Guest Blog Post To Share

I am sooo excited to share with all of you my guest blog post published today on New England Home Magazine’s Design Blog!

Featuring stunning images from Paul Granese Photography , owner Gallery Wall of Boston Studio Photography, this blog is about using

photos and images to create gallery walls in your home. Hope you enjoy it!!

Have a terrific Tuesday everyone!!! Susan

A Counter Effect

Changing out a single component in a space can go a long way in a redecorating effort. But sometimes we just need a quick fix-with a much lower price tag-that may not necessarily be a permanent solution. In this case, it was this old formica blue speckled countertop that needed a bit of sprucing up. Not being ready to take the plunge and invest in a new permanent counter surface, but wanting a fresher, more contemporary look, the homeowners found this product at our local Home Depot: Rust-oleum Countertop Coating, this week’s High Five for Friday!  It’s an inexpensive fix for a old laminate surface.   Counter Rustoleum Available in an array of colors (they tint it for you at the paint counter), it gives a shiny hard finish that has the appearance of poured concrete., at the cost of about $20. There is another, more expensive version of this product, but for the time being, we were going for cheap.

Pretty simple actually. You clean and lightly sand the surface, then make sure it is perfectly smooth prior to rolling it on. (If it is not smooth, any little bits will appear as bumps on the dried surface) No need to prime. Tape off and plastic anywhere you do not want the paint to be applied.

Counter taped

Regular painter’s tape works fine. Roll it on with a smooth foam roller brush, making sure you apply a heavy enough coating to cover.

Counter rolling on

Allow to dry- this is the most time consuming part of the process- it takes three days to cure completely! It is dry to the touch within an hour or so, but the finish needs to dry completely to become impervious to water and heavy wear. Oh, and it is pretty smelly stuff- so make sure you have a window you can open. Enjoy your new countertop!!!

Counter finished

Have a great weekend everyone! And remember, sometimes it’s just the little things that can make a big impact. Susan

What’s Old Is New in Newburyport

It’s Wanderlust Wednesday, and this week we are off to Newburyport, Massachusetts! This charming historic seaport town north of Boston that was settled in 1634, Newburyport Brown Square

boasts some of the grandest 17th century colonial homes of seafaring entrepreneurs who owned and worked in the shipyards. Lining the main streets and back roads, many of these stately homes feature widow’s walks, structures on the roof where the women could watch for the return of their loved ones on sailing vessels that had been out to sea for months, sometimes years.

Newburyport Dalton House

Rich in history, dating back to the slave trades prior to the Revolutionary War, this city is charming in stature, and provides residents and tourists alike with plenty of fabulous dining and shopping options. The hub of the waterfront shopping district is Merchant Square and State Street,

Newburyport Market Square

where shoppers are tempted with an array of offered goods, ranging from gourmet eats at Stonewall Kitchen to gourmet doggie treats @ Just Dogs Gourmet! Some of my favorite shops, including Flukes and Finds and Friends, a co-op shop where vendors always greet you with a smile (and possibly a witch’s hat and a cup of brew, if you happen to visit during Halloween : )

Such a fun place to shop, warm and welcoming, full of hidden gems around every corner.

Newburyport Flukes and Finds

Both Ivy Lane and Vintage Chic Boutique offer a bit of everything old that’s new again-from vintage broaches to refurbished furnishings, many of which may have come from those historic homes.  I first stumbled upon the Vintage Chic Boutique

Newburyport Vintage Chic Boutique

last spring at the Vintage Bazaar @ Pettingill Farm. Although there were many vendors selling re-painted furniture featuring chalk paint finishes (presently quite the rage for the DIY fan), their pieces were outstanding in their choice of color and finishes.  Their refurbished vintage pieces were done in rich, muted tones with a gorgeous waxy patina finish, my first introduction to Annie Sloan paints and waxes. I have since tried it myself (see Coffee, Tea or Free for details) and have to say I love the finish!

