Sarah Cousins Interior Design
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How To Survive Your Summer Share House
 
 
 

Right off the bat, establish strict guest rules. They seem egregious, and that’s because they are. But this is how we all get through the summer never discussing money or being secretly angry for letting someone’s unsuspecting guest mooch. Each bedroom has a rate, each guest has a flat rate, and that rate is assigned, calculated, and spreadsheeted before the summer starts — everyone pays. These rules are annoying but effective, and I don’t know about you, but I’m not interested in fighting with friends over money.

Bring food for others, prepare said food between lunch and dinner, right when people get snacky (Gigi taught me that) — people love the person who brings the snacks. But beware, when you get the gourmet salsa and chocolate covered pretzels for yourself, act like auntie Sarah and hide it in the salad spinner. You’re worth it.

Group dinners are tricky. When the bill comes, your friends will go from casually chatting to full on accountants. You have two types of people now sitting with you — your splitters-evenly and your itemizers. I’m not going to comment on this any further because I’ve got friends on both sides of the isle, and you know I’m nothing if not bi-partisan.

Beach towels. Everyone forgets them and everyone needs them. If you’ve got a pool, floats are a must. They’re fun. Everyone thinks they’re too serious to get into a glazed donut float until they’re face-to-face with one after three white claws. Oh white claws.

Bring a book! It’s fun to accomplish something other than cancelling (a new word I learned) a case of sparkling rosé. I chose to read Southern Lady Code by Helen Ellis and absolutely tore through it — so fabulous and funny.

Try to cook a few nights. Grill out, make some veggies, throw together a guac and cheese spread. Pasta is good but I can barely fit into my generously-sized swimsuits I Amazon Primed myself in July — so beware.

Don’t eat anyone else’s takeout.

Everyone has a different personality, but if you stick to the money rules, are explicitly clear about house rules before move-in, and speak up when you’re annoyed, it’ll be easy breezy beautiful. A good way to speak up about something you’re not happy with is to SED. Yep, I made you an acronym. Be S — SOBER when speaking about something you’re not happy with, E — EMPATHETIC in that everyone is not a mindreader and the person on the receiving end may not even know what’s going on, and D — DIRECT in that you go straight to the source.

This is totally just Sarah advice, but you MUST dress like a peacock. It’s fun. If you can’t wear it with your friends in paradise, where are you actually going to be able to? Like, actually? Mommy also loves a statement earring and a print, paired down with a scuffed sneaker.

Go out. Party with your friends. Go home early some nights and eat pizza on the sofa. Stay out late other nights. Do your own thing. Go with the group. This is your vacation so you need to do what YOU want. But good god lordy lord in heaven, no matter what you do, lock all the doors before everyone goes to sleep. I don’t care if you’re in the safest neighborhood in East Hampton, suburbia is terrifying and I’ve listened to far too much true crime.

Oh, one more acronym for the road. SMS — sunglasses, medication, and sunscreen.

With you struggling to get a four-seater on the LIRR,

Sarah

 
An Interior Designers Guide to Making Your Move (Slightly) Less Painful
 
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Oh hello there! Do you know what month it is? Do you know what month comes after this month? That’s right — August. AKA, the biggest month for moving in New York City. It’s a total cluster if you ask me, and I’m sitting cross-legged in the eye of the storm because your girl is moving right along with everyone else. I’ve been a part of many moves — both my own and my clients. As such, it’s only natural that I learned a thing or two about how to pack up your worldly possessions. So, in the spirit of making good interior design accessible to everyone, I’m going to spill it all for you here. For free. Please enjoy.

Get in loser, we’re ordering re-usable bins

I found out about Gorilla Bins through a client and WOW they are a game-changer. No more carrying cardboard from Home Depot or overloading big boxes and having them explode on an unsuspecting mover. These dudes deliver as many bins as you need to your house and then pick them up once you’ve moved into the new place. In addition, they rent dollies and have every kind of zip-tie/bubble wrap/labeling thing you could want or need. Affordable, eco-friendly, and convenient. I’m sold.

You probably shouldn’t take everything with you

Maybe you’re already an expert organizer and Kondo your wardrobe bi-monthly (and in that case, skip down to the next section). However, chances are you’ve accumulated some clothes you don’t love anymore and some furniture that may not work in the new place. When it comes to getting rid of clothes, I love to use ThredUP. They send you a huge, prepaid bag to fill up, pay you for the clothes they keep, and donate the rest for you. It’s not a huge money-maker, but I like it because I know that my less cool things are being donated to people who will actually use them.

