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Ohara Davies-Gaetano of Bliss Design

I always love working with different designers for the first time, especially when I feel they are talented, innovative, and fun!! Ohara Davies-Gaetano of Bliss Design in Corona Del Mar, California, has been one of those designers to work with. She is not only the Head of Design for the entire Bliss Enterprise, consisting of  5 retail stores, a thriving design firm, and a wholesale furniture business, but this 30 something beauty has a fascinating story and a beautiful retail store, both of which I wanted to share with you all!!

Of course, how could I not love the store with this gorgeous hand-painted floor which, by the way, her artist father painted for her!  Ohara originally dreamed of being a food writer and obtained her college degree in anthropology of food - What???  After graduating and following her then boyfriend, now fiance, Matt, to Atlanta, she got a job helping a design store bring in new products and make the space look pretty.

And PRETTY she did!! A customer, impressed with the store’s transformation, asked for help designing her house. The family had just moved to Atlanta from Europe, and even though Ohara was not a licensed designer, she ended up helping them with their entire home. “We took our time, I would go home at night and study options, and in the end, the house turned out amazing!”

Since that first project, at age 21, Ohara has gone on to help create a design empire over the past 13 years. There are two Bliss Home and Design stores in California, three sister stores in Dallas, a wholesale company called Bliss Studio, and her own firm, Bliss Design. It’s amazing to me that she has time for it all! You’d never know she was juggling so much from her big smile in this picture. And she always has a big smile!!!

Her daily focus is on her design firm, Bliss Design. Ohara and her 8-person design team work tirelessly to translate their clients’ lifestyles into the design of their homes. “Each project that I design needs to be unique to the client, becoming essentially a portrait of those who live in the home.”

While Ohara loves the challenge of creating spaces in entirely different, varied styles and seeking new resources, she thinks the most rewarding part of her job comes when the client sees their home after completion.  

“Watching a client come into their home for the very first time, that sense of overwhelming joy, is a moment that is so precious - knowing that I, along with my team, have executed on the design that allows this new backdrop for life and memories to come is a truly wonderful feeling.”

It’s no wonder that Ohara was drawn to design - I think creativity must run in her genes! Her father was an illustrator who became especially well-known for his work in all of the Ayn Rand books, and her brother is an artist in New York who is part of a group that masterminds large, multi-media installations around the world. Her mother, who formerly worked in textile design, now helps Ohara with the Bliss Studio wholesale company.


For Bliss Studio, Ohara conceptualizes the initial designs for a line of products that’s sold nationally and will soon be available abroad as well! I think she’s so talented at designing timeless pieces by blending old-world aesthetics, timeworn patinas and a current point-of-view. The Bliss Studio line is simply wonderful and - lucky me - I am now carrying her furnishings in my new store!! The designs are beautiful, finishes surperb and price point is very affordable!  Just gorgeous!

Her style of layering the old with the new really comes across. I love the way she’s able to take an understanding of modern daily life and root it in classic beauty. In addition to larger furniture, the stores also have pillows, dishes, accessories, gifts and more.

A sucker for antiques, Ohara searches for products that are unique and have an interesting past. Traveling nationally and throughout Europe, she finds compelling and unusual items for the stores. 

Along with her own product line, Ohara tries to showcase one-of-a-kind antique furnishings and accessories. The Dallas stores in the early 2000s. Then in 2005, she moved to California opening the first Bliss Home and Design store in Corona Del Mar.

I think her love of nature has really plays a role in her design aesthetic... I adore all of the geodes and fossil fragments displayed throughout!--oops I got caught in the mirror!!

I was so enchanted with the way the spaces thoughtful arrangements create a sense of soul in their design; each area is very inviting. The wonderful bookcase here is one I am carrying--I almost hope it doesn't sell it looks so beautiful in my space!!

Ohara believes that the furniture, fabric, lighting and other design elements within our homes help to tell a story of time gone and time to come. “It is easy to make a home beautiful, but I strive to create a home that is layered with intrigue and depth." Even down to the smallest details, she creates a sense of character and charm.

