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I was thinking the other day about what draws me to an interior. Often here at H&H, we're asked things like, "What are your fave kitchens?," or "Which designers are you loving right now?" But what I love changes — it's hard choosing the "best" because there is just so much good design out there.

The other day, I was having a look at loads of interiors (for an unrelated story), and I noticed that a lot of the spaces I was drawn to had a similar element. Take a look just below, can you find the thread?

If you guessed circles, you're right. Something about each image above and the importance of the circular form struck me. Perhaps I'm responding to the organic nature of the form and its way of offsetting structure and straight lines.

Have a look around. Do you live with a round mirror? Does your home have ceiling medallions? Would a round ottoman or coffee table solve the problem of linking your sofa and chairs together? I bet a circular form or two would add a little something something to your own home.

Photo credits:
1. Darryl Carter's D.C. Townhouse, Elle Decor, photography by Simon Upton
2. Lower Fifth, Steven Gambrel (For more inspiring rooms by this designer, see our Steven Gambrel photo gallery.)
3. Southampton, Steven Gambrel
4. Elle Decor, photography by Eric Piasecki
5. Elle Decor, photography by William Waldron
6. Elle Decor, photography by Simon Upton

Today's blog is a special one because I get to play journalist and catch up with world-famous blogger Chelsea Fuss, author of {frolic!}.

Recommended by Domino magazine, {frolic!} was one of the first blogs I started following. I have always been in love with Chelsea's clean, pure style and romantic influences. {frolic!} has been noted in many, many publications including The Wall Street Journal Magazine, The London Times, Elle Decor and more for being the go-to destination for all things pretty and perfect. Here is a peek into Chelsea Fuss' many inspirations and creative ideas.

MP: How did you become so dang stylish? What were your influences growing up?

CF: Ha ha! I don't think of myself as very stylish. I think I am more of a behind-the-scenes girl and a collector of pretty things. I love to work hard at making photos, flower arrangements and events, but I usually look pretty ragamuffin.

I was always very shy growing up. I read a lot of books and magazines (the original Victoria was my Bible!) and I was a big observer. I liked to study what people wore and how they decorated their houses. I also had a big imagination and yearned to live in a sort of dream world. I wore dresses, had tea parties, read poetry and planted a garden. Poetry readings were much more exciting to me than Friday night football games.

My mom was a big influence. She's very creative and she created this very beautiful life for us with homemade food, beautiful handmade clothing, rooms decorated with homemade curtains and pretty wallpaper, and always a garden. I had a very idyllic childhood, especially during the time that we lived in the countryside of New Hampshire. My grandmother is originally from England and is a big gardener and artist. I think all of this has really shaped my outlook on life.

MP: Clearly, you believe in the link between fashion and design. How do you see them influencing one another?

CF: All design seems to be influenced by what's going on in the world and there's usually a thread connecting every genre. When looking at art history and humanities, we see certain trends and movements in art, music, fashion, and literature. It's no different today. Even if, like me, you say you are not influenced by trends. You are influenced by your own economic climate and life events, and those are what tie everything together.

I like to see how a particular style can be interpreted through various genres whether it's fashion, interiors, music, artwork or food. I get bored only looking at one of those!

MP: Your style seems to be rooted in the beauty of reality. How or why do you stay away from overly considered spaces?

CF: It's exciting to make the everyday beautiful. The world is lovely as is. Old houses are pretty, flowers are breathtaking. They really don't need much help. Just a little editing and placing things in an interesting context. Plus, I just really don't respond to anyone or anything that appears to be trying too hard or anything very pretentious. I love effortless spaces, fashion and people who don't take themselves too seriously. I am always aspiring to effortlessness. It's so hard to achieve though! It's harder to create designs that don't look designed at all but rather like they just happened.

I also like design to feel accessible. When I look at a photo of a room, I'd love to be able to imagine myself there, even if it's in my little dream world!

MP: What was your favourite colour growing up? What is it/are they now?

CF: I've always loved a very pale pink and still do!

MP: You create the most beautiful, effortless-looking flower arrangements. Describe your process. What goes into these creations and which flowers tug at your heartstrings?

