Travelling on the Smoke ~ Sage Cottage

In Native American tradition, sage is often burned to purify the air and to send up prayers ” on the smoke”.

The soft tendrils of the smoke would swirl up into the ethers carrying the prayers to the Great Spirit. 026

When my friend Susie, who I’ve known since kindergarten, asked me to come to San Diego to help her “paint”, I had a feeling there would be other adventures in store……

Sue and her husband, Mike, Picked me up at the airport in their Kia “Soul”.

When she told me she would be picking me up in the “Soul”, I had no idea what she was talking about.  I was used to seeing her drive a white two ton double cab pickup with Navaho blankets on the seats and white sage drying in the window.

I was relieved to see that the “Soul” was a pretty green compact, SUV, and not some space ship to another world.

On the way to her house, we stopped at Rudford’s cafe.  On the outside of the building there is a picture of JFK that was taken as his motorcade drove by the restaurant just months before his assassination in the 60’s.

I had some fish tacos and enjoyed hearing about Mike’s adventures in Glacier Nat’l sharing a mountain with a Grizzly Bear, and serving Huckleberry flambe around the campfire with his hiking buddies.

I would be staying for a week and by now Sue knows me, that we would power down and get-er-done.

I had been to visit about 3 years earlier, my first visit to her place, when we had spent a couple of days working on her windows.  We shopped, sewed, and installed ( with the help of Mikie) for 3 rooms.

We installed woven wood blinds on 6 windows to add privacy and to filter the light, made two custom valances to go over her existing ready made drapery panels.


( Flat rod-pocket valance with ready made curtain panel, and woven wood blind for the first layer, to filter sunlight and frame the window. )


We sewed a custom band on some ready made linen panels that we widened by sewing two panels together for her 8 foot windows.

We were exhausted, but very pleased with the way everything turned out.

This trip, we had our work cut out for us, as she had been “inheriting” more funiture for the last 3 years and was busting-out-at-the-seams!

I’m sure alot of people have the same situation.  It goes something like this:  Father passes away and leaves a houseful of furniture, the “ex” decides to move and can’t take your precious antiques with him, Mother-in-law scales down from a 3 bedroom house to a more manageable condo, and you just couldn’t pass up those barley twist tables at the yard sale last week!  And so it goes ~

And you end up with a house full of inherited furniture that doesn’t quite fit your lifestyle, but alot of it has sentimental value and you just can’t part with it. These are the “Before” pics. 003




007That’s where I come in …

This was the home of comfort, not fussy, easy-going-friends-dropping-by for a beer, a cigar, and a lively conversation, kind of comfort.  But it also had to be a little ” Wild”.

Definition of Wild:  out of control; amazingly out of this world; an unrestrainable amount of coolness.

We had chosen the colors on the previous visit.

And we started a Pinterest Board prior to my visit.  I had Sue order the feather stencil from Sweden so it would arrive while I was there. ( you can find it on Pinterest. )

The theme would be “Native American” with Orange Marmalade and Sage Green paint on the walls.

When bright, vibrant colors are used on the walls, it is important to find balance by blending in enough neutrals so that the colors do not overwhelm, while not completely backing away or becoming timid.  Just immerse yourself in the feel or essence of the colors and face them head on.




When I lifted the sheet off the ” black leather sofa”, I was thrilled to find a vintage black leather settee in pristine condition.

For the accent color, I chose Grotto.  a bold, vibrant tealy-turquoise, that put the spark and the rhythm into the rooms.  That was our third layer.


  1. Color on walls – orange and sage
  2. Furniture- black, brown , green
  3. Accent color – Grotto, a turquoise chalk paint from Michael’s
  4. Fabrics – rugs, baskets, pillows, curtains
  5. Something living – terrarium, plants, dog, eggs, feathers.
  6. The Great Spirit was with us, every step of the way…
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  8. And so was Leigha!
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  10. Everything in the picture above, Sue already owned;  The baskets were found on a trip to Arizona, The sun print was done by Sue’s brother Sal, the candle sconces were her Grandmother’s ( we painted them black), the accent chair was from Mexico.  the candelabra was in the previous pictures, and the art photography, we had custom framed. A photographer friend took these of the Mesa, and they spoke to Sue’s soul.
  11. 038
  12. The baskets were the inspiration for the color scheme of the room.
  13. 037
  14. 015
  15. What we did here was to bring in one center table from another room, and add one lamp.  You will notice that we kept the ladder with the rugs from my previous visit.  We painted the trim, added the shutters and changed the moulding on the bottom of the window frame, keeping the scrolly one on top per Mike’s request as  it was original to the house. We also added a sisal area rug in a neutral tone.
  16. 021
  17. The vintage lamp added to our color story, and the pottery ( made and painted by Sue), and more baskets to hold those remotes!
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  19. A sentimental story for this wall, along with an heirloom clock, and Dream catcher, to hold on to those dreams.
  20. 032
  21. Another work of art by one of Sue’s friends from the Artists Village in Balboa Park.
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  23. A cedar trunk made by Sue’s brother Sal, received a paint job in our accent color, and a new upholstered top with a small area rug from Target with some great texture, and some Satin nickel nail head trim.
  24. And the Dining Room.  Remember the Feather stencil from Sweden?
  25. First a quick look at the Before Picture……
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  27. With the new paint color on the walls, the stencil of the feather creates the Wow Factor……And nods to Sue’s Native American heritage.
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  29. The stencil pattern picks up the lacey patterns in the back of the chairs, the die-cut vintage lampshade, and the crocheted lace table cloth.  Simple, yet Elegant.
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  31. A new area rug grounds the space. ( we put books on the back wall to iron out the curves in the rug. )

And Granny’s chest got a makeover….


Granny would be so proud!  Her dresser had been sitting quietly in the back of the room, not drawing any attention, and now it is a show stopper.

Update:  We completed these rooms mid-October.  Since then, the homeowners had not planned on having Thanksgiving dinner in their home, and changed their mind, celebrating with family and friends in their newly appointed rooms.  The energy shifted and Sue became inspired to re-do her studio at the Spanish Village Artist Center, and has been more creative than ever, making new designs in her silver jewelry. Spiritnsilver Handmade silver jewelry with an Organic and Soulful Vibe.

Susie was a real team player through the whole process.  At one point she told her friends ” Lorna has come to help re do my living rm n dining rm. sometimes I can’t keep up w her ideas. But I’m going w the flow. And Mike is very supportive”.

We had a great time.

Thanks for visiting.  I hope you come back to see more exciting room makeovers!

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How many of us long for our own comfy cottage in the woods? I know I do! We can make our own comfy cottage, right here, right now, no matter where we live. I'm a mother of two, grandmother of two boys, interior designer who thinks out-of-the-box, up cycler, and interested in just about anything related to living comfortably and finding contentment, connecting with the Great Spirit in the natural world and respect for all beings who walk the earth.

9 thoughts on “Travelling on the Smoke ~ Sage Cottage”

  1. Lorna,
    What a gift you have for “making over, not taking over,” someone’s space. And breathing new life into the pieces that have special meaning and incorporating them into the end result is such a talent.
    You did a great thing for our friend Susie!

    Liked by 1 person

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