When the Cat’s Away…

…for the weekend…this. Roxy’s not quite this cute about it, but she does saunter across my keyboard at least once a day, (in today’s case while I was watching this video!) looking for my attention. Swear that animal has boundary issues.

My sisters and I are heading to an off-the-grid lake house this weekend to celebrate a belated (big) birthday for Mom, so this video will have to tide you over until next week’s ‘back in the saddle’ schedule! Looking forward to our usual antics of frog hunting, scrabbling and crafting by the fire.

fall leaves with yellow pants

In the meantime, any tips on how to get ahead of the ball (on content) as a blogger would be greatly appreciated. Do you use editorial calendars? Do you front-load and schedule posts in advance? Work on the weekends? Never sleep? Have a wireless photo card? Mobile blog?

Who has a secret pile of filler posts waiting for days when your cell phone company calls to cheerfully announce that your identity has been stolen? Ergh.

I feel like I’m constantly chasing my tail on content – not getting enough out of my head and into the blogosphere…and there aren’t even any babies in this house yet!

Loveyoubye! Mags

RBD Concept: The Blue Madonna Part II

A couple weeks back I posted about a design concept for a modern Italian Restaurant. ‘Member? Here’s the post if you missed it. I’m calling this hip downtown Italian eatery The Blue Madonna and the concept is inspired by Italian-American suburbia and Roman-Catholic iconography.

Below is the mood board I put together to visualize the overall concept:

raised by design concept - the blue madonna italian restaurant

But I couldn’t stop there…so I sketched out a (very) rough floor plan. This gets me thinking about the space in reality and how the different zones – dining, bar, bathrooms, courtyard, reception – would play out. Check the layout I’m envisioning below:

the blue madonna - raised by design

Once I got my bearings in the space, I could start to think about the materials in each of the zones, starting with the flooring. Here’s a look at the finish floor plan showing the chosen materials:

the blue madonna - raised by design

In the main reception and dining room areas painted white, unpolished concrete brings rich ‘lived in’ texture without crowding the eye. In the bar area: same material, but painted an icy stone blue, reminiscent of stucco on suburban buildings.

A faux-grass walkway brings the suburban landscape indoors and leads the patron from the front entrance back to the bathrooms and into the courtyard.

Let’s take a walk through the space, looking at some of the furnishings and finishes.


raised by design - the blue madonna - restaurant design concept - reception area

Nonna’s living room, turnt up. Vintage faux marble wallpaper, a pair of peach velour sofas joined by an inflatable terrarium stool, reproduced and enlarged to function as a cocktail table. Can we talk about these gorgeous babies for a second and how I need to have one in my living room as soon as possible? They are just incredible. Cute little mcm legs supporting an inflatable plastic poof, filled with carefully arranged plastic flowers. So much kitschy awesomeness I can’t even stand it.


The space is punctuated by a statement chandelier – a vintage Italian glass find on 1stDibs.


The reception area leads into the bar and lounge area to your right. While guests are waiting for their table, they can sip on their Negroni in one of the mid-century side chairs with champagne basket weave upholstery.


You’ll notice in the top floor plan that there are two art features planned for the space – one in the main reception area and one in the bar and lounge area. Opposite those champagne lounge chairs is the Bathtub Madonna art feature:

raised by design - the blue madonna - restaurant design concept - art feature - bathtub madonnas

I put this together quickly in Photoshop so it’s a pretty rough interpretation of the installation, but you get the idea. Four large ‘Bathtub Madonnas’ suspended by heavy chain and anchor against a large scale custom graphic of traditional vintage oilcloth normally used as tablecloth.

Bathtub Madonnas are a real thing. Nowadays you can order a factory-made grotto online for your Blessed Virgin Mary garden shrine, but back in the day people used an upended bathtub, which I find much more interesting. These garden shrines are not exclusive to Italian neighborhoods, of course. Some of the most impressive displays are in the German-American neighborhoods in the Midwest. Our neighborhood is mostly made up of Croatian and Portuguese families and there are lots of modern versions of Bathtub Madonnas around.

I’m having so much fun with this concept and love how everything is coming together but there is more to explore. Thinking about the bathrooms – what do suburban kitsch bathrooms look like to you? Stay tuned for one last installment on this design in the coming weeks!



Friday Links

raised by design friday links

It’s OCTOBER! Yay. Yay. Yay. Fall is here: my favorite time of year (for about 3 months and then the next season is my favorite time of year). I’ve never been a huge Halloween person, but since we live in Sleepy Hollow I’m getting more into it each year. I’m working on a roundup of Halloween decorations to post next week so if you’re a Halloween nut get excited for that.

