Create Personalized Candles With Your Photography At Shutterfly

I've partnered with to share a few of my favorite ways to turn all the photos on my Instagram into something more meaningful to decorate with in my home. I had this idea to create a candle with an image of my son on it, so I selected the from their site and placed a photo of little Aidan on it taken by my husband, an image that is very precious to me. When the candle arrived yesterday, I felt so happy opening the orange box because it the candle not only smells just wonderful but when I saw the photo of my son on it, it really touched my heart.

Today when I placed it on my table, the warm glow of candlelight coupled with fresh roses he and his father brought home from the farmers' market today, made me feel really cozy and in a bit in an Autumn mood on this moody and cold Friday where I live.

When it comes to decorating, I believe in simple, special touches. Shutterfly is an unexpected spot to design your own products for home a special meaning to you, which is why I wanted to tell you about them. Not only can you add your photography to things like mugs, candles and pillows, but you can add your illustrations too.


If you're an artist, seeing your artwork on something that you use each day would be very uplifting, don't you think? These cherished customized items also make great gifts. I will show you some mugs I personalized on my Instagram soon for my husband and I that I know you will love and want to own for yourself with photos that you love, too.

You have to get a candle from and personalize it for your space, it's just the nicest present to give to yourself and your home!

Honestly, I don't do much with my photos with the exception of publishing them online, selling them into magazines, or putting them into my books or in the books authored by others. When approached me to work with them, I felt like it would be a huge burden to embark on a project where I'd need to choose products for my photography. That's why I started with a candle. It was simple and I love the results.

In the next week or so, I'll show you a , some , , a and several other items I personalized, too. It was really fun and I'm already dreaming up what else I can personalize with family photos for my home. Maybe you should try it, could inspire you too.


grapefruit Blossom

Uplift and awaken the senses with big, bright citrus, sweet berries and juicy nectar.

Artisian Soy Wax Candle




// Burn Time Up To 50 Hours


This post is sponsored by . Awaken your space with your vision. Shop  Home Decor for personalized home accents that are uniquely you. 

Designer Saana Ja Olli + What Finnish Design Means To Me

I've been a big fan of Finnish designer for nearly two years since I have one of her and love it. I take it on photo shoots to haul things like pillows and blankets, and I take it when I transport boxes and bulky stuff to the post office, a shop or to see a friend. It's the best bag in the world, and I get tons of comments when I use it - mostly, how fond everyone is by its enormous size and sheer gorgeousness.



Don't these image give you such a beautiful, restful feeling inside? I like them so much, such pretty, moody lighting and styling too.

I was reminded of Sanna Ja Olli today because I've been ed by (the largest newspaper in Finland) and (Finland's lifestyle site for women) for interviews since I'll soon be in Hensinki lecturing at . I'm so excited that Finland is welcoming me so nicely to their country, what an honor and privilege to be received so warmly during my first visit.

During one of the interviews, I was asked about Finnish design and what attracts me to it and who is designing in Finland that I admire. One of the brands I named was Saana Ja Olli since I'm madly in love with her patterns and the simplicity and naturalness in what she produces.

One of the interviews today was interesting, the journalist asked me what I thought about Finnish design, how I "saw" it. This was a question I'd never been asked, and I hadn't given it much thought until today. I explained that when I think of Finnish design, I imagine nature and powerful shapes and a bit of a Slavic aesthetic - from neighboring Russia mostly. I imagine shapes that are strong, clear and graphic. Finnish design also seems very sensitive to me, like there is an understanding of design in an almost spiritual, elevated sense. I don’t think of mass-produced or a consumer culture – I picture sustainability, sensitivity, emotion and also an excellent marriage of form and function. I also see simplicity but ironically, a bit of a sense of humor in the design – shapes are playful and experimental.

Another thing that came to mind during our interview is that when I think of Finnish interiors, not one interior style comes to mind. Do you know what I mean by this? When I think of a Danish, Dutch, American or Swedish home, I immediately see an interior - some image pops to mind - or a range of "styles" per country...




When I think of Finnish design, I think of individual pieces, but not interiors. I couldn't really tell you what a Finnish home looks like. This is a strength I believe, what really makes them stand out. It gives them the power to create their own style through objects that they collect and love because they seem to adhere less to a certain mainstream vision.

