2016 Resolve #1: Cozy-up to a Bright Sweater

We know everyone - almost everyone - has new year resolutions. Some can be so hard to maintain, so we wanted to try something different: give you easily attainable resolutions to keep you motivated! We'll post resolves/goals throughout January for you to try. Let's go!

Photo courtesy of talesforlife.wordpress.com

Photo courtesy of talesforlife.wordpress.com

Who says bright colors are only for Spring and Summer? What better way to show you're a stylish host then by wearing the unexpected: a bright sweater ensemble! This is a great option for a daytime event or a casual brunch. Check these tips and pics for achieving this look:

  • Aim for a well blended sweater, usually a hint of cashmere (love Italian cashmere) or wool (caution: merino wool can 'ball' up after some time) work well and will last long.
  • I love to balance mine with a dark basic color like black or navy or color block with a deep shade of another color.
  • A good fit, medium to dark wash jean with boots works well for a more casual look.
  • For you ladies, try them with pumps or high-heeled booties, pleated or A-line skirt, and a statement necklace or a string of pearls to add some femininity.
  • For you men, pair yours with a bow tie to add some serious swag!

Here are some casual options:

Totally wear with a matching statement necklace ...

Pair with a cable sweater for a cool and preppy combo ...

Here are some dressy options:

Add some color with a cardigan...

photo courtesy of ebony.com

photo courtesy of ebony.com

Add some leather to take your sweater up a notch. Don't forget some pumps....

photo courtesy of myfashionwants.com

photo courtesy of myfashionwants.com

Color blocking has never been so easy and so fun ...


Don't run from color in the cold months. Instead, embrace them! Let us know how these worked for you; share your comments! And remember: Joy Designs Homes

Happy New Year! Happy 2016!

re pic 2016 2.jpg

Sorry everyone about the e-mail/blog post e-mail glitch yesterday.

We are so excited it's another New Year! But first we must show thanks for 2015. We're so grateful for our new website and new décor & lifestyle blog Joy Designs Homes and for being recognized by one of Oprah's newest television shows and by luxury shops such as Neiman Marcus and Nordstorm and for being featured in Weddings Unveiled magazine.

But nothing tops our greatest thanks, which is for you! Because of your continued support, Rayo Events is climbing mountains! It's such an honor to work with each of you and see the joy on your faces when you see the final result of our vision for your wedding, birthday party, home shindig, or corporate event come to a beautiful fruition.  That's what brings us joy - designing and planning weddings and events beyond your wildest imagination.

On behalf of the Rayo Events team, thank you for a spectacular 2015 & Happy New Year! Stay tuned for more joy in 2016!

New Takes on Carrot Cake

Hi everyone! This is a great time to begin thinking about your holiday dinner menu, especially your desserts.  Nothing every beats a good 'ole homemade cake! Absoultely nothing! What holiday dessert spread doesn't include some yummy carrot cake? Check out this new takes on the popular dessert, care of Food & Wine magazine, and give it a shot this holiday season. Remember: baking in a metal pan is best for oven temperatures over 350 degrees. Use a lovely cake stand to show off this holiday treat! Enjoy!


1. With cocoa. Baked in a loaf, this carrot cake is made extra delicious with the addition of cocoa powder and an almond-y streusel topping.

All photos courtesy of Food & Wine magazine

All photos courtesy of Food & Wine magazine

2. With almonds. Instead of using a lot of flour, this simple, unfrosted carrot cake relies on finely ground almonds and whipped egg whites for its structure.

3. As cupcakes. Yep, the classic layer cake makes for equally delicious cupcakes. Top them with the usual cream cheese frosting or upgrade by adding caramel as well.

4. With lemon frosting. Mascarpone, the creamy Italian cheese, is a luscious stand-in for the usual cream cheese. Lemon juice gives the frosting its signature tanginess.

5. With coconut. Coconut flour not only creates a pleasantly dense and flavorful carrot cake, it also makes it fiber-rich and gluten-free!

6. As cookies. Add carrots to your oatmeal cookies and top with cream cheese frosting for a cute riff on carrot cake.

7. As waffles. Make a carrot cake–inspired waffle batter, then top with cream cheese whipped cream. (Feel free to replace the gluten-free flour in the recipe with all-purpose.)

8. As muffins. Feeling like you want to eat something more virtuous? Skip the frosting and add wheat bran to the usual carrot cake.

By Kristin DonnellyPosted November 14, 2015.

Share your comments on how these turned out for your: And Remember: Joy Designs Homes!