CF: Thank you. That's very nice of you to say. I think flowers are pretty and they don't really need much help! My process is always a little different. I try to keep my mind open and once I am in the flower market or wandering through a cutting garden, I pick up whatever looks pretty to me and try to put together colour combinations there. I don't have a lot of self-control when it comes to flowers, so I often buy or cut much more than I need. Once home, I soak the flowers for a few hours after re-cutting their stems. Then, I'll pick out a container and start playing. Sometimes I get frustrated and start over. Other times, I love it right off the bat.

My favourite flowers are violets, lily of the valley, David Austen roses, snowdrops, lilacs, hyacinths, apple blossoms and peonies.

For more of our favourite design blogs, see our Blog Galleries and Design Sites We Like page.

Photo credits:
1-2, 4-6. {frolic!}
3. Anna Allen clothing line, photography by John Allen

Today is the 24th of June, better known as St-Jean-Baptiste day for our Quebecois counterparts. Whether poutine gravy runs through your veins or not, you can inject a bit of Belle Province into your decor with the classic fleur de lys. Here are a few pretty finds.

Osborne & Little gave the ornate emblem a two-tone treatment in this intricate wallpaper. If you're not up to pasting this pattern all over your wall, try framing a smaller piece of it or recovering a piece of furniture for graphic impact.

Your kitchen is the perfect room to add a touch of French charm. Try accessories such as these display-worthy metal measuring spoons and these fleur de lys linen tea towels that would look darling under your morning croissants.

I love Anthropologie's fleur de lys collection of tableware. A touch French, a bit country, and perfect for year-round use.

Even if you've missed last night's St-Jean-Baptiste festivities, you can still enjoy a bit of Frenchy-fun this weekend with a blue-and-white themed picnic. Don't forget to pick up a fresh baguette, a Pied-de-vent and Blanche de Chambly for a taste of Nouvelle-France!

Happy celebrations!

Photo credits:
1. Osbourne & Little
2. Horchow
3. Etsy
4. Anthropologie
5. Design*Sponge

I've never been obsessed about a celebrity before, nor do I read up on the latest celeb gossip (do the Royals count?), but star homes always intrigue me. Does her home reflect her public persona? Does his sense of fashion affect his home's decor?

When Veranda published this gallery of Jennifer Lopez's home last year, I was initially surprised by the traditional style, given J-Lo's usual lively music. I pictured bolder design choices. But, after seeing her a few times on last season's American Idol, her home's style made more sense to me — on the show she was elegant and always put together. 

The soft blue kitchen cabinetry extends to the ceiling, and thick white countertops add weight and richness (it could be an overhang, and not a 3" thick piece of marble or granite). And oh, La Cornue, what a dreamy range. (One of Lynda's favourites, too.) And a pot filler right above the stove — how handy. Designer Michelle Workman put together a clean, sophisticated home.

I'd love to be your guest, Jennifer! This visitor retreat has a monochromatic peach palette that I wouldn't be able to live with daily, but as a guest, why not?

Canadian model Coco Rocha and her husband, artist James Conran, had their Manhattan apartment featured in Vogue. The bedroom features lots of gold and creamy tones. (I imagine the frame disappeared when the camera was gone.)

The wooden chest of drawers and the symmetrical side table placement, along with a bust and hat, create a slightly eclectic, old world feel. Vintage pieces could easily create this look.

Modern Family actress Julie Bowen (Claire Dunphy) has a colourful home in Los Angeles, which was featured in InStyle. I absolutely love this built-in bookshelf display. It features both a painted back and colour-coordinated books — both ideas seen in Reiko's blog last week on styling bookcases — and doesn't feel too cluttered.

Julie's closet is simply divine. Ah, to have open shelves to display shoes, hats and clothing. I'm particularly fond of the green chair and lamp at the dressing table.

I happened to be flipping through channels when Oprah had an interview with Celine Dion earlier this year. We were able to see inside her Florida home, which accommodates endless family members and features their very own waterpark. Seriously. I was surprised by how modern and airy it was, with elements like the Eero Aarnio ball chair.

Actress Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick's home, as seen in Elle Decor, looks like it could be anyone's home. The living room, decorated by Eric Hughes, is simply liveable. I was excited to see they have the super affordable Ikea Lack tables in their house. They were custom lacquered, but still.

