...because home doesn't happen overnight.

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That handsome man is Orlando (pronounced or-LON-doh) Soria and he’s quickly climbing to the top of my favorite designers list. I’ve been a fan of Orlando’s for years and I was super excited when he took on the role of West Coast Creative Director at Homepolish last fall. Orlando and the rest of the Homepolish team are doing revolutionary things in the field of interior design!

So about a month ago when the peeps at Homepolish contacted me about a possible collaboration, I didn’t hesitate in saying yes. YES! I had the pleasure of interviewing Orlando and he’s just about the sweetest thing ever. I still can’t believe he took the time to read my questions – let alone answer them. Find my interview with Orlando below then keep reading for details on a giveaway you won’t want to miss.

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There must be some amazing story or unusual meaning behind your name. Do tell.

My mom was reading the Virginia Woolf novel Orlando when she was pregnant with me so I’m kind of named for that character. I have Spanish / Mexican lineage on my father’s side so my parents wanted us to have Hispanic-sounding names so Orlando kind of went with that, too. My middle name is Dumond which is French so I basically have the most racially ambiguous name in the whole world.

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Where did you grow up? Can you tell us a little about your childhood? Perhaps something that influences your work today?

I grew up in Yosemite Village which is a community of about 800 people inside Yosemite National Park in the Sierra Nevada mountains in California. I didn’t really appreciate it growing up but it was pretty much the most incredible place to grow up. Through the window in my childhood bedroom you can see Yosemite Falls which is the tallest waterfall in the U.S. It used to shake and rattle my windowpanes at night.

Growing up where I did made me fall in love with California. My grandparents (on both sides of the family) lived in Steinbeck country (on the outskirts of Salinas, towards Monterey) so I grew up going to Big Sur and Santa Cruz and the central coast all the time. When I moved East for college, grad school, and New York City I missed California incredibly. After ten years I finally moved back and I think a lot of my design sense comes from the romance I had for California while I lived away. I like interiors to feel natural and casual yet beautiful. Kind of like California.

Your dimples…do you use them for good or evil?

LOL! I use them for good. Mostly.

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As a designer you’re challenged to cater to clients’ needs and wants but what is your signature “Orlando” touch? Is there an element you include in every project?

I like to have at least one piece in every project that is handmade and unique. This can be art, a hand-painted dresser or some kind of wall treatment. My hope for every client is that they have something no one else has, something that is inspired by their personality.

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Is there one rule you like to break when designing a space?

One thing I like to do is break clients from the idea that things need to “match.” My pet peeve is people being like “oh that wood is a different color than the wood over here.” While of course it’s nice to match wood tones, fabrics and other finishes for some projects (i.e. ones that are more streamlined and conceptual) most homes look better with a collection of furnishings that are more real, natural. Thus, it’s fine to mix types of wood, etc. as long as it’s done intentionally.

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You’re the West Coast Creative Director at Homepolish. (YAY!) Can you describe Homepolish’s mission for those folks who haven’t heard of it?

I fell in love with Homepolish the minute I heard about it because it’s striving to change the interior design industry from within. We’ve been around for about two years now and we’ve already revolutionized the markets we’re in. Basically, the goal of Homepolish is to take away the hidden costs and confusion normally associated with interior design and make the whole process more transparent. We don’t up-charge on furniture. We have a program called “swatch” which allows us to share exclusive discounts with clients and all our fees are upfront so there’s no confusion on what things are going to cost. There’s no incentive for designers to recommend super expensive furnishings so they are free to design specifically to the taste of the client. We have a huge range of clients – from small budgets to enormous ones – and they all seem to appreciate that we are most interested in meeting their needs and giving them the space they want, not upselling them on overpriced furniture.

There’s also a huge advantage for the designers who work with Homepolish. We take away the annoying parts of their job (billing, collecting taxes, etc.) and allow them to concentrate fully on designing. Also, we’re helping pair them with great clients and helping them build their portfolios. So not only is our company helping clients attain beautiful homes and enjoy their spaces more, it’s also giving young, well-accomplished designers the tools they need to finally have access to clients and thrive in their design practices.

