Stephanie


About Stephanie

Founder, Practical Sanctuary, sensory interior design. Massage therapist. Artist emeritus. Pretty Lady, bane of the troglydites.

Trenches

“Startin’ riots with those looks,” said the person behind the counter.

“I was downtown last week,” I declared…

Photo: Graffiti on a crumbling wall, of two horses and the word 'Rubble?'

Sensory Architecture: A Seamless Experience

Today most buildings are designed in pieces, by specialists who rarely talk to one another. Architect, engineer, electrician, plumber, contractor, interior designer: each designer’s expertise is abstracted from the specific environment, and from the rest of the design.


How to Grow Big Houseplants

The light and humidity in the corner of your living room bear no resemblance to that of a West African rain forest, and you cannot fool the fiddle leaf fig tree into thinking so.

Sticker and the Giant Aloe

Magical Fairyland Patio, With Cat

From Grunge to Gorgeous

March of 2020: lockdown.

What I crave more than anything: a garden.

What I’ve got: 100 square feet of broken concrete, surrounded by a broken fence, looking onto a vacant lot which the guy down the block insists is his. (It’s not.) I’ve gotten into a guerrilla gardening war over this lot, and lost.


Why Get Political? A Love Letter.

“Don’t mix business with politics.” If you follow Practical Sanctuary on social media, you know I break that rule. This is why. One of my core values, in life and in business, is inclusiveness. It’s been that way since preschool. My rule, “be kind to the awkward kid,” means […]

Persist

Simple, sunny office with white walls, view of trees, plants

7 Simple Fixes for the Highly Sensitive Person’s Home Office

The amount of natural light we are exposed to, the air quality, ambient noise, textures, visual clutter and smells can help us manage our stress. Taking some time to align our workspaces can have a big payoff in terms of our mental and emotional resilience.

You don’t have to remodel your home, fire your family, or spend a ton of money you don’t have on office furniture in order to radically improve your working and living space in a short time. Most of what you need is already available; it’s just a question of fitting the puzzle pieces together.


Sensory Integration: How To Decode What Your Child Is Telling You

So often, children with sensory issues are treated for behavioral problems, with or without acknowledging what sensory needs might be driving the behavior. When therapists focus on addressing unwanted behaviors without digging deeper, we can miss an opportunity to help a struggling child.

Child with glasses holding a model of an atom

Cat sitting atop a very high bookshelf, looking down with an alarmed expression.

The ONE Biggest Mistake

You don’t have to take down a wall to see radical improvement in your interior design. Just start with the simple stuff!


The Eccentric Genius: Neurodiversity and Design

Neurodiverse people have brains that differ from the majority, in the ways they organize and process information. This can include people on the autism spectrum, people with sensory sensitivities, and people with ADHD. There is a lot of overlap, and specific patterns of neurodiversity vary quite a bit.


Feral Artists and Eccentric Habitats

“…the two things that stood out about SFAI was that it provided no formal education and no practical support, either during your tenure there or upon graduation. Students were simply thrown into a mud pit and encouraged to rend one another.”


Space, Power and Sexism

When we talk about space, we inevitably talk about power. Those who have power, control the space.This photo was taken on National Association for Women Business Owners Advocacy Day, outside the Dwight Eisenhower Building, after we visited the White House. We advocated for increased access to capital for women […]

Top row of windows on Dwight Eisenhower Office Building near the White House.

UPDATE ON PAST PROJECT

  Franny Lou’s extended the kitchen into the space formerly occupied by the children’s corner, where Practical Sanctuary created a dandelion mural four years ago. I love how they lined the shelving up with one cluster of dandelions, and placed a bottle under the ones growing from the ceiling. […]


The Obvious Thing

Long ago I had a boyfriend who was prepared for the apocalypse. He kept a bug-out bag in his trunk, containing tools with which to rebuild Western civilization. He got into fights with cops. “They’re always pointing guns at me.” He was the one who told me about Oklahoma […]

Photo of wall heavily textured in beige paint, ceiling with dozens of lighted jam jars

All About Sound

Ecstatic dance: rolling around a vibrating floor with a hundred people. It’s how I spend my Thursday evenings. Recently, a dancer with a degenerative illness shared: “It’s at the moment when I bring all my pain to the movement, that the dance becomes ecstatic.” After the dance, we lie […]


Time’s Executioner

Friends with neurodiverse brains have told me that it often feels like they are living in the eternal present. Things happen around them, but it feels like watching someone dancing in a strobe light–a series of poses that might be connected, but there’s no linear path that they can track.

four faces looking up, down, sideways, and forward.

