Today I’ve got another edition of my Behind The Blog series.  This time around I talking with my friend and fellow-designer, Erika Ward of Erika Ward Interiors and BluLabelBungalow blog.

Erika Ward

I’ve been a big fan of Erika and her design work for years and have been honored to contribute articles to her successful blog, on several occasions.

Erika’s career as a designer started after years of working for a design-build firm and she eventually made the leap and started building her independent design business, Erika Ward Interiors.

In addition to her blossoming design career which includes features in national publications and brand partnerships, Erika is a wife and mother to 5 adorable kids. I’m continually in awe of how she does it all.

I posed few questions to Erika to learn more about her design philosophy, where here inspiration comes from and how she does it all.


How did you get into the interior design profession and when did you start Erika Ward Interiors?

I began my career as an accountant managing multi-million dollar construction budgets for an internationally known design-build firm. In 2006, while still working in a corporate setting, I bravely started Erika Ward Interiors to satisfy my creative side and brought my business acumen and professionalism to the residential market. After three years of performing this balancing act I decided to fully commit to building Erika Ward Interiors and never looked back.

Erika Ward Interiors3

  What do you love most about being an interior designer?

I love the newness of each project and working closely with individuals. Getting to know them and their family intimately helps me feel like we have a more authentic relationship.

Erika Ward Interiors2

 We’d love to learn more about your design philosophy so tell us what design elements you think every home needs?

Every home needs a combination of something old and something new otherwise each room feels like a furniture showroom. That’s not exactly the look I want to bring. While I certainly want the room to feel polished, it also has to feel livable and approachable.

Erika Ward Interiors6

Where do you find your inspiration?

I find inspiration in client’s stories (career, travel, family history etc) and how they live in their home. I’m also fascinated with learning about different cultures. It’s important to me that we open our minds and even “try on” a few of their customs. I bring more depth and richness into our own lives.

Erika Ward Interiors7

 How would you describe your personal design style?

The foundation of my personal style is very traditional. I love classic silhouettes paired with bright color or pattern on upholstery. Mix this with clean lines and a few organic elements like teak, woven textures, or weathered wood and I’m sold.

Erika Ward Interiors5

 What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received?

My late grandparents were incredibly business savvy. I admire them both for establishing themselves during a time where it was much more difficult for African-Americans. They always stressed the economic importance of time and money, I’ve written about this on my own blog, and they always encouraged me to work as I’m working for Christ himself and not men.

Erika Ward Interiors4

In addition to Erika Ward Interiors, you also have a popular design blog, BluLabelBungalow.  Tell us how you came up with that name and what readers can expect from your blog post.

I came up with the name after purchasing our first house, a Cape Cod style bungalow in 2005. In the beginning I wrote about the intersection of fashion and interior design and was obsessed with Ralph Lauren’s Blue Label collection. I pretty much dropped the e, combined the two words and added bungalow.

The blog has evolved since then to show before and after makeovers from my client projects, trend reports, decorating advice, travel features, and most recently started a series called “Devotions for the Decorator.”

Erika Ward Interiors

You’re a mom of 5, a wife and a business owner—can you share 3 pieces of advice for other working moms out there?


Create a village of people who love your family and support your journey. We have caregivers who love our children so much which gives my husband and I a piece of mind. We can work without the worry.

Make time for self-care. I’ve recently lost 55lbs in an effort to preserve my health and no longer take it for granted. The physical transformation also came with great, unexpected mental and emotional benefits too. I’m not only healthier but I’m certain it has made me an even better wife and mother.

Pray everyday, several times a day. This helps you stay connected to your purpose, stay grateful, remain humble, and provides you with the strength you need to handle life’s toughest issues.

Erika Ward Interiors11

 If you could lunch with any famous woman, who would it be and what burning question would you want to ask them?

I’d love to have lunch with Ivanka Trump. I admire the balance she strikes between career and motherhood as well as her presence as a wife. On a superficial level, she’s always very poised, polished, and modestly dressed.

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 What 5 thing you can’t you live without?

My faith in Jesus Christ

My husband

My five children

Quiet Time

Travel / Exploration

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What’s your favorite way to unwind?  

Sitting in a quiet room with a hot cup of something.

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 I always like to throw a quirky question into the mix so tell us about your favorite things…

Favorite Book: Currently reading (again) the Five Love Languages

  Favorite Movie: Steel Magnolias

    Favorite Food: Mexican Cuisine

    Favorite Store:  Amazon Prime

Favorite Color: Blue


Thank you Erika for sharing a little bit about your life and style with all of us!

View more of Erika’s design work here , follow her blog here and join her on Instagram here.

And join Erika and I at the Atlanta Tastemaker Summit next month for a day of design inspiration and  learning.

