Every time I’m reading a design magazine or blog and I see an image of an interior that I love (not infrequently, I assure you), I save it. These days I usually pin it on Pinterest, but back in the dark ages I just saved it to my computer’s hard drive. A bit hoarder-ish? Perhaps. But the upshot of my borderline-OCD tendency is that whenever I feel the need for some inspiration, I can just browse through my very own design catalog–thousands upon thousands of my favorite pretty images. It’s a surefire way to kick the creative side of my brain into gear.

So before I share any more progress updates on our master bathroom makeover, I thought it would be fun to show you some of the inspiration behind the design. For me, black, white, and wood is usually where it’s at. I bring in color through textiles and art and accessories, which I like to change up from time to time–but I never tire of a neutral foundation. So to get some ideas for our bathroom, I pulled some of my favorites images in this color scheme. Let’s dream big, shall we??

via Style Files | Giampaolo Benedini

Richard Powers | Sköna Hem

Karel Balas for Milk Magazine | Inga Powilleit

Aidlin Darling Design | David Duncan Livingston

Katie Quinn Davies | Clare Cousins

Living Inside | Dezeen

Now there’s certainly no way we could afford to recreate any of these amazing bathrooms, but that really isn’t the point. Instead I draw on their neutral color schemes, clean lines, and minimalist aesthetics, and get inspiration for fixtures and materials. I then try to adapt some of my favorite elements to our space and budget limitations.

As I collected inspiration images for this project, I noticed a recurring theme: white tiled walls and black floors.
Sean Slattery for Elizabeth Roberts Design | Horrigan O’Malley Architects

Bolig Magasinet | Stadsem

See that raised rubber floor, above right? Yeah, I’m digging that. And I’m really digging the straight-set rectangular white tile in these two bathrooms:
Hus & Hem | CCS Architecture

So here’s what I’m thinking for our bathroom:

1: US Ceramic 4.25-inch x 10-inch wall tile in Matte White Ice, stacked in a straight-set pattern, which looks a bit more modern than the traditional offset pattern. I would have preferred a shorter, wider tile–2-inches x 8-inches would actually have been perfect–but those were prohibitively expensive. So instead I went with the tile that had the highest length/width ratio I could find that was within my budget.

2: Normann Copenhagen Dropit Wall Hooks for holding bath towels, to bring in a little bit of wood. Plus, these are modern and fun.

3: Vanity light fixtures similar to these General Store porcelain light sockets, but I’m actually cooking up a DIY version in black. I just hope they provide enough light; there’s no ceiling light in the bathroom so the vanity lights will be the primary light source.

4: Yellow Turkish bath towels will be a nice dollop of color. I’ve heard really great things about peshtemals–I hope we like them!

5: Sleek, modern Hansgrohe Focus S sink faucets in chrome for the vanity.

6: A pair of IKEA GODMORGON mirrored medicine cabinets to provide some much needed storage out of reach of curious toddlers.

7: Two black porcelain wall hooks for holding hand towels on either side of the vanity. These will tie in with the black porcelain vanity lights.

8: Black raised rubber flooring. I was looking for a unique material for the bathroom floor–something other than porcelain tile. And after considering cork and VCT tile, I became obsessed with rubber flooring. I priced out the offerings from just about every rubber flooring manufacturer I could find, but thankfully didn’t pull the trigger until I read about Daniel Kanter’s amazingly inexpensive rubber flooring solution. Just $250 for a roll of rubber so big that it would cover our bathroom floor twice! I always love Daniel’s blog, but I’m pretty sure he wrote that particular post especially for me. Well maybe not, but it did come at the perfect time to solve my flooring conundrum.

9: A white step trash can while I dream of splurging on a handsome little Vipp.

10: IKEA GODMORGON/ODENSVIK 48-inch vanity in high gloss white. You can read about the vanity saga here.

So that’s the plan! I’m sure that in the end the completed bathroom will look a bit different than this vision, but that’s typical. It’s just nice to know that when I run into a design issue–like OMIGOSH WHAT COLOR GROUT SHOULD I USE???–I can look back at my inspiration photos for guidance. And then all my obsessive photo-cataloging will have been worth it. Probably.

