house staging

Happy Thursday!  Something is in the air in North Carolina and people are looking to buy and sell houses.  I got an email from a friend this week asking for my best "tips" for staging houses and thought I would share them with you all today. 

Before we go any further, I have to tell you that when we bought our house, it was staged... horribly!  I'm talking a margarita set and "beach read" on the front porch, a tea-cup and saucer out on the kitchen counter, and other various silly things to make potential buyers imagine themselves in the home.  Luckily, these things weren't too distracting and we loved the house enough to make an offer that night.  But be warned, done wrong staging can be a bad thing. 

With that said, these tips are not the typical light a candle and take down your personal pictures tips.  Instead, my approach is to make the house look de-cluttered, organized, and really let the features of the house sell themselves.  These are my top "spots" in a house and a few tips to go with each:

1. Start with your closets:  I firmly believe closets and storage can sell a house.  I grew up in historic homes and KNOW that closets and storage are not always available in a house, so with that in mind, the idea here is to maximize the space you do have and make the closets appear larger.  To do this:
  • Make sure there is nothing on the floor of your closet.  This means shoes, bags, laundry, etc.  A clean floor will make it look like there is more space- I promise.
  • Take a few handfuls of your clothes out of your closet.  You can do this by taking out "seasonal clothes" or just taking a few handfuls.  The idea again is to make it look like you have more room than you need.  Don't make it look sparse, just don't let it be overstuffed.
  • In a linen closet, remove all extra towels, sheets, and other items.  Leave one spare set in the closet folded neatly.  
linen closet...gotta love those wire shelves!
2. De-clutter your shelves: I think this is most important if you have large, open shelves.  If you are dealing with visible shelves, remember that odd numbers offer groupings that are most pleasing to the eye.   And, while I said before that you don't need to take down your personal pictures, if you have ten pictures of your family and friends on a shelf, consider taking down most of them.  Leave a few favorites, but the idea here is to create space- again, you want it to look like you have shelving to spare.

maybe not the perfect vignette for actually living in a home...but just right for staging

3. Organize your kitchen: A kitchen is another area (aside from a closet) that can sell a home.  Make sure yours is in tip-top shape by de-cluttering your counter tops and cleaning out your pantry and cabinets to make it look like you have room to spare.  Here is my checklist:
  • Limit yourself to three appliances on your kitchen counters.  My counter has a coffee maker, my stand-mixer, and a toaster.  Otherwise, try to keep the counters clear... creating that space again,
  • Remove any "cute" but less than functional kitchen accessories from your cabinets and drawers.  I went through and put everything I didn't use on a regular basis into a box.  (Hello apple corer and halloween cookie cutters!)  That left me with my everyday china, a few serving pieces, cutting board, mixing bowls, measuring cups, and spatulas.  Really, most everything else I haven't even missed!
  • Make sure your cabinets appear organized when a buyer opens the doors.  My favorite trick is to try and "color code" a cabinet.  So, when organizing the cabinet that holds random coffee mugs (not the ones that go with our everyday china shown below) I pulled all of the mugs with blue in them and put them at the front.  While they aren't uniform, it makes the cabinets appear organized and put together.
These deep shelves don't need much help in making the cabinets look spacious...but I do think it's important to keep them organized so they don't look overwhelming!
4. Do a little "staging:" Don't worry about re-decorating or re-carpeting your floors, but do take a few minutes to make sure your house is clean and shining.  Since we all have to go on living in our homes while the house is on the market, here is a quick list of things that will perk your home up when you only have thirty minutes to clean and straighten before a showing:
  • Make the beds and fluff any couch pillows
  • Wipe down kitchen and bathroom counters with a clorox wipe
  • Wipe down bathroom mirrors with windex and quickly wipe any spots from the bathroom hardware
  • Open the blinds on windows and let some natural light in
  • Turn on lamps wherever possible (much more flattering than harsh over head lights.)
  • Never underestimate fresh cut flowers on a table- they make just about anyone happier!
sunflowers from josh to brighten up the week...and brighten up our hallway for house showings!
Most of these tips are simply an investment of time, but in some cases it might be wise to invest a little money (ie: to repaint that neon yellow sunroom.)  Each situation is different and if you feel like you need additional help organizing or staging your home, feel free to send me an email!  I'd love to help! 



wedding invites FAQ

Happy Wednesday!  To finish off our series on wedding invitations I thought I would feature a little Q and A session.  Have a question?  Leave me a comment!

Q: What is the wording for a formal wedding invitation?  (Bride's parents are hosting)

A: A formal wedding invitation has many components.  Here is a sample invitation, but please note, this wording will change in many situations (ie: if the bride's parents are separated or divorced, if the wedding is not happening in a church or house of worship, or if the bride and groom are helping pay for the wedding.) Email me for help with your specific situation and wording.

