Author Archives: Kat Carlson Design

About Kat Carlson Design

Kat Carlson Design graphic designer | writer | diy-er | bookworm | grace believer | new englander | artist | lover of bright colors, whimsy, and funk

Spring with The Boston Pops

Although I was in choir for a number of years, took a few piano lessons, and had a summer fling with the flute, I have little-to-no musical capability. But that’s not to say I don’t love music! Doesn’t everyone love music?

Last year, I went to see the Boston Symphony Orchestra for the first time and it was a beautiful experience listening to the musicians and admiring Symphony Hall. Did you know that Symphony Hall in Boston is one of the world’s most acoustically perfect music venues?

This spring the Boston Pops had a fantastic lineup of events. If two hours of classical music isn’t your thing, some of these unusual events may interest you!

Oz and the Orchestra

On Mother’s Day friend and I attended the Oz and the Orchestra event. We got to watch the Wizard of Oz on the big screen, something I haven’t done in at least 15 years! All the music was taken out of the movie and the scores were played live by the Boston Pops. It was a fantastic way to appreciate such a fun and whimsical movie.

This year is the 50th anniversary of the Wizard of Oz movie, so this special event celebrated Judy Garland and her famous red shoes. Although in the books her shoes were actually silver. The movie producers decided to make them red because of Technicolor and they wanted them to stand out. Another fun fact, I just got to see the original ruby slippers from the movie at the Smithsonian last month!

The Pops will perform with the Wizard of Oz again in August at Tanglewood.

Cirque de la Symphonie

Last week I returned again to the Symphony Hall for another out-of-the-box musical performance – Cirque de la Symphonie.

They specialize in performing with symphonies all over the world. It was simply amazing! Gymnasts, acrobats, magicians, and illusionists performed on stage along with the symphony. It was the classiest circus I’ve ever attended.

image source

Pops on Nantucket

Another one of my favorite ways to listen to the Boston Pops, is on the beaches of Nantucket. The Pops perform on Nantucket once the summer and it’s a very fun way to enjoy the summer evening picnic on the water. We still talk about it to this day as one of our favorite summer memories! The Pops play on Nantucket on August 9th, plan accordingly!


The Boston Symphony Orchestra plays regularly over the summer at Tanglewood, a beautiful outdoor amphitheater in Western Massachusetts.

See the summer event schedule here.

Have you seen the Boston Pops? Are you able to play any musical instruments?

Any summer musical event you recommend for me? Always looking for more ways to have fun!

Laying the Deck (With Sir Kreg Jig)

Let’s have a round of applause for rising temperatures and the arrival of spring!

We christened the deck with grilled burgers and a delicious dinner – which brings to mind that I haven’t posted on the deck in a while. Last I left of it looked like this:

Laying Down Decking with a Kreg Deck Jig - DesignLively

This project was a big undertaking. Normally, laying down decking can be finished in a weekend. True to form, we decided to choose the most complicated way all for the sake of aesthetics.


We worked for many weekends until, literally, the snowfall stopped us – so there was never a chance to take an “after” picture until now.

Laying Down Decking with a Kreg Deck Jig - DesignLively

This is not a tutorial post – there are way too many steps and I wouldn’t even know where to begin. It all started with the proper tools, as many projects do. We used the Kreg Deck Jig. The tool comes with a DVD on how to use it. Basically, it’s a tool that guides the angle of the drill to create the look of invisible screws.

But let’s go back to the beginning.

Laying Down Decking with a Kreg Deck Jig - DesignLively

The Decking

We purchased Veranda composite decking from Home Depot in Nantucket Gray. Composite decking is more expensive than wood, but more durable, less maintenance (no sealing needed!) and will save money over time.

It should be noted that the color will fade within the first year, so you should make sure you like the color it fades to.

Laying Down Decking with a Kreg Deck Jig - DesignLively

And also be prepared for all your grass in the front yard to die. 😉

The composite boards are heavy. So heavy that you need two people to lift it – otherwise it may crack in the middle due to the weight. Laying Down Decking with a Kreg Deck Jig - DesignLivelyWe put down plywood boards as we worked our way across the deck, as our deck is one story off of the ground. I did not like walking across those rickety boards – that’s for sure.

The Kreg Deck Jig

The Kreg Deck Jig process was time-consuming, but fairly straight-forward once you got the hang of it. As I said before, this is not a tutorial, but merely a brief overview if you are interested in DIYing your deck.

Laying Down Decking with a Kreg Deck Jig - DesignLively

The spacers are very helpful. they show you how far to space the boards for expansion and drainage. But most importantly, they keep the boards parallel  to one another at equal distances. If you start to get crooked, you’ll notice and it’s not a good thing.

The spacers shown above are 1/4″, Kreg also includes 5/16″ for pressure treated wood since it expands more than composite. The kit (as shown above) only comes with 3 red spacers (1/4″ ) and 3 blue spacers. (5/16″). Three spacers won’t get you very far on 16 foot runs, so we bought a dozen extra spacers from Amazon. I highly recommend buying yourself some more spacers.

