The beautiful creations of Masami Akatsuka of Cocon

cocon placematsMasami Akatsuka is a Japanese mama living in the south of France, and creator of the most delightful objects. Her artful collection, called Cocon, is entirely handmade by Masami herself, and the way she uses colour, material and detail is absolutely wonderful. There’s just so much character in all of her makings!

cocon placemats cocon placemats

I’m a serious fan of Masami’s work. We have a few of her products at home, like the placemats in these photos, and I love seeing them around me. They make everyday rituals just that extra bit delightful!

cocon bird mustard

This little bird on our sideboard is another silent reminder of Masami’s amazing craftsmanship. It’s so perfectly pretty (and sturdy and stable) and has so much expression in its little face — like a tiny piece of art.

Cocon is a very inspirational collection — I’m nowhere near as artistic as Masami, but I did put my sewing machine on the table this afternoon. A quilt is in the making! : )

xxx Esther

DIY: Seashell Mobiles

shell mobiles DIY
shell mobiles
Ivy making shell mobile
Ivy making mobile
making shell mobiles
Ivy's shell mobile
Happy Monday everyone! We’re back to regular posting this week. Thank you for all your sweet comments last week and for bearing with us while we enjoyed a blogging break.

The kids and I spent the week (hardly getting out of pyjamas!) in our little beach house on Bainbridge Island. We went for long beach walks, carefully observing the sea and beach life all around us. We watched eagles swoop down to catch salmon right in front of us, we watched seals bob their heads in the sea, we chased sea otters off our raft, we caught crabs and fish, and we collected seashells and sand dollars and all sorts of beach treasures.  At one point I asked Easton where his shoes were and he told me they had been up in the car for the past four days! I suppose it’s a sign of a good holiday when your kids spend all day barefoot and in their pyjamas.

During the week, we spent lots of time in search of seashells with holes in them so we could make mobiles. We occasionally found the odd clam shell with a perfectly symmetrical hole in them — so perfect for our little project. (I have always wondered how this hole is created in the shells and then someone on Instagram told me why, and it’s fascinating!!!) After we collected a big enough collection of these perfect shells, we then sat down to create simple seashell mobiles using string and driftwood. Ivy created her mobile all by herself, simply by tying knots in the string and threading the string through the seashells.

She was so proud of the end result (and so was I!) that we hung it up on the wall behind our bed. Such perfect decoration for our beach house (along with the dreamcatchers we made a couple years ago!).

Courtney x

The Furoshiki, a Japanese wrapping cloth

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Have you heard of furoshikis? They are square fabric cloths used in Japan to wrap everything from lunch, presents, picnics, pillows, groceries, you name it! Made from gorgeous printed cotton fabric, furoshikis are as beautiful as everything coming from Japan.

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furoshikis japanese wrapping clothBesides the primary use of a wrap, furoshikis are also great to be used as scarfs, napkins, picnic blankets, table cloths… The biggest size can even be used as a beach bag and once on the beach, it doubles as a perfect beach sheet. The uses really are endless!

Furoshiki japanese wrap cloth
You can find a lovely range of gorgeous furoshikis in different sizes at Musubi London, and here you can learn about the different wrapping techniques. (Don’t you love the wine wrap? What an awesome present to bring to a dinner party!)

xxx Esther

DIY: Printed Cardboard Cardboard Box

Printed Cardboard Box DIY

I had a few items like socks, a hat, sunscreen, a lost toy, a diaper, probably also the pacifier etc. stacked in an ugly cardboard box in Talan’s part of the entrance way. I couldn’t look at it anymore but I also didn’t get a chance to find and buy a decent wooden box so I decided to make the best of it and painted and printed the existing one. I thought it couldn’t hurt and in the worst case I’d be finally pushed to buy one. But to my luck (and even more to my husband’s luck) it turned out kind of great. So naturally I thought I’d share this project with you 😉

Printed Cardboard Box DIY

If you haven’t guessed it already it’s super simple! You’ll only need:
-A cardboard box (the thicker the cardboard the better)
-Acrylic Paint (at least two colors)
-Sealant or Varnish
-A stamp or simple stickers (like triangles, dots or something these Tad Lapin Cats from Molly Meg)

Printed Cardboard Box DIY

First paint the inside of the box at least twice and wait between coats to dry completely. Then do the same with the outside of the box. I used two different colors – the grey one for the inside and the white one on the outside part of the box.