I'm not Finnish and I've never been there, so perhaps my perspective is not shared. I'm curious when I get to Helsinki and start inspecting interiors more carefully, what I'll learn?

Do you have any impressions on this topic to share? I'm quite curious to hear them so please comment if you'd like. I don't bite.

(Images: saana ja olli)

Budget-Friendly Home That Looks Like A Million Bucks

I love it when I come across a small-budget renovation because a lot of people think to have a million dollar "look" the renovations need to cost that much and it's just not true. I once was involved renovations on a regular basis, mostly city apartments but some homes and commercial spaces too, and I can assure you that the budget you set rarely is met - it's always exceeded and by thousands, sometimes tens of thousands. Have you found that to be the case too?


Mostly, it's the labor that drives up costs. Don't you think? You try to save on labor by hiring less expensive contractors only to find that they need 3x the hand holding and double the time to complete the project as the more expensive professionals you'd turned down. Contractors can be so shady and if you've ever renovated a house outside of your own country, it gets even more complicated.

When I worked on renovating the apartment we currently have in the city (when I was 7 months pregnant!), our paint/wallpaper budget was 5k and it ended up being 10k in the end due to miscommunication, misunderstandings and just one thing after another that you'd never had even thought to factor in if you were still in your home country doing the same work.


This small-budget (well not SMALL but I guess based on how it turned out and where it's located - it's small) renovation of a 1930's California-style bungalow in Sydney’s Lower North Shore is minimalist and gorgeous. (The total cost of the build was $410k.) The challenge was to reconfigure the home with living spaces that connected to the garden which would include a rear addition connected to the original space, all on a very tight budget. I love the angles, the natural light, the openness. Isn't it a terrific space?

The family of four had a wish list for this reno:

  1. Lots of natural light
  2. Space for kids
  3. Transform the kitchen into a gathering space

Clearly, their wishes we both met and exceeded by the firm they'd hired, .


Click on any image below to enlarge or pin

If you want to read all about it, you can over at where they've interviewed the homeowners for the nitty gritty renovation low down.

(Photography: )




She She Hand-Painted Wallpaper Is a Must See

Good morning dear friends. Are you well? The weather has been gorgeous lately so I've been outdoors as much as possible with my little boy. Our 3 months of northern European gloom arrives at the end of November and settles until end of February - gray, gray, gray, so I'm drinking in the sun as much as I can!


I don't know if you , but last week I had a bike accident - some pedestrians walked in front of me while I was biking, I rang my bell, they acknowledged me but didn't move so I tried to slow down on the wet pavement and when I applied my brakes, my bike lost control and my front tire got stuck in the trolley tracks and I landed with a boom!  It hurt like HELL. 


I used to get into a ton of accidents as a child, mostly on my skates or just running about, and I remember what my parents taught me when you fall in the street - get up immediately and get off the street, even if you have to drag yourself off, because breaking a bone is okay but getting run over by a vehicle is not. Things your parents say can stick for life! When I fell last week, I hopped up, dusted off, and moved on. My friend was a little shocked that I was okay... And I thought I was until I got nearer to my home. I felt dizzy and my shoulder began to kill me.

Fast forward to the next morning, I was stiff and in loads of shoulder pain. By midday though, after a shower and rela in bed, it cleared and I was back to normal within 24 hours. I'm so glad I didn't get massively injured because it would have really set me back. I got back into biking this past May after not doing it regularly since I was 14, and I've fallen in love with my bike and I go everywhere with it now. I feel like a genuine northern European now with my bike- ha ha! I'm lucky I didn't get hurt and hope this is my "one accident" everyone says you have to get into to smarten up and then you don't have another for a long time... Anyway, how are you? Everything going well?

Enough about biking accidents and weather. Let's explore something I found to be mega inspiring. It is a an American bespoke wallpaper company called . I found it by reading an article I stumbled across last week and saw the writer had her own wallpaper company. Intrigued, I clicked around and landed on She She.


The story of is quite cute. Two Americans, Interior Architect/Designer and Illustrator were in the thick of crappy breakups and decided that the only way to move on was to get a little silly and have fun together as friends. I guess you can say art therapy was their way out of the deep hole. They created a toile on the wall of Jennifer's apartment to tell the story of their experience. Then, they painted the same toile on each other, naked, and took photos in front of the wall.


