Carolyn Purnell

Historian and Writer

Los Angeles, CA

Carolyn is a lover of all things colorful and quirky. She grew up in Texas and settled in L.A. by way of Chicago, England and Paris. She is the author of The Sensational Past: How the Enlightenment Changed the Way We Use Our Senses.
Considering Transparency and Opacity in Decor
Annie’s “Evolving Aesthetic” We often talk about color and pattern in design, but one thing we don’t always talk about is the value of transparency and opacity in the materials we choose. Depth of color often has to do with opacity as certain fabrics allow more light in, and transparent materials can allow rooms to feel lighter and larger. Here are some ways to consider how these properties can factor into your decor decisions.
Apr 23, 2016
Bring the Eye Up: 6 Ways to Elevate Your Design
Kristina & Jason’s Gorgeous, Graphic Australian Home We often think about the elements of a room that remain at eye level: furniture, artwork, accessories, and so forth. But it can be just as important to think about everything that’s going on above your head. Here are some ways that you can bring the eye higher in a room, as well as some examples to show just how open spaces can feel when they aren’t afraid to soar overhead.
Apr 8, 2016
Finding Freedom in the Familiar
Tarleton & Ethan’s Eclectic, Personal Asheville Bungalow I thrive on change and adventure. I love trying new things and seeing where chance takes me. As an adult, I’ve moved almost every year—and sometimes multiple times a year. All in all, this has worked out well for me, but it has also created an expectation for dynamism and momentum that, at times, is unrealistic. I often have to remind myself that there is freedom in the familiar.
Mar 15, 2016
Thinking Small: A Capsule Wardrobe for Decor
Danielle’s Modern Vintage Industrial Home Recently, Eleanor wrote a great three-piece series on capsule wardrobes, and I have several other friends who swear by them. I love the idea of paring down my closet and working within a limited set of beloved options, but it also got me thinking—how can I translate the concept to my decor? In case you aren’t familiar with the concept, a capsule wardrobe is a limited collection of clothing that you use for a set period of time.
Mar 8, 2016
Seeing the Future: What Will Design Be Like in Ten Years?
2006, left: Fall Colors Contest 2006: The Winners! 2016, right: Kenya & Conner’s Chic and Airy Marina District Apartment So much has changed in the world of design in the last ten years. Even a glance back through the best House Tours of 2006 speaks volumes. Of course, design always changes, and time marches on, but it’s worth taking a few moments to reflect on where we’ve been and, perhaps more interestingly, where we’re headed.
Mar 2, 2016
A Healthy Dose of Drama: Kitchens that Use Antique Furniture in Lieu of Wall-Hung Cabinets
Gisbert Pöppler via Dustjacket Attic Kitchen cabinets: they’re necessary, but let’s face it—they aren’t always the most interesting pieces of furniture. But that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case! Here are imaginative kitchens that make use of large, antique pieces of furniture in addition to regular kitchen cabinets. They’re drama-filled, glamorous, and practical. Read on to find out why you may want to give this trend a try.
Feb 29, 2016
Friday Afternoon Virtual Vacation: Indulge in a Bit of Winter Escapism
Dusit Thani Maldives via Design Milk Welcome to daydream central. The winter days are cold and gray, and my thoughts have been occupied with nothing but sunny, luxurious spaces that could serve as warm escapes. If, like me, you’re craving sunlight and beauty, read on and revel. I’ve got some real treats for you! The photo above is of the Dusit Thani Maldives resort on the serene Mudhdhoo Island.
Feb 26, 2016
Back to the Primaries
Hank’s Colorful, Maximalist Mini-Museum in Massachusetts With the primary elections well upon us, politics are everywhere. But this post focuses on primaries of a different sort: primary colors. Red-yellow-blue is a color combination that many people would probably dismiss offhand as too simplistic, but as these rooms show, when it’s done right, it can be elegant and stimulating.
