The Psychology of Color

the psychology of color

How to Use Color to Influence Your Mood and Productivity


The five senses are an incredible thing. Smell and taste are two of the most powerful tools at evoking emotion. But sight must not be forgotten. After all, what you see can have an incredible impact on how you feel. Even more so, color can inevitably influence how you feel on an everyday basis without you ever really noticing. Which is exactly why incorporating the most appropriate hues into your own home can have a profound effect on how you feel (or would like to feel) while completing a specific task.

“Color can have a tremendously powerful influence on people’s lives,” explains Sally Augustin, PhD, an environmental/design psychologist and the principal at Design With Science. “I see a lot of people who are scared of it, who create one white space after another.” But, she says, you shouldn’t be afraid of the rainbow. In fact, you should embrace it. “Color is a fantastic tool to utilize in interior design. You can create a mood in a room instantly with the use of color, especially when utilizing it on your walls and in your accessories.” Here, Augustin details the best hues to add to the most common rooms in your home and the feelings they evoke.


It’s no secret that certain colors influence you to eat a little more—and a little less. In fact, a 2012 study out of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab found study participants, who had a low contrast in color between their food and plates—for example, mashed potatoes on a white plate— served themselves 30 percent more food than those whose plates and food were high contrast in color. That same study found that the color of one’s placemat and tablecloth had the same effect. The same can be said for wall color, says Augustin. “Warm colors, generally, do seem to make us feel a little hungrier. They get our appetites flowing,” she says. “You can use this information in one of two ways: if you have children who never eat and weight isn’t an issue for you or your partner, you might want to make spaces like your kitchen or breakfast nook a warm color like an orange or brown. On the other hand, if someone tends to overeat, you would want to avoid those warm colors and opt for cooler hues such as blues and grays.”


The bedroom is meant for sleep and relaxation and, as such, says Augustin, you want to avoid colors that will excite you such as a color in the red family. “Because of our cultural associations, we view blue as a calming and relaxing color,” she says; however, if a pale blue is not what you’re looking for, Augustin recommends a “color that’s not very saturated but relatively bright. A sage green with lots of white or a dusty blue with lots of white mixed into it are perfect for the bedroom.”

color wheel

Pantone is the authority on color. In fact, the color-system company’s forecasted color of the year is so closely watched that industries beyond interior design—think fashion—look to it as one of the biggest trend-setting announcements of the year. Here’s a look at the last five years of colors that Pantone has deemed the “it” hue of the year.

2017: Greenery
Get ready to see plenty of this fern-colored hue as the current color of the year dominates trends.

2016: Rose Quartz and Serenity
Pantone says they chose this pink-and-blue duo to evoke feelings of warmth and tranquility.

2015: Marsala
The company notes that this warm wine color is ideal in a kitchen or dining room.

2014: Radiant Orchid
This shade of purple has fuchsia and pink undertones. The company suggests pairing it with deeper hunter greens, turquoise, teal, or even light yellows.

2013: Emerald
This jewel-tone green hue is ideal in accessories such as dinnerware, or in an entryway or foyer, dining room, home office or library, or a powder room.


If you have a home office, you know that it’s oftentimes a place to brainstorm ideas. Research shows that green can actually get your creative juices flowing. Like the bedroom, Augustin recommends “a sage green that isn’t very saturated in color to achieve that ideal balance that enhances creativity without over-stimulating you.”


Need a burst of energy to crank out that workout? Go red! “Seeing the color red gives you a burst of strength,” explains Augustin. “If you have a place in your home where you work out, paint the wall you’re looking at red to have that burst of strength while you exercise.”

Coral Code


Bold Hues Abound in This Project Built for Two



When designers Jacy Painter Kelly and Kerri Robusto were first approached by their home builder client to design the interiors of a model home that was about to be completed, the design duo jumped at the opportunity. For the last few years, the friends turned design partners (they founded 431 Designs) have completed the interiors for several model homes in North and South Carolina, so the task was nothing new to them. They were familiar with creating eye-catching designs that combine comfort and style while sticking to a budget.

But unlike the duo’s previous model-home projects, which required designing for a potential family, this time the client requested the interiors appeal to an empty nester demographic. “That was who their market research said would be the potential buyer, so that’s what we had to run with,” explains Kelly. Though it was a different type of homeowner they would be designing for, they knew they could easily create a seamless design that appealed to not only empty nesters, but growing families, as well.

The designers integrated coral via accessories and fabrics including the chinoiserie-inspired pattern on the living room draperies.

The first order of business: choosing a color palette. “We really wanted to focus on [the] Sherwin-Williams color of the year at the time: Coral Reef,” says Robusto. “It’s such a fun color to use and incorporate into a home.” Without hesitation, the designers added bold doses of the color throughout the entire home starting with the downstairs living spaces. “We fell in love with the drapery fabric in the family room and went from there,” says Kelly of the chinoiserie-inspired pattern. “The draperies have a lot going on in them so we wanted to balance them with fairly solid and neutral furnishings.” Organic materials coupled with semi-modern metallic accents throughout the home help balance the boldness of the coral such as in the family room where a wooden console and gold geometric fireplace screen anchor the space.