For the full story of our master bathroom makeover, check out:
Part 1: Tackling the master bathroom
Part 2: Bathroom inspiration
Part 3: Prep work
Part 4: Rubber flooring
Part 5: Wall tile
Part 6: The bathroom is finished!

  • Hi Emily, I’m becoming a huge fan of your blog and naturally I love everything you picked out for your master bath, except the rubber thang. I get it, I do(!) and I’m really curious how everything is going to come out. But it seems to me that the rubber floor is not a very functional and permanent solution, or is it? Can’t wait for the reveal (and to see the Dropit hooks in action!)ReplyCancel

    • Thanks so much for stopping by, Mirela! I know absolutely what you mean about the rubber floor, it’s definitely not for everyone. And many people use rubber as just a temporary rental solution. But I just love the look of the rubber and have seen photos of it done really well in a number of interiors–maybe I’ll share them in a follow-up floor post. From personal experience I can report that it looks great installed in our bathroom, and that thus far it cleans up quite easily, but only time will tell how functional and permanent it is. I’ll be sure to keep you posted!ReplyCancel

  • Well now that I have seen it in Daniel’s kitchen, I definitely can picture it in the bathroom! Can’t wait to see it!!!!!!ReplyCancel

  • These are some amazing ideas. I love the colors, fixtures, floors and just the over all look of these bathrooms. Thank you for post.ReplyCancel

I absolutely love having a little boy to dress, but it can sometimes be challenging to find the sort of clothes I like–cute, comfortable, not too cheesy, not too Bieber-like. Basically, if it has stripes or a sophisticated graphic, I’m all over it.

I try very hard not to go overboard buying clothes for Quinn, though to be honest I’m not always successful. My goal each season is to splurge on just 2-4 pieces that I really love, and then fill in the rest of his wardrobe with less expensive things, usually from Target or Old Navy. I like to buy pieces individually, rather than as part of a set, because (a) the clothes are usually less “cutesy” that way, and (b) I can mix and match pieces to create multiple outfits. I order all of Quinn’s clothes online except for those I pick up at our local Target, and I try to watch for sales, especially in the stores that carry the more expensive stuff, like Tea Collection and Sweet William.

It’s a bit late in the season, but in case it helps any of you other moms out there who struggle to dress their little boys, I thought I’d share what Quinn’s wearing this summer and where I got it:


1 and 5: atsuyo et akiko and ketiketa from Sweet William Ltd. These were a couple of my summer splurges because I just couldn’t resist those cute animal graphics. A moose who says “bisou” (kiss)?? Come on! These shirts are really soft and well-made too. Sweet William is a children’s boutique that carries a lot of designers I love, so my splurges are often made there.

2 and 3: Winter Water Factory. I adore the amazing prints on these organic, made-in-the-USA lap tees. In fact, pretty much everything at WWF is this cute. These two shirts were also splurges, but I managed to get them both on great sales.

4, 6, 8, 13, 15, and 17: Zara Kids. Zara is a good place to find kids’ clothes that are more stylish than average, but aren’t nearly as expensive as the boutique-y designers’. I’d say they’re priced pretty comparably to the Gap. A lot of Q’s summer basics are from Zara: a couple of solid tanks, a couple of pairs of shorts (denim and khaki bermudas, both of which ran a little large), a light-weight white tee with cute denim details, and those to-die-for baby gladiator sandals (which also ran quite large).

7: Gap. This neon-striped tank was actually a birthday gift from Quinn’s aunt, uncle, and cousins, and you know I love me some neon. Plus, STRIPES!

9, 10, and 12: Target. Q and I go to my beloved Target a least once or twice a week, so if a cute shirt happens to occasionally find its way into my shopping cart, am I really to be blamed?? These incremental additions to Quinn’s wardrobe have contributed some much-needed color.

11: American Apparel. Quinn obviously needed a t-shirt with his initial on it! And in addition to this, American Apparel actually supplied quite a bit of Q’s spring wardrobe last season–I love their striped onesies and their awesome cotton leggings. All very affordable.