Here’s what’s what in my world this week:



Friday Links

raised by design

Linkity Links for this week:

  • Friday Night Meatballs reminds me of my parents’ round robin dinners growing up. Wanna come?
  • Spooky history lives at the cemetery. (My Grandma Betty was laid to rest here, near Miles Davis’ grave site).
  • The only thing to fear, is fear itself14 hour PBS binge!
  • Cats and laser beams were just meant to be so I say YES.
  • Everyone deserves Funfetti – even if you can’t get behind cake from a box (which I’m totally fine with, BTW).
  • We reluctantly used granite counters in our kitchen (and I love them, turns out) but here are 6 beautiful alternatives.
  • Scoop up these free fonts – a few faves of mine are in there.

Have a bitchin’ weekend! Loveyoubye, Mags

RBD Concept: Northern Flicker

This Monday I graduated to a new level of Bird Nerd. I met up with a group of local birders (aka Grammas and Grampas) in the wee hours of the morning and walked around in the woods looking for…birds. I added 8 new bird species to my life list (nerd-bomber), missed about 5 others because I don’t know how to use my hand-me-down binoculars (nerd fail), and learned that our neighborhood coyotes are actually coywolves (Twilight boner nerd).

One of the new species I collected for my Bird Nerd trading cards was a Northern Flicker, which are pretty common to our area, but I’d just never seen one. They’re large woodpeckers with amazing spotted plumage (nerd for feathers) and fiery vermilion field marks (nerd for regular marks).

I was so pumped about these birds and how cool they look that I created a design concept based solely on their naturally chic, modern palette. The Northen Flicker concept translates well to an Urban Naturalist’s apartment but could just as easily be spun around to suit a locavore restaurant, design boutique or artisanal bakery concept.

Raised by Design - RBD Concept - Northern Flicker

It turns out that most bird photographers don’t like you to share their work, so I drew my own Flicker and used it in my concept board. Links are listed below.

The Origin and Evolution of Birds by Alan Feduccia /// The Age of Birds by Alan Feduccia /// Grand Canyon Print by Jazzberry Blue /// Brass Sconce /// Pendleton 5th Avenue Throw /// Baxter of California Candle /// Hvidt France & Son Sofa /// Michael Ahram Feather Sculpture /// Hudson Coffee Table /// White Ceramic Box /// 3-piece vase set /// Gray Rug /// Abstract Print /// Philippe Starck Chair /// Leather Ottoman /// Metal Planters /// Spotted Cowhide /// Firewood Storage

*For my fellow Bird Nerds: I also spotted a Common Nighthawk (!), Sharp-Shinned Hawk, Eastern Phoebe, Belted Kingfisher, White-Eyed Vireo, Black and White Warbler and Northern Parula. Not bad for my first time out! I highly recommend finding your local Audobon Society and joining up for one of their weekly walks. Birders are the nicest breed of humans I’ve encountered and you’ll see way more than at your backyard feeder.


Maggie The Bird-Nerdiest

Before + After: Landscaping Progress

I know, I haven’t really given you a proper introduction to Lil’ Spot. So here’s a quick backstory. Our 882 sq. ft. kit house was built in the 1950’s by a couple who emigrated from Eastern Europe. They built this little spot with their own hands and took great care of it for 60-some-odd years. When they passed on it was sold as part of their estate. Lucky for us, we were first-time home buyers looking for fixer-upper to cut our teeth on home ownership and renovations. Here’s what it looked like the day we closed on it, 4 years ago this April:

curbside house

I must confess that today it looks almost exactly the same from this view. My Dad always says, “You fix the inside of your house for you, you fix the outside for your  neighbors.” So the front has been bumped to the bottom of our very long list of renovation projects. Sorry, neighbors! We did swap out the mailbox (a wedding gift from friends with number decals I added), painted the front door a nice dark navy blue (Benjamin Moore Hale Navy) and replaced the screen door with a more modern full glass door (sans eagle).


But we haven’t done a thing to the poor overcrowded boxwoods, hydrangeas, azaleas, mountain laurel, dwarf pine and japonica. We also haven’t ripped out the last hedgerow of invasive barberry and privet. Or fixed our broke-ass concrete path and crumbling steps. Or painted our peeling porch. We’re not proud of it. We’re just busy. And not made of money.

Over the last 4 years we’ve really focused in on the back yard, where we spend most of our time in the warm months. With such a small house, having a big backyard makes us feel like we have more living space. Here are some BEFORE snaps from 2010.