Q: My wedding invitations just came from the printer and there are tons of envelopes! 
 What are they all for and how do I address them?

A: Formal wedding invitations feature an outer envelope, an inner envelope, and a reply envelope.  When putting together your invites, here is what you need to know:

Q: I just got invited to a formal wedding but the reply card doesn't have the usual "check the box" if you will attend- it is just blank.  What do I say?

A: This is a traditional reply card.  While you may be tempted to write a personal note, it is best to use the following language (and then include a personal note if you are close to the host):

This is also a great preview to next month where I will answer a "registry" question each week.  Many of you have recently gotten engaged and are wondering about what items you need on your registry.  Leave me a comment or send me an email with your specific questions or items you are debating whether or not to include on your registry.  Be sure to check out next week's post for our first topic...choosing your "everyday" china.  



monday monday

Good Morning!  Monday is here again and we are off to another busy week.  Always seems to be the case.  I only have time for a quick recap of the weekend but I would love to hear about yours!  Feel free to leave me a comment and tell me about the wonderful, exciting (or normal and less than exciting) things you did.  I have to live through you all these days with too much school work and too many extracurriculars to get me out much :)

Despite that crushing feeling of too much work, I did have a wonderful weekend.  Both Josh and I felt like we hadn't seen each other all week (true) and we both felt like we needed to spend some major time catching up on some sleep (also true.)  Luckily for us, we were iced in on Friday night.  An ice-in meant that we scrounged in the fridge and pantry and wound up with...

We also (finally) started watching the miniseries about the Kennedy Family.  It took us a long time to start, but now that we have I am so glad we did!  It is addicting and such a fascinating look at a period of our history.  I'm not sure how accurately the show is portraying some of the family interactions, but it  certainly draws you in and makes you appreciate the different dynamics of any family.  AND, whether the family dynamics are true or not, Katie Holmes is VERY true to Jackie's style...love those dresses, gloves, and the simple glamor she exudes.

Once we got out of the ice, I was able to venture out and run a fast errand...to TJ Maxx.  I know I am late to the game on this store (kind of like I was with World Market) but it is amazing.  Our store had Kate Spade purses, Tory Burch and Becca Rory dresses, and TONS of home goods.  Unfortunately you will note that I said the errand was fast and it was...I didn't have time to really soak it all in, but you can bet I will be headed back there at some point.  Just call me a "maxinista" in training...

Finally, we ended the weekend with our traditional sunday supper.  My sister in law made a delicious chicken pot pie and salad, my niece made amazing brownies, and my brother in law let us preview his newest art project.  (More to come on the art project...maybe even a give away?!  Check out his pieces here.)  AND, speaking of art...check out this art work given to us by our youngest nephew.  It is proudly displayed on our fridge right now, but I am thinking this might deserve a frame!

Please leave me a comment and tell me: (1) if you would like a giveaway from highcotton arts. (a valentine's themed piece perhaps?!) and (2) what you did this weekend!



winter weather survival

Happy Friday!  We are expecting our second "winter weather" event of the week today.  I know that doesn't seem like much to those up north, but it really throws things into a tailspin around here.  I think it's because it happens so rarely that people around here really don't have the tools to deal with it.  The weather forecasts on the news are frantic, the schools are closing early, and people are raiding the shelves of the grocery store.

The reality is that we will have some snow and ice for a few hours today and by tomorrow we should be back to normal.  All of the panic does make me a little nervous though.  I legitimately don't know how to drive on ice and in the snow.  I do have to be somewhere today at the time the storm is expected so my plan is just to go slow and steady.  I keep hearing keep your hands at "10 and 2" in my mind...over and over!

In honor of our weather event, today I am sharing my "winter weather survival" products and accessories: 

I use mainly drug store brands to keep my lips and skin from feeling too dried out in the winter.  I keep blistex and jergens lotion next to my bed and use it every night when I hop under the covers.  Just a quick shot on my hands and lips at night makes such a difference in the dry winter air.  The aquaphor is for the more intense times when I need LOTS of moisture.  I actually keep aquaphor year round and highly recommend it.  I use it on my face, my elbows, my lips, or anywhere else that gets extra dry.

While I don't wear hats often (definitely NOT good for my face shape), when the weather gets really cold I like to have a neutral hat to throw on.  The neutral color makes me feel like it is less noticeable and ensures I only need one to go with anything I have on.  (No use spending extra money to have variety with an accessory I don't like to wear right?!)  This hat from JCrew is a great neutral option that will keep you warm.  My other go to accessories are cashmere socks and gloves.  I love these knee high cashmere socks to wear under boots and these cashmere gloves have the "touch" technology so you can still use your iphone while wearing them.  