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Sweet & Southern Calzone2 (2)

One of the best things about summer is all the sweet fruit that is in season.  I love it all but peaches, nectarines and blackberries are three of my favorite summer fruits.

After signing up for the Blog Life University Conference, I learned about the Sweet & Southern Dessert Recipe Contest sponsored by Dixie Crystals (more details on how you can enter below). I decided to try my hand at creating a unique dessert recipe using my favorite summer fruits and entering it into the contest.  Now folks, I don’t cook a lot and definitely don’t bake much so any  recipe I created had to be super easy and not require a lot of ingredients.

Dixie Crystals Sweet and Southern Dessert Contest

After some pondering, I decided to go totally southern and combine biscuits and my favorite summer fruits and created a Sweet & Summer Fruit Calzone recipe.

Fruit Calzone

Yum!  If I must say so myself, my little dessert recipe turned out great and is a perfect treat during summer.


Here’s what you’ll need to make this recipe



1  16 oz. can of large  Pillsbury Grands Flaky Biscuits  (I told you this was an easy recipe)

2  Fresh Peaches (anyone else smell their peaches to find the best ones?)

2  Fresh Nectarines  (firm but not hard is best)

1 cup fresh blackberries, sliced

1/2 c Dixie Crystals brown sugar

1 egg white

2 to 3 tbsp. of Dixie Crystals granulated sugar

Sweet & Southern Calzone

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, combine peaches, nectarines, blackberries and brown sugar
  2. Using a rolling pin, roll each biscuit to a 6-7 inch circle. Scoop fruit and brown sugar mixture on one side of a flattened biscuit.   *cute rolling pin from Anthropologie not required but helpful
  3. Fold each biscuit over and using a fork seal the edges (like the pros do on The Chew)
  4. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and place fruit calzones approx. 1/2″ apart
  5. Lightly wisk egg white and coat the top of each calzone
  6. Generously sprinkle on granulated sugar to coat the surface
  7. Bake approx. 20 minutes or until golden brown
  8. Enjoy (alone or with a scoop of your favorite ice cream)!

Sweet & Southern Calzone2

So do you want to know how you can get in on the contest fun and win a ticket to Blog Life University?

All you have to do is create a unique recipe around this year’s theme of Sweet and Southern Dessert. The only rule is to create a unique recipe that uses at least 1 tablespoon of sugar.  Don’t delay because the contest ends at midnight 7/10/16.  All winners will be secretly notified by 7/19/16 so don’t wait to get your conference ticket.  The official Grand Prize winner will be announced during the Dixie Crystal’s Sweet Spa Reception Friday night. Full contest rules can be found here.



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I hope everyone had a great 4th.  Today I’m sharing my latest design guide focusing on paint finishes.

When it comes to painting any room in your home, picking a paint color is just half the battle.  The bigger challenge for many people is what paint finish to use.

The first consideration when contemplating finishes is how the room will be used by you and your family.  And then deciding what type of look you want the room to have.

Just like design trends, paint finishes are also susceptible to trends. High gloss finishes are a popular look right now but classic finishes like satin and eggshell remain the most widely used paint finish in home décor.

Here’s what you need to know to pick the right finishes for your home.

Design Guide To Selecting The Right Paint Finish


Flat & Matte Finish

Flat paint finishes are available only in latex paint have a low-sheen, non-reflective surface which is great for low traffic areas, ceiling and some interior walls.  This finish will provide the lowest level of sheen and is ideal for rooms that don’t require frequent washing or cleaning.  Use flat finishes on older wall surfaces that may have minor flaws because the finish will not bring attention to those areas.  If you ever have to wash or scrub a flat paint finish, you’ll probably remove some of the paint requiring a paint touch-up.

Flat and matte finishes are an ideal choice for the dining room, living room, powder room, guest bedroom and closets.

Flat Paint Finish--Postcards From Paris

Flat Paint Finish--Houseupdated

Flat--Home Bunch

the image above uses a flat fnish on the walls and satin trim


Satin and Eggshell Finish

The velvety, pearl-like appearance of  satin and eggshell finishes are easier to maintain than a flat finish and perfect for high-traffic are like hallways, living rooms and bathrooms. A satin and eggshell finish is your best choice fo kitchen and bathrooms where there is some exposure to moisture. It is easy to clean a painted surface with a satin finish without fear of removing paint and destroying the wall surface.

 Paint Finish-- Satin--John K. Anderson Design

Paint Finish--Eggshell-Simply Grove

Paint FInish Eggshell--Benjamin Moore

Paint FInish--Eggshell2--Benjamin Moore

Semi-Gloss Finish

A semi-gloss paint finish is sleek and radiant along with being highly durable, easy to wash and scrubbable.  Semi-gloss finishes are ideal for high-moisture areas, trim, windows, woodwork and cabinetry.  This is the paint finish I recommend for built-in bookcase wall units as well.