For furniture, I do a mix. Things that aren’t totally amazing or maybe not in pristine condition go on Craigslist. Listen! It’s easy, quick, and done in cash. However, if you’re going to sell stuff to strangers, please be careful. Don’t do it alone, don’t have them meet you at your house, don’t give out personal info, ask for exact change upon arrival, etc etc. This is a good list of things to keep in mind when selling on “The Craig” as we call it in my home.

For your cooler and more desirable items, I recommend Kaiyo. It’s super easy to sell on here, their customer support is responsive, they offer free pickup, and they plant a tree for every order placed! Yes! A tree!

Pack with bubblewrap and a kiss

Apartment Therapy taught me to wrap my plates in bubblewrap or blankets and then pack them vertically — and don’t forget to stuff your glassware! For toiletries you won’t need right away, cover the tops in plastic wrap just in case they leak during transit. For heavy items, try to pack them by themselves in small boxes so it’s easier to carry. Keep jewelry and valuables on you during the move, just for peace of mind. And obviously, label your boxes. The more detailed you get with the labeling today, the happier you’'ll be next week when you’re unpacking in a house that hasn’t had AC installed, while your boyfriend runs out on a “voluntary” wine-run. Which leads me to my next point…

Make sure to pack your first 24-hours bag (and keep it accessible)

Think about this bag like what you would pack to bring to camp. Of course you need clothes, shoes and toiletries to get you through your first day in the new place, but you know what else you’ll need? TOILET PAPER! SNACKS! PHONE CHARGERS! PORTABLE SPEAKERS! HANGERS! SURFACE CLEANERS! (and if you’re like me) YOUR WHOLE CLEANING PRODUCT CADDY and PAPER TOWELS! SHEETS, PILLOWS, and TOWELS! WINE! Or sparkling water, whatever you want. This isn’t some “mommy needs her wine” blog. Just keep this stuff separate and easy to get to.

Some other odd things I do that no one else does but I swear by

I keep a GoogleDoc of every company that has my current address. Think banks, magazines (print ain’t dead), my razor subscription, all my business admin stuff that needs an address, insurance info, and my medication delivery (get Capsule and smugly look at everyone in line at Duane Reade for the rest of your life). You get it. I keep this current by just writing the name of the company that has my current address every time I type it in somewhere online. If you’re not sure what you need to change, a good way to find out is to go through you credit/debit card statements for the past few months. You probably don’t need an address list because you haven’t signed up for 28449 subscriptions, but it works for me.

Alright, this one is controversial, but I think it’s great. Do you know what a bug bomb is? I set one of these guys off a day or two before I start packing. I do this so that any creepy crawlies that may be lurking in my current home don’t get a free UberPool to my new home! Easy! Just please read instructions and fumigate after.

Finding a mover who won’t break everything you own

I myself, like most people, use movers on referral. I won’t recommend a mover (or any product in general) that I have not used, so I’ll let you know how the one we chose works out in a few weeks. However, the BBB website is a good jumping off point to give you a few companies to call. Here is a detailed list of things to look out for when choosing a mover. The biggest thing for me is to make sure they’re insured and that they’ll give me a pricing range before I book them. And finally…

If you have a weird gap between your move out and move in, I’ve heard good things about Make Space. I will probably have to use them this August, so I’ll also let you know how that goes.

Set up mail forwarding.

Cancel or transfer your cable/wifi service (don’t forget to return equipment, bleh).

Fill in the holes in your walls.

If you live in an apartment or rent, make sure to let your building know you won’t be renewing your lease, set up a move-out inspection, reserve an elevator for move-out, return your keys the day of, and reserve an elevator in your new building for move-in.

What do you think? Are we ready to move? I’m exhausted just writing this but change is fun and important so let’s pop some bottles, put on Discover Weekly and get moving. Let me know if I forgot anything.

Flexing my Soul Cycle muscles right along with you,

Sarah

 
Tips to Transform Your Rental
 
Image by  Hannah Jan Photo
 
 

Hello friend! Welcome to the first blog post. You look fabulous today.

I don’t know about you, but I spend a decent amount of my waking hours trolling through Pinterest, Instagram, random design magazines, and newsletters. I am truly bombarded by beautiful interiors, but hey, I guess that’s part of the job — right? Right. For me it’s inspiration for projects and ideas about what’s possible, but for others it can be really overwhelming.

A question I get a lot normally goes something like this — “Hey Sarah, wow your hair looks great today. Anyways, how can I translate this insane, multi-million dollar Hamptons project I saw in AD into something that makes sense for me and my budget in my space?” First of all, I feel you, deeply. Translating your inner personality into a physical space that not only works for you but feels like you is quite the task (and perhaps why people hire interior designers, cough cough).