Homepolish has a presence in more than a dozen major U.S. cities. Are there plans to expand? (Ohio needs you.)

YES! We want to be in EVERY CITY as soon as possible. Since we are getting so much press and doing so well in all the cities we’re already in, we are balancing the need to be responsible with the desire to help as many clients as we can. Eventually we will be a truly nationwide service but for now we are expanding as quickly as we can. Starting up in a new city takes some time because we have an intense (and ridiculously competitive) selection process for our designers to make sure we only have the best talent. So, in short, yes we will be to Ohio as soon as we can!

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What has been your favorite Homepolish project to date? Why?

Well, the answer to this question changes every day. Right now my favorite project is The Beach House because it’s so different than anything I’ve ever done. (Fact: designers actually like designing for clients that have a style totally different than their own.) I’m sure if you ask me this in a month I will have a different answer. I am working on Kelly Oxford‘s new house right now and when that’s done it’s going to be disgusting(ly amazing).

In design, we’re told everything is better in 3′s. Please respond to the following:

3 things on your bucket list

1. Learn a language other than English. Preferably Spanish because it would be super useful to me in southern California.

2. Buy and renovate a house in California before the whole state falls into the ocean.

3. Own a brownstone in Chelsea before New York falls into the ocean.

3 things every room needs

1. Art. By real people not Urban Outfitters.

2. Rugs. Ever notice that if there’s a rug in a room everyone is hanging out where the rug is and no one wants to be where there is no rug? There’s a reason for that.

3. Lamps. Even if you don’t have anywhere to sit, you need light. Or you’ll get depressed and sad.

3 things you can’t live without

1. Avocados. If a day goes by where I don’t have at least a little serving of avocado I feel like life is not worth living.

2. Knowing where the coast is. It’s true, if I don’t know which direction the ocean is I get disoriented. For this reason, I have never not lived in a coastal state.

3. Light. I have window treatments in my bedroom but they’re just for looks. I never close them because I love having light shining in my windows at all times. When it gets dark and gloomy in the winter, I want to stab myself with a sword.

3 things you like to do outside of interior design

1. California road trips. Ojai, Joshua Tree, Palm Springs, Yosemite, San Francisco, Sonoma County. I love just getting in the car and driving somewhere, just to stare at it and be in love. Living in a car city has its disadvantages but the advantage to having a car is that you can just wake up on Saturday and be like “I’m going to Santa Barbara!” and it’s super easy. We live in a beautiful country, so much to explore. I think our wild areas, our beautiful cities and our amazing parks are our greatest national treasure. Oh my god that’s so cheesy but I totally believe it. Sorry.

2. Art. I paint and make drawings. It’s what I studied in school and I still love it. I also love ogling other people’s art. My favorite place to do this is LACMA, which in my opinion is the most beautiful, relaxing art museum in America.

3. Outdoor movies / concerts / picnics / events. I am down for anything if it’s outside, whether it’s Coachella, Tchaikovsky at the Hollywood Bowl or The Addams Family screening at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. If there’s food, friends, and some kind of entertainment, sign me up!

3 places you’re dying to visit

1. Soria, Spain, where my last name comes from and from where, apparently, our Jewish ancestors fled during the Inquisition.

2. Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul in Mexico City (I’ve been a huge fan of hers since childhood.)

3. Berlin. Just because it sounds cheap, gross and kind of scary.

3 jobs you’ve held

1. Indie music publicist (first year out of school in New York).

2. Graphic designer (for a great stationery company in Los Angles, Jonathan Wright and Company)

3. Production designer (I worked on a lot of small / indie movies and music videos and photo shoots)

3 traits of a perfect client

1. Decisive. (Because slow decision making is what always leads to lagging projects.)

2. Realistic. (I’m a designer, not a magician. As much as I like to make my clients happy, there are limits to what a certain budget / space can do.)