Hope you are staying warm this winter.  Do you have any favorites or products you turn to when the weather turns colder?  Help a transplanted Floridian out!



a living room design

Two more days until the weekend!  Is anyone else exhausted after only two days of this short week?  It always seems that slowing down for a little break makes starting back up that much harder!

I mentioned in this post that my sister-in-law is thinking about re-decorating her living room.  I have slowly but surely collecting images that I think would work well for her space and I am so excited to share the components with you today.

1. Curtains.  A few years ago, my sister-in-law invested in beautiful fabric and had curtains made for the living room.  This is not the exact fabric she chose, but this is as close as I can find.  The actual fabric has a bit more of a burnt red and navy blue color scheme, but the feel is similar.

2.  One of the major investment pieces for the re-decorated living room is a new couch.  I chose a navy couch to pull out the navy tones in the monkey fabric and to coordinate with the fabric in her dining room.  (It's also nice to have a darker couch with dogs and kids in the house.)  While matching colors and fabrics from room to room is definitely not required, I do think it is nice if a house has a certain flow from room to room.


3. The living room serves a dual-purpose and would actually be divided into a living room and more of a music/reading area.  (Check back for more on the music/reading nook later.)  To create some separation, a sisal rug (see this post for more details about hypoallergenic rug options) would be placed in the main living space.  This will help define the area of the room as well as give the room some texture and warmth.


4.  I would love to use this bookshelf as a "console table" at the back of the couch.  This would be the perfect spot for some storage and it will help continue to define the space by being placed at the edge of the rug.  It is also not too stuffy and combines a great shape with distressed wood- a nice contrast.

bookcase as console table

5. Finally, I love this red lamp.  It could be placed on the bookcase to provide extra light to the couch or on another side table.


To complete the room I would add these two armless chairs, maybe these throw pillows, and maybe an antique trunk as a coffee table.  What do you think?  Will it flow together?

I would love to figure out how to format these pieces and present them to you as an "inspiration board" but I honestly have no idea how to do that!  Anyone out there have a good program that I should investigate?!?



wedding guest lists

Happy Wednesday!  Today I am continuing my posts about entertaining and weddings.  It seems that TONS of people have gotten engaged recently and I hope that this post helps with what can often be the most stressful part of wedding planning...compiling a guest list!

To make things a little easier, I have compiled a guide to creating your guest list and then making necessary adjustments for budget and venue restrictions.  While the process isn't easy, I hope this list will make it a little easier.

A few things to note about this process:

First, making a list of everyone (despite budget and venue restrictions) can seem like a waste of time.  Trust me when I say it is NOT a waste of time.  It is much better to list anyone and everyone you think you might even slightly want to invite to the wedding than to leave someone off the list entirely.  If you list everyone, your chances of overlooking someone important to you are significantly lower.

Second, when "assigning guests" to a contributor to the list, I found it helpful to give everyone a color.  For instance, when we made our wedding list, my guests were listed in green, Josh's guests in blue, my parents guests in red, and my future-in-laws guests in purple.  This was a quick way to sort through the list and see who had added each name to the list.

It is helpful to have a "number" column on any master list.  Remember that when you invite one person, the invitation often includes an "and guest."  This means, inviting one person actually results in a guest count of two people.  Also remember to account for a higher number for families if, for instance, you are inviting parents and their children.

Finally, a note about adjusting according to groupings.  This is the hardest part of any guest list creation...cutting people from the list.  In an ideal world no one would be cut from a wedding list, but in reality, venue and budget restraints apply.  So, to avoid awkward situations, it is best to cut in "groupings."  This simply means that you should cut people of similar relation to yourself and to each other.  For instance, rather than cutting one of your book club friends, an old college friend, and a second cousin, it is much better to just cut all of your second cousins.  While this may mean that you cut more people than you technically need to, it will be much easier to explain (and fewer feelings will be hurt) if you can say you didn't invite one of your second cousins but not another.

I hope this checklist helps.  Let me know if you have any other tips or techniques and best wishes to all you newly engaged brides!



pear and pancetta crostini

Good Morning!  We are waking up to temperatures in the teens and this Florida girl is feeling VERY thankful for her warm house this morning.  Maybe one day I will get used to colder temps, but in the meantime I am already trying to figure out how many layers of clothing I can fit under my puffer jacket!

