Category Archives: Art

Don Gorvett and Staying Inspired

This beautiful print is from the talented Dana Tanamachi and is for sale in her online shop found here.

Over the summer I met Don Gorvett, a printmaker in Portsmouth, N.H. We fell into a lengthy conversation about making time for art and, although a complete stranger, he was extremely encouraging to me as an artist and I left his studio quite inspired.

I had mentioned how I took a printmaking class in college and how much I enjoyed/missed it. He said that artists often don’t give themselves time to create because they don’t feel it’s a “valuable” use of their time when there are so many things “to do” – when it’s actually invaluable.

By the end of our conversation he and my husband were discussing the specs of my artist studio shed. (Is this not the ultimate dream of every writer/artist?!?)

I have another friend who constantly asks me what I am working on. (Hi Audrey!) And I keep having to say nothing! I’ve been thinking a lot about reincorporating the arts into my free time again. I haven’t dedicated time to art since school. The same was true of writing until I ran into another old friend, and since then I’ve been writing here. Who knows where this push will take me?

On another note, Don Gorvett is an incredible woodcut printmaker whose pieces often feature New England landscapes. Maybe one day one of his pieces will grace our home.

via Don Gorvett Gallery

Between my design work, photo editing and all my DIYing it feels like I’m in my creating world a lot – but that’s not necessarily true.

Another thing that Don said to me that has stayed with me is that if I’m not pursuing my art, I’m leaving a part of myself behind. He encouraged my husband to make me stick with it as well.

Now about that artist shed… Ummm yup, I think I could make do in something like this:

photo via William Wright Photography

Whether I’d be inclined to let paint fly in a beautiful shed like that is another story.

What personal passions have you been ignoring? How do you make time for them?

DIY Kitchen Word Art: What’s Cookin’ Good Lookin’?

Easy DIY Word Art Tutorial - Design Lively

Last week I posted on my latest adventure with beadboard wallpaper – my kitchen backsplash. Well, I got inspired and decided to re-do the art above my stove.

About a year ago I made a word-art sign that hung above my stove that said “What’s Cookin’ Good Lookin'” because it’s not an unusual occurrence for someone in this household to burst out singing this song.

While I loved the pop of yellow, the text didn’t read well from far away, so once I had my new backsplash I was inspired to give it another go! This time around I choose a higher contrasting blue and white letters and a chunkier typeface – Helvetica.

As a reminder of how I transfer my letters on to my wood board, see below!

The EASIEST Way to Transfer Fonts to Wood Boards:

Easy DIY Word Art Tutorial - Design Lively

1. Choose a font and what you’d like to say – and print it out!

2. Turn the paper over and rub it with chalk

3. Tape the paper (chalk-side down) and tape it into place. Trace over the outlines of the letters with a pen or pencil.

4. The pressure of the pen should leave a chalky residue behind, transferring your type.

5. Begin painting! Start with the outlines and then fill the letters in. I used craft paint and a tiny paintbrush.

6. After the paint has dried, the chalk residue will just wipe away.

Easy DIY Word Art Tutorial - Design Lively

You tell me, what’s cookin’ good lookin’?

(And on that note – I need to cook some dinner!)

I submitted this project to Beneath My Heart’s “Best of DIY October” Link Party

Touring the Wacky and Whimsical Mackenzie Childs Victorian Farmhouse

Mackenzie Childs Farmhouse Tour

The types of artists and designers that I truly enjoy the most are the ones that create things you don’t see with your two eyes. J.K. Rowling, Lisa Frank, Alex Katz, Betsey Johnson. And Mackenzie Childs.

Mackenzie Childs Farmhouse Tour

Mackenzie Childs creates whimsical ceramics, furniture and household items. All pieces are created and painted by hand in one of several trademark patterns (the most famous being black and white checks).

The headquarters, store and inspirational-styled Victorian farmhouse are located on what used to be an old dairy farm in Aurora, NY and open to visitors. While the men in our family were headed to the PGA golf tournament, my mom and I decided to have a girls day out and visit Mackenzie Childs.

Mackenzie Childs Farmhouse Tour

There is a lovely shop full of everything you can imagine – candlesticks, to rugs, to champagne glasses, to patio furniture. The only downfall of Mackenzie Childs – it is not cheap. But still fun to poke around.

Mackenzie Childs Farmhouse Tour

In a small theater off the shop is a 20 minute video where you can learn all about the ceramic molding, firing and glazing process. There is also a massive and intricately decorated dollhouse – my eight-year-old self was in heaven.

Visitors aren’t able to tour the work area – where all the pottery is molded, fired and glazed. But, we were able to peek through a few windows at the shelves full of works in progress!