14 and 16: Tea Collection. My favorite thing in Quinn’s wardrobe last winter was a pair of Tea Collection “denim-look” cotton pants (similar to these) because they looked stylish but were super comfortable for him–much more so than wearing real jeans. So when I wanted to find Q some comfortable play shorts for the summer, Tea Collection was where I went. They have some great cotton and terry pieces that feel as good as sweats but look a whole lot nicer. And their clothes just fit my long-and-lean baby really well.

18: Tiny Toms. These adorable little green Biminis get compliments wherever we go. I just wish they stayed on his feet better….

19: NoZone swimsuit from Amazon. This is Q’s primary swimsuit, which I love because it’s one piece and provides great sun protection. He’s also got a cute rash guard and pair of skull board shorts from–where else?–Target.

So now you know what my little dude is wearing this summer. If you’d like some more inspiration, you can follow my Pinterest board where I save all my clothing ideas for Quinn. And if you have any other good sources for little boy clothes, please let me know in the comments!


A few months ago I remarked on the increasing acceptance of iPhoneography as a legitimate artistic movement. A recent Apple ad campaign (which I absolutely love) corroborates my sense of the trend’s growing popularity: “Every day, more photos are taken with the iPhone than any other camera.”

Setting aside whether it’s possible for anyone to actually know that, I’m still firmly in the iPhoneography camp. In fact, after recently shooting a trip to NYC exclusively with my iPhone (pics to come!), I am now confirmed in my opinion that my iPhone is a viable alternative to my fancy DSLR camera.

In my last post on this topic I shared some tips for taking better photos with your iPhone camera. But there’s almost no photo in the world that cannot be improved by a little post-processing, so I think it’s time I tell you about some of my favorite apps for processing iPhone photos.

1. Best app for image editing: AfterLight ($0.99). Runner up: VSCO Cam (free).

What initially held me back from wholeheartedly adopting my iPhone as a camera was the lack of fine tuned post-processing options. I hated being limited to Instagram’s or Hipstamatic’s heavy-handed preset filters. But then along came AfterLight and my entire perspective on iPhoneography changed. Finally, an app that allowed me to have nearly all the control over my images that I would have in professional editing software like Lightroom! Exposure, brightness, fill light, temperature, contrast, saturation, vignette, sharpening…having these tools at my disposal on my phone takes iPhoneography to another level.

I cannot say enough good things about AfterLight. I use it to process every single photo I take with my iPhone. Here’s my usual post-processing workflow:

  1. Open my photo in AfterLight.
  2. Straighten and crop the photo, if necessary.
  3. Increase the exposure until the image’s shadows are to my liking.
  4. Increase the brightness until the highlights are sufficiently bright.
  5. Increase the contrast, usually to between 80 and 100.
  6. Apply a fade, usually between 25 and 60.
  7. Adjust the temperature if necessary to arrive at a good white balance.
  8. Save the photo to my camera roll at maximum resolution.

I prefer my photos to have a natural look so I tend to use a pretty light touch when editing, but if you’re a fan of the more dramatic pre-set filters, AfterLight has those too–but with (gasp!) opacity control! That means that if you like the look of a filter but it seems like a little too much for your image, you can use a slider bar to tone it down a bit. I often use the Coral filter turned down to around 15, and I love both the Coal and Raven black-and-white filters at full strength.

I’ve also been known to apply AfterLight’s textures on occasion–particularly the light leaks, though there are lots of nice dust and instant film textures as well. I almost always adjust the opacity of a texture down significantly though. My best advice is to use the textures judiciously!

VSCO Cam is another good photo processing app that recently underwent a major redesign. It offers nearly all of the same important adjustment tools as AfterLight–exposure, brightness, contrast, etc.–but it doesn’t permit quite the nuanced level of application that AfterLight does. In the exposure adjustment, for example, AfterLight affords a sliding scale from -100 to +100, while VSCO offers only a lock-step adjustment from -6 to +6, with pretty significant jumps between each step. VSCO does have some really nice pre-set filters though–especially the smoky black-and-white filter called X1–and there is some opacity control over these filters as well.

VSCO seems to me slightly less intuitive after the redesign; its controls are a bit difficult to locate, but I’m sure it’s a steep learning curve. In short, you won’t go wrong using either AfterLight or VSCO Cam to edit your iPhone photos–and I highly encourage you to do so!