I made this recipe over Christmas and only just realized that I never shared it with you!  I love making warm appetizers and this is the perfect thing when you want something that presents beautifully but doesn't leave you slaving away in the kitchen for hours.  It really only takes about 15 minutes of hands on time.  Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Pear and Pancetta Crostini
Sheri Castle, Southern Living


  • 12 thin slices of pancetta
  • 1 Bartlett pear (you could use another type of pear, but make sure it is FIRM)
  • 4 oz. goat cheese
  • Fresh cracked pepper
  • Honey
  • Fresh thyme sprigs for garnish
  1. Pre-heat oven to 450.  Arrange pancetta slices in a single layer on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet.  (A jelly roll pan really works best here- the pancetta greases may run off the sides of a standard cookie sheet.)
  2. Bake pancetta for 8-10 minutes until golden.  Transfer pancetta crisps to a paper towel lined rack with a spatula and let sit 10 minutes to become crisp.
  3. Core pear with an apple corer.  Cut pear crosswise into 12 thin rings and arrange on a serving platter. (I would recommend even thinner than the picture above shows.)
  4. Top each pear slice evenly with a pancetta crisp and goat cheese; sprinkle with pepper.  Drizzle honey over each just before serving and garnish with thyme if desired.


PS: Please consider "following" my blog by clicking the "join this site" button on the right hand sidebar.  Thanks!


last day for charles emerson designs party

Happy Martin Luther King Day!  Are you enjoying a three day weekend?  I am relishing my last MLK Holiday as a student...it's the little things in life.

On a not so little note, today is the last day of the Charles Emerson Designs Party I am hosting.  I have had a few questions about this and you should know, this is an online party.  All you do is click this link, chose your favorite pieces, and enter the discount code "PartyWithAnnie" at check-out to receive 10% off.  AND, everyone who makes a purchase with the code is entered into a drawing to win a free pair of earrings...their choice!  Really it would be silly not to take a look.  

Just in case you missed my post raving about this, this, and these, here are a few other pieces that have recently been added as available for purchase.  I may or may not spy a David Yurman look-a-like and a certain JCrew-ish bracelet.

Head on over to Charles Emerson Designs today and check it out.  Leave me a comment and let me know what you get!

The Virginia

The Crew



snow day reads

Happy Snow Day!  The good Floridian in me says to be excited and go run around and make a 3 inch snowman.  On the other hand, I have been a North Carolinian for a few years now so the snow really just makes me want to curl up and stay inside...in the climate controlled house.  (Don't take me too seriously- I did pull on my rain boots, put on my puffy jacket, and go tromping in the snow in my pjs with the pup last night...can't shake that Florida girl out of me it seems.)

For those of you whose tendencies lean more towards staying in on a snow day, today's post is "friday finds, reading list edition."   BUT, before we go any further, I need to make a few disclaimers:

(1) My reading preferences leans towards light-hearted and happy... I read way too many sad things in law school to add to the list when I am reading for pleasure (meaning no tear-jerkers no matter how happy the ending) 

(2) I love Jane Austen. 

Still with me?  Great.  Curl up and enjoy the snow day!  

1. Happier at Home.  Happier at Home is the follow-up to Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project.  I haven't read this one yet, but I am planning to crack it open TODAY.  The Happiness Project provides practical and small ways in which you can refocus your daily life to appreciate the things that really matter.  This follow up book promises the same simple tips but is focused primarily on relationships and your home life.  I'm tempted to tell you to run out and pick it up now because I know it will be great...but I will wait and actually give you a full review soon...promise!

2. The Pemberley Chronicles Series.  Like I said, I love Jane Austen.  Sadly, Jane Austen only wrote six novels (and a few shorter pieces that people have turned into stories) and I have read them all - 17 times each.  Needless to say, I am always on the hunt for a good Jane Austen spin-off series (harder to find than you would imagine) and I have found one!  In The Pemberley Chronicles, Rebecca Ann Collins continues the story of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.  The best part of all, there are six books in the series so you don't have to worry about needing a new book too soon.

3. The Manhattan Diet.  I loved this book!  I don't usually get into books like this, but Eileen Daspin does a fantastic job of showing the different lives and lifestyles of the people she interviewed.  Packed full of tips on how to eat well and stay thin (eat full fat things...just have a small bite and be done), The Manhattan Diet is funny look at the lives of Manhattan women and the diets tricks they employ.

4. The Tipping Point.  Confession- I am not actually reading this one...I am listening to it on tape with Josh.  In the Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell explores what causes certain things to become phenomena.  With Josh starting his own business we are definitely listening closely to all the little things that go into making something a global sensation.  Even if you aren't in the market to create a trend, this book is fascinating and entertaining.

Do you have any favorites I should add to my list?

