Finding Your Junkin’ Gypsy…

“Do not go where the path may lead; go instead
where there is no path and leave a trail.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

In other words—-let’s go junkin’!

Artist unknown


Whether it’s a Texas roadhouse…

Brenham, Texas

Or a collector’s boutique….

Gonzales, Texas


Junkin’ is a great way to blaze a trail of treasures.

There is something for everyone— especially new collectors.  Now, it’s easier than ever to find your junkin’ gypsy, simply by following the trends created by “quirky curators” who love the unexpected.

Below is an example of the curator’s approach to decorating.

A curated look is a simple way to celebrate individuality by abandoning tradition and decorating with what you like. By shopping at treasure troves such as flea markets, thrift stores and antiques shops, the result can be a “one-of-a-kind” decor.

Recently, I suggested to a new design client with “same style, dark mahogany” decor that we go junkin’ to find something unique for her entry to give the space a more ENERGETIC feel.

Her reply was, “Why mix up the style I already have?”

I told her, “Mixing antiques, vintage, and modern shakes things up! Instead of staying in one period, where the eye absorbs everything in one glance, go against the period with something different to introduce new energy!”

The definition of energy:  the ability to do things, adding vigor, forceful effort, a power supply.

I want ALL of the above AND in this lifetime, please!

My idea of high energy…

The wrought iron fretwork on the staircase frames an old cupboard, crackled a neutral tone and then topped with accessories! Stacking pulls the eye up, giving the small entry a big imprint! Stacking also creates new space, adding a vigorous punch of energy.

An old cast iron urn found in Round Top, Texas adds texture and surprise to this bland entry wall.

A reconditioned slab of hickory wood taken from an eighteenth century barn makes a great worktable. I can almost feel the energy when I touch the surface with my hand.

There are many advantages to user-friendly furniture.  It’s inviting and lures people and pets to enjoy the comforts of a home. There’s nothing worse than having precocious pieces that are taken too seriously.

Decorating a home should be a fun and joyful experience.  AND if it’s not, maybe you haven’t found your curated flair.

Discovering that one fun treasure in a land of junk is thrilling—especially to a seasoned junker.


Yes, and I love it!

“Forget what it was and imagine what it can be.”

That’s been my daily mantra—as I turn junk into treasures.

Like this pair of reclaimed copper ceiling tiles from Old Town Spring framed as wall art…


Or old doors repurposed in non-traditional context, soon to be an island for a lake house kitchen.

For the work surface, I plan to use re-claimed granite from a shower wall.


And top it off with a walnut bowl from The Pine House.


A wrought iron gate once used to fence in cattle in New Braunfels, Texas will soon be a king sized headboard. I’m adding a heart pine frame and 16 inches to the base to attach the headboard to the bed rail.

(I like the colors: coral for the walls, blue for the ceiling and terra cotta patterned concrete for the floors!)

These great colors were all found in their original junk store setting!


Salvaged stained-glass windows from Gonzales, Texas


I picked the blue and green pair at top right corner to be re-used as an insert in new kitchen cabinets.

I found this antique, English oak sideboard in Huntsville, Texas and it turned out to be the perfect size for a bathroom wall that needed a sink and storage.  Notice I positioned the sink to the left to save room for a tray of essentials.


Three salvaged cabinets were used to create this twelve-foot vanity for the price of the granite and the sink.


I love old doors!


The sky is the limit—from wall accents to headboards, to building materials OR closet doors in a vintage decor. Old doors rock!

Old rugs rock, too!

This chaise was re-upholstered in a salvaged needlepoint rug, too fine to discard.

Most everything in my home has a bit of history, a story of where the piece was found and with whom.  Nothing I own comes from a traditional store.  I’ve collected what I loved and curated what I needed, all along following my junkin’ instincts to reflect my own personality and taste.

While writing THE ROADFROM BEAULAH SPRINGS I developed a character that LOVED to junk.  His name is Lucian Giordano and he’s a man right from my heart.