Mackenzie Childs Farmhouse Tour

There is a beautiful courtyard you can sit at and enjoy. Sadly it was a misty, rainy day, so we were unable to linger in it very much that day.

Mackenzie Childs Farmhouse Tour

The free Farmhouse tour is given hourly and is quite a treat.  Have you ever been to one of those home expo tours and go through beautifully styled homes?

Well, it was like that! Except Mackenzie-Childs-esque – which you’ll see is like nothing you’ve ever seen before.

Mackenzie Childs Farmhouse Tour

We had to wear protective booties because of the rain.

The style is not exactly how I’d decorate my own home, but I love how the brand beats to it’s own crazy colorful drum and doesn’t look back.

Mackenzie Childs Farmhouse Tour

Mackenzie Childs Farmhouse Tour

There are small details all over the house – from funky reading glasses perched on open books, to classical painting that have been “modified” with crazy black and white checked pants and flowers.

Mackenzie Childs Farmhouse Tour

How adorable is this kitchen? I love the pink knobs.

I feel like I only might bake cupcake and french toast though if this was my kitchen. It doesn’t exactly scream grilled cheese or stir-fry to me.

Mackenzie Childs Farmhouse Tour

Mackenzie Childs Farmhouse Tour

Mackenzie Childs style waffles between eccentrically funky and decidedly feminine.

Mackenzie Childs Farmhouse Tour

Mackenzie Childs Farmhouse Tour

How fun is that chair? I could actually see something like that in my house.

Mackenzie Childs Farmhouse Tour

Small details like beautiful bottles of soap, large floral print wallpapers and decorative vintage handkerchiefs filled the hallways.

But the tiles in the bathrooms were some of my very favorite features!

Mackenzie Childs Farmhouse Tour

Hunter Boots even offers a Mackenzie Childs boot!

Mackenzie Childs Hunter Boots

The premises are beautiful and on Cayuga Lake – complete with gardens, ponds, and farm animals.

Mackenzie Childs Farmhouse Tour

Mackenzie Childs Farmhouse Tour

I had to take a picture of this – even the sawhorses in one of the outbuildings are “on-brand” with the classic checks!

We were there a week after their annual sale – which is pandemonium with people traveling from all over the country. Women camp out on air mattresses and wristband access is required to get into the tent to score goods for up to 80% off! About 15,000 people come to the annual sale event – yowza. I’m not sure I am even crazy enough for that.

After our farmhouse tour, we headed into the tiny town of Aurora (population 722 people!) and stopped in a few shops and had (a delicious) lunch at the Aurora Inn – a beautiful building in the center of town.

Aurora Inn

The restaurant overlooks Lake Cayuga, and the grounds are right at water-level.

The Aurora Inn

(It would be a great place for a wedding – if anyone is looking!)

The town of Aurora and the Mackenzie Childs farmhouse are around 1-1.5 hours from Rochester and Syracuse and definitely worth a day trip! While it would have been nice to stroll the property in nicer weather, I definitely walked away inspired!

Mackenzie Childs Farmhouse Tour

While Richard and Victoria Mackenzie Childs (the artists who started the brand) no longer own the company, they also restored another old home on Cayuga Lake. You can see it on one of my favorite websites – Hooked on Houses!

Have you heard of Mackenzie Childs before? What do you think of the crazy and whimsical patterns?

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Thanks for stopping by! : ) Kat

Italy Travels: Florence Frolics Part II

Visiting Florence, Italy

I left off with a part I recap of our Italy travels in Florence here.

Let’s just pick up where we left off, shall we?

Ponte Vecchio

Firenze Ponte Vecchio

Perhaps the most iconic Florentine destination – the Ponte Vecchio. This covered bridge is lined with gold jewelry shops. I was thinking it would be more like a market with vendors, but the Ponte Vecchio is lined with tried-and-true small upscale jewelry shops. And at night they all close up shop with beautiful ornate wooden doors.

Visiting Florence, Italy

The top portion of the bridge is not open to the public. It was actually created as a private walkway for the Medici family to walk from one building to another because, heaven forbid, they walk outside.

Another fun fact, the Ponte Vecchio used to be where all the butchers were. You can only imagine where all the animal entrails went… when the city of Florence decided to clean up the Arno River the butchers were kicked out and the gold jewelers were in.


Florence is famous for it’s Duomo. We decided the right word to describe this place is “impressive”. Calling it “beautiful” doesn’t exactly feel right – the intricate white, pink and green stone with gold filigree isn’t exactly my cup of tea but the Duomo is definitely a work of art and shouldn’t be missed.

Visiting Florence, Italy

Directly across from the main entrance to the Dumon is the Baptistry, which was smaller than I pictured, but featured a copy of the famous bronze doors. (The originals are inside the Duomo museum.)