6 Stylish Holiday Decor Ideas for Your Home

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Ok so I'm like so excited Christmas is around the corner! I love the red Starbuck cups and red Target bags and the shopping crowds. There's just something about the holiday spirit that makes you feel happy and thankful. You can't help but begin to sing your favorite Christmas carol when you see the twinkle of holiday lights in the peaceful night sky. What joy! You want your guests to feel this nostalgia, and even you yourself, when celebrating the holidays. Your décor helps set the tone. Many of us have already put up our Christmas trees and lights; many of us - like me - are still in the process :). Regardless of where you stand, our 6 Stylish Holiday Décor Ideas for Your Home will delight any home and have you singing "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire..." 

1. A Square Wreath, That's So Sweet

Photo courtesy of HGTV.com

So many doors don't have wreaths. That's the first hallmark of holiday! Your front door is totally the first impression - and first thing you see - when approaching your home. So make it a good impression, better yet a stylish impression with a square wreath. Balance the non-traditional shape with a red ribbon/wreath hanger to remind everyone it is in fact a holiday wreath, just taken to a lovely level. Such wreaths can be found at your local craft's store. 

2. Metallic & Sparkle-up Your Coffee Table

Photo courtesy of crateandbarrel.com

It surprises me how many people are scared of metalics. Metallics (e.g. in gold, silver, purple, etc) add spunk and festiveness. Mix with some sparkle, and you're ready to party. The trick to keeping this look elegant: use ornaments as an accent piece! Use a mix of shapes, textures, or colored ornaments, but do stick to two to three different styles and colors. Keep it simple. Feel free to throw in a metallic or sparkled reindeer or tree; as long as the color matches your décor. This is a good time to purchase a well sculpted tray made for decorating. And yes, you will need wide candles (colored candles are festive) in clear and/or metallic frosted candle holders and a touch of berry and holly!

3. Add Mismatched Fur Stockings

Photo courtesy of unchartedvision.com

Yes, fur or faux-fur, we love the luxe factor of fur, especially for the holidays! Give it a try and implement it into your décor via stockings. To really add style to your mantle: mix up the type of fur stockings you use and add a single bold fur print! Just make sure to keep everything in the same color family and use at least one pair of each type of fur. Or mix it all up! Anyway you do it, they'll look so amazing with the logs burning behind them that you'll want to spend the holidays next year in Aspene!

4. Deck-out Your Dining Chairs

Show your dining chairs some love this holiday season! Dress your chairs up with a shiny thick fabric ribbon. Secure the ribbon with pins or a tight knot.  Then dazzle with pine cones and greenery or your favorite holiday accent. Try using a simmer accent, as it'll add more depth to décor. Avoid using ornaments as they scatter easily and can be used safely somewhere else. You can also use chair covers to enhance your color scheme, but make sure it matches your table runner or cloth so the décor stays cohesive.

5. Holiday Treats, a Display Feast

Place treats in lovely candy jars or clear vases on your kitchen counter near the snack bowl or on your island. Whatever you do use clear jars! I heart apothecary jars (find at your local craft's store); a set of three in different sizes and heights work well. Show off those colorful candies. If you can, find candies in wrappers that mimic your holiday color scheme. Have a different color in each jar or mix up all the colors. Add a holiday ribbon or bow to the jar lids. Drape the steam or bottom of jars with a leafy garland and tada! Oh, don't forget the candy scopes!

6. Grab a Blanket

Photo courtesy of zazzle.com

Throw blankets are so versatile and great for cozying up. If you have minimal décor or a minimalistic style living/family room or aren't too big on lots of decorating, try using an elegant throw blanket to add some holiday cheer. You can get it in a holiday motif (e.g. black and white fleur-de-lis, like in the photo) or - if you want to keep it simple - in traditional holiday colors (e.g. red and white stripes). While you're at it, add a small festive throw pillow - I like anything with sparkle! After the holiday season, you can always store the blanket away to use for house guests.


Stay tuned for more holiday décor ideas! Let us know which of these tips you tried and share your comments. Remember: Joy Designs Homes!





RE featured on So Haute Style!

Photo courtesy of SoHauteStyle.com

Photo courtesy of SoHauteStyle.com

We're so excited to have been featured on So Haute Style - a luxury blog created by one of our mentor interior designers Nicole Gibbons! Ms. Gibbons is also one of the designers on Oprah's OWN Home Made Simple television show. Check out our comments to the lovely kitchen renovation/transformation Ms. Gibbons and her team did for a lucky winner on Good Morning America. Thanks again Nicole! 

Chic Reindeer & Snowflake Socks!

Photo courtesy KeepitChic.com

Photo courtesy KeepitChic.com

Who doesn't luvvv colorful, fun, and warm socks? These festive footsies will totally make you glad it's winter and make you want to snuggle up with a warm cup of hot coco while watching a feel-good movie. Did someone say A Christmas Story? These lovelies are tall enough to wear under knee-high boots but cute enough to apparel with tennis shoes or sneakers! Socks are by JCrew and can be found here, herehere, and here!  