3. Humble. (I’m down to earth and pretty self-deprecating so I don’t do well with pompous, entitled people).

3 adjectives to describe your personal style

Colorful, artistic, handmade.

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Thank you so much Orlando and Homepolish!

Orlando’s answers only make me adore him that much more. I love his reply to three things every room needs. How cool is it that he grew up with a waterfall right outside his bedroom window?! And who knew a SAHM in Ohio could have anything in common with a legit designer in LA? I, too, am a lover of avocados, living in a fish bowl and outdoor shenanigans.

Now about that awesome giveaway…head over to Homepolish to enter to win a pair of brass swing lamps from One Forty Three! Coincidentally, they’re the same lamps flanking Orlando’s bed above. I’ve long admired OFT’s workmanship. Good stuff and good luck, friends!

images: 1, 2, 3, 4, 7) Tessa Neustadt 5, 8) Zeke Ruelas 6) Bethany Nauert

*THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED.*

Congrats to Carrie who is eyeing some ballet flats!

Post title runner-up: The One Where I Have a Midlife Shoe Crisis in Front of My Elderly Garage Door (I thought it was too wordy.)

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I don’t know why but I’ve had the urge to dress a bit edgier recently. It’s not so much about following a trend but has everything to do with the desire to try something different. It all started with a new pair of black jeggings. Once I discovered how comfortable and versatile they are, I’ve been wanting to wear them every day. (Luckily, our summer has been relatively mild. I’m one of those people who chills easily at the slightest breeze and in air-conditioned spaces so wearing jeans midsummer is completely reasonable to me.)

My only problem was that I didn’t own a pair of shoes that looked right with black jeans. I have mostly nude and saddle leather sandals for summer. I’m short and one trick I’ve learned to appear taller is to match my shoes to my bare legs / pants. That way my feet, ankles and legs are one continuous line of color which gives the illusion of longer legs. I needed black kicks!

That’s where ShoeMint comes in. The free, members-only website stays on top of what’s hot in the shoe arena so busy moms like me don’t have to. Inventory is updated monthly based on current trends. Whether you’re in need of something classic or runway-esque, you’re guaranteed to find high-end, high quality options. Refined materials – such as leather and suede – abound and shipping & returns are always free.

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I found the perfect black ankle boot for summer. It’s the Dahlia and it’s part of the exclusive collection designed by ShoeMint’s co-founders, Rachel Bilson & Nicole Chavez. The perforated suede allows for plenty of ventilation and gives the boot a sexy peekaboo vibe. Gold buckles round out the edgy look. A modest 2″ heel is enough to give my (lack of) height a boost but easily walkable. I have never in my life owned such provocative shoes. They are surprisingly comfortable and I genuinely LOVE them. Who knew switching up your footwear midlife could be so fun?!

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Another little trick I’ve learned to appear taller is to show some skin up top. (Not to be confused with going topless.) It doesn’t have to be a cleavage fest. Although, if you have it by all means flaunt it and I hate you. Just kidding – about the hate part not the flaunt part. For me, bare shoulders and a swooping neckline do the trick. I’m particularly fond of sleeveless tops with racerback detailing. Pulling my hair up into a high ponytail puts my shoulders front and center and keeps me cool, too.

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I also find it helpful to draw the eye up with a brightly colored / patterned top and an interesting necklace. I prefer flowy, loose-fitting tops that fall below my natural waistline. Ironically, the wood bead necklace I’m wearing here was a purchase from our current home’s estate sale.

In summary, I’m the Jon Stewart of DIY blogs. If you met me in real life, a warranted reaction would be “I thought you’d be taller.” In case you missed ‘em, my tricks for dressing taller:

*Wear shoes similar in color to your bare legs / pants. This creates the illusion of longer legs.

*Get a boost with a little heel action. An additional one or two inches can make all the difference.

*Show some skin up top. (But keep your shirt on, folks.) Bare shoulders or a low-slung neckline visually lengthen short torsos and necks.