The dome inside the Duomo was my favorite part. Brunelleschi, the designer, modeled it after the Pantheon’s dome. Apparently he told his sister that, although he could not make a better dome, he would make one that was more beautiful!

Beautiful it certainly is.

Visiting Florence, Italy

The tall tower you see next to the Duomo is the bell tower, or the Campanile. You can climb the Duomo dome or the bell tower for a small fee – we ended up doing neither since we enjoyed the views from the Piazzale Michelangelo so much.

Next to the Duomo we found our go-to cappuccino shop – 3 euro for two cappuccino? Yes please! While Florence is not extremely crowded, this particular square is where you will constantly find hoards of tourists. If the line to see inside the Duomo is long, just wait 20 minutes and try again. The crowds ebb and flow, so enjoy a cuppa while you are waiting.

Visiting Florence, Italy

San Lorenzo Market

Ahhh the fine Italian markets… of Indian men… selling South American fake leather goods. Haha!

Regardless, the San Lorenzo market is a fun place to shop/haggle/look for an afternoon.

Visiting Florence, Italy

Most of the stalls have the same items (although they adamantly refuse to admit that!) and the market is dominated by leather goods – purses, belts, etc.

Among all of those stalls though, there are definitely a few winners! Here you can find silk neckties and Murano glass jewelry.

Visiting Florence, Italy

Haggling is definitely the name the game at this market, and if your eyes linger for too long on an item they will run you down trying to sell it to you. Just stand your ground and be prepared to walk away – usually that’s how you get the best price.

Mercato Centrale

The central market is full of produce, meats, cheeses, breads and flowers and is next to the San Lorenzo markets in a large building with a glass ceiling. Even if you plan to purchase nothing, walking around the market is a must!

Visiting Florence, Italy

You’ll see beautiful fresh vegetables, munch on free samples of cheese and… see lots of weird things too.

Visiting Florence, Italy

Like massive fish, chickens, and brain-like foods.

We went to the market one day to get foods for our lunch – it was delicious. Just make your way around the market and you’ll have a big meal right away. Just make sure you have lots of small change!

If you have a bit more time to linger, there are free tasting sessions of olive oil, vinegar or wine at some stalls as well!

Food in Florence

Apparently Florentine gelato is the best of the best. And you won’t hear any contradictions from me. We tried a number of places during our days in Florence, but quickly found our favorite Italian gelateria – Santa Trinita Gelateria just past the Ponte Vecchio.

Visiting Florence, ItalyIt’s where I discovered by deep, unabiding love for grapefruit gelato – also known as pompelo rosa. The prices were good, the gelato was fresh, and the staff friendly.

We tried several different restaurants in Florence – appertifs at Bianco, a fixed price meal at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant near our hotel, and looked to our trusty Rick Steves book for recommendations. Which led us to Trattoria Lo Strocatto. It was delicious food and great atmosphere for a quiet meal. Our waiter wasn’t the most pleasant we’ve ever had, but we’re chalking it up to the language barrier.

Sleeping in Florence:

I think I’ve mentioned before that this trip was entirely made possible by the fact that we were up to our ears in Starwoods points – which allowed us to book free hotel rooms for nearly our entire vacation. So you might notice this hotel is quite a bit fancier that what you’ll usually find recommended around these parts. Well, we decided to spend the bulk of our points in Florence and stayed at the beautiful Excelsior Hotel right on the Arno River.

Visiting Florence, Italy


The hotel was beautiful and our hotel room was like stepping back in time – in the best way. Why yes, in a 15 foot tall canopy bed. Just call me King George.

The Excelsior also has a beautiful rooftop restaurant and bar. If you are looking for somewhere swanky to drink some insanely overpriced cocktails with aloof waitstaff – this is the place. Our drinks were a complimentary upgrade, otherwise this was not really our scene. Besides the fact that our two drinks would have cost us a weeks worth of gelato(!!!). But the vibe was cool, there was live music and it’s definitely a place you go to be seen. Also, the view is one of the best in Florence.

Visiting Florence, Italy


Our last night in Florence was after our Italy trip, so we stayed in another hotel right by the train station – Hotel Joli. As much as our previous hotel room was luxurious, this hotel room was NOT. It was definitely hovering around the quality-level of a hostel – the rooms were definitely sparse and a little icky. That being said, the staff was extremely friendly and helpful, and the free breakfast was actually pretty good. And the location is perfect – very close to the Santa Maria Novella train station.

Overall, Florence was everything that I wanted it to be. The city is beautiful and easy to manage. You can walk from one side of the city within 20 minutes, so there’s no need to worry about buses, trains or cabs.

And being so close to Cinque Terre, Siena and Tuscany, it would be easy to spend your entire vacation in this one area of Italy.

Next up – our two days in the lush Tuscan hillside!