Paint Finish--Semi-gloss2

Paint Finish--Semi Gloss--Color World Housepainting

Gloss Finish

Paint Finish--High Gloss--Remodelaholic

Paint FInish--High Gloss--Huffington Post

Paint Finish--High Gloss--Carla Aston

Paint Finish--High Gloss--My Domaine


A few other things to keep in mind when selecting paint for your home:

  • always get a mildew-resistant paint formula to use in bathrooms and laundry rooms
  • the higher the sheen, the darker and more intense the color will be
  • high-gloss finishes reflect light and make imperfections more noticeable
  • if you desire a lacquered look, go with a high-gloss finish or buy paint specifically formulated with a lacquered finish
  • tone-on-tone striped wall designs are achieved by alternating between gloss and flat finishes
  • most finishes are available in latex and oil-based paints but latex is easier to apply than oil-based
  • buy supplies that are made to work with the finish you select.  Oil-based and gloss finishes typically require specific brushes, rollers and tools

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 image source:
flat and matte–Postcards from Paris
satin–John K. Anderson Design, Simply Grove, Benjamin Moore, Benjamin Moore
semi-gloss–Benjamin Moore, World House Painting
gloss–Remodelholic, Huffington Post, Carla Aston, Domaine Home


Have you ever been to a blog conference? 

One of the things I set out to do when I started blogging 5 years ago was to learn as much as I could about the blogging.  Since starting my blog, I’ve attended two conferences where I’ve learned a lot about the business of blogging and had the opportunity to connect with brands.  I’ve also made some great connections and friendships with other bloggers.–a bonus to attending a blog conference.

Later this month, I’ll be attending my third blog conference, Blog Life University here in Atlanta.  Unlike the other conferences I’ve attended, this one aims to bring together bloggers from all niches for 2 days of networking, connecting and learning.


For someone who wants to continue to build and develop their blog this conference offers a great line-up of classes led by some of the country’s top bloggers.

Sessions Include:

Building a Passive Income With Ebooks

Monetizing Your Blog Today

Anatomy of a Viral Post

Pitching Sponsored Post & Getting Them

Behind the Scenes of Sponsored Posts–A Brand Perspective

Growing a Passive Income with Affiliate Marketing

To view the full conference agenda, visit Blog Life University.


In addition to the conference sessions, there will be time to network with brands during the Brand Expo and an extended Q & A session with the speakers.


Tickets for Blog Life University are on sale now and I’m happy to announce that I was selected to be a conference ambassador. As an ambassador, I can offer a discount of $100 off your conference registration.  To take advantage of this offer, follow this link and use the code BLU16.  Speaker-button

I’m looking forward to attending and learning even more about the business of blogging.  If you’re a blogger or have been thinking about starting a blog, this conference is definitely one you don’t want to miss. #bloglifeuniversity

Blog Life University–Where Blogging Leads to Success

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Hello July!

This month my inspiration notebook is all about Love, Life, Happiness and the little things in life…

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♥ July Inspiration Notebook ♥

July 2016 Inspiration Notebook.001.jpeg.001


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Favorites Of The Week

Hooray for long weekends!  We’re off visiting family and out to-do list includes lots of R & R, s’mores and maybe even and outdoor movie.

Enjoy your weekend friends and my round-up of favorites from the week.



Such a cute and clever way to use cutting boards as part of a tablescape.


There are a lot of homes that take my breath away but this one is truly my dream house. 

Home Tourn

 design by Establish Design, photos by Joshua Caldwell



I’ve been on the hunt for an easy no-bake summer dessert recipe and this Key Lime Cheesecake is it.

No Bake Key Lime Cheescake

One of the most popular boards on my Pinterest page is dedicated to creative gift wrap ideas. One of my favorite ideas is using vintage jewelry to adorn a gift.  So simple, yet so stunning.

gift wrap



Even though I’m way past my teen years, I love shopping Pottery Barn Teen for unique home decor and gift items.  I spotted this gorgeous bamboo wall shelf the other day and couldn’t believe the price.  This would look amazing hanging in a bathroom.


Have you ever googled ‘cute beach towels’?  I did and came up with some really, really cute finds.  This personalized greek key design is just one of my faves from Haymarket Designs.


These Fabric Wrapped Terracotta Vases are great for colorful summer flower arrangements.


If you’re looking to do some shopping this weekend, check out these great sales.

