, and spirit regardless of the pressure that you're under to act otherwise." Why is this so challenging? Why is being our true self such a scary thing? I believe that we are taught to present ourselves in a way that is the opposite of authentic from the time we're young. We learn early on that diverting from the norm and being our true self causes us to stick out, resulting in being called out, teased, and ostracized. The mean girl voices echo in our head: “Your outfit is weird, and because I don’t like it, you shouldn’t either.” Blending in becomes the goal. And that often extends into every area of our adult lives. We learn to value what people think of us above all else. Will they envy my home, the car I drive, my status, career, and the clothes I wear?
Authenticity Translates to Design
The problem with this is that eventually, you become a carbon copy of those from whom you seek acceptance. Instead of living a life that outwardly expresses your inner creativity, you become a copycat of everyone around you. Take Instagram, for example. We spend so much time looking at what everyone else is doing that most of us have lost our gift, our personality, and the things that make us, us. My goal is to help my clients break out of the quest for approval with cookie-cutter interiors. Instead, I want their homes to be a form of self-expression, where we bring their boldest interior dreams into a reality that reflects who they are.
Visualize The Space of Your Dreams
Close your eyes for a moment and visualize this: a space filled with all the things you and only you love. Go on, let out all the crazy stuff you’ve been pushing down inside of you - the colors, the patterns, the artwork, the furniture. Let your imagination run wild. Now, look around the space filled with things you love. Focus on how it makes you feel. Do you feel like YOU? Do you feel happy, inspired, joyful?
What's Your Reality
Now, look at the space surrounding you every day. This is the space where you engage in mundane tasks like drinking your morning coffee. It’s also where you make memories, possibly grow your family, enjoy meals, and recharge before going out to face the world. This is the space where you will, to put it simply, be home. Do you feel any of the same feelings from earlier when you look at this space? If the answer is no, then we need to talk!
Your home should be a reflection of you, no one else. It should be the place you can get away from this world's judgment and harsh realities. So, instead of looking outward at your friends’ homes, Instagram, and Pinterest to define your style, I urge you to look inward to find your authentic self. You are a unique soul with a lifetime of experiences that define your preferences, likes, dislikes, and the things that draw you. Tapping into your authentic self can be scary, but it’s the most freeing experience, and once you get a taste of it, you’ll wish you revealed it to the world sooner.
Where Do You Start?
So, where do you start? How do you get the courage to become like a child again, before fitting in mattered so much? Brene Brown says, “Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It's about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.” It starts with a single choice. In terms of design, focus on one space - one wall, even. Imagine it to be like a mirror, a true reflection of you, and start there. Don’t talk to others about what you’re going to do, or call up your friend to run it by them. Simply start. Grab the paint and paintbrushes. Dare to be bold and creative. Dare to show your true self through the colors, patterns, and aesthetic you love.
I know this can be hard, so if you have trouble pinpointing your look, try taking our quiz, “What’s Your Authentic Design?” And if you need help beyond that, give us a ring - I am so passionate about this subject, and I would love to help draw out the design style that is authentic to you!
December is in full swing and with it comes long to-do lists and full schedules as we head toward Christmas. Holiday decor creates the backdrop for a lifetime of Christmas memories and is essential for creating that special feeling in your home that comes with this season. But it can be so stressful to make time to decorate and do it in a way that feels authentically you. This year, we started offering Christmas installs as a way to help our clients check one (big) thing off their list of holiday preparations! This is an exciting addition to our services that we will be sure to offer next year as well. We hope you enjoy this holiday series full of many DIY projects and helpful design tips while you are preparing for the season.
Our Christmas Install Process
Our Christmas install process is very straightforward. We first consult with the client in their home to determine what he or she envisions for the space, their budget for the project, and if there are any existing items we will be using. After meeting together, I have a clear idea of the client’s desired theme, and we take it from there! Whether you have all of the Christmas decor you need or are wanting your own personal shopper to take care of finding new pieces, we can help with both! From Christmas trees to stair garlands and beyond, if it's interior, we’ve got you covered. Once the install is complete, all that’s left for you to do is enjoy your beautifully decorated home before and during Christmas!
For this particular install, our client wanted a theme that felt in line with the existing design of the living room (which we also designed). Based on that, I decided to pull colors from items in the space such as the rug and pillows in an effort to make everything feel cohesive. From there I brought in elements from nature to compliment some of the wood tones they have throughout, which also provided a serene, fresh look that we both loved!