Ohara’s constantly evolving the business and expanding into new directions. In addition to attending the New York Gift Show twice a year, she will be doing her first Maison Objet show in the fall. Many retailers across the country, like me, carry her line.  If you are in an area where no stores carry the line, no worries, she just launched an e-commerce site in June... be sure to check it out here!  I am truely honored that Bliss in Ca. is carrying my book!! Thanks, Ohara, for letting me feature your beautiful store and tell your story! I’m so amazed by all the incredible work you do, and it’s been so fun working together!  I can't wait to see how the home we are working on will look when finished!!

I am having my first booksigning in Little Rock Arkansas on October 4th at Cobblestone and Vine. They were the very first out of state store who carried my book! If you are in the area then I would love for you to join us from 2-7 at the 5100 Kavanaugh Blvd  store.  Till next week! xo, Leslie



Definitely Texas!

I feel like saying "Welcome to the Alamo!"  Inspired by the architecture of Mexico and Spain, architect Michael Landrum designed  and Dirk Hoyt of University Towne Building Corp. built this unique home. Warm and inviting, it perfectly captures the feel of walking into an established home of the past.

In keeping with the stone floors, hand carved doors and reclaimed beams, the heavier textured plaster in rich tones was perfect for the space. Troweling it a bit differently we gave this plaster more variation and irregularity to authenticate the era and local this home was modeled from.

Since these homeowners love art, color and a bit of whimsy, this house is furnished with fantastic pieces, handmade furniture and antiquities from Mexico that impart a Texas-style, "hacienda" feeling.

It was just amazing to watch this room being built - Dirk showed his true ability and range on this one!  When I first went to the job, there was a crane in the living room.  The old stone walls and circular staircase were a feat to construct.  Look at all the beautifully intricate, handcarved corbels and balustrades adorning the upstairs landing and round windows that pour in plenty of natural light while adding to the architectural interest of the home.

This age-old fireplace is a lovely balance to the stone.  Look at that mirror - incredible - you should see how it was hung!  Highlighting the homeowners' love for all types of stone and rocks, the house is accessorized with beautiful pieces like this fossil resting on the mantel.

While the kitchen is truly state of the art, it still retains the character of the past with its plastered shelves, handcrafted cabinetry and red-stained concrete counters and surrounds. I love how the custom-made lanterns pull the wonderful teal and red tones from the pottery, the gorgeous handcarved buffet piece, and the colorful counters. A two-story skylight above the kitchen sink provides incredible natural light throughout the day.

Welcome to the media room!  All the doors in this amazing home were made especially for each space with hardware specific to the era! Dirk Hoyt and his team of artisans custom built each door frame to fit these antique doors from Mexico. Each one is truly unique to the space it occupies! A spectacular place to watch a movie or entertain, this room has incredible acoustics thanks in part to the walls and ceilings which have been covered in acoustic lining and fabric.

Going into the den, we painted this tile design and wainscoting over the plaster base to integrate a touch of a Spanish flair while drawing out the colors from the rug and accessories.

The powder bath with this wonderful basin has agave plants painted organically around the room.

To enhance the dramatic feel of the dining room, we had to get the plaster color just right, and this strong hue definitely did the trick! The beautiful, hand-carved round Mexican table, the elegant custom leather  chairs and the fantastic art make this room not only perfect for formal entertaining, but casual as well.

The upstairs hallway is filled with art and interest. It really shows off these amazing reclaimed floors from Custom Floors Unlimited! Rather than multiple pieces being spliced together, each one is just one long wood board - over 40 feet long!!! It's truly one-of-a-kind!

What a retreat!  This bed, custom designed and made for this room, serves as a beautiful focal point.  Notice the handcarved shutters adorning each window and the amazing amethyst piece inside the fireplace!

The bedroom features a wonderful balcony overlooking the backyard. The walls flow right into the ceiling seamlessly, and the warm plaster really complements this type of architecture, creating a carved out feel!

In this spacious master bath, you'll notice the same red-stained concrete as that in the kitchen.  The combination of vibrant art and antique elements like the mirrors and sconces are faboulous!  No detail is left out here -  the incredible door in the background that leads into the closet is art itself. Notice the fantastic hand-carved details on the cabinet doors designed by Michael Landrum and built by local carpenters brought in by Dirk Hoyt - fantastic!