Add’l 30% off sale items at Anthropologie

Up to 70% off at Wayfair on all product categories

ASOS has become one of my favorite online shops and this weekend you can save up to 50% off

20% off at Rifle Paper Co.  It’s a great time to stock up on their beautiful gift wrap

40% off your purchase (including sale items) at the Gap

Everything at Old Navy is on sale–up to 60% off

Extra 50% off at Banana Republic

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The Atlanta Gift and Home Furnishings market is just a few weeks away and that always signals new design books in my mind.  During market, I always make it point to  visit my favorite book publishers to see the new releases in persona.  Here are just a few of the new titles I can’t wait to get a look at.



Beautiful by Mark D. Sikes

The first book from interior designer Mark D. Sikes is a celebration of American style today, showcasing chic and accessible ideas for every home.  Release date Sept. 20th.

Design Book


Domino–Your Guide To A Stylish Home

Your Guide to a Stylish Home provides a trusted filter, using the friendly and authoritative voice of domino to teach readers about attainable, stylish design and how to make it uniquely your own. Release date Nov. 15th

Domino Your Guide To a Stylish Home--Design Book


Life Unstyled 

Life Unstyled is about taking inspiration from real homes that are beautiful, creative and inspiring but at the same time a little rough around the edges, with signs of everyday life evident throughout.  Release date Sept. 8th

Design Book


Vern Yip Design Wise

Vern introduces his “design by the numbers” approach, revealing the optimal measurements that are integral to making a room feel “right.  Whether it’s a laid-back Florida cottage, a small Manhattan apartment, or a traditional family home in Atlanta, Vern’s key design principles will make any house a true home. Release date Sept. 13th

Design Book


A House by The Sea–Bunny Williams

Her new book invites readers to explore La Colina, Williams’s lovely Caribbean retreat tucked into lush, tropical gardens by the sea. The book explores every facet of the property—from outdoor rooms and garden plantings and design to the delightful, island-living luxury of the villa’s interiors, furnishings, and collections. Releases date Sept. 13th

Design Book


Decorate for a Party

A unique collaboration between international bestselling interiors author Holly Becker of the decor8 blog and Leslie Shewring of acreativemint.com, this book is packed full of ideas for all types of parties, gatherings and events. Release date Sept. 13th

Design Book


Kathryn At Home:  A Guide to Simple Entertaining

In an elegant scrapbook style, she shares her notes and advice on entertaining, particularly outdoors. Join Kathryn and her talented friend Ithaka for a breakfast, lunchtime picnics, a candlelight dinner, afternoon tea, a barbecue, and a wedding―all interlaced with signature Kathryn M. Ireland fabrics. Release date July 19th

Design and Entertaining Book


Christmas At Designers’ Homes Across America

This treasure trove showcases one-of-a-kind holiday ideas from some of the nation’s most talented interior designers, who share not only their aesthetic tastes but also family holiday rituals and favorite Christmas traditions. Release date Sept. 28th

Holiday Decor and Design Book


Southern Spaces For Beautiful Living

From kitchens to living areas to master suites, you’ll find a range of looks that embrace the region’s signature stylings, as well as savvy ideas from experts and homeowners, to make the most of every space in your home. Release date Sept. 8th

Design Book

 Which of the new books will you be adding to your bookshelf?

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You all know I love the whole adult coloring book trend which I talked about here and here.   And that I’m really excited that there are several coloring books coming out that are designed for home decor fans.  Well, just last week I was thrilled to receive a package in the mail from Melissa of The Inspired Room.   Inside the package was an advanced copy of her new home decor coloring book. (thanks Melissa).  #happymail

When I talked about The Inspired Room Coloring Book on the blog before, I had only seen images online and the description on Amazon.  I knew the book was going to be good but it is even better in person.

Unlike many other coloring books, Melissa designed the pages with images only on one side of the paper which makes the pages ideal for framing.  And each page is perforated so that it can easily be torn out and hung on a bulletin board or used for a creative projects.  The paper is thick which reduces he chance of ink bleeding through so you can use my favorite markers just as easily as pencils to color the images.

I’ve spent several evenings unwinding by coloring in the book and I have to tell you it’s addictive and relaxing.

The Inspired Room Coloring Book1

The image below gave me the opportunity to envision what an emerald green secretary would look like.  I’m hoping to score one at an antique store and paint it green.

The Inspried Room Coloring Book2

Isn’t this page of chair designs fun?

The Inspired Room Coloring Book3

I used one of the pages to play around with a color story I’m working on for a design client.  I pulled one of the fabric swatches we’re considering and created an accessory plan using this accessory page from the coloring book.

The Inspired Room Coloring Book4

The Inspried Room Coloring Book

If you’re looking for a great girlfriend gift under $10.00, this is it.  Although the official release date isn’t until July 1st, you can buy a copy on Amazon today.



image via The Inspired Room


If you want to see more pages from the book, follow the hashtag #TIRcoloringbook on Instagram.

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