Crazy, nutty, and unexpected - neither do anything like this on a regular basis, the experiment of painting opened their eyes to something truly magical. A shiny new business. This was how She She got its start and today, their designs are still driven by telling a good (and sometimes not so good) story. They hand paint custom designs for residential and commercial clients across America. What is their dream? Ultimately, to design a boutique hotel with their patterns from top to bottom. Wouldn't that be amazing?


Imagine the courage to just strip off your clothes with your friend and paint the walls together? Then, to turn it into a business that others end up loving, what an inspiration! Who says you have to follow the normal path to find your next business calling, right? Maybe a lot of us would do a lot more good (and interesting) things in this world if we let go more often and just get wild and unconventional sometimes. I found this quote on Pinterest recently that said something like the best memories come from bad decisions. Getting naked with buckets of paint may sound like a bad decision but.... (wink).


As you explore the images in this post, I'm sure you will also fall in love with their unique aesthetic. What do you think? Do you like it too?

(Photography: and She She)


Tour a Gorgeous Dutch Ceramics Studio

Hi everyone, this is and today I want to share a gorgeous ceramics studio with you that I photographed not to long ago in Amsterdam. By the way, I know I went missing for a bit on cattledogs, but now I'm back regularly to be your home and shop tours reporter from The Netherlands. Holly (Becker) is really growing her team to have a reporter for you from as many European countries as she can fit, and so I'm handling the Netherlands. Today, let's relax together and view the incredible space of .

Dutch ceramicist Annemieke Boot

Dutch ceramicist Annemieke Boot

One glance inside Annemieke Boot's Amsterdam ceramics studio and you will see that her work is deeply inspired by Scandinavian simplicity, her designs derived from pure, simple forms.

My work is light, fragile and has something sweet, something soft about it. It is an extension of myself.
— Annemieke Boots

With a keen eye for detail, Annemieke admits that she once was intent to make each and every piece exactly the same and uniform, but as her love of the discipline grew she came to appreciate the beauty in imperfection.

I have realized that the dents and bumps the occur naturally are precisely what makes hand-turned pottery special. Each item is carefully made with LOVE.
— Annemieke Boots

When searching for a studio space, light was an essential ingredient for Annemieke. “I spend much of my time in the studio. I’m here five days a week and sometimes also on weekends – creating, filling or emptying the kiln, doing administration or photographing my work. For this reason, the studio on the Buyskade appealed to me right away – it has floods of natural light, is in a great location and is warm, even in the winter. It was meant to be.” A lick of paint and new floors made her studio an ideal backdrop for her ceramics that is every bit as functional as it is lovely.


Annemieke shares her Amsterdam studio with three other ceramicists – from Copenhagen, Marie-Jose Schulte Fischedick and William Thompson. “We all have our own style, but assist each other in the creative process.” Collaborations also come through social media, such as product exchanges with other makers Annemieke connects with on . “It’s fun to do and I enjoy meeting like-minded creatives in this way. The Instagram community is particularly interested in the work that I do, which is beautiful to see.”


After running an interiors boutique in Amsterdam selling Asian furniture an accessories for several years, Annemieke was ready for a change and a creative challenge. “At a certain point, I had seen it all and wanted something new,” she explains. “I did the marketing, sales, styling and maintained with the customers. I knew all the tricks from start to finish and was ready for something else. Something creative. I did not know what I wanted to do and frankly I also lacked energy at that time.”


A visit to at the ceramicist atelier while holidaying at their Swedish summer house couldn’t have come at a better time and was the trigger Annemieke needed to make the change she had been wanting. “While we were there, Ingvar sat behind his turntable and saw the magic in my eyes. He asked if I wanted to learn and the following week I started on basics of modeling. There in his studio it happened. I was behind the turntable, felt the clay in my hands and tears spontaneously prickled in my eyes. This is it! This is what I have to do, make ceramics. When I think back, I get goosebumps all over again. I totally didn’t know how I was going to make money out of it, but I did it anyway.” Upon returning home, Annemieke purchased her first turntable, signed up for a course and went in search of a studio space to practise her new skill. “It may look easy, but I can tell you, it is not!”

Inspiration for her creations comes in various forms. “I love natural tones inspired by nature, such as white, cream, blue and grey.” And while nature plays an important role where shapes and color are concerned, Annemieke also draws inspiration in other art forms such as glass-blowing. “Copying a design does not work for me. It really has to come from within, even the process of kneading the clay. I put my heart and soul into the clay, and only then do I get the desired result.”