The guest bedrooms are just as charming!  You can really see the shutters here... the metal inserts are a brilliant way to allow some privacy while letting the light in and creating interest. The custom bath door, shutters, beamed ceiling and unique hand-crafted light fixture all specifically designed for this space make this guest suite a spectacular destination that still maintains the same character as the rest of the house.

Just wonderful!!  The towel bars are great too.

The outdoor patio is just as pretty, warm and colorful as the inside.  So much character and sence of history! Who wouldn't want to spend some time out here?!  All the furniture was handmade in Mexico for the space. The rustic reclaimed wood ceiling holds its own against the rugged stone veneer. The fans fade away into the background but really help make the Texas heat more bearable.

It was pouring in Houston when we did this shoot, so I couldn't take the yard, but it is as amazing as the inside!! Thank you so much to Wade Blissard for his beautiful photography!!

Hope you enjoyed seeing this home as much as I loved working on it!! Builder Dirk Hoyt  and architect Michael Landrum did one amazing job executing this homeowner's vision! I hope you have a great week and are enjoying a bit of cool relief!! Thank you to everyone for your wonderful comments-I have been so overworked with the move that I haven't been able to write back or comment on other blogs-- which I love to do!!  I'll catch up!!  Till next Monday!!  xo Leslie

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Kids Rooms - Part Two!!

I will never get tired of painting children's rooms. They're perfect spaces to let your imagination run wild and forget about adhering to the rules.  It's just all about the fun!

Designer Donna Minyard wanted to create a special place for this lovely couple's grandkids with a mural.  With some fabulous photos of the family's trip to Africa for inspiration, we gave the room an animal safari theme!  By featuring animals that were realistic but with kind faces, the mural will last as the kids grow and encourage them to dream well in their new landscape. Incorporating both baby and adult animals makes it a fun space for any age!

This western theme was perfect for the little cowboy of the family!  Painting the star and rope design on the ceiling not only frames the room but it offers the flexibility of moving furniture around as the child grows without interrupting the artwork.

Here is a theme room for an older boy.  Painted when he was in Junior High, this room lasted until he went to college... And yes, he did go to The University of Texas. Maybe the artwork inspired him to study hard and go to his dream school!!!



What little lady wouldn't love her own white picket fence and garden theme?!  This jut out of the sheetrock was a difficult area to decorate around, but by painting a trellis that makes it a part of the design, we made this architectural feature work in the room!

This nighttime sky showcases realistic constellations that actually appear to glow a bit at night.  It be so fun for a child to lay under the stars every night, especially in Houston where the outside stars are hardly ever very bright! Wish I had photos after the furniture... designer Cindy Dickerson outdid herself on this one!

Rub a dub dub, this cute under-the-sea bubble theme was adorable for this new nursery!! Again, having the design on the ceiling allowed the artwork that inspired the room to be hung on the walls.


This map, created for designer Julie McGarr on one wall of a young man's room, is such a fun and wonderful learning tool!  Incorporating some of the animals, trains and landmarks that are associated with each geographic location will hold the child's interest for years.

I want to be a racecar driver when I grow up!  The cars' graphics were modeled after actual race cars the child loved. A great way to personalize the mural!


The twin boys that this room belongs to love canoeing and fishing.  These faux paddles, painted on a flat wall, are so much cooler than real ones... and don't have the risk of being pulled down by these rambunctious preschoolers!


This handpainting of Minute Maid Park in Houston gives this young man front row seats to every game. If you look closely at the scoreboard, the Astros are always in the lead!

What a fun, nautical room for this family that loves to sail!!!  Originally painted for a newborn, this design has lasted through elementary school!

These two princesses were born into a magical kingdom! Though the family moved when the girls were only two, we recreated a similar scene in their new home.

Designer Tami Owen along with Stonehenge Builders carved this loft out of a bedroom, creating the perfect place for the grandkids to play and hang out in when visiting.  A window mural always makes a space look larger, and painted stone doesn't take up the space that real stonework would!!!

