Tending to the details…inside and out.

The end of 2015 has been an absolute whirlwind. Between the HGTV appearance, expanded radio show, opening of the new Studio & Market, and our demanding project schedule…I can honestly say I’m looking forward to getting back to work. No really. We’ve all worked so hard to get to this place. And now that the design studio, workshop and retail market are up and running…I am excited that some of our most meaningful work is ahead of us. That being said, the end of year finds me making preparations to take advantage of the amazing opportunities we’ve been given. And as I have mentioned before…my approach, especially in the new year, will start and end at a molecular level. I guess you could say I’m tending to the details, tinkering with the engine…and it feels good.

51    3315b846a91a7c022421090c68030cfc

One idea. One thought. One expression of pure emotion…another thoughtfully withheld behind a furled brow and crooked smile. One pencil and key stroke. One inspiration off the paper and into a passionate, personal and practical plan. One satisfying creative resolution…and another as elusive as a jittery bird on a windswept and wavy branch. One laugh. One sigh. One quiet moment of satisfaction…another much louder rallying cry for a better collaborative creative effort on the part of the contractors…and the clients. It’s amazing how clear everything sounds when your internal strings begin to adjust to the right pitch. Like it or not…willing to accept it or not…we are all living instruments in need of emotional, intellectual, spiritual and physical tuning. As life plays out, we need to fight to consciously control the pace of the beat, hit the appropriate notes with good timing…and when inspired…attempt to reach the high notes with a confident and calm consistency. It is in this effort to find life’s ideal rhythm, that our instrumentation is influenced, and even under assault. From the daily, digital diatribe that is our social media feed, to the tireless and bombastic 24-hour news cycle, or barrage of programing that seems to value caricature over content…it’s no wonder most us are operating with a flashing overload light in the middle of our forehead. As if our lives aren’t challenging enough, starring in the one-man-band that is our demanding personal and professional lives. Then, to make it even more interesting, that rhythm at times seems all too dependent upon technology that allows very little distinction between the two.

6ca1aaad7e7f22e20d9b96400e0d2a82  wonders-within-your-head  ee713d80630d12b2f725743127f86a2f

So, where does one go to find life’s perfect rhythm? To find balance? To find the right sense of timing? I’m not entirely sure. But lately, the thoughtful attention to the smaller details seems to be making all the difference. A rededication of sorts to the regular tuning of a natural, internal mechanism that improves my situational awareness, and greases the gears of my personal and professional transmission. As my analogies begin to both layer and stray a bit…I’ll get to the wrap: It’s so important to increase your level of sensitivity to your environment. Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, get out of your comfort zone and recalibrate to what you’ve experienced. That activity has a wonderful way of cleaning off your emotional, intellectual, spiritual and physical antennae…and helps you dial in on a clearer and more human signal. Trust me, if you don’t, life will most certainly find a way to do it for you. Indifference I’ve learned is the real enemy…and empathy may just be the most enriching experience of all. Empathy is the gateway to serving others. Isn’t that what it’s all about? Understanding and helping each other get to where we want and need to be? And certainly not always where the industry and the experts say we should go. The trick is to use technology to quicken the human connection…rather than to dull it…or even worse, manipulate it. To use it to assist us in an empathetic tuning process…and not distract us from it. But, I guess that speaks to the quality of our feeds. Probably the topic of a blog for another day.


It is in this spirit that I welcome the coming of the new year. The opportunity to return to the studio in search of new ways to connect people with the promise of creativity. To relish in the making with our hands and time that which, as of now, only exists in our minds…and to champion the true beauty that only comes from the balance of substance and style.


Audio Blog: In his own words . . . .”Why I do this…”

Doing the “diagnostic” as I call it, has been one of the ways I’ve been able to evolve, grow and learn not only as an Artist and Design Professional…but as a Husband, Father, Son & Friend. I get it, it’s never an easy thing to do. To look at yourself in the mirror, beyond the cosmetic, and conduct an honest self-evaluation of your behavior, your communication and truly measure the level of intellectual honesty related to giving your life, and those in it, your best effort. The Fall, for whatever reason, seems to put me in this place that resembles both one of humility & hope.

In the audio blog below, via my weekly radio show on WLKG 96.1, I reflect on lessons learned in my first year on the air, as well as a number of topics that reveal what’s at the heart of The Design Coach. To deliver to you, in as many ways possible, the ideas, inspiration and information to design not only an interior, but a relationship and life with creative confidence. In an industry OBSESSED with perfection, I hope to demonstrate that life’s accumulated rust is actually your personal patina worth acknowledging and sharing. It might sound like a tall order…but like any endeavor worth pursuing…we’ll just have to take it one step at a time.

dream shop

 Store2Store3    Store1  

Thanks for making my artist’s smock…feel more like a cape.

