Joanna Goddard

We’ve answered 24 reader questions in the past, and today we’d love to do it again. Here are three more, including how to refresh your home on a budget and be a good listener…

Q. “What are you wearing this summer? I liked last summer’s post about what the CoJ team was into and want to know what everyone’s wearing this year, too.” — Ursula

A. We’d love to do an updated version of that post! But meanwhile, while looking through past photos (why does iPhoto always serve up the most heart-tugging memories?), I realized that every summer I have one MVP casual black dress that I wear over and over — to dinner with friends, for bike rides, at the playground, on trips, everywhere. I remember, in England last summer, I felt sloppy and jet-lagged, and I changed into a black denim dress, and my elegant aunt said, “Jo, you’re suddenly looking quite chic!” Proof that a LBD always saves the day. Here are four that would feel great this summer: shirtdress, linen, gingham, and midi.

Article pillows

Article pillows

Q. “I love Cup of Jo house tours and want our home to feel vibrant, but we don’t have a huge budget. What are design ideas on the cheap that we can use to make our house feel more like ‘us’? I’d be forever grateful.” — Z.

A. Dear Z., allow me to re-introduce the fakeover, aka a makeover you do simply by moving around things you already own. Consider turning your sofa to face a new direction, for example; or swap artwork between rooms. I’ve been amazed by what a huge difference a little futzing can make. Another easy vibe shift is to hang family photos. They’ll make you smile, and they’re free!

Or, if you’d like to change the color scheme or add texture, go for home accessories instead of expensive new furniture. In the photos above, I took our grey sofa and added four pillows from Article (a well-priced brand I love) — gold, velvet, sheepskin, blue — plus, fresh flowers from the deli. Boom! The corner now feels super inviting for curling up with a book or having a long gossipy chat with a friend. Such an easy and delightful way to switch things up. (I also love this twinkly table lamp, which makes our house feel MAGICAL at night.) Good luck!

Q. Some of my friends have gone through hard times recently (pregnancy loss, divorce…), and while I want to be there for them, I don’t know what to say and end up acting awkward. Another friend told me in the past that I sometimes focus too much on the positive side during hard conversations. The last thing I want to do is make a friend feel unheard or unloved. Any tips for being a safe place would be greatly appreciated.” — Beena

A. Oh my gosh, Beena, this is such a good question! And I’d love to hear from the CoJ hive mind on what has worked for others. I would say that three phrases that always feel good to hear are: “Thank you for telling me” and “That sounds really hard” and “Tell me more.” Often you simply want to share your thoughts and feel understood, and a listening ear is a gift. When I called my dad after my stepfather died last December, and I burst into tears, he said, “I understand” in a gentle voice multiple times while I talked and cried. I honestly will never forget that call and how much it meant to me. Things doesn’t have to be complicated to be meaningful. You sound like a good friend for just asking this question.

Lots of love to everyone, and please weigh in below! Also, feel free to leave questions in the comments for future columns, if you’d like. xoxo

P.S. More reader questions, and five ways to be a good listener.

(Living room photos by Christine Han.)

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