2. Best app for adding text and artwork to photos: Over (free). Runner up: A Beautiful Mess (free).

I don’t add text or artwork to my photos very often, but Over is my favorite app for doing so. You just open your photo and type in your text, and then there are tons of customization options–font (they have some great free fonts), color, size, position, opacity, tint, kerning, etc. Here are a couple of images I’ve created with Over:

But if you want to see the sort of amazing art that can be created with this app, follow @Over on Instagram. They feature users’ best work and I promise you will be absolutely floored.

A Beautiful Mess is another fun text and artwork app. In a word, I would describe it as quirky. It offers about 20 free fonts (I prefer Over’s offerings), as well as a number of free hand-drawn borders, doodles, and phrases (more are available through in-app purchases).

3. Best app for adding frames to photos: AfterLight (again!–$0.99). Runner up: Squaready (free; pro version also available for $1.99).

The post-processing question that I’m most frequently asked by friends is how I get the white borders around images I post on Instagram like the ones above. The answer? AfterLight, once again. If you have photo you don’t want to crop into a square format for Instagram, like the one above left, open the frames menu in AfterLight (it’s the icon that looks like a postage stamp on the far right) and in the Original frames group choose the button with two white bars. Squaready (pictured on the right below) does the exact same thing, but it’s not nearly as user-friendly and has those annoying ads.

And unlike Squaready, AfterLight can do so much more than just add white space to fill a square crop. It has dozens of other frames you can apply: the circle frame I use so frequently, ovals, diamonds, crosses, every letter of the alphabet–even polaroid-style frames. And you can adjust the size of these frames, set their color to black or white, and then adjust the frame’s opacity.

AfterLight’s frames are seriously great.

4. Best app for creating photo collages: Diptic ($0.99). Runner up: Pic Stitch (free).

Sometimes I want to create a collage of several photos, and my favorite app for doing that is Diptic. It has a ton of layout options. Just choose one, double-click on each opening and add a photo from your camera roll. Easy!

Pic Stitch does the same thing, but doesn’t have quite as many free layouts to choose from–though you can purchase additional layouts in the app.

5. Best app for sharing your iPhone photos: Instagram (free). Runner up: Flickr (free).

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the hands-down best place to share your iPhone photos and see the best iPhone photography out there today is Instagram. Join right away if you haven’t already, and follow me at @emilymccall.

Since long before Instagram arrived on the scene, however, Flickr has been the best online community for sharing not just iPhoneography, but photography of all kinds. It recently modified its account offerings, and the good news is that free accounts now get 1 terabyte–yes, that’s terabyte–of online photo storage; the bad news is that to get an ad-free experience you’ll pay $49.99 per year. But Flickr’s iPhone app has also been given a makeover and is a treat to use. Unlike Instagram, images aren’t constrained to a square crop, and you can organize your photos into sets and collections. Flickr’s app also makes it easy to see photos that you’ve favorited. You can check out all of my photography on my Flickr photostream.

So now you know all my secrets for processing iPhone photos. If there’s an app you love that I missed, be sure to share it in the comments. I hope these tips inspire you to make the most of your iPhone images, because pretty soon I’ll share with you some ideas for what to do with those mini-masterpieces–how to get them off of your phone and into your life.


And be sure to check out Part 1 of my iPhoneography series: tips for taking better iPhone photos.
  • Found this link through Bens FB page, we went to school together. Very interesting outlook on iphone photography. I to have found myself leaving my big dSLr at home and snapping more and more pics with my phone camera or the little nikon coolpics I carry in my bag. To me its almost more fun and challenging to take pictures with a phone then with a big camera. Also the results are more rewarding. Nice blog.ReplyCancel

    • Thanks so much for stopping by, Shad! LOVE your photography. And I completely agree about it being more challenging to shoot on the iPhone–it forces me to think much more about composition and lighting than I might need to with my DSLR, and the result is that I become a more skilled photographer all around!ReplyCancel

  • Phoenix Kelley

    I found this link through Bing. I was looking for a sight where I could acquire hard copies from my cell phone pix. Could you help me with that? I will take you advice on the various apps used to edit my photos, but I do need hard copies…ThanksReplyCancel