How To Avoid Being Swallowed

It’s impossible to overstate how big an effect your environment has on your nervous system. Living in urban environments, it’s easy to forget that human beings evolved, literally, in nature. Our nervous systems are attuned to cues that have been in place for millions of years–when to wake up (light gets […]


Decluttering Your Mind

This week I went on a decluttering tear. Sorting paperwork became two days of cleaning, purging, reorganizing, repairing, maintaining and rethinking systems. Frankly, it felt at the time like procrastination. Surely I should have been working on my business? But as soon as I went back to ‘work,’ my […]


The Patron from Hell

I am that patron. I am the patron who enters your establishment, inhales a toxic odor, and writes a review about it. I am the patron who asks that the music be turned down, five times, of five different people, including the manager, then takes the party onto the […]


Scream Machines and Big Design

  One of the people I loved most in the world could not recognize his own mother in photos. He invented a system of hacks to disguise his inability to read social cues. His understanding of spatial relationships was so nuanced that he broke every test he took. He […]


Sustainability: It’s Your Health

TW: language, family dysfunction When we first moved to Philadelphia, I committed two terrible sins. Arriving in the South Philly home of my mother-in-law, where residents cut down street trees because they are “messy,” I 1) opened the blinds, and 2) bought plants for the front windows. Later, after the storm of […]


Frigid Dining

Lately I’ve been rubbernecking Architectural Digest. It’s not that the photos aren’t glamorous. It’s–well, just look. These are from a series of “Before + After: Stunning Dining Room Makeovers.” The “before” photos are predictably stodgy, dated and bland. The “after” photos are stunning all right. They make me want […]


Moving Rocks

Last Friday I spent the whole day laying a walkway, with stuff I dug up in the garden last summer. The lack of tension in my garden has been bothering me all year. Even though stuff was growing with unprecedented vigor, it was all the same green. There weren’t […]


Dandelions at Franny Lou’s

This Valentine’s Day, I painted purple dandelions. If you’ve lived in Kensington for more than a year, you probably remember Leotah’s coffee house; it was my favorite place to hang in the neighborhood. Last year, hearts were broken when it was forced to close. Thankfully, that’s not the end […]


Why Decoration Is High Art

It’s the easiest thing in the world. You don’t even have to think. Just invoke the D-word during a critique, at any fine arts academy in the world, and watch the artist crumble. “It’s decorative.” In other words: trivial, shallow, trite, banal, unintelligent, and unworthy of further consideration. (“Feminine,” […]


How Design Can Break You

A walk through a BMW showroom once gave me a nervous breakdown. I was living the dream, as an artist in San Francisco during the height of the tech boom. I had a secure job, a flourishing studio practice and a quasi-jet-setter lifestyle. My programmer boyfriend and I spent […]


The Curious History of Blue City

I am not haunted. Quite the contrary; I bear witness to an exorcism, a liberation from five hundred years of bondage. Blue? The color of grief, it is true, but also the color of healing. My author was a naive soul–some may say a fool. She held to her […]


You Don’t Need Twelve Million Dollars

…to have an amazing home. In my inbox today: this stunning Malibu home, courtesy of my subscription to Trulia (otherwise known as Crack for Designers.) I am supposed to covet this home. It is owned by actor Matthew Perry and is on sale for a mere $12,500,000. It gives […]


How To Avoid Being Swallowed

repost from the Practical Bodywork Blog It’s impossible to overstate how big an effect your environment has on your nervous system. Living in urban environments, it’s easy to forget that human beings evolved, literally, in nature. Our nervous systems are attuned to cues that have been in place for millions […]


How NOT to Hang Art

What’s wrong with this picture? No, it’s not that the center painting is “pornographic” and “a danger to children and vulnerable adults.” It’s the aesthetic cacophony. Friends, there is no better way to have your art installation scream, “I was curated on a shoestring budget and installed in a […]


Historical Object #92DHR: Fish Hooks.

Assemblage class, San Francisco Art Institute, 1992. Donna H. asked the class to contribute some hair to her project. I had recently had an epiphany about hair, hacking off my waist-length blonde locks to chin level and dying them blue-black, so I willingly sacrificed another handful to art. A […]