The kitchen exemplifies the designers’ coupling of these same materials with the coral. Chunky wooden counter stools balance the colorful valance above the kitchen sink and the rug in the dining area, while silver accents are strewn throughout in the form of stainless-steel appliances and pendant lights over the island. “This space is completely open into the family room so it needed to keep the same tone found throughout the rest of the home,” explains Kelly. “It’s a great mix of reclaimed wood with some glam pieces.”

Upstairs, the designers were more adventurous with the coral, painting the master bathroom walls in the vibrant hue while white subway tiles and counters offer a fresh, modern juxtaposition. In the adjacent master, Robusto and Kelly kept the base neutral and added in pops of color with the geometric-print rug, which anchors the bed and provides some interest and an
additional layer to the design. Mirrored nightstands provide an instant glam factor to the aesthetic without overdoing it. “It’s a pretty casual room and design so those mirrored nightstands just really elevated the style of the room,” says Kelly.

Not So Neutral

If working with color sounds daunting, you may be inclined to ditch the color wheel and keep it neutral. But remember that color gives character. Here, Robusto and Kelly detail their interior color pitfalls—and how to avoid them.

The Easter Egg Effect
Color is fun. But too much of anything can be no good. “Having different colors in each room or too many different colored accent walls can be very busy and overwhelming,” says Robusto. “Use different shades in the same family instead.”

Far Too Light
You jumped the first hurdle of utilizing more than a single hue in your home. But you can always go a bit deeper—with your shade, that is. “Generally, most people are afraid of dark paint,” says Robusto. “But in the right room conditions and decor, a darker paint makes a bolder statement.”

Attention to Detail
Color doesn’t always have to mean paint. “You can use pops of color in textiles like drapery, throw pillows, and rugs, as well as the art,” says Kelly. “I think the trend is moving toward a bigger mix of neutrals now that there are so many textures being used on furniture and soft goods.”

The duo had the most fun decorating the entertainment room. A custom-made sectional with piping in the coral hue is the star of the room while the peacock feather patterned fabric on the window treatments really amplifies the color in the space. “It’s such a fun room to relax in and entertain in,” says Kelly. “And who doesn’t love a zebra rug?” Throw pillows in various patterns and textures add yet another layer of detail to the space.

Overall, the designers—and, most importantly, the client—were thrilled with the result. “It really appeals to not only the empty nester, first and foremost, but it’s still a fantastic design for families,” says Robusto

Hubble Shire Farm




Steven Favreau, president of Favreau Design, longed to move to the French countryside. But with family in his hometown ofBoston, and offices in both Boston and San Francisco, that kind of move presented a logistic challenge. In 2011, he found his solution in a 5,000-square-foot home that was built in 1832 and set on twenty-five acres in the beautiful countryside of Chelsea, a small farming town in Vermont. “I love American history,” says Favreau, “and decided to redo the home with a contemporary attitude, but with a nod to the period.”

Favreau enjoys designing in the tone and voice of a period rather than catering to the absolute historic details of an era, seen here in the formal dining room:

Renovating a historic home is a great undertaking that often includes making unexpected structural and whole-house updates. “The electrical situation was so bad, I was concerned that a fire was very possible. We had to repair that immediately,” he explains. “And we found that a wall between the kitchen and dining room was putting pressure on the floor and causing the house to slowly sink into the basement.” He knocked the wall down and put in an enormous beam in the kitchen for support. The floor stopped sagging and slowly settled into its proper height.

The floors were the original pumpkin pine. Because the floorboards were textured and hand hewn, Favreau had them sanded down by hand to retain the aged details. They were then stained a dark espresso color, given a satin finish, and topped with a wax coat. On the walls, six layers of wallpaper were removed and the plaster was reskinned. Favreau maintained everything he could from the original architectural details. Moldings, five wood fireplace surrounds, the banister, and even the old hardware were carefully refurbished. The trim was painted a creamy white. Once these basic foundations were laid, the color—amazing, intense, intoxicating color—was introduced.

Favreau found photos dating from the 1800s that showed the foyer with stripes on the walls. He wanted the foyer to be dramatic and jolt the senses, but he also wanted it to be part of the whole. So he took bits and pieces of the foyer decor and incorporated them into the rooms surrounding the foyer. “The home is one [book] and each of the rooms is a chapter,” he explains.

He found mother-and-daughter artistic painters in town who accomplished the phenomenal striping on the foyer walls. “I had seen wonderful wallpaper with stripes, but it was no longer available. So I designed a similar stripe pattern using brown, fuchsia, and white paint,” says Favreau. “The painters astoundingly painted the stripes by hand!” A faux-leopard stair runner and white, faux-animal mounts lend a touch of whimsy.

The dining room off the foyer was papered in fuchsia with a pattern that is reminiscent of stacked plates. Favreau purchased the traditional chairs at an auction, then added bright-teal paint and the candy-striped upholstery. “I like a contemporary feel, but love antiques,” he admits. The cushions are in a purple crocodile-patterned material. In contrast, the table has a serene industrial feel. And the ceiling and rug offer a calming touch in subtle cream tones with patterns that mirror each other.

