Houzz.com Logo

With all of the traveling and cupcake fiascos that have been happening recently, I’ve been super busy, but I am happy to be back blogging and DIY’ing (for at least a few days until my next adventure!) But, I am so happy to reveal that I am now a contributing writer for Houzz.com, an online and mobile app for interior designers, homeowners and professional experts.

Houzz.com Mobile App

From their website info page: “Houzz is the leading platform for home remodeling and design, providing people with everything they need to improve their homes from start to finish – online or from a mobile device. From decorating a room to building a custom home, Houzz connects millions of homeowners, home design enthusiasts and home improvement professionals across the country and around the world. With the largest residential design database in the world and a vibrant community powered by social tools, Houzz is the easiest way for people to get the design inspiration, project advice, product information and professional reviews they need to help turn ideas into reality.”

On Houzz.com, which is free to use, you are able to create “Ideabooks”, which are essentially a grouping of similar decorating and design ideas of your choosing with the accompanying design information. These can be uploaded photographs of your own work, as many interior designers and decorators do to create their online portfolios, or you can pull photos from other Ideabooks to create your own.  As you build your books, all of the original information remains with photograph, so there is no chance of your work being cut and pasted into someone else’s Ideabook without proper sourcing.

As for my Country Design Home Ideabooks? I will be writing and sharing photographs specifically about my personal design point of view which is, of course, country style, beginning with Give a Modern Bath Vintage Style

[houzz=http://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/25786337/list/Vintage-Vanities-Bring-Bygone-Style-to-Baths w=300]

(creating a country bath vanity using antique or vintage furniture vs. stock cabinetry)  and Flooring Types for a Country Kitchen.

[houzz=http://www.houzz.com/user/susanmathison w=300]

But that is just the beginning-in the months ahead, I will be writing about various design and decorating ideas that define country style, and how to create the look in your own home.

When you visit Houzz.com for the first time, you will be blown away by the sheer volume of fabulous design images (over 3 million and counting!) and the accompanying product and building information. Each “Ideabook” provides the reader with a wealth of valuable information which will take you from conception to completion of any imaginable building project.

Lake Arrowhead Kitchen Sue Murphy Designs

Plus, there is a Q & A sideline where readers can post questions to the design experts and receive materials information such as cabinetry used, chosen paint colors and flooring finishes.  Houzz.com is simple in concept: helping homeowners and builders to create the home of their dreams and sourcing out local experts and materials required to make it a reality. So, what are you waiting for? It’s simple (and free!) to create an account, and I guarantee you’ll wonder where the time went as you browse through the millions of photos searching for inspiration and information for your perfect dream space. I hope you have an inspired Thursday, everyone!  Susan



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These past few weeks have been so incredibly busy with 2 destination weddings and a law school graduation (with the accompanying parties : ) thrown in for good measure. All of which has left precious little time for blogging, never mind DIY’ing! For a spectacular wedding in the clouds this past weekend,

Wedding on Pinnacle Mountain

I had volunteered to make some desserts, specifically cupcakes and mini fruit cobblers in mason jars.

Mini Cobblers in Mason Jars

(I’ll share the successful cobbler story later. Today’s blog is about the cupcakes. And the tower.) Remember those Life-Changing Cupcakes I made last year for a wedding shower?

Chocolate Caramel Sea Salt Cupcakes

Well, I decided to use that recipe again, since those were such a big hit, but we had decided on two flavors for the wedding. The trouble really started with the lemon cupcakes. As I was baking the batches, one would come out OK, the next batch would collapse as soon as I took them out of the oven. As someone who has been baking since I was a kid, and having made my share of wedding cakes as well, I was baffled by this. But, I just kept baking until I had the necessary 6 dozen for the wedding guests. Those fallen lemon cupcakes were a sign…

Fallen Lemon Cupcakes

Now, everyone knows that the proper way to serve cupcakes at a wedding is to buy build a cupcake tower so that it has the appearance of a wedding cake, right? So, I did a little Pinterest research and came up with the best plans (or so I thought) for creating a strong and sturdy tower that would show off the decorated cupcakes. Here is the How-I-Did-It (but don’t you do this…)

5 stacked shelves were created, beginning with a 16 inch base and cutting them smaller in 2″ increments to the top. I purchased a package of cake rounds (these are moisture resistant cardboard that you can purchase at your local arts and crafts supply store).