*Draw the eye up with interesting colors, patterns and / or jewelry. Keep your bottom half mostly solid in color then add a fun top and necklace to draw attention to your upper half.

And just like that you’re 6′ tall! Haha.

 

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But enough small talk. Whether you’re 5’2″ or 6’2″, ShoeMint is graciously offering up a new pair of kicks to one lucky reader. See entry details below.

PRIZE: one pair of shoes from ShoeMint (retail value $70-$150). The choice is yours!

RULES: You must be at least 18 years old and have a shipping address (no P.O. boxes please) within the U.S. or Canada. One entry per email address.

TO ENTER: Sign up for ShoeMint here. (It’s completely free and there’s no obligation to buy.) Browse the selection then leave a comment on this post sharing your favorite pair of ShoeMint shoes.

DEADLINE: Enter before Sunday, July 13th at 9:00 p.m. EST. One random winner will be announced Monday, July 14th.

BUT, WAIT!, THERE’S MORE: Score $40 off your first pair of shoes by clicking here. Enjoy!

This post is sponsored in part by ShoeMint. All content, clothing, short jokes and images are my own. I do NOT earn commission on purchases made via the links above. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this blog.

I’d love to hear any tips you have for dressing taller. I’ve tried dressing in a single, solid color from top to bottom but found it yawn-inducing. On a side note, the crumbling, weed-riddled driveway is getting ripped out this week. Ahhhhh!!!!!

UPDATE: Due to popular demand, sources for my entire outfit:

*racerback tank – Juniors Eyelash, Kohl’s

*hoop earrings – vintage

*wood bead necklace – vintage

*black jeggings – SO, Kohl’s

*mesh ankle boots – ShoeMint

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

*THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED.*

Congrats to Megan! She’s going to use Cook Smarts and her Whole Foods gift card to whip up a vegetarian dish for her family.

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I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I’m not particularly fond of cooking. My biggest tiff with the whole process is coming up with ideas for meals and organizing grocery lists. But as much as I detest it, meal planning really does make a difference in how well our weeknights go – especially during the school year. Enter Cook Smarts.

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Cook Smarts takes the guesswork out of meal planning. Their weekly meal plans include four balanced dinners to save time and money and bring you out of the dreaded dinner rut.

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Steve has been eating paleo most of the time for the last six months so, by default, the rest of us have been, too. Each Cook Smarts recipe can be customized to a gluten-free, paleo or vegetarian version. Needless to say, this is a huge and practical benefit to me and my family. Once customized, you can print / email the meal plans and create grocery lists with the click of a mouse. Done!

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The kids and I are out of town this week and next. Right before we left, I threw together an early Father’s Day meal since we won’t return until the day before the actual holiday. Seeing as how I’m barely functioning a day after making the 16-hour drive with three kids, I’m guessing I won’t be in any condition to entertain when I return home. (In case you’re wondering, the total sleep time for the entire drive for all three kids was…wait for it…50 minutes. And it was broken up at that. Gotta love road trips with kids!) I searched the recipe archives and decided to try the chipotle burger recipe.

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It isn’t a Father’s Day meal without some grilling action! If you need to brush up on your grilling skills, Cook Smarts offers short how-to and prep videos which teach basic cooking skills to boost your cooking confidence.

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I topped the chipotle burgers with homemade guacamole and served them with sweet potato fries, steamed broccoli and our favorite pasta salad from a local gourmet deli. Since we were entertaining extended family members who don’t follow a paleo diet, I didn’t customize this particular recipe.

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The burgers were so good! They had a bit of a smoky bite to them that was tempered by the guac. I will definitely be making these burgers again!

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To keep a running list of the recipes we try, I click the “I made this” button at the bottom of each recipe.

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To denote favorites, I click the button above the dish’s photo. And just like that, everything is organized for me. It really is a smart setup. For a more in-depth guided tour of the site, click here. Who knows? Maybe cooking in the kitchen could eventually become my happy place??