Thanks to KeepItChic.com for sharing these perfect pairs!


5 Simple Tips to Hosting a Flawless Thanksgiving!

It's that time of the year again to give Thanks & cut some turkey! Wow - how time flies. Getting ready for Thanksgiving can be a lot of work, especially if you're hosting. It seems like no matter how soon you start your preparations, there's never enough time. Either the grocery stores are crowed, your to-do list keeps growing, or you haven't started cooking. On top of that, you have no idea what you're going to wear. It can be very stressful. We totally understand, having helped host countless parties and events we know how stressful party planning is. But what we have learned is getting stressed out only delays your preparations and is no fun. That's why we've found staying organized is your friend. You shouldn't be in the kitchen during Thanksgiving; you've got to enjoy yourself too. So we put together five tips for hosting a flawless Thanksgiving party!


1. Have an Approximate Guest Count

When people are hungry, they are hungry. And when it's their turn to spoon some mac and cheese, and there's no mac and cheese left, oh they're going to be agitated. When I was in the catering world, one of the #1 rules was to overestimate everything - especially the number of guests. So let's say you're expecting 15 guests, then cook for 20 - 25 guests. The difference in number may sound small but it makes a whole lot of difference. As a general rule, a 9" casserole dishes feeds up to six to eight comfortably, maybe 10 if you have at least three other dishes for guests to select from. A half size, deep (4" deep) aluminum pan feeds 18 to 20 persons comfortably. Do relay your approximate guest count to any guests bringing dishes, especially if they're brave enough to bring a main dish. And don't forget extra ice for the drinks! Guests will more than likely want to take a plate on the road with them. So don't be afraid to cook a little bit more than expected to attend :) 


2. Stick to a Menu

Photo courtesy of SarahHearts.com

Photo courtesy of SarahHearts.com

Creating a Thanksgiving menu shouldn't be too hard given we all know and love its staples. What, however, sets a dinner party or special gathering apart from any standard dinner is you're leading your guests to the main event - a lovely spread of some yummy entrees! Plus, this gives time for all guests to arrive to enjoy the grand meal together. Don't get me wrong - you don't have to print a menu for everyone to have. But it's a good idea as the host to jot down the menu for the occasion and categorize all the dishes into these three categories:

- Appetizers -

- Entrees & Side Dishes -

- Desserts (includes coffee and teas) -

Remember to place dishes guests are bringing into the above categories too. Organizing your meal is tremendously helpful! It helps you as a host to stay organized by guiding the order you prepare meals (prepare easy meals first and store until ready to serve - trust me) and by prioritizing which meals need to come out when. It's not a bad idea to have a tentative timeline for each category. For example, set aside 1hr for appetizers, 1 to 1.5 hours for entrees, and desserts and coffee for the rest of the evening. Having such time frames will encourage guests to mingle and gives you time to sneak away a few minutes to ensure the next dishes are ready to go.


3. Dress Your Table Beautifully

Photo courtesy of Loomdecor.com

It's one thing for food to taste good, but it's even better when it looks good!  Aside for being attractive to the eye, it really gives your guests something delicious to look forward to. It shows you the host really went out your way for well deserved guests.  If you're having a sit down dinner, where you're placing food in the middle of the table, it may be difficult to have a stunning centerpiece. Instead, transfer food into beautiful platters of similar colors/designs (I love white and pewter platters) and focus on using quality pieces (e.g. plates, silverware, napkins) for you table setting. Show off your attention to detail by using place cards in the shape of acorns or leaves and using beautiful serving utensils and salt/pepper shakers. If you have the room, stick to low centerpieces and a simple garland/runner or several small floral arrangements. Avoid tall arrangements unless you are decorating a buffet table. If you're having a buffet, chaffers are helpful and buffet cards add a very nice touch!


4. Be the Chicest Host Ever

Photo courtesy of Osochic.com

Who said the host can't look fabulous? You're the host, so you have to be the best dressed person of the party. Yes, you will be busy running between greeting everyone and making sure nothing is burning in the kitchen. But you'll just do it all looking chic. To help keep you moving but looking ah-mazing, try a fitted, well-cut sheath dress that has a touch of spandex/stretch to it. A nice caramel, earth tone, navy or black color flatters almost everyone. Pair your dress with some bling accessories, like a stunning necklace or bracelet, and some hott stud earrings or low-maintenance hoops. Throw on some badd pumps (have your ballerina flats nearby) and finish your outfit with a smoky eye or your favorite make-up. Add some red lips and you're done!


