Top Ten Design Things I Wish We Could Change

1. Please don’t hang your artwork too high. Even if your husband is 6’4”, you and your guests are not. The center of a picture should be about 5” from the floor. If he won’t agree to this, hang them yourself with a friend when he goes out of town.

2. Dining room chairs should really not be pushed all the way under the table. They should be slightly out from the table so you can see some of the chair seat. I am not sure why this is the way we do it, but it is a design rule probably made up by a fabric manufacturer. At any rate, try pulling them out a bit and see what you think.

3. Please do not overload your sofa with too many pillows. My husband, who hardly notices anything like this has often complained to me that he doesn’t know what to do with all those pillows. Does he throw them on the floor or what? And believe me, he doesn’t notice many design details.

4. Have a place for a guest to put a drink or snack. No one wants to hold onto a plate and drink for an evening. Make sure you have a small table, or cocktail table, or something that is convenient for your friends.

5. Speaking of cocktail/coffee tables, they belong in front of the furniture, not centered in the middle of the room. They serve a purpose and you should be able to reach them easily when you are seated (or as in many homes, you should be able to put your feet up on them). I am not saying this is OK, but let’s face it, that is what happens.

6. Let’s talk lighting. It is so important not to keep you or your guests in the dark, unless of course you are playing some kind of weird game where that is appropriate. Your seating areas should have decent light so you can actually read something. A 3-way bulb is a good solution so you can have ambient light too.

7. If you are using area rugs, be sure that your furniture is an anchor and the rug is not “floating” in the middle of the room. Even if only the front legs are on the rug, this will provide the proper anchor. Of course you want to see your new rug and it is oh so pretty, but just be sure to let the furniture sit on it, if only partially.

8. Any centerpieces, or candles, or anything else you put on your tables need to be short enough so that people can see over them. I am not talking about a fabulous decorative arrangement in your foyer, I mean when you are sitting at a table you should be able to see the person across from you. I am assuming you invited them and you like them and might want to see them. In any other situation, the hell with it.

9. Place your seating so that people can actually talk to each other. It is so awkward to be in someone’s home, on the edge of your chair trying to hear them and relate. For those of you with really large rooms, have two separate seating areas, like one in front of the fireplace or windows. I can’t tell you how many times I have sat and smiled and nodded at people, all the while thinking “I sure hope she didn’t just tell me some horrible news since I can’t hear a word she is saying.”

10. I wish the furniture manufacturers would cease and desist making loveseats. They are too expensive and believe me, the second seat on the loveseat is the LAST place anyone but a child would sit. A comfortable chair with an ottoman is so much better. You all know that Seinfeld episode with the “close talker”. I am sure they must have been sitting on a loveseat at some point.


Real Life Recipe Stories Part II

Over the years, I tried to teach my children to cook and my son enjoyed it more than my daughter. I would have him make dessert every Sunday, his choice, and he did like doing that. When I tried to get him to make something like chicken breasts, he freaked out at the look of raw poultry. I know a lot of adults who won’t get near a raw turkey, let alone sticktheir hands into it to pull out who knows what – so this didn’t surprise me.

My daughter was a different story. She had absolutely no interest in cooking, other than making the standard (ugh!) macaroni and cheese from the box, but she did like to make waffles on Saturday mornings for her sleepover friends. It wasn’t until she got to college and as a senior moved into a house with a gang of other girls that she suddenly became interested. It really was the first time she had to feed herself and she knew she liked good food. I began to send her my best recipes. She was very interested in art so I sent the recipes on notecards with famous paintings, which she loved and still has in a little box in her kitchen. I would write out the recipe and then in that space where you would generally say “Recipe from the kitchen of” I would always write a silly word followed by Becky or Mom as in "Charming Becky" or "Marvelous Mommy" or "Delectable Becky B". At the end of the recipe I would make a comment - for instance “this recipe serves 4 unless Dad is home and then it only serves 2”. Or on the lasagna recipe card I put, “this recipe is so Italian, it makes me want to sing Mama Mia.” You get the picture. I figure long after I am gone, she will have these to chuckle over. Happy Eating!