Cupcake Boards and Foam Core Stacked

For added strength and support, I sandwiched a layer of foam core board that I cut to the same size for each shelf. For the supports in between, I took some old, empty, clean tin cans (OK, MISTAKE #1, they should have remained full to add extra weight to the tower), wrapped them in white craft foam cut to fit and hot glued into place

Cupcake Tower Wrapping Tin Can

(it looked like fondant, so I was quite happy with that).

Cupcake Cans Covered in Foam

But then I needed some sort of trim, so I used that foam faux wainscoting from my country cupboard makeover, cutting it along the ridges

Foam Wainscotting for Trim

and then hot gluing it into place for a nice clean edge. For a final trim, I glued purple satin ribbon around the edges.

Cupcake Tower Glueing Ribbon Trim

Once I had all the top layers ready, I stacked and hot glued as I built my tower, with the covered cans centered (MISTAKE #2-the top one was not quite centered, but once they were hot glued into place, there was no going back…) For an extra decorative touch, I cut some paper doilies

Cupcake Tower Lace Doilies

to fit around the edges and glued into place to create a lacy scalloped look.

Cupcake Tower Glueing Doilies

For the base, I used a 16″ scalloped plastic cake round on feet that is typically used for just this purpose. But, it was pretty plain, so I added the lacy doilies to that, but then also placed a scalloped, foiled cake round in the center. MISTAKE #3. Finally, I glued the entire tower to that foiled round (did I say MISTAKE #3 ?!?)

Cupcake Tower Completed

For the topper, I baked one six inch round, decorated it and then added a beautiful bouquet in shades of purple that was created by our friends at Parker Florist in Wakefield.

Parker Florist Cupcake Topper Bouquet

OK, everything was transported safely to the venue on the top of a mountain, the cupcakes tucked into these awesome boxes I picked up at Michaels (they have inserts with holes big enough to fit my fat fingers around the cakes to remove them once it was time to fill the tower.) Aren’t they so pretty!?

Cupcakes in Carrying Boxes from Michaels

Once the ceremony was performed and the delicious wedding dinner was finished, it was time to assemble the tower. So, with the help of my BFF’s,  we walked down the hill from the main house to the tent where the reception was taking place, me carrying the tower, them carrying the boxes of cupcakes (did I mention that it was raining as well?)

Wedding Venue Tent

The tower was settled down onto the designated table, which, because we were outdoors on the soggy lawn, had a bit of a tilt to it. (MISTAKE #4. NEVER ATTEMPT TO STACK A CUPCAKE TOWER ON A TILTED TABLE). I placed the floral round on the top (MISTAKE #5. DO NOT REST THE CAKE TOP ON THE TOP OF THE TOWER-IT MUST BE SECURED). As we were stacking the cupcakes on the tower, it started to wobble forward-remember, it was on a tilted table. So I decided to start stacking from the back to balance it. Reaching around behind to add more cupcakes, I accidentally hit the tower, which instantly fell forward, spilling cupcakes all over the table and ground.

Fallen Cupcakes in Grassy Box

And my shoes.

Cupcake Tower Frosting on Shoe

In an instant we went from Cupcake Wars to Cupcake Disaster. As the tower was plummeting to its grassy grave,  my dear friend Alice caught the flower topper as it was flying by, resulting in a splotch of bright purple frosting on her brand new jacket!! (Alice, please send me the dry cleaning bill : ) At one point, I attempted to put the tower back together, but if you recall MISTAKE #3, the piece that was glued to the foiled round based gave way, so there was no way to re-attach it to the base. Apparently, hot glue and foil don’t adhere well. Lesson learned.