While working on this install we took on a few simple DIY projects that I want to share with you. If you can’t find things you love on the store shelves, you can take common, basic Christmas decor items and turn them into bespoke pieces. All it takes is a few extra minutes and some craft supplies! I’ve included some affiliate links from Amazon so that you can easily pick up what you need to try these projects. If you click one of these links and make a purchase, it doesn't cost you anything but helps offset the cost of this blog.
Ornaments + Spray Paint = Christmas Magic
When it comes to ornaments you want as much variation as possible. That means different sizes, textures, and tones. But what do you do when the only available ornaments don’t fit your aesthetic? Two words: SPRAY PAINT. When working on this particular install, I couldn’t find a style of larger Christmas ornaments that fit this client’s theme. Instead of settling for something less than ideal, we spray-painted some large ornaments we found with flat white paint & primer, taking them from basic to custom with one sweep of the spray can! The reason I chose flat paint was because the other ornaments on the tree had a metallic sheen and I wanted to have variation. Easy peasy right?
DIY Organic Ornaments
We didn’t stop there though. We did another DIY ornament that’s equally as fun and simple. For the second DIY ornament we focused on a way to bring in some organic elements. As I mentioned above, this is a very simple project and one that yields beautiful results. Here's what you'll need:
1. Clear glass balls
2. Dried florals
I love these clear glass ornaments with customized interiors because they add interest while also allowing the tree’s lights to pass through. Did I mention how fun of a project this is to do with your family and kids, or even a girl’s night “Holiday Edition.” The possibilities are endless, so have fun with it and get creative on what you want to put inside of them.
Transform Your Garland
Garlands can go from blah to wow by simply adding a few unique items to them. You can bring a basic garland to life and create your very own piece for half the price of one that is pre-decorated! Add dried oranges, cinnamon sticks, pinecones... you name it! Similar to our DIY Thanksgiving floral arrangement, you simply place the items in the garland and secure them with floral wire.
In the garland we created for this client, I added cinnamon sticks and pinecones. I chose both plain and flocked pinecones to bring in texture and dimension as well as some sprigs of eucalyptus and other greenery to add a beautiful and unexpected natural element. The best part about the cinnamon sticks was the aroma it filled the home with, giving you a “two in one” garland (yummy smells and good looking)!
Oh Christmas Tree!
When it comes to decorating your Christmas tree, it's no different than anything else in design. You want to incorporate a variety of textures, shapes, colors, materials, finishes, and sizes. Sound familiar? (haha) Place the ornaments on that bad boy, add some ribbon and sprigs, and voila! Before you know it you have a tree that looks professionally decorated.
Design reminder: As you decorate your tree, balance is important. Make sure you don't put the same ornaments too close to each other, and space the decor out on the tree.
Use What You Have
Have an extra vase laying around the house? Fill it with greenery and Christmas stems, holly berries, pinecones, and evergreens. We used this client’s white rustic pitcher as a holder for evergreens with pinecones. Sometimes it’s all about the tiny details so as you decorate this holiday season don’t forget to get inspired by the things around you!
Here are some artificial vase filler options (you can always purchase real stems from places like Trader Joe's - or even snip some from a tree in the yard!):
Some vase options if you don't have one:
As you decorate for Christmas, remember that your decor should reflect who you are. If you love red, green, glitter, and glam, then go all out! But if you prefer something understated or modern, don’t default to decorating with a “traditional Christmas” look just because that style is the most accessible. I firmly believe that just like your year-round home decor should reflect your authentic self, your Christmas decor should too! So whether that’s bold, unique, understated, modern, traditional… go for it! When you curl up on your couch with a cup of coffee (or glass of wine) to watch the Christmas tree lights twinkle, l want you to be able to look around at your home, draw a deep sigh, and think, “This feels like Christmas.”
Is it just me or did 2021 seem to fly by? I feel like it was just yesterday when we were welcoming 2021 and here we are at the end of the year! There's nothing I love more than selecting the perfect gift for someone (except, maybe seeing them open it!). I love seeing my friends and family members' eyes light up with the delight of being known and thought of.
Finding the perfect gift isn't easy, though. It takes hours of time browsing the shops (or the internet). And it seems like lately, we're all busier than ever, so time is at a premium. I've saved you the effort of fighting traffic and holiday mall craziness with this gift guide full of my favorite things! Scroll, click, add to cart, check that special someone off your list, and repeat!
He's been a really good boy all year - show your pride in your pup at the dog park and beyond with one of these caps!
It takes a person with a special sense of generosity and warmth to open their home during the holidays. Perfect for your favorite host or hostess, these unique and beautiful gifts will help show your appreciation for their gift of hospitality!