View facing North into our neighbor’s yard. With a tin-can-man that is funky but I kind of love.

Our neighbor to the south has a small yard that is mostly occupied by a well-maintained vegetable garden. We love learning about growing vegetables from the elderly couple that owns the property. They even share extra plants with us.

I’m sure those ginormous laundry line poles didn’t escape your trained eye either. They’re retired since everyone has electric dryers these days. But they’ve found a second life as nesting sites for nuthatches and training poles for woodpeckers.

Don’t mind the John Baldessari-esque dots. I’m protecting privacy here, it’s serious business.


View facing east. This chain link beauty is still there and I’m doing my best to hide it with plantings.

Oh, and then there’s the infamous pear tree. There was so much that I loved about this tree. The scale was perfect for the house and I adored its cute lollipop shape. In spring there were fragrant white flowers and it provided privacy from the 2-story house to the north. Plus, it produced dozens upon dozens of pears each summer. But…it produced dozens upon dozens of pears each summer. And we couldn’t keep up with them. And they tasted like crab apples. And they attracted bees. And got stuck in our lawnmower. And STUNK like rotting fruit. And…we eventually decided it had to go.

pear tree

Down she goes…

pear tree coming down

I think I actually teared up. Poor tree. We’ll never forget you.

Also I should mention the teeny-tiny sad peach tree planted in the middle of the yard. We gave it the college try but it just wasn’t thriving. Plus, we noticed it had developed an oozing fungus and an ant infestation. Buy-bye, little nasty tree.


The last corner of our backyard was occupied by this crazy contraption covering the steps to the basement. Complete with corrugated composite, sheet metal, rusty poles and plenty of jagged wire. A wonderland for young children looking to get tetanus.

basement contraption

So, here’s the BEFORE + AFTER of our backyard plan, illustrated by yours truly.

Garden Plan - BEFORE + AFTER - Existing Plants

BEFORE garden plan (with a creative way of spelling “lilac” for your enjoyment.)

backyard plan before + after

AFTER garden plan

I justified cutting down a beautiful, mature fruit tree by planting not one, but SIX other native trees in the yard. Do you think I overcompensated? The pictures I took are horrendous so I made this list instead:

trees added to lil' spot

We also put in a pre-fab shed since we don’t have a garage. It’s wonderful, I would like to move in like a hipster. Maybe one day when we replace the siding on our house it will match. For now, it’s just so dang cute.

garden shed and climbing rose

our cute shed being upstaged by the climbing rose

We also planted a native perennial garden along the chain-link fence. In our hood we don’t put up tall fences because then you don’t get vegetable plants from your neighbors. Just a little privacy goes a long way so we did switchgrass and red osier dogwoods in the back row and filled in with purple coneflower, lavender bee balm and purple agastache. This will be the second year for this bed so we’ll see how it all fills in.

native perennial garden

the shed in action; native grasses and perennials

Last summer, my kick ass Dad built a huge, awesome deck on the back of the house. He’s turning 65 this year and can still rip up a driveway, drill for pilings, pour concrete and build a freakin’ deck! Yee-haw. The deck has by far been the biggest improvement to our yard, especially paired with the renovations we did inside which allow for direct access to the backyard through sliding doors off of the kitchen.

The deck is home to our Beetlejuicey black and white striped patio umbrella. I can’t tell you how much I love this umbrella!

patio umbrella

Actually, yes I can. I love it just a little less than the set of 4 original Russell Woodard Sculptura chairs handed down to me by my mother-in-law, which were passed down to her from her mother. I feel so lucky to have them. When we were growing up my Mom chained our porch furniture down after some problems with theft in our neighborhood. Don’t think I haven’t considered the same for these babies.


Russell Woodard Sculptura Chairs + West Elm Table

And that’s pretty much where we are these days. This year I’m letting things grow in and become more established. I’m resolving to water when my garden needs it and learn about pruning and caring for the plants that I have.

Is anyone still reading?! Holy Marathon Blogpost! Sorry to post so late tonight. I gotta go make dinner and watch some trish-trash on the TV.

Loveyoubye, Mags

Friday Links

daisy coral RBD links

It’s FRIDAY again! Sunday is my birthday so I’m looking forward to seeing some friends and eating pizzas made on the grill. I do have some gardening posts to share with you all but it looks like I won’t get them up until Monday. I’m experiencing technical difficulties with my scanner which I will now be looking to replace. Here are this week’s links for ya!

Happy Weekend! Loveyoubye, Mags