Lucian uses the art of junking to find relics, architectural finds like Corinthian columns and arches, and old statues to construct a pavilion in the center of his garden.  His motivation is to use the spoils of wealth and grandeur to give his estate the appearance of old money like the home in Italy that his family lost.

Decorating rich with relics of the past, salvages the treasures of another time and preserves the opulence of that period.

An angel sits at the bottom of steps in an old garden in Houston, Texas.



Yep, that’s me in the window!


I invite you to find your decorating style!

Being open-minded and receptive to new possibilities is very freeing! Progressive thinking IS the answer to finding your Junkin’ gypsy.

I’d like to hear from you! Please share your junkin’ finds in the comments. If you’d like to receive Perfect Settings, A Blog, please subscribe by leaving your e-mail in the box.

Happy Junkin’!  jink

Staging in the midst of chaos…

“The essential part of creativity is not being afraid to fail.”

Edwin H. Land

I love this photo. There’s no fear attached to the energy behind these wheels! I can imagine barreling down the road in this vintage Dodge dump truck, empowered by sheer determination.

Sort of the feeling I get when I stage a house for re-sale.  My first response is usually, “Oh my gosh, what have I gotten myself into?” And then determination sets in and I settle down and assess the extent of the job.  Is it going to be a remodel or a quick rearrange?  Next, I determine which furnishings have to go, what can stay, and decide which accessories will be used for props and what I’ll need to gather—all the while plotting changes as I go.

(As a writer, I’m also a “pantser” —plotting by the seat of my pants!)

Within the chaos of change and the pandemonium that goes along with moving a family, the art of staging can be very effective.

Staging allows the homeowner to step back from the elephant in the room and allow a professional to show the home’s most positive features while creating an illusion of perfection.

When staging a home, you have to be able to look at things with a different eye, to decide what works best.  Some ideas will be better than others, some less costly than others.  Being willing to explore every idea gets you closer to a solution and getting the job done.  There is no one single answer.  The question should be, “How can I stage this home to get it to sell in today’s market?”  I take Edwin Land’s advice: the most creative solutions come from not being afraid to fail.  So I immediately start with the trickiest step in staging a home—color.

I check the color of the walls, the cabinets and the floors.  I look for tile or marble in the entry—something to give me a starting color palette. Are these tones cool or warm? Are the colors and tones harmonious? Are they dull without imagination or do they overpower the setting?  A new buyer is looking for a feeling of harmony when he or she steps over the threshold.  It’s all about presentation. We can improve the flow and promote harmony by using tone and color.

After figuring out the weak areas, shopping is usually involved to pick what’s needed to get the place in shape.  Whether we’re replacing an entire kitchen, a counter top, or just a mirror for the entry, it’s important to make selections quickly.  Otherwise, the homeowner begins to second-guess his or her decisions and procrastination sets in.

Let the pre-shopping chaos begin…

Creating the perfect setting is the force behind staging…

While writing The Road From Beulah Springs, I developed Karla Giordano, a character whose life was filled with constant chaos.  When life got too complicated, when the demons got too close, Karla’s strategy for coping was to re-decorate, to re-stage her home.  She needed to create an illusion of faultlessness, a dramatization of perfection.

An excerpt from TRFBS…

Every stick of furniture was different.  The walls were covered with abstract art, the windows unrecognizable in dark blackout fabrics.  In the next room, a large glass cocktail table dominated the space, surrounded by red upholstered chairs with a white baby-grand piano off to the side. A chrome table, the length of the room, was filled with travel magazines that had never been opened.

The home had been staged to resemble a suite of waiting rooms …

My favorite part of staging is recognizing problems and solving them.  The house I’m sharing had all the right bones but presentation was a problem. I always start with the kitchen as this room has the power to make or break a deal.