The 1865 portrait over the fireplace is of Aaron Davis, a former Chelsea postmaster and one of the very early owners of the house. In fact, the estate is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Davis House.

The living room is much more subtle in its design approach than the dining room. The walls are a calm, sky-like color by Benjamin Moore called Palladian Blue. But as quiet as the room is visually, Favreau felt it just called for some orange. He designed the furniture, which is upholstered in gray faux-chinchilla framed in a bold medallion print by Pindler.

The designer kept the kitchen muted on purpose. “As much as I love pattern and color, I never want the design to go too far,” he says. “I used a wallpaper that has a wonderful pattern created by the end cuts of logs and gives the room an indoor-outdoor feel. It reminds me of the firewood piles found all over Chelsea.” The kitchen cabinets are reclaimed furniture pieces that came together over time. The island is supported by a printmakers’ chest with small drawers for storage. The overall tone is calm and light, but Favreau couldn’t resist a little color play. “We have a dog named Hubble and Chelsea is the county seat so it’s a shire,” he explains. “I did an arrangement of multicolored letters spelling out the name of the house ‘Hubble Shire Farm’ in the eating area.”

Favreau’s biggest challenge in creating this design was logistics. “I was living full time in San Francisco and working with a local contractor in Chelsea,” he says, smiling. “The entire renovation was done by e-mail, phone, sketches, and photos sent back and forth between us.” The result: a bold and courageously colorful design that still voices the historic tone of the 1800s.


ABOVE: Favreau’s love of pattern and color bring the master bedroom to life. The wallpaper is Autograph by Andrew Martin (, a soft ecru base color covered with subtle autographs of people who have been famous through the ages.

The Whole Bowl Part 2

The Whole Bowl

Bowl Recipes for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner



This is a lovely twist on the traditional chicken and vegetable bowl as this recipe uses harissa powder or paste to add a little flair and flavor to the chicken. Harissa is an aromatic and spicy chili paste or powder that is traditionally used in African or Middle Eastern cooking but has become quite popular in the West in the last few years. Harissa is now easily found in most markets and makes a nice change in flavor to curry or sriracha. In addition to the ingredients I’ve included in this recipe, I often include wilted greens, spinach, tomatoes, green onions, radishes, and mandarin oranges.

Makes 2 bowls

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup diced chicken, either breast or dark meat
  • 1 teaspoon harissa powder or harissa paste (easily found in most markets)
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons water, optional
  • 2 cups cooked white or brown rice, warm
  • ½ cup shredded or diced carrots
  • ½ cup diced zucchini, not cooked
  • ¼ cup diced red pepper
  • ¼ cup diced pineapple
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

In a sauté pan over medium-high heat add the 2 tablespoons of oil. Season the diced chicken with salt and pepper and then toss with the harissa paste or powder.

Add the seasoned diced chicken to the sauté pan and cook until the chicken is browned and cooked through. Transfer the chicken to a platter.

In a small food processor or blender, add the avocado, lime juice, ¼ cup chopped cilantro, garlic, olive oil, and white wine vinegar. Pulse until the dressing is smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If you’d like the dressing a bit thinner in consistency, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water until you’ve reached desired consistency. Set aside.

To assemble, place one cup of warm rice into each bowl. Top with cooked chicken, carrots, zucchini, red pepper, pineapple, sunflower seeds, and fresh cilantro. Drizzle with the avocado lime dressing and serve immediately.


Noodle salad bowls are the perfect lunch or dinner bowl; they combine the comforting texture of soba noodles with an array of fresh ingredients. Top the ingredients with this plate-licking spicy peanut sauce and you’ll find yourself adding this beautiful bowl to your regular menu rotation. I make this Asian noodle salad bowl with all or just a few of the ingredients, depending on what I have on hand. Sometimes I simply throw a handful of baby greens in the bowl and top with sliced mushrooms, sliced green onions, and sesame seeds. It is also delicious with grilled or pan seared Gulf shrimp, tofu, or tempeh. Whatever I put with it, this beautiful Asian noodle bowl is always a favorite at my kitchen table.

Makes 2 bowls

  • ¼ cup peanut butter
  • ¼ cup sweet chili sauce
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons warm water
  • Salt (optional)
  • 1 package buckwheat or traditional soba noodles cooked according to package directions and cooled
  • ⅓ cup shredded carrots
  • ⅓ cup sliced or diced red pepper
  • ⅓ cup mung beans
  • ⅓ cup sliced green onions
  • ¼ cup sliced radishes
  • ¼ cup fresh chopped basil
  • ¼ cup fresh chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • ½ avocado, sliced

In a food processor add the peanut butter, chili sauce, lime juice, vinegar, hoisin sauce, olive oil, and 2 tablespoons warm water. Blend until the sauce is smooth and creamy. Add additional water to thin the sauce if desired. Season to taste with salt if needed.

To assemble the salad bowl, place about 1 cup of noodles in each bowl. Top with the carrots, red pepper, mung beans, green onions, radishes, basil, cilantro, sesame seeds, and avocado. Drizzle with the spicy peanut sauce and serve. Serve with extra sauce for the noodles.