Cupcake Holder After the Break

As we were scurrying around, attempting to save the remaining cupcakes, I was convulsed in laughter, thinking that this could have been an episode of I Love Lucy.  Turning around to see the table of guests directly behind me with their mouths agape, watching the spectacle unfolding before them,  I said “nobody saw that, right!?”, which resulted in more laughter from everyone involved. Now, if someone had been recording this, we most definitely would have won top prize on America’s Funniest Videos, which I then could have used to purchase a fabulous wooden cupcake tower like this one of these beauties on Etsy.  But, alas, I didn’t even have my camera with me until it was over! So, the remaining unharmed cupcakes were set out on the table for the guests to enjoy,

Cupcakes After the Fall

which they reportedly did. The bride graciously laughed it away and the party danced on into the night. My heartfelt congratulations to the bride and groom-hopefully this is the first and last disaster for many years to come. So, you ask, what’s my take-away from all of this? NEVER AGAIN. Don’t ask, I won’t bake them. I’m sticking to wood and paint, from this day forward. Hope you have a memorable Memorial Day, everyone! Susan

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With the weather finally starting to turn a little more spring-like, it is time to head outside and do a little lot of landscaping in our much-neglected back yard. What used to be described as a backyard “oasis”

country garden purple phloxis now nothing more than a large brown patch of what used to be grass, overgrown flower beds and shrubs and a muddied, empty pond.

brown grass country gardenEven Bartlet the Frenchie doesn’t know quite what to do in the overgrown periwinkle mixed with dead leaves and scrub!

Country Garden Bartlet on Brick WalkThe problem with gardens is that they are quite beautiful when properly tended, but do require so much continuous work-weeding, trimming, feeding, watering, cutting back, mowing, pruning-the tasks are endless and oftentimes painful (thanks to Coach’s thorny rose bushes!) And with all of the DIY’ing and antiquing and barn-saleing we’ve been focusing on this year, we just haven’t had the time to spare. But, this is the summer that I am restoring my garden to its former lush beauty!

Country Garden by the BarnSo, in dire need of some gardening inspiration, I turned to Houzz.com, where I typed in the words Country Garden in the search box. Up popped literally thousands of garden photos, some by professionals, some by home improvement gurus, some by your average DIY’ers. All have one thing in common-lush, green grass, country pathways of cobblestone and brick, natural stone walls such as this one from Native Root Designs in Seattle

Native Root Designs Stone Walland colorful blooms. Here are just a few of my favorites:

The Seaside Garden in Wellfleet, Mass by Jean Brooks Landscapes.

Jean Brooks Landscapes WellfleetThe Traditional Garden by Maria Hickey & Associates Landscapes, Boston

Country Garden by Maria Hickey LandscapesNatural Stone Pathway and Stone Steps by Bret Achtenhagen Seasonal Services in Milwaukee

Bret Achtenhagens Seasonal ServicesRomantic Guest House Garden by Dear Garden Associates, Inc. in Philadelphia, PA.

Country Garden by DearGarden.Com

The lush green grass and bordered gardens lead up to the garden shed by Garden Tech Horticultural Services In Boston 

Garden Tech Horticultural Services

These gorgeous pink peonies and foxglove are in a sunken walled garden by Llama Property Developments in the UK.

llamadevelopments.comAlthough I am not a veggie gardener, I am loving the little white scalloped picket fence (it keeps the bunnies out so they don’t have their daily luncheon of carrots and lettuce : ) surrounding this Kitchen Garden by Green Craft Associates in NY

Green Craft Associates From A Blade of Grass Landscaping in Boston is this traditional pea stone driveway and plantings bordered by granite block.

Pea Stone Driveway A Blade of Grass LandscapingAnd, of course, I will need a super awesome potting bench to make all of this happen. This one by Amy Jesaitis would be perfect-rustic and repurposed!

Potter's Bench by Amy JesaitisAnd finally, a serenity pond with a rustic, flagstone patio by Myke Hodgins & Associates in Montreal, Canada. 