The kitchen (shown below) was messy, had been finished with a slapped-on wash that made the cabinets look cheap and discombobulated.  The brown walls were dull.  The dark tones chopped up the space, clashing with the cool granite. Also, there was a lot of clutter, ready to busy-up the mind of a potential buyer—to create the feeling of chaos!  Harmony had left the building…



With the cooperation of my client, we enlarged the visual space by painting the cabinets and the walls the same color—a cool mossy hue—light enough to be a neutral.  We diluted the color by 50% and lightened the ceiling a bit, visually enlarging the over-head space as well.

Getting rid of the color clutter as well as the “junk” on the counters eliminated visual noise and created a tranquil setting, which would allow a homebuyer to relax and envision ownership.

The worn engineered flooring was replaced with large porcelain tiles, lined up in a linear pattern, accentuating the galley design.


Across from the kitchen in the breakfast room, we added “window toppers” (similar in color to blend with the walls) that covered 18 inches of sheetrock above the glass, creating an illusion of taller windows.  To give the space a view, we added planters and trellises to the garage wall, extending the eye outside to broaden visual space.

Across from the kitchen and the breakfast room was an oddly shaped, overly occupied space used as a TV room.  Positioned at the core of the home, the confusion reaped havoc.  Angled, the sofa jutted out into the traffic pattern, giving the room a pinched, tightfisted feeling—creating worry and mental chaos. (See room below.)



After… Ahhhhh!

To improve the space, we removed the built-in cabinet to create a focal point and an alcove for art and antiques.  Porcelain tile was extended from the kitchen/breakfast room at a 45-degree angle to visually open the cramped space.  We extended the tile over the hearth and up the fireplace wall, creating continuity instead of mayhem.  The mantle was cut down to fit a flat screen TV.  Instead of a sofa that jutted from the limited floor space, we created an island of easy chairs, along with an ottoman.  Long fabric panels and window toppers were added to lift the windows, creating visual continuity with the kitchen/breakfast area in the open space.

Instead of using small pictures and accessories throughout the rooms, I grouped them in a collage in the study to represent the family. Since the study was small, we chose narrow window panels and a table instead of a desk to retain visual space.

The entry…

I start in the kitchen but the buyer starts at the foyer.  This area must represent the flavors of the home.  Notice I used the same colors, same flooring and accents throughout to preserve unity, which decreases chaos and promotes a harmonious flow throughout.

A potential buyer walks into the house and immediately begins exploring the space.  At that moment, first impressions are being made that will affect his or her decision!

This space was carefully staged to draw the eye farther— promising drama and surprises! We left the engineered wood floor in the dining room but added a mosaic border as a transition into the room and inside all the doorways from the entry to entice the buyer to look for details.

Completely unabashed and unafraid—we gave them drama by painting the dining room metallic orange, the color that was carried throughout the home in accessories, rugs and accents.  No one was going to forget the house with the orange dining room!

Though creativity is subjective—to stage a home (or to write a book), one must approach the creative process without fear of failure.  Like the dump truck barreling down the road, there can be no holding back.  Don’t be afraid to try new ideas as you narrow the gap and settle on a winning look that grabs a buyer and sells the home.

I invite you to click on comments below and ask a question about staging if you have one. I will try to answer it to move you along the process.  If you’d like to be notified when I publish future posts, please enter your email in the Subscribe box above.

Happy Staging!


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Creating a Cinderella Story…

“Life is not about finding yourself.  It’s about creating yourself!”

Welcome to my garden, a small patch of suburbia, force-fed hard work and perseverance for over twenty years.  That’s exactly what it took to turn this mucky landfill into a garden haven.

Spring 2011, Texas garden  

Yes, a lot of work went into creating The Woodlands garden. Each flowerbed was unique and filled with different challenges. The garden took a lot of planning! In the beginning, I wanted to plant the same flowers I’d had in Georgia, a garden with a milder climate with more slopes for drainage. Moving to south Texas was a whole new gardening experience.  I had to learn quickly so I ask a lot of questions.