This bathroom we created for designer Nicole Zarr is so whimsical!  After stenciling the initial design, we then painted the cherry trees on top. 

Peter Rabbit was the theme in this fun playroom we did for a young family! Complete with chalkboard paint framed inside the schoolhouse, these sweet kids will be ready for school or any activities their friends can dish out.

I love these guitars we painted for a budding guitar hero! The designs are realistic representations of some products from the boy's favorite guitar brands.

For a young basketball fanatic, we hand-painted Ray Lewis' Ravens jersey. This is such a fun way to customize the room and showcase the kid's interests.

Designer Cathy Chapman did a fantastic job creating this wonderful, fun space for a teenage girl.  With a soft color wash on the walls, this room will last from well beyond junior high - the family can just switch out the textiles as she grows up.

I adore the fabric wall we hand-painted behind the crib for designer Christina Ho as part of Houston's 2012 Pink Ribbon House. No dust allergies here! It's especially great because the design's so versatile - I could see this for accent walls in a variety of rooms.

I hope you enjoyed looking at these fun kids' rooms as much as I loved designing the finishes for them.  Seeing the childrens' faces when they saw the finished product was always payment enough for the work!!! Hope everyone has a great week!  Till next Monday!!  xo Leslie

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Painted Floors

Decorator Miles Redd says, "If you want the look, just paint it." I couldn't agree more! I've found that this concept works especially well on floors - they're great places to bring in graphics, colors and patterns (for significantly less than it would cost to replace your old wood, concrete or terra cotta). It seems our ancestors also found this to be true: according to Historic New England, wood floors like New England white pine have been painted since 18th century colonial America!

Applying paint to the ground has a way of enlivening the room. With solid colors, unsightly cracks can virtually disappear, and with geometric designs or faux stone motifs, the room becomes instantly more dramatic. I love the possibilities there are for floors, from the traditional Swedish style of whitewashed wood to the gorgeous, whimsical patterns that came to the forefront with tastemakers like Pauline de Rothschild.

A popular paint scheme used during the 18th century was the classic black and white checkerboard design. This is a beautiful example of this style, fauxed to look like marble, from the elegant foyer of Gracie Mansion, the official residence of the New York City mayor.

Designer Miles Redd took this concept to a new level when he renovated this chic Manhattan apartment! Another example of a floor painted to look like marble featured in Elle Decor, this incredible floor is a contemporary take on the checkerboard classic, paired beautifully with blue lacquered walls and a read leather door. 

Designer Charlotte Moss brought a quaint, antique feel to the sleeping porch of her Hamptons home with this lovely gray and cream checkered floor, also featured in Elle Decor.

This floor, painted by Billet-Collins Studio for designers Robert Brown and Todd Davis, uses a translucent color to create the look of inlaid wood in a sophisticated, octagonal pattern! An oh-so-talented decorative painting firm in DC (you MUST visit their website!), they recommend at least two coats of polyurethane to protect a painted finish.

Several people have asked me about painting terra cotta tiles, but since I've never done a project involving terra cotta, I haven't been too sure how it would wear over time. Looks like Manhattan designer James Aman had no issues with it though when he stained terra cotta in this rich chocolate brown color, as featured in Elle Decor. I love how it transformed them into something both old world and elegant!

We painted this fun design in a 1950s ranch home.  It really opened up the space, giving the entrance its own special and inviting feel!  We primed and painted a newly sanded wood floor and then used a SW floor paint for the graphic.  Afterwards, we cleared it with an acrylic polyurethane. While it can be tempting to go for a dramatic, high gloss effect, it will show scratches - a satin finish will be more forgiving!!


 Designer Ginger Barber Uses stripes to create charm in this cottage style home!


This home, designed by David Michael Miller and Associates, had quite a few architectural challenges.  Hand painting the floors defined each of the spaces, incorporated the rich colors of the bookcases, and added so much interest.  They are FAB!!