Country Pond MontrealDo you have a beautiful garden to share? We would love to see it!! Just send a photo or post to my Facebook Country Design Home page. I need inspiration, and I need it quickly!!  And with that, guess I better go change into my “playing in the dirt” clothes! Have a green thumb Thursday, everyone! Susan


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Several Mother’s Days ago, I received a small wooden painted sign from my children. It reads:

Forever My Mother SignThat day, it brought me to tears, and it sits on my windowsill, where it catches my eye and is a never-ending reminder of how blessed I am to have the most amazing children whom I love dearly. Every year it is increasingly difficult to come up with unique gift ideas for my mom; after all, how many HomeGoods gift cards can one woman use?! (Well, in my case, I can never have enough of those, but I supposed that’s just me : ). Inspired by a gorgeous wedding bouquet that was created by a co-worker using vintage brooches and pins, I decided to make a “Forever Bouquet”. This floral forever bouquet uses only silk flowers, crystal pins and beads and any other embellishments you wish to add. Nothing to water and something that will last forever.

Mothers Day Forever Bouquet Closeup

Here is the how-I-did-it: The supplies:

1. A glass vase or vessel. It can be transparent or not. You can actually use any style vase you would like, even a martini glass or mason jar! The options are only limited by your imagination!

2. Any crystal beads, barrettes, pins and buttons you wish to use to create your bouquet. It can be multi-colored or simple.

Mother's Day Bouquet Jewels3. Florists foam, green florists tape plus any embellishments: rhinestones, lace doily, beads and a hot glue gun.

Mother's Day Bouquet Supplies5. Faux flowers: again, any type. The base of my bouquet is one large white sparkly hydrangea, which I encircled  with roses and feathers and berries- all faux (faux sounds so much better than fake, am I right?!) I also used white, pink and green roses.

Simply take the vase and place the foam in the base and press down firmly.

Mothers Day Bouquet Vase with FLorist FoamI added a touch of bling by cutting a rope of rhinestones

Mothers Day Bouquet Rhinetone Cutterand hot-gluing it to the middle of the vase.

Mothers Day  Bouquet With Rhinestone Trim

To assemble the jewelry flowers, remove any backing (such as the barrette or the pin). Add a spot of hot glue to the middle of the underside of the flower.

Mother's Day Bouquet Glueing Stem to BasePress cut stem into glue and hold until secured. When I cut the wood stems, I actually make the end rather jagged to give it better gripping power.

Floral Stem CutWrap entire stem with florists tape. Repeat with as many sparkly blossoms you would like to use in your bouquet.

Mothers Day Bouquet Wrapping StemsNow is the fun part! Start building your bouquet, beginning with the lace doily at the bottom of the vase.

Mothers Day Bouquet Vintage Doily DetailThis creates a base, much like a wedding nosegay. Next up was the one large sparkly hydrangea, to which I added a drop of glue to the base before I stuck it into the foam.

Mothers Day Forever BouquetAdded the feathers around the base, gluing each at the base and pressing them into place.

Mothers Day Bouquet Feather DetailAfter that, I arranged the flowers. I am not a flower-arranging expert, so I am not going to instruct you in the proper techniques, only to say that you should make a “dome” effect of the bouquet. I wanted it to have a tightly-packed look, but you could certainly do a more woodsy, organic look as well.

Mothers Day Forever Bouquet Closeup

I used primarily white flowers to really show off the jeweled blooms, but then added one pink rose in the center for a spot of color. Once my shape was complete and flower-filled, I started adding the jewelry flowers, one at a time, until the entire piece was completed. The final touches were some green berries and eucalyptus stems. There you have it!

Mother's Day Forever Bouquet Vintage Vignette

A forever sign of love for your forever friend or mom to cherish. And, since I won’t be blogging on Sunday, I will just say Happy Mother’s Day to all of you!! And to my mom? Well, it goes without saying, Forever My Mother, For Always My Friend. XOXOX Susan



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Ah, that is the million dollar question. Last week I posted a photo of a refurbishing painting project I did for my mom’s entryway. I took an old knotty pine cupboard that had seen better days, that we had purchased for next to nothing at auction…

Knotty Pine Cupboard

and transformed it using chalk paint and wax. The results were quite lovely,

Painted Pine Country Commodeor so I thought, until I posted the blog on an awesome home and garden website called HomeTalk that I contribute to on occasion. This is a website where homeowners and DIY’ers show off their latest projects, ask advice from novices and experts and share information and comment about everything from growing cabbage to building garages. The after picture I posted set off a torrent of comments that were sorted into three distinct groups.