At the fall fair, I discovered the newly-opened Ivy Lane, a shop with a similar design sense: taking something old and making it new and beautiful again.

Newburyport Ivy Lane

The owners, along with their in-house interior designer Holly Gagne (who drives a fabulous tricked-out vintage aqua VW to showcase her wares) Newburyport Holly Gagne VW create a warm and inviting shop featuring antiques, collectibles and upcycled furniture using eco-friendly CeCe Caldwell paints and finishes. Newburyport CeCe Caldwell Paints

I could go on for another ten blog posts, but there are just so many great shops and restaurants in Newburyport-way too many to mention here. But definitely worth the trip to spend a day strolling cobblestone streets, dining at one of the many pubs and shopping for your new favorite collectible. Have a wonderful Wednesday, everyone! Susan

Lonny Magazine Magic

Lonny Mag CoverPerusing my inbox this morning, and was delighted to see the link for the current issue of Lonny Magazine. For those of you not familiar with Lonny, according to Wikipedia:  “Lonny is a bimonthly online magazine, launched in October 2009, that focuses on lifestyle and home decor.The magazine’s name was formed by combining London and New York, the hometowns of its two founders, the designer Michelle Adams and the photographer Patrick Cline. Adams is the creator of Rubie Green, a collection of organic textiles and home accessories, and Cline is the founder of Brand Arts, a digital retouching and commercial photography printing company.” What I love about Lonny is that every issue takes you on a world tour of design. They showcase all kinds of spaces, some small and intimate, some grand and gorgeous, all incredible. In the Jan/Feb 2013 issue, there were several features that literally took my breath away.

This Sunbrella ad (I know, its an ad, but even the ads are wow in this publication)

This featured space by Boston native Jessika Goranson, owner of Holiday Boutique of Beacon Hill. When she recently found herself renting in NYC, she managed to make this quite small space her own by “mixing high and low pieces-such as blending art from Paris with finds from Target- to create, as she describes it “a charming, if humble home.” I am loving this floor length beveled mirror behind the small table and Japanese garden bench. Adds drama and light to the space.

I need to travel to this Austrian ski lodge Jagdgut Wachtelhof and dine in their rustic country room. Warm and cozy.

What’s to be said about this amazing kitchen from the Houston home of Kay O’Toole? It’s vintage decor in whites and neutrals with touches of lavendar and blue are so warm and inviting.

Obsessing over this shelving area, that features vintage plates and a bust of Ben Franklin surrounded by marble. Where can I get me one of him?

Full page spread of the newly opened San Francisco-based housewares shop Hudson Grace, specializing in classicly simple goods for your home.

So if you haven’t had a chance to check out Lonny Magazine, here is the link. Inspired designs, loads of helpful decorating tips. Eye candy for the decorating soul. Have a sunny Sunday everyone!! Susan

Crate & Barrel Designs and Downloads

Is there an app for that? Essentially everyone I know has a smart phone or a smart tablet or a smart something. Iphone 5Who out there doesn’t play Words with Friends with at least a dozen other people?!? But, as we all know, the free downloads typically have pop-up ads, and some apps can range up to $10 apiece!! So this week’s High Five for Friday goes to Crate and Barrel, who is providing some free iphone/pad/pod downloads-free, that’s right, free!! Just go to There you will find download links for Scrabble, movie trivia, kids books, an Itunes party playlist and more.C&B Get the DownloadAnd the Crate and Barrel website says to check back often, as they will be updating their free downloads and adding more. So a big high five to Crate and Barrel, for not only giving us great design and decorating ideas in their January Inspiration Catalog,

C & B January Inspiration

but for adding a little fun to our Fridays as well! Have a fun weekend everyone! Susan

It’s Personal…A Photo Gallery

If you are fortunate enough to have done some extensive traveling to some fabulous places, it only seems natural to want to have a few photos around your space to show to your visitors. Recently, my daughter asked for my help in putting together a gallery wall in her hallway. Along with the photos are the word “love” in many languages, including Swedish (Karlek) and Dinosaur (rwrrrr)- so cute, and so personal to their space.