Printed Cardboard Box DIY

After the outside it completely dry (wait at least two hours) stamp the surface (I used a rubber stamp I did after this stamp DIY from Esther – Tila drew the image but you can also use potato or a pencil rubber or even stickers!). After you’re done with this step wait again for the prints to dry completely and apply two coats of sealant or varnish. I also used sealant on the inner side so the box will (hopefully) last longer.

So easy, isn’t it?

-Polona

To read more from Polona, go to her cute blog Baby Jungle!

Some photos and an interview with Little Years blog

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A few weeks ago the lovely French/German photographer Christina Schumacher came over to our house to take some informal photos for an interview with the beautiful German blog Little Years, and I really love the way she captured our family. I thought it would be fun to share some photos here (well, more than some — it was too hard to choose!) but you’d better head over to the Little Years blog to read the interview here. It is the kind of interview that makes you step back and look at your life as an outsider, and then step back in and realise how lucky and entirely happy you are, with everything in your life — the joy, the sadness, the little things. Life is a journey, and a beautiful one.

xxx Esther

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The sweetest nightlight from Tulipop

Tulipop bubble lamp nightlight
Ava needed a new lamp for her bedside table and when I saw the new product of Signy and Helga, the two beautiful fiends behind Icelandic brand Tulipop, I knew she would absolutely love it. How sweet is this Bubble lamp? It’s just prefect for her, so soft and sweet. Very comforting for a little girl that just turned five!

tulipop bubble lamp nightlight

xxx Esther

Aether Cone, a Thinking Music Player

Cone Thinking Music PlayerI’m sure every family is the same, but we love a bit of a swing in ours. Very often, after breakfast or dinner, we turn up the volume and dance in our living room. It’s crazy! We all join in, and it’s just so much fun. And very often, we end up with a big fat group hug in the end.

Also, sometimes when I’ve had a busy and difficult day, and I feel stressed and tired and my patience is low, it helps to get up and move, to be crazy, and sing along. Music surely is medication for the soul.

casper dancing on cone music player dancing children

It has recently become much easier for our children to initiate their own dancing because the awesome Aether Cone entered our house. The Aether Cone is not only a striking music player (in fact the most beautiful looking one I’ve ever seen), it’s also incredibly easy to understand and to work. Not only easy for me (too many buttons and screens put me off completely), but really handy for the kids as well! The only thing they need to do, is press the center button and ask out loud for any artist, song, or radio. Within seconds, the Cone will be playing their choice and our family will be in full swing!

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And last weekend, my dad was here, and he just had the best of times with the Cone as well. He kept thinking of song and artists from his childhood (the early sixties), and voila — the Cone followed his commands without fail. Just to indicate how simple and fun it is to work with!

I’ve also understood that the more we use the Cone, the better it will get at playing the songs we love. I’m currently writing this with some lovely random background music in the background — I just took the Cone into my office (it’s portable with an 8-hour rechargeable battery). On the associated app on my phone I read that right now I’m listening to Isobel Campbell, a Scottish singer-songwriter. Nice suggestion, I must say!

xxx Esther

PS This post is sponsored by Aether, a company we respect for making beautifully crafted products that use powerful technology and simple, natural controls to make everyday moments nicer.

DIY: Dipped Wooden Spoons

Dipped Wooden Spoonds DIY

I’ve been eyeing the dipped wooden spoons for a while now and the penny pincher in me decided to make something similar on her own instead of buying them. And they turned out great, plus the feeling of making something with my own two hands is priceless (when it succeeds anyway).

This project is also one of the easiest but it takes a little more drying time. You can use some old wooden spoons lying around the kitchen already or buy new (I got a bunch of them from IKEA).

Dipped Wooden Spoonds DIY

The items you need are:

Wooden Spoons
Paint
Tape (I used Washi Tape)
Sealer
Medium (optional)

I wanted the make the paint as durable as possible so I used both the medium and the sealer. The medium I used is for textile and it worked great!