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As easy as Cook Smarts makes it to live smarter, happier and simpler in the kitchen (I find cooking isn’t as awful when I have a plan of attack) what really inspires me is the story behind the business. The website was founded by Jess Dang who, after being diagnosed with Hepatitis C at the age of 17, made a promise to herself. If she lived to see 30, she would do something that would help others lead a healthier life because she knew first-hand how much “it sucked to feel unhealthy and helpless.” Jess is now 32 and Cook Smarts is 2. Some people become complete victims and wallow in self-pity whenever problems arise in life. But those who choose to make the most of their situation by helping others are extraordinary and inspiring. That is exactly what Jess is to me and I support her mission whole-heartedly.

Are you ready to try Cook Smarts for yourself? Great! You can sign up for free and receive 3 free meal plans to sample. Subscription plans start as low as $6/month or roughly $0.40 per meal. To help you out, Cook Smarts is giving away $250 in groceries! See entry details below.

PRIZE: $250 gift card to Whole Foods plus a Cook Smarts tote bag

RULES: You must be at least 18 years old to enter and have a shipping address (no P.O. boxes please) within the U.S. to enter. One entry per email address.

TO ENTER: Sign up for a free Cook Smarts account here. Then check out the recipe archives and comment on this post sharing the meal you’d most like to try.

DEADLINE: Enter before Sunday, June 8th at 9:00 p.m. EST. One random winner will be announced Monday, June 9th.

BUT, WAIT!, THERE’S MORE: Use the discount code “HTCOOKS” to receive 30% off your first meal plan payment. Offer expires June 10th, 2014. A subscription to Cook Smarts would make a great graduation or wedding gift this summer.

Eat healthy, stay healthy!

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking; image of Jess Dang via Cook Smarts

*THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED.*

Congrats to Jen who loves the Back Alley Table and thinks it will be perfect for her kitchen!

I am so excited to host this giveaway and introduce you to Seed Furniture! The L.A.-based furniture company not only creates beautiful pieces but also focuses on sustainability, craftsmanship and innovation.

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*design – the company successfully mixes a midcentury modern aesthetic with rustic and contemporary styles. The resulting designs are timeless, putting the word “forever” in forever furniture.

*sustainability – the company utilizes FSC certified wood and soy-based, formaldehyde-free glue. Much of the hardwood comes from a stockpile in New Jersey formed from the cleanup efforts following Hurricane Sandy.

*craftsmanship – each piece is custom made-to-order by local artisans and workers. That’s right. All items are made right here in the USA.

*innovation – all finishes are non-toxic and contain no VOC’s. Wood is finished with a combination of bees wax + walnut oil. Lacquer finishes are composed of Mythic Paint and Smart-Coat.

And you know how much I despise unsightly electrical cords, right? Well, Seed Furniture implements these crazy cool power portals which contain electronic outlets and USB hubs strategically built into their media pieces. No ugly dangling cords!

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(Note the clever cup holders, too.)

 

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Seed furniture is the epitome of form meets function. Practical storage is beautifully disguised. Coming from a modestly-sized home, I fully appreciate the usefulness and beauty of these pieces.

Seen enough? I hope not. Because you might just be the lucky winner of a credit to Seed Furniture! See entry details below.

PRIZE: $2,000 (yep, that’s three zeros!) credit to Seed Furniture. (A $150 shipping credit is also included with the prize.)

RULES: You must be at least 18 years old and have a shipping address (no P.O. boxes please) within the continental U.S. One entry per email address.

TO ENTER: Check out Seed Furniture’s selection by clicking here. Enter your email address then browse their amazing selection. Share your favorite piece in the comments section of this post and tell me where you would put it.

DEADLINE: Enter before 12:00 p.m. EST on Monday, April 21st. One random winner will be announced Tuesday, April 22nd.

BUT, WAIT!, THERE’S MORE: Use the code “TWEAKING” at checkout to score 30% 40% off any piece until Monday, April 28th.

Best of luck!

images: Seed Furniture