“Selling my own work was very daunting at first but it went almost automatically from the get go.” Aside from building on a collection of ceramics for her studio and shop, Annemieke also took on styling commissions which helped to build confidence in her skills and develop her creative network.

“I have always been very shy, but thanks to my shop I learned to strike up a conversation and from there things started coming my way.” Annemieke now stocks several boutiques with her wares and carries out regular commissions for several labels including  (and Avenue favourite) and .

There’s something special about feasting off a beautiful, hand turned plate, I am convinced the food tastes better! But seeing people love my products simply amazes me and fills my with satisfaction and pride. I am so grateful to be able to do what I love every day!
— Annemieke Boots

Though Annemieke is perfectly satisfied mastering her skills with stoneware, she aspires to further broaden her craft, challenger herself and reach goals. “I started with stoneware with the goal of mastering that first before allowing myself to work with porcelain. This is such a special material that I wanted to save it for later. Continuously making the same things is not for me; I know I’ll get bored after a while.”


Seeing her work feature in publications such as  has given Annemieke the incentive to keep creating pieces of beauty and function, and aspirations on creating more wares for the food industry.

I'll be back next week to give you a sweet little tour that is rather personal to me, so I'll see you then! - Holly Marder

(Photography: Holly Marder for | Copy: Holly Marder, | Assistance: Nina le Blanc)

View IKEA's Collection With HAY Up Close + Personal

Hi cattledogs readers, this is and I’m a new cattledogs columnist based in Stockholm, Sweden where I will bring you the latest interior news from this part of the world. I thought I’d kick off with something that has started a lot of buzz in the interior world recently.

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As you heard here from Holly’s sneak peeks, furniture giant, , is soon launching a creative collaboration that they’ve been working on with the celebrated Danish design company, . From the moment I heard about it, I, like so many interior lovers couldn’t wait to see what the two would create together.  On Tuesday I had the opportunity to do just that and attend the press launch to view the collection before it hits the stores in Europe on October 6.

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The event was held at , a stylish gallery perfectly set among pine trees in the Stockholm archipelago. I’m so excited to be sharing with you what I saw on the day. As cattledogs readers, I know you’ll love it!

Viewing the collection was one wow moment after the other; it’s stunning and being a big fan of HAY, I can say that it is very true to brand.  Something that I did wonder about, and I’m sure that you’ll all be very happy to read, is its affordable price point, hovering somewhat around IKEA’s mid-range.

YPPERLIG, which translates to “excellent”, is a collection true to Scandinavian style that celebrates basics with design and a timeless quality that ages beautifully. You will find larger furniture pieces for the living and dining, along with smaller decorative and practical items for the home.

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There are a few standout pieces for me, the top of the list being the mirrors in three different styles, each in their own colour of burgundy, green or white.  I have been on the lookout for something edgy like this for our small bathroom for a while, but either of the styles would also make a great statement piece in the entry for those quick checks before heading out the door.

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I love the idea of the decorative shelf in birch above a desk, or as a smart place to stow away magazines and papers.  It looks fantastic styled here in front of the solid green.

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Another favorite for me would have to be the boxes, a sweet way to hold little trinkets around the home and something that you can always find a use for. 

A very unlikely yet fun addition to the collection is the updated FRAKTA shopping bag. It’s the same size and use of sturdy material; the big change is the play with color and texture. The end result is a HAY interpretation of probably the most iconic IKEA pieces and the good news is that this will sell for the same as the original blue bag.


I wouldn’t say that it’s an unlikely collaboration; in fact it makes a lot of sense. Both brands have a strong appreciation of design, yet for different markets. Rolf and Mette Hay, the husband-and-wife duo behind HAY, call it a “mutual exchange of skills”. Here was an opportunity for them to make some of their designs more accessible to the public by using the simplicity of the IKEA supply chain. It was also a smart move for IKEA. While they’ve always had great and clever designs, teaming with such a coveted brand was sure to get some serious attention.  

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I have no doubt that the IKEA stores will be full of design savy shoppers taking advantage of this exciting collaboration when it’s released October 6.

What about you dear readers? Do you think that you’ll be one of them? Do you spot any must-have pieces here? - Mel x

(Text + Photography: Mel Chesneau)