Feb 26, 2016
Ten Tips: How To Boost Your Productivity Painlessly This Winter
If you’re anything like me, winter means cozying up on the couch, shrouding yourself in blankets, and hitting the snooze button in the cold mornings. But life doesn’t always offer us the opportunity to hibernate, and it’s important to be productive, even when you’d rather lounge. Here are some tips that can be used year-round, but particularly in winter, to keep you feeling efficient. Pick three. Make a to-do list and fill it with all the things in front of you.
Feb 21, 2016
Bold Books for Color Lovers
Color. Color. Color. It’s such a powerful aspect of our lives, and yet most of us probably haven’t stopped to think deeply about color as a concept. We appreciate particular colors, arrange them, and live with them, but there’s so much more to color than those actions may let on.
Feb 11, 2016
One Mindful Minute: Appreciating What You Miss Most When You’re Away from Home
Joshua’s Grayscale Living & Gathering Space A sense of home develops as we build, design, alter, and live in our spaces, but it just as easily develops when we’re away from them. In fact, sometimes you don’t notice what it is about home that means so much to you until you’re not there. I just spent two months away for work reasons, and it drove home the importance of some basic things that I take for granted when I’m in my own space.
Feb 10, 2016
Back to Basics: 5 Fantastic Paper Planners to Keep You Organized
Sitting around with a bunch of girlfriends this weekend, I discovered that all of us have ditched our phone organizers in favor of paper ones. Everyone agreed that that there’s something about having a written agenda that keeps a person in line in a way that electronic reminders don’t. In case you’re also on the paper-planner bandwagon, here are five of my current favorite planners, along with a description of the features that make them unique and useful.
Feb 10, 2016
Easy Ideas for Making Your Entryway Work Better for Winter
Kerstin & Andy’s Colorful and Happy Family Home in Australia With snow, salt, mud, and the other sloppy aspects of winter, it’s all too easy for the entryway to become a mess. Whether your door deposits you right into your living space or you’re lucky enough to have a mudroom, there are some things you can do to make your entry as winter-friendly as possible. Handmaid Tales Shoe storage First things first: boots.
Feb 1, 2016
Hit Your Goals, Guaranteed: Set Yourself Up for Sure-Thing Success in 2016
I’ve never much cared for New Year’s resolutions. Instead, I find it easier to focus on a couple of specific things that I would like to achieve for the upcoming year. These long-term goals somehow have a way of winning out, even when my resolve flags. You may set goals for redecorating, renovating, refreshing, rearranging, or just plain enjoying the space in which you live. But some are much more realistic than others, and not all goals are created equal.
Jan 18, 2016
Out with the Old, in with the… Old?
A Look Inside the ‘As Of Now’ Artisan Collective in Los Angeles With the New Year comes a zeal for all things new: new habits, new physiques, new selves. We resolve to start fresh, to do things right, and to change the things we don’t like. There’s nothing wrong with wanting new and wanting better, but I’d also urge that you take some time this January to consider things that are old and familiar. It’s easy to lead a life of aspiration.
Jan 12, 2016
Standout “Small Cool” Homes
Kyle’s Teeny-Tiny City Home Every year, the Small Cool Contest gets cooler and cooler, and this year, we saw some really stellar entries. The competition was steep, and the judges had their work cut out for them, but in the end, it’s like Highlander—there can be only one. (Well, technically, two, since we have an international division as well.
Dec 27, 2015
Furry Friends: Advice & Ideas for Enjoying Life at Home with Your Pets
Allie and Travis’ Sunny and Spacious Oakland Home They shed. They romp. They sprawl. They’re in the way. They break things. And yet, they are the most lovable, wonderful additions to a home. Here are our favorite ideas from 2015 for dealing with some of pets’ peskier problems, plus some posts that take the time to revel in the joy that animals can can bring.
Dec 26, 2015
At Ease At Home: Top Posts for Creating a Calm, Healthy Home
Sam, Stephanie & Lorena’s Harmonious Blend of Styles in Oakland As we all know, home is about much more than stuff; it’s about an atmosphere. A healthy home won’t always be quiet, and it won’t always be clean, but it should offer a sense of comfort and ease. Click through to find a year’s worth of ways to ensure that your home offers you all the joy that it possibly can.