I absolutely adore these floors in the home office of an artist who's married to an architect!  The moment I saw this, I wanted to emulate the design in my new conference room, but unfortunately the floors had already been waxed. Whenever you paint existing floors, be sure they've been well sanded and cleaned so that there is no waxy residue left on the surface. Otherwise, the paint won't adhere properly, and it will quickly wear over time.

Sometimes you just can't beat the classic checkerboard design as illustrated by these floors we did in a grandchildren's bunk bedroom for Chapman Design. If you already have painted floors, they can easily be cleaned with a damp-mop soaked in a vinegar and water or a mild soap solution.

I love this floor's geometric design done by Hooper Patterson of Birds of a Feather. The blog is wonderful too.  Click here to see how its done!!! It elevates the laundry room into a lovely extension of the home.

While these floors from the Duchess Anna Amalia Library are all wood, they are just so stunning I had to include them. They'd make a great design inspiration for a painted version!

This whimsical painted floor in a child’s room really opens up the space and gives it a playful spirit! Photographer Solvi dos Santos did a fab job capturing the room. To see the rest of this renovated 1972 Swedish farmhouse, read the story on the Inspiring Interiors blog.

These floors have a lot of history! They're from the dining room in Liselund Palace, part of an 18th century park on the Danish island of Mon. I found this photo on The Essence of A Good Life blog - a great read from around the world!

To soften and break up the large kitchen area, we painted these floors for New York designer Celerie Kemble. Celerie wanted it to look as if she threw the design in the air, so we painted it where the leaves may have landed. I just love the subtle, customized touch it brings to the room!

It's so fascinating to see how we're reinventing similar motifs and designs to those used centuries ago on floors. During the 18th century, compass rose patterns, floral and wildlife designs and faux inlaid wood were all commonly featured on floors. This tradition is finding its way into new design trends. To see more of my inspirations for painted floors, go to my Pinterest floor board!


Thank you so much to Stacey, author of the Red Door Home Blog. I was so excited while reading her post to see not only did she do a writeup of my blog and the book but also of my new space! Please visit her as she does a great job discussing a multitude of different topics.

'Til next Monday... xo Leslie



Our New Offices After the Final Clean!

I hope everyone had a great week!  Mine was so crazy!  We are still trying to get organized in the new space...  I have decided this is why I have lived in the same house for 25 years - the dread of the move.  The hardest part is that I am so used to getting up at 4 and working on design things or billing or blogs before my staff arrives at 8.  And since the move, all the computers at my home office haven't been working. Maybe God is helping me establish boundaries between work and play; the problem is I feel like my work is play - I love it all!!

Here is the outside of the house, near completion.  At this stage, it still needed some architectural elements and landscaping to really transform the look.

We stained these two cedar posts in the front, as well as the shutters, in a soft gray. The door - formerly that gorgeous (haha) orange color! - was finally changed to a distressed gray blue.  All these things made a big difference. I just adore the landscaping too!

All the little accessories make it so lovely!  The light fixture from Lighting Inc. was a bit of a splurge, but really pretty close up.  The mailbox, on the other hand, is temporary, only $14 from Home Depot.  I bought one that I just love, but it came in damaged so I sent it back, and you have to have a mailbox to pass inspection!  The numbers on the door, just $4 each from Home Depot, add a clean line to balance the old world look.  The stone bench from Statue Makers in Houston is beautiful. Statue Makers has great things for wonderful prices; this bench was $225!  They also have beautiful olive jars and fountains. Don't worry, I'll get a welcome mat soon. Any suggestions?

This is the landscaping at the corner of my lot.  When I pulled up to a client's home not too long ago, I fell in love with the work of Steve Henry from Gregory/Henry Landscape Design.  She had wonderful things to say about him, and I wasn't disappointed!!!  He listened to my needs - I wanted a European feel with a charming front and a lot of parking. I absolutely love what he designed within my budget!

Steve came up with a wonderful compromise for the parking area. This is "grasscrete", a lattice paver placed over soil, allowing grass to grow through. Once grown in, it will have a beautiful pattern of green grass and gray pavers.  He got the color and softness he wanted, and I got more parking!  Brilliant!!!