Designer Mushrooms

So in some circles I am considered the “appetizer queen.” When we moved from Seattle our friends hosted a going-away gathering and presented me with a lovely, tacky tiara which I have worn on every Halloween since. Here are two of my favorite stuffed mushroom recipes:

Parmesan Mushrooms

½ lb. large (but not so big you have to cut them to eat them) white mushrooms
½ c. butter
½ c. minced onions
½ c. bread crumbs (these can be fresh or from that nice convenient can)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. fresh parsley or ½ half tsp. dried
¼ tsp. oregano
¼ c. parmesan cheese*

Clean mushrooms and removes stems. Sautee caps in a few tablespoons of butter so they are not so hard. I do this until they turn lightly brown. Drain. Melt butter in medium frying pan. Chop stems and add to butter along with all ingredients except the cheese and bread crumbs. Cook until stems are soft and garlic and onion are nicely tender. Add cheese and crumbs. Try not to eat too much of the mixture before you get it to the mushrooms. Fill drained caps solidly and put in baking pan and broil until brown and a bit bubbly (about 5 minutes in a pre-heated broiler). Of course, watch carefully as I have never had a broiler that didn’t lose control once in awhile. If you do have any stuffing left, you can use it to stuff a tomato. Enjoy!

*Becky Knows Everything: Use Kraft parmesan cheese out of the green canister - it really works best.

Bacon/Herb Mushrooms

These are very simple stuffed mushrooms but extremely delicious.

1 container of herb/garlic cheese spread (you know like Alouette or one like that)
6 slices of bacon, fried, drained and chopped into small pieces*
2 tsp. minced fresh parsley
1 lb. large white mushrooms (not too large) stems removed

Sautee mushroom caps in a few tablespoons of butter until golden and softened. Drain. Combine cheese, parsley and bacon pieces. Stuff mushrooms. Broil for about 5 minutes until bubbly and heated through. If you broiler makes you nervous, these can be baked at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, but check on them sooner. Let cool a moment before serving.

*Becky Knows Everything: If you don’t want to fry the bacon and clean that nasty pan, the bacon can be put in the microwave on a plate covered in paper towels. Ordinarily I don’t like this method since the bacon gets so hard but for this recipe, since you are chopping it up anyway, it is fine.


Staple It!

Hi! The other day we talked about helping my mom update her living/dining rooms. We have moved from the wacky dining room wall covering onto the story of the windows. Our 80 plus year old house never really had proper window treatments – unless you call white café curtains on rings hung on windows WAY too tall for them a style. I would call it a “look” and not such a good one. So, I sent Mom some pictures of different ideas and she fell in love with a draped look that used 10 continuous yards of fabric and was pulled and tucked into brackets at each end and in the center. Remember, this was 18 years ago, when that whole drapey, puddling thing was happening. She said it reminded her of a mini canopy.

Somehow I knew I would regret even showing her the picture but I must have known on some level she would love it because after all, Becky Knows Everything. Not only did she insist on a floral fabric that matched the sofa, she wanted me to make them for her –you know, as in with lining and measuring and a sewing machine. Since it was a pretty simple project I began in earnest. I quickly found out that 10 running yards is a TON of fabric for a sewing project that was taking place on my round kitchen table. It was straight sewing but the fabric kept getting away from me and then the lining puckered and you know, it just wasn’t going well.

I finally finished and with my daughter in tow, I went north again to Mom’s. You see, I knew I would need assistance to fan fold the fabric so it would drape properly. HA! Try fan folding 10 yards of lined fabric – it extended from the living room, through the dining room, and almost out to the kitchen. Every time we thought we had it figured out the fabric would unfold out of control, spilling everywhere. Eventually, by enlisting help from everyone possible and pinning the folds, we hung it on the brackets. Of course one immediately fell down and if you have ever done your own drapery projects, you know this always happens. I ended up running the fabric through the bracket, “poufing it” and stapling it to the wall. I did the stapling while Mom was in the kitchen and couldn’t see me. I then had to staple the center and other side to make it look as even as possible. To this day, they are still stapled to the wall and while I know this means they have never been taken down and cleaned, I choose to ignore that. Go ahead and have a great day. Staple something!

*Becky Knows Everything: It's best to use a staple gun for the project described above!


Real Life Recipe Stories

I grew up in a family of people who love to eat and love to cook. (At least the women cook, our men mostly just eat). My mom worked full-time and from the age of 10 on I was responsible for getting the family dinner on the table. As a matter of fact, one of my best memories growing up was walking home from school every day with my best friend in the world, Debbie, and while I set the table, fried up pork chops, or made tuna salad and nasty fish sticks (OK, this was on Fridays and we were Catholic), she would start our homework. Debbie’s grandma lived with them so she never had to cook a thing, but I really didn’t mind.