Dec 26, 2015
Gutsy With Color: The Year’s Most Daringly Colorful Rooms
If you can say one thing about the homeowners from our tours, it’s that they aren’t shrinking violets. Or oranges. Or teals. Or reds, greens, or blues, for that matter! Here are some of the most dashing, daring, and fabulously vibrant interiors from 2015’s House Tours. And just in case you were wondering, I noticed while compiling this roundup that pink seemed to be one of the most popular bold colors this year, followed closely by teal.
Dec 22, 2015
Welcome Home: Our Best Advice for Finding a New Home & Moving In
Julie and Andrew’s Cozy Home in a Blue Bird School Bus Whether you’re buying, renting, moving, or moving in together, the whole process that goes into switching homes can be daunting and complicated. Stress and headaches are inevitable parts of the process, but there are plenty of ways that you can reduce that stress significantly. Read on to find the year’s best advice for buying homes, switching abodes, and staying positive through all the changes.
Dec 22, 2015
A Year’s Worth of Advice for Real Life: The Best of “Ask Alice”
From nosy neighbors and noisy kids to angry landlords and naked exhibitionists, Alice has advised readers on a host of tricky situations this year. Read on to find answers to some of the most popular (and problematic) conundrums of 2015. What should you do when an eagle-eyed neighbor won’t keep his “helpful” suggestions to himself? How can you smooth over noise complaints while still living your life?
Dec 21, 2015
How To Prepare for Out-Of-Town Guests
James’ Handmade Highland Park Home Winter is upon us, and it’s the time of year when many family members and friends are on the move, ready to make the most of your spare room, fold-out bed, and/or sofa. If you’ve agreed to be a host this year, here’s a checklist that will help you stay on top of your guest preparations. Obviously, depending on the size of your home and the (in)formality of your guests, your hosting style will differ.
Dec 9, 2015
10 Ways to Practice Self-Care This Week
Sara & Becky’s Collaborative Abode With the holiday season just around the corner, stress levels are bound to rise. But even if you’re cool as a cucumber, it’s still important to take care of yourself. Here are some simple ways you can take a few minutes to remember yourself this week. Give yourself a foot massage. Take five minutes at the end of the day and work the stress out of your tired feet.
Dec 8, 2015
Stop Being So Hard On Yourself: Ways to Reframe 5 Common Home Laments
There are all kinds of ways that we put pressure on ourselves and our homes, and it’s all too easy to feel disappointed with ourselves when things go wrong—but it’s time to stop being so hard on yourself. Here are five common laments and ways to reframe them in a positive light. Peach & Craig’s Peaceful Australia Abode You’re a plant killer.
Dec 7, 2015
Why I’ll Never Be a Seasonal Decorator
Fall is the time when decorations come out, and they seem to change every few weeks. My blog roll is full of suggestions for how to decorate the mantel, how to add holiday lighting, and where to put all the decorative gourds—but I’ve never been that big on seasonal decorating. Here’s why… Now, I’m no Ebenezer Scrooge, shouting, “Humbug!” at the nearest person who will listen.
Nov 27, 2015
5 Bohemian Design Blogs You May Not Be Reading (Yet!)
magic dream life via Moon to Moon Wherever you look these days, it seems like bohemian style is the thing. If you are among the folks who just can’t get enough of the 1970s, patterns, plants, weavings, geometric shapes, and the comfortable clutter of bohemian interiors, here are five more places to get your daily dose of inspiration. Moon to Moon One of my favorite recent finds, Moon to Moon is written by Gabi, a blogger with impeccable taste.
Nov 24, 2015
Scott and Jerry’s Oak Park Charmer
Name: Scott Livingston, Jerry Valentine and Spencer Location: Oak Park, Illinois Size: 3,000 square feet Years lived in: 8 years; Owned If you’re at all familiar with Oak Park, it is probably because of its many Frank Lloyd Wright homes or its legacy as the one-time home of Ernest Hemingway. It’s an area filled with beautiful, historic homes, and Scott and Jerry’s home is no exception.
