a couple changes

Hi! There have been a few site updates around here lately that I wanted to clue you in on in case you haven’t noticed! The first one is the big one, I changed the blog’s name (yes again). What was once upon a long time ago, Smitten Studio, changed simply to “Stories” a few years ago, which was great until Instagram came along and added the “stories” feature. So when I shared anything on Instagram and wanted to say, oh, read more about it on “Stories” that quickly got very confusing. As it was, I ended up not even posting much on here as Instagram kind of took that place. However, you can only share so much on Instagram, and I find myself wanting to come back to the blog format more and more. So here we are now with… The SSS Edit.

The other day while Rupe and I were installing all the trim in our guest bedroom, covering up old 80’s faux wood paneling, I got that incredibly satisfying feeling of being able to make a big difference in my home with my own two hands. It is what I used to talk so much about on the blog, and while I haven’t stopped doing it, I haven’t had the time to share in long-form here, which brings me to the next update. I have brought on a contributing editor, Anastasia (she is the one you heard from in the book club posts), and will be helping to get all my content up and on here and sharing some stories of her own.

That is her on the left; we have no fun at all. Anyway, Anastasia just bought her first home (more on that soon), and she has never picked up a drill or even gone to a hardware store for anything other than paint in her whole life!! So one weekend, a few weeks ago, Rupe and I went to her new home to help her with her first DIY project in her new home. I can’t wait to share about it, but I gave her the project instructions, she and her husband gathered all the materials, and we went over and tackled the project altogether. After we finished, that satisfying feeling was multiplied tenfold because I was able to help and empower Anastasia and her husband to do something in their own home that they are SO proud of and would have never tackled without just a little encouragement from me. It brought me back to what I loved most about the blog: being able to empower people to make their houses into their homes and that it doesn’t have to cost a zillion dollars to make a huge impact.

Another change is you will find a link at the top to “book a consult,” where you can book a one-on-one consultation with me for either 55 mins or a mini session for 25 mins. Through the genius platform called The Expert, you can get access to top designers that you may not be able to afford for a full project but can pick their brain for an hour to give insight on all things design. Say you are about to take on a renovation and have plans in hand but want to get an expert second opinion, it is perfect for that. Or you have a funky floorplan layout, and you need help with space planning? I can help with that. Or sourcing questions like which dining table goes with this table or what rug will anchor the room? I have had so much fun being able to help out with even more of your projects through this platform so if you need someone on one design advice, holler at me here.

And the final change to the left menu bar is a “Browse by Category” section so you can more easily navigate the kind of content you are looking for.

I hope you enjoy following along as we reinvigorate things around here.


Our Guest Bedroom Reveal

Hi from our transformed guest room/home office! This room has had quite the journey in its 2 years since we moved into the house, but I am thrilled to share the final rendition of this once-neglected space. A couple of months back, Etsy reached out about being a part of their Etsy Edit. I combed through all my favorite sellers to curate a selection of my top Etsy picks and gave the room a total makeover using them.

If you have been following along here for a while, you know my love for vintage and handmade and how I often turn to Etsy to find just the right piece for my own home and client’s homes. (remember this copper tub in my Nashville project? Found it on Etsy; remember this marble sink from my Soho project? Found it on Etsy. Remember the canopy in clover’s room? Yes, Etsy. You get the picture)

So when they asked me to curate an Etsy Edit, I jumped at the chance, and the last remaining room in the house to be finished was history.



We bought some land!! Last fall, we purchased a buildable lot of land near our house in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It is a beautiful wooded lot with close city access, and when we came across the property, it got our wheels turning. Over the last two years since we have lived here, we have fallen in love with the area. There is a beautiful horse farm just down the road, hiking trails through the wooded hills, a sweet historic village close by, and minutes to downtown GR. We have noticed forested land, which used to be one parcel of property through the time we have been here, is quickly getting snatched up by developers, parceled off, and sold as smaller lots. I personally think the magic of this area, though, is all the trees, the larger lots, and space. The other trend we have been seeing is that when people start a new build in the area, they basically clear-cut the lot, making room for McMansions with enormous grassy yards. Little or no trees left behind.  I have nothing against the huge grassy lawns here in Michigan, water is plentiful, and I, too, grew up with a large stretch of lawn. But it did give me pause. I grew up a tree hugger and will always be a tree hugger. haha. Anyway, I should back up a bit…


Gaia House Cafe

I’m so thrilled to share that our project Gaia House Cafe is open! The original Gaia Cafe closed its doors 6 years ago, to much disappointment from the staff and local regulars that frequented the vegetarian cafe since the ’80s. The new owner, Andrea Bumstead, was the manager when it closed and wanted to continue to carry the Gaia torch, but it took some time to find a new location for it. After 5 years of searching and a successful Kickstarter round, Andrea found a building in the Creston district of Grand Rapids that she saw could be the new home for Gaia Cafe.