Dipped Wooden Spoonds DIY

1. Tape the line with a tape (I use washi tape because it’s the easiest to work with)

Dipped Wooden Spoonds DIY
2. Mix the paint with the medium (if you decided to use one) in 1:1 ratio and paint two coats (decide on weather you want to also paint the round end of the spoon) then wait for about 5 minutes and take the tape off before the second coat is completely dry – that prevents the paint to chip while taking off the tape!

Dipped Wooden Spoonds DIY

You can use a low jar or a glass to dry them in but put the spoon face down!

Dipped Wooden Spoonds DIY

3. Let them dry for a couple hours, put the tape on again and paint a coat or even two of sealer. And if you want the color to be really durable set the oven to about 150C and “bake” them for about 20 minutes. Turn the oven off and take them out only after the oven gets cold. Leave them rest over night before use.

Dipped Wooden Spoonds DIY

4. I decided to give the spoons a little facial as well and made them Beeswax Wood Polish after this recipe. That made all the difference! You simply rub on warm conditioner, let it sit for about an hour and wipe off the excess. You also don’t need to complicate as much as I tend to do and just buy one.

You can also do some stripes, dots, heart or other embellishments. I wanted to keep my first batch simple but will definitely play around more with the second one. Maybe a little bronze ends?

-Polona

To read more from Polona, go to her cute blog Baby Jungle!

Design Mom’s book ‘How to live with Kids: A room-by-room guide’

Design Mom book How to live with kids

A few months ago my friend Gabrielle Blair, the famous Design Mom, asked me to share some photos of our home, for the use in the book she was working on. I was super flattered to be asked, because I have been a Design Mom fan from the moment we started blogging. Gabrielle is so incredibly talented, so entrepreneurial, so creative, so stylish, and so real. I love her down-to-earth style, her guts, and her drive to connect people. Also — I love how she shares her successes, as well as her difficulties. So you can imagine that for months I’ve been awaiting the highly anticipated launch of her book, and this week a preview copy of the book landed on my doormat… and it’s even better than I could have imagined!

Design Mom book How to live with kids
Design Mom book How to live with kids

‘How to Live with Kids: A Room-by-Room Guide’  is a family lifestyle book full of inspiration, with beautiful photos of real homes. It’s full of useful tips stemming from real life experience with 6 children. Gabrielle shares easy decor tips and doable DIY projects, lovely family traditions and sweet tips. (Like: keep a box of Band-Aids within children’s reach in the bathroom, to make children feel in control when they have an owie, plus, when a little friend needs a band-aid, your child can help and get a positive experience with empathy. Or, one of my favourite phrases from the book: ‘Ugly couches can make beautiful childhoods’. So true!)

Sometimes parenting, interior or DIY books can be so terribly overwhelming. What I like best about Design Mom’s ‘How to live with Kids’ is that’s it’s all so approachable, so doable and so real. Gabby shows us that it’s no about what to buy, it’s about working with what your already have, to make your house happy, and wonderful.

The book is available for pre-order on Amazon (US or UK ).

xxx Esther

Hattie the elephant (from Four Monkeys)

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When Pim was 2 years old, he pulled over a marble sculpture that my mum had made as our wedding gift and it broke in half. Thankfully we were able to restore it, but — better safe than sorry — we now keep our delicate sculptures in storage until our children are bigger. And I’ve been missing something cool on our floor ever since!

But then, I was browsing the super well curated collection of the awesome Austrian e-store Four Monkeys and my eye fell on Hattie the Elephant. And I couldn’t resist. Here we have a sculpture, a piece of art really, that is absolutely fine to display on the floor, within children’s reach, for children to play with, even. Because it is designed as a toy!

How cool is that?