Nov 14, 2015
Brighten Up Your Bath: 8 Super Stylish Lighting Ideas
Standard bathroom lighting is often functional, but it can also be pretty, well…blah. Here are eight exciting—yet practical—ideas that will help you take your lighting scheme to the next level. The bathroom above by Kelle Dame Interiors features a showstopper chandelier, which adds instant drama. I particularly like this fixture because it casts beautiful patterns of light over the room, which gives the space a different feel at every point of the day.
Oct 31, 2015
Pattern Inspiration: Gallery of Traditional Rugs & Carpets in Real-Life Homes
Jenn & Hunter’s Historic Landmark Apartment Traditional rugs are traditional for a reason. Even though they are densely patterned and filled with a multitude of colors, they somehow still manage to go with everything. I’ve rounded up a bunch of rooms from our House Tours that feature these gorgeous rugs—pale, bright, deep, rich, red, blue, yellow: you name it, they’re all here.
Oct 30, 2015
34 Genius Ideas to Fill Up an Awkward, Empty Corner in Your Home
We’ve all got them—you know, those awkward empty spaces that are a little too small for an accent chair but way too big for just a side table. If blank spaces are making you uncomfortable, the good news is that you’ve got plenty of options for filling them without cluttering up your home.What are a few of the best empty space solutions? Well, plant parents will be pleased to hear that they have another excuse to go out and buy a few more indoor trees and succulents.
Oct 30, 2015
10 Ways to Refresh Your Bedroom in Under 30 Minutes
Jamie & Byron’s Elegant Art Canvas You spend a huge chunk of your life in your bedroom, but if you’re like me, it’s one of the rooms you give the least consideration, in terms of decor. Usually there are a few central pieces of furniture to think about, and beyond that, it seems like a matter of keeping linens clean. But there are plenty of ways that you can easily and cheaply refresh your bedroom, even if you only have 30 minutes to spare.
Oct 14, 2015
5 Easy Ways to Add Energy to Your Home
Monique & Stu’s Bright Happy Family Home in Melbourne Even if you love your place and your stuff, there are times when your home can feel stagnant. It all too easily becomes a place of routine, or it just feels like there’s something that’s not functioning quite right. If your home needs a burst of energy, here are five easy things that you can do to give it some zest. The Pineapple Housewife’s Happy Home Use scents.
Oct 7, 2015
5 Things You’re Doing Right in Your Home
Jo’s Understated Retro Rock Style Advice is often helpful, but sometimes, when we’re flooded with tips about what we should or could or need to do in our homes, we forget all the things that we’re doing right. Here’s to thinking not only about what you need to improve, but about what you’ve already got and what you’re acing. Obviously, everyone lives in his/her home differently, but here are some basic things that you’re probably getting right.
Oct 5, 2015
Feeling Blue and Seeing Red: Links Between Color Perception and Emotion
Annie’s Color-Splashed Home We use color metaphors to express our emotions all the time. We feel blue, see red when we’re angry, turn green with envy, and others may call us “yellow” when we’re afraid or lacking in bravery. Are these metaphors just that—metaphorical—or do they have some basis in biology?
Sep 29, 2015
Living in the Past: Homes that Embrace Vintage with Open Arms
Dawn’s Fabulous 50s Suburban Home Most people interested in decor know the power of vintage items. They’ve studied the classics, or they’ve got a couple of storied items in their own homes. But there are some homes that don’t just dabble in vintage or mix it in: they embrace it in its entirety, throwing themselves full-on into previous eras. I already had this post planned before the recent hubbub surrounding this Vox article, in which Sarah A.
Sep 21, 2015
Getting Rid of the Fugitive Filth I Was Harboring in my Kitchen
Kate’s West Village Charm This weekend, in a search of a lost item, I ventured into the no-man’s land of one particular area of my kitchen and was aghast at what I found there. Even though it’s a little-seen area, that doesn’t make it any better in terms of the dust accumulation and the total ick-factor I experienced when I realized what kind of filth I had been harboring. So where was all the grossness hiding?
Aug 27, 2015