Kablek Gallery Wall

She had been collecting travel photos of she and her boyfriend for quite some time, chronicaling their global adventures. Recently, she had some of her fav black and white 4 x 6’s printed to hang. Rather than using a heavy frame, she went with the clear, frameless glass ones from Ikea. So being frameless, the photos appear almost collage-like, rather than individually framed pieces. The trick is getting them into order and then hanging symmetrically on the wall! Now it would have been a bit easier if we had this nifty Iphone Tapeulator app

gallery wall tapeulator

(download available free from Crate and Barrel!). Not wanting an entire wall of black and white, she added just a pop of color.

Memory Gallery Frenchie

In this case a super cute graphic of a french bulldog representing their beloved little guy, Bartlet (note the resemblance?!?)

by Marc Roulstone of Marcart.  We discovered him at the SOWA market last summer : ) The bright yellow helps to break up the otherwise blue, black and white wall. Gallery Wall

Imagine my delight when I opened the January 2013 Pottery Barn catalog and spotted this:

Create A Memory Wall

Create A Memory Wall

create a memory wall, under Style Resolutions No.15. Same idea, essentially the same color scheme (except for her Bartlet pics : ). I guess she was on the right track! Have a memorable Thursday everyone! Susan

Living in a Vacuum…

..less home. Over the years, I have purchased more than a dozen vacuum cleaners of various shapes and sizes, spending hundreds of $$$$.

Vacuum Graveyard

I do all my research, check the consumer surveys, read all the real consumer online reviews. So when I purchase said vacuums, I am hoping they will work as advertised. Pretty simple, actually. Suck up dirt, get rid of the dog fur, deep clean the few area rugs we have in our home as well as the stairs. Alas, I have yet to find a vacuum that can do it all. And some can’t do much of anything! These are our (I use that term with some amusement, as Coach does not have enough of a vacuum use track record to weigh in on this particular subject. Awhile ago, I sent him to the vacuum repair shop to retrieve the Bissell that had malfunctioned almost immediately after I had purchased it. The voicemail he left? “Hi, I am at the vacuum store and they are trying to give me a maroon vacuum cleaner. Is our vacuum maroon? I thought it was blue.” Just saying…) current units we have at Casa Mathison.  Presently we have FOUR vacuums stuffed in our closets, two hand-helds, two uprights. (not counting the shop vac in the basement- which is fine- at the moment).

Number 1: A Black and Decker Cyclonic Dustbuster.

Vacuum Dustbuster

Apparently cyclonic means that there is a bit of a tornado going on inside, so as the bits are retrieved off the floor, they swirl around away from the filter so it doesn’t get clogged or slow down. Makes sense. Great for picking up small bits in the kitchen, like when the dog knocks all the unwanted food out of her bowl, or when I drop oatmeal on the floor while making cookies. But not flour. It won’t pick up flour. And clearly not for vacuuming an entire house, especially carpeting!

Number 2: Shark hand held vacuum with the beater bar.

Vacuum Shark

This one is for the stairs, where the dog fur collects in the corners and risers. The main part works fine for a short time, but the hose attachment gets clogged up with the fur while I am trying to do the corners, and there is no way to detach it to clear it out, except to use a knitting needle-yikes! Once it’s clogged, it’s done.

Number 3: Eureka! I found it! Or at least I thought I had found a great little machine for doing the floors with this Eureka stick vacuum.