Country Pine Commode Painted

A. The “I LOVE this!” These are the folks that appreciate a good paint job and had no problem with me transforming this piece for the sake of design and style. As Michele from MD stated:A new life for an old piece! Beautiful!”

B. The “Well, you did a nice job, but maybe you should have left it knotty pine and not painted it?” This group was being nice ( I thank you : ). Though deep down they thought I should have left it alone, they appreciated my painting efforts. From Tamara in IL: “Nice job, however, I am sad that yet another nice piece of wood has died an embarrassing death at the hands of someone with a can of white paint.”

C. Then, the third group, the “why the heck did you go and ruin a perfectly good piece of furniture by painting it!?” These folks were adamantly opposed to my taking a paint brush to this piece of furniture. As Barbara from IA said: “Again all I see is a beautiful piece of wood furniture painted white and then “distressed”. What happened to sanding and linseed oiling the beautiful wood. Natural wood is so much more beautiful! Paint something made out of junk wood, not good natural wood! “

My response was this: “… (back in the day) you just never painted over old varnished wood, no matter what the style or condition. But, there are times when paint is appropriate and necessary-ie: I love the look of deep, dark wood moldings and wainscoting in a magnificent victorian home, and would not paint that, but I don’t really care for stock stained molding and trim in more modern homes. Paint away, I say! But, I would also say that I would never paint an “important” vintage or antique piece! I appreciate the fact that furniture just serves a purpose in our homes and whatever decoration is on the exterior does not change its usefulness-it is simply a personal design preference. This currently popular “old chippy, distressed look” came about because DIY’ers started pulling pieces of old painted furniture out of attics and barns (instead of trashing them and adding them to landfills), taking a fresh look at them and then duplicating the look with newer pieces. The design world has come full circle, and I, for one, applaud the DIY Dumpster Divas out there who continue to rescue and re-beautify old pieces so that they can be enjoyed for many more years!”

This is an antique pine commode that we purchased in the same lot as the one I painted, but with a lovely patina from years of use. The drawer was broken on the inside, but the exterior was so pretty, that I decided to just rewax it and leave it alone. It is one of my favorite pieces on my porch. But I have seen these pine commodes painted as well, and thought they were quite nice. I just decided that the natural wood finish was the way to go for this particular piece.

Country Pine CommodeSo, which group are you in? A, B or C? There is no right answer, because this is all about personal taste. My design style has a country point of view, so I tend to like things a bit shabby and worn and rough around the edges.

Barn Door Coffee TableBut that doesn’t mean that I won’t paint a piece of furniture just because it wasn’t painted in the first place, especially if its dirty and scratched and stained and in dire need of a makeover. Or conversely, strip down an old painted piece and restore it to its natural wood finish. It all depends on where it will be displayed in my home and what function it will serve. Because, lets face it, furniture is really just about function: we sit on it, sleep on it, eat on it and live with it every day. So, it should reflect whatever style serves you best, and at the end of the day, you should be happy to have it in your home. If that means “throwing a can of white paint at another piece of wood”, then so be it. As Jannette said: “I really like it! makes it look inviting, light and cheerful. Very nice. To some of the comments posted. Maybe painting it is more her style. after all it’s her project.” Exactly right, Jannette! It’s my project and it’s my piece of wood, (or in this case, my mom’s) and this was exactly the intent when we decided to paint this piece. What are your thoughts on the subject? A, B, or C? Paint or no paint? Let me hear it all you DIY’ers out there! Hope you a thoughtful Tuesday everyone! Susan



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Inspired. Rustic. New Country Style.


Welcome To Country Design Home!

Inspired. Rustic. New Country Style...in the suburbs. Because you don't have to live on a farm to create a warm and inviting country-styled home. Follow my DIY junkin' journey as I give tips of the trades and inspired fresh country design ideas to create your own Country Design Home.

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