5. Light Candles

One of my most fav candle brands ever! Try the sandalwood vanile candle to give your Thanksgiving an autumn aroma. Photo courtesy of Candledilirum.com

While I was growing up in sweet home Alabama, we would boil cinnamon sticks to scent the home before guests arrived for a party. Not that the food didn't smell delicious, but we didn't want guests to know we just finished cooking :) In hindsight, I would totally do that again, but I'd enlist the help of scented candles. I adore candles; the ambiance they create is undeniable and perfect for a cozy gathering! I'm not saying your home shouldn't smell like your yummy food, but a lovely scent helps set the mood for a memorable time with family and friends. The smell of food is best reserved for when it's actually time to eat :) A few scented candles safety stationed at your foyer, living room and bar/beverage station and whereever guests will gather will do the trick. Light your candles 20-30 mins before guests arrive, and they'll totally love that you were anticipating their arrival!


Let us know which tips you loved and leave us your comments. Have a blessed Thanksgiving! Remember - joy designs homes!


Stylish Fall Entryways & Porches

Happy Tuesday all! I know you read the subject line to this post and were thinking how can fall décor be stylish? How does anyone style pumpkins, wheat stacks, colored leaves, and sticks all in the name of looking presentable? Well, I'm so glad you asked :) You see, style isn't just about bling and - I hate to say - fluff. It's about expressing who you are in a manner that's clear, distinguishable, and consistent. It can be described as rustic, classic, country (chic), modern, couture, elegant, beach, or bohemian - to name a few. But nevertheless - it's got to be fabulous! If you're gonna go rustic, make it the hottest rustic to hit the streets - so that everyone will want to go rustic!

What better opportunity to express YOU than the Fall and holidays? Yes, most of this décor is exactly the same ole story but put a twist in it. And why not begin with the first impression your Thanksgiving guests will have of you, which is your front door and porch. Yes, start sweepin'. And no, it totally does not work if the outside of your front door isn't decorated but the inside of your house is. It really throws people off. If you're gonna do it, do it all the way. Give your guests consistency. Set the scene with your front door/porch; let your guests' experience begin before they smell the fresh out the oven sweet potato pie! Give them something to look forward to. Then they'll know the party has really started and they are in for a very nice treat!

Here are some ideas I heart for your front doors and porches. Now notice all these images have three (3) things in common:

                       1. They use fall inspired colors were traditionally the colors are not used

                       2. Every item is clean, polished, and thoughfully placed (I'll speak more on this in a future post)

                       3. An element of surprise that uses fall colors (e.g. browns, greens, oranges, soft whites) is added

Check these out and please share your thoughts, tried, and trues.

The art of simplicity says a whole lot! Notice the interaction of very green plants and earth toned planters, both in round, textured shapes to emphasize the roundness of earth, and therefore, the integrity and beauty of the organic. Here, a play on browns and greens of fall and - yup you guessed it - off-white pumpkins remind you Fall can be warm and stylish. Did you notice the mirror doors reflecting the bare trees? So Fall! Mimic this look by picking up random branches outside - yes outside - of similar heights and stick them in your green plants, to look similar to the back of a porcupine.

The art of simplicity says a whole lot! Notice the interaction of very green plants and earth toned planters, both in round, textured shapes to emphasize the roundness of earth, and therefore, the integrity and beauty of the organic. Here, a play on browns and greens of fall and - yup you guessed it - off-white pumpkins remind you Fall can be warm and stylish. Did you notice the mirror doors reflecting the bare trees? So Fall! Mimic this look by picking up random branches outside - yes outside - of similar heights and stick them in your green plants, to look similar to the back of a porcupine.

Ok, there is SO much going on here - hay stacks, vegetables, apples, red corn, pumpkins, ... and a red door! Yes this entrance has got it goin' on ...and some! But what I like about this entrance is not only its classic allegiance to Fall, but its tasteful execution. Every hay and straw are in its place, ever plant is pruned, and every produce is securely and purposely placed. Everything, including the walkway, is clean and polished, even the squash and apples look so delicious. In achieving this look, work in subgroups to create the overall look you're going for. Try to keep the subgroups (e.g. stacks of hay with squash) as simple as possible so that the overall look isn't overwhelming. Try to repeat the same colors (i.e., all the squash are a shade of green) to create harmony in your décor. To make this interesting, us unexpected props (e.g. squash; apples) that are so Fall but everyone forgets it's their - not just pumpkin - season too.  Just make sure everyone doesn't eat them all :)

Oh yes, I feel like I'm in south Georgia, sippin' on some sweet tea or lemonade, with a wide brimmed, floppy hat! Deep breathe in; deep breathe out. Life is good! Notice in this image - thanks Hospitality Designs - orange plants, pumpkins, and faux bark planters are used to Fall-up this relaxing porch. It is really pillows that are used to alert the change in season. To bring in style, an animal print pillow does the job! Because the print is in Fall browns, it totally matches without exactly matching. But that's ok! We still get it - its Fall! Don't be afraid to show some personality! 

Have fun decorating. And remember: Joy designs homes :)