Vacuum Eureka

I am not sure what the “four-in-one” is, as it pretty much just stands up and picks up small bits on the floors. No beater bar. Not enough suction to clean a carpet. Can’t do stairs, whether you keep the handle long or short. And then there is this bad boy, Number 4: the Bissell PRO-LITE with 12 amps of power! (This is where Tim Allen is supposed to make that “more power, ar, ar ar nosie”)

Vacuum Bissell

Did my research, purchased it for the best price, assembled it. Best vacuum I ever had. Not too noisy, lots of suction. Then the switch broke and needed repair. And then pieces started falling off of it! It seemed like every time I took it out of the closet, more parts fell off the bottom- the entire base is now being held on with one bolt. Then the suction lessened, so it doesn’t really clean the rugs deeply any more. Tough with the dog, and the winter sand and salt presently making its way into the house.Vacuum BissellSo here I am, once again searching again for the one vacuum that will do it all-floors, stairs, area rugs, dog fur. This time I would like a cannister vac-but one with some serious power to get the rugs clean and do the stairs! Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I just don’t want to purchase yet another unit that will quickly kick the bucket and join the growing heap of parts in the vacuum graveyard. Here’s hoping your Sunday doesn’t suck-or maybe hoping it does-literally!!  Susan

Iphone 5 Fever!

This week’s High Five for Friday goes to Dianne @ Walmart in Danvers, MA, who sold me my brand new, awesome, quite pretty silver and white Iphone 5 for $127.00!! I have been using an old 3Gs for the past two years, so this is an exciting upgrade for me! No more grainy, blurry photos for my blog and oh, hello Siri : )

Iphone 5

Walmart is not advertising this deal-I heard about it through word of mouth-they apparently don’t have many in stock-Danvers only had white, and only a few of their stores are participating in the program.  You have to be eligible to upgrade your existing contract with a new two-year deal or open a new contract with a few different carriers offered, including Verizon and AT&T. You also have to be the primary account holder for this transaction. But what a deal!!! However, yesterday it took me 3 hours to purchase and activate the phone (counting the time it took to drive to the North Reading store, only to find out they didn’t have them there, so I then had to drive to Danvers. Now, if I had had Siri at the time, I could have asked her which store had the new phones…). With the very nice and persistant service manager Dianne, who runs the Danvers Walmart “Connection Center”, it took us 2.5 hours, plus the assistance of two separate AT&T customer service reps, the store manager (who was no help at all) and the assistant store manager (who was a great help), the “Connection Center” phone tech support, and finally some mystery phone tech support person named Esther who talked Dianne through the amazingly ridiculously complex process of producing a contract and a bill for me to pay (while my phone was already activated and I was using it to text!). So far, it appears to be a worthwhile investment of my time, but I’ll let you know when I start taking pictures for my next blog-at least this phone camera has a flash! Enjoy your Friday everyone, and if you do need an Iphone upgrade, head over to Walmart to see my new friend Dianne, and tell her Susan sent you! (But don’t wait too long, her phone was ringing off the hook with people asking if she had the phones in stock and there were customers milling around, anxiously waiting to get their new phones while I was there) Susan

The Year of Fun!!

January 01, 2013New Year’s, to me, is always a time to cleanse the palette, wipe the slate clean, start anew. A few moments of reflection of years’ past is typically followed by a resolve (like millions of other repentants) to better 2.exercise more, blah, blah, blah. Well, this year is different! I am personally declaring 2013 to be The Year of Fun!! If there is an opportunity to learn, create, travel, design, teach, cook, dine, soar,Alaskan Bi-Plane on Country Design Home

entertain or be entertained, count me in! Time for a fresh start and a new perspective, time for some fun! (disclaimer: this does not include any activities where I am strapped to a harness and soaring above the clouds- I do like to keep my feet firmly planted on our planet. Oh, and also, not kayaking, not a huge fan, although a little water rafting in Alaska might fit the bill nicely : )    Alaska Water Rafting

And so it begins by clearing out the dining room cupboard. Out went all of the colorful Christmas holiday plates and decorations.