Quinoa’s nutty flavor lends itself delightfully to an array of ingredients, and it pairs especially well with Mediterranean flavors. Here I’ve used fresh herbs such as mint, Italian parsley, and basil along with other unmistakable ingredients including Kalamata olives and sun-dried tomatoes for a culinary adventure for the palate.

Makes 2 bowls

  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1½ cups water
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped (use the jarred sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil)
  • ¼ cup diced or sliced cucumbers (or more if desired)
  • ¼ cup marinated artichoke hearts (or more if desired)
  • ¼ cup pitted Kalamata olives
  • ¼ cup crumbled feta cheese

Rinse the quinoa under cold water until it runs clear.

Add the quinoa to a pot and then add the water and one tablespoon salt. Stir and then heat to a boil, turning it down to a simmer. Cover with a lid and let it cook for about 10 to 15 minutes. Take it off the heat and let it sit for another 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and then stir in the fresh mint and Italian parsley and chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to 1 hour.

To make the vinaigrette, whisk together the lime juice, honey, mustard, olive oil, and white wine vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To assemble the bowls, divide the chilled quinoa into two bowls. Top each bowl with sun-dried tomatoes, cucumbers, artichoke hearts, Kalamata olives, and crumbled feta. Drizzle with the vinaigrette and serve.

Paradise Found

The Gardens of Northern India


For garden travelers, it’s a mistake that India is not on the radar screen. At the same time that Henry VIII was sitting on the throne of England, Babur, the first great Mughal emperor, was conquering India and creating magnificent gardens there. Several of his heirs continued the great garden tradition he pioneered and local maharajas imitated the style. The result is a rich selection of gardens to visit in Northern India.


In Delhi, Humayun’s Tomb is a must-see destination. Commissioned in 1565 by the widow of Mughal Emperor Humayun, this mausoleum is the first of the grand dynastic tombs built by the Mughals. The tomb is set at the center of a twenty-six-acre garden, which is designed in the traditional Persian Charbagh (four-fold garden) style. The garden is divided into four main parts by walkways and flowing water. The play of fountains adds life and motion to the scene, while the still waters of the reflecting pools mirror the spellbinding architecture of the mausoleum.

Ironically, it was an Englishman who designed Delhi’s other superb Mughal-style garden. Sir Edwin Lutyens was commissioned to plan the new capital of India in Delhi and to design some of the key buildings, including Rashtrapati Bhavan, the official residence of the president of India. Lutyens also designed the gardens of Rashtrapati Bhavan, which are open to the public only in February and March. There, visitors can enjoy the series of lushly planted garden rooms, including the Musical Garden, Mughal Garden, “Purdah Garden,” and Sunken Butterfly Garden. Make your reservations well in advance.


Guests at the Jai Mahal Palace Hotel get the benefit of the eighteen acres of beautifully landscaped Mughal gardens, which were created with the advice of Elizabeth Moynihan. Wife of the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a former U.S. Ambassador to India, she authored the book Paradise As a Garden: In Persia and Mughal India.

Just a forty-minute drive from Jaipur is the magnificent Amer Fort. In addition to the multi-columned diwan (Hall of Audience), mirrored mosaics, elaborately decorated gates, and royal apartments, there are two important gardens. The first is Kesar Kyari Bagh, meaning saffron garden. It was built around 1600 for the women of the harem to enjoy looking down upon from their rooms high in the hilltop palace. The terraced garden on Maota Lake appears to be floating. Block-pl

anted beds outlined by pale-marble partitions form an intricate pattern of stars and geometric shapes. On moonlit nights, the marble appears to glow, illuminating the lacy pattern against the dark plants.

Inside the palace precincts is another patterned garden. Similar in design to Kesari Kyari, but much smaller, it features a central fountain shaped like an eight-pointed star.

A day-trip distance from Jaipur is the charming village of Samode, where garden lovers come to see Samode Bagh, a 250-year-old walled garden. One of the oldest functional Mughal gardens in Rajasthan, the long water channel with its forty-two fountains provides cooling refreshment. If you fancy more time there, stay on the grounds at the Samode Bagh Hotel, or live like a maharaja and splurge on the nearby 475-year-old Samode Palace.


Perhaps the most famous landmark in the Indian subcontinent is the Taj Mahal, which was commissioned in 1632 by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahān to memorialize his beloved wife Mumtāz Mahal. The mausoleum and Persian Paradise gardens are now a UNESCO World Heritage site for being, “The jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage.”


Set in a valley surrounded by mountains and graced with seven lakes, Udaipur is indeed a scenic, romantic spot. And two of the gardens here are worth a special visit.

The first is the courtyard garden in the Jag Mandir or Lake Garden Palace. Accessible only by boat, the setting in the middle of Lake Pichola is sublime, especially at sunset. Enjoy the boxwood parterre garden with its grove of frangipani trees as well as the views across the water of the floodlit City Palace and the Taj Palace Lake Hotel.

