The Blog

Decor, Home Build, Lifestyle

Home Build – Great Room Inspiration

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If you have been hanging around my content for a while than you know that we are in the process of building a home.  100% a dream that we have had since we met when we were 17, and in October an opportunity presented itself that we could not pass up.

Home Build

In the meantime, we are living in an apartment downtown and enjoying city living a little bit longer before we pack up and head for the burbs (genuinely didn’t think I would make that decision, but life happens).

When I poll my Instagram followers about what content they enjoy the most, our home process has always been at the top of the list, whether it is our previous renovation or the building process of this home.

Today I am sharing my inspiration, and sourcing a few of the things that we have already picked for our great room design and decor.

I am by no means an interior designer, but with a graphic design degree, experience with three houses, and lots of research, we are turning this new build into a cozy home!


I have been pinning images for a potential home build since the first month I got pinterest back in 2011 and what I always came back to was two story great rooms with huge windows and tons of natural light. I mean, I am a photographer so OBVIOUSLY. When we were on the hunt for a potential builder and I landed on our builders website, the first thing that I noticed was a home with big old windows and it was the reason that I decided to contact them.

Fast forward to today, our house is in the drywall stage and my dreamy two story great room is shining in all her glory. 

I went back and forth between upgrading to all rectangular windows and landed on the rounded top windows.  I LOVE the look of completely geometric windows, however I wanted to keep our house more soft and cozy, and more organic shapes on the top of the windows felt right.


Our builder includes LVP (luxury vinyl plank) flooring, like many do for its durability, but I am a lover of wood flooring.  While I knew that true hardwood was not going to be in budget for us, I could swing engineered oak.  

Mohawk Beachside Oak

From day one the flooring appointment is what I was most excited about.  Having gone through this process, there is one thing that I would recommend: don’t pick something just because it is trendy.  If you love something trendy to your core, hell yes, go for it.  But know that trends are just that.  

We landed on Mohawk’s Beachwood Oak from their coastal bliss collection.  It is a neutral oak in a 7” plank and will allow us to pull warm or cool tones in our decor, and it is light enough to bounce light from those big beautiful windows. 


I love an open concept. My husband and I both hate feeling claustrophobic or cramped (hiiii, apartment living with two kids is fun), so open concept was the way to go. I am genuinely excited to entertain in this space.

Original floorplan (we have added some windows)

That being said, I wanted to make sure that we had some separation between the spaces with our furniture and decor selections. 

We chose to add a fireplace to our great room and a big, deep sectional from Arhaus. A console table behind the sofa and lounge layout over a warm area rug will separate the great room space from the kitchen.

We are also installing a wood beam between the kitchen and great room to visually separate the space. 


We upgraded to iron spindles for our staircase and kept it nice and open. I imagine the girls coming out of their rooms in the morning while we drink coffee. I love the idea of decorating this space for Christmas too.


We had the option to stone all the way up to the ceiling, but I knew that eventually I would tire of the stone, and so I opted for half stone. I really wanted a floating mantle and decided to have our builder install the stone, and leave the mantle to us. In our previous home we purchased a floating mantle on Wayfair and genuinely loved it, so we are going that route again.  

For the stone itself we chose a PA ledge stone that was native to this area. Like the floor, I wanted something that would work with both warm and cool tones. We went with a less refined version for the foundation of the house and more refined version for the fireplace with the goal of unifying the interior and exterior.  


We are still in the process of shaking out some of our decor items, but I have sourced some of my initial thoughts here for you guys.

Great room concept

The entire house is going to be kind of a “Scandinavian farmhouse” vibe. Again, our goal was to keep things wide open and light and airy, while keeping it cozy and “hygge” (my moms jam).  Adding character to a new build isn’t always easy on a budget, but I have made it a part time job to get there. We also are not made of money, so investing in pieces that I really like and saving on other pieces is essential and totally fun to do.

Livingroom Drawing
Great Room layout by Matt at Arhaus Shadyside

Great Room Links:

The Kipton Sectional – Arhaus 

Roze Rug – LuLu and Georgia or  Rosemarie Rug – Chris Loves Julia x Loloi 

Console Table – Custom Build BUT Arhaus carries something similar

Ester Chairs – Target (we have this chair now and it is oddly comfortable)

Floating Oak Mantle – Wayfair 

Chandelier – Ours is from Cardello Lighting, but this Pottery Barn fixture is similar.