The chair, a flea-market find, plus objets, a portrait of the couple, flowers, and a yellow headboard, all add colour to the bedroom without overwhelming the eyes.

I love how many of these celebrity homes feature styles that aren't completely out of reach. If money wasn't an issue, what would your home be like?

Photo credits:
1-3. Veranda, photography by Laura Resen
4-5. InStyle via M. Design Interiors, photography by James Merrell
6-7. Vogue, photography by Claiborne Swanson Frank
8. Oprah
9-10. Elle Decor, photography by William Waldron

I was recently in San Antonio, Texas as an invited food panelist speaking to the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). The conference was great, but what was even better were the vibrant sights, sounds and tastes of this Latino slice of Texas.

The opening reception was at the famed Mi Tierra restaurant, bar and bakery. It looks like a piñata exploded — and I mean that in the nicest way — with its murals, altars, streamers and, on this night, a chorus of beautiful singers. We had copious fresh margaritas and tasty nibbles like gulf shrimp ceviche on tortilla chips, and fried, stuffed jalapeños; my first authentic taste of Tex Mex. And the best part about this place? It never closes!

The conference arranged for a few of us to get a tour of the new Pearl Brewery complex, an impressive mix of work and live spaces, shops and restaurants, all along the River Walk. (We snuck back for late night snacks at La Gloria, which specializes in the street foods of Mexico — mmmm crispy chicken tacos.) I also had dinner at star chef John Besh's new restaurant, Luke, also along the River Walk (not Tex Mex, but tasty barbecued oysters!).

The core of the new Pearl district is the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), which launched in 2007, but just completed a massive expansion. The CIA San Antonio campus is also home to the college's Centre for Foods of the Americas (CFA). A research arm of the college, the CFA has two full-time chef researchers, including Elizabeth Johnson-Kossick, who travels through Mexico and Latin America to learn and document traditional cooking methods in the hopes of preserving and promoting this rich culinary heritage. Chef Johnson-Kossick demonstrated a unique (and totally delish) Brazilian dish called Bahian Coconut Fish Stew. Here's her easy recipe.

Moqueca de Peixe Recipe

(serves 4)

2 lb. sea bass or halibut, skin and bones removed
1 tsp sea salt
2 garlic cloves
1/3 cup plus 1/2 cup dende oil (a deep orange palm-based cooking oil that's key to many Brazilian dishes)
1 cooking onion, julienned
1 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced
2 tomatoes, sliced
3 cilantro sprigs
1-1/2 cups fresh coconut milk
Sea salt to taste
1 lime, juiced

Step 1: Mash garlic cloves and make a paste by mashing the sea salt and garlic together. Rub the cleaned fish with the garlic and salt mixture. Set aside.

Step 2: In a Dutch oven or clay pot, sauté the onions and bell peppers in 1/3cup dende oil over medium heat until translucent.

Step 3: Add the fish, tomatoes, coconut milk, and 1/2 cup dende oil. Bring the mixture to a boil, add the cilantro and cook for 5 minutes or until the fish is cooked through. Drizzle remaining dende oil over dish.

Step 4: Season to taste with salt and lime juice.

Step 5: Serve hot with cooked white rice and farofa de dende*.

* Farofa de dende is used as a condiment for many Brazilian dishes, it's a lot like couscous flavoured with oil. Delicious stuff.

On a completely different note, we're putting together a special feature and we'd love to hear what your favourite recipes from House & Home have been over the past 25 years. We want to know which dishes you make again and again, and why you love them. Email us!

Photo credits:
1-7. Amy Rosen

I'll admit, I'm an absolute stripes freak. I often gravitate toward clean-lined stripes when choosing drapery, wallpaper, paint or rugs. And I definitely prefer horizontal stripes — they lend a more contemporary, almost Japanese look and tend to elongate a wall or piece of furniture. Here are a few rooms with stripes that have caught my eye.