However, I believe everyone should have access to making their home a little more beautiful, regardless of budget. So — I’ve boiled down some of the tips for you that I use with both myself and my clients to really take your space to the next level. Let’s jump in.

 
 

Pick some paint — I know you’re rolling your eyes at me and thinking “ugh Sarah, painting is such a hassle!” Yeah. It totally is. However, and I will say this multiple times throughout this article, you will never have this much motivation and attention on your space as you do right when you move in. You may say you’ll paint in three months, but chances are (and in my personal experience), you will not. Have you ever walked into a rental in NYC? White walls as far as the eye can see. Now, I’m not knocking a fabulous clean white, but we’ve got to mix it up a bit if you really want your space to feel like something special. I always recommend starting with Clare Paint because every single one of their colors is fabulous. They’ve got a guide on how to pick the right white based on your space and the light. I recently used Goodnight Moon in a project and it was sheer perfection. Best part is that they send you big sticker swatches instead of your usual, annoying tiny can of paint. This way you can slap ‘em on the wall, live with them for a bit, and then see if you want to invest. I didn’t even use close to half a can of paint for an NYC bathroom, so a little goes a long way. PS… consider painting your ceiling if you’re leaving the walls white. So fab.

 
 
Image via  DPages

Image via DPages

 
 

Rental-Friendly Wallpaper — Wanting to shake up a room? Are you feeling a little extra fabulous? Great. We’ll be best friends. Rental wallpaper came onto the scene a fews years ago, at least to my knowledge, and WOW is it great. Most companies sell self-adhering designs so you can do it yourself (or bribe a friend to come help you, my personal favorite). The great thing about this stuff is that once you’re ready to move out, you just steam up the walls with a hand-steamer and watch it peel off! I love companies like Flavor Paper for funky graphics, Graham and Brown for something a bit more traditional, Urban Walls for beautiful decals you can arrange however you’d like, and Chasing Paper for some really stunning designs. Just order some samples and see what you think! I’ve got my eye on a certain print for our bedroom ceiling… stay tuned.

 
 
Image via  Flavor Paper

Image via Flavor Paper

 
 

Think about changing out some light fixtures — The lighting in rentals is generally… not great. I’ve noticed over the years that you can pretty much change almost anything out in a rental as long as you securely pack and store the fixture that came with the unit and put it back upon vacating. Please hire someone for an hour that knows something about electrical power if you’re going to mess around with this (or if you don’t, just don’t sue me. There’s not much I dislike as much as paperwork).

A note on hiring an expert to install something — Whenever you’ve got to bring in an outside person to help out with a home project, see it as an investment in your space. If it costs $120 to bring in an electrician to wire in two sconces by the bed and one light in the dining room, that’s $10 a month if you stay in your place for a year. Would you pay $10 a month for beautiful, well-lit rooms that make you feel good? I know it’s annoying, but wow there is some great budget lighting out there that you can really make your own! Check out my lighting board if you want some help getting started — I add to it almost every day.

 
 
Image source unknown — Let me know if you know!

Image source unknown — Let me know if you know!

 
 

Adorn your freshly painted/papered walls — Check with your building, but I’ve never come across one that wouldn’t let you hang things. Some of them ask that you patch up and sand the holes upon move out. Don’t sweat it, I’ve done it twice and it takes the length of one NPR podcast. Art can get expensive quickly, so first look at what you have. I’m currently framing some family photos and old recipes for the hallway. As Emily Henderson says “if it’s two-dimensional, it’s art and you can hang it.” Have a kiddo or two running around? Choose a few of their pieces of artwork in a color family you love and then put them in some chic frames! Heartwarming and beautiful. I’ll be showing off some of my grandmothers recipes in these chic and simple frames.

 
 

Consider adding a screen to break up your space — This is especially important if you’re transforming a small space or *gasp* studio. Just kidding, a studio apartment can be so chic, just watch any NYC-based, female-led romcom from the last 10 years. A great way to designate areas visually is with screens. I happen to love this rattan one (I think it’s from Urban Outfitters?), this more organic DIY one, and this very cool screen that uses your plants to create some privacy! Cool!

If screens aren’t your jam, you can always go for a modern shelving unit to divide the room — just make sure it’s slightly open on both sides so it doesn’t feel too imposing.

 
 
Image Via  Brit&Co

Image Via Brit&Co

 
 

So, what do you think? Will you try out a few of these ideas? If you do, I’d absolutely love to hear about it. This is your space, make it feel like home.

With a pencil behind my ear and a paint can at my feet,

Sarah