I’ve known Andrea since kindergarten(!); we were inseparable in elementary school and have kept in touch while living on the opposite sides of the country, so I had followed along on her quest for the right building. Not long after we moved to Grand Rapids, she reached out about designing the new space. When I first walked the site with her, no joke, we were dodging birds and running terrified at one point from a dark, terrifying basement which felt like we were right back to school kid antics again, freaking each other out with scary stories. It was going to take A LOT of work.

At one point in time, the building was a house that had been converted to commercial space but had been vacant for some time. Andrea had acquired it while it was in a mid-renovation state from the previous owners. The structure was already down to cinder block and studs but not in a restaurant’s usable layout. Reconfiguring the space, adding the equipment to outfit the restaurant kitchen, and the major build-out ate up almost all of the budget. Still, Andrea and I had the vision for a space that would be a welcoming place for the community and a place we wanted to come and hang out in again and again. Between help and favors from friends, family, and old regulars, my investment, and a whole lot of DIY, we made it happen. I’m thrilled to be able to share the space with you.


The Dutch House discussion

Ok, are you ready? It’s our first sss book club discussion! I am excited to chat with you about The Dutch House. I hope you enjoyed the read. Before we chat, naturally I wanted to dive into the aesthetics. As such a visual person, where would I be if I didn’t share what I was envisioning while turning the pages.

The photo above is a bit more of a modern version than exactly what I hand in mind, but all that talk of all the glass, and couldn’t you just see Andrea lounging by this pool? (or more preferably me). House by Claxton + Marsh

And from the pea gravel to the red coat, the portraits, and an actual glass house… here is the world I was living in while reading the Dutch House…




OK NOW LETS TALK! Here’s what I am thinking: I will post questions below in the comments to start the discussion and you can reply to the question in the comments so we keep a thread under each question.  Feel free to add or start your own questions too. :)


Discussion Questions

  1. Do you have a “Dutch House”? Where do you secretly want to revisit again and again? Is it the place or the nostalgia?
  2. Is Andrea just another wicked stepmother? Did you ever sympathize with her?
  3. What features of the dutch house (the house itself) stuck out to you the most?
  4. Several of the characters here struggle to let go of something that weighs them down or hurts them. What do you think it is about human nature that makes people cling to things they know are no longer good for them?
  5. Danny asks Maeve, ‘do you think it’s possible ever to see the past as it actually was?’  Are memories re-shaped by what we understand as adults?
  6. Remember how Maeve receives a box of matches and instructions for how to light a fire from her mother on her eighth birthday? What do you think is the significance of this?
  7. I loved Maeve and Dann’s relationship. What do you think explains the longevity and power of their support and love for one another? Do you have this bond with a sibling?
  8. What are your thoughts on their mother leaving? her inability to stay in the house and her returning much later in their life?
  9. Did the book end the way you thought it might end when Danny’s daughter May buys the Dutch House?


All of my books are filled with pencil marks and highlights marking my quotes. I know a book is a favorite when I walk around days after finishing, and one of those lines randomly pops in my mind. I would love to hear what line(s) stayed with you after finishing the book.

“But we overlay the present onto the past. We look back through the lens of what we know now, so we’re not seeing it as the people we were, we’re seeing it as the people we are, and that means the past has been radically altered.”

“We were all so young, you know. We were still our best selves.”

“I had a mother who left when I was a child. I didn’t miss her. Maeve was there, with her red coat and her black hair, standing at the bottom of the stairs, the white marble floor with the little black squares, the snow coming down in glittering sheets in the windows behind her, the windows as wide as a movie screen, the ship in the waves of the grandfather clock rocking the minutes away.”

“I leaned over and kissed them both on the forehead, one and then the other. It cost me nothing.”



Let’s Move In!

If you’re here, reading this, I’m guessing there is a good chance that you are equally as home obsessed as I am. I started this site after finding a gem of cabin across the country while perusing house listings for a few years and then finally purchasing and renovating said cabin.  I’m never not scrolling house listings. There was one I found in Wisconsin last year that Leanne Ford and I dreamed about doing together, not because it was anywhere we wanted to be but because the house was SO damn interesting (I shamefully didn’t save the photos and it has sold). And remember how when Clover was born I lost my mind and we bought our Michigan house off the internet? Like I said, I’m never not looking. For a while last year it became my nightly wind down routine. Does anyone else do this? I know I’m not alone. I also go right into designing it from the listing, sometimes renovating and furnishing an entire house in my head. You have no idea how many houses I have “moved into” in my head all over the world.  I tell myself I do it to keep my design mind sharp, but really it is just some good ol escapism :)

So here we are with a new column and I am calling it, “Let’s Move In”. So I can drag you along with me as we move into dream houses all over the country. This first home takes us to sunny, dreamy Topanga, CA. Tucked up in the mountains, snug in the trees.