I have always loved quaint little old cottages and for many years, dreamed to have my own.
I used to go to bed every night picturing what it would look like—small, charming, nestled under big trees and surrounded by flowers. I have long believed in the power of suggestion and visualization. As it turned out, this proved to be accurate for me in more ways than one.
Some twenty years ago, I came across a vintage Florida fisherman’s cottage set under giant oak trees within an overgrown garden, and my dream for my very own cottage came true. From day one, it has been my “far from the madding crowd” oasis where I live with my three rescue cats: Little Minouche, Big Louie and Miss Sophie.
When I first saw the cottage, the garage that came with the house was about to crumble. And though it needed a major facelift, I knew I could transform it into the zen studio I craved. In spite of its then derelict condition, it was love at first sight. The sun-bleached tin roof, the exposed rafters and the raw wood walls had the seductive and familiar appeal of an old barn; however, voracious termites had eaten the wood walls and floor. The rafters were partially damaged as well. The roof was leaking, and the small windows were broken. On the plus side, the space already had electricity and water, though both required updating; I had two options—tear it down or rebuild. I opted for option two.
Creating the studio I had in mind meant starting from scratch, including reconfiguring the layout to accommodate a peaceful space where I could work and relax. Today, a new tin roof keeps the rain out, and natural light streams in through the large French doors and windows. The room now has a loft-like open feeling with an intimate courtyard that links my home and studio together. While the courtyard offers a sheltered spot with simple furnishings in cheerful tones, my home has an overall quiet, boho feel with whimsical accents and gentle hues.
When it comes to a workspace, I need a serene and harmonious environment—fragrant candles imparting a soft glow, permeating the room with calming scents—to set a soothing backdrop for writing, including rituals that eliminate stress and deadline pressures. I enjoy also surrounding myself with gifts from friends, as each item is a sweet reminder of the gracious people who opened up their homes for photo shoots.
In designing my studio, I wanted to keep the laid-back mood going and tie the studio décor to the house and courtyard but without the distraction of colors and clutter.
It was important to maintain the open feel of the 450 square foot room while also giving it a fresh look. My plan was to enhance the space with a palette that would make it appear larger. White was the obvious choice, but to attain the look I had in mind, a contrast had to be a part of the scheme. Painting the floor black was the answer. The opposing qualities of the colors used maintain a consistent visual path, while textures and patterns produce a smooth and airy union from the work area to the relaxing living room-like space, which is conducive to meditation and rest, as promoted within the nook.
Not only is my creative nest a mere few steps away from my house, but getting to it means pausing in the courtyard. When a break is needed, I can step out and truly “smell the roses” and other fragrant blooms, listen to the gentle gurgling of the fountain and the melodious peeling of wind chimes. This is where I have my first cup of coffee of the day and my evening glass of wine while taking in the setting’s calm beauty.
Whether styling interiors for magazines or creating theatrical-like sets for books, my work has always been about being in the moment.
I may not have been conscious of it at the time, but it has become very clear to me now that I have spent several decades being mindful. In fact, this is true of everything I do including my love of animals, which is where my heart truly belongs. Animals—all animals—have always been my passion. We simply gravitate to one another, and we bond.
Animals are known to have a healing effect in many of our lives. The human-animal bond is a mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship that is influenced by behaviors considered essential to the health and wellness of both. A cat purring with contentment is one of the most soothing and zen-inducing sounds. A dog’s enthusiastic welcome makes us forget the day’s tribulations.
Like many, I have given to shelters and rescue organizations over the years, as well as, adopted a number of cats. I love dogs, but my job involves a lot of traveling and that had made it difficult to care for a dog. As the years went by, I had a constant and pressing need to do more, particularly to truly stand up for a cause I am passionate about, and to that effect, do something meaningful to help shelters and rescuers. To that end I produced and published Rescue Me: Love Stories of Humans and the Animals they Saved. My goal was, and still is, to contribute by raising money and sharing it between those who selflessly give so much, as well as, the many helpless and voiceless animals. Taking on this project by myself was financially scary, but I simply had to listen and follow my heart. This book has not only met with great success, but by far, has been the most rewarding work I have ever done. It has taken me on my true path—one that is forever mindful of what compassion, loyalty, kindness, integrity, love and a purity of purpose can achieve.
Liberate us from our mental chatter and by their very presence, anchor us to the present.