Which plants thrive in the scorching Texas sun? Would native plants fare better? And what about drainage, a big problem here in The Woodlands where murky, flat, loamy soil is notorious for bogs!  But over draining was also a problem—expensive water bills. Should I look for bog plants for the wet spaces?

I settled with a compromise–Louisiana irises and fountain grasses in mucky beds, and a French drain filled with rocks installed beneath the garden paths.

A lot of effort came together way before a shovel touched the soil.  Then it was time to plant, water, and fertilize.  Then water again and again…

Fall 2011, Texas garden

Just like in real life, if you want something badly enough and in this case I really wanted a garden, you have to show up and do the work.


  Spring 2012, Texas garden

And if you’re lucky, you manage to create something very special.

When I began writing The Road From Beulah Springs, I met a young hairdresser whose brown eyes danced like a flame when she spoke of her goals.  Her name was Jaye, short for Jaycee, the girl with fire in her eyes.  Her mother was Brazilian and through Jaye’s stories, I soon learned how devoted her mother was, how she’d worked long hours as a seamstress to make a life for them.

This got me thinking…

Enter a mix of southern Gothic and downhome hardship–a main character is created:  Meet Jaye Bastillo, the  daughter of Flora Bastillo, the Brazilian live-in who sacrificed everything familiar to make a life for herself and her daughter.

Jaye works hard. She wants something–-she wants it badly.  Badly enough to create it…

Before I know it, I’m writing a scene for Jaye in The Road From Beulah Springs, much like a Cinderella story.

Jaye finds herself trailing off the dance floor with the boy she’d spent her childhood—who suddenly sees her for the first time.

A scene with Jaye in The Road From Beulah Springs:

The music got louder, with a more samba beat and her dance partner, John, moved into a sultry salsa.  Her bronze dress shimmered in the candlelight, reflecting every movement. The other guests pulled back from the floor and Jaye was alone on the needlepoint with John.  She danced effortlessly, gliding with natural poise. Rising like a bird of paradise, she slid in and out of his arms.  A rush went through the crowd and she turned. Sonny Giordano was standing on the edge of the dance floor and he was looking at her.

Meet Barbara Sissel, another Cinderella story…

I can only imagine how Barbara Sissel, freelance writer/editor and author, felt when her life-long dream came true—when just like that, her journey changed courses.

I met Barbara six months ago through a mutual friend and writer. This friend was so sure we’d hit it off, she recommended Barbara to do an edit for my women’s fiction, The Road From Beulah Springs.  As soon as Bobbi (Barbara’s fun name) found out we both shared an insane passion for gardening (frequent bloomers, petal pushers, earth warriors) we were set. My new friend had exciting news to share—she was in the middle of indie publishing three books of women’s fiction in e-book format.

Kindle sales took off!  Immediately!  Through word of mouth and social marketing, readers inquired, downloaded, and devoured her women’s fiction. From my perch, an over zealous newbie, Barbara’s success was exciting to watch! (After all, she was doing my edit. Sigh.)  I pulled my two book clubs together for a joint meeting at my home, inviting her to be our guest as we discussed her second e-book, THE VOLUNTEER.

During this time, Barbara mentioned she was reworking a story for an agent in NY. I didn’t think too much about it. Someone is always reworking something in the writing business.

Soon after, Barbara shared she’d gotten the attention of a New York City agent with her new fiction, EVIDENCE OF LIFE. Before she could get over the excitement of having her own literary agent, four editors were bidding on her manuscript.  Next thing I know, she’s signing on the dotted line.  Barbara’s dream of holding her own book in her hands was coming true. EVIDENCE OF LIFE is to be published by MIRA in April of 2013.

A Cinderella story is launched.

Immediately, I sent out an email, describing Barbara’s latest victory and requests and offers to help with dinner came in.

And the turnout was amazing!

As guests clustered in the kitchen (always), we probed Barbara for the last detail to unfold. She was happy to answer every question, adding a few details with her hands.