Hattie the Elephant, heirloom toy from Four Monkeys (via Babyccino Kids) Hattie_3

Hattie the Elephant is made from beech wood and really royal in size, and it can be placed in different poses due to the elastic-band muscles, making it a fun and interesting toy that children will keep coming back to to play with. It is absolutely beautifully made and it is such a cool design element! (I also saw it on display in one of the world’s coolest shops, Hay House, when I was in Copenhagen recently.) Also, it is an extremely sturdy and durable sculpture, which makes the (steep) investment worth it, because this sculpture will survive generations of play in our living room. It probably will survive me! ; )

xxx Esther

DIY: Brown Paper Flower Pots

Paper Flower Pots
A couple of weeks ago I spotted these cute flower pots (that were really brown paper bags) neatly set down the stairs in front of some shop in Stuttgart and I loved it so much I went to buy craft paper bags and a few flower the same day!
This is such a simple and inexpensive DIY perfect for this time of the year.
I need to say am the worst when it comes to flowers, herbs or any kind of plants in general – my husband even calls me “the plant serial killer” and I’m afraid he’s not that far from the truth! How do you people do it? I always either water too much or I forget they exist for a few days too many. But I don’t and won’t give up – one day I’ll get it. Right? But until I do I’m buying the least expensive kinds, like the ones on the photo – don’t know their names, I just know they smell good. Or at least they did for two more days after entering my house. But the good news is they are still alive!

Anyhow, the steps for making these cute paper pots are super easy and you only need three items:
Brown Craft Paper Bags (mine are 12 cm wide)
Plants (mine are in 10 cm pots)
Pot Trays

Paper Flower Pots
First fold the top of the bag down a few times (put the pot beside the bag to see how far down).

Paper Flower Pots
Now fold the edges backwards along the fold lines and insert the tray first, then the flower.

That simple!

-Polona

To read more from Polona, go to her cute blog Baby Jungle!

Nursery idea: rug on the wall

yellow cot with rug on wall
My friend Mo, who owns Pipsticks and whom I’ve written about before (here), is expecting a baby girl (her fourth baby!) any day now. I was over at her house last week and asked to see her baby’s nursery… because honestly, isn’t there something so magical and exciting about a newly prepared little space for a baby? The perfectly clean sheets, the soft blankets, the miniature baby diapers… all just waiting for a baby to arrive! Oooh the anticipation!

I love the way Mo decorated the space, and I especially love her idea of hanging a colourful rug up on the wall above the cot.

 

rug hanging on wall
rug wall hanging

 

Mo told me she used a big yarn needle to loop pieces of chunky, grey yarn through the rug to attach it to a cheap, unfinished wooden dowel (which she picked up at her local DIY store). She spaced the yarn evenly, starting from the center, and made about 4 loops around the dowel at each spot. She then hung the dowel from the wall with nails. The whole thing took her only 15 minutes and instantly transformed the space. How clever is that?!

She bought the rug from Oliver Bonas which has a small, but nice selection of rugs. I love the vintage feel of the one she chose and think it looks so perfect above that yellow cot!

Courtney x

Photos by the talented Lesley Colvin

Pim’s bed, and wonderful Jim Flora wallpaper

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Last weekend, my husband and I did something new for both of us: we wallpapered a wall. We learned a lot about measuring, cutting, and patience, and got to deeply respect the skills of professional wallpaperers. But after hard labour I’m proud to present the results: the wall behind Pim’s bed is covered in gorgeous blue wallpaper! Pim picked this design, featuring original drawings by the late Jim Flora, because he loves music and plays the trumpet. So it’s perfect.

wallpaper_1

I love the quirkiness and originality of the wallpaper design, and the dark colour makes his bed really stand out. The bed is made of brass and antique, we found it in France last summer, stuck in a corner somewhere at a ‘Vide Grenier’. The plexiglass Star Wars sign was found on the street when we lived in New York 13 years ago, before we were married and had children. We stored it all this time, until we had sons who would appreciate it in their room! I found the bedside table on the streets here in Amsterdam, and it displays all of Pim’s little treasures. (He is such a hoarder!) The house shelves were an investment I made a few years ago for the old room, and we still love them. The badger rug is from Molly & the Wolf.

xxx Esther

LileSADi, cool products with attitude

LileSadi_2 Screen Shot 2014-12-02 at 15.25.46I recently discover Lile SADi, a Dutch (Rotterdam based) label with super cool and contemporary products. Founded by Dinah and Sarah a few years ago, Lile SADi’s collections cover graphic wallpapers and prints and wonderful kitchen and home accessories.  All products are manufactured here in Europe to keep craftsmanship and individuality alive.