Christmas Dishes in Hutch     Snowman PlatterNikko Christmas Dishes

In their place? White. Loads of white. Cupboard with white pottery

Plates, stacks of bowls, crocks and tureens-all white-that I have collected over the years.

Cupboard with white bowls

The color white makes everything clearer, cleaner and purer. White becomes the perfect backdrop for the millions of other beautiful colors in our spectrum and makes them pop. There are so many shades of white, so you can mix and match them to create a fabulously layered look.

White can be classically elegant:

or elegantly classic

White mirrored armoire

Photo via My Shabby Streamside Studio

White can be whimsical

Photo via Better Homes and Gardens


White flower paper installation

Photo via

funky & fun

white vintage vignette

Photo via Biskops Garden Blogspot

tastefully simple

White mirrored vanity

Photo via

or simply extraordinary

White room from Capri Palace Hotel, Anacapri - Italy

Photo via Fabrizia Frezza Architecture Interiors

So if you are looking for a way to start fresh and new for 2013, forget those resolutions that only last a day or two and get your exercise by grabbing a can of white paint and giving your space a whole new look!! Happy Fun Year everyone!!! Susan 

Idyllic “I Do’s”

Wedding Trunk Bay         One month ago today, Coach and I were standing barefoot on a pristine sandy beach in Trunk Bay, St. John USVI. We were there, along with family and friends, to celebrate the wedding of my lovely niece Lindsey & her handsome groom Matt.

Wedding Rings

One can only imagine the difficulty in planning an elegant event such as this from long distance, but absolutely nothing was lost in the details. The bridesmaids wore dresses in tropical shades of pale aqua that took on the hues of the water behind them as the light changed- absolutely stunning! As was the bride in her gorgeous lace gown with a train that literally floated over the sand as she walked.  The groomsmen were in white shirts and khakis, the flowers girls in fuschia- could there have been a more beautiful bridal party!?!?

Wedding Bridal Party

The bridal sisters : )

Wedding sisters

Cute little basket for shoes by the beach.

Wedding shoes optional

It’s a sign of good things to come!

Wedding happily ever after

Palm fronds and shells were the aisle markers for the seated guests. Wedding Aisle markers   The steel drummer played as the guests and wedding party entered the beach cove where the ceremony was to take place.

wedding steel drummer

The setting was idyllic: a seafoam green ocean and gentle waves softly lapping just short of the feet of the bridal party as the couple recited their loving vows. As the sun set, the sky turned a soft pink and glowed with the promise of many perfect tomorrows as the new husband and wife kissed.

Wedding The Kiss 2

Following the ceremony, the guests were taken by the island shuttles (these were all over the island- kind of a hop-on, hop-off deal where you could be taken pretty much anywhere for $3-4 dollars- a steal!!)

wedding island shuttle

The venue was the Ocean Grill, a gorgeous restaurant with an indoor/outdoor grotto feel,

Wedding venue

where the table settings (created and then transported to the island by the bride’s mom), along with the orchids and tea lights set the tone of casual elegance for the evening.

Wedding chevron table runners

The only thing missing was the couple’s three dogs-clearly they couldn’t bring them (although if they had had their way, there would have been three wagging tails on the beach : ) but they got into the act anyway with their welcome sign.Wedding Dogs

Tropical blue drinks were the beverage of choice-not sure what was in them, but they were soooo delish and accented the gray and white chevron table runners perfectly!

Wedding blue drinks

There were flip-flops tied up with bows for the ladies and tiny silver bells for the guests to ring.

Wedding flip flops

A romantic first dance

Wedding venue first dance

a lavish buffet and a rocking dance floor (spearheaded by the groom’s dad : ) kept the party going well into the night. Even a sudden torrential downpour couldn’t dampen the spirits of the partygoers who were there to celebrate with this young couple!

Wedding rain

All in all, a fantastic night weekend that created so many great memories. Our best wishes for a lifetime of love and happiness for the new bride and groom! Susan (& Coach)

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