Just two kilometers outside the city’s north gate is Saheliyon Ki Bari (Garden of the Maids). Built in the early 1700s as a place where the ladies of the royal household could retreat from palace intrigue, the lush plantings are embellished with tiered and elephant-shaped fountains, beautiful lotus pools, and marble pavilions.

Steeped in history and created by fascinating, powerful rulers, the gardens of Northern India are inspiring places to go to rejuvenate the spirit as well as enjoy the rich legacy of the Mughal Empire.

 Photography by © Chan, ©, ©, ©, ©

Earth, Air, Water, Fire



Standing in the center of this garden, you’d be hard-pressed to believe you are in Dallas, Texas. “This is a complicated lot. There’s about twenty feet of grade change, which is unusual for Dallas,” says Harold Leidner, owner of the Dallas/Fort Worth-area firm, Harold Leidner Landscape Architects. “The property feels secluded because of the grade changes.” outdoor

The hilly property was only a wooded lot when Leidner was first brought into the project. The house planned for the lot was a Mediterranean design, and the homeowners asked for gardens to match that style.

Leidner explains how he created the garden to complement the home. “It’s done through connection of spaces and style. The garden is rustic and relaxed. It fits into the natural area but still has a lot of organization and structure.”two

In addition to the style, the homeowners made other requests. “She really loves flowers and things that bloom. He likes
fireplaces and fire elements,” says Leidner. Both wanted lots of greenery and a series of paths and unique gardens to dot the hillside.

The ability to enpooltertain large crowds was also on the couple’s wish list. The lower area of the lot is expansive enough to host grand parties, but includes enough intimate spaces to make it feel cozy. The pool provides a key entertaining space and is the focal point of the garden. The water presents a shock of blue amidst all the greenery. Pavers divided by grass create a diamond pattern that softens the hardscape. A spa tops one end of the pool, and a water feature on the spa’s edge flows continuously.

Next to the pool is a cozy sitting area that’s framed by a pergola. A massive wood burning fireplace is the centerpiece, and on either side of the fireplace are pots that have been converted into gas fire features. With an extended fall season and few harsh winter days in Dallas, the fire features are useable from October to April.three

The mature tree canopy shades the garden, letting in dappled sunlight. A series of terraces circle the lot and lead up from the pool. Each terrace overflows with colorful azaleas and flowers that can be changed to match the seasons. Tulips, impatiens, geraniums, and pansies all take turns showing their seasonal colors.

On the other side of the pool, a stone staircase leads to a higher grade in the garden. The handrail mimics a grapevine, and the rail serves a practical purpose but looks organic, creating the illusion that it grows out of the stairway.

oneInformal paths lead from the lower areas up the terraced hills. Smaller, intimate gardens are found along the way. “Each space is like an individual room. As you walk up the paths, there are smaller intimate places that you can stop along,” says Leidner. Some of the gardens are hidden behind ornate doors. In a few spots, Leidner uses mirrors to play tricks on the explorer. “The mirrors hang on the fence and it looks like there’s a hole there. They hang high enough that you don’t see your own reflection but you do see the reflection of dozens of trees beyond you,” says Leidner. It’s an illusion that makes the garden seem to go on forever.

A wooden bridge and a shack are structures that add character to the landscape. Both look as if they have been there forever. The bridge provides a pathway across the creek found on the property, and the shack serves as a storage shed.

Earth, air, water, and fire merge naturally in this landscape, yet there’s an underlying plan that unifies the garden. “There’s a strong organization to this design,” says Leidner. “That may not be evident as you walk through it, which is really what you want. The garden appears soft and loose, but when you view the plans on paper, everything is laid out on axis lines. The vistas and views are controlled lines, but all of it is softened by greenery.”

Lighten Up

Hardscape lends structure to gardens. You need elements such as paths, stairs, and walls for practical reasons. But sometimes hard edges intrude on the natural look that you love about your home’s outdoor spaces. Consider the following techniques from Harold Leidner to soften your garden’s hard edges.

Plant in the space between pavers. Paving stones don’t have to be surrounded by dirt, stone, or cement. Instead, plant grass, moss, or other low-growing ground cover. This technique visually softens the flat surfaces and provides a cool place to step if the summer sun makes the stones too hot for bare feet.

Insert planting pockets. In the dry stack stone walls surrounding this property, Leidner intentionally left pockets where he could insert plants. “If you didn’t have greenery coming out of the walls, it would feel like a concrete jungle,” he explains.

Mimic natural shapes. Another trick Leidner used in this landscape was to insert manmade elements with natural shapes. A prime example is the stair handrail shaped like a grapevine. “It looks like tangled vines, but it’s all steel,” he says. “It’s almost a piece of art.”


The Whole Bowl

The Whole Bowl
Bowl Recipes for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner


If there’s one food trend every cook can get behind, it’s bowl food. The comforting presentation is also delimaincious and easy to assemble. Combine fresh ingredients with a few pantry staples and you’ll get a beautiful bowl of food with loads of flavor. These recipes can be prepared for one or more servings (just multiply accordingly), and many of them can be adjusted to suit you and  your family’s tastes and favorite ingredients. So I’ve listed options for every meal that can be made to feed two or ten.