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Dinah and Sarah recently came out with a children’s collection and I so like all of the wonderful patterns and prints! So pretty and detailed and fun, and still so in style with their other work. How cute are those rabbit leggings? (Ava loves them!!)

xxx Esther

 

Last minute advent activity calendar

adventTomorrow is the start of advent — only 25 days to go ’til Christmas! We do have an advent tradition in our family — my mum always had an advent wreath on the table with 4 candles in a circle, and one candle was lit on every Sunday in the weeks leading up to Christmas, and then a fifth candle in the centre was lit on Christmas day. But we’re not accustomed to the advent calendar, the countdown calendar with 24 pockets filled with little presents or candy, counting down to Christmas day. I think this might have to do with Sinterklaas, who’s in the country till the 5th, overlapping the first days of advent and overdoing, possibly, the idea of giving.

Where I love the idea of getting ready for Christmas, slowing down and focussing on togetherness and goodness, I don’t really want to overflow our children with goodies after the feasts of St. Maarten (candy) and St. Nicolas (candy and presents). But I want them to experience extra warmth, fun, and also to comprehend the fact that they have a lucky position in the world.

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Yesterday I spent some time working on a super last-minute advent calendar without gifts, but with ideas for fun, sweet, and genuine activities to make the weeks before Christmas extra special. I printed everything on grey card stock paper, folded and closed them with round sticky dots on which I rubbed transfer numbers beforehand. It’s nothing super fancy or special at all, but the simplicity reflects what I would like our advent to be!

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Maybe you would like to play along? I’ve made the file I used into an advent activity calendar PDF. There are 29 activities, so you can choose the ones you like best. Just download, print, cut and fold, put a number on them and hang on the wall.

Enjoy, and happy first day of advent for tomorrow!

xxx Esther

 

New house storage boxes from Famille Summerbelle

PinkMustardHouseBoxesInsituSide BlackBlue2BoxesInsitu 4BoxesFamille Summerbelle just came out with these adorable house storage boxes. I just love how clever and decorative they are. Yes please for my office, which is in need of organisation!

BlackBoxesOpenInsitu

Plus — a perfect present for the holidays, don’t you think?

xxx Esther

Advent Calendars. Time to start planning!

Ferm Living advent calnedar

December is still six weeks away, and I’m refusing to start thinking about Christmas just yet (I saw the Christmas decorations up on Oxford street earlier this week and it didn’t seem possible! Can it really be that time of year already?!). But… I do love Advent calendars — it’s one of my favourite Christmas traditions.

I saw this cool Ferm Living advent calendar (above) at Cissy Wears earlier this week and love it! (It’s actually what has inspired this post.)

Maileg advent calendar

We have the Maileg advent calendar (as shown above) and it’s a similar concept with little pockets for presents on each day. I start collecting little gifts and knick knacks around this time of year, and then come December 1st, the kids take turn unwrapping each day. It’s such a fun and exciting way to celebrate the run-up to Christmas.

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I also love the idea Meta wrote about, with little paper bags hanging along the stair railing. So fun and festive!

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And lastly, there’s the wonderful idea from Mo who wraps up christmas-themed books every year for a Christmas book Advent Calendar. Such a great idea!

Anyway, I thought I would share all these ideas now… before it’s too late to prepare. The next six weeks will zip by I’m sure!

Courtney x

The Little Square Gallery — sweet snapshots in a cool frame

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I’m not very organised when it comes to using my digital photos — I just take a photo, post it to Instagram, and then it disappears in a virtual cloud somewhere. Actually, it wasn’t very different back when I took analog photos — instead of a virtual cloud, photos would disappear in a dusty box, waiting to be organised and glued into albums…

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Friends of my parents, whose house I visited often when I was little, used to frame a selection of their photos in big collages once every year. They would choose photos of birthdays, vacations, and life in general, photos of their family, mixed with dear friends. They cut out parts of photos, circles, triangles — whatever worked — and glued them without any order or organisation. But the collages looked so cool and I loved looking at them (and finding myself in the sea of faces)!

lsg3I recently commissioned Natalie from The Little Square Gallery to print a selection of my Instagram photos.  To create a moment in time, six months of snapshots, as a visual reminder of the things that happened and made us happy. The frame arrived a little while ago, and it is sitting on our new landing waiting for it’s final spot. And we love it! I see it many times a day, and am reminded of those sweet moments. The children love looking at it as well. Casper is especially intrigued — every day he studies the photos and calls out all of the names of his siblings… sweet boy!