This is my own living room as it appeared in the now defunct Wish magazine a few years ago. I think striped drapes really are my trademark — I know my drapery sewer thinks so. I like how striped drapery creates a "wow" factor at eye level in a relatively neutral room. When we featured this room in the H&H November holiday issue last year, I took down the drapes and hung plain olive green velvet ones to work better with all of the blue and green Christmas decorations. Designer Tommy Smythe called me up and said, "Suzanne, what happened to your striped drapes?! I loved those!" Of course, I immediately put them right back up.

You can also see this room in our Readers Favourite Rooms photo gallery, so be sure to vote!

Here's another example of a striped treatment at the window. New York designer Steven Gambrel chose a double-stripe trim to great effect along the inside edge of a double set of drapes in this West Village townhouse. A bit of striped trim can have just as much impact as full curtains. Chairs upholstered in a dense horizontal pattern make them seem long and lean instead of bulky, and layer nicely with the rug and drapes. Everything is in shades of bold turquoise for a monochromatic look with guts.

I know we all flipped over J.Crew creative director Jenna Lyon's fantastic house in Brooklyn when it appeared in Domino and then in Living Etc several years ago. The black, white and yellow could have gone in a bad bumblebee direction, but instead it looks très chic. Painting a punchy graphic pattern on a nursery ceiling is always a great way to liven it up without going too cutesy.

New York designer Muriel Brandolini's Southampton weekend house was featured in an issue of Elle Decor way back when. Not just a feature wall, Muriel totally went for it here with a daring pink and orange combo and in pretty tight quarters too — not for the faint of heart! Painting the trim the same orange as the stripe lets the windows and doors blend into the pattern for an almost surreal effect. (As you know, I like this room so much I included it in my daring colour combos post, too!)

Architect Steven Learner covered his guest bathroom in a horizontal striped wallpaper from Clarence House, which adds a contemporary touch to the classic New York-style white washroom. I would have loved this look in black and white tiles, too — gorgeous and practical that way.

This jazzed-up mudroom in a 1960s Cape Cod barn conversion, featured in Lonny's March/April 2011 issue, makes a similar mark with black and white stripes. Spaces like dining rooms and powder rooms are also great spots to experiment with pattern and colour simply because you don't use them as frequently as other rooms in the house. Or, in the case of the powder rooms, you really aren't in there for too long, so why not have a bit of fun? The wire structure of the Nelson Saucer Pendant Lamp above the table continues the stripe theme while the antlers and trad settee offer a bit of quirky contrast.

Striped carpets have been hot for a few years now and I just can't get enough of them. They always look so good! Here designer Victoria Hagan perfects the trend in this Hamptons living room. The nautical colours are perfect for a cottage or beach house. And this antique dhurrie with varied stripes is anything but predictable.

Interior designer Nate Berkus chose this Madeline Weinrib cotton flatweave rug (now a classic) for the living room of his Chicago home. The green accent on the gold-framed chairs is the perfect pop of colour against the carpet. Everyone in the office flipped over this rug when it first came out, and Ikea actually released a similar version, which everyone and her uncle was quick to pick up.

I love this fun mix of stripes in shades of bright pink in a cottage bunkie. It just feels like a happy place. Breaking all the rules with aplomb!

Whoever set this up is a stripe fanatic — papers in rows of colour to make a stripe effect, contrasting boxes and lids, too. Make your own stripes using things around the house! Paired with that super cute striped lamp and chic wide striped chair, this is an eye-catching vignette.

I think I'll finish off with this vignette: a whole pile of cosy striped cushions with Navajo-style fringe. By the way, I really think western style is making a comeback. The cushions look lovely paired with the subtle stripe on the blanket and serene grey and blue on the vase.

Inspired yet? Try adding a few stripes to your decor for a bit of fresh summer style.

For more stripes, see our Cape Cod Style Finds.

Photo credits:
1. Wish, photography by Rob Fiocca
2. Steven Gambrel
3. Ohdeedoh blog
4. Elle Decor, photography by Henry Bourne
5. Elle Decor, photography by Pieter Estersohn
6. Lonny March/April 2011 issue, photography by Patrick Cline
7. Elle Decor, photography by Michael Mundy
8. Elle Decor, photography by Pieter Estersohn
9. House & Home July 2010 issue, photography by Stacey Brandford
10. Martha Stewart
11. Martha Stewart

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