Most people top their oatmeal with fruit and spices, maybe granola and yogurt, or just good old cinnamon and butter. But have you ever tried oatmeal as a savory dish? It’s just as delicious served savory and it pairs beautifully with veggies, cheese, meat, poultry, and eggs. In addition to this lovely savory oatmeal bowl recipe, I often serve savory oatmeal with wilted spinach and feta, ham and cheese, maple sausages and eggs, and steamed broccoli with cheese. Just a few more examples of the versatility of savory oatmeal.

 bowlMakes 1 bowl

  • 1 cup prepared unsweetened oatmeal, warm (I like using steel-cut oats, but quick oats work just as well)
  • 2 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
  • ¼ cup fresh spinach leaves
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons diced tomatoes
  • ¼ cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives
  • 1 tablespoon sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, or flax seeds
  • 1 poached or fried egg

Place the warm oatmeal in a bowl and top with crumbled bacon, fresh spinach leaves, diced tomatoes, shredded cheddar, chopped chives, and seeds.

Top with a poached or fried egg and serve.


Smoothies rule in my house, and a new trend that hit my kitchen recently is smoothie bowls. Putting a smoothie in a bowl allows for more toingredientsppings and creativity along with making the meal (or snack) a bit heartier and more satisfying. This acai smoothie bowl is a bit thicker in texture than a regular smoothie and it’s filled with fresh flavors; it’s a refreshing and delicious way to begin the day. Additional (yet optional) ingredients I often include on top of my smoothie bowl are sunflower seeds, flax seeds, fresh bananas, fresh raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, fresh mango, papaya, pineapple, diced pears, chopped nuts, or shredded coconut.

There are many ways to top an oatmeal, ancient-grain, or smoothie breakfast bowl. Try adding some of the following fresh and delicious ingredients to the top of your next breakfast bowl. There are endless tasty options, but here are just a few to get you started.

Makes 1 bowl

  • 1 to 1½ cups frozen assorted berries (blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries)
  • 1 frozen banana, peeled (I slightly thaw my banana so I can easily peel it)
  • 1½ tablespoons acai powder (found in most markets)
  • 1 cup almond or coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons raw honey to taste
  • ½ cup dairy-free yogurt (optional)
  • ¼ cup granola
  • ¼ cup fresh blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons hemp seeds
  • 1 star fruit, sliced (pineapple would also be delicious)

In a Vitamix or smoothie blender, add the frozen berries, frozen banana, acai powder, coconut milk, and raw honey. Add the yogurt if using. Place the lid on top of the blender and pulse until ingredients are nicely pureed into a smoothie. If the smoothie is too thick, add a little more milk. If the smoothie is too thin, add some more frozen berries.

Place the smoothie in a bowl and top with granola, fresh blueberries, hemp seeds, star fruit, and any other optional toppings. Serve immediately.

Desert Sublime



When Lynn and Dana Roper first built their custom home in the Sonoran Desert in Oro Valley, Arizona, the couple enlisted their builder to handle their new home’s landscaping efforts. Admittedly, the builder was not an expert in desert landscape florals, trees, and bushes, but went ahead and installed a basic landscape that the Ropers knew, one day, they would need to completely overhaul. cactus

Not long after the couple moved into their winter residence, they contacted landscape architect Shelly Ann Abbott, MLA of Landscape Design West, LLC, who took one look at the Ropers’ yard and knew exactly what needed to be done. “Lynn had called me after a really severe winter frost where many plants had died and others just weren’t really thriving,” says Abbott. “She basically asked me what plants I would recommend for various places in the yard and I told her, ‘I would be glad to provide a design to you, but what you have now is not a design.’ And she said. ‘Are you telling me you could do a really fabulous, colorful butterfly garden?’ I said yes, and she said, ‘Create that for us.’”
With that, the Ropers enlisted Abbott to redesign the five-acre lot, concentrating heavily on the backyard and some of the front, which included a small courtyard. The Ropers had one request: as nature lovers, they wanted their garden to feel like a seamless, secondary habitat for the local wildlife, including deer, bees, hummingbirds, and more. With the lot located high above the valley floor on Pusch Ridge, Abbott knew that her design would not only need to draw wildlife in, but it would also need to bloom year-round, especially in the winter when the Ropers are in town the most.
With an extensive knowledge of native plantings, Abbott designed an elegant butterfly garden featuring locally and regionally chair_umbnative plantings that would showcase stunning blooms throughout the year. “Year-round color and interest was the backbone of the garden’s design,” explains Abbott. “The plants I selected for this landscape are almost entirely southwestern, regional native plants. It’s important because they bring in wildlife, provide food and habitat for that same wildlife, and create aseamless dialogue with the desert beyond the walls.”


ABOVE: One of the homeowners’ requests: a year-round blooming butterfly garden, which Abbott designed after thoroughly researching the lot’s exposure to sun.

Southwestern Beauty
Desert gardens are the norm in the southwestern United States, but to do them correctly, you need to know which plants thrive in specific climates, explains landscape architect Shelly Ann Abbott, MLA of Landscape Design West, LLC. Here’s a list of the plantings that Abbott has found work extremely well in the Sonoran Desert.