TheLittleSquareGallery2 TheLittleSquareGallery1

Working with Natalie was such a pleasure. She helped me pick the best photos, worked on them to make them perfect in colour, balancing light and contrast, and created a truly wonderful collage, framed beautifully in a solid wood frame. The photos are giclée printed on thick, cotton-rag fine art paper, creating a really cool floating effect that sets this collage apart! I will definitely work with Natalie again, creating more of these compilations — because I definitely like these moments in time much better in a frame, than in a virtual cloud!

xxx Esther

An easy way to transform a room

pim_bed_2We’re back from France, and we found our house renovation next door in full swing. Once again, I’m thinking of tiles patterns, paint colours, concrete floors and curtains. I even wake up in the middle of the night, trying to solve the most unimportant little design questions imaginable. Crazy! (And annoying!)

pim_bed

One of the things that came to mind in my nightly brainstorms, is that I should most definitely use the painted rectangle idea again. A few years ago, to define Pim’s part of the room he currently shares with his big sister Sara, we painted a blue rectangle above his bed. It was really quick and easy to do, and it had such a cool effect. This is how we did it:

We chose a paint colour from the local DIY store, and bought enough paint to cover about 2 m² of wall. With (painters) masking tape and a level, we defined a rectangle above Pim’s bed, approximately 2 meters wide and 1 meter tall. With a paint roller, we painted the rectangle (in our case, two layers of paint were enough). After about half an hour (before the paint dried out too much), we carefully removed the tape. The next day, when the paint was totally dry, we hung the Ferm Living houses on the square, the work light and the knitted garland from Oeuf. I’m still so pleased with how it turned out!

Our children will once again still be sharing rooms in the new house, but this time, Casper will move in with Pim, and Ava with Sara. So I’ll have a boys bedroom and a girls bedroom to decorate. Fun!

xxx Esther

Home & Kids (and a house renovation!)

Home_and_kids_lampWhen we moved to Amsterdam 6 years ago, we thought we would leave after a few years, so we never ended up buying a place for ourselves. We found a nice little house for rent, in a nice little neighbourhood, with a nice little backyard which is connected to other nice little backyards by way of a romantic alleyway. So our children have direct and save access to heaps of nice little neighbouring kids! We fell in love with the house and the neighbourhood, but sadly our landlord told us a year ago that he wanted his house back. (We were also outgrowing the space since we had two more children after moving in here!) So we were preparing to move again and leave our beloved house and neighbourhood, until… our sweet 94-year-old neighbour told us she wanted to sell us her house!

She bought the house when it was being built in 1953, and had lived there ever since. First with her family, then alone after her three children left the house and her husband passed away. Until, at the end of last year, she lost her eyesight, broke her hip, and had to move to an elderly home. She loved her house, and wanted another family to love it as much as she did. And this is why she decided to sell it to us. So sweet!

We’ve been renovating the house for a few months now, and hope to move in later this summer. It’s such a big job and so exciting — it’s the first house we have ever owned! We’ve been designing, selecting materials, fittings, tiles… and of course I’ve been secretly looking around for some new ‘details’ as well. ; )

Home and Kids is one of our shop members and I particularly like their style. I found the black metal wire lamp in the photo above in their shop, and am so in love with it! I can’t wait to see it in our new house, but for now it looks perfect on that vintage side table next to our couch. I also am eying this mirror for our toilet, these wire trays and baskets for my new office (!!), and this Paris pillow for the couch.

There is also a wonderful children’s decor and gift selection, where you can’t go wrong with finding presents, toys, or other desirable little things like these cool Amy & Ivor mocassins that have Casper’s name on them.

In fact, I’m going to place a little order immediately, as sale is now on!

(Oh, in case you are interested — here are a few photos of our house renovation…)

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