I cooked for so many years, and then I went off to college and didn’t do much but pour beer into coke cans and take them to class. After graduation I did what so many people in 1973 did – got married. Part of being a newlywed was that I got to entertain my college and work friends and I became quite experienced in making hor d’oeuvres. I would pull out any good-sounding recipe from any source I could and on my lunch hour I would walk to the library and copy recipes from their books. I have quite the collection and will share a few recipes in upcoming blogs.

We moved a few times, entertained a lot of corporate clients from my husband’s business (or at least I always had the drinks and snacks at my house before we went out to dinner), and I cooked for my family. On holidays, I always made the whole thing, and we shared it with many different people over the years if we could not get home. Some of our best evenings were spent after a big dinner playing Trivial Pursuit with our friends who just happened to be a bit drunk. Of course there is always that “smart” one who remembers everything and doesn’t drink and lives to win. You know who you are, but I am happy you are in my life anyway.


Designing for Mom

Today’s topic is the problems/benefits of working with family members on interior design projects. Apparently, like everything else you have to take the good with the bad. Let’s start with my mom. She is an 84 year old charmer living in our family home where she raised 5 kids with one bathroom.

Mom (Baba to my kids)

Did you see that recent movie, Gran Torino with Clint Eastwood? Two of my three brothers called to tell me he was living in Mom’s house. So get this picture in your mind-a home 80 some years old, no family room, small kitchen, 4 tiny bedrooms upstairs, one bathroom and a really nasty shower stall in the basement. A word to the wise – she recently updated the shower but for years my advice was “don’t look up.” Any creepy slimy thing could have been living there.

Eighteen years ago, when Mom began to make noise about updating her living room and dining room I knew I could help her make some good choices – after all its what I do. I lived about 4 hours from Mom at the time and I gathered my best samples for her and drove north. I brought fabrics to reupholster chairs, fabrics for window treatments, and wallcovering samples for the dining room. I figured we would look locally for a replacement for the green shag carpeting. Becky sure didn’t know everything about this project.

Apparently the green shag was to stay since it only had a few threadbare areas we could easily cover with mis-matched throw rugs, so we moved onto the dining room wallcovering. I made the error of bringing along entire books of wallcovering with pages tagged with my ideas. BIG MISTAKE. Mom couldn’t resist looking at every page, relishing each paper until she settled on one that had the right colors but the wrong scale for the room. Our dining room is very large and she insisted on a round rose pattern that I figured would repeat itself a zillion times in the room. All the talking in the world wouldn’t convince her to reconsider. (To her credit it is still hanging 18 years later and she still likes it and isn’t that what it is all about?)

Tomorrow we will cover the living room draperies, 10 yards of lined draped fabric in one piece. What was I thinking?


What's in a Name?

Welcome to Becky Knows Everything’s first official blog posting. Wow, so many things I think I know everything about! Let’s start with the naming of my website. We had so much funny input from friends and family and total strangers. We had a great list of charming names, but as we tried to register them they seemed to all be taken. We tried out Beckystyle, BeckyB, Beckylovescake, Beckysbrightidea, Beckylovesbernie (I don’t really know anyone named Bernie but I did like that TV show from long ago). And by the way, some of these weren’t already taken – they were just bad.

My daughter’s original idea was to name the site Beckyknowseverything and while I chuckled at the notion the first time I heard it, it really grew on me, since frankly, I do think I know a lot about certain things. Like for instance, whenever I see a store or restaurant open and then fail months later, I always say – “Why didn’t they just ask me?” I would have told them it was a poor location or the community wouldn’t support them. I feel I have a real handle on what works. We also could have named the site www.beckyisneverwrong.com since I have convinced myself and many others I know what’s what. For sure, my family wouldn’t agree that I am never wrong but I feel it’s the confidence that works. I find knowing everything or acting like you do is really reassuring to people, especially my interior design clients who trust me with their personal spaces and their wallets. Sometimes people hire you just SO you will tell them what to do. I love those types.

I am not so sure how to end today’s entry but here goes – Becky doesn’t know everything but she will absolutely tell you her opinion (generally in a nice way) and isn’t that a good thing? Talk to you tomorrow.



Welcome to Becky Knows Everything. Please check back soon for new entries on interior design, entertaining, cooking, family advice, and more.