These stunning plants serve as the ultimate in interest and texture in a yard. This succulent is great for desert landscapes because it needs little water to thrive.

Similar to the agave, the yucca provides ample texture to one’s landscape. Depending on the species, it can grow large like a tree.

Prickly Pear
These stunning cacti not only look interesting, but they’re also quite lovely with hot pink, bright orange, or yellow blooms.

Indigenous to the Sonoran Desert, the ocotillo is a tall, slender plant that one might mistake for a cactus. Boasting beautiful crimson flowers mainly after rainfall in the spring and summer months, the ocotillo is a great addition to any desert garden.

Along walkways and near some of the backyard pool areas where rock walls and stone terraces are, Abbott added plantings that softened the hardscape. While in areas where the Ropers and their guests would be sitting, dining, and relaxing, she added plantings that boasted plenty of eye-catching color and texture. The layering of various native plantings such as agave, prickly pear, saguaro, yucca, ocotillo, desert willow, and desert spoon, look and feel as though the home truly has been there forever, with desert vegetation growing all around it. One thing was consistent. “Because these plants are from this region, they look good, they’re desert-y, they fit in,” explains Abbott, who points out plantings like palm trees simply don’t thrive nor look appropriate in the southwestern part of the country. “A builder comes in, scrapes the ground flat, and builds a house. And some homeowners want a palm tree and grass, but those just don’t work well here. These plants look appropriate and they give back to the desert.”


ABOVE: Abbott added indigenous plants to the backyard to mimic the desert setting. BELOW: Colorful planters help add much-needed color during the winter months.

That giving back mentality is even more apparent in the bee habitat that Abbott had installed on the property to not only provide a dose of wildlife to the environment but also help pollinate the plantings throughout the backyard’s butterfly garden. Housed in a sculpture created by a local artist, the habitat is home to solitary bees, which neither sting nor are part of a traditional colony. Their existence is simply to pollinate, something Abbott finds extremely important when creating designs for her clients. “I’ve found that homeowners really love desert gardens, not only because they’re beautiful but also because they give back to the surrounding environment.” The addition of a riparian water feature draws deer and other animals to the property where they can drink fresh water.
Amazingly, desert gardens such as this are relatively low maintenance, requiring little water as most native desert plantings do, and less frequent manicuring than other traditional gardens. “We added boulders to areas where we can collect rain water with berms and stills to water the yard, so it’s extremely eco-friendly without impairing the garden’s overall design,” says Abbott.
In the end, the Ropers are thrilled with their desert garden. “They tell me that they look out the window and all they see are hummingbirds and butterflies and bees humming around the garden,” says Abbott. “They say, ‘I literally had no idea how beautiful this would be!’”

Sunny Side Up

The Waterfront Location Acts as Inspiration for This Balboa Island, California Vacation Home

Locals might catch Wendy Blackband riding a golf cart loaded with baskets of fabric on her way to meet clients on Balboa Island in Newport Beach, Living room12232_Copy11California. The owner of Blackband Design in Irvine resides on the scenic island where she designed a colorful retreat that was completely renovated for a couple. And though the home is not directly on the water, it does overlook Newport Harbor.Accessible only by bridge or ferry, the quaint location provides a lovely escape for this couple and their company. “They wanted to use this as a hub to connect with their children and their eleven grandchildren,” says Blackband. “They had pretty clear visions of what they wanted to do, and I helped facilitate that.” For starters, the 3,200-square-foot Cape Cod–style structure had a number of walls removed to accommodate family get-togethers. The designer says that here the living room is the heart of the home. “It’s where most people are going to gather. They watch TV, do their entertaining; the room has a lot of different functions,” says Blackband. Custom built-ins provide much-needed storage space. “Every inch counts,” she says. “They liked the idea of having closed storage below for games and things that you don’t want to have on display.” Cabinets are topped with granite that ties into the nearby kitchen, while open shelves hold decorative items. 111-Diamond_537112258_12326 Blackband describes the vibrant interiors as “traditional beach style with a dash of bohemian.” Her clients had two main goals for their getaway; one was to open up the space. “There was a wall separating the living room from the kitchen, which was tiny. We opened it all up, which was a really important thing to have done here,” she says. “It’s more of a great room when the living room opens up to the kitchen. There is so much activity here when entertaining.” Along the same lines, she was tasked with distinguishing the front entrance from the living room. Blackband created not only a separation but a sensation with a long console topped with substantial lamps and a shell mirror. The other objective was to lighten everything up, which was done with white paint on the ceiling, walls, and trim. When outfitting this coastal home, Blackband considered the wife’s personal style. “She is very put together, not too casual looking,” she says. “It was important to have a house that’s more casual in this setting. I still brought in some traditional furnishings, but updated them a little bit.” 111-Diamond_532112257_Cop25Color adds a big boost to the luxurious yet livable environment. Known for creating layered interiors, Blackband kicked her client’s request for turquoise up a notch. “It’s a combination of colors: turquoise, coral, navy, teal, and sage green,” she says. “We start with core pieces that are kind of neutral, like the English roll arm swivel chair, which is perfect for watching TV.” The English roll arm sofa sports natural-colored linen, while shapely aged-leather ottomans are embellished with nail-head trim. “I love the idea of bringing in texture with linen, a large chunky jute rug, and leather ottomans,” says Blackband, who delivers incredible pillows that blend tapestry with velvet, silk, and embroidery. The repetition of colors, such as coral, keeps everything in line. “Not everything has to be completely symmetrical, but it has to be well balanced. You can change it, but still keep it well constructed with a composition that makes sense.” All of the pillows and most of the furniture are custom, including a bobbin chair upholstered in striped fabric and finished with nail-head trim. Custom draperies hung on wrought iron hardware feature a geometric pattern. 111-Diamond_535312259_Cop27 A playful mix of accent pieces that fuses animal prints with coral and blue-and-white porcelain are from the designer’s retail store that carries unique furniture and accessories. “A big part of what we do is accessorizing. It’s like a big reveal when the client decides which ones to keep,” she says. And once the details are in place, the homeowners can focus on what’s most important: connecting with family in the comfort of their well-designed vacation home.     WRITTEN BY JEANINE MATLOW PHOTOGRAPHY BY VINCENT IVICEVIC, V.I.PHOTOGRAPHY & DESIGN