Barbara was a trooper!  She never seemed to tire the whole evening, repeating her story again and again to small groups of book club members.

I was happy to see Jennie, a fantastic cook and good back watcher who took over my responsibilities in the kitchen.  (I am not known for talent in this area.) Now I could have fun and the chicken lasagna was saved.

My friend Barb made an amazing salad for everyone.  The best thing about having your best friends in your book club is they jump in and make you look good!  Barb’s spinach-avocado salad was delicious and I saw more than one guest have seconds.

Did I mention someone made carrot cake cupcakes? They were divine.

I believe in putting the folks who know the most in charge! Thanks Kelly for keeping the wine flowing.


I overheard some of Barbara’s conversations. They went something like this…

“In some of my indie book reader mail and reviews, readers have said they felt as though they were with the characters or living in the character’s heads while reading the stories. I love knowing that the world I create in a book and the people who are brought to life from the page are that vivid. I love hearing that a reader has been moved by a story, that something inside them has shifted as a result, a thought, a belief, perhaps a judgment against or a prejudice is reconsidered.” (quote from one of Barbara’s articles)

There was as lot of interest as we all tried to engage our guest at once.


(ME) This is the experience wannabe published writers live for!

After the cocktail hour(s), dinner was served.  Some of us got to sit by Barbara and learn more about her journey as a writer.


Afterwards, we took our cupcakes out to the garden where Barbara discussed our chosen book, THE  VOLUNTEER, set in Huntsville, Texas, the next county over which made it even more interesting for us. The premise of the book deals with the death penalty and how families of death row prisoners are affected.

Questions flowed and Barbara tried to answer each and every one, sometimes amazed as the depth of the discussion. It seems we all got the book! And we had questions about the characters and there were many favorites, all for different reasons.

(Wow, that just goes to show how a writer affects different people differently.)

I admitted to everyone that mine was Cort, a secondary character who sacrificed, working as a house painter to provide food for his brother’s family, holding them together during a terrible time of loss.  Did I mention he was in love with his brother’s wife?  Now, I know you want to read more…

The next morning, I ventured outside, picked up the napkins that had blown away and grabbed a handful of wine glasses.  Still marveling, I glanced around the pavilion where twenty ladies had spent a captivating evening.

I walked down the garden paths with Jazz, my thirteen-year-old Lab, and she sniffed the “new scents” while I inspected the blooms that mark my years of effort. And with each new bloom, I felt the magic of creating.

Meet Delta…my 1951 F-1, Ford pickup!

“Great love and great achievements involve great risk…”


Welcome to Perfect Settings, my new blog! I hope to share my passions and hopefully, inspire others to open their hearts to find their own hidden layers–yet unexplored!

Today’s post is centered around a pick-up. Not just any old truck, but one driven by a character from The Road From Beulah Springs. Meet Delta…my 1951 F-1, Ford pickup!

For years, I wanted a truck!

Someone asked why, someone who knew me and should have known.

I pursed my lips, ready to defend. “I need a truck to drive around, pick up plants and stuff. Take on junking trips, haul my own stuff home for a change.”

I wanted my own truck.

During that time, I was beginning the rough draft for The Road From Beulah Springs. And before I knew it, a secondary character named Delta emerged. A dark, willowy woman, part Cherokee, Delta was without roots or social reform. She made her home and her living at a truck stop southeast of Macon on I-16 and she drove a 1951, F-1, Ford pick-up. A keeper of broken wings, Delta took in strays, young and old, mostly men who’ve been knocked around by bad luck. She gave them shelter, nurtured them, shared chores—and sometimes her bed. After witnessing an injustice that shook her to the core, Delta took in a child whose life had been a living hell.

Below is Delta’s first appearance in The Road From Beulah Springs…

A commotion at the rear of the church sent gasps and waves of whispers across the packed congregation. Karla turned and peered over the pew, wiping a string of dirty hair from her face. A dark, willowy figure pushed past the ushers, her arms held like avenging swords. Her hair was long and it swished from side to side as she charged the center aisle, not backing down when the Reverend shouted, “Stop sinner!”