Laying Down Decking with a Kreg Deck Jig - DesignLively

Here is the handy blue box! Your new best friend! The Kreg Deck Jig.

Centered over every joist, you will pre-drill and drill a screw into each joist, on both sides of the board.

My job was pre-drilling the holes. The drill can be set to a certain depth, so it’s easy and there are no questions asked. If this girl can do it, anyone can. (Although I admit, I was nervous at first. I only made a mistake once!)

Laying Down Decking with a Kreg Deck Jig - DesignLivelyUsing our feet and hands, we pushed the deck board in towards the spacers as well as we could, especially when setting the first several screws in. You’ll want to make sure it’s tight to the spacers to ensure a straight line.

The deck boards took us quite a number of weekends. In all honesty – it took up at least a month of our weekends. But DIYing the deck saved us a pretty penny, and it was actually fun.

Random Recommendations:

  • It’s helpful to have two drills. Since you are constantly pre-drilling and drilling, you having to swap out the bit every time would be painful and slow you down a lot.
  • Use an impact driver as the drill for driving the screw. You will have a lot more control and no stripping of the screws.
  • Buy an extra kreg drill bit and extra driver.


Laying Down Decking with a Kreg Deck Jig - DesignLivelyOnce we finished the decking (yahoo!!), we moved on to the railings.

The railings were pretty straightforward. We used the Veranda ArmorGuard Composite Railing in white. The post jacket will slide right over the wooden post.

Next we needed to decide how high we wanted our railing to be. Each town or county may have legal requirements on the height – especially if you are not on ground level like ours is.

Laying Down Decking with a Kreg Deck Jig - DesignLively

There are a number of railing specifications we needed to decide on:

  • How high do we want the handrail?
  • How much taller than the top railing do we want the post cap to sit?
  • How much space do we want between the bottom rail and the decking?

Laying Down Decking with a Kreg Deck Jig - DesignLively

We made our decisions 50% on personal preference, and 50% based on standard measurements provided from a quick Google search. After we measured and marked – on both the wooden post and the post jacket, it was time to slice away!

As always, measure twice, cut once.

Laying Down Decking with a Kreg Deck Jig - DesignLively(Notice our lovely yard from the pipe and excavation adventure we had last fall.)

Laying Down Decking with a Kreg Deck Jig - DesignLivelyNext we attached the lower railings (with brackets) and cut the bottom middle spacer.

The nice part about these railings is that the balusters were pre-cut and spaced, so we only needed to pop the balusters right in! Next we attached the handrail to the post with the brackets.

Laying Down Decking with a Kreg Deck Jig - DesignLivelyWell lookie here, the light is at the end of the tunnel!

Laying Down Decking with a Kreg Deck Jig - DesignLively

We still have a bit of work left to do. All the trim boards (which will be white) need to be attached. And, you may have noticed that we have no back staircase yet!

Laying Down Decking with a Kreg Deck Jig - DesignLively

Soon we will have a concrete based poured (at the base of the patio) and then the structure can be built. Our GC will come back and build the structure, and we will do all the finishing work.

And about that patio….

Well, that’s just another story for another day.


I’m in the market for some type of deck furniture to store my potted herbs on. What do you keep on your deck?

DIY Tutorial: How to Add Grommets to Curtains


Now that we are using our family room regularly, window treatments were on the priority list for a few reasons:

1. Did I mention we have 9 windows in this room?
2. Daytime television watching is impossible due to glare
3. With constant sunlight streaming in, the fabric on our couch fading is a concern long term

After hunting around for a while, a regrettable impulse buy at IKEA that left us $60 in the hole, and even searching Joann Fabrics with plans to make our own, we ended up choosing with these punchy geometric Farrah Fretwork drapes in blue from Target.

(The happy ending is that the regrettable curtains are now hanging in our bedroom and look much better there.)


I like the clean look of curtains with grommets, and also think they are easier to open and close. Of course, it’s much harder to find curtains with grommets, so I decided to add them myself! It was EASY.

I purchased 4 packs of Dritz Brushed Silver Grommets from Amazon. They are silver colored plastic, very easy to install and look great!

 How to Add Grommets to Curtains

1. First I hemmed the curtains 6 inches shorter. I did this, first, because the grommet instruction requires a 4 inch header. Second, I needed to make them shorter because we didn’t want the curtains touching the baseboard heating system – fire hazard! They look a little silly right now, but one side is hidden by the couch, and the other will be behind our future entertainment console.

2. Next, I measured the width of my curtain. Don’t trust the measurement on the package if you are using store-bought curtains! It’s not always accurate  My curtain was roughly 62″ wide. To know how to space your grommets, divide this number by 16 (because you are adding 8 grommets), which, for me, comes out to 3.9″. (Doubled to 7.8″ between grommets.)


grommots83. I spent $10 on a measuring square and it made this task very easy. (Even for a typical just-wing-it-and-guess girl like myself.)  Using the tracing circle guide that came with the grommets, I marked out in pencil where the center of each circle should be – 2″ from the top of the curtain, and 3.8″ away from the center of the circle on either side of it. This sounds complicated (and was intimidating at the first go), but worked quite well. ALWAYS measure twice (or three times!) before you cut.