The Herbal Bath and Body Book

Create Custom, Natural Products for Your Hair and Skin

dried flowers - 12815When it comes to personal care products such as creams, lotions, shampoos, body wash, and even toothpaste, it can be a dangerous world out there. Some companies in the cosmetics industry use toxic chemicals, many of which are linked to cancer, infertility, or birth defects. It takes a savvy consumer with excellent vision to read the small print on an ingredient list, and a sound knowledge of the chemicals used to recognize when a cosmetic product may potentially damage your health. Phthalates (an endocrine- disrupting chemical), triclosan (a chemical classified as a pesticide), and parabens (an antifungal agent linked to cancer) are just a few of the chemicals that have a bad reputation but are still commonly used in hair and skin products.

You can do right by your body and learn a new skill by making your own bath products. In The Herbal Bath & Body Book: Create Custom Natural Products for Hair and Skin written by Heather Lee Houdek, you’ll find recipes for a bevy of goods including shampoos and conditioners for different hair types (dry, oily, dandruff), face creams, body creams, and salves and balms for cuts, scrapes, and burns. The natural ingredients are readily available and can usually be found at local health-food stores and Whole Foods Market. The recipes are clearly written and easy to create to boot. Once the ingredients are assembled, each recipe takes around ten to fifteen minutes to make (not including time to cool, during which you can be otherwise engaged).
This book is more than just recipes, though. Houdek writes about her top-twenty favorite herbs, describing their benefits. Number one on her list is lavender. Along with its natural antibacterial properties, lavender soothes nerves, helps with headaches, and is excellent for many types of skin problems, she writes. Black walnut hulls are antiviral and antifungal, great in skin, hair, and scalp treatments. Borage flowers and leaves restore moisture and smoothness to dry and damaged skin. Borage is also beneficial as a wound healer and for treating acute skin eruptions and rashes. The dried flowers will tint your bath water purple-blue and make a relaxing soak that’s healing to the skin.
The chapter on essential additives covers types of oils and their benefits, preservatives such as honey, different kinds of salts and clays, alcohols, and essential oils. A helpful sidebar suggests substitutions you can make for expensive or hard-to-find ingredients along with ideas of buying in bulk to save money. Houdek also devotes a few pages to making herbal oils, infusions, and tinctures.
The Herbal Bath & Body Book concludes with ideas for packaging the various products, including gift baskets. One of Houdek’s suggestions is a “Luxurious Locks” gift basket filled with homemade shampoo, dried herbs for an herbal hair rinse along with directions for use, conditioning oil treatment, saltwater hair volumizer, and an optional lemon-coconut hair lightener. You’ll find the recipes for each of the recommended gift-basket products in the book.
“Many people make the mistake of assuming that shampoos, salves, and lotions are too difficult and specialized to create at home,” writes Houdek. “This is not the case!” The author set out to inspire and empower her readers to both try the recipes and to encourage a deeper connection with healing plants. She succeeds.

Emollient Body Butter
This body butter recipe from The Herbal Bath & Body Book is great for extremely dry skin, and can help with conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. You’ll find it to be a boon during the dry winter months.

½ cup cocoa buttersalve - 7814
½ cup coconut oil
pot or saucepan
4 tablespoons aloe vera gel
1 tablespoon shea butter
1 tablespoon avocado oil
1 tablespoon jojoba oil
¼ teaspoon vitamin E liquid in capsule form
25 drops essential oil (try lavender or a citrus oil)
wide-mouth jar with lid

Melt the cocoa butter and coconut oil over very low heat in a clean pot, stirring
occasionally until they’re completely melted.

Stir in the remaining ingredients except the essential oil.

Remove the pot from the heat, add the essential oil, then use an electric mixer or blender to thoroughly combine and emulsify the ingredients.

Transfer the body butter to the jar. It will thicken and solidify in the coming days.

Tip: The body butter works best when used right after a bath or shower on moist skin. It will seal in the moisture.