So, I’m really struggling to select topics for this blog. My mind is so active as of late that it can be a challenge to stay focused. So much is happening around us…and in our industry. Julie and I are thrilled with the final visual outcome of the Studio & Market. Early customer reviews are extremely positive toward our small corner of the creative universe. Thanks to so many people who helped us put this together. And thank you to our valued customers and clients over the years who shaped our vision. My creative team feels at home in the new space, and I feel as though I’ve reached a kind of professional and personal “base-camp.” A place where I can plan for some glorious accent to an artistic peak I hope I NEVER reach.


In the opening of this new venue, comes a sense of personal and professional accomplishment that feels a bit strange. A mental cocktail of equal parts artistic emotion, rational business strategy and mid-life rebirth. With the recent HGTV appearance, the radio show going to an hour and the new store…I feel like I’m living out loud…but not living loudly. The work is speaking for itself, breeding a tempered optimism that fits like a glove. Measured and empowering. Just another example of the molecular transformation that occurs as a result of any meaningful journey…that is often times more relevant than the arrival at the intended destination. Let’s be honest, I’m wired differently. I understand this, and have finally learned to embrace it rather than apologize for it. And increasingly, I’ve become obsessed by the prospect that a driving force behind The Design Coach is to encourage others to be brave in their design. Whether it be the design of a home, a room or a life. Too ambitious? Perhaps, but the tide of patrons and their reactions to our latest work tells me otherwise.

 store frame web

From my new desk, there is no sound more satisfying then the audible gasp of a new customer as they walk in the front door. Nothing more gratifying than seeing them stop in the welcoming sea grass entry, as they gaze and attempt to take it all in. And although this special space is small by the standards of today’s commercial cathedrals to design…it’s packed with love, substance, style and our collective passion for sharing great ideas. As I write this blog entry, and engage with visitors the exchanges are both humbling and exciting. “I walk around and I just can’t stop smiling.” one customer whispered in my direction, as though it was our little secret. Yet another shared, “Your store reminds me of a happier time in my life. I don’t want to leave.” What do even say to that?! Then there are the customers who know us from our previous venues in Chicago and other locations…their responses often include comments like “We’re so glad we found you!” and “We couldn’t wait for you to open.” All the while, they have no idea that every sincere and positive encounter encourages us to continue this creative journey. In the design of this space in particular, I intently applied the advice I often give my clients. Design from your mind, decorate from your heart. And it’s already paying off in ways I couldn’t possibly have imagined.

  Brave3       Brave2

As I have said time and time again, two things NEVER seem to go out of style. Personality and risk. Personality in an interior has the ability to invite you in and tell a special story without speaking a word. Rooms without a personality are typically forgettable…and what’s the use in that!? In my world, risk and visual surprise in an interior is absolutely essential. Both exciting and polarizing…I actually prefer the right mix of both in the interiors I design, the one’s I visit and my own. The only real question we should be asking ourselves when introducing “riskier” elements into our design is “What’s the right percentage?” Seriously, no joke, some of us are drowning in a sea of accessories who’s brand name ought to be Yawner, and copy-cat interiors resembling the performance of a mime, rather than that of an accomplished artist. The myth is that money guarantees interesting interiors, and lives for that matter…it doesn’t. The shame is that some of us have just stopped trying because we think beautiful means expensive. I’m here to tell you with the right coaching and inspiration, EVERY interior, regardless of the budget can be beautiful…as long as it has a sense of purpose and possesses the visual anticipation of a parade.

And as I sign off on the last paragraph of this blog entry I hear another great comment. “I love this place…they always have the best ideas.”  I respond by saying “So kind of you to say. Thank you, and please come back soon.”  Interactions like that mean SO much to independent business owners. Please remember that. Kindness and commerce CAN coexist. And it can be contagious if we’re all willing to be infected. As for me, encounters like those I had today seem to turn my studio smock into a Design Coach cape. I feel creatively bullet-proof…like a design superhero. And all I can say is that if you want ideas…you’ve come to the right place. We’ll be serving them up all day…every day at our thought provoking Midwestern design saloon. Intoxicating and arguably therapeutic, there’s always an open seat at the bar…literally and digitally. Hope to see you again soon.

Brave1      Brave5 

In memoriam of Carl Schwebl,

one of our first customers in Lake Geneva, WI

Thank you for inspiring us to believe that the biggest of ideas

can come from the smallest of places.

The Summer Snow

The Summer Snow

I’m sitting outside this evening writing this blog. The land around me is green and alive, and I feel as though I’ve hit the visual jackpot from the Midwest’s weather slot machine. The same one that had me depositing begrudgingly … Continue reading

Vintage Bliss 2015

This gallery contains 17 photos.

Over the past 20 years of salvage searching, I’ve seen some amazing vintage and reclaimed resources. Some last longer than others, but no matter their staying power I’m always grateful for having found them. These creative crusaders have not only helped feed … Continue reading