Flooring – Mohawk – Beachwood Oak 

Photography, Photography Tips

5 Ways To Improve Your iPhone Photos

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You’re on vacation, you need the picture perfect location and hand the phone over to your partner to grab a photo of you and the kids, or your well thought out outfit.  You’re swept away in the moment.  You take your phone back and…what the?  Seriously?  “Thanks hun, thats great” *delete*.

5 iPhone Photography Tips

Whether you are handing your phone off to someone else, or taking photos of products or your family, here are some quick pointers to help you improve your iPhone photography, leaving you with images that you can actually use.

  1. Light Over Location

If I had a dollar for every time that someone suggested a “perfect location” with horrific lighting as a professional photographer, I honestly would not be writing this post (love you, but…I would be very wealthy).  The reality is that sometimes that beautiful flower garden or cool mural is being pounded with uneven, harsh lighting.  

Practice shooting photos in areas with soft, even lighting.  This typically means NOT at noon with the sun blinding you. It often means finding a way to put the sun behind your head.

If you are indoors, it means facing a window and turning off yellow overhead lighting.

Practice. Practice. Practice.

  1. Even Lighting

    You do not want your subject to be riddled with harsh shadows and highlights. Again, practice makes perfect.  Shooting photos in the shade is, in general, far more flattering than in direct sun. 
  2. Prospective

    Rule #1 when shooting humans: in general, looking UP is less flattering that shooting at eye level or down.  Set up your self timer and practice photographing yourself at different angles.  You will quickly learn what you find flattering on yourself, and how to request those angles if a spouse or friend is taking your photos, and what to avoid when you take photos of others.
  1. Editing

    Stop using Instagram filters. Full stop.  Download an app like A Color Story, or if you are ready to dive into a more in depth app, try Adobe Lightroom Mobile and find a preset that you like.  You can find my first edition here. 
  2. Export

    Export photos from your editing app in the largest size possible. This will maintain as much of the quality as possible.

The bottom line is that you need to practice when you aren’t in the moment. Try different lighting scenarios, locations, angles, and edits until it clicks for you. As a self taught photographer of 14 years, I can promise you that practice is how you learn.

Favorites at No.14

Brands, Photography

This Year at No.14 | Pittsburgh Brand Photographer

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In 2020 I started working as the photographer for my favorite local boutique, No.14 here in Pittsburgh. It was honestly a dream come true when Bri contacted me and asked if I would be interested.

Favorites at No.14

Ever since I have spent nearly every single Monday photographing their new arrivals. We have built such a fun workflow and we are constantly evolving our style and process. 
Here are a few of my favorite recent shots.  Go shop new arrivals at No.14, released every Tuesday at 9am!

Why You Need To Automate Your Business

Business Tips

Why You Need To Automate Your Business | BUSINESS TIPS

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Spoiler alert: why manually do something in your business or job that you can automate? 

Seriously.  There is a wealth of possibility to automate so many obnoxious tasks between platforms and apps today that we have no excuse to be manually doing them, taking up time and energy that could be spent enjoying life or doing needle moving tasks.

A few of my favorite automations that you may not have considered:

  1. Auto pay your employees or contractors.  I use Quickbooks and when I enter a new contractor or employee it automatically sends them a request to input their W9 or W2 information.   I can then set up their payment or salary information and have it run payroll automatically.  No paper forms, no remembering to submit bi-weekly.
  2. Auto response to inquiries.  If you are running a service based business and you are not utilizing a CRM, you need to be.  Dubsado allows me to have automatic email responses to inquiries via my inquiry form based on what someone is looking for.  It saves time and helps to weed out potential customers who may not be looking at my price point.
  3. Email list welcome sequences. When someone gets on your email list, is it crickets or are you welcoming them and introducing them to your brand? Most email list software will allow you to setup workflows, and FloDesk truly kills it at this. When someone gets on our email list, they detonate a new workflow that sends them specific emails at different time increments. I can also send a different workflow depending on what form they used to opt-in (for example, a more business mentorship related sequence or photography).

The possibilities are honestly endless, especially when you automate using Zapier. 

Questions? I offer VIP days to help you establish systems and processes in your business, and this often includes automations!