PS- Don't forget to shop my Charles Emerson Designs Party.  Get 10% off your order and be entered into a drawing to win a free pair of earrings when you use the discount code "PartyWithAnnie."

outdoor spaces

Good Morning!  

via pinterest
Can you believe it is still raining?  Luckily for me I have been cooped up inside classrooms and meetings most of the week, but I am definitely feeling ready for some sunshine and vitamin D.  Just the thought of the sun peeking through the clouds (maybe tomorrow?!) made me smile this early morning.  So, for today's "design post" I am sharing my favorite decorated outdoor spaces.  Dream away with me today... the sunshine will come back again soon and I would love to enjoy it in any of these places.  

via pinterest
What I wouldn't give for a BIG porch swing at the beach right now!  I love the mix of warm and cool toned pillows and the fact that they mirror the natural colors found right off the porch on the beach.  The wide planks on the porch and the beautiful view are just an added benefit!

via pinterest
I think this space is the perfect mix of upscale, casual elegance.  The columns and the beautiful lanterns make the space seem upscale, while the jute rug (in the foreground if you look closely) combines perfectly with the rattan chair and potted plant to keep the space liveable. 

via pinterest
What's not to love about this space?  Beautiful architecture, big open windows, green space, blue skies, and the perfect pop of Carolina blue in the pillows.  I'm there!

via pinterest

I pinned this photo on pinterest loooong ago and it was one of my most popular pins by far.  I have never been able to put my finger on exactly what I love about this space other than the entire overall feel.  This is actually my goal in decorating spaces- while there can (and should) be some items that you adore individually, it's how they all fit together that makes the space work.  In this picture the striped pillows always stand out, but I also think the wicker, the white washed brick, the color scheme, the hurricane lantern on the table, and the boxwoods all play a role in my love for this porch.  

Off to pull on my trusty rain boots and wait for that sunshine to peek through...


PS: Another great way to perk up on a rainy day is to shop at my Charles Emerson Designs Party!  Enter code "PartyWithAnnie" for 10% off through Tuesday, January 22.


artichoke dip

Hello Loves!  Once again I am off with the blogging schedule, but late nights and early mornings make for quick posts these days.  Today, I am sharing a quick, yummy appetizer.  This is my go-to for almost any event where I need to bring an appetizer...so if we are headed to the same party- I call dibs!  Just kidding...

In all seriousness though, this sounds a little gross just reading the ingredients, but it is always devoured.  AND, since you all loved my confessions so much on Friday, I will confess that sometimes I just make this and eat it as a meal.  (Not exactly in line with these goals for 2013, but artichokes could be considered a veggie even when they are covered in cheese!)  Try it out...you won't be sorry!

sorry for the photo of just artichokes...I don't have a picture of the completed dish because it is usually eaten before I find a camera!

Warm Artichoke Dip


  • 2 cans of artichoke hearts, drained
  • 1/4 C. mayo (you can also use plain greek yogurt if you prefer)
  • 1 package of shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1 bag of pita chips (I like Stacy's or the triangle shaped triscuits)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 and lightly grease a casserole dish.  (It is best to use the casserole dish you are going to serve in because this is hard to transfer to another dish later.)
  2. Add the artichoke hearts to a medium bowl and cut into small pieces.  Add the mayo and 2/3 of the cheese and mix well.
  3. Transfer the artichoke mixture to the casserole dish and top with remaining cheese.
  4. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and dish is warmed throughout.  Serve warm with pita chips.

PS: Don't forget to check out the Charles Emerson Designs Jewelry Party I am hosting here.  Enter discount code "PartyWithAnnie" for 10% off your entire order until Tuesday, January 22.  


charles emerson design party

Good Morning!  I have a TREAT for you all today.  Do you remember this post where I shared a Charles Emerson Designs necklace and let you in on how much I love their great jewelry at even greater prices?

Well, guess what?  Starting today, any reader of Ann Elliott can make a purchase and receive 10% off with the coupon code "PartyWithAnnie." That's not all though, anyone who makes a purchase and uses the coupon code is entered into a drawing to win a free pair of earrings.  This deal only lasts until next Tuesday, January 22, so stock up now.  Click here to shop, shop, shop!

There are TONS of great options over at Charles Emerson Designs, but here are a few of my favorite picks.  I can tell you one thing...a certain bracelet is coming to my front door...can you guess which one?

the bella

the olive

the eve

the izzie

the cindy

the tori
the taylor

the helen

the bonnie

Head on over to the party at Charles Emerson Designs to pick your favorites.  
Don't forget to enter the code: "PartyWithAnnie" for 10% off your order until January 22!