Photo by Madeleine Chao

Hoo, y'all are some funny people. I love getting comments, obviously, but I especially love getting entertaining, well-written comments involving possums. AND our air conditioner has been temporarily fixed, so I am typing this from the relative comfort of 78 degrees instead of 90! Thank you all so much for this -- it really made a miserable situation a hundred times better. Anyway, here are some of my fave comments from yesterday:

  • It could be worse. You could have broken AC and a recently deceased squirrel in your bathroom wall with another trying to get out by clawing a hole in the shower ceiling.

    I may or may not have bathed in my powder room sink for a couple days whilst drinking mojitos.

  • There was a brief spate of nice weather here (Oxford, UK) and after a couple days of intense sun and higher-than-usual temperatures (which means about 28C/82F) it characteristically clouded over again. And then I saw a sandwich-board proclaiming "HEATWAVE OVER!" I shit you not. And I laughed like a crazy person in the middle of the sidewalk for a good couple minutes. Heatwave indeed.

  • Oh lord, I have too many broken A/C stories to tell but the worst one was when a possum made himself a home in my attic, chewed through through the insulation and bit down on to some wiring to the compressor, ELECTROCUTED HIMSELF, and shorted out the whole system while I was on vacation last summer. Came home to find the house reeking to high heaven, called the repairmen and when they fixed the whole thing and turned it back on - brace yourself - POSSUM FUR AND BITS CAME SHOOTING OUT. OF. MY. AIR VENTS.

  • Joke from my 24 yr old sister:

    Q: How did the Hipster burn his mouth?

    A: He ate the pizza before it was cool

    Joke from my 3 year old:

    Him: Knock knock

    Me: Who's there?

    Him: Cookoo Banana

    (His joke telling needs some work)

  • My broken AC story is two years ago, on the hottest day of Mordor, our AC broke. I sat with a bowl of ice cubes in front of a box fan in the narrowest hall of the house about 6 inches away from it and read from start to finish, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

  • I grew up in south Mississippi, and worked with a friend at my dad's hardware store in high school. One August, he made us rearrange a few dozen fiberglass tub surrounds in an un-airconditioned warehouse. We have never forgiven him for this, nor have we forgiven fiberglass tub surrounds. (They didn't have much cred to begin with.)

Hee! Love you all. “HEATWAVE OVER!” makes me laugh every time I think about it. And now, as promised, answers to your questions. Some of them – like the ones about sourcing large art and decorating with confidence and rants against tab-top curtains – are things I talk about at camp, and as you know, what happens at camp stays at camp. Which means you will just have to sign yourselves up and come on. The rest of the questions fell into one of several categories, which I've helpfully put into groups for you. So let's get to it.


Please describe your perfect pizza.

Wood-fired, tomato-based sauce, mozzarella, sausage, arugula, extra pepper. WHY DID YOU ASK THAT QUESTION I AM STARVING.

What is your favorite snack food?

Sunflower seeds, hands down. Although popcorn runs a close second.

Got any good drink recipes? Artsy beer recs?

My favorite recipe goes like this: 1. Put ice in a cup. 2. Pour bourbon over ice. 3. Drink all up. Otherwise, I enjoy a Greyhound/Salty Dog in the summer (vodka, grapefruit juice, salted rim for Salty Dog).

Beer recs: Abita, forever. Preferably a strawberry one with a shrimp po-boy on the side.



How do you feel about Emersonmade t-shirts? How do they fit?

I feel good about them and love them with all my heart, especially the white tees and tanks. They run pretty true to size. Sadly, they don't seem to be available anymore, but maybe EMERSON IS READING THIS AND WILL CHANGE THAT HINT HINT.

What are your favorite running shoes?

I wore Nike when I first started running, then switched to Brooks about a year ago. I love them both, specifically the Nike Free line and the Brooks Launch. HOWEVER, I have had my eye on a different brand lately. I will report back on this matter.

I want to start wearing makeup, but I've never done it and it's super intimidating to me. What's the one item that would be best to start with (either "best gateway drug" or "most essential")? Is it weird if I start using eyebrow pencil? I have very light eyebrows but when I put on eyebrow pencil they look terribly severe and fake.