Self-care is more than just massages and alone time. It's a conscious act that you take to improve your mental, emotional, and physical health. These gifts are little reminders to your loved ones that they're worth prioritizing.
My favorite! I love selecting unique pieces that complement the homes of my friends. These are a few of my latest finds that are sure to delight the decorator in everyone!
For the friend or loved one who always seems to look so pulled together and fashionable, these are some gifts to add to their closet.
This is a collection of some of my favorite cosmetics, hair, and personal care items that are sure to brighten up the beauty-lover's holiday.
After the disruption of routine and rich meals that the holiday season brings, many of us find ourselves needing a health reset as the year closes out. For the friends who love pursuing physical wellness, these are some fun finds!
I am so excited to present the first blog for Authentic Design Studio, and very happy to welcome friends old and new here! You can look forward to hearing about my love for design, tips for decorating your space, how-tos, and must have decor items to help make your home look authentically you. It felt fitting in this first blog to share a DIY floral arrangement and tablescape for the holidays as we prepare for time with our family and friends this Thanksgiving.
I love celebrating Thanksgiving, not only because of mashed potatoes, gravy, and stuffing (although that is one of the reasons) but because it is a universal holiday where we make time to be with the ones we love and to show gratitude for all the happenings of the past year. My husband Matt and I live in Utah but the rest of our family lives in Arizona, so, unfortunately, we won’t see them this year. Instead, we will host a Friendsgiving in our new home. I have been mentally planning the menu for weeks and I am so ready to open our home for a feast with friends!
MAKING OUR OWN TRADITIONS
Growing up, my family didn’t have many holiday traditions. We had no qualms about preparing our holiday side dishes from box mixes, so instant potatoes and Stovetop Stuffing always accompanied our turkey and ham. There isn’t anything wrong with celebrating that way, but as we build our life together, Matt and I find ourselves wanting to create traditions of our own. We love the challenge of trying new recipes and making a meal from scratch for our guests. Therefore, when cooking for the holidays, I have adopted a zero box-mix policy. Well, except for Ghirardelli’s dark chocolate brownies… those will always have a place at our table.
Our main dish will be Friendsgiving casserole from Joanna Gaines. It has all the yummy makings of a Thanksgiving dinner, like chicken, stuffing, gravy, and cranberry sauce, but deconstructed, and then reconstructed again in a casserole - Joanna is a genius! We’ll also have a layered arugula salad with pear vinaigrette, mini-pies, and of course the brownies. Needless to say, we put a lot of energy into the preparation of the food!
With every good dinner comes a well-thought-out tablescape and overall aesthetic. Since I’m a designer, people have high expectations of how my home will look, especially around the holidays. This can feel like a lot of added pressure. So instead, I focus on the experience I want my guests to have and then create the aesthetic from there. For Friendsgiving, I want my home to evoke warmth and belonging, and for my guests to feel special. I want them to feel thought of, like we went the extra mile to prepare for their visit. I also understand being limited on time while wanting to deliver a show-stopping experience for guests, which is why I was so happy to find a solution that is good for both the wallet and the clock! This DIY floral arrangement and tablescape is super simple and fast, but gives the impression that you spent just as much time on it as you did the turkey!
DIY FLORAL ARRANGEMENT
How to assemble:
I absolutely love creating a table that speaks to intentionality and fun. I can already imagine our guests laughing and talking across our table, lit by the soft warmth of candlelight, with the fragrance of fresh greenery and fruit mingling with the scent of warm comfort food.
For this tablescape, I took the leftover greenery from the flower arrangement and layered it in a wooden boat that runs the length of the table. I then staggered red pears, yellow pears, and smaller oranges down the length, laying them at different angles so they felt natural and not staged.
Now that you have the menu accounted for, a beautiful floral arrangement, and tablescape (that you can tell your guests you made), there’s one final design tip that will continue to elevate your whole setup, showing that you really thought of every detail. As you prepare your table setting and serving ware, try to mix and match your finishes and textures. Incorporate coppers with brass tones, hammered finishes with smooth, and items made of wood and marble. For example, the table in the photos is white concrete, so adding a wooden cutting board, greenery, and metals, along with some color pops from the fruit offer much-needed contrast.
Here are some of my favorites for your holiday table. This list includes affiliate links for items I use and love. If you click one of these links and make a purchase, it doesn't cost you anything but helps offset the cost of this blog.
A Few More Things...
No matter how you celebrate this Thanksgiving - with family, friends, a pet, or a mix of all three - I hope you’re surrounded by the ones you love!