Karla bowed her head, feeling the Reverend’s scorn as he pounded the podium, believing his wrath was aimed at her. Suddenly, she felt a hand on her shoulder. Cringing, Karla jerked forward but the hand held tight. She turned, looking up into a white starched shirt with Delta’s Truck Stop printed across the front.

Delta reached down and drew Karla near; her eyes glared into the pulpit, coiled in anger. Slowly, she turned her body to face the congregation. In an effortless drawl that rolled across the benches, she accused, “Damn fools.”

While developing Delta’s character, I borrowed a white utility truck to drive around. Suddenly, I was wearing my hair wild, speeding through yellow lights, hanging my arm out the rolled- down window—in general, confusing myself with this fiery woman as I stayed in character.


By the time I finished the rough draft, I knew I had to have a truck like Delta’s.

I had to have one.

With the help of a vintage enthusiast, I found exactly what I was looking for in Schulenburg, Texas. The owner and I emailed back and forth, negotiating the price, me prying into the history of the truck and getting more and more interested. I learned the Stahl family was not only the original truck owners, but also descendants of original Texas settlers.

I had to have that truck.

Quickly negotiating the price, I finagled passage (a driver and trailer) to the Stahl farm, two and a half hours away. Taking the scenic route, we headed northwest, down narrow back roads filled with potholes and trucks with black plumes of exhaust. With only one pit stop at a filling station with original Pepsi decals and a screen door that banged loud enough to alert the owner, we finally arrived at the Stahl farm.

Driving down a long dirt lane to the farmhouse, we quickly spotted Delta underneath a tin shed filled with farm tools. Holding my dog, Mojo, on my lap, I could barely contain my excitement. I was about to get my first look at Delta.

Chatting with Mr. Stahl, the son of the original owner, I learned more about the family and the history of the truck. Everything on the truck was original and only one spot of rust.

I climbed into a pile of old tools to get this picture.

Okay, I admit the old girl needs a little work.

(This is what I saw using a camera+ App.)

I left with Mr. Stahl to go into Schulenburg to the courthouse to transfer the title into my name and to pay the sales tax. When we got back to the farm, Delta was loaded on a trailer, ready for the drive back to The Woodlands, Texas.

After an uneventful ride back (thank goodness), unloading Delta under my carport was nothing but fun and luck. She had no brakes!

One old girl to another, “What the heck do we do now?” After the truck sat under my carport for six weeks, I finally had a plan.

Meet Kevin Ford! (The name had to be a sign.)

As soon as I met Kevin and heard the enthusiasm in his voice I knew he was the one to restore Delta. The day he picked her up, one of my neighbors strolled over to thank him personally for taking her. I smiled, imagining how good Delta would look the next time she rolled down my drive. That’s when I met Katherine L. Wright, an American artist who figured out a way to live and paint in Italy. (Check out her website!)

Katherine is also a truck enthusiast. We met on Facebook after I drooled over one of her new paintings, a vintage truck she shared on her wall. I sent her my I-Phone/Camera+ App image and she quickly went to work on the sketch shown at the beginning of this post. I was overwhelmed. Katherine had managed to capture the spirit of Delta, my fiery character in The Road From Beulah Springs. Ecstatic, I quickly approved the sketch and Katherine finished the painting, sending it to the states with her son, visiting during the holidays.

Below is the final painting.


Now, the painful process of *waiting*…

Kevin and I will be meeting soon to tie down every decisions on Delta’s complete makeover. What color to paint the body, the original alpine blue or a brighter blue to show her true colors? Do I keep the cast iron, original 238, Flathead V-8 engine that weighs a ton or upgrade to a new Mustang engine that can fly “unencumbered” down the freeway. And…

What about *those* brakes?

The journey continues…