4. Next, cut out the circles. I started by snipping into the middle of the circle, and then cutting around the outline.

5. Next, open the grommets. Each grommet comes in two pieces – one has teeth and one does not.

grommots5grommots66. Place the one with teeth on the ground, teeth facing up. Next, place the fabric over the grommet, with center the hole you just cut out with the grommet.

7. Next, place the toothless grommet over the top. You are sandwiching a bit of the fabric between the two pieces. To get the grommets to click together, firmly press down with the palm of your hand until it clicks into place.

grommots48. Repeat – again and again and again! I was able to do all four panels in an afternoon.


This is not a curtain installation tutorial. There are about 9,405,937,058 of those on the internet, and they will all tell you to “hang them high and wide” to make your window appear bigger. Unlike most people, we did NOT need to make our windows feel any bigger. We just left a little space between the finial and the wall and tried to replicate it on each side.  We chose chunky Allen & Roth curtain hardware from Lowes.

grommots2 And I’ve officially started dreaming up our TV console we plan to build. This is a Photoshopped version of what I’m thinking of. (You can see our current tiny one we are currently using here).

Have you added grommets to curtains before? Where do you like to shop for curtains? They are tough to find!

Old Town Alexandria

Easter in Old Town Alexandria

Spring was a late bloomer this year. Even though Easter was at the end of April, we had no flowers to speak of, so it was a sight for sore eyes to see springtime in Old Town Alexandria while we visited my brother.

Old Town Alexandria - DesignLivelyOld Town Alexandria - DesignLively

While I’ve been to Washington D.C. several times, this was my first visit to Old Town Alexandria. It’s a beautiful, historic area. The town has preserved a few of the old streets, similar to the village on Nantucket, with its old cobblestones and brick row houses. Old Town Alexandria - DesignLively    Old Town Alexandria - DesignLively

And it’s just the kind of place to spend an hour or two admiring door-knockers, shutters, and historic curb appeal. Old Town Alexandria - DesignLively Old Town Alexandria - DesignLively

King Street is the main road in Old Town and is lined with places to eat and shop. The town is quite extensive and one could easily fill an afternoon popping in and out of stores.

At the end of King Street you will find a short walkway along the Potomac. You will also find the Torpedo Factory Arts Center, one of my favorite places we checked out over the weekend. The Torpedo Factory Arts Center is a large building full of small studios/galleries belonging to artists – painters, jewelery makers, etc.

Old Town Alexandria - DesignLivelyMany of the artisans have a shop area up front and their work area in the back, where you can see their works in-progress! It was very cool and shouldn’t be missed if you are in Old Town.

Seeing as we were in a hotel all weekend, we tried a number of restaurants:

The Fish Market: Being part of my family means loving seafood, so we were all excited for dinner at The Fish Market. Eager for some local flavor, I had the Imperial Crab (blue crab grilled in a clam shell), which was delicious. The spiced peel-and-eat shrimp were seasoned in Old Bay, and the crab-stuffed avocado were also highlights.

The Pita House: My family had never had shawarma, which I love to eat. I was more than happy to introduce them to it at this tasty Mediterranean restaurant.

The Warehouse: We went here for Easter brunch. The inside decoration is full of fun caricatures and service was very speedy. I had read reviews on Yelp that the French Toast was divine, and fortunately they didn’t disappoint!

Old Town Alexandria - DesignLively

Wonderfully located, Old Town is a short distance (about 20 minutes) from downtown Washington D.C. We spent an active afternoon visiting the Capitol building, the Mall, Washington Monument, and the World War II, Korean War Veterans, and Lincoln Memorials.

Unfortunately we missed the Cherry Blossom Festival by a week. Maybe next year!

Washington DC - DesignLively

D.C. is also well-known for its plethora of museums, many of which are free to visit. We visited the National Museum of American History, where I enjoyed seeing the kitchen of Julia Child, the ruby slippers Judy Garland wore in the Wizard of Oz, and one of the original Miss Piggy Muppets! (Which I was very excited about, as I recently read the new Jim Henson biography and am slightly obsessed with Muppets at the moment.)

National Botanical Garden and Old Town Alexandria - DesignLively

We also went into the United States Botanical Gardens for the orchid exhibition – just beautiful!

Fortunately, there were as many beautiful flowers outside the botanical gardens as there were inside!

Old Town Alexandria - DesignLivelyCaptiol Hill and Old Town Alexandria - DesignLivelyOld Town Alexandria - DesignLively

About Lodging:

Due to a reservation error, we ended up staying one night at the Westin Alexandria and one night at the Sheraton Suites Old Town Alexandria. Both were lovely hotels – we are SPG members and usually have a very good experience with any Starwoods property. I will say that the Sheraton was more conveniently located, as we could easily walk to the downtown area in a few minutes.

Have you been to Old Town Alexandria? What should I try out next time?
What is your favorite thing to do in D.C.?