I would say most essential is a tinted moisturizer or foundation – something to even everything out and hide flaws (not that you have any flaws, of course. I'm sure you are lovely.) Go to a higher-end dept. store (Do not be intimidated! The people who work there are there to HELP YOU.), tell them what you want, and you will probably go home with a bag full of samples. I do not like foundation and wear either Philosophy or Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer (with SPF, natch). Eyebrow pencil: yes, but sparingly. I have the eyebrow problem, too, and I found a wax/powder combo at Target (the e.l.f. line) that has been great and avoids the drawn-on look.

How should I style/tolerate/live with growing-out bangs without succumbing to cutting them again?

This is the hardest thing to do, isn't it? Regular trims, just to shape them up, will help a lot. If you have a nice hair person they might even do this part for free. Also, having the bangs blended into your style as they grow also helps. Um, and bobby pins.



What would you do about an ugly brass chandelier in a rental apartment?

I would switch it out and then put it back up when I moved. I would ask forgiveness instead of permission for this maneuver. Depending on your landlord, he/she might not even notice. I would, however, avoid electrocuting myself while doing this. Landlords definitely notice dead bodies.

When my husband paints a room, he paints the door the same color and keeps the frame around the door white. Is that something people do?

What a funny habit! It is not something people do, that I know of. I would either paint the trim the same color as the room and the door, or leave the trim white and paint all doors a uniform non-wall color (say, black).

Do you offer one-on-one design consultations?


What would you charge, if you did?

I would charge an hourly rate.

Would you be willing to make a house call while you are in NY for camp?

Yes. Email me! (See “Contact” link.)

How does one successfully paint the Line of Doom between wall and ceiling? The one that looks different if dealing with natural vs. lamp light? Our house has those textured walls that are interesting, I suppose, but make said line all the more impossible because one cannot tape. All white? Paint ceilings blue? Hire professionals? Give up and drink margaritas until the line cannot be seen? That basically sums up all of the solutions I have considered up until this point.

With something like this, you either need a very steady hand, or you just have to accept it and move on. I would not be able to move on, so your options are: paint the ceiling the same color as the walls, which could look awesome; paint the ceiling a different, but non-white color; paint everything white; or get up there with a tiny brush and fix the mistakes like that. I vote for the first option.

Should I paint my dining/living room black and white like Emily Henderson's guest room?


Is a cowhide rug AND a sheepskin too much livestock for one room?

Hell, no! In fact I would recommend some sort of taxidermy or antler scenario. Just kidding. Maybe.

Another thing you could do to mitigate the farm/ranch look is to bring in some less-rustic materials: a shiny mirror, a mercury glass lamp, some silk/satin/velvet pillows, etc.

Any ideas on styling around works-in-progress or entertaining while renovating?

There's no way to hide or decorate around that, so just own it, like it is a normal thing in your life. Brush it off with a, “Oh, I am just so sorry about this, y'all! You know how renovations can be.” And then shepherd everyone into the good rooms and serve them lots of cocktails.



Did you like Pamie's book?

Yes. Although I love all of her books, I think You Take It From Here is her best and strongest work. And that Smidge. She seems so familiar...

How do you get your photos to look so good? The whites are always so clean and so bright.

Thank you! I am a big fan of the custom white balance setting on your camera. (The manual will tell you how to do this, and it is very easy.) I am also a big fan of Curves, Levels, and Color Balance in Photoshop. In fact that is almost all I use. With the color balance tool, you can remove the red/yellow tones that sometimes show up in pictures straight out of the camera.

I'm thinking of starting a blog -- what's your biggest piece of advice on getting started?

The two most important things for looking pro and maintaining readers: 1. Your own domain name. 2. Post consistency, whether it's three times a day or three times a week. That's it. Start with that and you will be miles ahead of everyone else.

Who is your favorite Friday Night Lights character?




Do you believe in destiny, or do you think that life is basically random?

I believe in random destiny. Just kidding. Like Oprah, I believe in preparation meeting opportunity. And potato chips.

AuthorAB Chao
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