From the last photos I posted, you can see that the floors are now refinished in a light undertone with a gray wash on top.  Ari with AR Floor Designs Of Houston Inc. (281-932-9461)  did a wonderful job patching and repairing these original floors from the 1950s. Notice the antique mirror we installed in the art nook. Frame Tek does an absolutely fab job on these mirrors, making them look truly vintage without overdoing them. We're going to add glass shelves, and we'll be selling a wonderful mineral collection on acrylic bases here. The mural is finished, and I am loving the little bit of France with its fields of lavender!!!

Here's the view from my conference room to the back of the house.  It feels so big and open!  I am so appreciative of Goodchild Builders everytime I walk in!!

This room will house the art gallery and home accessories! Sitting on my beautiful floors, there are two pieces of art by the cute girl I did a post on who just got married.  These paintings sold before we could photograph them!

Since I originally planned to mildly renovate and then decided to gut and start from scratch, I definitely had to watch every penny.  This light fixture from MAI Consigned was $250 but solid black.  We added a textured gray finish to soften the look!!

Here is the kitchen with the stencil backsplash and cabinetry all done. Yay!  

I love both the quartzite counters from Olympus Marble & Granite, a splurge, and the contemporary sink and faucet I purchased online for $300.

We bought all the appliances from Home Depot online, free shipping.  My little stove measures just 20 inches - too cute!

To divide the stencil from the plastered walls, we painted a faux metal strip with nail heads to transition between the two finishes.

This is an office for two that will house the approved sample. We distressed these white shutters from my house, giving them a new life.

The shelves were just inexpensive pine that we distressed.  The splurge was having the shelves built into the sheetrock so they float!!

We built the offices around these cabinet doors with chicken wire and fabric.  In my home office, we had these all around the room so, to save money, we used the same doors and just refinished the exterior in a different way!!  This one is in a textured finish and  has a $149 Ikea cabinet underneath it.  It looks amazing, especially for the price!!

Karen loves her new space!!

And this is Isai's space in the office he shares with Karen.  He is so cute, not complaining at all about the brighter plaster color and the little bit of glimmer on the cabinets!

I share an office with my design assistant Leslie Carrigan.  We love our wood ceiling and the chicken wire cabinets!!

Another look at our bathroom with my favorite cabinet ever that I shared last time.  The tile is from Home Depot, only $1.80 per square foot!  Cutting the tile to include the border and insets cost a bit more but was worth the splurge - Goodchild Builders did an incredible job here making my vision become a reality!!!


The powder bath is wonderful with this lovely sink basin from Designer's Direct for $250.  The tree mural is one of my favs!!!

 If you remember, this was the back of the house during construction!

And now it's becoming a nice outdoor retreat! We since this photo have added white limestone gravel to the back for extra parking, but Steve Henry made the area look amazing by incorporating a back patio.  The arbor from Home Depot was $1500 - love it! These whiskey barrels from Lowes for $30 each will look great once they have the plants in them.  I also love my four olive trees, a splurge, which Steve balanced in cost by using gravel and precut concrete air conditioning pads that run just $30 each.  With twinkle lights, this area will be the perfect outdoor space for our events!!!

When I first purchased the first house, I had planned on building a warehouse in the back for our furniture refinishing.  But when we layed out the lot, there wouldn't have been enough room for parking, so, instead, I purchased this other house two doors down to use for furniture refinishing, scaffolding storage, and book storage!  What a beauty???

Although I was out of money to fix up this one, I did paint... and what a difference paint makes!  The roof was green - yikes! To pull attention away from it, I painted the home SW Dovetail Gray and painted the aluminum window in a bronze and the door in a French blue. It's still in transition but looking so much nicer.

Thanks so much to my blog friends and my clients during this process.  I am not quite there yet, but I'm so appreciative of everyone's patience and support.  I'm still treading water, but I hope I can come up for air soon and give you some great home tours on the blog and great finishes in your home - the highlight of my week!  A big thanks to Joni Webb of Cote de Texas for listing Segreto: Secrets to Finishing Beautiful Interiors as one of her all-around top design books!  Thanks, Joni! 'Til next Monday!!  xo  Leslie 

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